This story is from my first ever campaign of D&D and while it doesn't have a happy ending during this campaign, a recent update has given me a bit of hope for their true ending.
Some brief backstory to set the stage.
Ashyn was by best friend's character i'd known vaguely in highschool but became close when we joined adventurers league together. When deciding we wanted something more than just a single session per adventure we joined a new campaign and used our characters from the league. It was to be Tales of the Yawning Portal, the very first module which I was excited for. I'd never been ran though anything before so it was bound to be an exciting experience in my mind.
For characters. my friend created a life domain cleric, a timid lavender coloured tiefling with ashy hair (hence the name Ashyn), who served Ilmater. The god of those who suffered, who offered them relief and support, encouraged them to endure. It was an apt fit because of the temple Ashyn served in was horrendously racist to him being a tiefling and cut off his horns. Eventually through divine interference he was encouraged to leave the temple and set out to find somewhere new, coming across Umalock on the road.
My character was a hill dwarf wizard called Umalock Stormforge and had enough personality for two people. He was proud to almost the point of arrogance about his powers and while he might of been book smart… He wasn't exactly street smart. His backstory was he came from a famous smithy ran by his large family that made ornate armour and jewellery called the Stormforge. He however didn't want to be a blacksmith, and instead looked elsewhere.
When an elven wizard known as Belladon came to study with dwarven mages he encountered my character and the two were infatuated. They courted in secret as he taught Umalock magic and the night before Umalock was about to propose Belladon vanished, not a trace to be found. The only hints were a note about having to leave because of an emergency at home. Determined to find Belladon it spurned Umalock to set off into the unknown with the blessing of his large family and off towards his future.
This all leads to now. Umalock and Ashyn met on the road by coincidence and heading to the same spot and arrived to the Inn where the Yawning Portal is. They meet the rest of the group (a war cleric who refused to heal and a barbarian), and together we go through the usual awkward getting to know each other.
We shop for supplies for our adventure, an incident where I try buying supiciously cheap healing potions occurs which Umalock almost cuts off his hand when trying to prove if one is real (they aren't, we chased down that merchant and got our gold back with a handy firebolt from a distance). I rolled 7 damage when I only had 12 hp at level 1 so needless to say it was a close call on the knife incident.
I also greatly underestimated the value of a gold piece to regular people and accidentally bought out an entire bakery which created our greatest non magical weapon;
The sack of many pastries.
It actually helped in negotiations and more than once we cast a light cantrip on a croissant and threw it down a steep drop. That entire short run of the campaign we feasted on cakes and sausage rolls which was a great in game joke.
Eventually we end up talking to the owner of the Yawning Poral Inn, we ask about the giant stone tunnel that fills the middle of the room and the DM decides to provide an example.
A man desperate for the riches the Yawning Portal has to offer tries to go down the pulley system, clearly but a begger dressed in rags. He wouldn't last two seconds. Ashyn, myself and the war cleric try to persuade him not to go by paying him gold but the DM refused to let us even roll, pushing events forwards without input from the group.
This should of been our first red flag.
The second was the other two members of the group were clearly on a different page from us, running into combat with no plan or care for if situations could of been resolved peacefully. The barbarian throughout our dungeon crawling purposefully initated combat, ignored other players and in general ruined epic moments.
One such moment being a negotiation between cobalds and safe passage through their territory. They were in a terf war with goblins in the ancient citadel, and the goblins had recently stolen their white dragon wyrmling who they were caring for. Things had worked out, we agreed to look for their lost dragon and if successful we would be guided to our goal.
It all went south though when our Barbarian despite my high perception rolls and warnings ignored everything and marched over to the currently hidden and feasting white dragon, shouting in their face.
Combat inevitably began and it was looking rough for most of the fight. A few people went down, myself included but it was because of Ashyn that we managed to not only get everyone back up but in a moment of incredible luck he rolled two back to back natural twenties with advantage from guiding bolt. The idea we were trying to pull off was to knock the dragon unconcious, tie it up and stabilise it then bring it back to the Cobalds while still restrained.
Ilmater didn't seem to appreciate someone messing with his cleric and instead splattered the dragon's head from the blast (important later), leaving all parties wondering how exactly this situation was going to be resolved. We had some time before the session ended and coming to conciousness just in time to witness the holy smiting had been enough for Umalock to ask more about the religion Ashyn followed and even begin to partake in small prayers. If only to thank the holy being who had been protecting his best friend up until now.
The evening we awoke to Cobalts trying to break in, smelling dragon blood, the only option we could do was fight them off, opening the doors right before they could break through and in the most brutal victory tunnel you've ever seen butcher them before they could even land a single hit. During this time we also gained a new player, this person playing an old gnome bard who was looking for an apple said to restore youth to whoever ate it. She was called Grandma Foxglove, and the third to Umalock and Ashyn's little group of friends.
While not ideal we knew negotiations with the Cobalts was off the table but as luck would have it we had crossed into Goblin territory. We had many scurmishes with rats and goblins alike, stealthily assassinating a number who were sleeping in various rooms until we came upon a cathedral like room. 50 or more goblins resided in there, and with the dragon scales i had taken from the white dragon as a symbol of Ashyn's victory we tried speaking to the goblins guarding the giant room.
The DM overruled me despite a natural 20 persuasion, and when entering where the guards had run off to, a goblin champion awaited, believing we were with the cobalts and friends of the white dragon.
To summarise almost all of us went down, the bard ran off after trying to introduce us as champions and only I and the bard (who eventually returned to the fight out of guilt) were left alive.
Seeing an opportunity I spent 4 rounds running back and obtaining the dragon skull that still remained, only being 200 meters away in a different room but even showing the dead skull of the dragon the DM overruled my attempts at proving our non alignment with the cobalds. Eventually the bard won the fight with a natural 20 of her own but afterwards I was bitter. It was at this point I realised the DM genuinely had it out for me and my friends, and didn't want to see me succeed. In our last session we attended, he genuinely admitted to wanting a TPK. Everyone else brushed it off as a joke but I knew it wasn't.
I'd healed everyone with potions when my plan didn't work, protected Ashyn as best I could and when all was done wordlessly went to loot. Any joy I had from playing vanished now, and my only fun was getting to see my friend who played Ashyn whenever sessions occured. I split my loot with them and only them, the other players trying to steal it when they were nowhere near me at the time.
The finale of this tale was when we were reaching the very depths of the dungeon. We were now level 3, and the DM was running us around with no hints or clues. If you've seen the sunless citadel map, you'll know it's a labyrinth to navigate with no map. There were so many puzzles that gave no rewards, doubling back on dead ends and in general morale was low.
Entering a crevass, we encountered burrowing worms which had molten cores, burning us if we tried meleeing them. The barbarian and war cleric ran in yet again despite telling them not to do that outside of sessions many times, going down fast and leaving only the spell casters up.
We tried to save them against our better judgement and we paid for it dearly. Let me tell you about another rule the DM enforced this campaign. Every natural 1 meant the attack you were preforming instead hits an ally. Except this only seemed to apply to me.
Ashyn and myself tried our best to save them, Ashyn managing to heal them enough to run but the worm was now focused on the life cleric and in my attempt to inflict extra damage with a chill touch cantrip against a fire based creature (or so i was theorising), I rolled a one and instead hit my best friend Ashyn.
The chill touch cantrip is something that stops things from healing for one round, and they were on their last death saving throw.
Silence filled our side of the table as the barbarian and war cleric took their turn. I was already crying, turning to my best friend and apologising over an over, having created so many ideas and fun jokes between them for so long. The DM sat smugly, watching as we finished the beast off.
The session ended sortly after and everyone I was actually friends with felt hollow, crying together over the first character death we'd ever experienced and the blood was on my hands. I took my friend out for noodles afterwards as an apology, a new favourite thing we'd discovered together.
In the moments before the campaign ended, we gave funeral rights to Ashyn, Umalock sobbing in anger at what had transpired and refusing to let go he took on the mark of Ilmater, swearing to bring his friend back quietly to himself and whatever gods were listening. Ashyn deserved better after enduring so much, and not even fate would stop this angry wizard from preforming miracles.
After one more session of the DM trying his best to cause a TPK with a shadow monster (I was the last one alive, saving everyone again) we all dropped out. I didn't have the energy in me to continue what was clearly a campaign meant to fail, and my friend didn't either.
In the end it created incredible memories but they feel tainted by a DM who tried his best to ruin the fun of some of his players, catering to the battle hungry ones. He knew it was our first campaign and did so anyway, making me avoid D&D for a very long time.
The silver lining however is now i'm joining a new campaign. It's sci fi / fantasy one somewhat based on warhammer 40k, but the DM and the players are just as heavily invested in RP as I am. We're all deeply excited to play, and start in just a weeks time.
I thought about making a new character but the more I looked at what was already taken, the more I realised the party didn't have a cleric of any kind. How they had gotten by was a mystery to me but with a fond smile I brought out my old sketches of Umalock, done almost a year ago now and with a message shot over to my new DM it was confirmed.
He is now Umalock Stormforge, ex transmutation wizard and now life domain cleric of Ilmater, his holy symbol the worn but cared for symbol that belonged to his fallen tiefling friend Ashyn.
(new art of him I did for the redesign!)