(One in a series about adventurers who were better off staying at home.)
Who was he? Laughing Skull was the last member of his barbarian tribe, the rest of his clan was wiped out by a gang of marauding slavers. Left with no connection to his homeland, Laughing Skull wandered off in search of adventure and excitement. And maybe some revenge. Alone in the woods, he came across a pissed off owlbear and prepared to battle it in the way of his people. It probably would have worked out pretty poorly for him if not for the group of adventurers who just so happened to be cutting through that section of the wilderness. Though strangers, they fought together and the mighty owlbear was slain! A trusty alliance was formed and Laughing Skull traveled with his new companions to the slaver stronghold city of Klausberg.
In a relatively short time Laughing Skull adopted to the ways of the city, changing his appearance and his name (to Dirge) and even his skill set (he took a level in Rogue). He was remaking himself as a new man with a new future. That future wound up being bleak and short.
What happened? The Leap Attack/Power Attack combo is truly one of the most fearsome moves in the toolbox of the martial combatant. Unfortunately for Laughing Skull he was on the receiving end of it, rather than the deliverer. While attempting to forcibly board a ship with his party, Laughing Skull was sliced in half by the fiendish orc slaver warlord Shabazz Spine-Splitter. Shabazz was taken out by his friends, but it was far too late for poor Laughing Skull.
Laughing Skull was a little banged up before getting into this combat, but even if he was at full hit points I’m not sure that it would have made a difference.
The bigger lesson here is that a decent battle plan is required before heading into a serious combat. Players can sort of coast through a lot of combat, but some fights require some advance planning from the PC’s to tilt the odds in their favor. This was one of those combats. Shabazz was painted as a pretty formidable warrior and they had been hearing about him for a couple of adventurers. (That’s DM code language for a tough battle.) The two sides in the combat were fairly closely matched, so it makes sense that there would be some casualties for each group.