Thursday, August 29, 2013

Utter insanity

So somehow my players decided to fight the forces of the Sin Tutor, who held the ground level of the Tower of Violets.  Somehow they learned that the entrance to the basement was behind a barricade held by a crowd of crow-skulled students with crossbows, so they froze caltrops into the floor, burned down the door, froze a bunch of the students with a frozen egg from one of the 10,000 Gods of Wind, and started fighting them in the lecture room of the Sin Tutor.

Out comes the Sin Tutor, who puts his hand to the blood red cube gently rotating five feet above the ground in front of the chalkboard covered in vile equations, integrals of lunacy, logarithmic notations on the functions of sin.  The cube bulges from the inside, splits, and onto the floor bloody wet and hungry slips out the Dividing Demon . . .

We had to pause at midnight after four hours of combat.  Here's what I remember:

The crow-skull children are all dead and so is the Sin Tutor.  Three of them are frozen solid.
Nick and Thomson, you've fused together and you're trying to kill one half of the Dividing Demon, which is trying to flee because the number of entities in the room is now odd
Thomson your left half is fused to the other half of the Dividing Demon
Nick's other half is fighting it
Shayne, you're at one hitpoint and a giant house centipede is attacking you, since you killed the other one
The Paladin of Namtar's magical sword is heated and on the floor, but he still seems invulnerable to all attacks
The thief is blind and invisible, and around here somewhere probably
The Ladywolf Deb has put her two sides back together

Here's why I like this (along with an indirect review of Vornheim):

I could not have foreseen this happening.  I statted up the monsters and placed them in the rooms, but none of us could have known the game would end up like this.  I didn't know who would be attending, or exactly what their powers were.  I didn't know that they would find the wind god's egg, or try to fight the crow-skull guys and the Sin Tutor.  I didn't know I was going to finally roll a 1 on the d6 random encounters roll, and that the paladin, thief, and wizard from upstairs would be the result, and that on my 'What Are Those Wandering Monsters Up To?" table the result I'd get would be, 'Just passing through on the way to somewhere else.'  All of these unpredictable and semi-simulatory results ended up with Nick and Thomson merged together and worrying about how they'd split apart if and when the demon is slain.

The Dividing Demon is a creation from Zak's Vornheim.  One of the reasons this book continues to pay and pay even two years after buying it is that it's stuffed with creatures, abilities, and ideas that are able to fill entire sessions with absolute insanity.  There aren't any rules to cover what happens when two guys are split apart and then try to fuse together.  A single short stat-block on page 28 detailing a strange and specific ability ("Attack: 2 claws (d8hp) or. . . Demon's body splits in half . . . the demon may . . . touch a target and thereby similarly split a foe") created a complicated and tense combat that forced us to track for instance whose side was doing which, and try to figure out what would happen if two right sides merged.  Luckily we didn't have to.

This is what I like from an RPG book, by the way: ideas that can be used to create murky, weird, unpredictable, self-generating situations.  Every time I read a manual that includes magic items like, 'Flaming Sword - sword wreathes itself in flame that doesn't damage the user and causes 1d6 extra damage,' I roll my eyes.  I didn't find that interesting when I was twelve.  Everybody, please continue to write ideas that lead to situations like the above.  Thank you.


To promote unstable situations, here's my unstable situations table.

For fires, unruly mobs, storms at sea, floods, unchained spells, monarchs’ moods, the movements of skeleton armies, epidemics, and angry animals – basically, anything that is chaotic and has the possibility of getting out of control or dying down.

Roll dice for each time period (say, each round for a fire; each week for a plague; each month for a war), modified by strength of previous situation (if on the last round you roll 'Flames +3', then this round you add +3 to the 3d6 roll), and extenuating circumstances

Results should be interpreted poetically.

3d6 + previous round's modifier

2 Dies
3 Calms -1
4 Calms -1
5 Calms -1
6 Burns +1
7 Burns +1
8 Burns +1
9 Burns +1
10 Increases +1
11 Increases +1
12 Increases +1
13 Increases +1
14 Spreads +2
15 Spreads +2
16 Flames +3
17 Flames +3
18 Explodes +4

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