What’s in a Name?

Posted on January 09, 2019

DMing a long-running (19-20 years?) D&D campaign that has, over the years, seen something like 31 players (a handful were core to most of the time, but other groups came and went), you always run the risk of coming across a player who won’t take the game as seriously as the rest of the team.

I could tell you the story of the Knight who, upon spotting the enemy boss starting to cast something to come after the party (preparing to ascend the well the party had just fled out of), decided the best attack was a full-body kinetic strike. With the falling damage model in play, the armor rules in play (plate armor was damage absorbing) and a boatload of CON and HPs, he actually managed to jump down the shaft, roll a critical, smash the higher level Wizard into a paste, and survive (albeit unconscious, it was a close run thing). But that's not the story for today.

Let me instead tell you of the Fighter Kem S. Tree and the irony of his ending. At first glance, you can immediately tell the player was a bit less serious (Kem S. Tree's brother was Fizz Icks, apparently). Add to that the fact he liked to pick fights when nothing was going on (like turning a good old fashioned fist-fight in a bar into some nasty sword-swinging murdering) and you'd get the idea for him to survive for long, he'd either need really kind and protective party members or a lot of luck. Well, you keep up the dumb stuff long enough and the party will stop wanting to protect you, and the luck will desert you at some point.

The scene: Party is in the upper levels of a dungeon where a great evil was slumbering (I had appropriated bits of the module involving Tharizdun from Greyhawk for this adventure). The temple here was a Swamp Orc temple. The party was engaged in front by some nasties and they had casters. Darkness, Hold Person, and other spells were landing amidst the party, but they were doing their best to punch through.

The Swamp Orcs were nasty customers. Kem was mid-rank and a bit bored. He was also one of the lowest level characters on the team (by a level vs. most of the party, but by 2 from some of them, and that 1 level becomes important shortly).

The nastiest spell at the Swamp Orcs' command was a Cloudkill scroll. They unleashed it, and some of the party members were caught in it. They were hurt, but all were of sufficient level and state of health to survive this alpha strike. Kem stepped into an opening ahead of him, moving from a safe position, and entered the cloud.

Kem failed his save, and died. The player claimed he was trying to get in and help the other characters, but all of them were okay enough to have backed out of the cloud. He was the only one in the party with a possibility of immediate death, and he’d walked into the cloud of his own choosing.

Disbelief reigned. The player was a bit stunned. Everyone else was a bit stunned at his suicidal choice.

The ultimate irony, when your character is named Kem S. Tree, is to be slain by a cloud of noxious chemical vapors. Apropos, wouldn't you say?

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