My first D&D character ever was a swashbuckler for 3.5 named Greasetrap. He was an ex-pirate and a ship’s cook (the latter of these was debatable), who favored swinging around a big old cleaver. I met with the DM a few hours before the game began and got a step-by-step walkthrough of building the character – I still have his loose-leaf character sheet stowed away. There was all that bubbling excitement that often comes with a first character, fun was had.
The rest of the group showed up, the session began, and Greasetrap died.
First encounter of the first session, dead as a stone.
The party had been crawling through some caves, and came upon one where the exit was across a pool of water. I volunteered Greasetrap to swim across and set up a guide rope for the rest of the party.
Of course, I got away from shore and was attacked by a crocodile. The beast grappled me easily, dragged me underwater, and began a death roll.
In my panic, I began trying to strike it in the eye with my cleaver, thinking that the shock and pain would make it release me. Considering how difficult it is to hit something in the eye while drowning, the dice were not with me, and I was far enough out in the water that the party couldn’t help me. A few frantic turns later, Greasetrap was dead.
It was incredibly fun. My first night playing Dungeons and Dragons and I had gotten thrown into the thick of it – and learned a very potent lesson. Greasetrap’s death was my fault. In the combat, I had forgotten that I had ten ranks in Escape Artist skill, which might have let me wiggle free.
Note: Wiggling free of crocodile jaws is not advisable without several layers of abstraction
Whether or not it would have succeeded is irrelevant to the Greasetrap Lesson – There was an alternative route I could have taken, and making the choice I did had consequences. Consequences for going into the water, consequences for trying to fight my way out.
You own your choices in an RPG, and sometimes they backfire to produce an end result worth a laugh or two years later. Failure can be a lot of fun.