I’ve been playing a lot of Dragon Age II recently. In fact after some 20 hours of playing and not finishing it, I went back and restarted it with a new character. This is something I tend to do when playing computer roleplaying games. It should be clear that the choice to waste moments of my finite life pursuing virtual wealth, fame, and accolades with a computer generated avatar is a labor of love for me. There are experiences that a computer cannot replicate.
And no, I am not talking about true love, the feeling of building something with your hands, or helping someone in need. Yes, yes, that’s all great shit. But what I am talking about is the live, unpredictable, often ridiculous, potentially tedious, but occasionally transcendent pen-and-paper, tabletop roleplaying experience.
I play in bi-weekly Pathfinder (basically a new iteration of 3rd Edition D&D that stuck around when 4th Edition came out) game set in the basic, every fantasy trope in the kitchen sink setting of Forgotten Realms. Last week, while I was running a game something remarkable happened.
In a standard, no-big-deal scenario, the players disturbed a standing suit of exotic armor. Of course, out poured a swarm of flesh-eating cockroaches, intent on devouring the flesh of the living. The experienced dwarf Kasmar, knowing that these creatures could not be killed by mere squashing, threw a flask of oil at the insect pile and hoped to ignite them subsequently.
He missed…and hit Dibbit, the player character kobold, soaking him and oil. Dibbit, being right in front of the insect swarm, tried to drop a smokestick to pacify the roaches. As they started crawling up his extremities and feasting on his blood, he realized this ploy was unsuccessful.
Kasmar, still realizing that fire was a smart means of dealing with this adversary, threw another oil flask at the swarm.
He missed again…and hit Dibbit with even more highly flammable liquid.
At this point Dibbit decided, wisely, to run away from the slow moving roaches. What he could not count on were three things:
A) Botch, the gnome tinkerer, was about to cast Create Flame.
B) Botch was going to live up to his name by critically missing with the spell.
C) The fumble was going to cause Botch to hit his nearest ally with the spell.
So, of course, we now have a flaming Dibbit collapsing. And did I mention Dibbit was an alchemist.
An alchemist carrying several bombs, grenades, and a gunpowder-filled rocket.
This situation was completely unscripted and unplanned for. It unfolded based on a pair of rolled natural 3’s on attack rolls, a pair of 5’s rolled on the direction of a missed thrown weapon, a terrible natural 1, and some poor item saving throws. Only the combination of on-the-fly creativity coupled with the cruel bitch-goddess know as lady luck can create this type of scenario. That is why I never plan to stop playing old-school RPG’s. It’s the only way to experience this kind of absurdity.
Poor Dibbit. We hardly knew you.