Storytime – The Importance of Planning OR Cut and Run

These Storytime articles are a break from my normal format of me writing an essay on a topic and instead just telling you a real-life story from one of my game sessions.  This particular session happened way back during the first few months of 3rd Edition and I was a player, not a DM.  It’s the only time I’ve ever been part of a TPK*.  It really sucked to go through it at the time, but like all good games of D&D, I still had fun and got a great story out of it.


The campaign was very different from the types we used to play at the game store.  Normally, it was typical kick-in-the-door style games.  However, this time the store owner decided he wanted to run an urban-based game set in Forgotten Realms, specifically in the town of Waterdeep.  We were a group of 2nd level Rogues attempting to start a thieves’ guild.  After a few minor exploits (including a horrible experience trying to steal a gem from the political figure in the town square, which is another interesting story), a local dockworker came to us with an offer.  A ship loaded down with valuable cargo would be arriving and, for only 100 gp, he’d get us onto the docks after the crew had left the ship.  Seeing as that was all the money we had, we had a debate before we decided to go for it.


We geared up and went out to the docks that night.  There were seven of us.  Three of us stayed on the docks as lookouts, I stood on the deck of the ship as a relay to the other three, who went into the hold for the goods.  The first sign I had joined the Marx Brothers of thieves’ guilds was when I found out that while all four of us lookouts had brought crowbars, none of the three in the hold had thought to do so.  While I climbed down the rope ladder into the hold (4 Climb checks, don’t roll a 1 to not fall was the ruling from the DM) to give them my crowbar, one of them had the bright idea to use his rapier to try to pry a crate open.  Not his dagger, but his rapier.  So by the time I got down, he’d broken his sword.  I handed over the crowbar and climbed back up again.


I also got to relay to the lookouts on the docks that the cargo wasn’t the gold or gems we expected.  It was ivory.  Unprocessed ivory.  In other words, massive tusks.  We had no gear to carry that sort of thing and started brainstorming ideas as the group down in the hold started going nuts cracking open cases and pulling out ivory into a big pile.


Suddenly, I got the signal from the docks that the captain was on his way back.  I climbed down the ladder and told them we were in trouble.  Now, everyone else had min-maxed their characters for a 20 Dexterity.  I, on the other hand, had gone a different direction and made my character more of an archeologist, focusing on skills rather than fighting ability (please note that this was 3rd Edition, where these sorts of builds were more possible).  The DM put us into initiative as soon as I told them to see if we could get away in time.  I, of course, rolled the lowest.  So everyone pushed past me to climb up the ladder.  Remember, roll 1d20 four times and you only fall on a 1.  First guy shoves past me, makes all four rolls, and runs.  Next guy, the same.  The third guy shoved me out of the way, saying “Maybe next time you’ll be faster” before he climbed up.  20.  14.  18.  1.  He fell 40 feet to the ground right in at my feet.  The falling damage was bad, and he was down to 1 HP.  Not believing that karma was good enough, I kicked him hard (doing 1 HP damage) before climbing up myself and running.


So now the three of us are on the deck of the ship with a 10 foot gap to the dock or a 30 foot ramp to run down.  We all decided on making the jump.  We re-rolled initiative (rather than using the same scores for the entire combat) and I rolled very high, getting the second highest.  The first guy jumped from the deck onto the docks in a perfect tuck and roll.  I rolled and missed by 1, falling into the water under the docks.  Thankfully, the 20 foot drop didn’t do a lot of damage and I was able to swim away.  Finally, the last guy decides to jump.  Please note, the player of this character was the brother of the player of the character I kicked to unconsciousness and left in the hold.  We called them “The Dumbass Brothers”.  So he jumped and made his roll.  Then he opened his mouth.


“Nice!  I got all that ivory too!”

“Wait, what?” the DM said.

“I tied a bunch of those ivory tusks onto my back to take with us,” he said.

“How many?” the DM said.

“As many as I could carry!”

“What’s your Strength?”

“14, why?”


The DM consults the tables and figures out what the maximum encumbrance was for the character and what the penalties to the Jump check would be with that amount of weight.  Not only did he miss, but he fell into the water and drowned due to the weight of the ivory dragging him down.  Two down, five to go…


So we ran and regrouped back at our headquarters.  We were broke and down two men.  This didn’t look good for us, so we had to make use of that information.  So we decided to go take the ship, sneaking on even if the captain was there and taking our plunder.  We geared up for a fight and started heading out, hugging the shadows.  We snuck onto the boat perfectly…until someone (okay, me…) blew their check with a botched roll just as we’d climbed onto the boat.  So while I was clanging around with a bucket stuck on my foot, the captain woke up and started arming himself.  But there were five of us and only one of him, right?


Yeah, apparently a 100 gp bribe isn’t enough to include the information that, in order to get a bunch of tucks, you must be able to lead a crew capable of killing multiple very large and very dangerous animals.  Like say a Level 8 Rogue/Level 4 Fighter Tiefling.  We were slaughtered in less than two turns.  I was the only survivor of the fight.  After I’d taken a very nasty blow, I played possum and laid there until the captain was busy killing the rest of the party, so I rolled off the ship and back into the water again.  Unfortunately for me, the falling damage was just enough to knock me back out again and I was unable to keep myself above water and drowned.


The moral of this story?  Well, there’s two of them.  Make sure you know what you’re getting into and don’t be afraid to cut your losses.  Take your pick.

Published in: on December 27, 2010 at 6:00 AM  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] I loved it – we were horrible.  Everything our group touched turned to crap.  I’ve detailed one of those failed encounters from this campaign before, but I really wanted to write about all three sessions to illustrate how much fun you can have in a […]

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