Friday, 29 August 2014

#rpgaday Day 29 – Most Memorable Encounter – Advanced D&D Blue Devil


The most memorable encounter I ever had in a game was not one that I was playing in, it was one that I was the GM of.  Back in the mid 2000’s I was running an AD&D campaign that had been going a few years, the players had had chance to get around the world for a while and they’d been recently hired on to provide caravan support for a merchant running goods into an area where other caravans had gone missing in recent times.

In this particular group, there was a reasonably amount of conflicting personalities, didn’t help that at least two of the group were going out with each other and that everyone else had their own issues, but of conflict is made great drama, so there they were, inspecting the things that were being transported by the caravan when they came across something unexpected.

A long limbed blue skinned creature that would never be found in an AD&D monster manual, the eyes were those of an intelligent creature, but it had the poise and attitude of an animal. The lock had been scratched in various places, and on the ground, as one of them approached, it scratched in the ground.

“One of Us...”

It covered the markings up before anyone else could see what was going on, but it was clear that what they had here was an intelligent creature that had been caught up against its will.  It made the same markings every time one of the characters came past, being careful to cover things up before anyone else could see them.  The master of the caravan pointed out that the creature had killed a number of people before it had been brought down, and that when it was finally caught, it came quietly, just laying down and waiting to be chained.  It escaped three times as the caravan moved on through its drops, each time being recaptured within a short while, each time not giving any resistance as it was put in a better cage.  The last two cages had been magically sealed but it had still found a way to break out of them.

The interesting thing for me was that the person who had the strongest reaction was the Mage, and a little background story is needed here to put this in context.

The mage had a name, I forget it now, because no one ever used it, his name to all of us was...

Excellent...

And we called him that because a truly excellent mage will stand in the front line of any conflict, he will use all the powers at his disposal to make sure that his colleagues are protected and safe, an excellent mage will stand for the right and true cause every time...

And that explains the difference between a truly excellent mage and this one...

Excellent the Mage was in it for himself, he didn’t give a damn about anyone else, he’d sell everyone out given the choice and make sure that none of them knew that he’d sold them out, something he’d done before, something he’d certainly do again.  The thief used to look at him as the example of what happened to people who fell too far from grace...

So what happened next could be considered out of character for him...

Excellent decided to go freeing Slaves, the rest of the group were divided in their opinion of what they were doing, some of them figured that it was a in a cage for a reason, some of them figured that nothing intelligent should be in a cage.  In the end, Excellent went wandering in the night and let it loose...

So off it went, there to vanish into the night, leaving no traces behind as to where it had gone.  The reports of a village being attacked came back within a day and the characters were asked by the caravan owner to go out after the creature and bring it back.  Not a slow creature and not one to let itself be caught when it didn’t want to be, it fled to the high passes where the rocky ground would cover its tracks more efficiently than any amount of intelligence.

But the players played well, for once all of them working as a team rather than following their own disparate goals, they hunted it down and got close, wounding it and bringing it to a halt where it crawled into a cave at the far end of a valley to wait for them.  At the entrance to the cave, it had again scratched “One of us...” into the ground.

It was at this point that the ranger realised that they weren’t alone anymore...

Not a few, but dozens of the creatures were lining the top of the valley and looking down towards the cave.  One of them came down the hill with hand raised, pausing before the cave and scratching the word “Not” before the other words.

It was then that everyone realised what had been breaking the creature out, the only problem that its own people had was that it knew they would kill it, so when it knew that they were getting too close, it let itself be captured, as the creatures would not risk getting themselves noticed by the rest of the world.

What made this the most memorable encounter for me was the level of involvement the players put in to it, they were focussed on what this thing was and what it was doing, they wanted, needed to bring it down, and for those five hours that they were chasing it, everyone, myself included, was completely in the game.

I can’t claim the creative grounds for the creature, and a little more background is called for at this point, I read a short story some years previously.  It was called ‘Killer’ and it ranks as the single most interesting short story to this day that I’ve ever read.  It was about a creature, looking remarkably like the thing the players had found in the cage, and the hunter that went to hunt it down, not realising what it was that they were chasing down.  All I did for that session was recreate that particular encounter.

I enjoyed that session most of almost any game that I’ve ever run, not because of the level of involvement I had, but because of the lack of involvement I had, it was like watching a film unfold before my eyes, and I liked it so much, that in the end, one of the creatures in my upcoming game was designed around the blue creature and pictured at the top of this page and at least one of the scenarios that will be put forwards for the game will be that scenario, in the hopes that others can get something of the experience of that Saturday so long ago.

Sessions like that don’t come often, but when they do, you remember the events, you remember what people were wearing when they turned up, they become amongst the most memorable times that you have, because your characters were doing what they were supposed to be doing...


And isn’t that what games are all about...?

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