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A Farewell To A Brother In Arms: A D&D Story

John Hutton walks us through the harsh reality of character death in Dungeons and Dragons



I started playing Dungeons and Dragons with a bunch of very close friends a few years ago.  For me, it was a great chance to practice my acting skills.  But in truth, it was an excuse to hang out with some really cool people.  You learn a lot about people by how they play; especially role-playing games.

This story is about a friend of ours.  I’ll change the name, not because it’s an embarrassing story, but just because he might want some sense of privacy.  As I said, you learn a lot about someone when playing these games.  I will call him Steve.  Steve is someone who is a lot of fun to be around.  Above that, he is also a very intelligent guy.  He was the one with maybe the most knowledge of D&D in the group excluding the DM.  He played a dwarf paladin.  Most people I know play paladins as a tank.  Lots of heavy armor, sword and shield.  This paladin was more about the heavy strikes and little healing.  But somehow we made it work.

The thing about Steve also was that he is a member of the military in real life.  One day he got the news that he had to ship out.  He had to ship out to Germany.  Needless to say, he wouldn’t be able to play with us anymore.  He gave us about a month’s notice before he had to leave and that was just enough time for the DM to come up with a particularly fun farewell adventure.

The Set Up

In this story, we were exploring an old orphanage.  It was dilapidated and covered in vegetation.  Turns out it was the orphanage of another one of us, I’ll call her Leah, it’s where her character grew up.  It was not a pleasant upbringing so her character had a lot of trepidation about going here.  My character also had a bit of a connection to this orphanage as well.  My memories of it were far more pleasant.  

We enter the orphanage and one of the first things we notice is a myconid.  Myconids are these little mushroom creatures and we found one that cowering in fear of us.  We tried talking to it, but it didn’t answer.  Seeing no real danger from this one lone myconid, we continued to explore.  We saw no real danger on the ground floor.  Nor did we find anything of much interest.  But we did find artifacts of Leah’s childhood.  We found implements of discipline and rooms more akin to solitary confinement.  This was not a cheery place.  And the vegetation seemed to be choking it to death.


Below the ground floor was the basement.  And if there’s anything to take away from this story, it’s to be careful exploring creepy basements.  Really we didn’t find much of anything because we took one long look into the abyss staring back at us leading into miles of dark nothingness and decided maybe we should check out the top floor first.  

Coming up from the basement level is where we got jumped by a bunch of myconids we didn’t notice.  It was a tough fight because myconids can attack with spores.  And those spores can paralyze.  We cut into them and a plume of spores fills the room.  We managed to fight off the myconids and we explored the upper floor.

The upper floor was pretty standard.  That is until we found the library.  In the library, we found some interesting books.  Then we found a book about Zuggtmoy.  Zuggtmoy is an evil goddess of fungi.  If you’ve ever played the old computer game, Tomb of Elemental Evil, then you’ve run into her as well.  We learn about Zuggtmoy’s relationship with another evil god named Graz’zt.  Our DM liked to play with evil gods in this campaign.  

Crisis In Fungus-Town

Once we got all the information the DM wanted us to have, that’s when all hell broke loose.  Soon, there was rumbling.  The entire house started violently shaking.  We tried to rush down the stairs, but it was cut off by a wall of fungus.  And the fungus was not staying put.  It was rapidly filling up the stairwell and threatened to overwhelm all of us.  The only way out was to go back the way we came.  We had a window where we could jump out.  I was the first to go and I made it safely because monks are really good at jumping.  The others weren’t as nimble.  Steve decided the best thing to do was to hold the door.  

Many of us were shouting “Hold the door!” like in Game of Thrones.  Steve did just that.  He held that door and used all his strength to hold back the rush of mushrooms coming up the stairwell.  The DM didn’t fudge it.  Steve rolled his strength rolls and he rolled well.  But it meant he couldn’t do much else while the rest of us escaped.  

The Death Of Steve’s Dwarven Paladin

Once all of us were free, it was Steve’s turn.  As soon as he stopped holding the door, he had to rush to the window and jump out.  The problem is that he was a dwarf.  Short legs.  And since he was a heavily armored paladin, he didn’t have much in the way of dexterity.  He botched the roll and stumbled to the window.  He had one last chance to escape, but he failed that roll as well.  All the rest of us could do is watch as our friend was swallowed by fungus and then the whole orphanage was dragged down into that abyss we didn’t explore.  

As far as character deaths go, this one was quite good.  And it left the door open just enough in case Steve was able to come back.  The plan was for him to be deployed to Germany for a year.  But then Covid happened and plans all changed.  And in the meantime, the campaign fizzled out as we started doing other adventures.  It was a very memorable campaign and this was one of those memories that stuck with me.  The brave and noble knight gives up his life for his friends.

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