The smell of coffee and ramen intermingled with Cheetos, a 12-pack worth of empty cans of Mountain Lightning and a hint of male body odor. The fluorescent lights overhead buzzed somewhat, joining a chorus of crickets outside the open window. The mood was tense. The group sat around a small table, notebooks, clipboards, binders or just sheets of paper sitting in their laps, pencils and a few erasers strewn around.
Every once in a while, someone would walk down the hall, peer into the this alcove and look at the group, curiosity on their face. Some would stay and watch for a few minutes, others would continue on their way, most likely getting booze for a party upstairs. At the moment, though, there was no audience except the players themselves, deep in thought and pondering their next move.
“Can I shoot an arrow into the dragon’s belly that has, like, a chain attached to it? I’m trying to figure out if I can try to restrain it somehow…” Brittany played an elven Ranger named Talia whose expertise in archery had saved the group from many challenges before that would have been far more difficult without her rapid fire ranged attacks. Now, however, the flaxen-haired elf, and her blue-haired player, was out of her depth.
“I mean, you can try, but common sense would tell you that a) anything attached to your arrow would throw off the balance and b) the thing has thick scales, it might just bounce off — especially with a decreased trajectory due to the weight imbalance. Also, it would take you an action just to attach the rope or chain or whatever — which Zephra would probably break anyway — to your arrow before you could shoot it,” Max said, smugly. His eyes were full of malice and intensity. Sometimes, especially at times like these, his players felt like he intentionally tortured them.
“Fuck! Dammit. Fine, whatever. I guess I’ll cast hunter’s mark on her and then shoot a lightning arrow.” A look of hopelessness in Brittany’s eyes, she reached for her d20. There was very little chance her measly arrow was going to do much to a dragon.
“Roll to attack,” the DM intoned.
“God damn it! Shit! Four. Fucking ass.”
“The arrow streaks past the ancient red dragon, flashing brightly in the sky and out of sight.”
“I’ll fire again with sharpshooter and pray my die doesn’t do that to me again,” she says with a sigh.
“Go for it.”
“C’mon c’mon, don’t screw me again…NATURAL 20!!” Brittany shrieks, jumping out of the beat up couch that seemed to wrap itself around her only moments ago. The rest of the group joins in whoops and cheers. They know that their foe, while dangerous, was nearly overextended, and one lucky shot may be the difference between defeating the beast and a total party kill.
“Roll for damage,” Max says, eyeing the pages in front of him.
“Oh my god, my hands are shaking,” Brittany mutters as she locates the correct combination of dice and starts tabulating the total. The rest of the group watches on in anticipation. Sean, who plays a Grave Cleric, is out, his character having been knocked unconscious two rounds ago, leaving the party without a true healer. Kat’s Bard is left with hit points in the single digits. And Theresa’s half-orc barbarian has been under the effect of Zephra’s Frightful Presence, forcing her to run away from the dragon, effectively taking her out of the fight until she overcomes her fear.
Brittany finishes counting and gives the total. The group watches Max for a flinch, for any hint of what might happen next. The silence stretches on until Kat, frustrated, says “Is that enough?”
Brittany repeats the question. “Is it?”