It was a dark and stormy night.[1] Our intrepid band of gamers had gathered to vanquish evil and take its stuff. Feeling unsatisfied with any of our current games we had running, the decision was made to create an entirely new adventuring group. There were some who argued that this would take too long and that no gaming would get done, but those naysayers were quickly shouted down.

A flurry of creation followed. A gold elven mage whose intelligence left us all in awe came into being, chased by a doughty ranger, and a sneaky thief. Finally, the band was rounded out by a noble female paladin, Champion of Good and wearer of really shiny armour. All in all, it had been a very productive three hours of character creation and everyone was looking forward to some hard-core slaying of evil beings.

In an attempt to jump start an adventure, we did something we almost never do. We reached for a published adventure, one from the Forgotten Realms boxed set[2], I think it was called "Beneath the Twisted Tower". We skipped merrily through introductions and the obligatory bar scene and were descending into the depths of a dungeon in no time at all.

Speaking of descending, one of the first scenes in the adventure involved a chute which the PCs had to either ascend or descend, I forget which. It had a rope hanging down, so the climb itself was simplicity itself. The heroic paladin was first up[3] and it was she who made an astonishing discovery. Above the PCs, a coloured, oddly glowing, liquid suddenly gushed out. Our Lady Paladin gasped, trembled and wailed; what was this liquid and what vile effects would it have?

"Acid", she exclaimed, all agog, and enough of it to overwhelm her 1st level Hit die. What unfairness, what DM malice, to inflict it on such a noble band and so unexpectedly! There must be a way out, a way to escape the burning death that such a dire trap would cause. No dungeon designer, no DM of wisdom would ever put an instant death trap in a 1st level dungeon with some way of escaping!

All this flashed through her head in an instant and she made a decision. In hindsight, this decision might have been overly hasty. Certainly, it is true that the DM asked for confirmation before reaching for his dice and the player of her Ladyship, the noblest and bravest paladin of all, gave his enthusiastic[4] assent. "I let go of the rope" was the decision of the Lady Paladin, hanging in a narrow chute with her fellow party members below her.

A Climbing roll later, it was clear that doughty and strong isn't enough when hit by a mail-clad paladin, shield and sword. The Fighter followed down the chute. A thief may climb as few others, but when hit by the two heaviest members of the party, hanging on just isn't that easy. Being 1st level, a halfling, and focused on finding traps didn't help, either. The mage didn't have much of a chance, since Intelligence 20 doesn't figure into Climbing rolls and among the many useful 1st level spells he had, Feather Fall was not numbered.

Gravity did its wicked work and the PCs fell out of the chute. The floor was 40' down. A merciful DM allowed each PC a Dex check to grab the rope as they fell. There was only one success.

The noble paladin.

After grabbing the rope, she saw her companions plummet to their messy deaths. Smack, smash, splat. Splash. The splash wasn't down there, it was on her. The liquid that had started it all had landed on her. GASP!!! It didn't burn. Didn't sear. It tasted, remarkably, exactly like water. Not fresh, mind you, but drinkable. The glow, on a careful inspection, looked like it was caused by a "Faerie Fire" enchantment.

Our paladin, overcome by grief and guilt, let go of the rope.

Total Party Kill.

The player of the paladin was, by general acclaim, considered to have stolen three perfectly good hours of our lives.

But it did give us this story.

  1. If it wasn't, it bloody well should have been.
  2. Yes, young 'uns, I played 2nd edition.
  3. Which, now that I think about it, lends credence to the idea that the PCs were indeed ascending.
  4. If a bit panicky.
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