The Saving Throw
Most Creative Gaming Moments Jan. 19, 2005
These are the unique gaming moments where the sheer creativity, by the players or by the gamemaster, was profoundly memorable.

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Tempora's Loop
featured on Jan. 19, 2006 contributed by Nwash

One of the most creative Dungeons and Dragons adventures I've been in, gamemastered by my best friend, involved a city where time had been damaged. Our strange party, involving my half-elf ranger, a minotaur fighter/mage, a druid of a race whose name I don't recall, and an NPC drow fighter, had camped in an area nearby this city and had seen a fiery glow in that direction during the evening. The next day, we went to investigate, but we only observed normal activity. We were walking through a busy marketplace where a flurry of normal activity was taking place, but there was no sign of what had caused the fiery glow the previous day.

There was something strange about the people, however, in that they seemed to be paying no attention to us. With a minotaur, a large furry druid, and a drow in the party, this was very unusual by itself. We were only able to get their attention at all by touching them, and even then, their attention was fleeting. It was very difficult to hold a conversation with any of them; we couldn't seem to hold their attention for more than a moment. We kept exploring the city, unable to understand what was happening. Eventually, we found a temple on a small island in the center of the city, and we entered it to explore there.

Inside, we saw a young girl who giggled at us and ran away. Since she was paying attention to us, we felt this worth investigating. We followed her after seeing her run up a staircase. We made it to the top of the staircase, but there was no sign of the girl. In fact, there was only a wall present here; the staircase appeared to lead nowhere. We suspected the wall was a disguised door or some sort of illusion, but we couldn't figure out how to get past it. All we could locate was a mysterious hole in the wall.

With no luck here, we went back outside and resumed exploration of the town, hopelessly confused by this point. It was getting into the evening when the city was attacked by an army of ogres. Being mostly of good alignment, we decided to help with the defense of the city. The defense was choatic and poorly organized, however, and before long, the city's defenders had been forced to withdraw to the island where the temple was located. We managed to defend one of the bridges for a while, allowing many people to make it to the safety of the temple before the bridges were destroyed by the city's defenders. A knight we had seen earlier sacrified himself, destroying the bridge he was standing on with his Shield of Shattering. A priestess who had used her magic to destroy the rest of the bridges was killed by an quarrel from the crossbow of an orge.

With the bridges destroyed, we were safe. We could do nothing but sadly watch the ogre army destroy the rest of the city around us. Depressed by this, we went to sleep with a profound sense of failure, only to wake the next morning to find that the city had mysteriously returned. There was no sign of the tremendous battle that had taken place the night before. At any rate, we now understood why we had seen a fiery glow the night before reaching this city; for some reason, the destruction of the city was being replayed every day. Now, we just had to discover why.

We encountered a gyspy woman in the city the next day, and she confirmed what we had already figured out. She also gave us the key for the disguised door at the top of the staircase. Naturally, we immediately returned to the temple to check out the top floor we couldn't get to earlier. We opened the door to immediately see the effects of time, unlike everywhere else. Wood had rotted here, and there was a thick layer of dust covering all. I expressed relief, as it appeared that here, at least, time was flowing normally. We explored this floor of the temple, where we came upon a room with a strange orb about the size of a basketball. It was a clear orb with swirling clouds of glowing light inside it. Staring at it, we eventually saw scenes of the battle outside. We noticed one difference; in the battle the orb showed us, there was a man who came to check on the dying priestess. He was obviously distraught, and shortly thereafter ran back to the temple. We had not seen this man the night before.

With nothing else to see, we resumed our exploration of the top floor. We managed to get into a locked room only to encounter a lich (undead mage or priest) sitting at a table, working on his experiments. At first, he didn't even notice us, but it wasn't long before he looked at us. Liches have a natural fear aura, so we all rolled immediately to save versus fear. (Note: I have never made a successful saving throw versus fear, and this time would be no exception.) Anyway, my ranger went hysterically running out of the temple due to the profound level of failure on this saving throw. The druid froze stiff with fear, but the minotaur was able to overcome it. However, he quickly offended the Lich, and the lich responded with a spell that set the minotaur ablaze. Naturally, he also fled the temple. (This player is not always the sharpest knife in the drawer, to say the least.)

Eventually, our druid eventually overcame his fear, and began talking to the lich. He discovered that the lich was originally the man we had seen in the mysterious orb distraught over the death of the priestess. He also learned that in trying to change history and save the priestess, the man had attempted to use magic on the mysterious orb, which turned out to be the Orb of Wisdom. In so doing, he had locked this city in its last day of existence. Its inhabitants, and all who were unfortunate enough to enter this city, were doomed to repeat this cycle over and over again until time was repaired.

The druid found my ranger and the other characters and filled us on in the details we were missing. The battle was starting up again, and we knew we needed to somehow prevent the fall of the city and the death of the priestess. We encountered a gnome who had a special horn, the one the knight we had seen earlier was looking for. Our druid accidentally scared him away, so my ranger took off after him. We had been told by the gypsy that if we could determine the name of the lich, we would gain power over him; our druid managed to discover it from someone in town, so he started heading back to the temple. The minotaur was seeking out the knight we had seen earlier, as we wanted to get that horn to him.

My ranger managed to catch the gnome. With no time to spare, she merely picked the gnome up and began running back to the island with him. The minotaur managed to find the knight, and he brought him back to the island as well. With the knight and the horn united, he blew the horn, calling all the city's defenders, all the adventurers who had been trapped in the city over the years, and all the villagers to the center of town, allowing the defense of the city to become organized and cohesive. Our druid, meanwhile, used the lich's name, which forced the lich to listen to him; he then explained to the lich what was happening outside. The lich was not aware of the nature of his mistake or how long this situation had been allowed to continue.

With nearly the city's entire population on the island, the defenders once again destroyed the bridges. Seeing that the priestess was about to be shot again, my ranger, desperate, shot her crossbow at the ogre, hoping to distract him from his shot. In a rare moment of luck, I rolled a natural 20; I probably needed it, as she wasn't even proficient with the crossbow yet. The ogre was hit, but still managed to shoot.

However, after the shot, time seemed to slow considerably. The lich emerged from the temple and began to revert back to his human state. He walked over to the priestess with a casual pace and placed himself between her and the incoming quarrel. When he was hit, trading his life for that of the priestess, time immediately returned to normal. The city was still in ruins, but most of the inhabitants survived. Everyone was freed from this accidental curse; the city remained in ruins the next day.

While we were still there at the temple, the girl we had seen earlier returned carrying the Orb of Wisdom with some difficulty. She gave it to the druid, asking him to take it somewhere safe. Later, the gypsy told us that the girl was the avatar of Tempora, the goddess of time for my friend's realm.

In the next adventure, we had to deal with some of the ogre army we had freed from this time loop, proving that no good deed goes unpunished. This is one of the most interesting and creative adventures I've ever had the privledge of being a part of, however.

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