The Tale of Jacques: A Study in Ignominious RPG Death

I am rerunning some”best of” posts through the holiday season. See you next year!

After a week of blogging about massacres and finding non-mutant replacement gamers, I thought some humor appropriate. There are moments in a life that cannot be forgotten. Weddings, deaths, births and other life-changing moments loom in our memories like unchanging mountains. They shall never pass from our minds and even recalling them brings the same joy or pain as the original event.

For me, Jacques is such a moment. Never before or since has a gamer left such a powerful impression. I told my game group so many times that even they now laugh at the story of Jacques.

Let me set the scene. It was a “Living Arcanis” game, so I have the exact date: July 26th, 2003 at a local convention called “Gilacon.” We mustered a table of six for the module “Assault on the Gate of Tears.” This particular module had major plot implications, so we were anxious to run through it. Other than my comrade Werlen, the other players were strangers.

The other players were the usual assortment, but “Jack” stood out from the rest. Black t-shirt, scuzzy jeans and an aversion to personal hygiene marked him as a “mutant” gamer. I started breathing through my mouth and sat on the other side of the table. Such is convention gaming.

In the first encounter we battled a powerful construct. It was here I saw Jack’s reason for living: dealing massive damage. His barbarian had every broken, cheese-monkey item and feat to do nuclear damage each round.

For non-Living Arcanis players, the early years of the campaign were notable for some incredibly broken items/feats/class abilities that created unbalanced characters. These are now fixed, but it was an issue five years ago.

The battle completed, we received the full glory of Jack’s personality. Arrogant, confident and very pleased with his deadly barbarian build. I loathed Jack. It was a difficult module and I valued my PCs life, so I kept silent.

Advancing into the fortress, we came to an intersection of three tunnels. Lacking any particular destination, we chose the center tunnel. A kilometer or two up the tunnel, we entered a massive cavern. There was only one exit on the opposite side. Between us and the exit flowed a powerful, raging river 20 meters wide.

We were too low-level to fly or teleport, so we started to consider our options. About 30 seconds into the plotting, Jack jumped in with, “I have a plan.” A statement delivered with the certainty of success. Without hesitation, Jack ties a rope about his waist, hands the loose end to the nearby cleric and jumps into the river.

At this point, Werlen and I looked at each other, expecting a feat of magic. Water walking, an amazing jump check or even some dimension door action. Something other than what actually happened. The next line is as close to verbatim as my memory can provide.

“I have an 18 constitution, so I can hold my breath for 18 rounds. I will sink to the bottom of the river and walk across to the other side. Once I am over, you can use the rope to climb across.”


More silence.

We failed our will save vs epic stupidity. It took a moment to overcome the stunning effect. The DM recovered first and spoke.

“Make a swim check or be swept away.”

A slight glimmer of intelligence beamed from behind Jack’s surprised eyes. Apparently the rudimentary physics of thousands of tons of water at 30 kilometers per hour against his 100 kilos finally bubbled up to Jack’s frontal lobe.

A d20 clattered across the table. The check would fail on anything other than a 20. Not 20.

The grovelling begins.

“But, but, I gave the cleric the rope. He can pull me in.”

Well done Jack, you gave the cleric with the 12 strength a rope with 100 kilos of dead weight at the end. Dead weight propelled by several thousand metric tons of water. Good plan.

The rest of party is not even in “grab the rope” distance. We had nothing that could help.

The DM, being a kind soul, gave the cleric a strength check to hang on, DC 20. It was a gift, given the circumstances.

The feeble cleric needed a 19-20 to succeed. A yellow die flies across the table. Not 19-20. Jack dies.

Mighty Jack, now a grovelling for a “do over” debases himself before the DM. I will never forget the plea.

“I would not have dived in unless the rope was tied off!”

I helpfully chimed in that Jack clearly stated he “handed the rope to the cleric and dove in the river.” I always try to aid my DMs. Would not want any detail of this brilliant plan to be overlooked. It was so well thought out. Jack glared at me, then went back to grovelling to the DM.

Jack is now desperate and reaches to the bottom of the plea barrel.

“Don’t I at least get a swim check to try to get out.”

DM turns a page and shows Jack the river description in the module. I will paraphrase.

“Any PC that goes in gets one chance to swim, if they fail the river takes them underground for 10 kilometers, beating the victim to death against the rocks. This assumes they do not drown in the two hours before you see daylight again. Your body is not recoverable. They cannot have ‘raise dead’ cast without a body.”

At this point, Jack starts pleading to nearby DMs for another ruling. All for naught. Our DM gets fed up and just ejects him from the table. He left the convention in a huff, never to be seen again.

Seeing the river is impassible, we backtracked to the intersection, took the right-hand tunnel and crossed the river, on a bridge. I wonder still if anyone every told Jack he died for wont of a 15 minute detour.

So, whenever we come to a river, Werlen and I look at each other and smile at the memory of Jack, excuse me “Jacques Cousteau.” The greatest underwater adventurer we had ever seen.

Rest in Peace, Jacques

Trask, The Last Tyromancer



Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.

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