I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: I’m a horrible DM to myself. And that definitely shows in my first ever attempt to play a D&D 3.5 game. I think this is the game out of all the games I’ll recall that required the most thinking. This was before I picked up Mythic and as such, before I picked up any Drivers, so I had to think of plots.
Hell, I barely used any sort of randomly generated dungeon. It was made by myself. Though, it was less a dungeon and more of a straight, narrow line, slowly introducing stuff like traps and secret rooms along the way. I think I had some inspiration from a quick-start rulebook, but other than that, everything was 100% my creating.
Our characters were Alice, a priestess who wanted to heal people, Barendd, a retired soldier who wants to get back in the fight, Drew, a thief who wanted more than his provincial life at the elven homelands, and Cora, a wizard who desires the Ruby of Pyros.
The game begins with them outside the dungeon where Cora gives them the skimmy, with the stipulation that if she were to die, then there’s no further use exploring the dungeon. However, the three insist on exploring the dungeon regardless. They enter and find that it is a kobold-dominated dungeon, with their first opponents being skeleton warriors that the kobolds have enchanted.
The fight, which I should add is my first official 3.5 fight, goes badly. Like, one of the characters almost gets killed badly. Most of my characters were hardly hitting the skeletons and it ended with the wizard having to cast Magic Warhead to get the battle to stop. We tried again, only to find a rival adventurer named Eins cleave through some rooms for them.
The group decide to explore a room she Eins had raided and discover a secret room. There, they discover a shield that makes you invisible. Drew ends up having it and the group go to the next room where they battle against kobolds. Despite facing against weak enemies, every die roll made was tense and dramatic. When I saw the kobolds hitting my group, I was cursing, fearing that the damage might knock out or even kill my characters.
By that point, though, I realized I needed to spice up my dungeon and not just have constant arena battles, so I added an area where the kobolds were hiding in cubby holes, firing at the heroes. It was here that I lost two of my members of the party. I had been playing the game more like a JRPG than a traditional game of D&D. This meant two things: one, I was using a unique system revolving around magic points, and two, I decreed that once a character hits 0, unless healed by a cleric, they’re dead.
The cleric was one of the two that died in that encounter.
Now you can see where this all goes down hill. So, Alice and Drew get killed, leaving Cora and Barendd to go through the rest of the dungeon. This became one of the few times in this adventure that I added character depth. Namely, Barendd is pissed that Cora is using them for her own ends and demands to know what exactly they’re dying for. When he finds out that Cora is wanting to find a gem that lets her transform into a dragon, he snaps and demands one thing out of her that could redeem her dastardly ambition:
She lets him be his second in command for her new world order. It was rather interesting to say the least and it felt like something unravelling before my eyes rather than playing it out. One of the rooms was a bridge that was over a large lava pit, the entrance being guarded by a hellhound. It’s here that I wrote up that the kobolds were hired by the boss to protect the gem. Eins joined up with the party on the condition that, once they get to the stone, they’ll fight over it. I invented a fun means for the hellhound to be attacked by the room’s trap, spewing lava. Eventually, Cora and Barendd ran for the exit and leave the magma trap to deal with Eins and the hellhound.
Next room involved a troglodyte, a nod to the old flash demo of 3.5 that had a troglodyte as the “boss” of the demo. This room was more of a merciful fight after the last few brutal encounters. However, Barendd ends up becoming the sole survivor after Cora is killed by some kobolds. And he put up a brave fight… before he is killed by the sheer number of kobolds.
Afterwards, I decided to play with the idea that the boss, a large red dragon, had a nightmare where some horrific Cleric-Fighter-Rogue-Wizard hybrid busted into the room and picked a fight with him.
This game had showed me that while it can be fun to roleplay, it’d funnier to roleplay when things go horribly wrong and try to salvage what you can. Compare this to the Sailor Moon games. The latter games went according to the script with no means of derail. The closest thing to a derail was Darien’s nerf, but I worked around it. This, however, had a slow but gradual total party kill, all because I decided to incorporate traps into the game and get creative with the dungeon.
In short: I’m a horrible DM to myself because I overclock my imagination and end up killing my characters in the process. And we’ll probably see more examples of that soon as we continue to retrospect my past adventures prior to SRV.