On Transcript: The Unfortunate Death

In which player death occurs, fictional positioning is addressed, and a live play example of how adults resolve conflict.

Of particular note is how one trap was discovered and navigated successfully and a second one was not -- all without dice rolls.

You may also examine what they roll for (convincing the hirelings of their confidence and strength and listening at doors) and what they don't roll for (searching, traps).

DM: What now?

Jordan: You successfully looted buckets and mops from that room. {Garth had just recently failed to kick open a broom closet in a shop in town}

Rachel: Let's go down towards that road towards a bigger town and see if we can see anything that way, or we can go to the Alchemist's house and try to find the way they do the ships.

Garth: I want to check the top floors of the Alchemist's house.

Jordan: How's your foot doing there buddy?

Garth: It's fine!

DM: Your movement is 1" shortened.

Rachel: One inch?

DM: Yeah, normally it's 12", you're wearing chain mail, I mean 9" and now it's 8".

Garth: Ok.

DM: Now you can still make an appointment, or break in at night, or murder everyone in the pie shop.

Rachel: Let's just let everyone forget this for a while.

Garth: We'll give it a couple of days.

DM: "You again!?" "This time we just want to make an appointment." "I don't believe you!"

Garth: Guards! Guards! He's holding the crowbar!

DM: {Map is accidentally displayed for a second} Woah, Don't look at that!

Garth: We go wherever that is.

Jordan: I will later that day go back and schedule an appointment.

DM: For when?

Jordan: For the following day, in the morning. Probably the afternoon actually, so that I'm not interfering with his morning baked goods.

DM: For the following day. That's brave of you, thinking you're going to survive.

They return to the Alchemist's house.

DM: You are at the Alchemist's house

Garth/Jordan: Ok.

Garth: In the front door.

DM: You enter the front door.

Garth: Up the stairs.

DM: you are standing in -- that is the wandering encounter sheet --

Jordan: Bladebladebla. We go upstairs.

DM: You are standing in the musty entrance room, there are stairs.

Garth: Up the stairs.

DM: Ok, you travel up the stairs.

Garth: Have we explored every room to our right?

Jordan: yes

DM: You see that there is a hallway that goes to the east and west. The space to the left of the stairs is open, allowing you to look down on the musty entrance way.

Garth: Have we explored every room to the right?

Jordan: Yes we did.

DM: I'm not going to answer that question.

Garth: Were there two doors?

Jordan: There were 3 doors. We hit all three.

DM: There are 3 doors to the east.

Jordan: We hit all three of them, the last one contained the bound guy.

Rachel: And which direction is the ocean, sea?

Garth: Behind us?

DM: It is behind you.

Garth: Left!

DM: You turn left. There's a balcony railing, uh --

Garth: Carefully move across making sure the floor is sturdy.

DM: When your moving across, you notice since you're testing the floor, that it is in fact not sturdy. And that there is a section that looks like it will collapse if any weight is put on it.

Garth: Ok.

DM: It is between 4' and 7' long.

Garth: That's a lot.

Jordan: Move on past it.

DM: Somebody almost fell.

Garth: Can we, uh, can we get around it?

Rachel: Is there anything on the -- are we on the balcony?

DM: Yeah, ahead of you, since it's lit, and light is coming in from the windows, is an intersection. There is a path to the left, which you can clearly see because you can just look across the balcony, leads to a window that is on the front of the house. The path to the right leads to the rear of the house. The path straight ahead past the intersection has two doors on the left hand side.

Jordan: There's no edge where we can walk that's like safe? It's the entire floor?

DM: Yeah, there's a spot between four and seven feet that's fragile. You have to jump it.

Jordan: A four to seven foot jump? That's a long jump.

Garth: Four isn't bad.

Jordan: Seven is.

Rachel: Is there any other way to get to the other side of the balcony?

DM: You could go down to the ground floor and climb up?

Garth: Is there a bannister?

DM: Yeah.

Garth: Is the bannister loose?

DM: Not really?

Garth: Is bannister sturdier?

DM: Then the floor?

Garth: Yes.

DM: Maybe? Probably.

Garth: Does it have a wall beneath it?

DM: No, No it's freestanding over the entrance.

Rachel: Ok, how sturdy is the wall? Can we put one of those spike things in it and just swing across?

DM: Yeah, it's a wooden wall. It's maybe -- uh, you know, it's wood, so if you're looking for a stud in your house, it's that sturdy. Maybe a little sturdier because it's thicker.

Garth: If we're using the crowbar to pry the bannister off, can we lay it across the, uh, ground?

Rachel: Why don't we just get a table if that is your plan?

Garth: Sounds good. Is there a table nearby?

DM: In the hallway?

Garth: Is it sturdy?

DM: No, in the hallway? There's not a table in the hallway. There's probably a table in one of the rooms.

Jordan: We'll need a seven foot table. Little longer. 

DM: you don't recall seeing a seven foot table, except maybe in the basement.

Garth: even if it's not seven feet, when you step on it, it will disperse the weight a whole bunch.

Rachel: I dunno, I think it's easier to go outside and climb back up.

DM: Or just jump. I don't think anyone would have a problem just jumping it.

Jordan: Fine, I'll run back and jump it. We'll find out.

DM {to Jordan}: Except for you. {laughter}

DM: The hirelings aren't sure about the jump. They want to stay back.

Garth: I'll make the jump first.

DM: You clear it pretty easily.

Garth {to hirelings}: Easy guys, come on.

DM: Yeeeeahhhhhh, uh, roll a d20 and add your charisma modifier.

Garth: five.

DM: Yeah, no.

Jordan: Here. Toss me a rope. I give them the end of it. "If it collapses, I'll pull you up."

DM: What's your Strength?

Jordan: Well, I'm not on the side pulling them up. Not yet at least.

DM {to Garth}: What's your Strength?

Garth: I'll also tie it to the strongest part of the bannister.

Jordan: and I'll jump across too, we'll both be holding it.

DM: You jump across.

Rachel: My Strength is 14.

DM: yeah, what are you doing?

Rachel: Can I throw them?

Rachel: I can jump across. We can just have them go downstairs and climb up. 

DM: You jump across. Ok. They follow you over.

Garth: Ok, so there are two doors on the left here?

DM: Mostly because they didn't want to be left alone.

Garth: There are two doors on the left here?

DM: You are standing in an intersection. The hallway goes north. At the far end, it looks like it opens up into a room. There are two doors on the right. The hallway goes south, it ends in a window, and the bannister is on the left hand side of that hallway. And it goes to the west, straight ahead, and there are two doors on the south walls.

Garth: West! First door! Listen!

DM: Uhh, Ok. Roll your listen.

Garth: What is that? 20.

DM: Silence

Jordan: Try the door.

DM: It's unlocked. You open it. Inside the floor is covered with rubbish. That's pretty much all you see, except for back, against the back wall is a eight and a half foot tall cupboard. Like a wardrobe.

Rachel: I check it for traps!

Jordan: Uhhh, why don't we check the floor to find out if you're going to fall through it first.

Rachel: Ok, go for it.

DM: The floor appears stable.

Garth: Anything moving in the refuse?

DM: No. Not that you see.

Rachel: Are there any doors out of here?

DM: The door you entered. There are two windows on the other side of the room.

Rachel: I look through the windows.

DM: You walk across, knocking the rubbish out of the way. The windows look out the south side of the house onto the Ardent Sea.

Jordan: What is most of the rubbish?

DM: It's trash and broken wood and torn clothing and dirt and leaves.

Rachel: What's out in the sea?

DM: Water.

Rachel: That's it?

DM: For now.

Jordan: How do you -- How does the clothing thing open?

DM: Its' got two handles in front. The doors run the full length of the thing.

Jordan: Can I use my quarterstaff and pull the door open with it?

DM: Sure! You pull the door open. Inside it's empty, except for on a hanger, there is a dark cloak that looks like it has a gold lining.

Garth: Is it uh, decayed at all? Like everything else in this house?

DM: No, it looks fine.

Jordan: I take it.

DM: When you reach out and grab the cloak, um, the first thing that seems strange is that you're confused about why your vision is blurring. When you touch it and grab it, yellow dust just sort of *poof* out in the little ten foot area outside the cabinet, I'm pretty sure where you two are standing. {Points to Garth} Where are you?

Rachel: I'm stepping back as soon as I see that.

Garth: . . . Probably behind them?

DM: It happens, almost as soon as he touches-- It just rolls out. I'm gonna need everybody -- The first thing that happens is that everybody takes 8 damage. {0 hit points just means you're subject to criticals -- it doesn't mean death}

Jordan: What?!

DM: And then everybody needs to save versus poison.

Rachel: How do we do that?

Garth: First save up there.

DM: Whoa, whoa, before we start rolling saves, I redid--

Garth: 5

DM: you are going to choke the land with dead alchemists.

DM: I redid the save tables, all saves

Garth: By the way, I didn't mean directly behind them.

DM: Ten feet, were you within ten feet of the cupboard?

Garth: I wouldn't have said I was -- whatever.

DM: I asked you, before we rolled anything how far away you were and I said it billowed out for ten feet. I would have accepted any answer. Before, uh, saves, either Constitution bonus or Wisdom. Wisdom applies to every saving throw.
{Dice roll}

DM: What did you roll.

Jordan: I rolled a 12, and my modifier is +1 and I needed a 14 or better.

Rachel: I got a 15 with my modifier.

DM: Ok, so you save. Just so everybody knows I'm going to double check the actual effects of yellow mold.
{Looking up in book}

DM: Mold, yellow, when touched, yellow mold produces spores in a 10' cube choking cloud. Any creature within this cloud will die, unless it successfully saves versus poison. A character who fails his or her saves will require a cure disease and a resurrection to be made whole again. Ok. It is suceptable to some things, light spells and other things.
{Book closes}

Jordan: So that's just it, you save or you die?

DM: Yep. Pretty much. So there were no other bonuses or situational modifiers. Somebody said when it was billowing out that they were backing out, ducking out of the way.

Garth: I would like to pull him {indicates Jordan} out of the way.

DM: No, we're past that, but I do remember someone saying "As soon as something appears, I duck down".

Rachel: I didn't say duck down, I said backing away.

DM: Oh, uh, did anyone else say that? {Indicates Rachel} So your saving throw is actually like a 19. {Indicates Jordan} You're the one who grabbed the cloak, so there's no way you're escaping from the wrath of the cloud of spores.

Jordan: Unless there's another way I could get a +1 which I don't see.

DM: I don't -- I don't think there is.

Garth: I had intended to be at the opening of the thing, but I rolled, so whatever.

DM: You had intended to be at the opening by the door?

Garth: Pretty much, yeah.

DM: Well, when I asked, what was it that you said?

Garth: You said, "Where are you?" and I said "Behind them."

DM: Ok! Well, I mean, I'm asking because of the fictional positioning before the save. I mean like, cause I didn't know where you were. I knew where they were, because she walked across the room and looked out the window. And he walked over to the wardrobe. So what would your character be doing?

Garth: I hadn't intended on going in, but I feel like that's a cheaty answer now.

DM: I'm interested in what honestly your think your character does while they do that. You know that instant death can happen at any time? So it may happen in like the next thirty seconds, so I'm not too worried about you being-- when you said behind them, what did that mean exactly?

Garth: I hadn't meant stacked up swat style ready to --

DM: The room is -- the room is, it's a full, it's a, it's a full 45 feet to the wall. So, unless you're right up next to them.

Garth: I don't think I was.

DM: Ok, so let's not worry about your save, because you're outside of the range. {Turning to Jordan} You die clutching the yellow mold covered cloak.

Rachel: Can I try to heal him at all?

DM: Yeah, what are you doing? Uh, I'm going to let you know you can't. But, uh, you're welcome to try not knowing that?

Garth: Curative tonics?

DM: What I would do is get away from the cloak if it were me.

Garth: Do we know anything about this?

DM: Yes, it is Deadly Yellow Mold. It is mold. It is yellow. And it puffed out in a cloud that murdered you to death.{To Jordan} You are going to get to roll up a new character, that's so exciting!

Jordan: Not really. {To Rachel} You just watched your brother die.

DM: Oh s*&t, and Hawley's psychic friend.

Jordan: Yeah, yeah that sucks.So it requires Resurrection and Cure Disease, huh? That's too expensive.

DM: Well, the path to glory is littered with corpses.

Rachel: Yeah, so I heal myself.

DM: Yeah, the damage doesn't cause any sort of -- you just take the damage from bleeding lungs. She can heal you after.

Garth: You have fewer than 8 hit points so how does that work?

DM: Well, when you get down to zero, you roll on the table to see the critical. You roll a D6

Rachel: 3

DM: 3+3 so six.

Jordan: Because you went 3 below 0.

DM: You are shaken for one round by the experience. So for one round you're at -2. Then you can heal yourself. It takes about a turn to do that. The hirelings are like "Holy S*&T that guy died!" {Smiles, but no laughter, still too sad over dying death}

Jordan: 14 is the save right? I hate to fail it by 1 point.

Garth: There's not a system shock check or anything?

DM: Poison save is 14. And you know if there was anything, but you were the one who reached out an grabbed the cloak.

Jordan: I opened the cupboard with my quarterstaff, I should have just touched the cloak with the quarterstaff.

DM: Yes, yes, you should have been paranoid that things might kill you, it's true. You guys almost walked right into the weak floor, you're like "Oh, yeah, we cleared this place out! There's nothing dangerous here!" It's cool. You can roll up another character.


  1. My favorite parts of this adventure.
    Garth: I'll make the jump first.

    DM: You clear it pretty easily.

    Garth {to hirelings}: Easy guys, come on.

    DM: Yeeeeahhhhhh, uh, roll a d20 and add your charisma modifier.

    Garth: five.

    DM: Yeah, no.

    Rachel: What's out in the sea?

    DM: Water.


    Garth: Do we know anything about this?

    DM: Yes, it is Deadly Yellow Mold. It is mold. It is yellow. And it puffed out in a cloud that murdered you to death.{To Jordan} You are going to get to roll up a new character, that's so exciting!

    This is a good example of why to have some sort of map/miniature thing going on. I know this has resolved a lot of geographical questions for character location and just where to place that fireball. Good read -C. I hope they took it in stride and had fun with it.

  2. They did. Indeed, how fictional positioning is resolved is one of key elements of how we are playing.

  3. Fun read, and I think you handled it well!

    I'd easily rank fictional positioning high on a list of the hardest things to handle in any D&D game. Fortunately, everyone I game with is a mature adult in the modern day, but I remember quite a few angry conversations in middle school/high school gaming, haha!

    Having players roll for situations of conflicting personalities(convince retainers, land a blow on an attacker, etc) is definitely a great place to do it. I regularly invite new players to my games, and one of the first thing I have to explain to them is that they can't just "roll search" to find traps, because, to use your example, as soon as they lift up the cloak to search under it, they've triggered the trap.

  4. While I may have put a little more warning, given how visually obvious a yellow mold might be, but otherwise I think you've handled it fairly well.

    I've noticed with these sorts of encounters some players can be prone to a "my precious PC" mentality from time to time. It's nice to know yours didn't have too rough a time over it.


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