Content of the article: "My DM pulled off a turning point in my character’s story arc AND tied it into my real life birthday. I was amazed; here’s the story."
TL:DR, my DM crafts a birthday session for me that not only made sense in the broader context of our campaign, but also completed a major milestone for my character's story, and did it in a way that I didn't even realize what was going on until the very end. And I'm an incredibly lucky dude for having such thoughtful people in my life.
Okay, to set the stage, here are the broad strokes of the setting:
We're playing in a fantasy version of the Sengoku period in Japan, roughly around the time of Oda Nobunaga's rise and his capture of Kyoto (which our PC's played a part in.)
My character is from the Netherlands, and was the apprentice of a powerful, dimension-hopping wizard named Elegast. Elegast and my PC were summoned to Japan to aid an old ally in closing rifts to the realm of Gruumsh, which the shogun was exploiting to maintain his dominion over Japan.
However, while traveling by boat—teleportation cannot breach the magic of Japan—a unusual, magical storm sunk the ship. Everybody aboard perished, yet before he met his fate, Elegast ensures the survival of my PC. My PC washes up on the shores of Japan, nearly-drowned, mourning the loss of his master, and heavily traumatized.
The lead up
From there the party goes on multiple adventures to stop these rifts, gets pulled into various backstory plots, and so on.
The underlying thread of my character's story is putting the past behind him, overcoming his fears of water and becoming the true heir to his master's legacy. The DM and I figured the culmination of this would be best represented by my PC facing his fears and attempting to find the shipwreck, and recover his masters spellbook.
So, this week, the party did just that. Upon finding the shipwreck, my character reached towards the book, and the party was sucked into a pocket dimension created by Elegast.
Here's where stuff starts to get interesting; in order to claim ownership over the spellbook, my PC must dive into the memories of Elegast, recover artifacts from these memories, and return them to the main chamber of the pocket dimension. There were four memories in total.
Eventually, we began to discover that the memories were, in fact, the climatic moments from the previous campaigns that we had all played together. In this canon, Elegast hopped through dimensions to help my PC's from the previous campaigns achieve their goals.
The first memory was a combat encounter from the VERY first time the DM and I played DnD together (about four years back – so unmemorable to me now, we couldn't even remember the ranger character's, name.) After the memory was completed, an illusion of Elegast said "You know for the life of me, I can’t remember his name. He disappeared that day. This was my very first adventure….” When the party returned to the pocket dimension, my PC was holding that character's bracers.
The second memory was from our campaign set in Dark Sun which ended in epic failure for the party. I played as a dwarf nature cleric. We fought against Kalak, who had succeeded in transforming himself into a dragon. After we reenacted our collective doom and returned to the pocket dimension, Elegast's illusion said “Failure will come. Time and time again. But coming back from failure is what separates us! We have very strong hearts. Never forget why you started adventuring…" The next momento was the dwarf cleric's shillelagh.
At this point I'm starting to notice a pattern, but still totally oblivious to the set up
The third memory was from our victorious campaign set in Tal-Dorei. We defeated the Briarwoods and the scene showed was of the victory parade afterwards.
The fourth and final memory was explained as the one that "Makes it all worth it." It showed my current PC as a young boy, having just completed his first adventure with Elegast. My PC explains that it's his birthday (okay, I'm starting to see what's happening here!) and Elegast goes to collect a sweet treat to give the boy. He returns to him with a cookie, and then breaks the fourth wall and addresses the party directly.
He said, “You know, the wonderment of an adventure is great—but it’s the people you travel with, the wonderful folk you've met, that make it all worth it. Savor the moments where you can. This is my most treasured memory… hooked on wondering what the world had in store to you."
Then, my girlfriend enters the room behind me, with a chocolate chip cookie that has a candle sticking out of it, and everyone started singing happy birthday to me. I was speechless!
It immediately dawned on me that the ENTIRE session was a birthday gift to me, and a meta-commentary by my DM about all of the fun times we've spent playing DnD together over the last four years. Apparently, my girlfriend had asked my DM to do a birthday session for me, and they both kept it secret for over a week and a half.
And not only that, but it also fit perfectly within the context of our campaign AND was close enough to my real-life birthday to work out. The timing was perfect!
After all is said and done, our characters return to the world and my PC is holding his master's spellbook in his hands, tears in his eyes.
Pretty sure my DM browses this subreddit, so give him some major kudos for his genius!
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