From the tragically heroic to the hopelessly weird, these stories show off why tabletop games remain popular. Here are seven of my favourites, their selection being totally subjective and based on my own odd sense of humour.
The Halfling Hero
Our party was exploring a dungeon, where we came upon a semi-open door. Flapping sounds could be heard beyond. Then we heard singing, and the group had to make three will saves. Everyone failed but me, the halfling rogue.
Damn: it's harpies. The party begins to walk into the room in a daze.
In a moment of desperation (and at half of my hit points after a crapped-up combat), I go for the bluff, loudly commenting, "I'm sure glad that dragon that eats harpies followed us!" I then rolled a natural 20.
The harpies paused for a moment, then ran screeching from the room.
The Fireballs Make Meals Festive
We were staying in a nearly-abandoned inn for the night, and nobody knew how to cook. The badass NPC warrior lady travelling with us tried to cook something but rolled really low, and the food was absolutely disgusting. The steak was so burned, you couldn't even eat it. NPC lady had a bit of a temper, so everyone made an attempt to eat it anyway, and then the NPC lady went upstairs for the night.
My daughter was playing a druid, and she sent her panther out to find something else to eat. The panther came back with a rabbit. My daughter didn't know how to cook it and rolled really low on the attempt, so she just stuck a stick up its arse and put it on the fire like it was. Naturally, the fur caught fire and was smoking and whatnot, and it really smelled up the place.
Just then, I was coming down the stairs. I was a ranger-archer, and I had my bow with me, so I tried to shoot the rabbit off the fire. I rolled a one and instead shot our oracle right in the arse, tripped, and sent my bow flying into the fire. Oracle guy grabbed the rabbit off the fire and threw it out the door.
NPC lady saw the flaming thing fly out the door and came downstairs mad as hell, wanting to know what was going on. Oracle guy told her he was practising casting fireballs despite not knowing anything about casting fireballs. He rolled high enough on the bluff that NPC lady bought it.
The Rebel Lieutenant
Owen Stephens, a developer at Paizo, tweeted Kotaku this video (props to Amanda Hamon Kunz for telling him about this post!). Stephens ran a 30-minute Star Wars module when he worked for Wizards of the Coast, which was developing a D20 Star Wars RPG. A man nicknamed "the lieutenant" joined the group, and Stephens quickly realised it probably wasn't just a nickname. He took leadership of the player group and led it to victory in 12 minutes. Fingers crossed that the lieutenant plays Star Wars: Battlefront.
Screw You Guys, The Army's Going Home
(via Morgan Park)
A few months ago, my friends and I were wrapping up our D&D 5e campaign with a crucible of boss fights. Our DM had been pulling mostly from the Monster Manual for big boss encounters, but there's one fight that he meticulously put together himself.
We were to fight an entire flock of soldiers — all of various classes, strengths and abilities that would keep the battle long, difficult and rewarding. I was playing as a wizard, and after months and months, I had gotten up to level 18, so at this point I had amassed a diverse collection of spells.
So we approach the army on this wide bridge above a 152.40m drop. Before the fighting begins, I raise my arms out to the crowd of foes....and cast Mass Suggestion. I suggested that they all go home, and so they did.
My DM ripped out his pages of work and let me keep them, so I'd remember what we skipped.
The War Cries Of The Damned
During my college days, we played D&D every Monday night — often for hours and with much Chinese food. Each semester we would run a new campaign with someone else DMing. My turn to DM came, and I developed a straightforward save-the-world quest with action and surprises every week.
The final Monday comes, and everyone knows this will be it. They players have been preparing for this for the last couple of sessions, planning out necessary items, thinking up spell combos (we had seven players, each with a different class), and one even crafting one helluva sword. They have battled demonic minions, countered the charms of a succubus, recovered a stolen soul, and now they are confronted by the big bad.
I begin describing it, "Before you, coalescing from the shadows, a greater demon takes form. As it grows it steps up on the dais and says 'Whuup...'" — as I fell off of the chair I was standing on while narrating.
No matter who DMs, the big bads now say, "Whuuup!"
Skip The Skillet-Wielder, And Once And Future Cleric
When I asked one of my players what class he wanted play, he replied, "Middle." His character was named Skip McClinton, a ginger human cleric who fought with a skillet.
He also insisted his character speak Swahili and wear a University of Miami hoodie. Not because he's a jerk, but because that's who he wanted to be.
Also, after commenters asked how the character eventually died: Well, he didn't die, but his player moved to Idaho, so we decided to turn Skip into a magic potato who gives the party advice. Before our games, I'd text the former player for advice, such as "always bring a sweater."
Dark Souls? That Was Way Too Easy
As a GM, I managed to turn a light-hearted hack-and-slash into a murderous dystopia.
I inherited a game from a friend who didn't have time to GM a group of high-level players. I took a look at the character sheets, and the paladin's lowest stat in a D&D game was 22. Even the ancient and decrepit wizard had an 18 strength. Everyone had artifacts, treasure and all the spells.
So I figured, ok, new storyline. The world's going to end unless you find who in each of the areas is the acting agent of chaos. Sometimes it will be an obvious hack and slash monster; sometimes it could be a community leader, a politician, a ruler, an agitator, a criminal or even a friend. But more than that, if you have a 23 wisdom, I expect you to play as a 23 wisdom. I won't be doing any "are you sure you want to do that" checks. You propose an action, I will confirm it, and we go. Failure equals death — if not for you, then for the innocents around you.
So if you want to pull out your 12.19m-wide portable tower and drop it in the middle of the street, and you don't ask how wide the streets are in this small town, then oops, you've just crushed to death 15 people asleep in their beds.
You want to try and cut the restrained NPC with a flourish of your sword because that would look intimidating as you question her? OK. You cut her and the magic rope restraining her, and now she's free and has stabbed the wizard in the chest.
You are tired of the barkeep listening in on your conversation and cast a fear spell on him in the middle of a town surrounding a famous magical university? Guess what, the guards are more than prepared to handle you.
You want to accuse the head of the town council of being an agent of chaos with no proof? You cause more chaos and lose your allies there.
You don't think to wonder why the tiles on the floor are different colours? Enjoy poison darts.
I tried to make sure nothing was unfair or impossible, but everything was a trap in some sense, and you couldn't fight your way out of a lot of it without making it worse. You needed to use skills other than combat.
I ran the campaign for a few years, despite it being utterly terrifying to the players. They killed more of their allies than Walking Dead and Game of Thrones combined. Weirdly, they seemed to like it, and were disappointed when I had to end it when I moved out of the city.