Game of Throngs
Posted by G.R.R. Martin on October 21, 2014
After having DM'd for many years in cookie cutter campaigns and a few minor homebrew worlds of my own, I decided to tackle something a bit more complicated. With the overwhelming support of my players, I went and spent weeks meticulously integrating the world from Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire for the true fans out there) with the world of D&D.
The two actually fit together quite nicely with some tweaking here and there. My initial intent was to create a series of events that occurred outside the happenings in the books. The idea being that they would play around the outskirts of the story until such a time that the party's interaction with the world had deviated the storyline far enough away from the actual books that I could draw them in to the thick of things. I had a mysterious messenger offer to pay them a suspiciously large reward to collect three seemingly disconnected artifacts from different locations around the world.
The first artifact they chose to pursue was a fun little toy with the ability to control the mind of any creature it touched, the more creatures you controlled the more susceptible you were to their will instead of your own... the DC to save yourself from descending into madness would become overwhelmingly high, thus keeping any character from wielding this thing with too much power. The math was flawless... or so I thought. Thus begins the single biggest mistake I have ever made as a DM, assuming players won't find a way to mess up your designs.
The party locates said artifact 10 days east of Winterfell amongst a large army of Ogres. Long story short, turns out an old Wizard was using the artifact to control his own army of Ogres to protect him while he worked on his experiments. A fight ensues, the players dispatch the Wizard and before they are overrun by an army of Ogres, the Knight in the party picks up the artifact and commands them to stop, which works, but now comes the madness,
"Roll to save against the Willpower of all of the Ogres,” I say.
He of course rolls a Natural 20. Okay fine, I think, you'll have to re-roll tomorrow, sucker. The Knight decides to keep his newfound army of Ogres and commands them to march one day behind the party as they return to Winterfell. Keeping in mind, this is a 10 day walk back with a will save every day. The Knight, aware of the mechanic for the artifact, figures out how many Ogres he can keep such that he doesn't need a natural 20 to maintain control. That said, he rolls: 18, 20, 19, 19, 20.
Five days later they meet the army of Winterfell at the lead of which is a castellan who is clearly worried about the approaching army of Ogres. Surely this plan of mine is enough to end whatever foolishness I had just allowed into my game… Right?
"I use the artifact to mind control the leader,” declares the Knight as he rolls another Natural 20. I begin to wonder if his dice are loaded.
"I command the him to command his army to stay put and allow the Ogres to pass," he says.
Truly worried about what this diabolical Knight has in store with all of this incredible luck, the party presses on. Five more days to Winterfell means five more will saves! 19, 19, 18, 20, 19.
Two more sessions into our brand new campaign, and the "honorable" Knight of the party had successfully bypassed all of Winterfell's defenses and walked an army of Ogres right into the center of town. Thus the "honorable" Knight uttered his latest command,
"I release the army of Ogres from my control."
Chaos ensues, the Paladin of the party, who had been kept in the dark the entire time, promptly turns on the Knight and kills him. Meanwhile, 200 Ogres are rampaging through Winterfell while it’s defending army is idly standing in the woods two leagues away. Unable to defend Winterfell from the onslaught, the party is forced to flee and leave the castle in ruins all before Ned Stark even reached the Red Keep to serve as Hand of the King.
I learned a valuable lesson that day... not sure what it is yet, but I'll tell you when I figure it out.