Making The Most Of Failure

by Jim Paterson

The party set off upon the raft. They followed the orc in the canoe along the river and beneath the cathedral of overhanging trees. The flow was slow, but there was an immense unstoppable power in the chill deep black waters.

The warlord and the barbarian were paddling with improvised paddles. The wizard was standing on the prow keeping the distant orc in sight. The rogue was looking for landmarks, while at the same time, attempting to decipher the map found on the orc body in the first cave. The paladin was holding everyone’s stuff, including his own freshly repaired suit of armour. He’d wisely decided not to put it on until the end of the voyage.

Before too long, the river’s meandering flow began to pick up speed. From somewhere not far downstream they could hear the ominous thunder of rapids! They hit the first patch of turbulent water when the raft rounded a narrow bend in the river. All on board managed to hold fast, except for the dragon born thief, who pitched head first into the deep black waters. She barely managed to stay afloat. Acting quickly, the paladin threw a rope out to the thrashing dragonkin. Meanwhile, the warlord looked up from his paddling and saw the raft was on a collision course with a large rock. Travelling at this great speed, the impact would surely destroy the flimsy craft and doom all to drowning. He yelled a warning and began to furiously back-paddle, the barbarian followed his lead, and they managed to narrowly avoid the giant monolith. As they swept past, the warlord overreached and tumbled into the swirling cauldron of the river. Now with only one oarsman, the raft began an uncontrolled spin. The paladin’s rope began to loop out and around the raft in a long lazy spiral.

Despite the thunder of the cascade the wizard, with his keen feyborn hearing, noticed the wailing of forlorn spirits! He checked to make sure his warlord friend could swim in the turbulent current, and then he asked the voices what was wrong. He was answered by a vision of despair. He calmed the spirits with his voice, assuring them that he and his friends would drive the evil from the river.

Suddenly the tumultuous waters subsided. The river flowed into a wide and calm section of the river. The bedraggled rogue and warlord clambered back onboard; as they did so the raft came to a shuddering halt...

Motto of the story: Skill challenges are usually most fun when someone rolls successive “ones”. In this case the warlord rolled a 1 when taking an endurance check to navigate the raft. This meant a critical failure so I decided he would need to roll an athletics or acrobatics (whichever was better) check to see whether he tumbled into the water, and he rolled another 1; and pitched head first into the cascading river. He was then faced with making a successful swim check or drowning. He passed. For which I was thankful; as I was hoping all players would make it to the last encounter.

From D&D World Games Day Encounter 3: This story is based upon the in game events of a Dungeons and Dragons game played at Infinitas May 2009. Jim was one of the Dungeon Masters for the D&D Games Day.

Copyright © 2009 Jim Paterson.
First published in our Infinitas Newsletter, June 2009.

This page last updated 20th July 2009.