Going into this year, I told myself I was done posting about Dungeons and Dragons on the SWC blog. I posted two D&D blogs last year: one about my first ever character, and one about the first session I ever DM’d, so now I’m going to spice it up and write about something entirely new. Until now, I’ve been pretty good about avoiding topics I’ve written about before. What I failed to consider, however, is that I would play quite a lot of D&D since the last blog I wrote about the game and collect more stories that I think are too good not to share. It’s been almost a year, and I have plenty to say about my Dungeons and Dragons shenanigans since the IKEA incident. Buckle up, folks. This is a long one.
In D&D, there is a phenomenon that occurs once a session or so called a Nat 20. Short for natural 20, it refers to when a player rolls a 20 on a 20-sided die, more commonly called a D20. Players are often asked to roll for certain checks, such as perception, animal handling, persuasion, or history. After they roll the player adds on their modifier, which is based on whether or not they have proficiency in the skill being checked and what their base stats (strength, dexterity, constitution, wisdom, intelligence, or charisma, depending on the check) are. The player is trying to roll as high as possible so that their character can successfully carry out the action they’re trying to do. A Nat 20 guarantees that the player succeeds, and, depending on who is DMing, may go a little too well.
I played Haruko in session last month. You may remember her from the very first installment of Dungeons and Disaster. Over a year later, she is still just as much of a menace. This time, the Chocolate Milk Club is on their way to a Winter Solstice party in the government building where we are “forcibly employed.” We walk into the cafeteria for dinner, and the party is greeted with hot chocolate stations, groups of people, and a table with an obnoxiously large pyramid of sandwiches. As the Chocolate Milk Club decides what to do at the party, Haruko has a great idea. She looks to two of her friends and asks “are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Both of them are greatly confused, so Haruko explains her idea to play a game she played with her family back at home. The game was called “Jenga.” But since she didn’t have the pieces to construct a proper wooden Jenga tower, Haruko wanted to pull sandwiches out of this gigantic pyramid until someone knocked it over. Somehow, she convinced a few party members to join her. Haruko runs up to the sandwich pyramid to play the first turn, reaching for a sandwich right in the middle of the bottom layer.
My DM asks me to roll sleight of hand. I reach for my D20. I had a pretty good feeling that Haruko would pull this sandwich without toppling the stack since her dexterity (the stat tied to sleight of hand) modifier is pretty high. I roll my D20 and watch as it slows to a stop on the table.
“NAT 20!” I proudly exclaim as the other players out laughing and my DM looks at me like they’re so tired of my shenanigans (they probably are, honestly). Haruko not only successfully removes a sandwich from the very bottom of the stack, but succeeds so hard that the remaining stack begins to levitate. Haruko cheers and tries to show the rest of the party her accomplishment, but by the time they turn to the sandwiches, they stopped levitating.
Based on all of my previous posts about D&D, you may assume that I am always a harbinger of chaos when I play this game. That’s not entirely wrong. I often choose to play characters who cause problems on purpose because I find it ridiculously funny, but I also play rather serious characters. For example, Annaliese. Despite both sharing a love of reading and never-ending curiosity, Annaliese and Haruko are polar opposites. Annaliese is the brain cells of her party. She tries to keep the party moving forward and, unlike Haruko, is not the type to intentionally cause chaos. While Haruko’s alignment is chaotic good, Annaliese’s is lawful good. However, that’s not to say she doesn’t wind up in strange situations where I can roll Nat 20s on checks that don’t really matter. Currently, this party is traveling abroad after being summoned to court for a crime we didn’t commit. The night before our trial, we were exploring the city and the party stumbled upon a herd of well-dressed black cats in a tailor shop.
Our DM asked everyone in the party to roll animal handling to see how the cats would react to our party. I was ready to fail this check. Annaliese is a strange character in the sense that I can’t seem to roll very well every time I play her. I regularly roll below a 10 on a D20 when I play her, and I’m not sure why. She might be cursed. Who knows? As I grab my D20, I expect absolutely nothing good to come of this.
“…Nat 20!” I proclaim. The other players and my DM seem just as shocked that I actually passed the check as I did. The cats cling to Annaliese like a magnet, literally floating towards her as they attach themselves to her dress. In particular, one of the cats ended up inside of Annaliese’s magic hat, and she didn’t notice until much later that night when she flew into her hat to sleep and found a cat inside. She ended up adopting the cat and naming him Nimbus.
Though this incident didn’t directly happen to me, I think it’s too funny not to talk about. A session after the Nimbus incident, it was time for our party’s trial. The party is discussing all evidence they have to prove their innocence and any potential witnesses they could call to defend them. After a lot of back and forth about potential witnesses, one of my friends decides to ask the DM if they could try to summon a god to defend us in court. The DM takes a second to think about it before telling the player “if you roll 95 or above on a D100, maybe something will happen.”
We all go dead silent as the player takes the DM’s offer and grabs their dice. We hear clattering on the table. As the noise stops, we hear a quiet “oh my god.”
The players are freaking out. We watch the light slowly leave our DM’s eyes as the entire plan they had for our party’s trial went down the drain. Sure enough, the giant two-headed wolf god our friend was attempting to summon appeared in the room. We got her to defend us in court, though it actually ended up doing more harm than good. Long story short, the god presiding over our trial was not thrilled that we brought another long-lost god into her space and banished her and the person who summoned her from the courtroom. We still haven’t been reunited with either of them, but we end up getting some very convincing written testimonies in place of our witness.
In both of my other D&D blogs, I ended the blog talking about the moral of the story or the skills I picked up from those specific sessions. However, I wouldn’t say there’s much to learn from floating government sandwiches, herds of black cats, or sort-of accidentally summoning a god. But if there’s one thing that links all these tales, it’s luck. If I didn’t roll that Nat 20 to pull a sandwich out of a pyramid, it would’ve probably fallen over. If I didn’t roll that Nat 20 to make a first impression on a bunch of cats, Annaliese wouldn’t have her much-needed emotional support cat. And if my friend didn’t roll that Nat 100 to summon a god, our party would’ve felt a lot worse going into their trial. So if I had to determine one moral here, it’s to not take random moments of good luck for granted. After all, they make great stories.
(Psst… if you want more of Haruko’s tomfoolery or want to know what, exactly, the IKEA incident is, you might want to check out Dungeons and Disaster and Dungeons and Disaster (a Revisit). Happy reading :D)