So how did the DM save this? Honestly, who knows. I have no idea how he managed to fix it as flawlessly as he did, because I don’t know what the campaign was supposed to look like before. But I do know that he had to completely toss out all the previous prep work he’d done and start anew. All in the midst of performing in a play. Which took place an hour from his house. While working full time. Because our DM is a living, breathing tornado.
He devised two potential paths for us: we could stay in the “real world” and fight the literal embodiment of Hatred itself, or we could descend to the Underdark and fight him there. But we had to choose as a party, majority vote.
It was the first big decision our group has ever made together—actually, it may have been the first time everyone in our party actually talked to each other in character. We all spoke up and we all argued for what our characters wanted. Personally, I feel like the Underdark was the best move strategically, but my character is lonely and sad, and she point-blank refused to leave behind all the NPCs she’d befriended so far. Another character refused to budge on her decision to go the Underdark, where her boyfriend was being held captive. The rest of the characters waffled a bit more, weighing the benefits of the greater good against the lives of people we have looked in the eye and all that good stuff.
Eventually we reached a 4-3 vote to stay, but it didn’t even matter where we went. I just couldn’t believe it had gone so well. After our last session, I think several of us were convinced D&D was over, cancelled. Not just because we ruined the intended path of the campaign—that happens. I haven’t played D&D before, but I’ve seen enough Animated Spellbook and followed enough D&D blogs on tumblr to know that if you don’t completely mess up the campaign at least once, you probably aren’t playing it right.
After our night of drunken mistakes, several of us were embarrassed, defensive, and anxious about coming back to play again, and none of us were confident in our ability to work as a team anymore. This first session back had a lot riding on it. And our DM saved us all by forcing us to argue, forcing us to talk, forcing us to see how much agency we really had over our campaign. We learned the hard way that we could burn it to the ground, but making this choice showed us that we could also make it what we wanted it to be. Both options were good, both would lead to character development and fun, we just had to choose as characters, in a world where those choices matter on a personal level.
For D&D veterans, this might sound obvious. But our party is made up almost entirely of new members, and many of us (hi! it’s me!) are still struggling to realize when and how we can make important changes and decisions in the world. Somehow, our DM didn’t just salvage our campaign, he got us to really play the game the way it’s meant to be played.
P.S. Tervill lived, and is coming with us as our first semi-permanent NPC companion to help defeat Hatred itself—all to impress a girl (I tried to talk him out of it, I really did).