When I was sixteen or seventeen I started playing table top RPGs for the first time. A couple of my friends were into it and they invited me to play but I was hesitant. They seemed...too enthusiastic about it, a little over eager that I should join them, but as I discovered much later, passion is what really makes a geek a geek so I'm glad they got me hooked! I've been regularly sitting at the table rolling dice since then, going through homebrew systems, Dungeons and Dragons 3.0, 3.5, Dawnforged and now Pathfinder. I've done a little GURPs, some Firefly and briefly flirted with Monty Cook's Arcana Evolved system, but for the last three years probably it's been Pathfinder all the way.
Last night's game started off slowly; the previous session we'd been told we were going crab fishing (we're playing as sailors taken onboard a pirate ship against our will in the Skulls and Shackles adventure path) and my character had literally been thrown overboard when she questioned the first mate. No worries; she's an Undine druid and realized immediately that this was her chance for freedom. Armed with a dagger, some coin and her holy symbol, she struck out for the reef, intending to fulfill this last mission and get herself to land beyond the reef. The other members of the group soon followed with crab pots and some lively fishing ensued.
For a few rounds we snatched at crabs and then nearly a dozen horrible monstrosities appeared from a small cave on the reef and attacked. Everything went to hell in a handbasket; there were grapples, plenty of failed Swim checks and a couple of near drownings. The nearest was when our human bard, Mogar, having failed every single freakin' roll he'd done in battle up to that point, was unknowingly being rescued by Margrym, our thinks-he's-a-dwarf fighter. Mogar panicked, rolled a natural 20 (an automatic success), pushed his helper away, and swam on his own towards the surface. What. the. hell, dice gods!? We laughed until we damn near cried, but it was also soooo frustrating.
That wasn't the only natural 20 of the night. Oh no. It got better from there. After being saved herself from the clutches of a pair of reefclaws by Ryan's character Thurgar, my Undine made the surface for air (she's not a water breather despite her heritage) and spotted a pair of sharks headed for the party, drawn by the large amounts of blood in the water. She helped Thorgar dispatch the last reefclaw, informed him about the sharks, advised him to get back to the ship and took off in the opposite direction for the small island beyond the reef.
Then the real fun of the night began. Margrym the fighter is obsessed with sharks, ever since once took his leg. He thinks everything that comes from the ocean even remotely fish like is a shark. He saved Mogar from drowning then left him to go attack the shark. And he killed it in two hits thanks to a couple of natural 20s. It was amazing. After that, Thurgar cast Enlarge Person on Margrym because the other shark was coming in fast. Mogar, unfortunately, started drowning again because well, our dice hate him and he doesn't know when to let something slide and not roll. The other shark, this one absolutely enormous, swam up behind him and tried to eat him, but it missed. Mogar smacked it in the face with his fist, Dazing it into helplessness for a round thanks to a bardic trick. In about 4 rounds the giant shark was dead, there'd been four more natural 20s and over 115hp in damage dealt only to the shark. The only person it was able to hurt was Mogar, and it partially ate him. We're ok with that because Mogar was not a very helpful PC. Mogar's player is making a new character for next week, as am I.
It's nights like that, where you're on the edge of your seat and don't know what's going to happen next, if your character is going to live or die, when a challenge really feels like a challenge, that makes me love this game. After days of doing not a whole lot on the ship, scrubbing the decks and fixing the rigging, killing rats and trying to make allies, the reefclaws and then the shark attack was perfect.