I lost my first RPG character last weekend. It was my first loss, and also my first RPG character; yes, I went down in my very first campaign. The game was Lamentations of the Flame Princess, which is similar to D&D but weirder and more vulgar (there's a campaign-level monster called The Time Fucker. Seriously.). Our GM chose a campaign called The Grinding Gear for my first foray into tabletop gaming. The Grinding Gear is what is popularly known as a 'fuck you' dungeon.
Her name was Clementine Limberdark, and she was a halfling. She left her village shortly after two of the other party members (who had played a campaign before with the same characters) unleashed a zombie apocalypse upon the world of Lamentations. She was searching for adventure, and found it when she was napping a tree and fell out of it right on top of the party, who happened to be passing beneath it.
I won't go into the grisly details, but in the course of four sessions poor Clem was volunteered by the others to check out every narrow hole and crevice no one else could fit into. She was terrorized by blood-sucking bats, attacked by a giant face-eating spider, nearly melted by green slime, tossed into a hole filled with headless zombie corpses, bitten by venomous centipedes, and finally, while fleeing something called a gelatinous cube, fell and hit her head, knocking herself out. At this point she had negative HP, which I didn't know was possible, and was unconscious, carried by my husband's demon elf from a hell dimension. While still comatose, we encountered a puzzle that meant the party had to recall some trivia from an earlier encounter. The surviving members (our thief having been taken out by poison gas earlier) couldn't recall the right answer. This resulted in all of us being electrocuted. And since Clem was already weakened...she bought the farm. The two losers who couldn't answer the question survived the entire game (well, since I was trying to help- from beyond my coma whoooooo- and I couldn't remember either, I guess I am also a loser), which was remarkable since the dungeon was basically designed to kill people quickly and brutally.
Rest in peace, little halfling. I'll have to reboot for the next campaign with Clem's cousin, halfling Cornelia Whistlebottom.
This entire episode brought to mind a panel I attended at Gen Con. It was a live taping of the podcast Writing Excuses (co-hosted by writing GoH Brandon Sanderson). They spoke to a writer/editor who complained of people trying to turn their RPG campaigns into novels. I had to snicker because, even though I was only three-quarters of the way through my first game, I knew that idea was ridiculous.
For instance, my friend's character in this game was the brother of his earlier character, who died while bringing about the zombie apocalypse. That guy was Hawk Aeonseeker. In keeping with the bird theme, Hawk's illustrious brother was Cockatiel Aeonseeker. Cock for short.
Cue two hours of cock jokes (the best: we were being attacked by mosquito bats, which suck blood. One landed on Cockatiel Aeonseeker. The thief cried, “Stop sucking on Cock!”). Sadly, my friend is a lunatic when it comes to these games and will press every button, pull every lever, and open every door he finds. So Cock didn't last long in the Fuck You Dungeon. This necessitated a replacement character who happened to wander in through the dungeon door we had left open...and later, another replacement who also wandered in through the same open door. This is highly amusing in an RPG. Not so much in a novel. The readers are going to rebel against such a nonsensical entrance, as they should. And while it's fine to kill off main characters in order to keep your readers on their toes, it's not really okay to go through them like tissues.
Also- and this probably isn't true of every campaign- The Grinding Gear was very, very repetitive. Clem's electrocution came after going through four identical rooms wired to kill, each with a trivia question. There were endless corridors, oubliettes, rooms we had to examine minutely. It's interesting when you're doing it, but reading about it is going to put anyone to sleep.
So don't novelize your campaign, for God's sake. And pray for Clash Nemesis, successor to both Cock Aeonseeker and Purity Grimoire. With Alex controlling him, he's going to need all the help he can get in our next game.