"I had planned for everything… except you."
The famous last words of my Big Bad in my campaign before he died - barely halfway into the campaign. All thanks to a goblin named Gob.
I had been running a Pathfinder game for my players on a homebrew island in the Steaming Sea. The party was a rag-tag bunch of characters that had all awoken on a ship, chained up, missing a lot of their memories, and all marked by a new tattoo of one of the gods. It was definitely not a typical band of adventures. There was Sabya (a Drow Red Mantis assassin), Khan (a human monk and pirate), Terjon (a halfling swashbuckler and pirate captain), Mira (a human bard), and Gob (a goblin cleric of Zogmugot). The party would find out that each of them had been chosen to be a potential vessel for their god, as all of the gods had been mysteriously kicked out of their realms and cast to the mortal plane. Why this happened is a story for another time - what's important is that they also found out what happens when you leave a goblin unattended.
As the party tried to figure out what was going on with the gods and their own pasts, Gob would prove to be the catalyst for a lot of mischief and battles. Gob wanted to make friends, but often went out it in very foolish ways. When making friends didn't work, his solution was usually to drown the unfortunate person. This resulted in a lot of fights that the party would then have to save Gob from. In this way, the phrase "Gob damnit!" became prevalent at my table.
Gob's luck didn't save him even in death. The party had agreed to serve Captain Barbaroi, head of the pirate city of Solitude. The captain would send them on investigations in exchange for good coin. One such mission had them sailing through the Steaming Sea to try and hunt down a bakekujira, a massive undead whale. The party was doing pretty well in trying to kill the beast - until it decided to breach right up onto the deck. Gob failed his Dex save, and was crushed to death beneath a few tons of undead blubber and bone. That was not Gob's end however - if anything, it was only his beginning.
Charon, the Horseman of Death, had secretly taken a liking to the rambunctious little goblin. With the gods out of the way, Charon wanted an agent out in the Material Plane. So he agreed to send Gob back, if he would serve him. Gob of course agreed and thus returned to his friends. They had just wrapped him and tossed him overboard with a small sea funeral - only to watch in horror as he came crawling up the side of the ship a few minutes later with burning eyes screaming "What is dead may never die!" Gob was now an undead lord and servant of Charon.
Despite constant fights between himself and Terjon, Gob got along pretty well with the group. They were finding the undead goblin to be even more terrifying as his power grew, but they preferred having him as an ally than an enemy. Especially as they realized their pasts were all full of miserable and terrible things all orchestrated to bring them together. Every event in their lives was set in motion by one man - Captain Barbaroi. Only, that wasn't his true name. His true name was Aroden, the fallen god of Pathfinder lore.
When the team went to confront Aroden in Solitude, the fallen god was all too happy to revel. He invited them all to a grand gala aboard one of his ships, where he proceeded to monologue. The party listened furiously as he told them all about them being his puppets. He and the demon lord Zura had worked together with ancient Azlanti blood magic to throw the gods out of the heavens. Zura, having taken their place, would feast on the souls to grow in power, until she had enough power to restore him to godhood. Then the two of them would rule the heavens, while the other gods, separated and forced into mortal bodies, would be unable to stop them. It was a grand and glorious plan, and my players were FURIOUS as he revealed each one of their backstories that they had forgotten. Every horrible, evil thing that had turned them into jaded, unhappy prisoners aboard that ship - he laid it all out. Aroden had hundreds of years to plan them all out, to make them all the perfect vessels to become Avatars of the gods. He even ended one portion with "I had planned for everything in your lives - except you." He said that as he looked at the undead goblin. "You, I hadn't planned for at all."
There was just one problem. The party had also made enemies of Captain Barbaroi's rival, a deadly Drow mistress who wanted control of the pirate city for herself. Her forces swarmed the ship and threatened to kill everyone if Barbaroi didn't surrender. Naturally, once he revealed who he was, the Drow forces were less than inclined to try and take him on with a small strike force. So Aroden continued to monologue and even taunt the party.
At this point, my players were in a rage. They had trusted this guy, had told him vital information, personal secrets, served him faithfully. He had been their one anchor of normalcy - and it was all a lie. As they all debated what to do with this information, the player who controlled Gob slipped me a piece of paper behind my DM screen.
"Gob has zero interest in this conversation and left with Skratt the Wise's goblin entourage," the note said. I had him secretly roll a Stealth check, which he passed. So no one noticed that Gob slipped out during all of this threatening and sword-rattling. I thought nothing of it - I was too busy reveling in this big reveal. Aroden was my Big Bad of the game, and them knowing he was going to force them to keep working for him was a reveal I had spent months getting ready for.
Then I got a second note. "Are there any insects around?"
Thinking nothing of it, I answered, "Yes, there's a brewery ship that uses bees for their honey production next door." I thought nothing of it as Gob's player was always asking random questions like that.
Oh the folly of me as a GM, not questioning in my moment of glory…
Aroden was taunting the remaining party and the Drow in the gala ship. They would all serve him, and do so without question. If not, he knew everyone they loved and cared for. He would make them all suffer far more than they ever had. They would…
A third note. "Gob went and killed the bees." I shrugged - again, random, but not out of character for Gob. I did a quick Perception roll. No one noticed - everyone was too busy at the gala ship, watching everything go down. He could have robbed the place blind.
Sabya and Terjon are reaching for their weapons. They want to strike Aroden down on the spot, even if it's a bad idea. Their players are just so angry that it's a risk they are willing to take. The Drow want Sabya dead for killing their mistress, so they would have to fight through them. But maybe…
Gob's player raised his hand. When acknowledged, he says, "I send 24 swarms of undead bees into the ship to attack Aroden."
The table goes quiet. I pause, shrug, and say, "Okay… so Aroden is going on, and suddenly swarms of bees come flying into the room and start swirling around him. They are moving too fast for him to see that they are undead, but he swats them aside, unconcerned…"
"They're not just undead bees," Gob's player says with a giant grin. "They're burning undead."
I start calculating damage from the swarm attacks, when he adds in, "When burning undead die… they explode."
Everyone is quiet as my eyes widen in horror. I already said Aroden swatted one of the bees. He has more than enough strength to kill an undead bee with one swat. As a burning undead bee, it would explode. Which would set off the next bee, and the next one, and so forth in a chain of exploding undead bees. And there were 24 SWARMS of bees. Even if I said there were maybe 20 bees per swarm… that is 480 exploding bees plus fire damage detonating on him… and most bee swarms are a LOT more than 20…
The entire party is staring, looking between me and Gob's player, completely confused. As characters, none of them even noticed Gob was missing. As players, none of them knew what any of this was about. They could only watch my eyes get bigger and bigger as I furiously calculated damage behind my screen. Then I sat back in my chair, dumbfounded, and said, "I need everyone within 30 feet of Aroden to make a Reflex save to stay on your feet."
Aroden had just set off a living megabomb all around him. The damage was enough to reduce him to a smear on the deck, as well as blast a hole through a large chunk of the ship. My Big Bad was completely and utterly dead - by bees.
"I had planned for everything - except you." If only I knew how ominous those words would become when I uttered them. Because the one person Aroden never planned for is the one that killed him long before the campaign was done - and with undead burning bees no less.
When the session was done, I told the party I needed two weeks off so that I could figure out where the campaign was going next on account of my Big Bad's unplanned demise. I also couldn't help but die laughing because Aroden's statement just kept coming back to mind.
Gob killing Aroden with undead bees has become a legendary story at my table. It became all the more ironic when Gob, having been tired of the party trying to be good guys, betrayed them all, left with Zyphus, and eventually became a minor god of death himself. We established the Church of Gob and it continues to carry into the upcoming next-gen campaign.