Disclaimer: The names of all the spells, abilities, etc. probably aren’t the real names, just the best I can remember them.
I’ve always kind of wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons. It’s interested me ever since middle school. But sometimes, even if something interests you, you never get around to trying it. That’s just the way life works. I never really knew where to start, I didn’t know anyone else who played, I didn’t even know which books I needed. Don’t ask me why, but I decided to post on my local Facebook gaming group (something I normally use to schedule Warhammer 40k games):
“I want to try DnD, can someone point me in the right direction?”
A few minutes later I got a reply saying: “[Local gaming store] has oneshots for new players every Saturday.”
So, not having much to do on the 15th (actually, there was a mountain of stuff I needed to do but didn’t feel like doing), I decided to go give it a try.
I walk up to the nearest table and ask them if they were the oneshot group. “Over here.” I hear someone say behind me. It’s a man with a long beard and hair sitting at a long table. He asks me if I’ve ever played before, I tell him no, though I understand the basic concept. He says that’s fine, just pick one of the character sheets on the table. I ask him if he has any close combat characters, and he gives me a paladin and barbarian. He says I’m supposed to be lawful if I pick the paladin. Thinking about my favorite Frank Wilhoit quote, this deters me and I pick the Barbarian…only to realize he’s an orc. The character I was coming up with in my head on the drive there was a human. Back to the Paladin. Oh well, it’s not like a game character has to reflect my political philosophy. Eventually, six people show up. There’s me, a human paladin, along with:
a dwarf cleric (Thorin),
halfling ranger (Serefina),
[water creature?] warlock (Hiro),
Bard A (Shuckle),
and Bard B (Myster Bee).
Only Thorin and the DM have prior DnD experience. The rest of us are new. I end up naming my character “Björn Åberg.” It’s nice and nordic sounding, and I can shout cool sounding nordic phrases as a form of roleplaying when I fight. The game starts.
We start off in a seemingly abandoned town in the middle of night. It’s raining. Eventually we find the inn, but the innkeeper won’t open the door, suspecting us of being sick. I try, and fail, to persuade him. Then Bard A (Shuckle) tries, and succeeds. The innkeeper opens the door and we go inside. We ask him what’s going on and he says that there’s a plague. People are getting sick, dying, and getting back up again. We keep asking him questions, and eventually he gets pissed, points a crossbow at us, and tells us to get out. I must say, the Dungeon Master is doing a very good job at all of this. He acted out the voice of the innkeeper really well and described the scenery in a lot (but not too much) detail. I hope all DMs are like him, but I digress. We leave the inn and see a person hunched over in an alley (we did a perception roll). I cast a spell called “divine sense” (or something like that) and notice there’s an evil energy radiating from the person, which I then tell the rest of my party. Mr. Bee goes to attack, cutting the thing’s arm off. We all take turns attacking it, shooting arrows, spells, etc. I swing and miss. Someone rolls a one and snaps their crossbowstring. We take two turns to kill it, which is apparently a lot for one zombie. It ends up biting Mr. Bee. The DM sort of laughs to himself a little and admits that this was his plan. There are now three more zombies blocking us in the alleyway.
“Med Gud och segrande vapen, ska jag döda er!” I shout as I charge them.
This time, we all do better. The cleric (Thorin) casts a spell that obliterates a zombie and the halfling ranger (Serefina) even rolls a 20 and kills a zombie by herself. After the battle, Thorin fixes the other player’s snapped bowstring and heals Mr. Bee’s wound. But even so, there’s something still not right with him. Previously, the DM mentioned that there were footprints leading down the road. I suggest that maybe we should follow those.
As we’re walking we see a body lying down in the middle of the road. After poking him with a stick a few times, he wakes up and clearly isn’t a zombie. I do my Divine Sense spell again and see nothing wrong with him. He is, however, very drunk. Meanwhile, we hear a kid saying: “Dadda, where are you?” somewhere in the distance. It takes a lot of persuasion but eventually we convince him to get back inside (the kid saying Dadda was his son, inside their house a few feet to the left). Again, the DM is pretty good at doing the different voices and making the NPCs come to life. At this point, I have to go to the bathroom. When I get back, the guy playing Hiro fills me in saying (Bob) the drunk’s wife died during this plague. We tell him and his son to stay safe inside and lock the door behind us.
We go back to following the footprints. Eventually, they lead us to a convent. We open the door and a nun greets us. Thorin, the dwarf cleric, interviews her and she says the convent is trying to deal with the plague as best they can. They try to heal those that are bitten and give them blessings from their god, and that slows down the transformation process (the DM explains that they’re probably casting healing and constitution buff spells on the bitten, something he calls “metagaming”). Then, Thorin asks about the history of the town and where the zombies are coming from. She says that a while back, there was a church dedicated to the god “Callysto” (or something like that) but their worshipping practices became more and more questionable as time went on. Eventually, they had to be driven out. As for the zombies, they’re densest at the graveyard. The nun draws us a map of the town showing locations of the church and graveyard. We stop playing for a bit and discuss what we should do next. I advocate for going to the church: We could kill zombies all day and get nowhere, but we might find the source of the problem at the church. The rest of the party agrees with me and that’s where we go.
Thorin is leading the way, chanting and using his magic to make his axe glow in the darkness. This attracts a lot of zombies, and I suggest we walk a little faster. We get to the church, but the door is locked and boarded up. One of us breaks a large stained glass window (the DM warns us this made a lot of noise) and we enter that way. Thinking of the zombies that were just following us and the loud noise we made, I try to take some of the pews and brace them against the broken window, but roll poorly. The Warlock (Hiro) rolls well and helps me. Thorin laughs at us both and simply fixes the window with his magic. Interestingly, the design of the stain glass changes: it comes back as a large hand. While this is happening, the other three party members are searching the church. Mr. Bee finds a large book on the altar and starts to read through it. We search the priest’s private room and find a little bit, but not much. The priest wrote something down about how to “make my son stronger,” but that’s about it. I use my Divine Sense again, thinking that maybe there’s a secret door somewhere. Instead, I find that there’s a great evil coming from the book. Thorin suggests we should destroy the book. Mr. Bee throws it down and Thorin shoots a magic fireball (can’t remember the name of the spell, but you get the idea) at it, but it does nothing. I try to rip the pages out but roll a two, and again, nothing. We hear a loud crashing at the other end of the church. The zombies have broken in. I roll very high on my perception and notice that there’s a huge horde of them outside. I decide that it’s not a good idea to stay given how many there are. I leave out the back door with the book under my arm; maybe the nuns can tell us something about it. The rest of the party shoots a few arrows and spells at the zombies but realizes that I’m probably right. Since he’s already bitten, Mr. Bee covers everyone else’s escape and then escapes himself. We all head back to the convent.
We head back to the convent and talk to the nuns. They’re not surprised that we’re back so soon, given how bad things are out there. We ask one of them if they know anything about the book. She asks to read it and I give it to her. After about 30 minutes, we ask her if she’s found anything.
“Let me finish it!” she snaps at us, pulling the book closer.
We think that the book might be having an effect on her and decide to try and take it from her. We all try and fail. My character has the highest strength stat in the party, and even I couldn’t do it due to a poor roll. We (the players) all laugh at this old woman who apparently has the strength of an ox.
The DM eventually says “fine, she’s old, so I’ll give her -1.” and we take the book from her.
She snaps out of it immediately and is surprised at how much of an effect it had on her. She says someone with an extremely strong will has to read the book. I assume that’s the constitution stat, but the DM says wisdom. Thorin has the highest (presumably because he’s a dwarf?) and reads the book. It tries to take hold of him and even makes him feel weird, but he manages to brush it off. With the exception of a short excerpt near the end in a language he can’t understand, he tells us what it said. The book says something about an evil object, but honestly I don’t quite remember this part. After that, we lock up the book so nobody else can read it. The DM informs us that our characters are all very tired now, so we decide to rest. It also benefits us because the zombies mostly come out at night, and it will be daytime by the time we all wake up. We ask the sisters if we can use their beds, and they agree. In the morning, we’ll go explore the graveyard
…Unfortunately, Bard A (shuckle) has the bright idea to try and read the book and see if he can ‘learn any spells from it’.
The DM visibly wilts a little, but eventually says “…yes, you can do that.”
He rolls decently on his persuasion, and along with the bonuses he gets to that stat, convinces one of the nuns to take it out of the locked chest and let him read it. He rolls poorly in wisdom and the book starts to affect him the same way it affected the sister. Since I have the highest strength stat, it’s up to me, again, to try and take it from him. But somehow, he rolls higher than me, and runs out of the convent with the book. Mr. Bee, Thorin, and Hiro go after him.
I pretty much say: “This is 100% his fault. He’s on his own, I’m going to bed.” Serefina agrees with me.
After running for some time, Shuckle finds himself back in town, in one of the alleys. The DM asks him to roll again. This time, he does well, and wills himself to drop the book. But at that moment, a hand reaches out of the mud and grabs him by the ankle. He rolls poorly on strength and the hand pulls him deeper. He rolls again, and again the number isn’t high enough. He keeps sinking down. He rolls for a third time, and for a third time, he fails. He starts taking damage. By this time, the other three party members who went after him arrive at the town. Since this didn’t involve me, I didn’t pay as much attention and used the time to check my phone, go to the bathroom, etc. But basically, the party had to kill a few zombies that were in between them and Shuckle. Hiro uses his control water ability to keep Shuckle from drowning. Eventually, they pull him out, but he’s been bitten (and missing the tip of one of his fingers, too). They all go back to the convent. Thorin gives the book back to the nuns. Serefina and I get a “long rest” but everyone else has to make due with a “short rest.”
In the morning, we all head to the graveyard. It’s daytime now, so all the zombies are gone. I use my Divine Sense, but don’t see anything (the DM says it’s a very short range spell; in my head I was imagining it like Eagle Vision from Assassin’s Creed where you can see stuff pretty far away). Regardless, the party makes its way to a large mausoleum in the middle of the graveyard. There’s a large stone slab that we have to work together to slide off. We go down a hallway lined with skeletons. Shuckle wants to search them, but Thorin warns it’s wrong to rob from the dead. At the end of the hallway, there’s a spiral staircase that we go down. We find a long room with a sarcophagus at the end. All along the wall, there’s a painting that shows the story of a king with a sword who slew many undead and was a great hero to the people. I use my Divine Sense again, and the DM says I can see something inside the sarcophagus; not evil, but good. I slide the lid off. Inside, there’s a corpse of a man with a crown, holding a sword. The sword is what I sensed; it has a holy energy radiating from it. I reach to grab it, but Thorin warns me again, stealing from the dead is wrong. I tell him “necessity hath no law.” Even if what he says is true, I’d rather steal from the dead than let the living die from this plague. When I grab the hilt, I receive flashbacks of the king slaying the undead and fighting great evil. The last thing I hear in my vision is the sound of a woman’s laugh coming from the forest. The body of the king actually lets go of the sword so I can have it. (At this point, I think this whole thing is awesome. I know there are six people in the party, but I totally feel like the main character now. I have a magic sword and I’m off to slay evil. It’s like a story from mythology).
Then, Shuckle the Bard asks the DM if he can have the king’s crown.
Thorin’s player puts his face in the palm of his hand. Hiro’s player starts laughing.
The DM visually and audibly sighs.
“…sure.” he says.
Suddenly, a ghost springs up from the sarcophagus. “THIEF!” it shouts. Serefina immediately takes the crown from Shuckle and gives it back to the ghost, apologizing. She rolls very high on her persuasion and the ghost says:
“Because of you [points to Thorin and myself], I will spare you, but leave! Now!”
We all do, Thorin slapping Shuckle in the back of the head as he passes him. The DM informs Shuckle that he can see the ghosts of the people in the Mausoleum glaring at him and shaking their heads in disapproval.
As we walk out of the cemetery, I think I recognise the forest in the distance as the one in my vision. I tell the party this and that’s where we go. This is my first time playing DnD, but I understand the basic idea of each class having its own specialisms. So I ask the ranger player if she has any skills that can tell us where we need to go. She looks at her sheet and says yes, and the DM agrees. So Serefina leads the way (finding signs of travel, such as footprints and broken branches, that we could not) and we eventually find an old, abandoned castle. The DM says I begin to get more flashbacks from the sword: the king used to spend a lot of time in this castle long ago. Unfortunately, the drawbridge is up, and there’s a moat surrounding the castle. We all decide to scout the area to find a way in, but roll VERY poorly on our stealth/sneak rolls. Hiro even accidently knocks a large pile of rocks over and it echoes through the rest of the forest. A woman sticks her head out of one of the castle windows and tells us we’ve already failed, then goes back in. Finding no easy way into the castle, we formulate a plan for Hiro to use his control water ability to freeze the moat while serefina runs across, climbs up the wall, and lowers the drawbridge. However, she doesn’t roll well enough and slips on the ice. We abandon the plan at this point and all run across the ice (we assumed the wall would be very difficult to climb up, but the DM says it’s old, broken and has several handholds). I roll well enough to get all the way to the end of the ice, but slip before I can start scaling the wall. Shuckle rolls so poorly that he falls in the water.
“I don’t know if you know what moats were used for, but you smell bad right now.” the DM says.
Serefina and Mr. Bee make it up the wall and into the castle. Thorin rolls a 1, which means he climbs high enough to take maximum bludgeoning damage when he falls. The next turn, Serefina sees a ritual going on further in the castle. Cultists are arranged in a circle, chanting. On one end, there’s the woman we saw earlier. In the middle, strange glowing green runes. Serefina sneaks into position, Mr. Bee gets ready too. This time, I successfully climb over the wall and see what’s going on. Meanwhile, Thorin climbs, fails, and takes more bludgeoning damage. Shuckle is getting attacked by a crocodile while Hiro is trying to use his Control Water ability to shield him. The next turn, Serefina shoots an arrow at the woman while Mr. Bee uses a shout/insult spell of some kind. The DM asks him to say what his character said.
“…Your rent is due!” the player says. We all burst out laughing.
He rolls a 1 on his D4.
“She takes a little bit of damage, but is mostly just confused by what you said. It’s probably why you only did one point of damage.” the DM says.
At this point, it’s my turn. I’m excited to use my new sword. It’s much stronger than my previous weapon, being +6 to hit instead of +5. In addition to the normal D8 +3 slashing, it does D6 Holy. The DM says I can change the D8 to D10 if I use it in both hands, but I have to put my shield away. Given the fact that I already have plate armor and this seems time sensitive, that’s what I decide to do. Björn, my character, charges through the door and slashes the woman.
“Dra åt Helvete, du din jävel!” he says.
Light radiates from the sword during my attack. Thorin tries again to climb, but fails.
“Lower the drawbridge!” he shouts to us.
Hiro is doing a good job at keeping Shuckle safe from the crocodile. I tell Serefina’s character to keep fighting. Not only could it take a long time to lower the drawbridge, there could be a portcullis behind it that needs to be raised too. Plus, I really want to stop the ritual. One or two more rounds of combat happen after this. The woman is slowly losing her composure, blood is coming out of her mouth, but the ritual continues.
At the end, she grabs me and says “my son has my power now.”
Green light comes from the eyes and mouth of the cultists and the woman, combines, and heads toward the town. Hiro pulls Shuckle out of the water and Serefina lowers the drawbridge. The DM tells us that it’s time for everyone to level up. I ask him how many hit points the woman had left and he said three. Oh well. Everyone takes their time picking new spells to add to their character. At this point, about four and a half hours have passed in real time and I want to wrap this up soon. When it’s my turn to pick, I give the book to the DM and tell him to pick something decent for me. He gives the book to Thorin’s character (the only player with prior DnD experience) who tells me to pick “Smite” (or something like that) allowing me to add extra damage to my melee attacks. The DM tells us we need to take a long rest before we’re allowed to equip our new abilities, so that’s what we do.
When we finish resting, it’s nighttime. The moon is full. We all agree that we need to go back to town (where the light went), but where specifically? A couple of us are starting to get an idea of what’s actually going on and we decide to go check on Bob the drunk. We find him completely dismembered, slouched up against the wall, dead. Pieces of his body are everywhere. I can’t speak for everyone else, but my suspicions are confirmed. I ask the ranger to use her tracking abilities again to find out where this creature went. She says it went towards the convent, so that’s where we go. On the way there, we see a woman getting attacked by a few zombies. The party wants to help her, but I say we should keep moving instead. The noise of our fight could simply attract more and more of them, bogging us down. The best way to save the maximum amount of people is to end this once and for all (I meant what I said, but I also wanted to wrap the game up). We arrive at the convent and find several people there badly maimed with claw marks. We all decide that maybe if we destroy the book, the curse will be lifted. One of the nuns goes to get it. I ask the DM what color the metal of my sword is, he gives me a vague answer without actually saying “silver.” Just then, we hear something outside. The nuns close and barricade the door as best they can. The party gets ready. A nun comes with the book. I tell her to drop it on the ground in front of me, which she does. Combat starts. This time, I actually roll high for initiative. I strike the book with my sword. In addition, I declare that I’m going to use one of my Smite spells too (apparently, I only get two of these per day). I successfully hit the book and roll for damage. I roll a D8 (forgetting it’s a D10 now), add 3 slashing, roll a D6 for holy damage, and two D8s for smite.
“What’s the total?” the DM asks.
I thought he was counting, but I guess not. I gave him a guess that was probably wrong. He says there’s a force trying to stop my sword, but I successfully punch through it and start damaging the book. Thorin tries to shoot a fireball at it, but it dissipates like last time. Then, it’s the DM’s turn. A werewolf breaks through the door (big surprise) and starts attacking the party. Mr. Bee sings me a song that will let me do extra D6 damage next turn. Shuckle shouts at it, but it doesn’t do much. Serefina shoots an arrow made of thorns (or something like that). But none of this seems to bother the werewolf much.
Next turn, Björn shouts “Wait! He’s just a kid!” and attacks the book again.
I use my second Smite. That, combined with my sword and the extra D6 from Mr. Bee, I do twenty four points of damage (making sure to count them carefully this time). The book explodes in a flurry of paper and green magical energy. The werewolf transforms back into Bob’s kid. The zombies turn back to normal. The two bards start feeling better. Shuckle asks the DM if he can do something which makes the DM sigh one last time, but the story is over now.
I enjoyed the game very much and will likely go back next Saturday. I’m going to try and convince my friend to come with me this time. The only two things I didn’t like were Shuckle constantly fucking up and how long it took (about five hours). My chair started to get uncomfortable, I started to get hungry, etc. but those two things can be fixed. I felt like the DM did a very good job. I asked him afterwards and he said he’s been doing this since he was a kid. With a lot of things in life, the activity itself doesn’t matter as much as who you do it with. Hopefully, I can find a good group of people to do this with. Unfortunately, my boss can ask me to work Saturdays and I can’t really tell him no, so I’ve got to be realistic about how often I can do this. I don’t want to be the guy who never shows up. I asked the DM a few more questions, like if DnD ever uses money and if people ever use the rules to play in a historical setting, like 14th century europe. He tells me that yes, money is a thing in DnD and then tells me about a few of his homebrew campaigns (he’s done an anime-esque campaign and even a 19th century old west campaign). He said the secret to a good campaign is to have the ending in mind beforehand, and know what each player/character wants and use that to guide them towards the ending. If I can convince my friend to go with me, I’ll probably be going back next Saturday.