With Friends Like These

Posted on June 22, 2018

This tale is from ages ago, back when I was in high school and there was something called Advanced D&D. I was running a campaign with only two players, both around level 6 or 7. One was a high-strung Wizard, and the other a pretty easy-going Fighter. They had played together quite a bit and developed a sort of style I would describe like this: The Wizard constantly got them into trouble, and the Fighter got them out.

So during one session, they were going through a mismatched dungeon I had created that would turn out to be very memorable (in a, “remember when we…” sort of way), but was sorely lacking in logic. They had stumbled across the lair of a dragon. I forget now which kind it was, but the key points were that this dragon had the ability to shapeshift, had a breath weapon of sleeping gas, and was not the evil type interested in killing everything it saw.

The players stumbled into the dragon’s lair, and the dragon was taken by surprise. In typical fashion, the Wizard attempted to seize the moment and attacked with a quick offensive spell, while the Fighter stood in indecision yelling, “Wait! What kind of dragon is it?”

The dragon wasted no time in breathing on them and putting them both to sleep. After that, I ruled that the dragon, after some thought, decided to give them the benefit of the doubt since there was at least some hesitation on behalf of the Fighter to engage.

So the dragon shapeshifted into a form that allowed him to pick up the snoozing players and deposit them face up in the far corner of his lair, away from the entrance. Further, the dragon decided to stack them on top of each other, larger Fighter on top of the smaller Wizard, in order to give the dragon a little warning when they began to come around, since the players would have to disentangle from each other before attacking. Then the dragon changed back and lay down to watch and see what the players would do.

I ruled that both players would awaken just about simultaneously. At this point I separated both players into different rooms, and visited each in turn, telling them something like, “You emerge from what feels like the deepest sleep you have ever experienced. Your eyes have not yet opened.”

To the Fighter I said, “You feel like you are lying on an uneven, narrow, lumpy mattress. What do you do?”

To the Wizard I said, “You feel a heavy weight on top of you. What do you do?”

Based on their responses, this is how the rest of the encounter went. To the Fighter, who kept his eyes closed and feigned sleep to gather information: “The lumpy mattress beneath you moves with a slight rocking motion. You hear whispered words in an unknown language. Suddenly you feel thousands of volts of electricity coursing through your body!”

To the Wizard: “Upon opening your eyes, you realize the weight on top of you is NOT the dragon you obviously expected, but your traveling companion, whom you have just lightning-bolted.”

A moment later, to the Wizard: “You feel the unfamiliar sensation of steel sliding quickly and solidly through your ribcage. Based on your position and inability to react to this attack, you are dead.”

To the dragon (I was narrating): “The larger of the two humanoids rises unsteadily to his feet, smoke billowing from seams in his clothing, and patting out a small fire in his hair. He looks down at the growing pool of blood from his companion, and looks over at you.”

“Wizards,” he says, shrugging his shoulders. “What are ya gonna do?”

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