Tabletop games end. In the last 4 years since I passionately re-joined this hobby, I've had a total of four games end, and three failures to launch. So, when my current Dungeon Master contacted me this past Friday, I wasn't sad or surprised that our current campaign was going to be shut down.
When I picked up the hobby back in 2016, it was the first time I'd played a tabletop since wayyyy back in the mid-90s. At that time, we were playing with @lacking, @arcticgypsy, my wife, my wife's best friend, and myself... and we had a fucking blast. Lacking was a great DM but eventually, he wanted to try on being a player and I'd been busy worldbuilding to convert my writing setting into a tabletop game anyhow, so logically I was next in line for the hot seat, and I was proud and excited to introduce them to my custom setting, Trothguard.
We played off-and-on for a couple of years and collected a bounty of D&D5e books in the process... but shortly after becoming the DM our friend got himself a new job that was diametrically opposed to the work schedule for most of the rest of us, and my wife and I were excitedly waiting to welcome our son into the world - so we scrapped the game, figuring we'd pick it up at some point in the future. Since then, Lacking and Arctic moved up to Nunavut, and our other friend got a job working as a security guard which keeps him pretty busy, but without a well-defined schedule - so I'll have to be patient if I want to re-introduce this same group to Trothguard again.
My son just turned two in August, so he's at a point now where for the last several months we've been able to enjoy some of our more time-heavy hobbies. For me, that meant picking up D&D again - this time, as a player in a home-brewed setting that one of my online friends put together. This would be my first time playing D&D via Roll20.
My first character in this new game was a Tiefling Rogue, appropriately named 'Lock'. I chose a sub-class of Arcane Trickster, as I generally play magic-focused classes and I didn't want to step fully away from my comfort zone after almost two years away from the game.
As I do with every character I play, I spent a couple of days just thinking about the character, and who I wanted him to be, and what he should look like. I ended up with the image you see above. Runes tattooed into his arms are infernal script; reminders of youth within a cult he'd long since broken away from. His past had scarred him though, and since leaving the cult he'd been plagued with horrible nightmares. In his adventures, he would eventually find a small black book, enchanted in such a way as to record his dreams... but only for a day. Each day, the previous entry would be wiped out and a new one would take its place.
Lock reviewed and recorded every one of these, hoping to see if there was a pattern to the nighmares, or if they ever came true. He lived as a smuggler prior to officially becoming an adventurer, which was a situation he sort of stumbled into without meaning to.
His adventures faced him off against giant spiders, ahnkeg (giant bug things), bullette's (burrowing armor-plated monsters), and other such horrors. These, they defeated in turn, without much trouble. The party didn't really run into any issues until one day when visiting a city, a non-player-character friend of the group's went missing. The giant goats he'd been taking to stable were found dead, and we (the party) feared he'd met a similar end... but without a body, we had to try and find him. Speaking with the city guards was no help - though the guard captain obviously knew more than he was letting on, so in a moment of sheer stupidity... Lock attempted to create a diversion that would allow him to steal the guard captain's notebook.
And, that's how Lock and his team-mates, Bleck and Piper, would end up spending the next couple of days locked in a prison.
That, however, was not without its own benefits. Behind the bars of the prison, they were able to learn of a blood-cult that had been abducting and presumably sacrificing dwarven nobility. Which, our party's trusty friend, was.
This knowledge was troubling, as it meant that time was short... and it's much easier to get into prison than it is to get out. Thankfully, the party wasn't the only group interested in stopping these cultists, so a plan was formed and a deal was reached that would allow the group to go free.
It's never as easy as you plan though, and when the mourning bells began to ring - signaling the death of a city noble - the plan went to shit. It is rare for the mourning bell to ring more than once, so when it rang... and rang... and rang - a total of 13 times - everyone in the city knew that something horrible had happened. The party didn't have the luxury of time to wait, and so with a tip from a fellow inmate, they made a daring escape into the sewers below the compound.
The team was free! Without equipment, without weapons, and with no idea how to reach the surface or what horrors awaited them in the city sewers... but they were free. Things were looking up!
Guards found them well before they were able to escape, however, and not being willing to go back to prison... the team attacked and got lucky. Two guards down, and some equipment in hand, they continued searching for an exit. Rust monsters and giant cockroaches were the next issue, and while troublesome and noisy they didn't prove to be too problematic.
The next group of guards they would run into though... well, that was another story. The party was already hurt from previous fights and poor decisions, so we attempted a running fight - looking to flee when we could and tossing what little magic and ranged weapons we had back at them.
When the party's tank - Bleck - fell to an arrow in the chest, slipping into unconsciousness, we knew things were going bad. Piper and Lock tried to cover him from further shots, while also attempting to stabilize him... but it was no use. Lock took a crossbow bolt to the back trying to protect Bleck and Piper as she pulled Bleck's unconscious form through a doorway into shelter and consciousness faded for him, as well.
Piper was determined though, and she went back to get Lock, and dragged him to safety too.
Then, with a few seconds of breathing room, she attempted to get Bleck at least stable if not fully conscious. As soon as she took a moment to do so though, it became apparent that Bleck was very, very, dead. He'd been dead even before she'd managed to drag him into safety. Even before Lock took his bolt to the back.
So, grieving the loss of her friend, she turned to Lock to see if he could yet be saved. But she knew just looking at him that Lock, too, was dead. 2/3rds of the group were dead. Piper was a fugitive.
And so, Lock's tale was ended. My first character death in nearly a decade. But, in this hobby, character deaths are not uncommon and I excitedly began planning my next character - as did the other two players.
We met two weeks later for our next scheduled game - with new characters in hand and new adventures to undertake. We ended up playing only two games with these new characters, before the DM let us know last Friday that the game would have to be put on hold while life and health took priority.
As is the way of things. In truth, the timing works out fairly well for me. I have a second child expected early January, so sooner or later we'd have had to put this game on hold anyhow... and it was a blast to play again at all! And I'm sure this won't be my last tabletop ending. New games will begin and end, and I will love every single one of them. Because that's what happens in this hobby.
On to the next adventure!