Once upon a time, I built a character with the help of the community on Twitter. Throughout the creative process, this character become known by the nickname “Bugbear Grylls”, inspired by the idea that he would be a survivalist (necessary in the Rime of the Frostmaiden game in which he was to be played) and also a bugbear (that decision was made before the buff in Monsters of the Multiverse). The twitter folks and I leaned into the goofiness, and Bugbear Grylls was a beast barbarian so that he could be extra bear-like and a chef so that he could grill. The twitter folks helped me pick the name “Djungelskog” after the Ikea teddy bear. Truly, this wasn’t a character built to be taken seriously.
But, like any good joke character, Bugbear Grylls grew to be a well-loved member of the party. I live-tweeted every session of the campaign. Every goofy antic, every fight, every rage, every time I grapple/shoved something. Skog took on a life of his own. He leaned hard into bugbear culture, accumulating a collection of his enemy’s remains to keep watch while he slept (yes, that’s a canon thing for bugbears). He was out for… something, it never really came up.
In my head, Skog had been blessed by the Frostmaiden at birth (that was his dark secret) and cast out of bugbear society because people thought it was weird that he could go out in the snow without warm clothes and they didn’t take kindly to this Frostmaiden nonsense. So Skog set out to meet the Frostmaiden and either ask her to remove the blessing or to take her head as a trophy to prove that he didn’t sign up for any of this and he would like to go back to the traditional bugbear lifestyle, please.
None of that ever really came up, though. We play a light-hearted “beer and pretzels” sort of game played in 2-hour sessions, so deep character development generally doesn’t happen. My current group is all dads with busy lives and we carve out a couple hours to fight monsters and throw dice, and it’s a great time without exception.
Skog built a reputation for tanking literally every bit of damage that could be found, and for grapple/shoving every creature small enough to get his hands on. One time I grappled a demon which dealt damage to anything grappling it. It didn’t stop me. One time we encountered an ancient dragon far too big for me to grapple, so I climbed on its back instead. There was no challenge that Skog wouldn’t meet with a positive attitude and also violence.
When the fighting was done, Skog made sausage and only sausage. Between the Chef feat’s temporary hit point snacks, Rage’s damage resistances, and our bard frequently casting Heroism, Skog was almost never below half hit points. He was basically unstoppable.
Which, naturally, led to overconfidence. And if you read the title, I think you can see where this is going.
Baby’s First TPK
We eventually made our way to the Frostmaiden’s fortress. We encountered her at the top of her tower, and almost immediately resorted to violence. We did try to talk to her very briefly, but she gave us something along the lines “Look, we both know how this is going to go.”
Form 1 went down in basically one round, because of course we did. She teleported and fled to the roof to escape on her pet roc. We chased her, because of course we did. On the roof there was the aforementioned roc, some ice mephits, and the Frostmaiden, still not in great condition. There was fire breath and meteors and flaming punches and smack talk.
At some point, the roc grappled me and lifted me into the air. I managed to fall 180 feet onto the Frostmaiden, outright killing her second form, which may have been the highlight of Skog’s entire life. How often do you get to plummet 180 feet
through an announcers table onto a deity, crushing them to death, but still surviving? Not often, I imagine, but maybe you’re cooler than me.
Well, “surviving” is generous. I was temporarily suffering form vulnerability to cold due to some misguided vandalism of the Frostmaiden’s favorite ice sculpture garden. Form 3 has this really annoying ice damage aura that triggers multiple times per round for automatic damage with no save. That dropped me to 0, and things basically collapsed from there.
Our monk went down next, followed by our sorcerer. Our bard tried to prop us up with Healing Word, but the Frostmaiden’s damage aura did more damage than our bar could heal, so it just delayed the inevitable by a few turns. The roc eventually made its way back to the rooftop and summarily ate the bard.
This was a lot of firsts for me. My first single-class barbarian. My first time killing a deity in DnD (second, too, if we’re counting each form). My first time making death saves (yes, really; I usually either win, retreat, or go straight to dead). My first TPK, which is surprising considering I’ve been player DnD for more than two decades now. Usually the last person in the party manages to escape.
Skog died as he lived: leaning into a dangerous idea with reckless enthusiasm, claws out, teeth bared, and screaming. He will be missed, but he will not be forgotten.
He is survived by a subset of his friends: three kobolds in a trenchcoat, the bartender at the Ramshackle who we named after an amusing autocorrect mishap, and a mummy who the party adopted as a waitstaff for their bar but whose name none of us remember (we took to calling him Woodhouse). Tragically, the rest of his party also perished in what Tyler will forever remember as “the time we elbow dropped a god”.
By almost complete coincidence, we connected with the fine folks at HeroForge (affiliate link) around the time that this all happened, and I decided I finally had a character who needed to be immortalized in high-quality color plastic.
Skog will live forever on my game shelf and in my heart.