Heroic Sacrifice in Your Game
D&D 3e (3.0/3.5) Rules
This article is dedicated to all those who would sacrifice all for the sake of others.
Sir Paladian Dragonhelm searched the field of battle, finding his opponent. The man was a rogue Knight of Solamnia who had turned against his brothers, and now led an army of evil. Paladian charged, calling to the rogue knight with a cry of challenge. Greatsword met greatsword on the field of battle, and the two warriors appeared as giants from legend to Paladian's brother, John. Sword met sword with steel clanging. John charged to his brother's side, but it was too late. Paladian had been gutted by the rogue knight, his form falling to the ground. John looked at the rogue knight with rage, uttering his own battle cry...
The scene above is one that really happened in my friend Dave's Cataclysm-era game. It was 10 years past the Cataclysm, and Paladian Dragonhelm was now approaching 30, much wiser than he had been a decade before. He led a ragtag army of refugees, giving them hope in a hopeless time. Their enemy was none other than the Aes Sedai and their Warders (whom Dave had imported from Wheel of Time). Dave and I had conferred at one point and decided that Paladian's death would benefit the game and cause his brother John Dragonhelm, played by my friend Kenneth, to develop further. Paladian had developed as much as he could, and what better way for a Knight of Solamnia to go out than to die in battle. We knew about when it would happen, but not how. During one battle with the Warders, Dave rolled a natural 20. In those days, we used the AD&D "Good Hits and Bad Misses" chart from Dragon magazine. He rolled very high, resulting in abdominal injuries and immediate death.
Heroic sacrifice is a theme that persists throughout Dragonlance. We see it with Huma Dragonbane, Sturm Brightblade, and many others. Heroic sacrifice is the strength of a character to make the ultimate sacrifice for something you truly believe in.
Though this theme can add to your Dragonlance game as well, be careful in how you approach it. The key rule of thumb is that it has to work out in the story and be something your character would do. If sacrifice happens too often or if you act out of character, it won't work as well.
Reasons for Sacrifice
There are any number of reasons why a character may sacrifice himself. In each case, the reason is something he believes very strongly in or loves.
Some characters may sacrifice themselves in the name of loyalty. Loyalty can come in many forms. A character may be a Knight of Solamnia, willing to give everything to save his nation from the Dragonarmies. Maybe he's a cleric who would sacrifice himself in the name of his god. This loyalty may be for a loved one, such as a family member or a friend. In Babylon 5, we see Marcus sacrifice himself so that the woman he loves, Susan Ivanova, could live after sustaining life-threatening injuries.
A character may also sacrifice himself for the sake of a cause he believed strongly in. Huma's sacrifice was done for the world to be free of the Dark Queen. Freedom is a common theme, one seen in the movie Braveheart. A wizard could be willing to sacrifice all in the name of magic. A character may sacrifice all for the sake of life.
Whatever the cause of the sacrifice, it must be something near and dear to the character's heart.
The result of heroic sacrifice should come in the form of an enhanced storyline, and a profound sense of loss. It isn't easy losing your character to begin with. To willingly give him up for the sake of others is the noblest of deeds. Not only should the player feel loss, but the group as a whole.
We all felt a sense of loss at the death of Sturm, who gave his all that Solamnia might live. We mourned the passing of Flint as well, who died not in battle, but through natural causes. These events changed us, giving us the sense that the danger is very real and that death is a present danger.
With the right timing and an act befitting the character, you can bring a sense of heroic sacrifice to your game.
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