Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Specials: Statue of Prophetic Doom, the goddess Wee Jas

"Specials" aka "Saturday Night Specials" are one of the fascinating set pieces of old school play, whether they're in a megadungeon or a location in a hex crawl.  By definition they are "unbalanced" and potentially either capricious or magnanimous.

Sometimes they are adventure goals and occasionally they are obstacles.  Often they are the focus of megadungeon faction conflict, and they frequently are listed on your rumor tables.  They should be in some way enigmatic, unstandard but definitely memorable.

One common old school standard recommends that 5% of megadungeon encounters be "specials", but I've been upping the percent in my recent level creations.  I like'm too much as a DM, even if I could be accused of being too cautious with them as a player (well, with some of my characters.)

If you like these, pester me and I'll put up more of them.

Statue of Prophetic Doom





This statue of golden stone is of the goddess Wee Jas and is linked to her portfolios of vanity, death and magic.  Larger than life size and the focus of a large worship room.  In one hand she holds a crystal ball and before her is an offering bowl.










 (A statue of the goddess Wee Jas depicting her vanity attribute.)


The Sycophantic Attendant
The statue is frequently attended by a sycophant, currently a deranged fawning and simpering creature on the cusp between life and undeath.  His name is unimportant and forgotten in any case in his devotion to the goddess.  He greets all equally, imploring them to worship the goddess and extolling her virtues.  If the statue is molested or offerings (see below) are stolen, or he himself is attacked, he will defend himself as a 3rd level multi-classed cleric/wizard.  If he is killed the statue will cease to function until another attendant is attracted to devote themselves body and soul to Wee Jas. (And could that be one of the characters attempting to manipulate the attendant-less statue?)
While he will prattle on about the glories and majesty of Wee Jas, his most repeated and insistent phrase is this:
"If you donate to her as she deserves, she will reward you and grant you a vision of your death."


The Offering Bowl
If questioned the attendant will reply that Wee Jas values gold, jewelry, beautiful objects and magical items.   What the attendant won't reveal is that the statue requires an offering of 100gp per character level squared.  A character that places less than that in the offering bowl will believe they see the statue react with a dismissive rolling of the eyes.  More and the statue will seem to smile upon the character, though with no effect more than the minimum - it is just her due after all.
The statue knows how much each character contributes even on multiple visits, and offerings below the amount remain in the bowl - though removing them will provoke threats at the least from the attendant.
After the minimum amount for a character is contributed, those offerings disappear and the character will receive their prophecy and reward.

The Disappeared Offerings
While the attendant believes that the offerings are rendered onto Wee Jas, actually they are transported to a secret room beneath the statue accessible from the level below.  While taking the offerings risks the wrath of Wee Jas, currently another faction of the dungeon (a cult of Nerull) are in possession of the room and are protected.  Nearby however is an ancient cache of offerings unknown to the Nerull high priest.

The Vision of Prophetic Doom
The statue will grant the character a vision of a potential death. The doom that a character receives is a weakness to a particular death as determined by the table below.  The effect of the prophecy can not be avoided - it will remain in effect until the character dies as a result of that particular doom.  Short of Atonement from a friendly life-giving deity (also a 5th level spell just as is Raise Dead), death from a particular doom is the only way to relieve the prophecy.  Death from another source will not remove the prophecy either.

The Reward
While the character now has a fatal flaw, Wee Jas is just in her own way.  The character receives enough experience points to raise a level and be half way to their next.  So a 1st level character would be 2nd and half way to level 3.  A character can only have one doom - but if by chance they return after death from their doom, they may receive another and another reward.

The Dooms
The character receives a vision of themselves dying from their particular doom, but the player is unaware of the actual mechanics.  Roll a d20 of course!
 
  • 1-4 Poison:  any poison the character receives will be fatal.  Antidotes, spells of protection from poison or other means will have no effect.  The only way to avoid the doom is to not to receive poison in the first place.
  • 5-8 Fire:  all fire saving throws will fail and all damage from fire is tripled.  Any protections from fire are ineffective other than avoiding fire in the first place. 
  • 9 Old Age:  while the character may indeed live to a ripe old age, ANY aging effects (such as the touch of a ghost or a haste spell) will cause the character's death.  As most "common" Raise Dead spells are ineffective for deaths of old age, this result is not as beneficent as it would appear.
  • 10-14 Unlife:  any drain from an undead creature, such as a level drain, strength drain from a shadow or similar effect will completely drain the life from the character.  No protections or contraceptives are effective except avoiding unlife.
  • 15 Drowning:  the character will fail in any attempt to hold their breath under any liquid for any duration, and no magic that allows a character to breathe underwater will succeed.  While the character can still swim, any immersion of their entire head beneath water will result in a horrible accident in which the character drowns.  The character can still safely bathe as long as they can't be completely immersed, nor do they need to fear normal eating and drinking.
  • 16-17 Backstab: any unknown attack with an edged weapon from behind is treated as a successful assassination attempt.
  • 18-20 Fall:  any fall causing damage will be fatal.  While the character can fly with magic or a steed, any break in their flight that begins a fall will be fatal and re-initiating any flight magic will be unsuccessful.

As yet, the adventurers in our campaign have not chanced upon this special.

Also, please inform me if you know who I should credit for the image of the creepy asylum inmate.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks, Allan. From a Greyhawk scholar such as yourself, I very much appreciate that. Certainly what you documented of the enigmas of Castle Greyhawk were inspirations.

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