Okay, I admit it. It wasn’t the kind of death a DM hopes will happen for his beloved major campaign villain. But I saw a ridiculous advantage, and I jumped all over it.
His gripe, and one that I think is extremely well founded across most of the gaming spectrum, is the inability to establish and keep going with a good recurring villain. Even if the villain has a reason not to kill the heroes, the heroes themselves rarely share his discretion. And it’s really rough to get a group of PCs to admit defeat, turn tail, and run like hell. Most gaming groups lack that ability to make that critical determination to see when things have gone hopelessly sideways and the only way to prevent everyone from dying is to flee. Instead they stand and fight to their last breath, thinking that they must prevail since this story is really all about them — and then they have to make up a new character.
But our DM had actually managed to engineer several encounters where we knew we were hopelessly outgunned, and the only way for us to survive was to use our guile to either snatch away the child, or break the crystal ball, and then vamoose with all the forces of nastiness and evilosity on our heels. One time, we had actually willing joined the fight, only to realize we were in over our heads, and been forced to quit the field in the middle of combat.
Our DM was overjoyed.
Like many DMs, he does not believe that it makes a good story when the heroes can overcome any challenge, all the time. I agree. But ? I also feel like not every villain deserves a “good” death. Maybe they’re too powerful for a big climactic battle with all the party in attendance. When the villain in question can easily slay individual party members with a single round of attacks, maybe you shouldn’t be giving him that opportunity. Maybe a cheap death is just what the doctor ordered.
The adventurers from the city had come back yet again. It had been a mistake to imprison them before, thought Haroo. He should have simply killed them and not worried about how much they were worth to the slavers. Ah well, no use crying now. The big half-orc yanked on the oars, causing the tiny boat to lurch away from the island and into the bay towards Port Amarrange. One of the bastards, the priest-wizard, began screaming deprecations at him from a window of the small castle. Haroo was incensed, but he had his orders. He kept rowing, even as the soulless human threw Sacha, a twelve year old orc girl, from the window.
Almost halfway across the bay the boat suddenly heaved to the side, and a huge skeletal claw burst through the floorboards. Damn that wizard! Haroo looked about, knowing the cursed mage must be near to hand, but he saw nothing. Changing with the swiftness of long practice into an enormous bear, Haroo dove into the cold water. He turned his bulk about to face the monstrous skeletal creature, and watched as it completed the task of ripping his boat in half. As a bear Haroo was a powerful swimmer, and he crashed into the skeleton ripping and slashing. Broken bones sank through the water and the animated monster exploded into pieces under the fury of Haroo’s assault.
The bear looked into the water. Far beneath him he saw an huge fish, at least eight feet long. Not a fish, he realized with a start, a merman. As Haroo hung in the water, three painfully bright missiles streaked from the merman’s outstretched arm to impact the bear’s shoulder. He was mostly protected by the aegis of his lycanthropic nature, but still, some damage got through. Before he could decide what to do, three more missiles burned a retina-searing path to strike Haroo in the leg. The merman swam just close enough for the bear to see him grinning evilly. The half-fish saluted with something that looked like a wand.
It was the priest-wizard.
Haroo turned back towards the city and swam as swiftly as he could. He was a strong swimmer, but the merman was faster still. Missile after missile struck the bear’s underside. The pain seemed to go on forever and Haroo roared his hurt and frustration to the sky.
Finally, the missiles stopped. Haroo was barely alive. Swimming had become his entire world, and act of all-consuming anger and defiance and survival. Dimly he understood that the wizard’s wand must have been spent. Let the bastard come to me then if he wants to finish the job. Come into my tooth and claw and let us finish this like men.
Haroo looked beneath him to meet the merman’s inevitable charge, and instead saw a ghostly blue hand suspended in the water in front of his face. The disembodied extremity reached out, brushing Haroo lightly along the nose.
All the light in the world went suddenly dark.