Two parables from one tragic session on New Year’s Eve:
My character, Arnold Littleworth, (a/k/a Zolobachai of the Nine Visions) shows up just in time! There’s a $25,000 jewel on the other side of this magically locked door. Holy cow, that’s a fortune if we can get to it! Arnold casts a spell! Hurray, the door is no longer magically sealed . . . which means the highly pressurized poison gas on the other side of the door began to seep through, and Arnold impertinently invited himself to the Great Party in the Sky. (His enemies Lord Kragen and Stronghoen the Beastlord, both of whom more-or-less died at Arnold’s hand, at last have their revenge.)
Moral: successful Dungeons & Dragons play is all about situational awareness. If you know there’s poison gas on the other side of a door, don’t open the door, stupid! I got greedy.
Arnold’s adventuring companion was Maldoor Twice-Shy, a brilliant, prudent, meticulous and painstaking magician. (Together we are Oscar and Felix.) Maldoor was too smart to inhale the poison gas that killed Arnold. He eventually escaped with the jewel – but was beset by thieves upon leaving the dungeon. He killed several of them, but the last thief drank a potion of polymorph to transform into a Purple Worm, and swallowed Maldoor whole – digesting him completely and irrecoverably two hours later.
Moral: there’s a limit to how much you can think things through. OD&D is insane and whimsical and you can’t ever be fully prepared.
These two parables are in conflict. I should have anticipated an obvious danger. But how the hell do you prepare for a thief turning you into the excrement of a gargantuan hell-worm? (Well: here’s one way; unfortunately Arnold died before he could cast it.) There’s not many worse ways to die than to get halfway home with an immense jewel, only to end up as worm “castings” before you can cash in.
In life Arnold adhered to the Cult of the Boss. A “bossful” character understands that caution has its place, for in the eyes of Fate we are all but 1 HD n00b’s. Yet if life is short, then glory is eternal. A bizarrely unfortunate death is far more entertaining than cautious, cowering survival. I am, frankly, a little envious of Maldoor’s death: Arnold’s demise was run-of-the-mill bad luck, but Maldoor got royally fucked.