Whether it’s a critical failure (the dreaded 1 in combat) or forgetting your own abilities leading to tactical error every character will have to deal with defeat at some point, likely often if you aren’t into optimization. These losses are an opportunity.
Not all tales of heroes are about victory. Within pain and failure is the contrast to success.
Recently, in the final battle within Lost Mine of Phandelver the party was completely overwhelmed. We knew of 14 opponents, to include the adventure’s final boss. There are 7 of us. Awf is overconfident by nature. As a Hill Dwarf Bladesinger he wades into the frontlines accepting damage as part of raison d’être.
The problem with that became rapidly apparent as he attempted a rear guard action. Eventually four different bugbears were piling on the broadshouldered dwarf. No one was surprised when he fell unconscious and took a death save from another attack.
Norran, our Half-elf Assassin, slid through the traffic of combat to administer the only healing potion available in that part of combat. With the party split things looked dire for the rear guard group. Bring Awf back up gives Norran and Ambrose, Half-orc Beastmaster, and Awf a bit of hope, when things seem hopeless.
Our session ended in mid combat – and that’s when I remembered that Awf has a Staff of Defense.
AFTER taking numerous blows that dropped him. Through poor play as a player, I forgot about Awf’s 8 charges of Shield that he could use as reactions to limit the battering his body took.
It’s a dumb error.
Except, upon review it is exactly the type of error that Awf Hornjaw et Loragwyn would make in combat. It’s part of who he is and how he operates. My error was in fact playing to type.
Personality TraitsFrom Awf’s Background
I enjoy being strong and like breaking things.
I face problems head-on. A simple, direct solution is the best path to success.
And this is where embracing the failure becomes an epic tale. In next week’s session Awf’s overconfidence will disappear. Every single turn a Shield spell will be used to protect either himself or his companions that he placed in danger. Rising from his stupor he learned.
Being in danger is part of the joy of role-playing combats. There will be times that the danger is overwhelming.
Now, due to failure Awf will have a fireside tale that isn’t just about the failure, but also about the success. The mistake of the player will become the character’s epic song.