With Assassin joining the Anti-Party, a little welcome-to-the-team introductory questing was inevitable. Clearing rat infestations may be a classic, but don’t let that fool you. It isn’t necessarily easy. Toss a few templates on your rodents, give ’em a minor fear aura, and you may just find yourself on the losing end of an easy fight. That’s the case because (almost) anyone can fail a saving throw. And when you do, you just might find your actions out of your control.

We’ve talked about confusion and dominate and save-or-sucks in general, but there’s something about fear effects in particular that undermines a hero. Just picture it. There you are striding boldly through the dungeon. You’ve got your shining armor. You’ve got your +5 axe of awesomeness. You’re the spitting image of a sword and sorcery badass, and the power fantasy is firing on all cylinders. But then along comes Casper the Annoying Ghost. Along comes a quasit, or an antipaladin, or the literal freaking bogeyman. Whatever the fear-causing dork happens to be, it’s just added “soiled breeches” to your inventory, and you’re suddenly the opposite of a badass. You’re a bloody coward. And that don’t feel so good.

What I’m saying is that fear effects are a massive roleplaying challenge. While we can all picture supernatural terror, we like to believe that our heroes are closer to Eowyn than Butterbur. Cringing away from danger is something that NPCs do, not heroic protagonist types!

Therefore, for today’s discussion question, I’d like to try a bit of a thought experiment. Imagine that your most courageous PC has just failed a save vs. fear. How do you justify that narratively? How do you portray “you are forced to run away” without betraying your character’s cold-blooded stoicism? Give us all your best “advancing to the rear” and “strategic withdrawal” escuses down in the comments!


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