The rain fell in a steady drizzle as the vampire made his attack on the party. The fireball lept from his pale hands, splashing down among the adventurers. The resulting explosion sent our party flying in every direction.
The vampire transformed himself into a mist and appeared behind Vemmick, the barbarian. His first attack slammed hard into the barbarian’s chest, the second followed, landing on his chin – Vemmick staggers.
Looking around at his friends, Enduin sees the lifeless body of the Halfling rogue, the feral monk cradling her as he tries to heal her wounds; the dwarven cleric moving quickly towards the vampire, trying to engage in the fight; the mage leveling his Staff of Power unleashing Magic Missiles that seem to have little effect.
“Get in the hole!” He screams, and then whispers a prayer hoping to boost the power of his friends.
Needing little to no prompting, the dragonborne magic user dives down into the 12-foot hole, Shin, the monk, scoops up the rogue and follows suit.
Meanwhile, Kildrak lands two blows upon the side of the vampire as he stands side-by-side with the barbarian. The vampire, sensing the power radiating from the paladin, once again turns into a mist and moves away from the party to prepare another spell.
Enduin, Kildrak, and Vemmick all charge at the vampire, weapons ready to smash the monster to oblivion.
Enduin, outpacing the rest of the party, make his attacks. The first slices into the vampire, the second follows with an arch of light coming from the blade. As the sword strikes home, memories flash through the half elf’s mind. Memories of love, of betrayal, of death. A name whispers in his, “Tatyana.” The thought, “Kill the prime evil,” fills his mind. Enduin reals as he pulls the sword from the flesh of the beast, realizing the sword is speaking to him.
His distraction quickly becomes his undoing as the vampire slams his fist into the paladin, once, twice. The first blow shattered Enduin’s sternum, the second punctured his heart. Eyes wide, gasping for life, Enduin falls to his knees at the vampire’s feet.
As the paladin hits the ground, Vemmick swings twice with his sword, both strikes missing.
Unable to get to the fray fast enough, the stubby-legged dwarf draws upon the blessings of Silverbeard to grant holy protection to his friends and strike out with a spiritual weapon upon the back of the vampire.
Sensing the paladin is near death, the vampire Strahd strikes again the first blow to the defiant Enduin’s face, breaking his cheekbone, the second blow a downward strike the slams the half-elf’s lifeless body into the mud. As he does so a horde of wolves leap over the vampire and attack the barbarian.
Vemmick, refocusing his attacks on the wolves strikes hard at the closest one, taking its head off in two strikes. Meanwhile, finally able to engage again, Kildrak runs up the back of the barbarian, launching off of his shoulders and strikes hard upon the vampire’s face. As the Warhammer strikes, a resounding crack of bone can be heard.
“Enough,” shouts the vampire as both Kildrak and Vemmick freeze in place. Launching another fireball, Strahd turns himself into mist and again moves away from the melee. Vemmick and Kildrak, singed, but still standing, scan the field for their enemy. The smell of burnt wolves fills their nostrils as they see the vampire just out of their range.
“One of you is dead. I shall kill the rest of you soon,” says Strahd as he vanishes from the battlefield.
Looking around, Kildrak and Vemmick see Shin, who must have joined the fight without their knowledge, on the ground, smoking coming from his burned skin. A few feet from him lies the beaten and charred body of Enduin. Kildrak, being the cleric of the group, drops to his knees and begins to pray to Silverbeard to restore life to his friends.
As he prays, Vemmick sees to Shin with a very sloppy form of CPR.
In the tunnel, the rogue, finally restored to life, staggers her way out of the hole, desperate to see what is going on. The sight before her is one of both joy and sadness as Shin begins to stir, but Enduin does not.
Wurmhat, our dragonborne mage, continues to excavate the collapsed tunnel as he searches for Barrackas, the Tiefling buried beneath the rubble. He is unaware of the tragedy taking place outside.
Last night was a rough night at The Forge Herald gaming center. We met up for our weekly Dungeons and Dragons session only to see one of our party members die. A player death has always seemed possible, but, somehow, we always manage to just squeak by.
On more than one occasion we have seen members of our party approach their final death saving throw only to save them with a last minute heal from the cleric or a timely pouring of a potion down the prone person’s throat. But not last night.
We have been playing in Curse of Strahd for a couple of months now. Our party has collected two of the three artifacts needed to defeat the beast and was working to acquire the third when disaster struck.
As the DM, I deemed the party was finally becoming a threat and must be dealt a lesson. It was not my intent to kill anyone, but I wasn’t exactly trying to not kill them, either.
So, when the opportunity arose to have Strahd attack, I did so.
Allow me to set the scene.
Our rogue, Ivy, (played by my wife) was following a mixed group of barbarians and druids around Yester Hill. She, along with our Monk, Shin, were doing their best to stay stealthy to avoid detection. I decided, at this point to roll percentile dice. I gave them an 80% chance of going unnoticed. I rolled a 97. This meant Strahd had found them and was going to attack.
Shin and Ivy decided it was best to part ways. Ivy was to continue to follow the mixed group, while Shin was to return to our party and inform them what was going on. Soon after Shin left, Ivy was nabbed.
Meanwhile, back with the party, they are investigating a 12-foot deep hole from which the aforementioned group emerged. The Tiefling, Barrakas (played by my brother Dom) decided to leap into the hole and see what was going on. He followed a tunnel for several feet where he sprung a trap and caused a cave in crushing him beneath rocks and dirt.
Trying to decide what was going on, Shin appeared to tell the group what he and Ivy saw. It was at this point that Strahd flung Ivy’s limp body into the group and subsequently followed with a fireball. All hell broke loose after that.
As the realization set in that I, as the DM, was going to do nothing to bring back Enduin, you could see the despair.
The responses I saw were varying. On one side we had a player wanting to return the body to Argynvostholt for proper burial. Another group was determined to build a funeral pyre right there and set the body ablaze. They were scared that Strahd might raise their friend from the dead to fight them.
After yelling (quite literally) and eventually a well-placed Warhammer strike to the Tiefling’s head, it was decided to have the body burned.
Our session ended there. Nolan, (Enduin) is excited because he struggled playing the paladin in such a depressing world.
When the character was first created he was made with a very high charisma. Where at first Nolan would play this out as a happy and kind person, his demeanor began to sour as the world inflicted its despair upon the group.
During the fight, I sent Nolan a text and was very clear. I needed to know if he wanted me to step in and save his character or let him die.
Now, some of my fellow DMs might not agree with this. So allow me to explain. I wasn’t exactly prepared to deal with a character death. I did not expect to roll as many natural 20s (Seriously, I rolled a lot!) as I did, nor did I expect to see the high numbers on damage dice. It quickly became apparent that someone could very easily die the longer this fight continued. I also knew Nolan was struggling with this character and the thought of it dying a noble death was appealing. So I asked him.
His response was concise. He told me to let him die as it might help to drive the story.
So I did.
Will I do this again? Possibly. I don’t like killing characters. Especially when there is no chance for a resurrection. Players invest a lot of time into their characters. It isn’t always fun to start all over.
I suppose I will cross that bridge when I come to it.
But I am curious. What do you, as players and DMs do when this situation arises? Are you the type of DM the ruthlessly cuts down a player? Or, are you more sympathetic and work to try and help the player find a way out of an untimely demise?
Also, how do you handle it when death does occur? What are some of the things you have seen happen in your groups? Do they start arguing? Do they rally together?
We, as groups go, are a new group. This is our first party together and until this point had never dealt with an absolute death. I am very curious to know what some of you have experienced.
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
© 2016, Patrick Cossel. All rights reserved.