It’s late. We had been playing for roughly 28 hours. There are two empty cases of Mountain Dew on the table. I’m so tired I’m beginning to hallucinate goblins. We’ve smoked a carton of cigarettes between four people. At one point a girlfriend enters the room, coughs with disgust, and swiftly exits. The die rolls continue.
My character sheet looks like an ashtray and I think — although I cannot be sure — that we were playing Queen of the Demonweb Pits. In short, it was the best of times, It was the worst of times.
The entire party except for our mage was literally dead. He was unfortunate enough to be facing Lolth. She was a demigoddess: 95% magic resistance, saves on a 2 or higher, etc. Our guy had exhausted most of his spells except disintegrate, so he casts it, knowing the magic resistance was probably going to stop the spell and he was going to die a horrible death.
Except Winters failed the magic resistance roll first, and then blew the save. Our guy disintegrated the demigoddess. His finger became "the finger that disintegrated a god."
It was awesome, and it was awesome because stories happen when you follow the brutal ethos of the game and Things had a price and a value. Experience felt earned. The game was arbitrary and sometimes random, but this made for more dynamic scenarios.
Modern systems are certainly swinging back in this direction. It’s not like third edition and later didn’t offer the "hardcore" alternatives. The roguelike wave that Dark Soulsinspired, in part anyway, is definitely a hearkening back to these early D&D principles, that drama comes out of consequence, and that consequence can come from a roll of the dice.
I guess it’s time to dust off the Player’s Handbook.