Friday, July 15, 2016
The Saga of Gary & Glen
From all the accounts that I've read, every party that ever explored the Hall always fell for the ruse played out by the evil dwarf Obmi and his retinue of gnollish servants (including the champion party at the Origins '78 tournament). Now, my players have learned make really good use of the various charm spells as an information-gathering device (and under OD&D rules it even works on elves, which is important in the D1-3 series). In this case, knowing they were going up against giants and it wouldn't be generally useful, none of the wizards prepared charm person. But one PC, Ezniak of the Myriad Rings, just happens to have a ring of human control, and also speaks gnollish. (These are pregenerated PC's that I made up about 7 years ago. Did I pre-plan that or was it a random result? At this point, I have no recollection.)
Anyway, Ezniak, cunning as always, immediately hit the gnolls in area 12. with the charm effect from the ring. This affects d12 figures; the die came up only 4, and against the odds, 2 of those made saves, so only a pair were affected; Ezniak immediately named them "Gary" and "Glen" and interrogated them about Obmi. They more than happily gave up his ruse. Obmi loudly objected through his barred door; for good measure, the PCs used a read minds spell (ESP) on him for confirmation. The jig was clearly up. The group promised to free him while ambushers stood to either side.
The door opening up, Obmi in desperation jumped out, won initiative, and savagely attacked a random figure in range, trying to backstab with his dagger. Random determination of target comes up: Gary the gnoll. Obmi hits and Gary dies instantly. The other PCs fall upon him, and try as he might, the dwarf cannot quite get away, and he dies.
So this leaves Glen. For completion sake, I now roll hit points in the open so as to let Ezniak's player track here from now on; and this comes up snake eyes, that is, double 1's, so Glen has the minimum hit points possible: 2 pips worth. Glen is hence the weakest type of his entire race. We also learn that Gary was his own brother. But he joins his new friends, who in fact treat him far better than his prior employers did: They hand him a number of treasures, a magic shield +2, a small suit of plate mail (which he can't wear, but carries around on his back), and also a magic war hammer of unknown strength (never known to the PCs, it is actually the most powerful weapon amongst the whole party!). He happily tells them of the nearby guard post to beware, and gives them directions to the king's throne room, joining them under illusory disguise for the attack.
So basically Glen with his 2 hit points and magical accoutrement manages to survive this and multiple other forays into the Hall. He fights mightily against king himself. He actually jumps up on Snurre's own magical throne at one point in order to carry a potion of healing to a downed comrade there. He hits a previously-injured fire giant in the foot with his magic hammer and kills him. As DM I'm constantly rolling for random targets, or else continuing engagements round-to-round, and weirdly Glen never comes up as a target. His new friends encourage him warmly, and he starts to believe that he might very well become King of the Gnolls and free his entire race from subservience elsewhere.
Alas, on the third foray the invisible party (including Glen) is sniffed out by a hell hound, and a fire giant casts a tree-sized spear blindly in their direction, at a random target, and this does in fact strike a glancing blow off Glen. Of course, he goes down immediately. Wregan the elven fighter/wizard with his magical strength scoops him up as they run, and without further comment, carries his body throughout the rest of their adventure. Such was the impression that Glen the gnoll made on everyone.
Epilogue: If you read my OED House Rules, you'll know that there are no such things as negative hit points, but upon reaching 0 hits any character is allowed a saving throw vs. death to see if they are truly expired or not (see v.102, bottom of page 4). When the PCs return to their secret cave hideout, I make this roll for Glen... and the die comes up a natural 20. Glen stirs, coughs up a little blood, and awakens to general cheering. Our story ends here, but Glen's does not.
Which is to say that D&D is full of occurrences that we would all laugh off as being outrageously impossible if we didn't see the oracular dice come up that way before our very eyes. Is our world an amazing place? Yes, it is.