Hello book bees and dungeon bees alike, and welcome to my tenth post in this blog series about Dungeons and Dragons! I’ve decided every tenth post I will be indulging myself and telling an anecdote from my times as player and DM.
For this anecdote I will be telling a story from my early days as a player, so let me set the scene:
The game consisted of myself and the DM–an ex boyfriend–and we were going to play Curse of Strahd together. He would DM and play two characters that were slightly more involved than NPCs, but I would also play two characters and make the majority of party decisions. I decided to make one of my characters chaotic evil and the other neutral, thus shaping a semi evil party. My characters were a Wild Magic Sorcerer and a Bard, his were a corrupt Paladin and a dwarven Barbarian raised by wolves.
He selected Curse of Strahd as my gateway to serious playing because I absolutely adore gothic horror, vampires, werewolves, and the like, all of which are elements in Strahd’s story. The basis of CoS is that Strahd von Barovitch was once a nobleman who through various turns became a powerful vampire, who rules over a land concealed and trapped within mist. He lures adventurers in to toy with, hoping to either turn them into his own minions or eventually destroy them. Our characters accidentally wandered into his misty world and soon became wrapped up in the inner politics (except for my Bard who ate a “dream cake” and became a heroin addict).
My sorcerer largely led the party, and had an interesting way of doing things. One of her personality traits, for example, was to hear every side of a conflict before making a decision. This led to the rallying cry of “Strahd did nothing wrong!” after hearing a few different versions of Strahd’s takeover of his land. On one notable incident, my sorcerer made several decisions that led to us bypassing the first major encounter, and missing out on a lot of exposition and valuable items that normally would prepare us for the next phase of the plot. We joined an evil book club instead of fighting a corrupt politician, and recruited a vampire as an ally by giving him just a little bit of blood.
As the DM my ex had to figure out a way to give us the exposition we had missed–which turned out to be crucial to the game–as well as help us level up, gain items, and move on from the evil book club. So he utilized a ghostly child from the encounter we had missed out on to draw us back, citing his own Paladin’s weakness for children. The ghostly child led us through the encounter and got us out again, giving us our valuable exposition and presenting us with a small hoard of loot as a reward for solving his problems. Amongst this loot was a ghostly teddy bear, “ethereal” as described in my notes. And so the teddy bear deux ex machina was born! Whenever my character failed a perception check critical to the plot, or we missed something altogether for other reasons, the teddy bear acted as a calling beacon to the ghostly boy who would appear and guide us towards what it was we missed.
This ghostly boy and his teddy bear turned out crucial in another campaign, as well. Over a year later, I recycled my sorcerer for a campaign I played with my graduate school class and brought up the teddy bear as an item she’d had previously to the DM. Entertained by the idea, he allowed me to keep the teddy bear in my inventory and would occasionally have the ghost boy pop up to help my character out. He was a useful little spy, and occasionally acted as a scout or lookout for me.
And all thanks to an ethereal teddy bear!
To my fellow D&D players, what’s an unusual item from a character’s inventory that turned out surprisingly useful for you? Let me know in the comments!