As was expected, what followed during this weekend's game really drove home what was started the previous session. I feel it only right to report in my findings and cap off this particular triptych of posts with the culmination of the theories therein. I'm going to try to be somewhat oblique about certain details mostly because this may have been, nay, is the squickiest moment of my gaming career thus far. I'm sure what happened would have some people leave the table in a hurry, but keep in mind two things: 1) my choices in the game inadvertently asked for this and 2) it really was a lot of fun!
In any case, Syrinx is definitely swearing off of calamari and actively avoiding things that wriggle. It's been that kind of a weekend.
When the group left off last time, Syrinx had just been recovering from a bout of induced terror as the bad guy gated out of the building. Still trying to get her wits about her, everyone started rummaging around for loose change and the item we had come through hell and high-water for. The lab on one side of the level contained some nasty implements, a Drow skin wardrobe, and a tank containing what looked like a brain and some tadpoles. Out of character we knew this was bad news, but not much we could do about it.
The very next room we searched was apparently the personal quarters of our freshly departed adversary. Lo and behold, he had had a bath drawn for himself immediately before we arrived. Now comes the fun part. Syrinx had been covered head to toe in dirt, sweat, blood, and slime from the previous encounters and it was a good opportunity to wash some of this crap off of her armor. As her compatriots continue to look around, I look the GM right in the eye as he asks if she's gonna take a bath while she's here. Afterall, the water looks warm and relaxing and smells rather floral. Crystal clear too. Now my brain is somewhat genre savvy and this GM thinks very much in similar rhythms to what I would. I know this is a bad idea. There is no way in hell that this is going to end well.
For reasons I'll get into in a moment, I went along with it. She told the party to give her ten minutes or so, and out they went. The next thing I know, she's re-enacting the bathtub scene from Slither if you've been witness to that one. The next several minutes have her trying to claw this thing, an illithid larva, out of her before Summer, our mage, walks in offering some of the alcohol they had found in the other room. One well placed spell and this thing is toast. They scoop her up and carry her into the other room where she sits, stark naked, shaken, and broken further still while they sort out the rest of the loot. Once she's all settled we grab what we came for and beat feet off of this blasted plateau.
Let me rewind a bit. For those who don't know, an illithid is an iconic D&D creature that is basically a tall thin person with a squid for a head. They feed on brains and have all kinds of psionic powers. More to the point of this particular instance, their life-cycle is somewhat disturbing. The larvae devour their hosts from the inside, taking over their minds and eventually corrupting them into a brand new illithid. It's a slow, painful and rather mind warping process.
I've had characters face down the prospect of dying before. I've even had the similar experience of a Deadlands character having to choke down a prairie tick. That, at least, will just kill you when it's brood bursts through your swollen gut. That doesn't phase me. Illithid larvae? I panicked. I legitimately panicked. Our clever bastard of a GM found something that can honestly disturb me. Not an easy feat, I assure you. I am impressed.
Why? Oh God, Why?
As I said, I knew something bad was going to happen, but I went with it anyways. Why on Earth would I do such a thing? Making the highlight reel of course. Assuming I had not gone along with it, the vast bulk of the session might have just been a group of murderhobos rifling through the Sockdrawers of Leng, waiting to find the next shiny widget. Sometimes, if you want to get your kite out of a tree, you need to go out on a limb. I am a full proponent of the notion that bad decisions are okay to make in an RPG. The important thing here is to know when there is a measure of acceptable loss, and a measure of trust between player and GM that not every poor decision is going to end in character death. Just some of them. Some players like to wait for moments to come their way, while others like to go out and grab them. This was one of those times where waiting wasn't going to be fun. And besides, this'll be a moment that I'll definitely remember for the duration of my gaming career.
Inquiring Minds Want to Warp
All this leaves us now is the developmental aspect of this on the character in question. When the character's personality reached Ice Queen status, I did consider that the old trope of the Defrosting Ice Queen may become a reality for this character. I just didn't think she'd be broken so fast. And in case you are wondering, yes, my dice played along sooo well with what was going on in the bathtub. This leaves her with a fractured shell of an ego that will take a couple of weeks in-game for her to start acting normal again. For the trip off of the plateau, she wasn't her usual gruff self during changes in the watch, and the snark just wasn't there. She'll probably recover a good bit from this but never fully. I imagine she'll start to warm up to the mage a little for having saved her life. She'll still pummel him for little things, but it'll be a tad more playful. It'll still hurt like a B, but it'll definitely be playful.
Job Well Done
I have to commend the GM of this game for actually getting under my skin. I am really enjoying this campaign and this character, and I've enjoyed sharing this experience with you all out there. Hopefully I'll have more interesting things to discuss and ponder upon soon. We'll see.
In the meantime, Stay Classy!