Yes it is frustrating. A Game Master pours hours into crafting an encounter, rich with nuance and the potential for both combat and growth for the characters. A complex monster is created and abilities determined in order to give the players a solid hour or more of frantic dice rolling gameplay madness. This was the scene I had set for Sunday’s game. It was going to be another fight with an actual dragon. This time around, a juvenile red dragon.
The players found themselves trapped on a ledge in an alpine setting and the dragon was swooping in on an attack run. They quickly and wisely dismounted and sent the horses to the rear while the players prepared for combat. The dragon drew closer as he swept in, his mouth opening and pteparing to unleash a devastating blast of dragon fire breath.
Which is when the 2nd level druid stepped up and boldly announced her intention to shoot her blowgun at the dragon, with the goal of hitting it in the eye with a dart coated in sleeping poison. A called shot against a massively superior opponent with almost incredibly long odds of success. This was either going to be a brilliant story twist or the preamble to the entire group being messily and hilariously devoured.
The little druid rolled a natural 20 on her attack roll. Critical hit, and no bonuses needed to strike. The dragon loses all control over flight and plows into the group. Two people just about get crushed to death by a monster the size of a tractor trailer truck. The Ranger slices off the head of the dragon with a vorpal sword, because it is asleep and no attack roll is even required. Done. Encounter that took hours to plan was over in less than a minute.
That right there is the story of my life. Tomorrow I turn fifty, and not a single one of my elaborate plans have gone according to script. At every turn there has been the equivalent of a 2nd level druid and her damnable blowgun to foil things up. And on top of that my dragon continues to plow headlong into shrubbery and debris. Not only do I fail but I do so spectacularly.
I do have to hand it to the druid, though. Either in success or failure that move was going to be terrific to watch unfold. The life lesson here is to take chances. Win or lose give them something to remember.