Today’s Monday muse is a trip down memory lane. Looking back over the years I can proudly say that I for the most part have always been a lucky person when it comes to roleplaying games. I know that there are plenty of gamers out there in the world that struggled to find players over the years. I also know many a gamer that turned to Game Mastering just because it increased their odds of finding a group. Thankfully with the wave of digital game fronts like Google Hangouts, Roll20, and Fantasy Ground the number of players with no one to play with has been greatly reduced.
As I had said it was a rare thing that I was ever without a group to play with. When I got out of the service I decided that I wanted to move back home. I longed to get back in touch with my school age friends and reconnect after having been gone for several years. What I had not expected when I returned to my tiny town was to find many of them had much like myself had moved out of the small town we grew up in. Having moved on to be closer to school or work as one often does when they begin to have to be an adult. This is where our story begins as I had to put the word out that I was looking for a group. Not as easy in the pre internet world let me I tell you. About two or three weeks later I had found a group and made arrangements to meet them at the farm house where they gamed at.
I was excited to play it had been several months since I had the chance at the joy of chucking dice with other lovers of the game. Just before I left to meet with this new group my telephone rang just as I was walking out the door. It was the group and they informed me that they had a change of plans. They had heard rumor I was a good Game Master from another of their friends and wanted to know if I instead would run a game when I got there. I agreed this sets the stage for what would become now known as the Doppelganger Event.
On the drive I told myself I wanted to knock this out of the park. If these guys had heard I could run a good game it was from my old local gaming friends I now had years of experience in several systems and styles under my belt I was going to wow them…Boy did I.
Since time was short I grabbed an excellent D&D module that I have run a few times over the years and a personal favorite. D&D Module A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity. It’s an excellent adventure that has encounters in many different environments I was confident it would help impress them.
When I arrived we stat down and talked for a bit and it became more and more apparent that I had been invited to sit with some pretty hard core players. I noticed the players character sheets had detailed logs of their previous adventures. As well some of them had “X” stamped on their sheets representing that they had died and had been brought back to life. These “X” were a house rule that if that character died again not even magic could bring them back from the dead.
After looking over their things and giving them an overview of the adventure I was going to run.
The marathon of dice chucking began and it was going well. As expected the rich encounter locations were a great backdrop to some excellent roleplay and combats. Maybe an hour went by till the parties resources were depleted and they needed to rest. They chose to sleep in the dungeon itself instead of backing out to a more safe location. So, I rolled turned to the Random Encounter tables to see if they would make it through the night undisturbed. If you are imagining that this is where it begins to go downhill you get the prize.
The group of five hunkered down for the night leaving one man on guard duty. A human fighter stood vigil over his companions while they slept he remained alert for trouble. From the darkness he heard soft sobbing someone was crying just beyond the firelight. For the life of me I have no idea why, but he chose not to wake anyone up. I smiled to myself as the stepped into the darkness and found a human in slave clothes huddled nearby in a corner.
I stood up from the table and asked the player to join me in the other room. The players looked dumbfounded…WHY are you guys leaving they asked? I told them that they were asleep and I wanted to be sure they would not play out of character with the news that he would learn. Once out of earshot I informed the Fighter to roll for initiative and I watched the blood drain from his face. He knew his mistake was likely about to cost him his life. It indeed did as the “slave” and his four companion Doppelgangers gained the initiative and made short work of the already wounded Player. I stepped back into the room and had everyone roll a very easy roll to see if they had heard the scuffle. My creativity was rewarded with a round of bad rolls as no one had woken up!
I returned to find that the player who looked saddened at his PC’s passing. He frowned and said “Man, we are like less than two hours into the game what am I going to do with the rest of the night I do not want to sit around and watch, how long till you could get me back into game if I reroll.??”
I simply smiled and told him “how would you feel about helping the GM out and you can get right back into game. Informing him that he could return to the table right now “IF” he returned to the party as the Doppelganger. With the goal of helping me through role play to draw the rest of the party away from the main group one by one so that the remaining Doppelgangers could assume their place.
He as more than eager to help me put my new plot into motion. I also warned him that if he were discovered as a Doppelganger and combat ensured he would be out until I could find a way to get him back in the game. Lastly I told him he could not “Cheat or Lie” in the sense that if he were asked things by suspicious party members that only his fallen character would have known. He would not be able to answer these questions and would have to beat around the bush or avoid the question entirely.
Over the course of the next 5 hours of game one by one each party member was lured away. Suspicion at the table rose higher each time I asked a player to join me in the other room. Demands begun to be made “What is going on in the other room? Why do they need their dice? Why do they all come back to the table smiling, what the hell are you guys doing in there?
The Wizard and the Cleric were the last two real players standing as the Dopplegangers knew they would not be able to duplicate their spells. Tension began to rise at the table as the two remaining were now sure something was up. The Dungeon had become a backdrop for suspicion and murder now.
This is where the night reached its climax, the last two players had formed an alliance and vowed until they returned to town they would not allow themselves to be separated from one and other. They stood their ground and confronted the players that were acting differently as to why they were acting the way they were. I cut in and stopped the table talk announcing
“ A voice from the darkness cuts through your discussion and informs you that your friends are acting differently because they are all dead” A doppelganger steps out of the shadows and walked through the center of your companions as they begin to shift slightly at his passing. You realize they are all doppelgangers. Roll initiative “
The fight was over before it started, it was just a few futile dice throws in a vain effort to try and find a way out before the last HP hit 0. The game was over. I asked everyone if they had a good time all my Doppelgangers were thrilled. The last two players said that it was a good game. But the guy that owned the house did not seem pleased. So, I asked him one more time are you sure you had a good time. He tore his sheet in half and said that his favorite character could not be raised because of their house rule and died because of a bullshit game he did not agree too. I told him that since it was my game that night maybe the should just forget their house rule for the night. His reply to my thought was plain and simple. He then promptly kicked me out of his house and game group. I have never seen any of them again.
There you guy and gals I hope you enjoyed this Monday Muse.