RPG-a-Day 2018
RPG-a-Day 2018 Day 05 (alternate): Narrowest escape?

Today’s question would have been my favourite recurring NPC, but since I feel it’s too similar to yesterday’s question of the most memorable NPC, I thought I’d delve into the alternate questions and the one that jumps out the most is talking about my narrowest escape.

I’ve had my share of close encounters over the years, but the one that sticks in my memory as the one that went closest to the wire came near the start of my roleplaying tenure. FCPN head honcho David Stobbie, Mark Williamson, Ross Macleod and I had played through the first D&D 3rd Edition adventure The Sunless Citadel and had advanced to the next adventure, The Forge of Fury. We had infiltrated the fortification somehow (we were young and new to the game, subtley was not a regular feature of our tactics) and had progressed though to the Troglodyte area of the adventure, and so the war of attrition began. Our party was made up of my Half Orc Barbarian, Ross’s Elf Rogue, Mark’s Elf Cleric, and Stobbie’s Human Fighter, and when faced with a couple of Troglodyte guards, we employed our standard tactics of charging straight in, what we didn’t know, was this triggered a number of other Troglodytes joining the fight as the sounds of battle raged on, as each turn passed more Troglodytes joined the fray, though we were making progress in wearing down their numbers, but damage was being taken. To make matters worse, the Troglodyte chief joined the fight with his pet lizard…

At this point my Barbarian breaks off from the throng of normal Troglodytes to engage the chief and his lizard. We were racking up kills but eventually the rogue dropped, and to make matters worse, the chief went invisible and started “buffing” the normal Troglodytes while the barbarian took on the lizard. We managed to stabilize the rogue and take down a few more Troglodytes before the fighter dropped, though at this point the lizard was felled and my barbarian was swinging wildly for the invisible chief. The cleric held on and downed a couple more Troglodytes before the chief was taken out of the game by a lucky hit (I have a deep seated hatred of miss chances). So with the cleric and the barbarian facing off against the remaining Troglodytes, the fight wore on, eventually the cleric dropped leaving the barbarian alone, and running low on rounds of rage remaining. Both the fighter and the cleric managed to stabilise as the barbarian whittled the remaining Troglodytes down from three, to two, to one, and then it got tense…

With one Troglodyte remaining, the barbarian’s rage ran out, causing him to become fatigued (at this point no fight had ever gone on longer than a couple of rounds so rage running out was practically unheard of). Round after round passed without a blow landing, occasionally the Troglodyte would connect and chip away at the barbarian’s health, but never enough to down it. We all knew that a hit from the barbarian was going to be enough to drop the last Troglodyte, but the dice had other ideas as a killing blow never arrived. The troglodyte managed to lower the barbarian to three hit points before another series of misses occured, each dice roll accompanied by tense scrutiny as the whole group waited with baited breath for the barbarian to hit, which he finally did, but a poor damage roll meant the battle raged on. I don’t know how long it went on for, or even how long the battle actually lasted, at the time it felt like forever as miss followed miss followed miss until finally the barbarian connected, killing the troglodyte, to raucus cheers from the party. The barbarian hefted the rogue over his shoulder, and dragging the fighter and cleric, retreated to an earlier room in the dungeon to allow the team to recover from the prolonged, and nearly catastrophic battle.

Now it’s been a long time since this session, probably just shy of 20 years, so my memory of the events may not be 100% accurate, and having run the adventure in the intervening time and read the encounters, I’m not sure if the GM padded the number of Troglodytes and toughened them up a bit as the fight wore on to give us a bit of a challenge, but I remember it went right down to the wire. The atmosphere in the room in the run up to the final decisive blow was palpable, each dice roll was charged with tension knowing one hit would do the job, and the frustration of each miss just added to the experience. In my mind, those last couple of turns must have looked like two prize-fighters slogging it out after going ten rounds, looking for the knock out punch. The relief when I finally connected was such a rush of emotions that the encounter has never left my mind, and ranks up there as one of my favourites in all the time I’ve played. I don’t know how many rounds the combat went on for, but it felt like an eternity and to come out the end as the survivor was such an epic moment in my roleplaying experiences.

For tomorrow’s question, I’ll look at how players can make a world seem real…

You can share your tales of gaming narrow escapes in the comments below. In the meantime, you can follow me @bargtheogre on Twitter, or check out the Inside the Ogre’s Cavern podcast at @itocpodcast

RPG-a-Day 2018: Day 06 – How Can Players Make A World Seem Real? ⇒