[The DM] Will Rock You

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The party wanders into Thunderspire Labyrinth’s dilapidated House of Books in search of exciting new magical acquisitions. Sadly, DM Ben suddenly realizes he didn’t do a great job of stocking the shelves during his pre-game prep. Healing potions and an offer to fix a defeated Nentyar Hunter’s broken long bow are received with a bit of a thud. The players still want a bit more from the shop owner and unexpectedly bring the proper role playing to back up their demands. So, ol’ Ben improvises with a mysterious Lucky Rock magical item. What does it do? No idea. Let’s crack this conundrum together in another post game wrap-up article.

RPG Improvisation
Ben’s game group truly role played the living heck out of its recent city dweller re-stock encounter. So much so that the DM just had to reward them for their creative efforts. Of course, this spontaneity could be seen as a bit of a double edged (long) sword since Ben literally had no idea what he had just handed the party’s wizard.

This kind of DM improvisation can lead to a lot of new stuff for the players – everything from the exotic to the mundane. To avoid slowing down the game, these ill-gotten gains are merely written on one’s character sheet in real time. After the game, Ben makes the appropriate item card and attributes for future use.

And Scene
The group asks proprietor Valthrun the Wise, “Is that all you have?” The shop owner hastily replies, “Um, well of course not. I have this ah…this Lucky Rock.” The inquisitive party asks what it is. The quirky Valthrun retorts, “Well, it’s a rock…and it’s lucky.”

After a quick party arcane check to detect a fake, the group trades heavily for it. One of our players demands to know what it does. Ben explains that its mysterious properties will ultimately have to be learned (as he says to himself, “I have no flipping idea what this bloody thing does.”)

The group hasn’t really had any learn-as-you-go items to this point and those can be darn fun. So now is as good a time as ever to introduce one.

Fortune Cookies
Stuffer Shack had a great line in one of their articles, “Not all fortune is favorable.” Amen. After all, that nutbar Valthrun never said it was a GOOD luck rock. One character’s luck can certainly be another player’s misfortune.

Let’s do brainstorm an example: The holder of the Lucky Rock, Bookman the Wizard, casts Ray of Frost against a hoard of advancing goblins. Without warning, not one but two bolts of cold spring from his staff (as he suddenly gets two attacks). Next goes the Ranger. He inexplicably fumbles as he attempts to notch an arrow (so no attack is granted). See where we’re going here? We’re evening out the universe in our own little way.

Table Setting
To keep the characters guessing, the DM decides to craft a fun, randomized table. Once per session, he will roll to determine the effect of the Lucky Rock. Then at the start of an encounter of his choosing (most likely a combat one), the DM will apply the appropriate result in a pre-determined round.

So using a d12 die, first determine the stroke of luck:

1-2 | Your Fortune: Get an extra attack | Other’s Misfortune: Lose an attack
3-4 | Your Fortune: Gain 1d10 in damage | Other’s Misfortune: Lose 1d10 in damage
5-6 | Your Fortune: Re-use an encounter pwr | Other’s Misfortune: Lose an enc pwr
7-8 | Your Fortune: Gain another full movement | Other’s Misfortune: Become slowed
9-10 | Your Fortune: Gain a healing surge | Other’s Misfortune: Lose a healing surge
11-12 | Your Fortune: Gain 1d4+1 to hit | Other’s Misfortune: Lose 1d4+1 to hit

And certainly you can expand this table as you think of new good/bad combos…or the party might even role play a few additions on their own.

Fun Twist: The holder slowly starts to realize some stickiness to the rock. That’s because extended use will permanently bond it to one’s hand. Example: “After a remarkable turn of luck, you notice a little perspiration on the rock as a bit of tacky residue now resides on its surface.”

Rock Rules
The Lucky Rock is not necessarily bound to the one who originally acquired it. Anyone can receive its fortune.

The DM should keep his own copy of this item card with the result table so it can be easily referenced as needed.

Always roll randomly to determine what party member receives the misfortune. We have six party members so Ben rolls one of his oversized d6s from Gen Con. Our results table makes most sense in a combat encounter. Roll a d4 determine what round the effect will occur in.

Sample Taste
Now that we’ve thought it all through, let’s demonstrate a possible scenario.

Bookman just can’t get enough of that Lucky Rock. He studies and creepily caresses it rather often. The inquisitive wizard tries to evoke a response from it whenever he can.

Following a wild horse chase, the party is now in full combat as it fights for its life. The Lucky Rock effect will be weapon damage (the DM rolled a “4” on a d12). The fortune/misfortune will occur in the second round (the DM rolled a “2” on his d4).

Combat has begun. Bookman fires a magic missile at the Gooly-Wog. There’s a subtle vibration from the rock. He does an extra 6 damage (rolled a “6” on a d10). Next goes the Ranger. He fires an arrow squarely into the Gooly-Wog’s chest. Oddly enough it does 10 less damage (rolled a “10” on a d10) despite a clean hit.

The DM slips a quick note to each affected player explaining the odd turn of events…puzzled looks commence.

Questions to Ponder: Have you ever used a similar Lucky Rock (or other learned effect item) in your own RPG campaign? What type of effects did you use? Got any suggestions for Ben’s effects table? How do you handle magic purchases in your game?

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