Highlight from tonight’s Halloween session:
All hell broke loose when an occultist sorcerer accidentally opened a rift to an aberrant plane at a fancy masquerade. The intent of the host and his cult buddies was to sway the local nobility over to the new heretical religion in town with a show of power, but the attempt to impress everyone by opening a portal to another part of the country ended up peeling back the fabrics of reality and revealing a place between worlds – and then a Beholder on the other side decided to crash the party.
The adventurers quickly learned that attacking the monster head-on was dangerous, especially when they realized the hard way that looking at its big, central eye for too long while trying to act against it ran the risk of paralysis, petrification, fear, and in the worst case, hypnosis.
After the Cleric almost got killed on the spot for trying to charge the beast and got charmed for her troubles so the creature could freely chomp on her, a change of strategy was in order. The Ranger managed to get into a subtle position in the destroyed dining hall and hide until someone else drew the Beholder’s attention so to trigger a called shot while its body was turned away. The beast was stunned (a Beholder is basically just a big head, so there’s not many other called shots to make) and the Druid used this opportunity to shapechange into a stag and charge with the hopes of pushing it back into the portal it came from. The creature didn’t take long to start emerging again, though, so the Druid used their strength to stop it in place halfway between worlds, and then spent their other hold to again push it – and themselves – beyond the abrasion in realities.
At this point, as the Druid and the Beholder both entered the monster’s strange, blasted wasteland of a native realm, the Druid’s expenditure of their last hold caused them to shift back into their natural form. The Beholder opened its mouth wide and lunged forward, trying to take the Druid up into its toothy maw.
At this point I ask: “Druid, what do you do?”
The Druid replies, “Nothing. I let it happen.”
I say that the Druid is pulled into the Beholder’s jaws and gored for what ends up being 15 damage, then ask where that leaves their health.
“Almost dead,” the Druid says. “I shapechange into a bear while inside it.”
Even though the Druid ended up getting a six on their shapeshifter role, it was pointed out that the Druid still gains one hold on a miss. The Beholder bites down and brings the Druid to death’s threshold, but in the process its loses all of its teeth and its jaw is torn off its face. It flees into the wasteland, maimed and critically injured, leaving the rift in reality and the dying bear behind.
In the end the Druid agreed to Death’s bargain: since they were in a state of shifting somewhere between human and animal when death came to claim them, they received to option of forsaking their human body and keeping their bear form as their natural state in return for keeping their mortal soul. They decided to remain on their side of the rift in realities and defend their homeplane against threats like the Beholder as a big magic bear until their companions could figure out how to close the rift, which is so cool I’ve already decided to incorporate it as a lore element into my main DW campaign somehow.
Overall, it was a great night of roleplaying. Dungeon world is a wonderful system for keeping the pace flowing from action to action, and the last few months of running it have given me a lot of appreciation for the potential that sort of flow has for creation really memorable moments at the table.