Almost a week ago during my Tuesday night game at the FLGS, I randomly decided my character was afraid of heights. Of course, this was decided just as we entered a room with a giant gaping hole in the floor. There was a rickety board spanning across this void and along the walls were enough of a ledge to try to traverse around the hole. One side looked as if it was damaged and had black soot staining it so one of our party attempted to go along the side that appeared relatively undamaged.
As luck would have it, the section he was crossing gave way whilst near the middle of the pitfall. While the entire wall started to collapse inward, he successfully managed to leap off the debris and miraculously land on the single board in the middle of the room. While all of this was happening, my mage continued to bite his nails as he observed the rest of the party cross the void. When it came to me to cross the board, I gained enough courage to step out onto the board and suddenly froze up. Terrified with fear Zoltar wouldn't budge one step further. His friend came back to carry him across but was immediately stricken by a scrawny mage who was freaking out.
The party had to regroup and come up with a new plan. Our party is blessed with two individuals capable of illusory magic and they came up with the idea of projecting an image of a 5 foot wide platform for which Zoltar could cross without fear. They would leap frog so to speak. One would project a 5 by 5 image then the other would follow up in the same manner. All the while, there is a black line on the floor for the mage to follow.
I justified Zoltar crossing the expanse because he believed the magic to be real and a 5 foot wide path would have been wide enough so that if he fell, he wouldn't have any fear of falling in to the pit. This scenario took about 15 to 20 minutes to play out but this morning on my drive into work I couldn't help but wonder what the DM was thinking at that moment and I started to wonder if I would have handled it any differently. The DM was my friend Stuart Helm and I think he handled it the same way I would have.
I knew he was antsy to get the game moving along when the players initially entered the room because we were taking too long by talking about how to get to the other side or if we even needed to, or wanted to for that matter. We had the option of going back outside the building and coming back in through another entrance. During this conversation is when I noticed Stuart trying to hurry us along and I came up with the fear of heights. I'm sure some of you would say that's just a dick move but I was curious how everyone at the table would handle this situation.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised because the other players went right along with entertaining my characters flaws and Stuart took a step back to let this play out. I think some less experienced DM's would have tried to say some BS like its DM fiat and we're moving on. I think I would have done the same thing as Stuart and I probably would have forced the other players to figure it out if they didn't want to go along with the fear of heights dilemma.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this as well. What would you have done in this situation? At the time I almost felt as if I was derailing Stuart's game progression but now I feel more like it was an interesting and fun problem that you don't see come up in games very often, especially D&D. Usually we're focused on the heroic and extraordinary acts we can accomplish in a game of fantasy. Why don't we see more irrational human fears in our games?
Stuart, if you're reading this, what do you think or what were you thinking when this happened?