New player goes mad with power
TL; DR. More funny than horrific story, new player goes mad with the taste of power and ends up causing a TPK.
I'm sure this is not the worst horror story, but I don't know of a better sub to put this in, ao please forgive if I posted incorrectly.
Some background. I've been GMing for a long time and last year I started a new campaign to introduce a friend to RPGs. She had never played before but always enjoyed fantasy, adventure movies and games, yadda yadda. I ended up with 3 players, this new player included. The other two were much more experienced, all of us are adults in our 20s and 30s.
We started a fantasy adventure game inspired by a dark fantasy game which all of us were fans of. Rule set was a heavily homebrewed OSR inspired by D&D basic, ICRPG, and the philosophy of XDM. Overall perfect for beginners and the veterans loved it too. The rules and setting are important to understand the story, so here's the basics: - Setting had only fighters, rogues, and mages. There are no clerics like in d&d, there is black, grey, and white magic (mages can cast all kinds of spells, healing included). - Mages are born with their powers, no one "becomes" a mage. They are feared and even persecuted sometimes because mages who lose control of their powers become abominations (demons). - Spellcasting system is roll-to-cast vs. target number. No slots, if you have a high enough ability score you can learn any spell, even at 1st level. If you fail a spellcasting roll, you lose the turn (regular fail), lose the spell for a scene (fail by 5+) or mess it up and have a real bad miscast (fail by 10+ or natural 1). In the latter case, results of a miscast go from blinding yourself or an ally for a turn (harmless spells, like light) or centering a fireball on yourself. Yep, unlimited casting is great but don't mess up or you might die from it. Luckily you can use "hero points" (inspiration) to roll with advantage.
So, the new player decides to play a mage. Cool. To form a balanced group, the experienced players create a warrior and a rogue. The three players get along fine, the experienced players help the newbie, they all decide to be elves in a sylvan elf society that's close to go to war with humans. The mage player is the apprentice of the leader of their clan, since to avoid accidents they only have two mages at a time - a master and an apprentice. Everything goes wonderfully well for the first few sessions. Lots of adventure, political plots, romance, etc. Dungeons and challenges are simply destroyed by this very strong, reliable group. They reach 3rd level.
All this time, the mage player has been using his few spells very carefully. She knows healing, arcane bolt (a simple/safe attack spell), a few defense/utility spells as light, arcane armor, etc. After a particularly dangerous dungeons and boss battle, I give the mage player some props - small rolled pieces of paper, each containing a spell. I tell her to choose one, blindly and randomly, and that'll be the spell her character found. She chooses a spell called "dark orb"; entropy damage, area and damage as lightning bolt (basically a reskinned lightning). Ok, great!
It's a dangerous spell, obviously. If the mage loses control it might kill the mage or an ally in one hit. It is also very powerful and might destroy all enemies easily.
I kid you not, for the next three or four sessions this player roleplayed marvelously the mental battle her character was going through. "My allies are in danger! My friend and cousin might die at the fangs of that giant spider! I have the power to help but... Should I risk it?"
We were all impressed, really!
Then, things started to change. Naturally and without noticing the player started to care less and less. Words from her master were met with disdain, since "why should I listen to you since I'm more powerful than you now?"... And situations where she usually used smarts and tricks to win were now solved with a scream of "Dark Orb" and a laughter. In character, her allies (experienced players) warned that she should control herself more because power like that was dangerous. She heard them and controlled herself... For a time.
A few adventures and couple of levels later they're in a dungeon, everything is going their way, when in a narrow corridor they're attacked by a darkspawn - a vile humanoid creature, scary in my description, that made the mage player really uneasy. In game terms, it's not much stronger than a orc. The experienced players knew how to deal with it and quickly came up with a plan.
The warrior was in front, the rogue, then mage. Plan was for warrior use full defense, block the monster from passing and attacking the others, the rogue would drop it with her bow. First round of combat, warrior stops the monster, rogue is preparing the killing shot, so mage goes and... "I will not bow to fear, I'll destroy this evil with one spell. Dark Orb!"
"NOOOOOOO" go the other players. All modifiers considered, the player needed a 13+ on the d20 to successfully cast the spell without problems - even from her disadvantageous position. The experienced players say it's not necessary to use that spell, but the mage doesn't care. "You'll see, friends, I'll blast it into oblivion"... In off, she says she'll use her hero point/inspiration to cast the spell with advantage, to guarantee a success. The she rolls the two d20s.
Of course she rolls two natural ones.
Spell goes haywire, blasts her and her companions (who were in front of her). Warrior is toasted, instant death. Mage and rogue survive with serious injuries. They try to run in the dark, the creature hunts them and easily kills them.
The player never apologized or repented, but we didn't care. We all had a great time and laughed a lot from the fact that, without realizing, she perfectly roleplayed a mage being consumed by power - a common theme in the setting - and it made for great memories.
Sorry for the long post and sorry if it wasn't the worst horror story, but I enjoyed sharing. Happy gaming.
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