Under TV tropes as a model here, in your time playing D&D, as a PC or DM, what is the scariest, most tearjerking, most heartwarming, funniest and most awesome moment you can think of?
Saddle up your dragons and get ready, because I have plenty of very long stories to tell. The others are coming in a separate post, when my wrists aren’t killing me because of tendonitis.
They might be a tiny bit embellished here and there, but all good stories are.
Scariest and Most Awesome Moment: Becoming a God
I had played Basalt for a rather long campaign. It had ended, but our DM had gotten a brilliant idea: to go back to an earlier age of the same campaign and run a game in the same world. Ultimately, our party’s fate in this new campaign would tie into the elaborate worldbuilding we had co-built for the first campaign. Time passed and we had a lot of fun with the campaign, and were fast approaching the endgame.
Our characters became very detailed and elaborate, and the twist of the campaign shouldn’t have been a surprise to me, but it was. Before I get to that, I want to mention the characters themselves a bit more:
Falx Cenzer was our battlemaster. He was a man of the people and a hero of the common folk. His ambition was unmatched, and he wanted to change the world for better. Falx’s greatest fear was time. He feared he was always wasting it, that there would never be enough of it to do what he needed to do. His smile could always put a room at ease.
Garener was our necromancer. They were a healer of the mind, a gentle soul who spoke to the dead to help the living accept their grief. Garener saw no use in fixing such a temporary and immeasurably small world, nor in discovering its secrets. They believed that our lives had no meaning except what we made of them. Beneath their philosophy and magic, Garener was terrified of death.
Inari Farland was our spellsword. She had been born to a great pirate queen. At an early age, she showed an aptitude for sorcery but not for thievery. Her ‘no-nonsense’ attitude and intolerance for crime led her to become a naval officer under the land’s prince. Underneath her formality and skill, Inari is plagued with a fear that she isn’t doing the right thing.
Izazel was my cleric of knowledge. He insisted that there was a meaning to life, and he adamantly refused to die until he found it. In his own words, “Once I find it, I’ll lay down and perish. Until then, no such thing will happen.” He wanted to know everything there was to know about the world.
Our campaign was bent on finding the Fountain of Immortality and with it archives of all time, written across the walls of its chamber. Falx wanted to find it to maybe, just maybe, have a shot at living longer. Garener wanted to know if death was escapable, and if there was anything in store for the world. Inari wanted to see if there was a ‘right’ thing. Izazel wanted to see all of the unbiased past and bring the truth to light.
We discovered that the fountain would not function unless immortality was ‘traded’. A god must willingly give their power to the pool of water- or a god could be murdered in it.
Luckily for us, Falx’s connections were able to locate the mountain the fountain was under. As was orchestrated by the DM and Falx’s player the entire time, Falx had stolen the representations of dreams that floated in the fountain. He melted them down. His glaive looked different. We thought nothing of it.
We marched across a small continent and reached the mountain, and found the entrance to a cave several miles deep. It was a hollow ‘spire’ of sorts, covered in mirrors and illusory projections of the past. Embers spiraled from it and into the night. The water in the several story high fountain at the bottom gleamed like liquid mercury.
Izazel and Garener spent days recording engravings, hailing messengers, and trying to get to the bottom of the cavern that only seemed to get deeper. Inari scouted ahead and mapped the strange bridges that always seemed to change. We had sent Falx to bring our archaeology guild to the scene. We couldn’t excavate it alone.
Our guild arrived, and disturbing news came with. It was of a green dracolich that we had fought when she was alive. Ahkma, the dragon, was pursuing the fountain with an army beneath her. Someone had told her where it was. The paladins of the fountain that had aided us on our quest joined us, sworn by oath to defend it. We called upon our oldest allies in the farthest corners of the mountains.
Izazel and Inari had reached the fountain. Garener, Falx and the others busied themselves with tactics on the outer cliffs. We could see the legions approaching. We had known that Ahkma had an army further south, in the city-state she ruled. We had known that she wanted the fountain. But we didn’t think she would go so far as to become a dracolich.
So there we were when the our allies, and a city guard stood against a city-state’s militia. Garener held back a decent portion of the soldiers in a ‘bottleneck’ of a mountain pass. Inari defended them from javelins and arrows with protective magic. We didn’t have time to stop Ahkma from reaching the cliffs, so Izazel, Falx, and the paladins had planned ahead and waited to fight her in the tunnels where she couldn’t fly.
If this story wasn’t long enough already, here’s where it gets scary and awesome.
A blast of wind rushed through the tunnels. We were almost knocked to the ground. A deep, unsettling feeling seemed to choke us. Ahkma was approaching. As her toxic breath filled the halls and left two of the paladins coughing blood, Izazel noticed that Falx was nowhere to be seen. We fled to less airtight halls, hearing the horrible snapping of Ahkma stepping onto and breaking the collapsed paladins.
Before we saw dragon claws, before we saw her venomous clout of breath, a javelin struck the leader of the paladins in the throat, pinning her to a wooden beam. Wilhelm was her name. Falx stepped out from a hall. There was a collective cry of anguish at the table as we connected the signs. We should have seen it coming. The moment Falx unsheathed his glaive, the paladins’ moments were numbered. Three of them fell.
Izazel ran, like a coward. He couldn’t fight his battlemaster companion, but he could outrun him. Izazel knew the patterns of the tunnels and overlooks. Falx did not. Iz hid behind a statue, six or so stories below where he had left the dracolich and traitor. He held a page of notes on the use of the fountain to his chest. Falx could kill him, but he could not have the notes.
I looked my DM in the eye. I called for Divine Intervention. And it worked. Isthmus, the god of knowledge in our setting, came to life from the mirrored crystal of the statue. With the combined power of cleric and god, we altered the illusions and histories on the walls.
Isthmus struck Ahkma’s wing with a moving platform, sealing it into the stone. She broke it away, flightless and enraged. In that horrible moment, the ancient dracolich launched herself across the floor of the cavern. She pinned Isthmus to the fountain and lacerated the god’s throat. She drowned him.
Izazel had been dealing with Falx. His scream of horror was cut off by a magical spear to the gut. Falx’s player had a wicked smile on his face. He spent his last superiority die to knock Izazel off the edge of the platform. We were twelve stories up.
Outside, Inari was gravely injured and our allies had retreated into a safer valley to tend to the wounded. Garener’s player broke down laughing. Earlier in the game, they had a curse put on them by a hag we had to deal with. The curse was that they would cause a grim and horrible explosion on death, which would virtually guarantee that they would kill all of their allies and everyone around them.
With that, Garener insisted that all of out allies flee and their player pulled out a secret of her own that we also should have expected. Garener had a phylactery, and would become a lich on death. Cackling like only a nihilistic necromancer can, Garener flew above the militia and gave one last speech about the meaninglessness of life. And died. A very large portion of the army was killed or injured in the explosion. And Garener had every last one of their souls. It would take them a day to reform, but they had done what they needed to. Our allies finished off the soldiers who remained hostile, leaving those who chose to the chance to run.
So, Izazel. He fell twelve stories. And by perfect and unintentional roll of the DM’s dice to find out where his corpse would lie, he struck not the bottom of the cavern but the water of the fountain. Remember when I said Isthmus had been killed on the fountain? Remember when I said that Ahkma and Falx didn’t have the notes necessary to use the fountain, because Izazel had them? It turns out the ritual, which is all verbal, isn’t as hard to do while falling twelve stories as you’d think.
And that, my friends, is how my cleric became the god he previously served.