Thursday, August 4, 2016

RPGaDay 2016 #4 Proudest Moment of Someone Else's Character

On this blog, I think I've mentioned what I think of Kris Newton as a GM and as a podcaster. What you haven't heard are his exploits as a player. While we were gaming together, we were the primary GMs, trading off whenever we needed a break. He ran a megadungeon in D&D 3.5, while I ran some shiny new system each time.

But my first story is from an era before we had that sort of rhythm. The girl who is now my wife ran a D&D session where Kris played a gnome paladin. One of the other player was a girl who always played the same sort of character. Whatever class or career or whatever it was that she chose, she was always better than you. Not that she was a great optimizer or anything. She just roleplayed every character with the same sort of haughty, snotty attitude.

This time she was an elven necromancer. Her snotty abrasiveness was getting in the way of everyone else's fun and threatening to derail the adventure. So Kris' gnome paladin decided to intervene. He purchased a love potion and put it into a bottle of wine. He then shared this bottle of wine with the necromancer.

At first, I think everyone there was a little shocked when he did this. He just more or less mind-controlled a fellow PC. But the more I thought about it, the more I saw it as a master stroke of roleplaying that specific character. It had the prankish nature of the gnome. It brought the group into stronger harmony, making it a lawful act. And he at least mitigated the evil aspect of the act by sharing the bottle and therefore the potion, making the love magic mutual. (The two players were also romantically involved as well, so it wasn't creepy gamer drama.)

My next story is from a good while later when we were a bit more established as a group. While Kris and I were the most frequent GMs for the group, another player occasionally ran one-shots, typically D&D modules. For one of these, Kris constructed a gnome wizard named The Mystery of Inky Strange. (It's like A Tribe Called Quest. You say the whole thing.)

What really made The Mystery of Inky Strange memorable even though he only appeared once was his use of the shrink object spell. He kept on his person a 10 foot by 10 foot cube of solid stone, shrunk down to the size of a die. Nobody knew this until he threw it and it landed full sized on some huge monster, crushing it to death.

The entire table was stunned and impressed. Including the guy who was running the game. There was some question regarding whether the stunt would work, but after a little discussion and page flipping, it was allowed to stand. Though the GM did say that it was the sort of trick that would only work once. But for a one shot game, that's all that was needed.

Before I make myself into too much of a Kris Newton fanboy, my final story is of a different player and a truly awesome heroic sacrifice.

The system was Cartoon Action Hour. The campaign was a mashup of my own devising. Centuries ago, psychics insects from Mars came to invade the techno-magical paradise of Atlantis. The Atlanteans and the Martians both lost. Atlantean civilization fell just as they crippled the Martian war machines (though no names were named and no public domain sources were harmed in the course of this campaign).

The campaign begins with the alien homeworld sending reinforcements as well as the greatest general in their history, whose mind was preserved in a psychic crystal and then given a crystal body in order to live again. The party was a ragtag bunch who came together when the bar they were patronizing blew up (one of my several attempts to redeem/justify the old "You all meet in a tavern" bit).

One of the characters was a Martian named Scout, because that was his role in his hive. When he reported to his queen that the homeworld was trying to restart the war, she told him to stop it by any means necessary. The economy of the hive was too intertwined with that of the local human towns. Killing and conquering the humans would be too disruptive to the hive and there's no guarantee that the long term trade- off would be worth it.

So they make it to the final confrontation with the great general himself. I gave the players a lot of leeway and freedom to describe how this whole thing goes down. So Scout hijacks a flying saucer and pilots it with his telekinesis. Rather than strafing the general with the ship's telekinetically powered force beams, Scout proceeds to crash the ship directly into the General himself.

The funny thing is this was actually the first character death I've ever had to deal with. I had been running games for quite some time before this, but whether I'm just too nice or don't calibrate my opposition well enough for my players, this was the first time that a character had actually died on my watch. But at the same time, this this was a clear player choice. I was running the session very loosely, so there was no rolling for damage or anything like that. I gave him the choice to bail out of the ship at the last second and he said no.

On the plus side, he did take the Big Bad of the campaign down with him. It was a sufficiently dramatic moment that I played The Touch in honor of his sacrifice.

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