I've been pointing out new episodes of the D&D/Penny Arcade/PvP/Me podcast on Twitter, but since the third series draws to a close today, I thought I'd catch up, and then share some thoughts on the final episode.
In this episode, the battle continues in full against Thazin Stormbellow, guardian of the Ambershard mausoleum. That sleeping boar? No longer sleeping…
In this episode, the members of Acquisitions Incorporated learn about the death and dying rules… but does it concern them, the boar, or the dwarf? They also learn that intimidating a bloodied enemy may force that enemy to surrender… may. And finally, they learn the might of a solo monster—essentially, four monsters wrapped in one.
Acquisitions Incorporated prepares for their ultimate fight against Leer of the Ambershard Dwarves. As they approach the upper chambers, will they simply bust in and take the guards out? Or quietly bar the other doors, and take a sneakier approach?
What's left, but for Aeofel to throw his dagger at the fleeing Leer… and he's thankful he did, despite missing. For the dagger hangs in midair, as if suspended in something… unseen.
"At least you're not in the acid pit…."
Well, then. A picture being worth a thousand words:
So. Um. That didn't work out very well for Aeofel, did it? I can already hear the cries from other members of the gaming tribe: "Never split the party you dumbass!"
Normally, I'd agree completely, but here is where actual roleplaying sort of lead to . . . unforseen consequences. Allow me to explain: Aeofel is an Isolating Avenger. He is, in normal language, a zealot. Where a Paladin brings comfort to the afflicted, the Avenger brings great vengeance and furious anger to those who caused the affliction.
So, if I'd been metagaming, if I'd mixed player knowledge with character knowledge, Aeofel never would have chased after Leer. If I'd adhered to the second rule of RPGs (the first being, "never pick up a duck in a dungeon") I wouldn't have split the party. But Aeofel had sworn an Oath of Enmity on Leer. He had Leer on the run. Leer was bloodied and had offended Melora. That alone was enough to get Aeofel to go after him, but if there was any doubt, Aeofel had been implored by Binwin to "get him." Binwin was the only Dwarf in the 'verse who Aeofel actually liked, the only Dwarf in the 'verse who could actually be a friend to Aeofel, and Aeofel was intensely loyal to those who were close to him. Aeofel knew that Leer was part of a clan who made Binwin's father stop drinking! So when you add all that up, Aeofel had no choice but to chase Leer down, and end up in that acid pit. (And, to be honest, there were two damn awesome bits in there, before tragedy struck: the way Aeofel found the gelatinous cube and the way Leer activated the traps was really cool.)
I haven't had a character die in . . . I'm not exactly sure how long. Not since I was a teenager, and even then, characters weren't dead dead, because we all kept locks of our hair in special jars marked "In case of death, break glass and resurrect, y'all." But Aeofel is really, truly, I'm-totally-serious-about-this dead. He may find a way to come back as a revenant, but if he does, he will be changed by the experience. If it's at all possible, Aeofel will be even more serious and overly-dramatic.
Regrets? Well, obviously. My fuckin' character is dead, but he died doing what he loved, and while it would have been nice to make some kind of heroic sacrifice, I'm happy that I stayed true to Aeofel's beliefs and played him the way I wrote him.
When we finished the session, Chris Perkins drove me back to my hotel Aeofel's blood dripping from his evil hands, where I met up with Anne, who got to spend the next two hours listening to me explain, in excruciating detail, how Aeofel died and exactly what character death means to a gamer geek like me. To her credit, she didn't mock me, but since she is a normal person, she wasn't able to totally grok why I was so upset.
So I grabbed my Blackberry, and I texted the following to Scott:
A few minutes later, he replied:
We will not rest until we retrieve your soul.
"What are you doing?" Anne asked me.
"I'm sharing nerd-grief with Scott," I said. "It'll just be a minute."
For the next fifteen minutes or so, this is the conversation we had (transcribed by Scott, because his Jesusphone kept the messages that my Blackberry deleted – thank you, Scott!)
Wil: Anne says I should have a candlelight vigil. I can't believe he's gone. Do you think Aeofel went to live on a farm where he can play with them goddamn rabbits? Tell me about the rabbits, George.
Scott: He's with the Raven Queen now.
W: [Wipes a single, solitary tear.] He's in a buh-buh-better place.
S: His torpedo coffin soft landed on the genesis planet. We're gonna totally search for Spock him.
W: He has been, and always shall be…your friend.
S: You dwarven bastard, you…KILLED….my SON.
W: Of all the Eladrin souls I've encountered in my travels….his was the most….Huh-HUMAN!
S: *Scotty playing bagpipes*
W: This is the best nerd catharsis ever. You are a true friend, Scott.
S: The doors slide open with a swish. Uhura lets out a gasp. Binwin holds Aeofel's corpse.
S: "He stayed at his post…when the trainee's ran."
W: The way to grieve a loss of a D&D character seems to be by quoting wrath of Khan.
S: Indeed, captain.
W: We are SO going to get all KHAAAAAN on that dwarf's ass.
S: He vexxes us. He vexxes us and we will have him.
W: Aeofel comes back as a Revenant, unites with Binwin and spends the rest of his life hunting and killing every last Ambershard dwarf for great justice.
S: Ha! I thought you were going to say he tries to KILL Binwin.
W: Oh, they probably have some stuff to work out first…
I'm sure it seems silly, probably because it is, but I really did feel a sense of loss when Chris said that Aeofel wasn't coming back (and death by acid pit is super duper extra permanent in D&D, guys) and I really did need to talk about it with someone who could understand why. I'm grateful that Scott was there, and as I told him this morning, I withdraw my oath of enmity and instead swear an oath of eternal friendship. Because while it's a lot of fun to blame him for killing Aeofel, we all know that it wasn't actually his fault. Also, Scott is one of the few people in the world I can quote Trek with, and it isn't weird.
In fact, Scott told me this morning,
Reading this chat log again, I leave you with this….the one WOK thing we didn't touch on.
Omin Dran enters the lobby and sees the pit of acid. He gaps and runs towards it. Jim and Binwin grab him, holding him back.
Binwin: Omin, NO!
Omin: He'll die!
Scotty: He's DEAD already.
I hope we'll be doing another series of podcasts soon, not only because they're incredibly fun for me to listen to (it's so weird to have it on my iPod, hear Scott say something funny, and then laugh at it along with myself exactly the same way I did four months ago) but because it's so incredibly fun for me to play with all of them. Even though Chris killed Aeofel, he's a great DM who did some of the best NPC roleplaying ever. As evidence, I present: "Jim Winks." "How are your death scenes?" and "…who are you?" And all the fun we're obviously having on the podcasts? Well, we're not making that up; if I could play with these guys every week, I would do it in a heartbeat.
So if there's another series of podcasts, and if I'm invited back, I'll certainly play, either as zombie Aeofel, or as a new character . . . maybe a Barbarian who tears off the heads of anyone who calls him "Al."
Namárië, Aeofel. Ná Melora veria le, ná elenath dín síla erin rád o chuil lín.