Friday, 7 May 2010

Danger! Danger! There is treasure here!

In the past, I haven't ever bothered with placing much in the way of randomly-generated treasure in my adventures. I've generally been reasonably discriminating about what I let out into the wild, ever since an incident with a well-equipped (helpful) NPC who went down to a few lucky hits from a roper and immediately made the PC he was supposed to be supporting rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

As a result, I've achieved the reputation of being a mean, stingy GM who takes magic goodies away, but never gives anything good in return. That has turned out, through circumstance, to be kind of true, but in my own defence I note that several juicy hoards of goodies have been passed by completely unnoticed due to the feeble, cowardly behaviour of players who are too chicken to go into danger.You know who you are.

Lately though, I've resolved to run things a lot more by chance. I'm letting the dice decide what treasure is available to be scooped up, and though I can't quite bring myself to accept a +4 Godentag of Awesomeness just lying unguarded in the middle of a passageway, I am experimenting with a much freer hand with the gee-gaws. I use whichever treasure tables happen to be closest to hand when I'm plotting something out, whether they be from Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, LL Advanced Edition Companion, AD&D1e or AD&D2e.

I've noticed something that had never been an issue when I was carefully choosing precisely what to put where. There are a lot of cursed items in those lists.

Or maybe it's just that I've been rolling an unusual number of cursed items. Whichever the case, they seem to be coming out surprisingly regularly. On the one hand, that's kind of a pain, but on the other hand it might — not likely, but it might — start to teach my players not to rush in like a bull at a gate looking a gift horse in the mouth while throwing stones in glass houses (what?).

Last night a character got his hands on a nice, shiny magical helm. A Helm of Opposite Alignment, naturally. First chance he got, he put it on and went from being a Lawful Good wannabe paladin to a slavering Chaotic Evil psycho.

Now, I really don't like things that enforce radical character changes on players; it's very, very seldom that one encounters a player who will take it as a roleplaying challenge rather than as a vicious GM-enforced outrage to be resisted to the last breath. This particular player is one who is unusually resistant to that sort of thing; if anything happens to change his character without his expressed consent and intention, he's more likely to just abandon the character and start a new one than to try to find some in-game way of accommodating or ameliorating the change.

In this case though, I have some sympathy. If it was me, I'd try to find an in-game way to incorporate a missing leg, or a change in sex, or even a forced change in class. I wouldn't be happy, but I'd give it a go. But a radical alignment change is something else; it means that you have to change your whole atitude to life, the universe and everything.

It goes to the very heart of roleplaying gaming for me — I'm not an actor, and I'm not one who likes to use roleplaying to experiment with different psychological outlooks, and again, I'm not an actor. I like the pastime for its action and the problem-solving aspects (and of course for its socializing aspects), and I play as if it were me in that situation, though usually a me with much bigger muscles or a much bigger brain, and a much stronger stomach. As I've mentioned before, I really don't like playing Evil characters. My heart just isn't in it.

Anyway, in this particular situation a plan has been formulated to get the character back to his old self, hopefully with a reasonably low body-count and in a fairly timely fashion. Being the bastardly GM that I am, I fully intend to throw the occasional spanner in the works, but the plan is a pretty good one and unless things go horribly wrong, I expect it will bear fruit before the player becomes utterly disheartened and rolls up a new character.

As I mentioned earlier, I really dislike alignment-changing curses. But that doesn't mean that I won't use them if the dice tell me to... until I decide to end my aleatoric experimentation.