Thinking back on my experiences over the past few months, I recalled a curious episode that I feel like sharing: an outcome generated by the magic subsystem of a game so mighty that it jettisoned a good half of my dungeon preparation. But I’d better step back and explain what I mean.
During an Italian online rpg convention (COSMO), I decided to bring as a GM Troika! Numinous Edition, a science-fantasy game written by Daniel Sell. “Planescape-meets-Fighting Fantasy-but-odder RPG” is an effective way to describe it: a bizarre and psychedelic background generation system, infinite worlds navigable through golden rafts, and a very agile and light ruleset. For the purposes of this discussion, the important part to remember is that rolling a double 1 when casting a spell causes a fumble and leads to consulting the Oops!Table, with deleterious or uncontrollable effects.
I’ve long wanted to try this rulebook by combining it with a quirky adventure like Bakto’s Terrifying Cuisine: the premise is that adventurers accidentally end up in the lair of a mighty demon-chef, who threatens to devour them if they don’t bring him a delicious delicacy prepared from the dungeon’s ingredients. Indeed, the entire cave formation is home to monsters and events related to the culinary aspect: edible goblins taking care of cosmic eggs, a war between the porcini faction and the Garden Kingdom of Living Vegetables, and many other treats. Adventurers have 20 turns to gather, prepare and dish it all up (it is also possible to kill Bakto by discovering his secret allergy or escape, but that is secondary). The players then set out in search of ingredients.
In one of the rooms, the group found themselves fighting a group of moon frogs to collect a tear from the eye of a giant skeleton. And here a very unexpected result exploded. One of the players rolled a double 1 on his spell. The result on the Oops! Table was:
All vegetation within a mile withers and dies.
You can imagine my surprise. The dungeon is not-unless I have messed with the American devil’s number system-particularly large. Suddenly I am forced to think: What does this mean for the inhabitants of the Garden Kingdom? And for all these little living vegetables? The answer is clear: they have all been erased. No more garden, no more ingredients, no more war with the mushrooms.
I was amused by the result, and sadly we were unable to fully explore the consequences and finish the dungeon. I remember rolling for a random encounter:
“A battle rages between a unit of 4 Rabbit Riding Carrot Knights and 8 Porcini Goblins. The latter are losing and carrying a Tarrasque Sausage.”
But at that point the whole situation changed, with the Porcini Knights-which I kept, not thinking of them as “vegetables” at the time-wondering what the hell had happened to their dessicated opponents.
So I ended up with a whole part of the prep significantly altered, to the point that significant chunks of it were simply to be thrown away. What amazed me was not only a fortuitous encounter between a rulebook like Troika! and an adventure created for a completely different manual, but also the fact that such an infinitesimal roll of the dice had such strong consequences not only on the actual scene/dungeon room, but on a whole ecosystem of actors far from the eyes of adventurers.
I know-though I’ve never observed it firsthand-that something similar could happen in a game like Lamentations of The Flame Princess, where the consequences of a failure on the Summoning spell could affect the entire game world. But I wondered if there are other games that have replicated this experience, which left me intrigued.