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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Dusty Tome of D&D Stories: Chapter Seven

G is for GENIE.. in Al Qadim... scroll down
We played Dungeon Crawl Classics again last night. The details are here. The thing that stuck out to me the most is that once again, the female players are the dirty ones. The heroes killed some pirates, but subdued the female ones. The female players wanted to "keep" the lady pirates for.. well.. who knows what.

But these are pirates and they were not amenable, until a charm person spell was cast. The charmed one proceeded to fawn over the caster, but insult the rest of the party until finally she was shoved over the side of a bridge to her doom.

We had to stop the session for the night right at the climax of the adventure. Two heroes are in a pool of water with the titular black pearl. Also in the water are 25 vipers! We rolled initiative. The guy with the pearl gos after the 25 snakes, who are all going to attack him. Yikes....

Let us travel back to the early 90's for more thrilling stories of campaigns long past...

I don't think I can ever adequately express my fondness for the Al Qadim setting. Most people seem interested in it, but few actually have tried it. I guess Arabian adventures are just not a popular concept in comparison to other stuff out there.

Our group played RPGs every weekend, Friday to Sunday (sleepovers at my friend's house, who basically had an apartment to himself as his mom traveled for weeks at a time). And for a very long time, my friend DMed everything. He was a fantastic Dungeon Master.

But that's not enough D&D, right? I started running weekday games for one or two players. My Al Qadim solo campaign lasted for approximately 118 adventures over the course of about 3 years of real life time

The Suicidal Badger

One character was a Sha'ir - a spellcaster who could control genies and use genie magic. He had a little blue woman who could go to the elemental planes to steal spells for him. He was in love with her. She was in love with the other PC. The other PC's sister was in love with the Sha'ir.

And lo, shall there be drama! The Sha'ir was played by Quiet Guy, who you may recall sometimes fell in love with NPCs in real life.  I had to have one player leave the room while the other schemed to romance the NPCs. It was pretty fun.

One day, Quiet Guy gave me two sheets of paper. They were written in character. His Sha'ir had written a suicide note. He informed me that his character planned to kill himself in the next session.

I still have this note. Here is a quote:

"I feel this is a quiet moment of sanity passing and wish to end it all. I will lead this ugly body, which has died twice over, to the place I last saw you and to the place of my greatest happiness, grief, and madness. "
That session was quite unique. I don't remember how, but the Sha'ir turned himself into a badger and tried to kill himself by swallowing his tongue while the other PC tried to save him. We had a 5 minute argument about whether you could even actually swallow your tongue. And, you know, whether a badger could do it.

I eventually declared that the bottom line was that if his character wanted to kill himself, he'd find a way to do it. The suicidal badger was laid to rest. The little blue woman eventually grew into a genie and became part of the other PC's harem.

The Worst Opening to an Adventure Ever

An atrocity against players around the globe
I was also running a Ravenloft campaign. I picked up an adventure called From the Shadows. I immediately sensed a problem with the beginning of the adventure. It involved the Headless Horseman, who cuts off all the heads of the characters. It had to happen for the module to be run. Here's a quote:

"The horseman's sickle swings with dead speed and accuracy. He attacks each character at least once before riding on and being swallowed by the mists. If he fails to decapitate anyone on his first pass, he turns around and charges them again."

You can just imagine how this scenario must have went over with gaming groups all across the world. Any amount of playtesting would tell you that this will cause an incredible amount of resentment and resistance. You write an adventure where the PCs have to die? In the very beginning?! And you tell the DM to play it out as normal?!

I fortunately decided to flat out tell my players that this adventure started with something stupid and to just roll with it. They were still pretty incensed. You know players... they immediately went over their character sheets and came up with ways they could have avoided the situation or defeated the Horseman. As if they would have known what was in store!

It did lead to a cool situation, though. After the forced decapitation, the PCs come to in a room in a castle. The heroes' heads are separated from their bodies, and they can control their bodies and re-attach their heads.

As all of this went down, my players demanded to know the author's name. He was a fellow named Bruce Nesmith. From that day hence, any time something stupid happened in a published adventure that I ran, the players blamed one Mr. Bruce Nesmith.

1 comment:

C.D. Gallant-King said...

I've ever of Al-Qadim but in all my years playing I've never actually seen a copy of it. Not in a store, not on anyone's shelf. I though it might be an urban legend.

And the horseman adventure sounds stupidly awesome. Like an adventure I would write when I was 12 years old.