and I'm over it.
Since I'm usually the one running games, and have been since I was a kid, this has actually never happened to me, before. (I've had it happen in my games maybe a handful of times, and only one time that I can think of where it didn't just end up killing the character in question.) The bitch of it is, I saw it coming. We (the Fear Böners) are up in the eastern mountains, having somehow (against high odds of getting seriously squished) negotiated an alliance with the frost giants, but the whole thing hinges on our clearing out a cave system full of ghostly insubstantial nasties (the giants being too big to fit into the cave, you see). We were riding high on luck and smooth talk, having already survived a scrap with a roc besides the giant armistice, and honestly it was going to have turn sooner or later.
We fought a couple of relatively manageable beasties ("breath stealers", which do what it says on the tin, killing by suffocation), but when we entered the cavern with the ghostly-form-superimposed-on-skeleton sitting on the throne, I kinda knew it was time to pay the piper. The (mid-level) party cleric called to Kurdan and attempted to turn, no dice - and while my character just knew enough to be freaked out, the DM in me is already mentally rolling up a new guy. The apparition screeched and charged, taking a single spear hit from my fighter (Ordrick of the Hill People) before falling on him and SUCKING OUT HIS DAMN SOUL. Oof. Two levels, from 3 on the cusp of 4 to HELLO FIRST LEVEL FREDDY. (Unconscious, to boot.) Luckily, the next round our dwarven badass hit with a 20 for full damage, banishing the spirit, and we avoided a fate far worse than death (NO NOT THAT, c'mon, don't be gross).
Again, the DM in me knew it was a spectre, and that we got off EASY. It actually missed its first attack, and didn't get a chance to make a third. Beyond that, we were rolling well enough. (Although our thief sent one of his dogs to attack the thing, which had predictably tragic results for the animal lovers in the house (and probably tragic for us, later, since the words "spectral dog" were tossed around).) And, let's do the math: While being back at level 1 stings (SHIT FUCK GODDAMMIT), with the XP I'll net from treasure in the last couple encounters (and for surviving the encounter), I'll be back at 2nd the next time we can train, and at the level we're punching at as a party, 3rd a session or so after. Even until then, I'm sure as hell not equipped like a first level character. I've got plate mail and two well-trained (well-armored) war dogs. We netted a nice haul from the spectre, still to be sorted, and I've voice my *ahem* strong suggestion *cough cough* that I be first in line on that, namely on any spears or armor that come out of it.
Still - damn, that shit stings.
But fuck it. Some stuff is supposed to be SCARY, even to the players. And now my PC's got distinguished salt-and-pepper temples. Reed Richards gets all the girls, right? Besides, it was a great game moment - especially 'cause I was the only player at the table actually experienced enough to know that was a thing that could happen. The general intake of air when Matty dropped the 2-level bomb was priceless. The other players were genuinely taken aback (and you could see a general nervous shuffling of character sheets as everybody reevaluated their place in the game universe and considered exit strategies). And I got to experience one of old-school gaming's more "special" experiences. [Wonder Years narrator voice]In some small way, I think we all grew up a little bit that day.[/WYnv]
2 years ago