Gaming Stories: Pick a Card
Every once in a while, I like to send the PCs against a monster that’s just out of their league. When you’re low-level, encountering an adult dragon or a lich can still be fun. The only difference is that the goal stops being killing the other guy and taking his stuff and becomes a matter of survival. After all, sometimes the monsters want to kill some adventurers and take their stuff.
Allaina and Seelik, a pair of rogues, had decided to break into a wizard’s tower while the mage himself was busy with some ritual. They wound up setting off an alarm, which disrupted the ritual and resulted in the summoning of a very ticked off beholder.
I didn’t hide the fact that the roguish pair was outmatched. The beholder trashed the entire castle, and the adventurers barely escaped from the rubble. Even then, though, they weren’t out of the woods. The beholder was hot on their tails and succeeded in dropping Seelik with one of his sleep rays.
Allaina found herself cornered with an angry eye tyrant staring at her with all his eyes. Knowing that fighting wouldn’t be an option, she opted for bargaining. The old, “let us live and you can have this magical treasure” schtick. In this case, the magical treasure happened to be a strange deck of cards the pair had found in the wizard’s tower – the deck of many things.
That’s another thing I like to do: put the powerful and unpredictable deck of many things into my games. It’s always fun to sit back and see the PCs give into temptation, knowing what a bad draw means but also knowing what a good draw can get them. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, though, and this time it was a monster’s turn to face the test.
“What does it do?” asked the beholder, as even he hadn’t seen the artifact before.
“It does a lot of things,” responded Allaina. Then she hastily added, “but only good things.”
Ultimately, even a beholder wasn’t immune to temptation. Using its telekinesis, it drew the top card. The players held their breath for a moment, wondering if this beholder was suddenly going to become even more powerful or gain an army of henchmen. Then the monster turned over its card: the Void, banishing its soul to another dimension.
“Well isn’t that a lovely shade of black,” came the beholder’s last words before its body went comatose. It died immediately afterwards, and I reluctantly handed out experience points.
Allaina and Seelik buried the deck in a spot only they could find, and never drew from it again. Of course, with all the underground beasties and magic-hunting villains out there, it was only a matter of time before the deck resurfaced in my game again. It is currently in the possession of another group of characters, who have so far resisted the urge to draw from the deck.