Valor Under Fire

No, not the paladin–the GM.

He had an encounter all planned out. It was a good encounter! There were drow warriors and blade spiders and all the trimmings and they marched up to the castle and demanded to know where Drow-Bob was and what we had done with him.

…it got a little out of hand, after that. About the point where we started comparing the sort of salt we sowed fields with, say. “Dried from the tears of mind-flayers.” “Oooh, nice. Mine’s kosher.”

The exact sequence of events that led to us trying to take the enemy to the brothel is, perhaps, best left to the ages. Then we convinced them to come with us to find Drow-Bob, so that they could see he was happy and hadn’t been brainwashed. Drow-Bob was, theoretically, at the Temple of the Weasel, so a group of drow riding spiders and the party on horseback marched through town to the temple, only to find a note that said “Gone Crusadin'” and a couple of interns saying “They went thattaway.”

By this point, the party was becoming annoyed. Nobody drafts OUR butler! The drow were becoming annoyed. Where was their cousin? And the GM was becoming annoyed because he’d already made the map for the clearing we were supposed to have the encounter in, but he didn’t have one for the town or the temple and how had things gotten so horribly out of control, anyway?

We rode off toward Lowerton, the town that everyone had gone off to.

GM: You see flames. The town is on fire.

PALADIN: What, all of it?

GM: Yes.

DRUID: Now what?

GM: I don’t know. I just set the town on fire and now I’m not sure what to do with it.

PALADIN: Oh, don’t worry, happens to Rooster all the time…

From questioning some of the not-quite-dead bodies, we determined that our drow were Group A, and Group B had happened to the town, and made off with our butler.

PALADIN: Damnit! Where’s the Lord Marshall? Who’s in charge here?!

DYING KNIGHT: I…think…you are….sir…

PALADIN: …well, shit.

PARTY: (laughs and points)

DROW: (roast marshmallows over the flames.)

PALADIN: (takes deep breath) All right, then. Wilhelmina! Take a deck of cards off the thief and start doing triage. Spades for the dead, hearts if they can be saved, diamonds if they’re walking.

WILHELMINA: (the gnome healer) I don’t think I’m gonna need many diamonds…

PALADIN: Ceri! (that’s the thief) Ride back to town on the double, go to the co-op, tell them to send emergency supplies on the Weasel’s tab. Then go to the temple, tell them to get their asses out here immediately, we have an emergency, and if that idiot at the door gives you any trouble, tell him I am the Acting Lord Marshall and I will bust his ass back down to private if he isn’t here within the hour!

CERI: Aye, aye, sir! At once!

PALADIN: Rush! You’re a druid! How good is your weather magic?

RUSH: Uh…I was gonna go after Drow-Bob.

PALADIN: We have a situation here, Rush! The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, blah blah, somebody dies, very touching, we all cry. Now make me a rainstorm!

GM: (laughs hysterically for awhile)

RUSH: I’m going to be useless after this, you realize.

PALADIN: I will personally carry you home if I have to.

RUSH: …very well.

(Rush’s player gets mad props here, by the way, for a very nice bit of improvised ritual, and the GM gets props for letting him do it. The end target number wound up being 150, and by pretty much burning every healing surge he had and converting it into magic, plus a couple donated by the healer, he hit 158.)

RUSH: *faints*

PALADIN: *catches Rush*

RUSH’S PLAYER: Are you sure you wanna stand next to him? There’s lightning and…

PALADIN’S PLAYER: Rooster asked him to do it, Rooster stands next to him.

GM: It rains. It puts out the fire. The town is more or less saved. It’s flooding a bit now. There are people hiding in basements.

PALADIN: Rush, I’m putting you up for a medal. Hang on, wait, I’m in charge! Rush! You get a medal!

RUSH’S PLAYER: *sighs*

PALADIN: *carries druid to infirmary* Okay! You two, start pulling people out of the basements.

GNOLL: Yay!

RANGER: The gnoll is harmless, This is not an invasion. You can trust me, I’m a…well-dressed lizard woman…

GM: Oh yeah, they’re real calm now.

DRUID’S SPIRIT GUIDE: *appears in the form of an owl*

WILHELMINA: Do you have a significant other?

PARTY: ….did you just try to chat up a magic owl?

WILHELMINA: I’m building an ark. For the flood. We need two of every….Oh, never mind…

SPIRIT GUIDE: I have to take the druid back. He needs to be restored by the primal spirits. That was a powerful magic.

PALADIN: I do an Insight check on the magic owl.

GM: Magic owl’s tellin’ the truth.

PALADIN: All right. You can take him, but if you don’t bring him back, I’m gonna dedicate my life to hunting you down, and I’m a half-elf so that’s a really long time.

SPIRIT GUIDE: I, too, am granted a long life.

PALADIN: Then think of all the fun we’ll have.

SPIRIT GUIDE: Mmm.

PALADIN: I’d bring him back if I were you. *hands over the druid* Don’t suppose you have any extra healers around, do you?

SPIRIT GUIDE: No. And I must go. We’re getting the band back together.

PARTY (suddenly remembering Ancient Gil) Ohhhhh….

PALADIN: All right, I’ve got three laying on of hands left, who’s next?

CERI: *returns from town with the cavalry in tow*

GM: Funny thing, but when you passed the Thieves’ Guild, there was a note on the wall in thief-sign that said “Not here. Getting the band back together.”

CERI: Ohhhh….

GM: You’re exhausted. You’ve mostly saved the town, but now Drow-Bob’s captors have a three-hour head start. Your drow are getting bored.

PALADIN: Okay, where’s the damn hippie from the co-op?*

DAMN HIPPIE FROM THE CO-OP: Hey, man…we brought organic healing potions, man…

PALADIN: I want organic stimulants. I don’t know. Something with goldenseal in it.

DAMN HIPPIE FROM THE CO-OP: These are all natural. They might have some side-effects, though. Some users have, like, reported hallucinations, man…

PALADIN: Don’t care.

DAMN HIPPIE FROM THE CO-OP: And they’re locally sourced and–

PALADIN: I don’t care if they fell out of Vecna’s asshole, give me the goddamn pills!

PALADIN: *hands out pills to party* Here. They’re organic or something.

WILHELMINA: I’m gonna wait to take mine, so that the hallucinations are staggered a bit.

GM: Picky, picky…

PALADIN: Okay, who’s the highest ranking person from the temple here?

GM: It’s the cook.

PALADIN: Good enough. I draw my sword and give him a battlefield promotion. Arise, Sir Cook. You’re in charge. We’re going after our butler.

COOK: Goddamnit. Fine! I want three hundred gallons of boiling water! We’ve got people to feed!

GM: He wanders off, yelling orders.

PALADIN: When the Lord Marshall comes back from crusade, we are having words. This town was shamefully underdefended. I want homing pigeons in every outlying community so they can call for help at a moment’s notice.

PARTY: ….

GM: Jesus, I’m a little scared what happens when you put Rooster in charge.

PALADIN’S PLAYER: I can only role-play a competent adult, alas.

GM: We’ll take you to Magfest, have you role-play a competent member of security.

RUSH’S PLAYER: I approve this plan.

PALADIN’S PLAYER: No. Unless I get a big sword.

RUSH’S PLAYER: You can’t hit people with it.

PALADIN’S PLAYER: No deal, then. Fizzgig, follow Drow-Bob’s scent! We ride!

GM: *begins whistling the Lone Ranger theme*

 

Somewhat later:

GM: Man, I should just not plan ANYTHING out….

PALADIN’S PLAYER: Yeah, but if we’d just killed the drow, it would’ve been over in two sessions. You got a burning town AND sending the druid off AND a crusade.

GM: I should just trust the players.

PALADIN’S PLAYER: Let’s not go nuts.

 

 

*The Adventurer’s Co-Op is a longstanding institution in our games.

The Pamphlet & The Sword II

(I hate to be one of those people who Tells Your About Their Character, but since people asked for the resolution…)

So when last we left our intrepid adventurers, Rooster the paladin was standing toe to toe with the avatar of Vecna, the rest of the party was scattered through a dungeon, and cultists infested with demon-tadpole babies were converging on us from all sides.

Chained to the wall, missing an eye, was Ancient Gil, the buddy we’d come to find.

Let us pause for a moment to discuss Ancient Gil, and a GM payoff for Kevin that was a lot of years coming.

Long, long ago, we were a newly minted party stumbling through a module that Did Not Work For Us. The only times we really had a blast, outside of combat, was when Kevin went wildly off script and started making things up…like the time the gnome met a certain elderly mariner in a bar…(“Dude! There’s a guy here telling the most fascinating story about albatross! I buy him another drink.”)…or Rooster used Diplomacy to get a door open…(“I know it’s hard to open up and be vulnerable, door! I’m here for you! Will you take that journey to openness with me, together?”)…or the Taco Vendor. (“Public bathroom? I have bucket. Very hygienic.”)

At one point in this, we finally staggered out of the wilderness into a town with a Temple of the Silver Weasel. Given that Rooster’s order is entirely made-up for this campaign, Kevin had to improv the whole thing, and it should be noted that he was watching a lot of Father Ted at the time. So we wander into the temple and encounter Gil, who was ancient, senile, and smelled strongly of the holy weasel musk.*

This was a throwaway character. This was Local Color–the guy who would corner you, tell you a two hour rambling story, shout “Power to the Weasel!” and then fall asleep. He called Rooster “Booster” and the joke was that you’d have to sneak past him to get into the temple to talk to the paladins in charge.

But.

To give a highly abbreviated version of my Standard Paladin Rant, Lawful Good does not mean Lawful Asshole.

It’s easy to be good when they give you a big sword and point you at demons. Anybody can do that. Rooster, however, is Good. (The Lawful bit is up for grabs.) So everybody gets a chance to surrender and we talk to everybody and we convert enemies so often that our castle/tilapia farm is run by drow and kobolds and the wood-woad (and now his dryad girlfriend!)

And yes, occasionally we burn the town down and sow the ashes with salt, but we ride away from the charred remains content in the knowledge that we really truly tried our best. But that’s a last resort.

Usually.

One of the things about being Good is that Rooster is, by god, going to be respectful of this poor senile priest. So as we’re about to ride out of town on yet another adventure, Rooster seeks out Ancient Gil and asks for his blessing, because he served the Weasel faithfully for a lot of years and that deserves respect and we are the good guys, damnit.

Well, again, throwaway character…but Kevin has a fine sense of the dramatic. And suddenly there was a great power in the room who could pronounce Rooster’s name just fine and was surrounded by silver light. And Rooster said “Huh. How ’bout that?”

And Kevin went and wrote up the stats for Gilgamesh the Ancient, Lich-Bane, level 30 Runepriest and current Avatar of the Silver Weasel.

And then he sat on these stats for about three years.

Now, there were hints along the way. We ran into Ancient Gil a few more times, and it turned out maybe the Order did know what was up–“Oh god, Gil showed up in town. Bad shit’s about to go down.” (Also, he gave Rooster a dispensation to keep a pet demon, since it’s Fizzgig.) But, y’know, nothing really concrete until Gil gets kidnapped by cultists of Vecna and we go off on a long and grueling quest to find him.

So there we are, in the dungeon.

ROOSTER: I am required by the tenets of my faith to give you the chance to surrender but I really hope you won’t because I want to kick your undead ass!

VECNA: I’ll drag your soul into the abyss!

ROOSTER: Better avatars than you have tried!

GIL: Quit messing about and untie me, boy!

ROOSTER: I’m a little busy, sir!

There is whomping and mashing and in fine heroic fashion, the ONE time that I manage to roll some really good crits, one after another. The rest of the party fends off the cultist hordes, and our druid…our poor, long-suffering druid…who really deserves to be in a better party than this one…enters the very small room containing one paladin, one tied-up runepriest, and the Avatar of Vecna.

DRUID: I start untying Gil.

GM: There’s barbed wire and shit in there. It’s gonna take awhile. You’re taking ongoing 10 necrotic damage from the avatar’s aura.

DRUID: …sigh.

PALADIN: Don’t worry, Rush! (The druid’s name is Rush.) I’ll heal you.

DRUID: Actually, if I get bloodied,** I can–

PALADIN: *heal-amajig*

DRUID: …sigh.

GIL: Just use a knife, boy!

DRUID: I use a knife.

PALADIN: Do you need a holy symbol, sir?

GIL: I’m fine! Just let me get my feet loose…

AVATAR: *does a horrible thing, turns room horrible, horrible damage for everybody*

DRUID: Well, maybe now I can–

GIL: Don’t worry, boy! I’m on it!

GIL: *super-duper-heal-amajig*

DRUID: Let’s face it, I walked into a room with a paladin and a runepriest. I should have known.

PALADIN: Sorry. It’s against our religion to let people bleed out.

GIL: *is suddenly free, wearing silver armor, and covered in glowing tattoos*

GIL: The secret, boy, is that my whole body is a holy symbol.

PALADIN: Niiiiice.

GM: I have seriously been waiting for this for years.

AVATAR: Well, crap. *teleports*

GIL & PALADIN: Get back here!

PALADIN: Um. Rush?

DRUID: Yes?

PALADIN: You know all those times I complained about you and the friendly fire in the back?

DRUID: Yes.

(There was a long period where our druid kept picking area effect spells that hit everybody and throwing them at the enemy, which was usually clustered around Rooster. His thinking was that Rooster could totally take the damage and the enemies usually couldn’t. He had an extraordinary track record of critting Rooster and missing everybody else. Rooster has literally been complaining about this for YEARS now.)

PALADIN: *sigh* I owe you one, bro.

PALADIN: *sets off Fireburst Boots*

PALADIN: *teleports after the Avatar*

DRUID: *is trapped in blast zone and is now on fire*

DRUID: Seriously?

GIL: Out of the way, boy!

GIL: *teleports, somewhat less destructively*

PALADIN: *charges through dungeon with pants smoldering*

Well, we chased the teleporting Avatar around for a bit, and then our ranger happened to be in the right place at the right time and put an arrow through its head.

GIL: Good job, boy. Thanks for the help. Gonna go fight a lich-god now–

PALADIN: Um. Do you need back-up, sir?

GIL: Nah, I’m gettin’ the band back together.

DRUID: Wait! Can you get us home, first?

GIL: Sure, let me just get this teleport–

PALADIN: And that cultist. We pulled a tadpole baby out of him. We’ll give him a job as a janitor or something.

GIL: …okay. And the cultist.

PALADIN: And the dryad. We’re setting her up with the wood-woad.

GIL: Is there anyone else you’re keeping?

DRUID: That’s everybody.

GM: There’s a loud poof and you all find yourself in front of your very own castle.

DROW-BOB; Ah. The masters are home. Very good.

PALADIN: …I think we ran out on our bar-tab.

 

 

 

*Holy oil, in the Silver Weasel, is a rather pungent affair.

**Many monsters and some characters have powers that trigger when they are bloodied, i.e. have lost half their hit points. Our druid’s a were-thingy and gets much bigger and more armored.

The Pamphlet And The Sword

So here the party is, slaying their way through the dungeon, wandering through a maze, and we come across a cultist.

ROOSTER: Convert or die, and I’m really in a hurry, so let’s make that decision quick, okay? Three…two…one…
CULTIST: Convert! Convert! (loudly, obviously trying to raise the alarm) Oh look, a paladin of the Weasel is asking me to convert…
ROOSTER: Right, let’s try that again. In your indoor voice, convert or die?
CULTIST: Um…convert?
ROOSTER: Okay. Here’s a pamphlet. We’re a little busy right now, so we’re just gonna tie you up and–
CULTIST: The voices in my head say you have to beat me within an inch of my life.

The entire party recoils as one.

DRUID: Um….
ROOSTER: This isn’t a weird sexual thing, is it? I mean, if you just want it to look like you put up a fight when your friends find you, I respect that, but…
THIEF: Let me stab him with the Dagger of Inappropriate Pleasure!
ROOSTER: Stop calling it that! It’s a Great Hunger weapon! It’s just…weird otherwise. Sounds like a dildo or something. And no stabbing. He’s agreed to convert. Sort of. Here, drink this holy water to prove you’ve converted.
CULTIST (chugs holy water)
ROOSTER: That’s enough. Don’t bogart the holy water, dude.
CULTIST: The frog people tell me you must beat me…

The party inches a little farther away.

DRUID: I think he’s got one of those Slaad tadpole things in him!*
RANGER: Use Lawrence!

(Lawrence is the Gnome’s familiar, a very serious toad who communicates through interpretive dance.)

LAWRENCE: (wants no part of this.)
ROOSTER: Lawrence, when they ask you if you’re a god, what do you say?
LAWRENCE (sighs, makes mystic passes through the air.)
CULTIST: No, that’s just a normal frog.
LAWRENCE (is deeply offended, as he is a toad and also not normal.)
ROOSTER: He’s…err…an avatar. Of the frog-god. Pocket sized for…um…easy media mailing…
CULTIST: The frogs are speaking to me!
DRUID: It’s a Slaad tadpole! Rooster! Do an exorcism!
ROOSTER: Um.
DRUID: You remember when we were infected with Slaad babies? That cleansing rite they did at the temple?!
ROOSTER: Oh no! I’m not doing that! I’m not qualified! You have to be OSHA certified! There are classes!
DRUID: So make something up! Channel the Weasel! Do an exorcism!
ROOSTER: I’ve got a sword. I could kill him. That’s like exorcism.

GM: Really, it’s a simple faith…

DRUID: I was thinking of something more humane!
ROOSTER: It’s very humane! I’m a fucking surgeon with this broadsword!**
DRUID: Something else!
ROOSTER: ….I’ve got salt? Frogs hate salt.
DRUID: I was thinking of a holy ritual!
ROOSTER: It’s holy salt?

*sounds of GM howling from downstairs have grown progressively louder*

*eventually GM gets self under control*

CULTIST: The frogs…the voice of the frog…it’s growing…
ROOSTER: Um. Where’s the frog located, exactly?
CULTIST: My heart…and my head…and my soul…
ROOSTER: That was unhelpful.

Eventually the druid convinces Rooster to try and perform a ritual, which corresponds to absolutely no power Rooster actually possesses.

ROOSTER: Um. Okay. I’ll try, but nobody tell the clerics I did this. I’m a paladin, not a cleric. They get very annoyed. It’s a union thing.

Some mystic chalk circles and chants of “The power of Weasel compels you!” later…

CULTIST: Harder! The frog must come out!
ROOSTER: I just feel really weird about this. I’m a killing priest, not a ritual priest. It’s different.
DRUID: You can bless your weapon, why can’t you bless him?
ROOSTER’S PLAYER: FINE! I pick up the cultist and wield him! Then I cast Bless Weapon!

There is a pause while the party absorbs this.

ROOSTER’S PLAYER: Didn’t expect that, did you?
DRUID’S PLAYER: I…that’s not…what is the cultist doing right now?
ROOSTER’S PLAYTER:  +1 radiant damage. More on a crit.
DRUID: I WILL PERFORM THE RITUAL MYSELF.

Astonishingly, the druid manages to turn a “cleanse parasites” spell into a de-Slaad-ification, mostly, I think, because the GM felt we had earned it by then. A tadpole came out of the cultist’s nose and Rooster stepped on it. We left him tied up and went to go fight Vecna and rescue an elderly runepriest named Ancient Gil, which was, after all, why we had come.

GM: You walk into the room. The runepriest is tied to the wall and there’s a sixteen foot tall Aspect of Vecna standing next to him.

ROOSTER: Ancient Gil! We’ve come to rescue you! And as for you…Can I interest you in a pamphlet?

And that was where we cut for the night.

 

*Evil frog people who impregnate you with mystic tadpoles. Very unpleasant.

**Rooster’s player has a real problem with movie references.

D&D: Someone For Everyone, More Or Less

We were fighting Briar Witch Dryads (We named them Holly and Tannenbaum) in the temple of Vecna when a thought suddenly occurred to Rooster the (well-meaning, not very bright) paladin.

ROOSTER: “Heyyyyyy, ladies…you know, we have a friendly wood-woad back home at the castle…all you’d have to do is renounce evil and I’d be happy to introduce you…”

(This is true. We befriended him some years ago, thereby derailing a great deal of plot. He lives in the orchard now.)

GM: “No. Just no. No. Anyway, you’ll have to wait until your turn.”

ME: “But I can roll Diplomacy on my turn?”

GM: “Fine, sure, whatever.”

Rooster’s turn rolls around…

ROOSTER: “So! Let me tell you about my friend Woad-Bob! He has his own wasp nest! Very…um…sexy bark? With…err…great…big..boles…”

GM: “I guess that’s versus will, but…”

ME: (rolls high) “You know I have +19 to Diplomacy, right?”

GM: “…oh, you’re f’ing kidding me!”

*pause for gentle sounds of GM head meeting keyboard*

GM: (grimly) “Tannenbaum would like to hear more about Woad-Bob.”

ROOSTER: “I have a picture in my wallet!”

RANGER: “…why do you have pictures of the wood-woad in your wallet?”

ROOSTER: “It’s not weird. I have everybody’s picture. Drow-Bob…Woad-Bob…that one kobold with the thing on his head…the Hydra…You know, in case I meet a nice young monster looking to settle down.”

RANGER: “How is that not weird?”

ROOSTER: *carefully hides the ranger’s picture* “Check out Woad-Bob! Look at those branches! And his own orchard!”

GM: “The dryad leaves combat and is waiting to go back to the castle with you. Why. What is this. What. How?”

Hellhound Rescue

Yesterday, in the latest installment of the D&D Party That Means Well, we were in combat with some cultists, some Helmed Horrors, and a hellhound-thingy.

Combat was slightly delayed last week, as the paladin browbeat the Helmed Horror into writing a letter to his mother in case he was killed in battle. (Last line of the letter “Mummy, if you’re reading this, a Weaselite killed me. Avenge my death!” We may scratch that line out.)

We had dispatched most of the foe and gotten down to the hellhound when the paladin began calling for it to surrender, because…well…we just don’t feel right about killing dogs.

(The thief, who is run by a Corgi-lover, backed me up a hundred percent on that one!)

The problem, of course, lies in getting a dog to surrender.

PALADIN: Who’s a good dog? Who’s a good dog who wants a horse hoof?*

HOUND: GRRRRRRR

GNOLL: …Ooh! Ooh! Me!

PALADIN: A good dog who sits gets a horse hoof!

GNOLL: I’ll sit! I’ll sit!

GNOME: Don’t sit! We’re still in combat!

HOUND: GRrrrrrRRRRrrrr…

DRUID: You want me to translate? Well, you know the worst thing you’ve ever been called?

PALADIN: Sure. You call me that all the time.

DRUID: …worse than that.

PALADIN: Bad dog!

Clearly we needed to speak the dog’s language! Prove our alpha status! Convince him to surrender in terms he understood!

FIZZGIG: *urinates on dog’s foot to prove dominance*

GM: I…guess….that’ll be an Intimidate roll..

FIZZGIG’S PLAYER: I think he should get the urination for free. He’s really good at that. He’s basically a bladder with teeth.

GM: ….indeed.

Fizzgig flubs the Intimidation roll, possibly because he could not reach any higher than the dog’s foot. Our trusty Gnoll decides to get in on the action.

GNOLL: I’m gonna grapple him and put my teeth on his throat!

DRUID: Can’t we just kill him?

GM: Can’t you just kill him?

PALADIN: We can’t kill a dog! It’s not right!

GM: *clutches head* IT’S A DEMONIC HOUND OF YEENOGHU!

THIEF: We’ll find a rescue organization that specializes in that.

PALADIN: There are no bad dogs—

THIEF: —only bad cultists!

GM: *whimpers*

The gnoll crits her grapple roll, has the hellhound down and her teeth on his throat, and still flubs the Intimidate roll.

DOG: GRRRRRRRR!

GNOLL: GRRRR!

PALADIN: Are you sure you don’t want to be a good dog? There’s a tasty horse hoof for a good doggie!

GM: The dog looks at you like you’re an idiot.

PALADIN: Pfff, I’m used to that.

The thief uses Abashing Stab to try and hit him on the nose with a rolled up newspaper, and misses.

GM: …the dog is still not intimidated.

PALADIN: Fine, I’ll whip it out and pee on him.

DRUID: WTF!?!

GNOME: This is getting a little unsanitary.

PALADIN: We’re establishing dominance. You’re a druid, you should know about this sort of thing!

DRUID: What is this I don’t even…

PALADIN: Wait! I have holy water!

THIEF: Is that what we’re calling it these days?

DRUID: I cannot tweet fast enough for this.

GNOLL: Grrrrr!

PALADIN: If we swear that we won’t keep him for a pet and will give him up to a rescue, will you let us save him?

GM: For god’s sake! It’s Chaotic Evil! It’s a demon hound! It only accepts commands in Abyssal!

PALADIN: Dude, I speak Abyssal. You should have said.

PALADIN: (in Abyssal) Sit!

GM: …oh god, give me a Diplomacy roll, because that actually makes sense.

PALADIN: My 38 says he sits.

GM: …he sits.

PALADIN: (in Abyssal) Who’s a good doggie then?

GM: He looks at you like you’re an idiot. Again.

PALADIN: (in Abyssal) Who’s an evil but obedient doggie, then?

GM: ….you get a tiny tail wag.

PALADIN: (in Abyssal) Who wants a horse hoof for being a good evil doggie?

GM: *clutches head* ….Grrr.

PALADIN: (in Abyssal) Who wants the dripping heart of a cultist for being a good evil doggie?

GM: It’s a definite tail wag this time. I love you all. I mean that…

THIEF: (composes ad) Hellie had a rough start in life, but is looking for his Forever Home. Fence required. Does not get along with cats…

 

 

*Fizzgig and our Gnoll fighter both eat dried horse hooves as a snack. It is now our equivalent of a dog treat.

Breaking The GM

Sometimes, it just all comes together in D&D.

When last we left our intrepid adventurers, they were battling through the Walt’s Wasps* hand-lotion factory, to foil the plot of a demon lord who had decided to enslave the world with evil hand lotion.

PALADIN: Seriously? Evil hand lotion? Are you guys sure you don’t want to come back and try again? Maybe something with a little dignity this time?

DEMONS: We know, right?

PALADIN: I am smiting you under protest.

DEMONS: Would you like a pamphlet about our hand lotion?

PALADIN: …This degrades us both.

After dispatching the demons, the party had accidentally split up at the end of last session. (Cue Rooster sitting alone in a room with a portal and his trail rations, playing harmonica, the picture of a sad paladin waiting for the rest of the group.) At last, after a rousing nap, the party went in search of their lost paladin.

RANGER: I want to stay here.

DRUID: There might be more slaad. With tadpoles.

GNOME: They do that impregnate-you-with-tadpole-babies thing!

RANGER: I’m going, I’m going…

On the other side of the portal, they found…a lonely trail ration, and no paladin. Fortunately, they were re-united in the next room.

PALADIN: (dangling thirty feet in the air, in his boxer shorts,** over a vat of molten hand lotion) So, hey, I found the bad guys!

DRUID: (facepalms)

CULTISTS: Death to the infidel! We will boil him alive in our hand lotion of evil!

GNOME: I feel it’s time for diplomacy!

CULTISTS: It is time for hand lotion! And salt scrub!

GNOME: Do you have the salt scrub in lavender?

PALADIN: Don’t mind me…

RANGER: I’m going to shoot something.

A pitched battle ensued! A battle rather more pitched than usual, because all our battle plans mostly involve having a working paladin, not someone who is shouting encouragement from thirty feet up! Our trusty Gnoll fighter can only hold so many enemies at the same time!

GM: And that’s a twenty-six damage and ten ongoing and…whoa.

THIEF: Ow. That’s bad, right?

GM: …you have two hit points.

THIEF: THIS IS NOT SHINY.

GNOME: Let me get that healing potion warmed up for you…

Meanwhile, Fizzgig, the paladin’s trusty pet demon, was rooting around through his*** master’s clothes until he finally seized upon—the holy symbol!

PALADIN: Good boy! Good Fizzgig! Somebody give him a chewy horse-hoof!

FIZZGIG: Grah!

GNOLL: Hey, a chewy horse-hoof sounds good right now…

Unfortunately Fizzgig is approximately ten inches high, and the paladin was, as previously mentioned, thirty feet up over molten lotion. But he had a plan!

FIZZGIG: (Spits holy symbol onto the druid’s foot.)

DRUID: …what am I supposed to do with this?

FIZZGIG: Grah! Grah-grah-grah–GRAH!

FIZZGIG: (grabs Lawrence the Toad, the Gnome’s familiar.)

LAWRENCE: (does amphibian interpretive dance while Fizzgig beatboxes.)

DRUID: ….what?

GNOME: It was perfectly clear to me.

THIEF: I could swear that all this blood was supposed to be on the inside, not the outside…

PALADIN: I HAVE A BRILLIANT PLAN!

DRUID: Oh lord.

TWITTER: This is a very Rube-Goldberg sort of plan.

The druid, in his spare time, is a shape-shifter. He turned into a flying drake, grabbed the holy symbol, landed on the chain from which the paladin was dangling, and very carefully dropped the holy symbol around the paladin’s neck.

PALADIN: (holding holy symbol in his teeth) ‘Ank oo’.

PALADIN’S PLAYER: I have my holy symbol back now, biatch!

DRUID: I do a backflip off the chain and throw lightning at the Big Bad Cultist standing right there, because I am just that badass.

BIG BAD CULTIST: You’re badass? I have taken almost no damage and am about to set you on fire. Also I am a Warforged and thus nearly indestructible. Let me just cast this spell–

PALADIN: THE POWER OF THE WEASEL COMPELS YOU!

Let us pause here for a moment to explain some of the mechanics of being a paladin.

There is a spell.

It is called Knightly Intercession. It means that if you are a paladin and somebody attacks an ally near you, you yell “I don’t think so!” (or presumably something suitably paladinly) and through sheer power of divine badassery, you instantly haul that attacker to a square right next to you. You then take the attack meant for your friend, because this is what paladins do. And then you get to attack them back.

But if you happen, just hypothetically, to be dangling thirty feet in the air over molten hand lotion, then the square next to you…

Well. Sucks to be them, doesn’t it?

PALADIN’S PLAYER:  I have to make an attack, I’m wrapped in chains—so I headbutt him. Then I let him go.

GM: …!

DRUID’S PLAYER: Oh. My. God.

GM: ……..!!

GM: ………………!!!!

PALADIN: Told you it was a brilliant plan.

GM: ….he vanishes into the molten lotion. There is a lot of splooshing. And he’s out of the combat. That’s it for him.

PARTY: (wild cheering)

DRUID’S PLAYER: You could have told me that was your plan! We have instant messaging!

PALADIN:  …I wanted it to be authentic teamwork. It has nothing to do with my inability to find the buttons.

GM: I…you know, there’s only one thing I can do.

GM: (applauds into the mic)

GM: …and now we’re gonna call it for the night, because I got nothin’. Damn. Well-played, you two.

 

 

 

*No relation to any other alliterative lotion company involving hive insects.

**Embroidered with little weasels, of course.

***We’re assuming. Under “gender” his character sheet says “Fizzgig.” This is also his race, class, and primary language.

A Series of Memos

Every year, in my D&D group, we do a little write-up of how our character spent the holidays. It’s basically a fun little creative-writing exercise that occasionally builds some plot points and nets us a couple of XP. Last year our Druid had a religious experience, my paladin got very drunk with his order, our artificer attended the Artificer’s Gala, which ended in explosions, and the thief was nowhere near anywhere, not at all, absolutely nowhere, and had the alibi to prove it.

This was my contribution this year. Useful knowledge: my paladin Rooster belongs to a group called the Order of the Silver Weasel who hunt demons and are best known for razing towns and sowing fields with salt, and whom many of the other paladinly orders feel are a little bit out there. They view all orphanages as a front for Children of the Corn-style horror and orphans are one of the inherently evil races.

Rooster reports to the Lord Marshall of the West, currently head of the order in a town called Marksville. For Christmas, he brought them a dead blue dragon.

 

From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

Okay, lads, here’s the problem. We have to do something really spectacular this year to prove our place in the community as more than just burners-of-towns and smiters-of-demons. The Temple of Tyr was really cutting about last year’s Swords-for-Tots debacle, and they just won’t let it go. This year, we need to change that.

Fortunately, our temporary knight-errant in residence was kind enough to provide most of a dead blue dragon for the soup kitchen. The Alchemist’s Guild says they can build a deep-fat fryer that’ll cook it up nice, but just in case, we’re keeping a couple of drumsticks and the soup bones aside. Weasel knows where they’re getting all the fat from, but the one without eyebrows told me not to worry about it, so we’ll see.

I expect to see everyone turned out on the eve of the solstice to serve soup. Let’s get out there and help some homeless people!

Yours in the Weasel,

the Lord Marshall


From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

Some of you may have noticed the smoking crater outside the Alchemist’s Guild. Fortunately, we still have plenty of meat, since they only got half the dragon in before it blew up. There will still be plenty of soup for all the needy in Marksville. Let’s prove that the Weasel is foremost in charity as well as mayhem!

Yours in the Weasel,

the Lord Marshall


From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

It has come to my attention that some of the younger paladins—you know who you are—are rounding up homeless people from other towns and bringing them to Marksville for the Solstice. While I am sure that your hearts are in the right place, a charity drive is not like a cattle drive. We have had complaints.

Yours,

the Lord Marshall


From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

By the hairs on the ass of the Great Skunk, what the hell is going through your tiny little brains? Yes, we’re in a friendly competition with the Temple of Tyr about how many homeless people we can feed, but that does not mean that you get to go out and burn people’s houses to improve your numbers! You don’t get to make more homeless people! The Weasel does not approve of that! Anyone caught doing so will be fined and will do a vigil on their knees in the snow.

the Lord Marshall

From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

It has come to my attention that at least one of the homes burned as mentioned in the previous memo was an orphanage. Those responsible are excused from vigil. (Good job, lads.)

the Lord Marshall

From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

Okay, I blame myself. When I said that we were in a friendly competition with the Temple of Tyr, I should have placed greater emphasis on “friendly.” Please untie the priests of Tyr and return them to the temple. There will be no disciplinary action taken at this time, as long as the priests are returned immediately, but I would urge all those involve to meditate upon the meaning of Lawful Good.

the Lord Marshall


From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

To His Grace, Lord Justiciar of the Temple of Divine Tyr, Marksville

I am very, very sorry about the incident. As near as I can tell, some of our younger and less-bright recruits came upon several of your priests and mistook their caroling for speaking in demonic tongues. Your priests have been returned, hopefully none the worse for wear, and again, I apologize. I can assure you that disciplinary action will be taken immediately.

Sincerely,

the Lord Marshall

From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

It has come to my attention that some members of the order are attempting to pad the attendance at the soup kitchen by hiring prostitutes to take part. While I applaud your enthusiasm at ministering to the dregs of society, some of those women make upwards of two hundred gold pieces an hour, and the Weasel’s treasury is not bottomless. Let’s try to confine ourselves to the less fortunate.

the Lord Marshall

From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

Kobolds are not less fortunate. That is all.

the Lord Marshall

From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Winter Feast

Damnit, people, there is not a Yuletide event called “the Running of the Homeless.” You stop that right now.

the Lord Marshall

From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

Memo to all Servants of the Weasel in Marksville, re: Final Winter Feast Attendance Numbers

Well, we had a few rough patches this year, lads, but all in all, I am pleased to announce that the Weasel’s Winter Soup Kitchen was a rousing success. We had eight whole homeless people attend, a vast increase over last year’s numbers, and two of them even asked for seconds! The Temple of Tyr will certainly know who’s foremost in charity in Marksville, although I’m sure we all wish them the very best of luck in cleaning up after that inexplicable hill giant attack on Solstice Eve.

Please report to the treasurer for any reimbursements required (Note: Prostitutes are disallowed, as mentioned previously) and to the infirmary if you celebrated a little too hard following the close of the soup kitchen.

Yours in the Weasel,

the Lord Marshall

From the Desk of the Lord Marshall of the West,
Temple of the Silver Weasel

To: Adventurer’s Co-op Local #649

Looking to sell eleven hundred gallons of blue dragon soup stock. Organic, no pesticides, so far as I know dragon was never on antibiotics or steroids. Mostly de-electrified. Only used to drown one kobold. Can be delivered. Please advise.

Sincerely,

the Lord Marshall

That Didn’t Quite Go As Planned

So in D&D this evening, we walked into the blue dragon’s lair and were promptly captured by its minions.

Let’s not dwell on that. The details are somewhat embarrassing.

In order to escape from the cell, we first broke down the door, then everybody who was able to hide/turn invisible/turn into a swarm of mice did so. That left, depressingly visible, yours truly—Rooster the Paladin, champion of the Order of the Silver Weasel, whose goal was to produce a diversion until everybody managed to sneak out of range. (After all, if they throw him in a different cell, now the rest of the party can come break him out.)*

Rooster strolled up to the hill giant guarding the hallway, slapped him on the shoulder, told him he was doing a great job and asked if he wanted anything from the kitchen.

HILL GIANT: Shiny man want wrestle?

PALADIN:  Errr, no. No wrestle. Maybe after dinner?

HILL GIANT: Want wrestle now!

PALADIN: We’ll get in trouble if we wrestle.

HILL GIANT: Not if wrestling prisoner…

PALADIN: I’m not a prisoner! I’m a recruit! I filled out paperwork and everything! It’s on file in the office!**

HILL GIANT: But armor have little ferret on it. Not dragon. Recruit armor have dragon.

PALADIN: …it’s a ferret-dragon?

This is where the GM made his fatal mistake. He had set up for a wrestling match, and instead, he stayed in character. Staying in character with our party is death. Always. He always makes them too sympathetic. It’s a real problem.

HILL GIANT: Me want ferret-dragon…

PALADIN: Errr….I’ll get you one?

HILL GIANT: Me will love it and hug it and call it George!

PALADIN: (now horrified but intrigued) What if it’s a girl?

HILL GIANT: George!

PALADIN: Quite right, lovely name for a girl. Good man. I’ll just…err…go get you one…

Following the swarm of mice that is nominally our druid, the paladin sauntered away, follow the mice to a good spot to hide, and while the party debated what to do next, we had to listen to the follow-up, as Kevin really got into the spirit of things:

HILL GIANT 2: Where prisoner?

HILL GIANT 1: He getting ferret-dragon!

HILL GIANT 2: There no such thing as ferret-dragon.

HILL GIANT 1: Is too! Shiny man said!

HILL GIANT 2: What you name it?

HILL GIANT 1: George. Me will love it and hug it and..

HILL GIANT 2: What if it girl…?

HILL GIANT 1: George good name for girl.

At this point, to forestall the now-desperate paladin from actually leaving the lair, walking to town, commissioning a stuffed ferret-dragon and bringing it back in an agony of guilt, our artificer used her animal messenger spell to send a bat to the local adventurer’s co-op with Rooster’s membership number and have a stuffed ferret-dragon (or close equivalent) delivered to Hill Giant Guard, c/o Blue Dragon’s Lair, wrapped in a bow with “Love, Shiny Man” on the tag.

Somewhat belatedly it occurred to us that the spell might have been better used in calling for backup, but the paladin would never have been able to live with himself.

 

 

*Our first escape plan involved a sudden magic elephant to the groin. It would have totally worked, but possibly would have attracted undue attention.

**Sadly, this is all true.

Fear the Well-Meaning

I have come to realize, after yet another D&D session that ended with Kevin holding his head in his hands and moaning as the plot jumped the rails, went down an embankment, and burst into flames, what precisely the problem with our D&D group is.

We mean well.

This is what gets us into trouble.

When there are straightforward bad guys, we kill them. Occasionally we flirt with them and then kill them. We’re complicated people. But the situation is hardly ever straightforward, and if the NPCs say anything—or god forbid, Kevin attempts to provide a little local color—it’s all over. We begin to sympathize. Unless they’re mindless zombies or malicious demons (the paladin belongs to a demonslaying order) or abominations (the druid has issues) we have a bad habit of trying to work out the best possible solution, because damnit, we are all well-meaning, basically decent people. (The rogue has a heart of gold. Really.)

So we rescue the little caged monster because it Looked Sad, and we joined the local adventurer’s co-op and we bend over backwards to make sure that Lawrence, the artificer’s spirit-toad familiar, never finds out that he’s not a real toad, to the point where we started buying ghost-cicadas on a ghost-stick to feed him.

In this most recent extravaganza, we were fighting a wood-woad, and it occurred to me to ask it why it was so angry. Kevin, who had not actually expected us to talk to it—it’s been sending wasps to poison the water supply—summoned up his growly wood-woad voice and said “Uh…humans take water supply! Humans cut trees! Always cutting trees!”

Well. What can you do? Clearly the wood-woad had been wronged!

The paladin wanted to find it a nice new home, the druid thought it was an invasive species and wanted it killed. It came out that it had slain all the local beavers, which was enough to enrage the paladin. We beat on it for awhile. Finally:

PALADIN: Can we ask it to surrender now? Offer it terms?

DRUID: It’s a wood-woad! It…y’know, sure. Fine. See if it’ll accept terms.

PALADIN: (Rolls natural 20 on Diplomacy roll.) Excuse me, Mr. Wood-Woad, sir…if you stop now, no more of your little wasp friends will be hurt, and surely we can work something out where nobody will take your water supply again…?

DRUID: (sighs heavily)

GM: (weeps into hands)

So now we are traveling to an orchard owned by the paladin’s order, with a wood-woad stuffed in a half-barrel full of potting soil, which is tied to the back of an elephant, because the rogue happens to own a wondrous elephant. Y’know. Like you do.

Mind you, being well-meaning also means that we have put several towns to the torch, sowed the fields of one with salt, tied a priest to a bed on at least one occasion and spent much of last week trying to figure out how to burn down the sky. And don’t get us started on orphanages. There is always something evil going on at orphanages. It is better to simply burn them down preemptively before they get all Children of the Corn on you. No good ever comes of sparing the orphanage.

I have been in other campaigns where we did not Mean Well quite so aggressively, and they were not nearly so much fun. On the other hand, since apparently killing the wood-woad was kinda a plot point, Kevin is now scrambling to figure out what to do next, but hey, that’s the GM’s life…

I fear you, ancient mariner…

It was a very odd D&D session.

Ostensibly, all we had to do was get on a boat from point A to point B. There were lots of things to do on the boat. The module designer had written lots of them in. There were (apparently) illicit fights, war profiteers, and card games.

We saw none of these things.

Instead we wandered into the extradimensional Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe (you know the kind, it’s always run by an ancient Chinese man and sells things you can’t feed after midnight, except that Kevin can’t do a Chinese accent, so we wound up with an ancient Chinese man who had apparently spent some time in Pittsburgh. Given what the halfling crew sounded like, we didn’t press the issue, particularly after he’d gotten his wires crossed and we wound up with a Mexican-Norwegian bartender. “O, yah, yah, si…” We live in the most ethnically diverse fantasy world…)

So we wandered around the Shoppe, finding things from other realities, magical items from Oglaf, a Necronomicon for kids, the Hellraiser cube, Pokeballs, the things you can’t feed after midnight…

And then Kevin tried to come up with one more bit of flavor text from our collective geek backgrounds, and said “There’s a brown fuzzy thing with a huge mouth and little feet in a cage. It’s yelling.”

This was a tactical error.

I watched the Dark Crystal about eight hundred times as a child, and even if I hadn’t, my character is a paladin with a heart of moosh, and Kevin compounded his error by uttering the phrase “It looks sad.”

There was no way we were getting out of the Shoppe without liberating it. Fortunately for everyone, it was in Rooster the paladin’s price range, and we did not have to stage an armed raid that would get us throw off the boat.

The other characters did their best to dissuade him. “It’ll scream through our attempts at stealth!” “It’ll eat the horses!” “We’re in a dangerous line of work! We can’t keep pets!” “It’s from another dimension! We don’t know if it’ll be happy here!”

To which Rooster had the all-defeating argument “BUT IT LOOKS SAD!”

Never get between one of my paladins and a small sad animal.

There was a brief snag when it came out that, while not evil, the creature was technically demonic in origin (Kevin: “Crap, it failed its saving throw vs. being-a-demon.” ) Rooster, as it happens, belongs to a somewhat fanatical demon-hunting order. Did this dissuade him?

Of course not.

ROOSTER: Now it’s a business expense!

It was finally agreed that if the creature warmed to him (it did) and did not eat the horses (it didn’t) Rooster could keep it until such time as we found a demon rehabber going in the direction of the creature’s home dimension who could take it home. Which, in one of our campaigns, could happen. You never know. (I always thought monster-rehabbers would be a great campaign hook for the correct sort of players, of which I am one, but y’know…)

And so, for the fourth or fifth time now, Kevin is grimly writing up stats for what he thought was a bit of local flavor.

Meanwhile, Wilhelmina the gnome wound up at the bar with a hoary ancient mariner, who had a very strange story involving albatrosses, and kept buying him drinks, with the end result that poor Kevin had to read most of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, in character, which he did with great style, except that the gnome wouldn’t let him stop.

GNOME: This is fascinating! Tell me more!
GM: Now you’re just fuckin’ with me…
GNOME: I need to know more! I eat more chips and buy him another drink!
GM (wearily): One by one, by the star-dogged moon…

This continued on until after 11 pm, whereupon we called it a night. And then Kevin pinned my arm and insisted on reading another half dozen stanzas at me, because he claimed to be suffering from poetus interruptus.