Greetings, Rolemaster aficionados! Welcome to the first installment in what will hopefully become a series of articles relaying the wonderful stories our Circle of Storytellers has garnered through their years of adventuring. This first collection features stories by James Kight, Tim Dugger, and Jason Yarnell.
By James Kight
Here's an AD&D story I will always cherish.
There was a role-playing group I was running a few years ago, and, by and large, we were fairly close-knit. However, the owner of the store we played in was always one to try to bend the rules to his advantage, no matter the situation. And like clockwork, he always played a Chaotic Neutral Halfling Thief. Within our stalwart group, we also had a Human Female Druid, a Human Male Fighter, a Human Male Cleric (NPC), an Elven Fighter/Mage, and a Half-Elven Mage.
After having recently thwarted the nefarious plans of the local bandits, our group happened upon a quiet Druid's grove. Our party's Druid informed us that the resident Druid was not present, but that this clearing was meant as a place for adventurers to rest and meditate—which they happily began to do.
One member of our party was unhappy with the turn of events and had decided to take his leave of the party and ride off to town. He mounted his horse and left.
Now, the Halfling Thief began to examine his booty, and came upon a small bag that he had found in the caves where the bandits had been hidden. He looked at the bag and asked me (since I was the GM) if he noticed anything in it. "Why, yes," I said, "when you gently shake the bag, you hear something rattling around inside."
"Aha!" he said, and opened the bag, peering in.
"The bag appears dark inside, and you cannot tell what lies within," I informed him. (Feel free to go look up the description of a Bag of Beans, if you want to. The story will wait until you return. Ready?)
"Hmmm," he pondered. "Well, I'll just dump the bag onto the ground, and see what I've got then," he said.
"Are you sure?" I asked, wanting to give him ample opportunity to reconsider his actions. He was notorious for using player-knowledge in the game, and I was sure he knew what a Bag of Beans was, and why it was certain doom to dump a Bag of Beans.
"Well how else am I supposed to see what I have?" he inquired.
I give him another opportunity. "Wouldn't it be easier to just reach in and pick something out?"
He was indignant. "And give you the chance to take a hand? I don't think so!" With that, he dumped the bag.
Now, as I pause for a moment from the story at hand, I think it might be prudent for me to mention that several members of this party (the Thief included) had been carrying multiple flasks containing explosive materials. The various "Molotov cocktails" and whatnot (Oil of Fiery Burning, Oil of Impact, etc.) were often used as grenades when dealing with a large group of humanoids (Orcs, Kobolds, Bugbears, and the like). Each member save the NPC had at least three vials. Just something to keep in mind as we continue the story.
As I was saying, he dumped the bag. I struggled mightily to contain my excitement. Years I had waited to provide this player a way out of the campaign in such a way as to send a message that we did not like his role-playing methods.... And here he was virtually handing me the executioner's axe. Cautiously, I checked for the exact number of beans: 3d4. I rolled a total of five beans. Drat. Each bean would explode for 5d4 points of damage, though, so I begged the gods above to bless this roll like no roll I had ever rolled before. Ever so gently, I rolled the dice. Tymora herself had blessed me. Out of a possible total of 100 points of explosive damage, the magic number of 72 had arisen, which as Lady Luck would have it was the exact number of hit points the Thief had at the time! I choked back my tears of joy—there was the matter of the saving-throw to adjudicate. He was, after all, a high-level Thief. Calmly, and without any fanfare, I asked him to roll a saving-throw.
"Against what?" he asked.
"Versus spells, please."
He rolled.... I think everyone at the table sensed that something monumental was about to occur. The die seemed to take forever to roll. He rolled a 1—a natural failure. Unconsciously, I think I almost wet myself. "Dave, please take 72 points of damage, and make your system-shock roll." (Any one hit of 50 points or more required such a roll.) Suddenly, he realized his grave error. Again, the dice failed him where hundreds of times before they had not. He botched the roll with a 99 (low was good). Then it hit me—the vials! "Dave, how many vials are you carrying?"
"Uh, I don't remember," he sheepishly squeaked.
"I believe it was three, if I'm not mistaken," I remembered for him. "Please make a saving-throw for those three vials, versus magical fire." One flask failed, the other two saved. However, since the first flask failed, it exploded (damage at this point was overkill), forcing the others to make yet another save. They both failed. This in turn set off a domino effect of vials exploding, one after another, in the party until virtually all of the vials had exploded. After the laughter died down around the table, I told everyone else in the group to begin making their saving-throws. It was ugly! After all the dice rolling was done, no one was left alive, and two of the poor adventurers, the Thief included, were completely disintegrated!
To the one member of the party left alive (the one who had ridden off earlier in the evening), I said, "You are suddenly thrown off of your horse by a deafening barrage of explosions that seems to never end. As you look back, you see a small mushroom cloud rising in the air, and the entire night sky is as bright as three suns. Trees have been flattened and the ground is burning. You feel your skin almost baking."
He stood up and resolutely stared into the rising cloud of death-fire... and began to laugh a deep laugh of justice.
Rumor had it that the Druidic Circle began a worldwide jihad against Halfling Thieves shortly afterwards. Even Orcs gave the clearing a wide berth.
I swear by the gods of role-playing that this story as I have related it is completely true, every roll, every explosion.
By Tim Dugger
Okay, this is a story about revenge.
The party had been out adventuring and had gotten themselves captured, with one member escaping. This member was played by a guy who played three characters. He had the Barbarian princess from another world, her bodyguard the High Warrior Monk, and an Elven Sorceress. The Sorceress was the one who escaped, and headed for town looking to hire adventurers to help rescue the rest of the party. (Several days passed.)
The GM had us roll up new characters to form the rescue party. I made a Nightblade.
The Sorceress hired us for 300 silver pieces each, plus a share in any booty acquired during the rescue (as long as it did not already belong to another party member).
About three hours out of town, the new group ran into the old group who had escaped on their own (we played that out as well, but it is not relevant here). So we greeted them and headed back to town.
Upon asking for our 300 silver, we were told that since we did not actually rescue them we were not going to be paid. My Nightblade then took his claim up with the "princess," who in turn (since it was the same player and all his characters were greedy) turned down the claim. She said that she was not responsible for anything her minion might have said.
My Nightblade took this in stride and left the hotel.
Aside: The princess came back (along with the rest of the first group) heavily laden with treasure, and magic items, which the princess liked to flout very much. The entire group (both old and new members) was quickly invited to attend a banquet with the mayor of the town in a few days time. Also, the princess had told the Sorceress, in front of the rest of both groups, that she was now looking for a particular magic item. Once things settled down, after we got back to town, the Sorceress and the High Warrior Monk were to see if they could find out anything about it in town.
After the Nightblade left, he thought for a few minutes, and then went to request a meeting with the head of the local Thieves' Guild.
At the meeting, the Nightblade outlined a plan to the head Thief, who liked it so much that he quickly agreed, and then set about making arrangements of his own.
The day of the banquet, the Nightblade used his spells to physically change his appearance to match that of the High Warrior Monk. He went to buy paper and ink, and then went and talked quickly with a man, writing a note afterwards, which he then paid a kid to deliver to the Sorceress.
Upon receipt, the Sorceress did "Past Visions" on the note, because it said that the High Warrior Monk had found the desired magic item, and instructed her to bring a large amount of money to a certain place (a shop).
Meanwhile, the High Warrior Monk, walking about town and looking for information about the item, talked to a man (who matched the guy seen in the "Past Visions" spell). He was then ambushed with spells by a hired mage, who put him to sleep. Drugs were then used to keep him in this state. (The player knew nothing after the talk—but in any case was not allowed to use player knowledge—and the Nightblade was counting on the unnatural loyalty between the characters.)
The Sorceress arrived at the shop at nearly the time the banquet was to start. A person who looked exactly like the High Warrior Monk (a very good disguise by another Thief) and several others of nondescript appearance (also in general disguise) ambushed her. They beat her within an inch of her life, took everything she had, and then left her unconscious in the shop (which looked just like an abandoned building when she woke up).
The Nightblade attended the banquet. He arrived before the princess, left after she did, and never left the whole evening. He even approached the princess once more to ask for his payment. The banquet, being a high-society function, did not allow weapons other than ceremonial ones, so the princess had to leave almost everything she owned in her hotel.
Meanwhile, sometime during the banquet, the hotel where the princess was staying was robbed. The Thieves hit almost every room, and took valuable from everybody, but completely cleaned out the room where the princess and her cronies stayed.
Upon returning to the hotel and discovering the robbery, she started looking for her retainers. The High Warrior Monk was found the next day in a near-comatose state in a local drug house (picture the turn-of-the-century opium dens of London). The Sorceress was found in an abandoned building.
Meanwhile, the Thieves' Guild had a busy night, as they recut stones or shipped other items out of the town, to be sold or melted down in another location.
By the time the princess could sell the jewels she was wearing to hire a Seer, almost nothing that had been stolen was in its original form. Gems had been recut, or pulled from their settings, and precious metals had been melted down and cast into bars for sale later....
What did the Nightblade get out of all this, you ask? The Thieves' Guild paid him 300 silver pieces in money that had no connection to the princess.
The player knew that the Nightblade had something to do with his characters getting the shaft. However, he had no way of proving it, as the Nightblade had been very careful to make sure that there was nothing pointing directly towards him.
Aside: There was a dramatic decrease in the crime rate of that city for a few months after the robbery. Also, the items stolen from the other guests were found intact in an abandoned warehouse a few days later.
Cross a Nightblade at your peril.
By Jason Yarnell
This is a lesson on wishes.
This is story that took place in a long-running Rolemaster campaign of mine. In order to get the proper feel for what happens I think it is necessary to supply a little history.
First, the Land: The PC's had recently arrived in a country that was populated by very eccentric magicians. These people had very long lifespans and operated completely with magic: tools, weapons, clothing, everything was based on spells. Suffice it to say that these people were very bored and were constantly trying to keep up with "the latest fashion." The more unusual the better—platform shoes that were also mouse cages, hats with small birds attached to the brim by strings and enchanted to constantly fly in circles.... Well, you get the idea. The soldiers of this land wore armor made from an enchanted smoke. It was very strong and did not encumber in the slightest.
The Player: Now Dave was one of those players who always try to do something to upset the other players, or to "munchkinize" his character. Every little thing he did was to get an advantage either over me or one of the other players. It got so bad that my saying, "No, Dave, you can't do [insert Dave's action]," became synonymous with the game.
The Situation: Dave's PC had separated from the party and was cruising through the town when he happened upon a clothier. He went in and immediately started asking about buying some enchanted clothes (for better defense, of course). The proprietor replied and the conversation went something like this:
Dave's PC: Can you make me some clothes that will protect me better?
Clothier: Of course! I can make anything!
Dave's PC (he's a martial artist and he's thinking about the soldiers' armor): Can you make me a smoke gi?
Clothier: Make you a smoke gi? Well, I've never done that before. It might be interesting.
Dave's PC: You did say you could make anything.
Clothier: Yes, I did. So, you want me to make you a smoke gi?
Dave's PC: Yes.
Clothier: A smoke gi.
Dave's PC: Yes, I want you to make me a smoke gi.
Clothier: Are you sure you don't want anything else? I could make you into something much more colorful.
Dave's PC: No, I want you to make a smoke gi.
Clothier: Okay. That will be one gold piece, please.
Dave's PC handed over the one gold. After some chanting and waving of hands, the clothier made Dave's PC a smoke gi. If you travel to a small town named Safehaven, do try to stop by and see a certain clothier. He has this wonderful new smoke gi that makes you feel like you're never alone.
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Guildmaster's Note: If you'd like to participate in future Circle volumes, please send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org. Just remember that we can't reprint anything already copyrighted. —LRM
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