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Unearthed Adventures: Announcing the Winners of the Best One-Paragraph D&D Adventures

Sunday, March 24th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

unearthed arcanaLast month we announced a contest seeking the best one-paragraph descriptions of your favorite D&D characters.

Because we’re awesome (and because we’re tight with Wizards of the Coast, who are even more awesome), we secured a very special reward for four lucky winners: a copy of the brand new Unearthed Arcana 1st Edition Premium Reprint — which we first examined here. Those four names were drawn at random from the ten best entries, as selected by our judges.

Before we get to the winners, let’s enjoy some of the best entries. First up is Daniel J. Davis:

When I created my first character, a Minotaur warrior named Glokk Maghorn, I rolled an 18/00 for strength. I couldn’t have been happier. At the time, I was an almost perfect stereotype of the “typical” D&D player. I was smaller and weaker than most kids my age. I was uncoordinated, awkward, and bullied. But in the land of Krynn, I was going to be an 8-foot tall mercenary beast man with a battle-axe and a loose definition of “fair play.” I didn’t care one whit about my low charisma score. I spent most of my waking life trying to compromise and bargain with people big enough to wipe the floor with me. This was D&D, and I was going to bash some heads for a change. I retired him at 15th level, after his crowning moment of awesome: Failing a saving throw against a white dragon’s breath weapon, surviving with a single hit point, and finishing it off with a critical hit on my very next action.

Any story involving an 8-foot Minotaur whose name rhymes with Foghorn Leghorn is an instant classic in our book. Nice one, Daniel.

Next up is John Burt, who found a more noble motivation for his character: petty larceny.

Polydorous was a human assassin, born in the pits of despair, who rose to a life as a rich nobleman through thievery, assassination and general no goodery. He stole from his party (one memorable instance has him stealing everyone’s gems except the monk’s, and consequently getting the monk killed). Polydorous was capable, competent and Chaotic Evil. He started life as my second character in 1982, and slowly grew until he became an NPC in my later games.

Another touching tale of resourceful play and warm companionship. It warms our jaded hearts.

Vault of the DrowNext is the esteemed Jeff Stehman, who begins his saga with his character on the run from one of Gary Gygax’s classic adventure modules:

Sutekh escaped from the Vault of the Drow and joined a mercenary group on the surface, which kept him safe for a few years while he built resources, reputation and a short list of friends. When Sutekh struck out “on his own,” he served first as henchman to an aging paladin and then as head of security for the Dellebite temple, although he never fully conquered his own dark tendencies. For over two decades Sutekh operated as a spy, working to keep several kingdoms allied and focused against ever-rising darkness. He was a master of infiltration, liberating information and high-value prisoners that no one else could, and he once burgled his high priest into the presence of a very powerful lich for some impromptu negotiations. But when things would get really ugly, he’d call in two or three of his old mercenary buddies and let them do what they did best; they liked to call it ‘redecorating.’

John McCollum tells us of a hero with an unusual aversion to water:

My most memorable AD&D character was Frederick the Abjurer. Rendered incredibly hydrophobic after nearly drowning as a child, Frederick eschewed bathing well into adulthood (neatly accounting for his remarkably low Charisma stat). Shunned by his peers and driven to immerse himself in the study of magic rather than water, his first self-taught spell would create a protective barrier around him to keep him dry whenever it rained outside. Eventually Frederick joined a rag-tag group of adventurers who would accept him despite his odd phobia and poor grooming habits (the gully dwarf cleric in particular actually seemed to like the way he smelled). In the end, Frederick ultimately sacrificed his humanity to save his companions. After perishing alongside his party in battle with demonic forces invading their home plane, Frederick arose again as a lich and traveled back in time to warn his party of their impending doom. Frederick empowered his group by merging them with the essences of their vanquished older selves and sent them through a magical portal to defeat the fiends before they could launch the invasion that would conquer the group’s home plane in the future. Sadly, Frederick the lich could not stay with his group without creating a horrible time-rending paradox, so he now wanders the multiverse alone searching for knowledge as an NPC, soundly ending his career as my most memorable character.

Amy Farmer relates the tale of an unfortunate (but highly throwable) thief:

My most memorable D&D character was a halfling cleric named Amaryllis Thorngage. She was memorable because one of our quest objectives was getting into a zoo with a guard keeping everyone out. My party had a half-drow/half-gnoll character (played by my brother-in-law) and since his character was so strong and my character so small and light, I had him throw me over the wall. Strangely it turned out the reason the zoo was guarded was because a necromancer had stolen all the animals, so it turned out to be empty.

The World of GreyhawkRick Welleran tells of his adventures in The World of Greyhawk and the dreaded Tomb of Horrors:

My most memorable character went through several names as I got older (and more cultured) but I’ll stick with the original one, Arnim (named for the town of Arnheim, as I’d just watched A Bridge Too Far a few nights before the fateful Christmas of 1980). Arnim was a wizard, the companion of the fighters Condor and Aelborn, and for many years he traveled to and fro across The World of Greyhawk, getting into more troubles than I could possibly relate. From the Keep on the Borderlands in his early days, to the Tomb of Horrors at the height of his powers, he never shrunk from action, and never ceased to fight for good (and whatever plunder came along with it). He sleeps now, like King Arthur, waiting for the next call to glory (and when I can get the gang together again, of course).

August Samuel Evrard has some fond words for D&D — and for the release of Unearthed Arcana:

D&D was always a game of extremes, for me. I was a power-gamer through and through. Until we played a low-magic Tolkien campaign, where I was simply an elf with a bow. Soyoana flowered as a character early, as she learned she was of royal line at the very moment that all the PCs and NPCs travelling with us but one were slaughtered by the just-then discovered orcs. From that moment on, her path was one of darkness and a search for power.

RPGs, and D&D in general, are truly the greatest kind of game, because they let you lead another life and learn new lessons you couldn’t as just a human being.

Thanks for being part of the re-release of this great book, John.

The Temple of Elemental EvilDavid Kahler tells of a character who experienced some of the greatest adventures the game has to offer, including Gygax’s Against the Giants and The Temple of Elemental Evil:

Hi John. My most memorable AD&D character was a Half-Elven Ranger named Arathor. I created him in 1982, and pretty much used him throughout most of the campaigns I was in. Arathor was Neutral-Good, and over his long illustrious career collected many magical items, weapons and armor. Some of the campaigns and modules that I played during this character’s career include The Drow Campaigns (D1-3); Against the Giants (G1-3), The Temple of Elemental Evil (T1-4); and The Keep on the Borderlands (B2). My favorite adventure though, of them all, is one that I cannot remember the name of, but it involved the investigation and entry into an alien “spaceship.” The laser blasters found in the ruins of this ship really came in handy during the Drow campaign, I can tell you! Toward the end of his career, my DM started The World of Greyhawk series, and, after a campaign against a tribe of Orcs (and their Bugbear, goblin and other assorted creature allies) in the mountains and hills surrounding the Duchy of Ratik he “retired” to a fortified border keep in that same Duchy. At the time of his retirement, he had reached level 17. I like to think he is still there, surrounded by his family (he married a certain Count’s youngest daughter prior to his beginning his final campaign — but that, as they say, is another story!) and training future Rangers.

Thanks for your consideration! Would really love to win Unearthed Arcana, if only to reminisce and re-live those fun times.

Expedition to the Barrier PeaksYou’re most welcome, David. And there’s only one thing that mystery adventure of yours can be: Gary Gygax’s Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, adventure module S3, which did indeed feature an expedition into a crashed alien space ship, and strange alien artifacts — including a laser blaster.

Nick Ozment tells of us a character with a mysterious name:

Ropespor is a human sorcerer and, oh, so much more. He was the character I rolled up when I returned to D&D after more than a fifteen-year hiatus. The last time I’d played, it was still just Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (it wasn’t called 1st ed. then because who knew there’d be a 2nd ed.? Just like, if you have a WWI document that refers to WWI, you know it’s a fake). I jumped back in to 3rd edition with a group of fellow actors at a regional theater in Lanesboro, MN. Lemme tell you: for a type of game that begins with the words “role playing,” there is no better party to play with than a bunch of actors. The campaign brought my budding young sorcerer to 6th level, but it ended with the end of the show season as many of the actors went back to their home states. Then I met my lovely wife and turned her on. (To D&D, I mean.) I ported Ropespor into our new campaign, and he is now 13th level (as are my wife’s characters, even though they started at 1st and Ropespor was already 6th, thanks to the incremental nature of the 3rd ed. experience-point system for mixed-level parties — and I ask you, is that fair?). But Ropespor magicked himself out of the game and into my writing. He is one of the main characters in my humorous fantasy novel Knight Terrors, and he has also appeared in other fantasy stories set in at least three different worlds. He is the common factor that ties together much of my fantasy writing, both the serious and the tongue-in-cheek stuff: he seems to be just as comfortable in both. My friend and long-time first reader Frederic S. Durbin once made an astute observation: Ropespor is me —- an avatar or incarnation of me in my work. When he said it, I don’t think Fred even knew Ropespor began as my D&D character. I had never consciously intended it, but, you know what? I think Fred may have been onto something. (One last bit of trivia: Ropespor is an anagram. If you really need a clue, remember that I created him when I was playing with a troupe of actors.) [And a bit of personal gossip: When we play D&D, my wife finds Ropespor’s persona just a wee tad annoying (he’s too arrogant and yadda yadda yadda). Go figure. But I do play a second character, Taemanbow, a half-elf ranger, who my wife has a crush on. Her druid really thinks he’s hot stuff. So it’s all good. (And the third character I play, a halfling rogue named Beeble, she finds endearingly cute and amusing. So she does like most of my multiple personalities. And you need that in a marriage.)]

Finally, we come to Justin Smith, who began his adventure with kobolds in his basement:

His name was Jason. Looking at the sheet, you’d assume “OH LOOK, another boring fighter.” You’d be wrong, he became the fear the local DMs everywhere. No matter, what dungeon or job, he’d always find a way to bring in WAY too much extra money before the night was over. This all began with a simple, “there be kobolds in my basement!” As we descended the depths, the party came upon an ancient burial chamber. In first room, the DM lovingly described ornate and pristine furniture. Suddenly, an idea struck… we could just spike the doors, and the steal the furniture. Jason had decent charisma, and believed he could turn a profit. Much to the DM’s chagrin, we stopped the adventure there, bought some rope and carts, and proceeded to strip down the rooms one-by-one. The DM was confused, we went through the books, he tallied up the numbers, I rolled a 20 on a haggling check, and we quickly brought in over 10k in gold. Needless to say, until we all died horrible deaths, we traveled the world looking for more well-furnished tombs. I’ll never forgot Jason, his legacy lives on still when I play and I slyly ask “so how well furnished is this place?”

And there you have it — the ten best entries in our One-Paragraph D&D Character contest. Using a set of well-worn D&D dice, we listed the entrants in order and generated four random numbers, arriving at our four winners:

Jeff Stehman
Amy Farmer
Justin Smith
August Samuel Evrard

Congratulations to the winners! And thanks to all the gamers — and Old School Renaissance players — for entering our contest.

Until next time — keep your dice warm, and good adventuring.

4 Comments »

  1. Jason should compare notes with Tenser sometime. There’s a reason he came up with that floating disk…

    Comment by Jeff Stehman - March 25, 2013 12:22 am

  2. Well darn, but congratulations to the winners!

    Comment by JLB - March 25, 2013 4:36 pm

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