Wednesday, 19 August 2015
The Ballad of Davamros - A D&D Tale of Looting, Loyalty, Lawful Evil and Party-Killing
A constant shortcoming when it comes to writing this blog has always been a lack of experience with Dungeons & Dragons. Despite being the granddaddy of them all, and having read a few of the Dragonlance novels, it's never been a system often used here. Beyond the odd testing game for a new edition or Pathfinder, most RPG campaigns with the local group tend to either be Shadowrun, Dark Heresy, or one of the other systems along those lines. Part of that is down to a lack of interest, but also due to the initial experience with it on the roleplaying end. It didn't end well.
Unlike most folks, my introduction into this world was Inquisitor rather than traditional pen and paper systems. As such, when a group got together in college, creating a few varied characters, the one I rolled was Lawful Evil, sticking to what I knew of 40K. The result was a party of diverse figures, two Paladins, a Sorcerer, a bucket load of Fighters, a Barbarian, and a Cleric, all of various Good or Neutral alignments. Then, sitting with them, was Davamros, effectively a Raven Queen worshiping Cleric styled as an unholy warlord.
To most parties, having a sore thumb like this tended to cause problems. After all, you can hardly have several just, brave and noble warriors upholding the peace, and then have one guy willing to carve a man's face off in the name of furthering his goals. It causes a clash among the group as a rule,and the main way we got by this was by having him basically be the kind of villain who follows a code. Loyal to his cause over himself, he had effectively been tasked with heading to a war-torn part of the world and putting as many souls to rest as he could. It was too dangerous to stroll about alone, so he'd aligned himself with this band of sell-swords with an oath of loyalty to them until they parted ways. Basically the point was that he'd given his word not to back-stab the group, so while he'd probably turn a blind eye to muggings, or use brutal methods, he'd follow their lead as a rule.
The idea of an oath of loyalty seemed fine, and it was a good way to avoid the traditional death-knell of moral quandaries with one half of the group arguing against the other. So long as he was pushed further towards his goals, he'd probably go along with whatever they felt was best. If it wasted time, he'd certainly complain or raise a few problems, but that was about it. As such, when the group started seeking coin and found the head of a strange mystic stronghold hiring adventurers, he was less concerned about coin than where it was heading. Oh the coin helped, but it wasn't his primary goal.
To make it clear, while Davamros was a complete bastard, he still had a few laws he wouldn't break. He'd usually shrug his shoulders at murder, torture, exploitation or thievery unless it directly involved him, or a few things core to his creed. The most important among his beliefs revolved around those dying or departed, all of which were berserk buttons. If you were tormenting someone on the edge of passing into the afterlife or making their final days a living nightmare, he'd ensure you lived in terror for what little remained of your life. The same went for the departed, using undead as servants or defiling corpses would sent this guy into a rage and he'd hunt the perpetrator to the ends of the earth, then drown him. In lava. That's not an exaggeration either. Upon encountering a minor boss on our campaign, a Necromancer with a zombie swarm, on a pillar above a lava flow, he used Control Undead to have them grab him and leap off together.
More than a few times the Cleric either went off from the group, or delayed them advancing, to deal with a restless ghost or build funeral pyres to fallen adventurers they found. In the latter case, upon finding the body of a Border Prince torn asunder by a dragon, he took everything of value (including a rather nice ancestral sword), burned the corpse, then returned those items to his family. So, what's the point in all of this? Well, to show exactly where he would draw the line and end a person. You can probably guess what was to follow next.
About three sessions into our planned campaign and having gone through the wilderness, we had a few more members join us. They were passed off as other adventuring parties after the same goal, so no problem there. Save for the elf. Personally I can't remember the guy's name, or even his exact character class, only that he might as well have arrived with a sign marked "I AM HERE TO RUIN EVERYTHING!"
Our task by this point had developed more and more. The mystic had hired us to find his missing apprentice, who had disappeared after stealing a tome valuable to him. Tracking down and to discover her fate, we had followed her deeper and deeper into the nation's version of the badlands. After dealing with a few goblin raiders, a few zombies, a number of hostile threats, we eventually found her trail leading inside a mountain. Cue dragon. The fight itself was pretty damn hard to say the least given we were only the fourth level, only for us to find that it was an infant.
With the monster's bigger, badder mamma probably on the way back, we opted to quickly grab anything we could, find out how the apprentice had gotten there and any information we could get. Unfortunately, after finding her half devoured corpse and being distracted by a magic alter, the elf revealed he was a necrophiliac. No, you did just read that. During one of those awkward times where the entire group has split up, communication had broken down and we'd argued among ourselves, he apparently announced this to the GM. The GM allowed him to go ahead with defiling the corpse, taking his time in doing so, then purposefully burying it so Davamros couldn't offer proper rites.
This probably would have turned into a bloodbath were it not for the return of the bigger, badder dragon. Managing to block off the entrance it was trying to enter from, we high tailed it off into the forest surrounding the mountain. What followed was two hours of playing hide and seek against a vengeful big, black and enraged dragon, before eventually managing to make it back to town. At this point the only thing holding back Davamros was the fact he and Monsieur Corpse-Fucker were technically in the same party he'd sworn an oath to. Naturally, they immediately headed back to the mystic stronghold and handed over the recovered tome, her items and all information we had. At this point he thanked us, turned to leave with our services done, and the rapist promptly tried to shoot him in the back. Why? Not a damn clue, he just felt like it. Drawing a crossbow, he pointed it at the back of our employer and opened fire as half the group tackled him. Thankfully, being head of such a stronghold means you're pretty damn powerful in terms of magic. The crossbow bolt was casually blocked telekinetically, with a warning that the only reason we were still standing was thanks to a rule not to spill blood on the premises.
Heading back to the tavern, Davamros waited for a short bit and then heard the group was splitting up. At this poinbt he decided it was time for his revenge, and after learning the tavern only had a law against drawing weapons, took up his fists. The sad thing is that this was one of the most inventive fights i've ever seen in an RPG. Effectively turning into the fantasy version of the They Live brawl, this started at a table and promptly went throughout the building. Just as an example, it reached the point where Davamros had a stone statue smashed over his head, then promptly suplexed the elf down a flight of stairs. Lasting half an hour and wrecking most of the tavern, it was cut short when the Watch finally entered and clubbed Davamros unconscious before he could land the finishing blow.
Yeah, another problem was that the GM seemed to prefer to defend and protect his players, even if they were on the verge of killing one another. It didn't matter if it was a character driven fight or one well established as being the right thing to do, he'd really go out of his way to block it. Well, this causes ongoing strife among the group and the fighting actually caused a few people to leave as a result. This actually is kind of a problem, as it honestly seemed he'd entered with the intention of avoiding the party killing one another but was unable or unwilling to resolve the issues causing the killing. Actually in-character behaviour seemed secondary to keeping everyone alive and he did little to nothing to curb the elf's actions. Yeah, there were a good few more corpses he did this to until eventually getting himself killed by trying to bypass a horde of zombies Shaun of the Dead style. Unfortunately by that point i'd learned my character was being held in jail for assault, locked away for months, and I just left it there.
There's no real moral to this story or message, it's more just an example of how badly things can go wrong under a GM. Even when you're determined to keep people alive or fudging roles in favour of them (nothing wrong with that), it's a bit hard to justify when someone is actively trying to get the party killed. Sure, common sense tends to go out of the window in most games. At the same time though, there's a world of difference between that and drawing a crossbow on your employer.