I would like to tell you the story of how a regular guy helped rally a party and stop a pair of chaotic stupids from ruining the game for everyone. It all started years ago at a pretty big anime convention that would kick off in my area. A couple friends and I made a habit of attending the con every year and hit up all the various panels and such. This year however was going to be a little different for me. While passing the game room on the first day I noticed a guy setting up some stuff for 3.5 and decided to check it out. He told me he was trying to get players for a game he would be running Saturday -- just a one shot, but I figured it might be fun and the guy was a pretty cool dude. It was around this time I met someone I can only recall as BroDude, another awesome cat who zeroed in on the table around the same time I did. We sat down and started making our characters on the spot and even came up with a pretty great shared backstory. That night I could barely sleep as I was stoked to roll the dice and go on adventures with a random cast of characters.
Seeing as this was years ago, I do not recall anyone’s actual names beyond my own character, but I will try to give them all fitting ones.
First there was Grognarg, an orc bard that was more akin to a mobster and conman than an entertainer like the class is classically associated. He was thrown out of his mob family and is currently looking for a big score to buy his way back in.
Then there was Hitomi, a Kitsune cleric that was the typical shy shrine maiden sort. She had been raised her whole life in her order’s temple, learning and worshiping the gods of light and healing. However, her fox nature yearned to see the world and travel rather than stay cooped up in the temple until she was old and grey.
The third is Fink, a Goblin Sorcerer that was laden with fire flasks and other explosives because he wanted to blow things up, even when he ran out of spells.
Next came Dink, a gnome rogue. There was not much about him beyond that.
Then there was me, Frank, a human fighter that was as tall and imposing as his strength. In addition, constitution stats were high. Frank had been a simple farmer until brigands attacked and burned his farm, shortly after he met Grognarg who convinced him that he could earn the money for a new farm quickly if he put his massive strength to work with him.
You might have noticed something: everyone has a backstory and motivation but Fink and Dink. That is because they were only here as typical murder hoboes looking to prove how big of a body count they can stack up. They did not care about the story, they did not care about why they were here, and as you will soon see, they really did not care about their comrades.
We were hired by the Captain of the Guard to help investigate strange disappearances around the city. Some witnesses claimed it was a demon that snatched those people. Frank, of course, despite being nearly seven feet tall and covered in armor, was instantly afraid. He is a simple farm boy after all and demons are scary things that live in story books and nightmares.
Fink and Dink immediately complained about how useless the fighter clearly is. Grognarg and Hitome however take the time to convince Frank that everything will be fine.
“It was probably just townsfolk gossiping, after all,” Grognarg assured him. “They probably saw a bird or something in the moonlight.”
“Gee, I hope you are right,” the big lovable lug muttered in a hushed tone.
The first lead we were given led us to a shady part of town where people had witnessed the strange creature. Thanks to Grognarg we were able to silver tongue our way around the place regardless of Fink and Dink complaining about not having any action after five minutes. They would get their wish soon enough though, as Hitome, being very well dressed vulpine, had started to draw a little attention. Eight armed men appeared and started harassing the team. Grognarg warned them of what his man could do. Frank however nervously asked him not to pick a fight. Fink and Dink of course rolled their eyes and groaned about how the fighter was trash. And Hitome pleaded for cooler heads and peace. Despite our best efforts, well some of us anyways, according to bad rolls the fight was on.
After the first thug took a shot at Grognarg, Frank leaped forward and drew his blade. With a loud cry and a mighty swing he managed to cleave through four of them in a single blow. No one hurts Frank’s friends. Two were easily taken down with a quick jab from Gragnarg’s short sword and a sheepish slash from Hitome’s scythe. But Fink was not satisfied: he was miffed I killed so many guys at once, so he tossed a firebomb at the remaining man and lit the alley on fire. Fink and Dink ran away, shouting that we should do the same. But that is not the kind of guy Frank is. Instead, he grabbed a bucket and started helping put out the flames. Seeing this, Hitome quickly joined in and Grognarg quickly supervised with words of encouragement. 16544.
With the blaze out, the locals were a bit more eager to give us our next lead. Nervously, Hitome asked Frank why he did that. To which he said, "I know how bad it feels when your life goes up in a blaze. Besides, we started the fire; the least we could do is put it out."
After helping put out the fire, people were more willing to help us with our mission and started telling us all about the strange things that had been going on. They also warned about a strange winged monster that had been seen around the times the people had gone missing. This of course sent chills down Frank’s spine. Either way, we had our next lead: a burnt down old church at the edge of town.
Along the way, the DM gave us some ample time to have character interaction and do some world building. Grognarg regaled Hitome with the harrowing story of how he saved Frank from a band of brigands that had burned down his farm. Frank commented that he did not remember it going exactly like that but his orc friend assured him it was just poetic license, something to spice the story up a bit. Hitome told us about her life in the temple of light, how she wanted to see the world beyond it. Frank told her about his dream to earn the money to buy a new farm. Fink and Dink of course took this time to complain and point how lame and dumb we were being and that gold should be spent on women and booze.
Eventually, we found the burnt down church. There it stood at the end of the alleyways. A single crumbling structure surrounded by nothing. No grass, no trees, not even other buildings. It was like the universe itself knew to keep as far away from this thing as it could. Cautiously we made our way towards the church after Grognarg formulated a brilliant plan; everyone would walk behind Frank. But this only gave Fink and Dink one more reason to complain. And that was the fact that Frank’s armor made him move slower than them.
The pair quickly grew impatient and were demanding he pick up the pace. Frank "politely" informed them that you can only move so quickly in plate mail, but this did little to calm them down. They just kept on complaining and talking about how useless the fighter was and how dumb I was for not getting lighter armor.
Our search brought us to a wide open area near the center of the ruins where the DM described several fresh graves that we could see from a doorway. Fink and Dink ran past us all at full speed without a care, leaving us all in the room behind them. All in the hopes of robbing the graves first, something they both loudly declared they were going to do. The moment they got next to the graves, however, a large bird creature dropped from the rafters and proceeded to slaughter them.
With that their characters were down for the time being, and the players were pitching a fit about how unfair things were and how they were in stealth. After the DM, to his credit, calmly explained that running into the room like greedy children to loot dead bodies had broken their stealth, he then looked to the three of us and asked for initiative rolls.
The fight was on. Frank charged in. Weapon drawn and shield raised, he gave the monster a stunning blow to the side of the head with it. Behind him, Grognarg and Hitome came rushing into the room, weapons drawn and ready to back up their fighter. Frank did his duty and held the monster at bay while Grognarg and Hitome dragged the other two to safety. Blow after blow glanced off his armor and shield while his sword bit into the feathers and flesh of this winged beast. With the most “useful” members of the party safely out of harm's way, the orc and fox joined the fight, slashing and stabbing at the creature with their weapons. Hitome however rolled a nat 1 and her scythe flew from her hand, bouncing off of Frank’s armor and landing on the other side of the room.
With a well placed buff from Grognarg and hefty swing of his sword, Frank took the head off the monster sending its lifeless corpse to the ground. With a tired sigh he picked up the “discarded” scythe and brought it back to Hitome.
So, after spending quite a few of her precious healing spells, Hitome managed to get the Goblin and Gnome back on their feet. It turned out that Fink, while buying tons of alchemy supplies, only bought stuff to make bombs and explosives, no potions, surprising no one. While they whined and complained about not getting all their HP back, Grognarg and Frank discussed what had just happened and tried to figure out what that bird monster was. That is when Hitome said the one thing Frank had been hoping she would not.
Hitome used her knowledge of demons to figure it out and determined that the bird creature was a sort of lesser being placed within the body of the bird. This news of course immediately gave Frank the willies. More importantly though, she pointed out how things like this did not just happen on their own; someone put that thing in the bird and that someone had to be nearby. A quick search of the place revealed a set of stairs behind the remains of the altar.
Down into the depths below the old cathedral the party crept; the darkness pressed in from all sides while the scent of mildew and rot filled the air. We soon found out why it smelled so bad: a small collection of zombies were being used to slow our progress. The battle was over rather quickly but Fink and Dink still took their chances to try and get a shot or two in.
Already annoyed with Frank for stealing his thunder and surviving so many fights, Dink chose during the zombie attack to make his move. While Frank held the undead at bay, the gnome took out his crossbow and started to fire wildly into them. When the DM and Grognarg both warned him that he might hit the fighter he simply shrugged it off and rolled his dice. Once again, however, nothing worked out for the heel as all of his arrows just bounced off of Frank’s armor. After the fight, Frank tossed the clearly livid gnome his bolts back, and gave him a few tips on firing his weapon straight.
With the undead cleared out and our tiny graverobbers getting even more annoyed, we found ourselves in a wide open chamber deep beneath the ruins. Whatever its purpose long ago, it was now used as an unholy chapel to creatures most foul and unspeakable. All around was evidence of dark and blasphemous rituals and the mutilated remains of people scattered about.
At the head of this gruesome display was of course a man adorned with strange robes chanting away while carving a body. We all looked at Dink expecting him to do something here, like maybe sneak up on him and stab in that back section. Instead, he flat out refused to venture into the room alone and risk getting killed. Upon hearing this, Grognarg hissed a few choice words at him before leading the heroic charge to attack the dark priest. The fight was quick and bloody, with Grognarg running him through on his own altar.
With the dark priest dead we knew we had to do something about this unholy place. So, with a bit of arm twisting we convinced Fink to do the only thing he knew how to do, and construct us a bomb. In the meantime, Dink did the one thing he cared about, looked for treasure to stuff into his pockets. What he found though was a beautiful woman locked in a cage behind the altar.
Now, I am sure there are warning lights going off in everyone’s head right now; I should know because they went off loud and clear in my head too. Unfortunately, two things were not in Dink’s favor at that moment. One, I do not like to meta-game. And two, I had been hoping for something like this to happen all day.
The Gnome rogue excitedly started to unlock the cage while snickering to himself about how he was gonna get some action tonight. Once free, she begged the Gnome to give her a kiss as a reward which he was all too happy to collect on. And that is when she sank her claws into the back of his skull while sucking the actual life and soul out of him. Dink’s player went into another angry tirade once again as the DM described how he was turned into a shriveled little husk before turning invisible with a cruel cackling laugh. No one batted an eye as Dink’s player cussed up a storm and stomped his way out of the game room and back into the convention.
So now we had a succubus sneaking around and a half finished bomb. Fink was not able to install a proper timer for the thing, so someone had to stay and activate it. Just as Frank was about to take the detonator, Grognarg snatched it away from his friend.
“Get out’a here Frank,” the Orc told him before looking at Hitome. “And you, Ms. Priestess, take care’a this big softy for me will ya.”
Fink being Fink was already halfway out of the place the moment someone had picked up the button. As Frank and Hitome ran through the darkened causeways, they could hear Grognarg’s bagpipes echoing off the walls behind them.
They had nearly reached the exit when the demoness made her move. Striking from the shadows, she cut the Kitsune across her arm, paralyzing her. Hitome crumpled to the ground with a hungry demon standing over her. Before she could claim another meal, Frank’s shield slammed into the succubus and sent her tumbling back into the darkness where she disappeared again. Frank took the paralyzed Hitome in his arm while keeping his shield at the ready, all the while scanning the darkness for the next attack. Then came the explosion which rocked the catacombs.
This would not be the end of Grognarg, however, as with a few well placed buffs, a couple musical enchantments and some magical trinkets burned, the orc was able to survive getting blown up with only two hit points left. Laughing like a madman, the charred and blackened greenskin ran through the halls as the place started to crumble all around him.
Meanwhile, a now enraged succubus leapt from the shadows at Frank, screeching and howling, ready to tear him apart and escape this tomb. What she got, however, was another faceful of shield. Frank was not about to let her escape this time though, and slammed the demoness into an alcove where he kept her pinned behind his shield.
However, Fink did not stick around for the ending. He just rolled his eyes that things were still going. He told the DM that he was bored with the game and that his character was going to just go tell the Captain of the guard that he finished the job. With that he walked away from the table, not even bothering to drag Hitome to safety, even after she did him the kindness.
In the chaos, Frank had pinned the demon with his shield inside of a narrow alcove just about the same time that Grognarg came running by. Surprised and elated that his best friend was still alive, Frank shouted at him to get the still paralyzed Hitome to safety and that he was right behind them. With a lot of protest from the fox girl, the burnt and battered orc scooped her up over his shoulder and scrambled to get back to the surface.
So here we are: the walls are falling down, several tons of rock and rubble threaten to crush Frank to death. In the meantime, there is a snarling screeching hell beast scrabbling to reach over his shield and tear apart any part of him she can get her claws on.
“You are a fool,” she hissed at him through barred fangs. “If we leave now we can both escape this. I will even let you and your friends live. Otherwise, we will both be crushed to death!”
“Not both of us,” Frank shouted back in defiance. Taking his sword he used the pommel of the weapon to hammer the edges of his shield into the wall, keeping her trapped in the alcove and pressed against the wall behind her. “Just you!”
With the sounds of screeching and the roar of falling stones, Frank scrambled up the stairs as fast as he could. Just as the last of the catacombs collapsed behind him, he stumbled to the surface and into the waiting arms of his friends. They all had a very 80’s movie moment of laughing and congratulating one another. But there was one little bit of business left to tie up.
With Fink and Dink gone and the day saved, the DM gave us free reign to write our own ending to the game before we broke. Without any debate it was decided we would expose the Goblin as a fraud and claim the money that was rightfully ours. Fink was thrown in prison where he is still blaming everyone else for what happened to him. Then after some off screen adventures, the three of them would pull their gold and buy that farm that Frank was wanting. Grognarg would rejoin his family and use his connections to buy and sell the stuff that Frank grew, who would suspect a market stall to be laundering money after all. And Hitome, after seeing a lot of the world on their adventures, would settle down on the farm.