Patru versus the Balor

A low level Gnome Sorcerer finds an Epic Table and accidentally triggers the End Boss for a One-Shot, Escape-To-Win dungeon.

1 point

First off, this game was played about ten years ago, give or take a couple years. I’ve done my best to keep the details as faithful to the original game as I can.

This game was a halloween one shot that was run in the later years of 3.5's reign. I forget if 4e had been released yet at this point, but either way, my group was still deep in 3.5e. Being a halloween one shot, it was expected most of the heroes would die in spectacular ways and the only real hope for "winning" was to escape with your life. 

The DM asked us all to make characters while he rapidly threw together a dungeon for us. There were probably 8 or 9 of us playing, and while many of their characters had epic stories worth sharing as well, my character happened to never actually meet any of their characters, due to starting locations and our respective choices.

The game began with all characters waking up in different rooms with the classic gamified version of amnesia. They know how to use their character abilities and a general sense of who they are, but they can't really remember how they got where they are or anything at all from before they woke up. The only thing that we really knew for sure was that we were in a stone castle of some kind and any hope we had of surviving, or discovering/remembering what was really going on would require exploring the nearby rooms.

This story is about my character in that one shot, a Gnome Sorcerer whose name I (ironically) can’t recall. So, whatever his name originally was, I will call him Patru for the purpose of the story. 

The first room Patru woke in was pretty uneventful, but in the very next room (a kitchen of sorts, with an oven and other furnishings), there was a Table laden with golden treasures. 

It was clearly a trap. Patru performed the best investigation that he could, given he wasn’t a Rogue. The table was clearly magical via Detect Magic, but that didn’t tell me exactly what the magic was doing. So, suspecting danger, I had Patru take cover at the room’s doorway and cast Mage Hand to see what happens if you move the treasures from the table. Instantly, all the table’s contents exploded in all directions with incredible power. Surveying the damage afterwards, the treasure was all destroyed and Patru would certainly have died if he had been anywhere near it… while the table was perfectly unharmed. It was time for the second test: does the trap reset, or was it a one-off? 

Rubble was in abundant supply in the room at this point, so I had Patru take a piece and set it on the table. But before he could take cover to test the magic effect again, Patru heard a tap on the table as a second, identical piece of rubble appeared next to the one he had set. He only had time to be confused for a moment before hearing the sound again as two more identical pieces of rubble appeared next to two that were sitting on the table. I felt like I had an idea of what was happening, and Patru rushed to take cover again as the rubble on the table continued to duplicate exponentially. Thankfully, Patru was able to trigger the explosion before too many duplicates of the rubble were created and the damage to the room was minimized. Damage seemed to be based on how many “clones” of whatever was on the table were being launched (determining how many damage dice were rolled).

After that, I decided to leave the Dangerous Table alone and continue searching the castle for other clues, since this seemed like it wasn’t much more than a death trap.

Just down the hall was a room occupied by a group of NPC humans huddled around a cooking pit with a roasting spit. They were dressed in armor and appeared to be guards, but they were afflicted by the same amnesia I was and couldn’t to remember who or where they were. After a tense moment of suspicion between myself and the group, Patru’s high Charisma allowed him to convince the group to let him join them. They shared a blank notebook with him, informing him that they all had notebooks to write down important information on, since whatever was making them lose their memories seemed to erase their memories all over again every time they sleep. Only by writing themselves notes to read in the morning could they make any progress and stick together as a group.

Being a low level caster and having already spent a couple of spell slots dealing with the Table, I was about ready to join the NPCs in taking an 8 hour rest to recover my slots. I made sure to write my journal in Gnommish to catalog everything I had experienced so far in the castle since waking. Feeling safe that Gnommish is rarely a top pick for bonus languages, I noted to myself that I had only just met these men and that I might need to be ready to betray them later if I wanted to stay alive.

When I woke once again, it was confirmed by the DM that my memories of the previous day had been lost and this time I found myself tied up and hanging next to a cooking fire, suspended on a roasting spit. A group of NPC humans dressed like guards seemed pretty angry with me, which was scary and confusing for Patru. Turns out, the DM rolled each guard’s bonus languages randomly, and just my luck that their leader happened to roll to get Gnommish. Patru was shown the journal entry he had written before he went to sleep as the lead guard read it aloud. Patru conceded he had no defense and acknowledged his error, asking only to be allowed to go his own way, since they were all just survivors trying to get through this mysterious castle. Whether the DM was feeling lenient or the dice were rolling well for my charisma based character, either way they decided to let me go on the condition that I don’t come back, which Patru was perfectly fine with.

Intrigued by his journal entry about the Dangerous Table, Patru decided to go back and investigate the object further, now considering that he might be able to somehow use the table to help him navigate the castle. After all, he only had the written account of this table and he was curious to see its power for himself.

Sure enough, back down the hallway was a room that looked like it had seen a couple of explosions, except a conspicuously protected part of the floor stretching out from underneath a normal looking wooden table. The first question I had was whether there was a limit to the types of items the table would work with? I had already seen it operate on gold and stone, but does it only target objects? Or does it affect Creatures as well?

Being the genius I am, I decided to set a chair next to the table and climb on top.

Squatting low on the tabletop, it seemed for a moment as if nothing were happening. Then there was a popping noise and I turned to see an exact duplicate of myself turning to look back at me. We both sat in stunned silence for a moment before another popping sound announced the arrival of another pair of me.

Worried that there would soon be not enough room for all of us on the table and that falling off might trigger the explosion, I cried out, “Everyone off the table!” 

By fate (or the DM’s charity), we were all four of us able to safely climb off the table by stepping down onto the chair. Apparently, the Explosion effect isn’t triggered if you climb off the table willingly.

At this point, we had to stop the game for a moment to talk about the meta-game consequences of this turn of events. Did I now have 4 characters to play?

“No,” the DM ruled, “the other 3 of you will be NPCs, but I’ll have them follow you and work with you.”

The DM also curbed the potency of this effect by ruling that Patru and each of his 3 clones had identical Physical Attributes, but the Table couldn’t replicate soul matter, so we had to share Patru’s original Mental Attributes evenly between us.

That’s right. Each of us had One Fourth of Patru’s original Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma scores. We were a party of four identical gnome sorcerers and we were all morons. We did still have enough intelligence for us to be capable of speech, at least.

Talking briefly among ourselves, the four gnomes tried to decide what to do next. I told the others that we should probably show those human guards the Table and they might have some idea of how it might help unravel the mystery of the Castle.

So each instance of Patru grabbed one of the four legs of the Table and we carried it back to the door where Patru had first met the NPC guards.

We knocked politely on the door, since they had locked it after they exiled Patru, and after a moment the face of the lead guard appeared through the doorway. Upon the sight of the four identical gnomes they had only evicted some minutes ago now grinning up at him while holding a wooden table, the lead guard at the door screamed in confused fear and slammed the door shut.

“What do you think his problem is?” One of the three NPC Patru’s asked.

“… I think he isn’t very bright,” I replied.

In another stroke of genius, the four of us decided we would use the Table to break down the door. Taking some small stones nearby, we set it on top of the table and all four of us huddled underneath the Table, knowing it was one of the only definitely safe places. We waited for some time for the stones to pile up so it would do enough damage to break down the door before I cast Mage Hand to trigger the explosion and direct it towards the door.

But we must have waited a little too long, because it didn’t break down the door. 

It vaporized it.

Along with the room beyond it (all those inside it) and also a substantial portion of the Castle itself.

At the far end of the enormous hole we had just carved, where the destruction opened a window into a hall at the other end of the Castle, the face of a confused and very angry Balor glared back to determine exactly what had caused so much damage to his recently conquered domicile. Snorting a huff of brimstone in rage, he squeezed through the opening we had created and started charging at us.

The DM would tell us after the game that the Balor had been imprisoned in the Castle’s Dungeon before the game began and when he escaped, he cast a spell over the whole castle that caused everyone inside the castle to gain amnesia. 

I had accidentally triggered the End Boss.

Realizing just how hopeless our situation was, my 3 clones immediately ran in different directions, hoping beyond hope that the Balor might lose them while he was busy chasing the others.

But *my* Patru was still smart enough (or dumb enough) to decide that the only hope he had was to stand his ground. Shoveling as much rubble and pebbles as he could onto the Table, he cowered underneath the Table as the Balor closed the gap. I Readied an Action to use Mage Hand one more time at the last possible second, trying to maximize the damage before the Balor could reach me.

The Balor reached back with his Fire Whip, Patru cast his spell, and the Table unleashed its terrible power on the Balor. 

When the DM was finished adding up the damage dice, the Balor was still standing, though with only a few hit points left. It wasn’t max damage, either. If the DM had rolled just a little higher on the damage, the Balor would have been slain.

Of course, then it was the Balor’s turn to act in combat. He used his Fire Whip to grab the Table and pull it back to his hand, at which point it became essentially an Epic Shield. He then leaped forward at me, throwing the Table underneath his feet and crushing poor Patru beneath the Table instantly. He made short work of my three clones as well, as his movement speed was so much higher than theirs that their efforts to run and hide were practically useless.

But even an Epic Death can still be an Epic Accomplishment for the players. After a decade of playing, it is still one of my fondest memories of the game.


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