Well...our party rogue died yesterday. Now we have a drow paladin and a barbarian who is also an evil outsider. I believe our party is irreparably split. Oh well...I want to see the paladin smite evil!
So in my current campaign that I'm running, I've pretty much turned it from a noble adventure to a lab experiment. I explicitly warned one of my players to find a sword but made sure I informed him multiple times not to touch the sword. First thing he does when he finds the sword, which was stuck in a pedastal at the bottom of a Lich's palace? He draws it. Just as I intended him to do. Now he and the party have to shift from trying to save the empire that they were in from an evil wizard to saving the world from an evil god who was imprisoned within the sword.
And it was all according to plan. *diabolical laughter ensues*
Oh the stories I could tell... and I have a few...
But one of my favorites unfolds something like this:
Back in the good ol' days, I used to play elvish spellcasters. A lot. Usually wizards, but sometimes priests. Just some sort of spell-slinger of some variety.
Now the reason why this story gets interesting lies in some of the details.
For starters, this story takes place in 2nd Edition, Player's Option. For those of you who don't know, that basically means that you can customize your character pretty nicely with racial traits, class traits, and whatnot as long as you have the character points to do so. You can give yourself flaws (like phobias, or other things) for more points or you can get yourself some bonuses or virtues if you spend said points to do so. The other thing about this story, that is hugely important, is that it takes place in the campaign setting of Planescape. A setting where almost anything can happen, where gods can die and heroes can do things that are near-divine.
Enter my half-orc battle-rager.
Now for some reason, and I cannot honestly say why, I decided that I wanted to do a half-orc. The guy I was running with (and not the DM, mind) decided he was going to make a wholly suped character who was well within the limits of what was legal and what could be done, but it was an utter shock to people who saw this character because anyone crossing him was surprised by how utterly disgusting my friend's character could be.
And then there was me.
As I have said, I decided that I was going to go completely against my grain and do a half-orc battle-rager. And instead of using swords or maces or polearms or nasty bits like that, I was going to basically go hand-to-hand. Like a monk, but using basically my character's hands and feet as his main weapons. This basically meant four attacks a round, with appropriate adjustments for each attack, but that he was pretty mean in his own right. As a half-orc, he had a wholly impressive strength which was magically augmented (with magical items) he could do some serious damage when he wanted to.
The DM of the game, for whatever reason, had a bone to pick and wanted to see who was going to pick up the slack. We had a paladin in the party who wanted to be the party leader, and my character simply just shrugged his shoulders. He was a strong, silent type who didn't care much for leaders, and he helped those who needed help but generally kept to himself. His alignment was Neutral Good (helps for the common good, for the greater good, but follows his own personal/ moral compass) and I was playing that pretty much. I didn't make enemies of anyone in the party, and I did my share to help out.
Anyways, I think the DM was thinking we had a party who was a bit too power-heavy and wanted to go about putting us in our place.
Now the other thing you have to know about my half-orc is that he belonged to a faction who deemed themselves the Madmen. Being a battle-rager, it made sense but there were flaws and virtues of belonging to this faction. As a case in point, one of the big flaws is that every day when my character would wake up I would have to make a sanity roll. On a natural one, my character would be depressed. I agreed with that, and it was in the rules, so fine. Virtue of the faction is that my character was immune to all sorts of mind-affecting spells that would have instilled madness, depression, or other such mood shifts. But, like I said, if I rolled a one on a d20 on any given day, my character would be depressed. He would be able to snap himself out of it, say midway through the day but generally was pretty glum. On the next day, I would have to roll another sanity check at -5. So anything lower than a 6 on a d20 would be bad news for me. This meant a deeper, darker depression whereby it would take a serious talking-to, and some serious hope or motivation to get my character to snap out of it. And on the third day, I would have to make a sanity check at a -10. Failure would result, basically, in catatonia. Fourth day is basically suicidal tendencies because the overwhelming bleakness of the universe crushing down on the spirit of anyone who belonged to this faction.
Anyways, it just so happened that on one of the days my character was adventuring, I did roll a 1 on a d20. So my character was depressed. He was sullen, didn't talk or fight much, and I would like to think I played him well. He wasn't apathetic but he wasn't hugely helpful either. The next day, I failed my next sanity check and was in a deeper depression. Now in the rules it does say that a character who is in this state needs a natural inspiration to snap them out of their depression. A party member who is being eaten by a monster is not enough to snap a character out of this mindset as the depressed character would likely just perceive it (and justify it) as a "meh, whatever" kind of mentality. And any magical attempts to snap the depression would immediately fail. So it would have to be something heart-felt.
Lucky for me, the fellow I was gaming with was playing the blood-brother to my half-orc. Funnily enough, he was an elf. But we had a huge backstory worked into our characters (he was a 5'3 swashbuckling type who had uber spell effects on him which made him charming and titan-like strong... and I was a 6'6 strong, silent half-orc who kept to himself and basically stayed in the shadows). It worked well.
Anyways, getting back to the story... my character failed his sanity check two days in a row. My character's "brother" snapped him out of his first depression by convincing him of fighting the good fight and that he was a valued member of the team and all that. DM made his roll and said that it snapped the stupor. Fine, for the rest of the day I was fine but was fighting at a -1 to attack and damage penalty (after-effects of the depression, so the DM said, and I said okay). Next day, I failed my sanity check again and the DM told me that I had to role-play a bleak and sullen character. One who was hugely withdrawn and that didn't feel like fighting or much of anything. I played that. Perfectly. And my character had a -5 to attack and damage rolls that day. My character's blood brother, after some serious charm and convincing (my friend had to come up with a 30 minute speech, on the spot... which he did... to get my character out of his depression), finally did. My character didn't fight that day, thank goodness, but he was still under a grey cloud.
Luckily for me, the next day, my character passed his sanity check and everything was basically back to honky dory.
Now here's where it gets interesting. As a psychology major in university, I asked the DM during one of our breaks if it made sense if my character could go manic. If he could wallow in the depths of depression, it would make sense that he might know the highs of mania as long as he wasn't snapped hard out of that state. The DM thought about it and told me that it made logical sense (I was doing my best to be persuasive as a player) and the DM told me that if I could roll three 20s on three different d20s for my character on any given day that my character would be manic. This would result in a natural haste-like spell effect for one fight (doubling my attacks for one fight, giving me a bonus to damage, and a hugely positive outlook on life). It would, however, absolutely exhaust me and that one wrong word by any one in the party and my character would snap and my character's mania (and said bonuses) would disappear. I agreed.
Everyone heard these conditions, but didn't say anything about them. And I did my best to keep under the radar, because that's basically the kind of player I am. I help when I need to help, and I give my two bits when I am asked. But generally, as my character was a strong, silent type ... well, I was role-playing that.
On one such day in the life of my character, I asked the DM if I could roll for mania. He handed me three d20s. I asked him to roll them first to make sure they weren't rigged or anything (gotta be fair, and all). And he did. They rolled fine. And then he asked me to roll. First roll... twenty. Second roll... twenty. Third roll... you guessed it! Twenty. So my character went around being all swell and almost atypical to his strong, silent usual self. But the party was glad to see my character being almost feisty and happy-go-lucky, so they went along with it. No one burst that bubble, and I again played that.
Now the DM was feeling a bit vindictive because some of the players were just killing everything that the DM could throw at them (particularly a godly-imbued paladin who proclaimed himself as leader of our party). And the DM was getting exasperated by it. Royally. So he decided he was going to make a custom-built monster. We didn't know all the details of it, except that it had a lot of hit points, could only be engaged one-on-one, always hit last in the combat round, and would regenerate all of its hit points at the end of each round unless all of its hit points could be taken out in one round. Basically, it would take a character who could deal some serious damage to this creature or it would be back at full health (and be unscathed) the next combat round.
So... the holy paladin of our party walks in against this creature, prays to his god, and does a good bit of damage. Did something ridiculous like over a hundred points of damage to it. The monster was bleeding and was noticeably hurt, but it wasn't dead. Once the paladin had expended all of his abilities, he was exhausted and the monster batted him away. And then it regenerated. All that damage was gone in the snap of a finger and the DM actually grinned. Next, the DM said. Enter our high-level mage who decides he would do what he could against this creature. The mage cast small magicks on himself which basically maximized the damage on his spells, and allowed him to cast something like six spells in his combat round.
Like I said previously, the setting was Planescape, so doing this kind of thing isn't unheard of, and the DM wanted to see what the party could do against this near deity-like monster he had created.
Anyways, the mage casts his spells and they go off. No spell failures or the like. And like the paladin's efforts before him, the spells tear into the creature. Mage ended up doing something horrendous like three hundred points of damage to the creature. The DM was going on about how the creature was bleeding profusely and had chunks missing out of it, but that somehow it was still alive. And then the creature swats the mage away and regenerates all of its hit points. And again, the DM cackles.
Now the party had just seen its most righteous warrior get squished, and its most powerful mage get swatted, so they were out for blood. Working together, they called on my character's blood-brother to help them and wanted to try to kill this creature. My character's blood brother was to be the one to fight the creature. And to no avail.
Now then, my character walks up. He sees his blood brother get smacked back, be badly hurt -- which, in my character's eyes, almost never happened -- and something in my character's mind just snaps. Like psychotic break snaps. I told the DM that this was the fight I was going to use my character's mania to its full effect. Just to be a bit "persuasive", he said that my character's mania is in question because my character had just seen his brother get beaten back when my character had likely had never seen that happen before. True, I thought, so I asked the DM what he wanted me to do. Roll three d20s to maintain my mania, the DM said. Grabbing three random d20s from different players, I proceeded to roll three natural twenties. Inwardly, I was sooo proud but I looked to the DM and he saw me roll them so he abided by his own decision.
So I went over my character sheet, and thought about how it would be best to handle this creature. My character looked over at the mage who was barely on his feet at this point and tells him to cast any and all buffing spells on my character. Then my character goes to the priest of our party and asks him to do the same thing. Then using my character's own perks and virtues, I stacked all the bonuses I could muster.
Truth be told, and my friend was there to help me count them all, by the time that I was done... I was doing 128 attacks that round. And I was rolling 256 d20s. I had major buffs put on me, and my character did what he was born to do. My friend, who was playing my character's "blood brother" asked what I needed to roll in order to hit the monster. Out of courtesy, the DM told him the necessary number and I was asking everyone (except the DM) for their d20 dice. I had four people witness my rolls so that they'd know I wasn't cheating.
By the end of it, my character did over a thousand points of damage (remember, it started with four attacks a round -- two hands, and two feet -- and then got buffed and doubled accordingly). I remembered role-playing that and having my character roar a gutteral roar and he just went into this creature. I described in great detail how vividly and passionately I was describing each successful hit, and I do remember how the DMs jaw just fell open when he realized that his pride-and-joy creation was a heaping pile of goo and viscera by the time by character was done with it.
Sufficed to say, the monster did not survive my character's assault and I told the DM afterwards that my character just collapsed on the gooey remains of the creature that had decimated our party until my character mopped it up.
The DM was naturally quite upset but everything that my character had done was either legal (spells and buffs) or previously agreed upon (by myself and the DM) so there was no room for wiggling out of it. I remember saying that my character was covered head-to-toe in parts unrecognizeable and that he was avenging the falling of his brother whom he had seen get hit and taken down by this creature (reminding the DM of the whole reason for the fury). And then, in character, I said that my character collapsed out of sheer fatigue. (Side note: my character woke up three hours later... *grins*).
After that incident, my character might have had a manic day or two once more, but the DM decided that he wasn't going to throw anything short of demi-gods at us if he wanted to "teach the party a lesson". I told the DM after that I was going to willingly retire the character because I knew the sheer damage I could do and that few things could stop my character.
I do remember, though, the player who played the paladin coming up to my character.. bowing his head shamefully, offering up his family's sword and telling my character that he would follow him to the pits of Hell if my character asked. My character just asked him to buy him a drink and to share the treasure found in the monster's lair evenly and equally among the party. The paladin was like... "really? that's all you want? just a drink and your fair share of the loot? after what you did?" and I just had my character nod and then walk away.
Strong, silent type indeed.
After that, my character was nominated to be party leader -- which he politely declined because it wasn't his thing -- and didn't want to take away from the paladin's duties as ambassador or whatnot. But everyone in the party knew, and the DM did too, that if I could get my character buffed properly that nothing short of a god could (or would) take down my character.
My battle-rager remains so very close to my heart, even to this day.