The kobold gazed forlornly at the leering gargoyle faces decorating the titular well at the center of the Well Chamber. The surface of the water was heartbreakingly still.
“She can’t still be alive,” said the kobold, whose name was Hubert. “How long has it been?”
“I dunno,” said the intellect devourer lounging casually nearby. “Feels like years we’ve been waiting here.”
“Check her again?”
The intellect devourer, who had not until recently had a name (but who was now apparently named “Eidey”), gave a deep psionic sigh. “All right, fine.” There was a brief, sharp whine. “There,” he said. “Done. Yep, our high-AC friend is still alive down there.”
“I hardly believe her AC is all that high,” said Hubert. “Did you see that armor she was wearing? That should put her down to at least a three. Maybe even a two!”
Eidey mentally prepared the entire speech and then scrapped it. The game edition divide between them meant that there were some things that Hubert was never going to understand, and one of them was why his bass-ackwards THAC0-based up-is-down black-is-white armor system sucked on honeypot. “Whatever,” said Eidey. “Point being, she’s still living.”
Hubert screwed up his face. “Do adventurers… not need oxygen?” Hubert didn’t actually know all that much about adventurers, but he was pretty sure that the Wizard wouldn’t have filled the Proving Grounds with flooding rooms and deadly sand pits if they were merely going to be an inconvenience.
“Pretty sure they do,” said Eidey, thinking. “Oh, balls,” he said, “she’s got a Ring of Regeneration on. I forgot.” He beat his prefrontal cortex against a pillar three or four times. “I am literally made entirely of brain, and I forgot.”
“What does that do?”
“Depends on the edition. Did your wizard keep a bunch of old dreck around?”
“I never really knew him,” said Hubert, fidgeting with his claws. “From what Seamon’s said to me, I would have to say… yes?”
“Anything from the old Basic Set?”
“Gah,” said Eidey. “That’s your problem. If she actually found the ring here in the Proving Grounds, and it predates the third-edition nerfing, she’s actually regaining one aitch-pee per round. Stupid-butt thing actually used to grant you the equivalent of Regeneration (ex).”
“It’s a Ring of Regeneration, though,” said Hubert. “It would actually be weirder if it didn’t grant you Regeneration.”
Eidey rested his claw on the area of his brain roughly equivalent to his face. “Okay, look. I’m only going to say this once. Regeneration (ex) is different than Regenerate and the Ring of Regeneration doesn’t grant you either one.”
“I understand completely,” said Hubert. “Please say that again.”
“I specifically told you that I was not going to do that.”
“Point is,” said Eidey, “is that per 3E rules, she actually has to hit negative one and stay there for an entire round in order to drown.”
“Not… negative ten?” said Hubert, trying desperately to keep up. “I was almost certain Seamon was telling me something about having to reach negative ten…?”
“That’s physical damage. Drowning is a whole different ball o’ wax.”
“Look, it’s not my fault that the drowning rules are amazingly broken!” said Eidey, throwing his claws wide. “Point is, once you start failing saves, you go down to zero. Next round, you go down to negative one. Next round, you die. But with that ring on, our pal Kelli is just ping-ponging back and forth between zero and negative one and never hitting the die point.”
“Oh, no,” said Hubert.
“Oh, no, what?”
“I need to have a word with Seamon.” With that, Hubert hoisted himself up to the edge of the well, using the leering gargoyle faces for purchase. “Seamon!” he yelled, bapping at the water with one paw.
“Go away,” rumbled the water weird. “Got a good drowning going on here.”
“Seamon, it’s not going to work between the two of you.”
“Says you,” Seamon replied. “Clearly, this paladin bint is my soulmate. I can just drown her over and over again and it never even bothers her. See?”
Seamon, who was literally composed of all the water in the well, pushed above the stony edge and then jutted a thick tentacle of water in the direction of the ceiling. Thoroughly contained within the tentacle of water was the armor-clad form of Kelli Thunderhold, Paladin of Righteousness. Hubert was not one hundred percent on adventurer facial expressions, but he was pretty sure that the expression on the girl’s face–as she was bounced back and forth between zero-HP consciousness and -1-HP unconsciousness–in no way resembled “unbothered.”
“She’ll starve, eventually.”
“So you say,” Seamon gurgled. “Starvation just does a bunch of non-lethal damage, and she heals all that right back up as fast as she gets it.”
“Point of order,” remarked Eidey, who was leaning against a pillar picking half-formed concepts and snatches of memory out of his psionic teeth. “Magical healing doesn’t affect non-lethal starvation damage.”
“Oh, so what?” said Seamon, rounding on the intellect devourer. “So she takes a bunch of non-lethal damage and she’s unconscious all the time. That’s the worst that it gets. It is literally impossible to starve to death under the rules.”
“Is that true?” whispered Hubert, turning to Eidey, whom he had come to regard as something of a sage in these matters.
Eidey sighed. “Yes. Your friend is absolutely right. Starvation will never actually kill you. There’s no provision for it in the book. I don’t even farking know who even farking wrote the rules of this universe.”
“Here I thought I would die if I didn’t eat,” said Hubert, in wonderment. “I have been seriously misspending my monthly stipend.”
“Oh, you poor obligate foodivores,” yawned Eidey. “Always buying and hunting and stealing to fill your bellies. Lucky for me, thought is free.”
“And luckier for me, elementals don’t need a bleedin’ thing,” said Seamon. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my drowning.” With a sharp splash, the tendril of water sucked itself back into the surface of the water, dragging Kelli Thunderhold out of sight once more.
Silence ruled the Well Chamber for a few moments.
Then, the sapient brain on legs hoisted himself upright. “Well, Hubert, it’s been strenuous, but I must be going now.”
“What about Kelli?” said Hubert, in pleading tones.
“Yeah, too bad about her,” said Eidey. “Turns out there’s this really effective planned encounter that’s got her trapped for, apparently, ever. C’est la vie. And then la mort. And then back to la vie again. Over and over and over. I’m sure it’s fascinating in its own right, but I signed on to see this chickadee take on a dead god, and since that doesn’t look like it’s happening…” He shrugged. “Back to wandering.” He turned and headed toward one of the Well Chamber’s many arched exits.
“Eidey, wait!” said Hubert.
Hubert clenched his jaw, then took a deep breath. “We haven’t had an adventurer in years, Eidey!” he shouted. “Maybe you don’t know how that feels because you were just randomly generated a few hours ago. But I have been wandering this dungeon for a stone’s age, and I have never felt it so alive. We are wandering monsters, Eidey. Our sole purpose in life is to harry, and be smote by, adventurers!”
“My sole purpose in life right now is to find some delicious delicious reveries and slurp them down until I puke.”
“Sure!” Hubert shouted. “Sure, do that! Go off and satisfy your immediate carnal desires! In fact, why don’t you keep doing that! Over and over and over again! And then, eighty years down the road, you’ll be sitting there with a farking piece missing straight out of whatever the dreck is that passes for your heart, and it’s a piece you’ll never, ever be able to get back.”
“Slowing to an amble,” said Eidey.
Hubert breathed. “The Proving Grounds is an old dungeon, Eidey. We’re cleaned out. Everything we have here is done better somewhere else. The only reason Kelli’s even here is to clean up after an artifact everyone else forgot about and left behind. If Seamon just squats on her for the rest of her life-slash-death, we’ll never know what might have been. We’ll never know how great this dungeon could be.”
“Stopping.” Another deep, psychic sigh. “Okay, okay, fine. Whatcha need from me?”
“Talk some sense into Seamon!” Hubert pleaded. “You’re good with… words, and such!”
With a sense of sullen resignation, the intellect devourer lurched back to the center of the Well Chamber and clambered up to the rim of the well. “Hey there!” he projected.
“Me?” came Seamon’s voice, from far below.
“Yeah, you. The wet bandit. Any chance you’d like to release our pet adventurer?”
“Sod off. Give me one reason I’d want to do that.”
“Right before you sucked her in,” said Eidey, “she was telling us how bad she needed to pee.”