This is a second-hand story, but it made an impression on me. It comes courtesy of Laurel’s college days, and it involves the Dark Sun setting.

If you’ve never heard of Dark Sun, you should do yourself a favor and give it a look. It’s a dark fantasy, planetary romance with Dying Earth overtones, and the art kicks more ass than a tarrasque with caster levels. For purposes of this conversation however, the important point is that the bleak wasteland of Athas is a desert setting.

It was a college gaming club, and Laurel had made an elf PC. The class doesn’t really matter, because elves get “desert craft” as a freaking racial ability. You see, Dark Sun elves are a nomadic lot, and they make their a living either through herding, raiding, or trading out in the wastes.

“Is there anything else anybody wants to do before you set out?” says the DM.

Nope. They were all set to trek through the desert and kill its inhabitants.

“OK then. You sleep peacefully the first night, but wake to catastrophe! All of your water has evaporated due to the extreme heat of the desert!”

I wasn’t there, but I like to imagine the players looking at this schmuck like the “His Master’s Voice” dog.

“What… What do you mean ‘evaporated?'”

“I mean that you are in danger of dehydration. Make a Fortitude save.”

The way Laurel tells it, this DM expected the party to bury their water. You know. So it wouldn’t evaporate through their water skins.

“Wouldn’t my elf know to do that? I mean, ignoring the fact that we aren’t carrying water around in open containers, I’ve lived in the desert my whole life.”

“Then you should have declared that you bury your water.”

Lesson learned. Don’t be like that Dark Sun DM. Assume that the PCs are at least somewhat competent. Because “Gotcha” DMs suck, and you should strive not to.