The topic for this month’s RPG Blog Carnival is curses and cursed items. The carnival this month is being hosted by Johnn Four at Role Playing Tips. When I read the topic, I immediately knew I had to share the story of my first character as a new player in a new gaming group and his glorious (or more likely ignoble) death due to a cursed item.
The year was 1988, I was a junior in high school, and had just been invited to join a regular gaming group that met each Saturday. They were playing a home-brewed version of RuneQuest, 3rd ed., a system I’d never played before but quickly fell in love with. The GM was an older gentleman (late 30′s at the time, that’s old when you’re in high school) who ran the game at his home and who had been developing the world and running games in it since he was in junior high (and for those keeping score, that was before D&D came out). But that doesn’t really have anything to do with the story.
Since I was a new player and had never played this system before, my first character was a simple fighter. Sword, shield, armor, and bash things over the head. It was a good way to get started and figure out some of the game mechanics. I joined in just as the group was launching their final assault on some ruin or other. I don’t even remember what it was. Over the course of three sessions, battles ensued, the bad guys were vanquished, and we retired back to the inn that was our base of operations at the moment with the loot and other fruits of our labors. Among which were 63 magical rings.
The wizards in the group were able to identify many of the rings, some of which were useful but most of which would be considered cursed in that they did things that as PC’s we didn’t what happening. Some of the rings were things they had seen before and some contained enchantments that they could identify the nature of and make a good guess as to what it did. However, there were about a dozen of the rings that had everyone stumped and they all seemed to be the same thing.
We could determine that the rings drew a little power from the wearer, and that they used come sort of communication spell, but beyond that their exact purpose was unknown. So like all good adventurers, we decided to try one on. After all, among the loot were half a dozen “remove curse” spell scrolls. (They were actually a spell called “Cancel Arcane” that simply short circuits and destroys whatever magical effect they are cast on but it’s the same effect. Remember this is a home-brew system with a home-brewed magic system.)
I should also point out here that in this world there are three different genetic types for humans. The first is just your normal run of the mill human. Standard in every way and could use the standard magic systems from RuneQuest. The second was a genetic strain that was predisposed to the use of magic that could use the more advanced home-brewed magic systems. The third was a genetic strain that has had the ability to use any type of magic (besides divine) bred out of them (long backstory related to the history of the game world there) and had a somewhat higher resistance to magical effects. In the post Harry Potter world, we call them muggles. My character was of this third variety.
So naturally, I figured I’d try the ring on. I’m resistant to magical effects and if I had to do something to actually activate it, it wouldn’t happen since I can’t. I’ll admit that I wasn’t too attached to this character. It was my first character in the game system and I’m partial to playing wizards anyway so I was willing to take a few risks that I normally wouldn’t. Which was a good thing as we’ll soon see.
The wizards are all staring at me intently (using their Sense Aura skill to watch for magical effects) and I slip on the ring. Nothing happens. Well, it looks like a non-magical person like myself can’t use it or activate it. So I try to take the ring off. Nope. I can’t remove it. There is still nothing happening so they don’t want to use one of the scrolls just yet (they were pretty powerful and were the “nuclear” option). One of the wizards knew the Cancel Arcane spell and tried casting it on the ring but it must not have been powerful enough because nothing happened and I still couldn’t remove the ring.
It’s been about a minute of game time since I put the ring on and it suddenly gets a bit more crowded in the private conference room we were meeting in as two battle demons materialized in the room right next to me. Well at least we now seem to know what the ring does (Summoning is a communication spell).
Needless to say things got a little crazy. I dived out of the way and made for my sword and shield in the corner of the room while the battle demons engaged two other members of the group. After grabbing my weapons, I actually had the presence of mind to remember that I was still wearing the ring. Thinking that it might give me some control over the things it had just summoned, I tried commanding them to stop attacking. It didn’t work. I didn’t speak battle demon and they didn’t seem to speak my language so there was no response other than one of them turned to attack me.
I missed my first attack but managed to parry the creature’s attack with my shield. The next round saw me landing a solid blow and discovering a nasty characteristic of these beasties. Their blood is an acid and my favorite broadsword was starting to dissolve in my hand. My next blow was a lucky strike (a critical hit) that kills the creature I was fighting but my sword broke in the process. And guess what, it’s been another minute and two more appear, again right next to me.
About this time I’m thinking it would be good for one of those remove curse scrolls but the wizards are being a little hard pressed by the battle demons and are in no condition to work on that right now. I grab my backup weapon, a long sword, and wade in. At this point someone realizes that any magically enhanced blade seems to be immune to the acid effect. Those with spells that can do that are frantically enchanting everyone’s weapons while those of us who can’t are fending of the creatures. Which is good because our weapon supply was rapidly diminishing.
The battle raged on for a couple more minutes. At some point I found myself up on the conference table in the center of the room laying into any demon I can reach. Plus it put the newly arriving ones up where they could be targeted by the wizards. I had killed four of the creatures and wounded a fifth when one of them landed a fatal blow, crushing my skull. There were only two more of the creatures left at this point (in all 8 battle demons were summoned) and no new creatures appeared. Killing the wearer of the ring successfully stops the enchantment from working. And they never did have to use one of those scrolls.
The rest of the group finished off the remaining creatures but there was nothing they could do for my poor character. At least he got to go out in a blaze of glory, even if the need was self inflicted. The clean up was quite extensive and a good chunk of our coin went to the owner of the inn for repairs (One of the wizards was quite liberal in his use of the flare spell – think mini fireball – not to mention all the acid blood over everything.)
In the end, they stowed those ring away but didn’t destroy them. You never know when it might be useful to summon an army of battle demons into a fight, especially if you can find a way to control them or at least direct them against your enemy.
So that’s how my first ever RuneQuest character died, after just three and a half sessions, killed by creatures he summoned by putting on a cursed ring. Do you have a good cursed items or story related to one? Join in with this month’s blog carnival and share your experiences.
Categorised as: RPG Blog Carnival