Player Character Deformity

Anne of DIY & Dragons left a comment on the last session recap mentioning she liked the "body horror" of ASE.

I had actually never thought of it in those terms - although that does tend to be the net result - so I'll describe my "theory" here.

Player characters evolve through play - their stories are the result of actual play sessions - at least they are in MY games.  Character backgrounds are boring, it's interactions between people (players and DM) that are interesting.

I put a lot of stuff in ASE to deliberately allow for weird body modifications to enable interesting character evolution.  This is a kind of conversation between the DM and the player - who is mostly a willing participant, although not always - that results in the organic growth of character background.

The game itself is a way to generate these stories dynamically (and enable infantile humor at the table, in my campaign).  So I make a conscious effort to include the tools to make this happen. For voluntary tools, I leave a LOT of things with obvious consequences around for players to play around with.  This creates a sense of discovery and a sense of dire consequence.  Character death is certainly a modification, but not super entertaining, so I lean towards body modification where I can.  Changing PC capabilities is a lot more interesting for DM and player than reducing their capabilities (via death, stat reduction, etc).  I've got that too, players should genuinely worry about consequences, that causes them to weigh their actions - and thus choices are interesting for players - but if something seems like it will do something, and isn't obviously a trap, it won't be a "ha ha gotcha dummy", it'll be stranger than that.  Players need to trust that their DM isn't just randomly screwing them over.

[of course, LotFP style adventures take a different tack, and they're a different kind of fun and they work, but they have a much different mood - my players could tell that Death Frost Doom was operating by different, more lethal rules when they went through it and adjusted their behavior accordingly]

Now for involuntary body modification - those tend to be reversible (such as the face stealers) and thus a "plot hook", or just better than dying in a pinch (such as getting operated upon by Dr. Giggles - really, who expects quality medical care from a dungeon clown?).  It's still generating story, but it's not quite as awesome as players doing it to themselves - when someone volunteers, they don't know WHAT is going to happen, but they know the consequences are all on them.

In summary: I'll do both, but prefer players to sit in the head exchanger of their own accord.


session recap, 8/4/2019

Mongo the Fighter (4)
Mongo the Fighter (4)
Mongo the Fighter (4)
Mongo the Fighter (4)

The Mongos spent some time in confusion, trying to remember where they were and why. They appeared to be two fewer than a moment before, but no one took notice.  As they recalled the events of a year ago / a moment ago, they realized that three sharks were waiting for them on the other side of the door in this flooded dungeon.

Mongo opened the door a crack, thrusting his sword at one of the sharks.  The blade connected, and the sharks fled - they did not favor food that fought back.  The Mongos waited a bit, opened the door, and headed back towards the large room the sharks had originally come from.  They saw the fins circling at the edge of their torchlight, and quicly closed the door to the room, trapping the sharks in the room once again.

Never ones to flinch from danger - at least not when they occupied disposable Mongo bodies - the party headed west, into an unvisited part of the dungeon.  The corridor curved north, then up, above water level, then back down into the water.  They graciously allowed the grieving cannibal chief to lead the way, which led to his almost instant demise at the hands of several megapiranha lurking in the watery depths of the corridor.  While an unarmed cannibal was easy prey, the Mongos had swords, crossbows, and low tolerance for seafood - a recipe for victory!  The fish were driven off, pursued to the end of the corridor, and murdered where they swam.

The corridor ended in a door with rubber gasket around it.  Incautiously, the Mongos pushed the door open, causing the water, and themselves, to be swept into a dry room, against a nondenominational altar.  The chief's fish-gnawed corpse was washed on top of the altar in a grisly display.  The Mongos were unmoved (except by water pressure of course).  They confiscated a well-balanced bone-handled mace hanging from a hook on the wall, searched the altar under the water level, and discovered a secret compartment containing 500 gold coins and a pair of coral fish statuettes.

None of this was the great black pearl mentioned in the brochures in Under-Miami - disgruntled, the party headed back to the shark room.  One Mongo opened the door a crack and swung his sword at the sharks that charged towards it, while another ducked under the water and failed miserably to fire a crossbow at the sharks between the first Mongo's legs.  Above-air sword-Mongo scored hit after hit, while below-water crossbow-Mongo continued to fire crossbow quarrels into the deep, missing the crowd of sharks every time.  Sharks died one after another, and the room was safe for Mongokind.

A Mongo performed a survey of the edge of the room, swimming the perimeter.  At the northwest corner, he (literally) stumbled upon a giant oyster, eight feet wide.  He dove down and saw that the brochure was correct - a giant black pearl the size of a basketball sat inside the oyster.  He swam in to grab it, kicking oyster organs with his Mongo boots, causing the bivalve to slam its shell shut on the helpless Mongo.

Mongos descended on the oyster, using their swords to shuck it.  They pried it open before their bosom friend Mongo drowned, and brought their prize to the surface - the pearl was theirs!

"Can this be all there is?"  they collectively wondered.  "Is this the end of the dungeon?"  Not ones to safely leave with a vast quantity of treasure, they searched for secret doors instead - and found one, behind the oyster.  Pressing a catch, a section of the wall slid away, revealing a corridor heading north.  They waded down the hall, fighting giant rats that poured from holes above the waterline - they were no threat whatsoever.  At the end of the hall, another door - opening it revealed an empty 30' by 30' room with a door on the opposite side.

Mongo prodded the room with a 10' pole, triggering a flaming oil trap.  Mongo, Mongo, Mongo, and Mongo retreated down the hall until the oil burned out and the smoke cleared, then returned.  Mongo then opened the door on the opposite side, revealing a dry corridor beyond, and a lowered portcullis.  The water swept the Mongos through and -

Mongo: "Hey, did that door have a gasket?"
Mongo: "Shouldn't we have noticed that?"

- and Mongo closed the door just in time, defying all physical laws with an act of impossible strength.  Instead, they knifed through the gasket until the door showed signs of giving way, then retreated to the deep-water oyster room.  They waited until the water drained to dungeon-corridor-floor-level, and then returned to the 30' by 30' room and the portcullis beyond.

Mongo pulled a lever, lifting the portcullis - beyond that was a stairway heading down, and a door heading west.  They opened the non-gasketed door, revealing a steaming pit and a corridor beyond.  Following this new corridor, they came to another portcullis, beyond which was a room full of adorable Norman Rockwell-esque statuary, carved in nauseating green-streaked red stone.  Wrapped around several of the statues of women holding infants and prancing unicorns were four snakes.

The portcullis lifted easily - clearly there was a counterweight.  Mongo boldly stepped in to confront the snakes, who reared up and spit poison in his eyes as he stepped on a pressure plate, causing the portcullis to crash down behind him.  Blinded, he ran headlong into a unicorn statue, and the snakes converged on him, biting and spitting.

Mongo, Mongo, and Mongo were not going to abandon Mongo, so they fired crossbows through the portcullis until the snakes were slain.  They then pressed the pressure plate again to release tension on the portcullis and lifted it.  Mongo's body had gone bloated and black with snake venom, and began to dissolve into green gas.  Mongo and Mongo backed off, but Mongo caught a deep lungful of the gas.  He staggered from the room complaining of severe gas pains, as his abdomen began to distend and bubble.

Horrifyingly, a lump of flesh detached from Mongo's side and fell to the floor.  The bubbling meat formed into a tiny hand, followed by a tiny arm, and quickly took the form of a mini-Mongo.  The "parent" Mongo was left with a deep gap in his body.

Unphased, Mongo, Mongo, Deformed Mongo and mini-Mongo decided to head down the stairs near the first portcullis in search of further treasure.  At the bottom was a volcanic chamber full of boiling mud.  Occasional mud-bubble bursts revealed the ruddy light of magma below.  In the glow, they saw mineral terraces on the northwestern edge of the cavern which ascended into darkness, and a lava tube heading into the darkness at the southwestern edge.  They traversed a series of narrow mineral bridges across the boiling mud, heading towards the lava tube.

At the halfway point, a tentacles head emerged from a nearby mud pool.

Kopru: "Obey the will of the Kopru!"
Mongo: "OK."
Kopru: "What?  You mean, without mind control?  This isn't usually how this goes"
Mongo: "What are the benefits?"
Kopru:  "Oh.. well... there's lots of bowing to the Kopru.  Hanging out in this mud cave..."
Mongo:  "No thanks."
Mongo: "Never mind."

Disappointed at lost opportunity and its own poor salesmanship, the Kopru probed Mongo's mind, and then Mongo's mind, and then Mongo's mind, as the Mongos fired crossbows at it.  One of the Mongos shouted "Oh! Hey!  There ARE a lot of benefits to obeying the will of the Kopru!" and rushed at mini-Mongo, attempting to fling him to his Kopru master.  He missed - but the Mongos did not, and the kopru was skewered between the eyes by a quarrel.  Mongo reconsidered his kopru allegiance, and the party continued to the lava tunnel.

The tunnel ended at a ledge overlooking a deep pit, 100' across and 200' down, full of boiling lava.  Floating in the lava was a massive egg, 50' across.  A shadowy form moved inside the egg, pressing at the edges.  After some discussion, the Mongos wisely decided that shooting holes in the eggshell with their crossbows probably wouldn't end well, and headed back to the mud cave, and from there to the mineral terraces.

They saw a kopru pop its head out of another mud pool, right next to the path to the terraces - and made a run for it.  The kopru shouted "Obey the will of..." as they ran by at top speed.  Confined to its pool as it was, they were quickly out of the range of its sales pitch.

It was a short climb to the top of the mineral terraces - at the top was a skeleton sitting atop a throne, both encrusted under a layer of minerals, deposited by water dripping from a stalactite above.  Mongo hammered away at the mineral, revealing the shape of the throne - forged impractically and uncomfortably from hundreds of swords - and the presence of a ring (inscribed with the number 11) on the skeleton's hand, and a beautiful sword with a kopru-head pommel in its lap.  Clearing the minerals away entirely, Mongo then sat on the throne, becoming ruler of the seven kingdoms.  It's a better ending than HBO came up with.

Mongo put on the ring, expecting that it would give him the salesmanship of the kopru, perhaps allowing him to bend the kopru to HIS will.  The party approached the kopru they had earlier fled, and Mongo concentrated all his will on the ring and the kopru.  As it shouted "Really, the will of the kopru isn't that bad!", the tentacle-faced monster was hurled 60' up into the air - the ring wasn't a ring of salesmanship, it was a ring of telekinesis.  Mongo released the kopru - it plummeted to the mineral path in front of them - and Mongo and Mongo finished it up with their swords.

The Mongos were convinced that they had fully and thoroughly looted the dungeon, and headed back to the vat-room from which they were born.  They hopped one after another into the vat of bubbling flesh, dissolving back into meat-goo.

In a cave on the other side of the volcanic slope, Gutboy, Pai Mei, Rolf, and Biff awoke as the plastic hemispheres attached to their heads retracted into the ceiling.  On a pedestal in front of them was all the loot the Mongos had acquired - including the black pearl.

Gains:  2 coral statues 1000 gp each, ring of telekinesis inscribed with "11", mace with fish-carved bone handle, sword with kopru pommel, and the BLACK PEARL OF MONSTER ISLAND
Kills:  3 mako sharks, 3 giant piranhas, giant oyster, 6 giant rats, 4 spitting cobras, 2 kopru
Losses:  Mongo.  Temporarily.  Half of a Mongo when you do the math