The Saving Throw
Most Dramatic Gaming Moments Dec. 8, 2005
These are the moments of true drama, where the players were truly drawn into the game.

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A Priest's Heroic Stand
  contributed by P. J. Reed

The campaign we're in has already been fairly long and detailed, but the relevant details here involve one other player and me. My friend plays Father Kiernan, a priest in the service of Mormekar, the god of death. It's important to note that he doesn't worship killing people, but he considers death sacred, which means that anything that defies the natural order (for example, the undead) is an abomination to him. In fact, he's devoted his career to destroying the undead. He's also taken a vow of poverty, which means that his only possessions are a robe, a simple staff, and his holy symbol, a burned stick. He's also 12th level, which is reasonably high, although he's a bit behind the rest of the group because he had missed a few games.

I play Thast, a paladin in the service of Maal, the god of justice. Knights in the service of Maal are typically referred to as "Judges of Maal"; I have a slightly higher title, "Shield of Maal." I also have a hound archon follower, Fenril, who was sent to aid me by Maal. I just recently attained 15th level, which meant that it was time for me to take a test called the Test of Souls; it involves me drinking a deadly poison, journeying directly to Maal's Court, and standing before him in judgment. After four days, a priest of Maal ressurects me, if Maal decides that I'm worthy of continuing to serve him. Coincidentally, Mormekar is Maal's father, so the priest and I are good friends.

However, the significant death here wasn't mine. Both of us recently had a vision of the city of Bet Bedar in flames, with a drow elf standing amidst the corpses of many slaughtered judges. We hadn't heard any word from Bet Bedar recently, so Father Kiernan decided to scout out the place just to see if our vision had already happened or if it was a vision of the future. Using the spell "Wind Walk", he would be able to travel there very quickly, but he couldn't take our entire party with him; however, we decided it would be a good idea for Fenril to go with him, just in case. If the city had been destroyed, Fenril could send me a message so that the rest of us could prepare to march there immediately.

Well, when they got there, it turned out that the vision was true. The inhabitants of the city had almost all been slain, and many were being raised as undead. Father Kiernan was ready to head back to the group when he spotted a priest of Orcus. Orcus is the god of undeath, and so Father Kiernan hates them intensely; he refused to leave without fighting him, and Fenril is the kind of guy who would die to protect Kiernan, so they picked a fight. Father Kiernan opened up by turning all of the undead the priest had created; there were a lot of them, but the Father had put so much of his training into turning the undead that even the most powerful ones turn to ash before him. However, they still had to deal with the evil priest and about fifteen of his human followers.

The evil priest responded by casting "Dimension Anchor" on Fenril; obviously he knew that hound archons are capable of teleporting at will, and that spell would prevent him from doing so. The spell succeeded, which meant that this fight would only end when everybody on one side was dead. Fenril responded by charging right into the evil priest's followers, and Father Kiernan began casting protective spells on them, such as the all-important "Death Ward", which protects them from instant death and negative energy effects; since this guy worships the god of undeath, it's not unreasonable that he would know such spells.

The fight dragged on for quite a while as the priests cast offensive spells back and forth; the evil priest also summoned a bone devil, but unfortunately for him, the bone devil was unable the enter the Magic Circle Against Evil that was around Fenril (another hound archon ability), and Father Kiernan made sure to always stand within the circle. The fight lasted for over two hours of real time; both priests were running dangerously low on spells. Eventually, one of the evil priest's spells got a lucky hit on Fenril; it did enough damage to kill him, which meant that he was sent back to his home plane of Celestia (alive, but it would take him a day to return to us).

At this point, the fight was down to the two priests and the bone devil; the evil priest had created a barrier of blades circling him, and Father Kiernan was out of ranged spells that he could use, so all he could do was stand back and wait until the barrier went down. However, now that Fenril and his circle of protection were gone, the bone devil took his opportunity to rush towards Father Kiernan; unfortunately for him, the Father has an ability that also lets him turn extraplanar beings as though they were undead, and the bone devil also got banished back to his home plane.

The evil priest also only had spells remaining that he could use at close range, so he dropped the barrier and moved towards Father Kiernan. They began fighting each other in melee combat, as they only had their weakest spells remaining to buff themselves up with, and they were both equally hurt, when the unthinkable happened: Father Kiernan's Death Ward expired. Seeing his opportunity, the evil priest stepped back and cast a spell that instantly killed Father Kiernan, turning his body to dust.

After the fight, the DM told us that the evil priest was level 19, and he only had 27 hit points left; possibly two more hits from either Fenril or Father Kiernan would have killed him. He had expected our entire group to take him on, so the fact that a 12th-level priest and a hound archon (with 1 level of paladin, effectively making him a 12th-level character) were almost able to beat him was incredible.

However, the story's not over yet. Meanwhile, it was time for Thast to take the test of souls. I died and went before Maal himself, where we spoke of all of the deeds I had performed in his name and the deeds I intend to perform in the future. While I was there, coincidentally, Father Kiernan's spirit had also come before Maal to be judged. Typically, priests of his order refuse to be resurrected, since the act of dying and passing into the afterlife is a sacred ritual.

However, Maal and Mormekar decided that it was not Father Kiernan's time to die, and so his spirit was refused entrance into the afterlife. At the same time that it was determined I had passed Maal's test and was being ressurected, Father Kiernan was also resurrected, and he was made a Saint for sacrificing his only possession, his life, to protect the city of Bet Bedar. He was offended greatly by the fact that ressurection was forced upon him, but Father Kiernan had no choice but to continue destroying the undead.

Later that day, the entire party marched to Bet Bedar and got some vengeance.

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