The Goblin Thieves Who Took Fate in Their Hands

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I've been playing D&D 5e for a little over four years now. It's been a heck of a journey, with plenty of highly memorable moments from the many sessions I've played. However, one session in particular stands out as one of my all-time favourites, which I would like to share with you today. The players in this story consist of DM, Joe, and myself.

It was one of those unfortunate evenings where not all of the group's players could make it to the session. DM has thankfully made a habit of keeping one-shots in his back pocket for cases such as these, so he proposed a heist game. The task was to steal a Deck of Many Things from the town hall of a large city, under the cover of night. When DM revealed that Joe and I were going to play as goblins, I was overjoyed. We each rolled a die to determine which kind of goblin we played, based on slightly modified versions of the 5e goblin stat block. Thus we have Boomstick, a twitchy sharpshooter with bonuses to ranged attack rolls and Perception checks, played by me, and Quickthinx, a nervous mage with an Intelligence bonus and three wizard cantrips of his choice, played by Joe.

It was midnight in-game as Boomstick and Quickthinx made their way to the gates of the city. As the goblins approached the imposing entryway, DM started a timer. He explained that when the timer ran out, dawn would break and security in the city would be stepped up, making things much harder for us. We had to get a move on. After a brief scuffle with a guard at the gates, Boomstick and Quickthinx slipped into the city and made their way down an empty street. As they came upon a large, inner city park, they made a little too much noise in their hiding place and drew the attention of a nearby guard. On a whim, Boomstick put on a squeaky falsetto, pretending to be a diseased girl in an attempt to scare off the guard. Quickthinx helped out the deception by casting Minor Illusion to create the image of a leprotic little girl with her skin sloughing off. This horrifying imagery, coupled with Boomstick's impromptu ventriloquism, was enough to make the guard excuse himself and leave, wishing he'd worn his brown pants tonight.

With that potentially troublesome situation dealt with, Boomstick and Quickthinx crossed the large park, stopping only to shoot a crow for supper. They were discovered by a small patrol of guards on the other side, but made short work of the foolish humans with some good old-fashioned goblin skirmishing. Having been slinking through the city for a good few hours in game time, the pair finally reached their goal, the town hall. The sleepy guards were none the wiser as our green-skinned "heroes" slipped in through a side door, crossed a small function room, and entered the central chamber. This grand room was lined with pillars down its sides, furnished with a table and chairs and some potted plants. A tall, stained glass window dominated the back wall.

And there it was. Displayed on a wooden pedestal beneath a glass dome in the centre of the chamber, sealed in a small glass case of its own, was the Deck of Many Things. His eyes glittering with avarice, Boomstick began approaching the display to claim his prize. He was just halfway across the room when an alarm bell started ringing out of nowhere. Now in a blind panic, Boomstick dashed across the carpet and dove into one of the potted plants, concealing himself amongst the broad leaves. Quickthinx hid himself in a plant on the other side of the chamber, just in time for a guard to come bursting in to catch the intruders. A tense couple of minutes followed as the guard made a sweep of the area, while Boomstick chewed on the soil in his hiding place to calm his nerves. Soon enough, the alarm stopped and the guard returned to his post, looking very confused.

Boomstick may not have been a very bright goblin, but he reasoned that so long as he didn't touch the floor, the alarm would not go off. Aided by some good Acrobatics rolls, the plucky sharpshooter leapt from the potted plant and onto the nearby table, then leapt onto and clambered up one of the pillars. These ornamental structures did not reach the ceiling, so Boomstick was able to perch on top of it, now overlooking the display bearing the Deck of Many Things. Taking care not to lose his balance, Boomstick took aim and loosed two bolts from his crossbow, one after the other. The first shot cracked the glass dome, the second one shattered it. Not wasting any time, Quickthinx used a Mage Hand to snatch the Deck of Many Things from its pedestal as Boomstick leapt down from his perch.

The pair could hear the shouts of guards coming from outside the chamber, so they rushed over to the stained glass window at the back of the chamber. This window was protected by a set of iron bars, too thick to cut through but spaced far enough apart that something as small as a goblin might be able to squeeze through. Boomstick went first, and DM asked me to roll an Athletics check. It went poorly. Boomstick managed to squeeze his body through the bars, but now his head was stuck between them. Quickthinx decided to help push his friend through, so Joe rolled his own Athletics check. He succeeded and shoved Boomstick's head through the bars, but Boomstick was now firmly wedged between the bars and the window, uncomfortably squashed up against the glass. Desperation being a great motivator, Quickthinx made one last almighty shove to get Boomstick through. Joe succeeded on his Athletics check, the window shattered from the added pressure, and Boomstick spilled out onto the street below in a mess of broken glass and flailing limbs. Picking himself up, Boomstick managed to pull Quickthinx through the bars as the town hall guards came rushing into the room, and the goblins took to their heels. As they made their getaway, they heard church bells chime five times, and saw the orange hues of sunrise bleeding into the dark sky.

Dawn was breaking. They were out of time.

The desperate scramble through the city that followed was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences I've ever had playing D&D. Alarm bells, shouting, and the barking of dogs rang out from all around as Boomstick and Quickthinx ran for their lives, making a frantic dash for the city gates with their loot in hand. To their dismay, they found that the gates were shut, and guards were already posted and on alert. Deciding to try and reach the gates anyway and find a way to bypass them, the goblins launched an assault. The dice gods were in our favour in that moment, and the guards were cleared out by Boomstick's crossbow and Quickthinx's Acid Splash spells. Heavily damaged but nonetheless alive, the goblins approached the gates. 

To their dismay, they found that the gates were locked, and there was no way to climb over or slip under them. By this point, the guards' dogs had caught up to the pair, and they could only escape a vicious mauling by clambering onto the roof of a nearby building. Making their way along the rooftops of the street parallel to the city walls, the daring thieves began to realise that their situation was hopeless. They had no way out, and half the city was after them. They would be discovered and slain long before they found any other means of escape. Resigning himself to a premature death, Boomstick decided he at least wanted to try out the Deck of Many Things. Things couldn't get much worse for them at this point, after all. Cracking open the glass casing with the pommel of his scimitar, Boomstick took the Deck of Many Things in his hands and drew a card. DM made me draw randomly from a virtual deck of cards to determine what result I got.

I drew The Fates. For those who don't know, The Fates allows the character who drew the card to rewrite a past event, changing it as they see fit or erasing it altogether as if it never happened. It's essentially a one-time cosmic retcon.

Gazing at the card he now clutched in his fingers, Boomstick had a thought: what if the alarm had never been raised? As this idea ran through his tiny mind, the card vanished in a scattering of motes of light. The world began to spin and blur, and the sounds all around became muffled and distorted. When the world returned to normal, Boomstick and Quickthinx were still on their rooftop, but the city was quiet. No alarm bells, no yelling of guards or barking of dogs, nothing. Having a hunch, Boomstick grabbed his friend and lead the way back to the city gates.

Boomstick's hunch was correct. The city gates stood open, and the stationed guards were sleepily leaning on their spears, eager for their shift to end. By the time the guards  noticed them, it was too late. The goblin thieves had slipped out the gates and were already running away. Boomstick laughed and swore at the guards as he and Quickthinx fled the city under a hail of spears, flipping them off and waving their stolen Deck of Many Things mockingly.

The triumphant goblins didn't stop running until they were safely in the forest, where they stopped to make camp. Now they had a moment to catch their breath, Quickthinx decided to have a go at drawing from the Deck of Many Things. As soon as he drew his card, he vanished, leaving nothing but his clothes and equipment behind. Distraught and terrified by the sudden disappearance of his friend, Boomstick buried the Deck of Many Things under a tree and fled into the mountains, never to be seen again. Meanwhile, Quickthinx found himself trapped in a sphere of force, with nothing but blackness surrounding him. He had drawn Donjon, and this extradimensional prison, impossible to locate except with a Wish spell, was now his home for the rest of eternity.


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