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Any examples for this must be taken from published Dungeons & Dragons material, not your personal experiences in a game.
- The kids are trapped in their own minds and facing their fears. Sheila's biggest fear is being completely alone. Seeing her curl up in a Troubled Fetal Position and about to cross the Despair Event Horizon is heartbreaking.
The Treasure Of Tardos
- The moment where we find out that Dungeon Master is Venger's dad and is still depressed over losing him is surprisingly effective.
The Last Illusion
The Dragon's Graveyard
- Dungeon Master's response to the kids' rage: calm, quiet... defeated. Even without knowing his relationship to Venger, when he says "Is that all? May I go now?" you know he's lost all hope.
- It's heartbreaking to see the kids themselves, frustrated to the point where they're angry at Dungeon Master, willing to cross a line against Venger. Bobby is just a ten-year-old kid, trapped on an alien world forced to battle monsters, and he breaks down crying because he just wants to go home and see his parents again.
Child Of The Stargazer
- Diana and Kosar. Just as sad as Presto and Varla... and worse, because they don't get their happy ending. Even the Dungeon Master is sad at that.
- The Running the Realms book included with the AD&D Forgotten Realms box set had an introduction from Ed Greenwood, in which he shared some of his experiences with the setting. One in particular stands out:A young lady whose name I never knew at GEN CON® Game Fair IX, announcing that her low-level paladin would try to rescue someone from 46 orcs—an attack that meant her character's certain death. Tears gleamed in her eyes as she said quietly, "My duty is clear. Farewell, my friends—it's good to have shared such glorious adventures with you."
- A sad little story from the old 3rd Edition Manual of the Planes book. In the Region of Dreams is a permanent Dreamscape called Anavaree, consisting of a playground atop a hill within a beautiful meadow. Its inhabitants are Ana, a little girl who is always playing, and Grumpy, an enormous bronze dragon who normally sleeps encircling the hill, unless something should threaten Ana. In truth, Ana is the dream self of a grown woman, the sole survivor of a colony ship that crashed on some desolate world, and while her stasis pod is keeping her alive, she suffered brain damage and mentally regressed to childhood. She is wholly ignorant of the situation and has been happily playing in her dreamscape for years. The dragon knows the truth, but what exactly is he going to do about it?
- The Duergar are sociopathic slavers, but when you figure out how they got that way you can't help but feel some sympathy for them. The duergar were originally a dwarven clan who started obsessing over digging deeper. The obsession gripped every member of the clan, to the point where they abandoned their temples and left the exhausted to die. The clan's stronghold was built atop a mind flayer colony, who now used their psychich powers to force the duergar into subservience. After generations of suffering and torment at the illithids' hands, Laduguer finally freed his people and led them to the surface... Where they found the dwarvish clans had turned their backs on them. The other dwarves had come to check on the Duergar stronghold, and found them empty. Worse, the temples to Moradin were abandoned. Moradin's priests had concluded that the Duergar had turned their backs on the god, and that their enslavement by the mind flayers was thus their own fault. Is there any wonder they hate Moradin?