13. Most Memorable Character Death. One of my earliest “lost weekends” of gaming was at my friend Jeff Tucker’s house. His older brother, Mike, ran us through his home-made D&D complex. He’d drawn a beautiful map of a large entry hall in colored pen, warning us not to spill anything on it. There were maybe eight or ten choices, each with colorful names and little drawings of a cave mouth, a couple of pillars, or a door.
After we rolled characters, Mike asked which entrance we’d like to explore first. Some of them had obviously cautionary names like “Cave of Screams.” With others, when we considered choosing them, he’d raise an eyebrow and ask, “Are you sure?” We picked a few of the safer-sounding passages and eked out a few xp and some meager treasure.
We encountered more powerful traps and monsters, and we suffered casualties—especially after Jeff and I staged an impromptu fencing match with plastic swords, spilling lemonade on Mike’s beautiful map. From that point forward, I don’t think I had a character survive more than two consecutive rooms. Jeff seemed immune to the bad luck, perhaps because his mother checked in now and then to make sure her sons were getting along. Without a fraternal connection to the DM, I was fair game. I kept dying.
It got so bad I got tired of creating new characters. Mike insisted I roll new stats, but I kept the same starting equipment and even I stopped picking new names. My replacement fighters were Uther II, Uther II, and so on until I reached the low double-digits and switched classes. I don’t remember any of the other characters. Just lots and lots of sudden death.
One of the entryways was labeled something like “Hall of Inexorable Doom.” After a dozen characters, my sense of self-preservation waned, so I picked that one. One other player came with me, but the others hung back to see what would happen. Mike announced, “All right, you’re both dead. Roll new characters.” When we complained that we wanted to know how we died, he said he wouldn’t tell us because he wanted it to be a surprise for our eventual higher-level characters who might not instantly die.
While I still have fond memories of that meat-grinder and of Mike and Jeff’s teaching me to play in the first place, it wasn’t long before I began running a game of my own. If I was going to play fifteen different characters on a weekend, they might as well be NPCs.