Draconic Measures

Last night was our weekly D&D game again. Only this week it was possibly one of the most exciting sessions I’ve ever had for a character… ever. I know it’s not “real life” but I feel like bragging about my virtual/storytelling experience anyway. And since I’ve been taking a sabatical from RPG.net forum postings you guys get to be bored with the tale of how it went in that forum’s stead.

The back story is this: Our characters have progressed through many levels seeking to remedy the many troubles of the world through the unravelling of cryptic and seemingly conflicting prophecies. My character ends up growing through many sessions to be a multi-classed Goblin Fighter/Rogue/Disciple (Disciple is a special magic-thiefy “Prestige Class” the DM whipped up) who specializes in stealth, archery, and arcane stuff.

We end up questing after this artifact, “The Harp of Beyjayu” (or something like that), which in theory can somehow be used to keep the world (which is apparently not totally unlike The Force in that it has a light side and a dark side) from flipping so that the day side gets dark for 5000 years or so (not a good thing). However this harp, being an artifact, is so strong that anyone who hears the person playing it will instantly go along with that person. It also overwhelms the person playing it (in this case some bardic chick) and makes them sweep the countryside going overboard, essentially raising loyal armies practically by accident and destroying local government.

To avoid ourselves becomming automatic servants of the harp player our group did a little quest to earn some magic (artifact grade) salve. This salve when applied liberally like a milk mustache to the upper lip prevents the harp from overcomming the salve-wearer. But being artifact level salve it also has a side-effect: it deadens all emotions (and hurts Charisma) making any Good wearer essentially a walking exponent of utilitarianism. The effect can only wear off if something breaks your heart (and how can that happen if you have no emotions?).

Since it looked like at least one of us would have to wear the salve I decided my goblin was the one who could be sacrificed. He’s always one to try weird arcane stuff anyway (occasionally to his detriment (ie. the psychosomatic One Ring to Rule Them All incident)). So he puts it on.

So, being all utilitarian now (and since his greatest abilities are sneeking related), for the next three sessions he tails the party from a distance hiding in the hope that when the party encounters the harp player he’ll be able to catch her off guard. Then someone in the group points out his hiding spot in front of a hoard of enemies, nixing that plan.

And it turns out that the harper went alone to fight a red dragon of all things and we end up following her trail into the dragon’s cave. The dragon apparently likes to polymorph into the form of a killer elf-woman who makes the local kobold tribes fight for her amusement. Since we defeated one of the dragon’s champions she said we could go into her cave, but we could never leave (she’s a collector and wanted to get the whole set apparently).

The dragon had alot of cool stuff in there including wands, swords, coins, staves, clothes, and a caged female bard with a harp. We pretty much had our run of the place, but trying to leave summoned a living wall into the entrance and would rouse the dragon’s anger.

We free the harper from her cage and are all wandering around looting the place and trying to figure out a means of escape. Except for my character. My mission, as I see it, as my goblin sees it, is to get the harp at all costs and leave as expediently as possible. We did something threatening to the harpist so she’s wandering around the cavern invisible avoiding us, so it looks like we may never get the harp. Which leads to:

Good idea #1: As a “disciple” my character has the power (once every 6 days) to switch places instantly with another person in the area who hasn’t attacked him yet. So my goblin gives the other fighter in the party his bow (some sort of magical bow which does massive amounts of non-lethal stunning damage) and has the fighter shoot an arrow directly at my goblin. My goblin instantly switches places with the invisible harpist and she gets TKO’d.

The goblin then rushes over to retrieve the harp and the party goes about figuring out how to escape. We decide to sleep on it since some folks want to get spells back.

Bad idea #1: The harp doesn’t like my goblin (maybe because it can’t control him) and breaks it’s own strings in protest. He figures it’s broken, but to see if it’s really an artifact or not he dips it in the lava (it was a red-dragon’s cave, apparently there was a lava flow through the back). The harp burns entirely up after a few minutes.

As it turns out some artifacts are in fact destructable through normal means, they just re-form at a dramatically suitable time in another part of the world. So basically I’ve destroyed the harp we came to find. Out of character I yell, “Crap!” a couple times. And after a bit of stupified confusion on everyone else’s part and amusement on the DM’s part it’s ruled that this severe disappointment and set-back at least has the benefit of giving my goblin his emotions back, so at least something good comes of it. He uses the newly regained emotion of averice to loot the 25 magic wands hermetically sealed in glass cases (gotta love Use Magic Device skill) around the lair.

So everyone wakes up and we decide to blow this popsicle stand. This is a strange and complicated undertaking by our disorganized methods and involves one of our party members partly burning the living wall with acid and the party monk annoying the dragon by melting sizable portions of it’s hoard in the lava. Finally I get:

Good idea #2: Using a wand of Levitation (max lifting capacity 1200 lbs. in this case) I levitate a 1200lb. glob of molten lava, sear a hole through the wall, and par-broil the remains. Yah me!

We rush through the opening into the dragon’s firey breath weapon. Monk (who also has a neat prestige class) heals me and we retreat back into the cave. Dragon walks in, polymorphed back into an elf-chick and fighting ensues.

Now the last campaign of D&D I played with this DM ended up with us fighting a red dragon and all dying, so I was hoping we would not all die in this game. Dragons are fearsome foes which calls for desperate measures, but my goblin’s a pretty self-sacraficing guy (Align. CG) so nothing’s out of the question. Then a thought came to me: there’s tons of magical stuff hanging around here, I alone have 25 wands in my posession, but dragons are pretty magic resistant, and anyway they have so much damage resistance you need to pump alot of damage into them fast to take ’em down. Which brought things to a head with:

Good idea #3: (also bad-ish idea #2) I cast about with my arcane lore for a stave, any stave, capable of making a Retributive Strike. Now for those not in the know, “Retributive Strike” is little used a rule held-over from D&D’s older incarnations. Basically it’s a one-shot trick that can be done with a couple types of really powerful magic staves whereby the weilder breaks the staff and all it’s power instantly pours out. It does massive amounts of damage to those right nearby and the weilder himself either takes the full brunt of the damage as well or is shunted into another dimension (50% chance of either outcome).

There are alot of staves in this cave, but is there a variety I could use for this? The DM is apparently feeling really agreeable in these matters tonight and decides that yes, there is a suitable staff of some kind (though my sad Arcane Lore roll doesn’t clearly distinguish which sort of staff it is…doesn’t matter though) in the cave.

So my goblin snatches the staff to himself, sneeks up behind the dragon, and breaks the staff over his own shoulders thus Retributive Striking the entire area. Then I promptly fail, by the thinnest margin, the 50% chance to be shunted to another dimension. All in the immediate area (me, the dragon, and one other character) instantly take 400 points of damage and die as a wave of golden energy sweeps over us. Everyone else in the party is far enough away to avoid the strike and survives totally unscathed.

As further good fortune would have it, although the dragon and I were both dead for good, the other character who was killed had an amulet which would keep his consciousness safe until his body could be revived.

Certainly my goblin was dead. But what better way to go out than while taking down the eponymous monster of the game in a literal blaze of glory made possible by semi-obscure rules?

And that’s how I killed a red dragon in D&D using a Retributive Strike.

About Peter

This guy lives in Boston MA with his beloved wife and two kids. You can get some idea of his likes and dislikes from posts on this website or elsewhere.

4 thoughts on “Draconic Measures

  1. Do you think the DM would have let you try and throw the wand into the flame of the dragon’s breath? If the heat of the breath had of been hot enough could it have destroyed the wand have the same effect as breaking it in two?

    Still – I think you chose to do the right thing in the end. To quote:

    “Certainly my goblin was dead. But what better way to go out than while taking down the eponymous monster of the game in a literal blaze of glory made possible by semi-obscure rules?”

    I whole heartedly agree.

  2. The DM was being pretty agreeable with my plans that night, but I think the rules for a Retributive Strike are pretty specific specific that the weilder has to break the staff with their own hands.

    Besides it didn’t occur to me earlier to obtain a staff before the dragon breathed on us (and not just any magical wand or stave can Retributive Strike, only a couple specific ones). And afterward the dragon polymorphed herself back into the shape of an elf-chick so as to weild this cool artifact level sword she had, so she wasn’t breathing fire at that point.

    But having my character die because of the way things played out somehow didn’t make me feel sad in the least. Not only was there the exaltation of victory (and the feeling that my goblin would’ve wanted to die in a similar way), but also I got this weird lingering feeling like the rules of D&D had somehow been designed with just about exactly this combination of events in mind and that I’d now achieved the ultimate goal of the game.

    I know this isn’t really the case. I know RPGs are typically things you don’t play against people or technically “win” at. But I feel like after many years of playing I’ve finally won D&D.

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