spectre
 member, 898 posts
 Myriad paths fell
 away from that moment....
Sun 11 Apr 2021
at 11:18
Best Campaign surprises!
 So what are some of your best twists to wow players in the climax of your campaigns? Uncompleted or not, what are a few of your best reveals that really had the players groaning or "holy-crapping" in the OOC threads or around the table? These are some of my favorite moments in the campaign as a GM, it seems like a big part of the introduction and maybe the first act, are completely about setting up that big reveal. For me, this usually becomes the key plot point to move forward on. It's realizing the Empire has a planet-killing weapon and the only people in the galaxy who can do anything about it are about to take off on a suicide mission.

Anyway, tell us all your best ones and let us share in the revlry!

Also, in all honesty, I need a little inspiration right now.

This message was last edited by the user at 11:20, Sun 11 Apr.

spectre
 member, 900 posts
 Myriad paths fell
 away from that moment....
Tue 13 Apr 2021
at 01:00
Best Campaign surprises!
Crickets eh?
engine
 member, 826 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Tue 13 Apr 2021
at 03:36
Best Campaign surprises!
None. I have never successfully surprised my players, and the things I deliberately tried to surprise them with have failed the worst. I no longer try, and everyone seems to enjoy themselves much more.

But the best surprise I think my group ever had was the way we collaborated on the details of a drow city at which they had just arrived. There were details in the module I was running, but none of us were ever going to remember those. But I dare say that everyone at that session remembers a lot of the details we invented that day.
facemaker329
 member, 7335 posts
 Gaming for over 40
 years, and counting!
Tue 13 Apr 2021
at 04:08
Best Campaign surprises!
Well, I have lots of stories of surprises thrown at me as a player, but you phrased it as wanting stories from GMs.  (You also described it in such a way that I expect a lot of GMs had stories, but felt that they wouldn't live up to the expectations you'd laid out...nobody wants to tell an underwhelming story...)
Korentin_Black
 member, 570 posts
 I remember when all
 this was just fields...
Tue 13 Apr 2021
at 05:36
Best Campaign surprises!

 Probably our best was at the climax of a Dark Ages Mage game, where we spied, sneaked and fought our way to the lair of a religious fanatic who was trying to inspire a supernaturally-empowered 'second endeavour' (the first being the Spanish Armada) to conquer England.

 We burst in, finding him in the middle of this great big summoning circle, chanting an' a stomping, only for him to wave his guards aside and start to speak to us in Approved Villain Fashion(tm)...
 ...whereupon our murder-hobo shoots him and takes great delight in telling the ST the arrows were poisoned (don't forget they were poisoned).

 While we're all going 'What?' at them, he grins at us and says 'thank you', because suicide and murder are mortal sins and he needed to be in a state of grace and make a human sacrifice in order to summon an angel to lead the attack. Cue a whole-party dope-slap  of the murder-hobo and a running supernatural skirmish in order to try and get a doctor to him. ^_^
facemaker329
 member, 7336 posts
 Gaming for over 40
 years, and counting!
Tue 13 Apr 2021
at 06:37
Best Campaign surprises!
My best campaign surprises have all been times when I started doing something that seemed, initially, meaningless or suicidal, and ended up shocking the whole party.  But that was always as a player...

--I once collected the bounty on my own head in a Star Wars game.  I also disabled an Imperial corvette that was chasing down the captured bulk freighter we were in by loading up an escape pod with anything and everything explosive I could find and launching it in the middle of the swarm of other escape pods that were abandoning ship.  The pursuit ship pulled it into the landing bay just before the timer went off...
--Different Star Wars game, playing a Jedi Master, we came across an AI of sorts who had not only synthesized a flesh body to inhabit but had also come up with a personal shield that could withstand even lightsabers (based at least in part on the same technology...the GM played fast and loose with the specifics and we rolled with it).  So my Jedi used Absorb/Dissipate Energy to sap the shield while another Jedi took out the AI (who was trying to basically create the Star Wars equivalent of Berserkers, for those who remember their Fred Saberhagen novels).  It shocked the GM on two levels...not only did he not expect that particular tactic, but it was pretty much the only time those two characters were on the same page about ANYTHING...and neither of us told each other what we were going to do, either IC or OOC (this was a tabletop game, so the fact that she acted immediately upon me creating the opening was surprising, even to me...I figured she would act after a round of realizing what was going on, but she had apparently already decided that shield or no shield, she needed to take action.)
--A GM thought he'd be clever and tease the party with a legend about a lost runesword.  We found it...turned out, it was a sword for a gnome.  Most of the party declared it useless as it was only slightly larger than the knife in your average old-school Clue board game...but my bard thought it was a fascinating trinket and would make great fodder for storytelling.  So he wore it as a pendant on a leather necklace...and thus, having claimed it, gained access to all its additional magical abilities.  (Same bard also stayed behind in a pocket dimension because two gods were going to fight each other and he wanted to be able to tell the story...)
--Same GM, different game, had us fighting a minotaur lich.  The only weapon I had with any magical abilities to speak of was a quiver that magically created Chaos arrows (you'd fire and if you hit, you rolled for a result on a table...anything from inflicting massive damage to causing flowers to erupt in the area...)  Third round of what was supposed to be a massive, drawn-out battle that would have brought most of the party close to death, I finally managed to hit...and the result was that the arrow healed all damage done.  I was initially outraged that I'd just undone all the success of the rest of the group...it wasn't until I noticed the GM looking down at his character notes in shock that I thought to question what had happened...healing the undead like that kinda makes it hard for them to stay undead, it turns out...
--Had a GM who thought he was going to overrun the party with kobolds in a Palladium fantasy game.  My troll (who specialized in improvised weapons) decided the closest, most dangerous thing he could get his hand on was two of the kobolds...when they were no longer effective as clubs, he threw them away and grabbed two more...not a campaign surprise, by any means, but the look of shock on everyone's face was priceless.

Those are just things that I did.  The groups I played in through college and for about five years afterwards seemed to specialize in finding weird and unique ways to twist the situation back on itself.

The biggest campaign surprise that was ever sprung on me was in a Star Wars game that we had been playing for years...the GM decided to play with some alternate reality options (which he'd done before...but those had been 'butterfly effect' kinds of things, where we changed the outcome of one of the events in the movies and it ended up totally shifting a timeline to where not only did the Empire win, but my character was a hero of the Empire...we had to find some way to change things back...or rather, I did, because I was the only one who got to see what the outcome was...)  Anyway, in this particular reality shift, my die-hard "No such thing as the Force and the Jedi are all delusional" bounty hunter (who, by weird flukes of the dice throughout the years of playing him, never once actually saw anyone successfully do anything with The Force and was actually the one responsible for a few aspiring Jedi types THINKING they had done something with the Force) suddenly became a member of the Jedi Council, who had been a padawan to Anakin Skywalker (who never turned, in that reality, to the Dark Side).  He was also the only one in the party, ironically enough, who had no recollection of his 'former self' (another vagary of the dice), but he could tell that everyone telling him about 'who he used to be' very firmly believed it.  This was even more of a shock because I had to work the night that this happened, out of town, so when I was done with work, they called me to ask a few questions to help determine how this would all turn out.
spectre
 member, 901 posts
 Myriad paths fell
 away from that moment....
Tue 13 Apr 2021
at 07:48
Best Campaign surprises!
Korentin_Black:
(don't forget they were poisoned).


Hey, I think I know that guy! Hehe, very cool though. The GM must've been giving himself a little pinch for that to work out so perfectly. Thanks for the story and inspiration!

@facemaker329, I reread my post and totally understood your initial reply. Sorry, didn't mean for it to be so high-pressure! Anyway, very nice rundown. I really enjoy that sort of roleplay too, it's not all about the dice, it's about how you play the role too. Great surprises in my opinion! Thanks for the inspiration!
Korentin_Black
 member, 571 posts
 I remember when all
 this was just fields...
Tue 13 Apr 2021
at 23:01
Best Campaign surprises!

 Oh god, Star Wars ones!

 We had a DM recently who ran us as a small party of adventuring sorts in the waning days of the Old Republic, a few years after the Clone Wars. We end up on Tatooine doing some grunt-work for a PC (trying to shift a shipment of space-weed through one of Jabbas contacts to offset their debts) when we notice some lights in the sky and some general commotion over at the spaceport.

 Nodding our heads sagely, we all continue with our efforts, not noticing that the player who has never seen Star Wars was off doing his own thing.

 Son of a bitch comes back a little while later telling us about 'this great deal he got on a couple of droids!' while the DM just grins like someone just offered him second christmas.

 From there? Things got complicated, fast.
Yaztromo
 supporter, 432 posts
Wed 14 Apr 2021
at 22:58
Best Campaign surprises!
Somebody investigating a murder found out he was actually the killer.
spectre
 member, 902 posts
 Myriad paths fell
 away from that moment....
Wed 14 Apr 2021
at 23:02
Best Campaign surprises!
That's amazing!
Bastian
 member, 47 posts
Thu 15 Apr 2021
at 07:57
Best Campaign surprises!
You know how characters can roll for a trinket? Yeah, one rolled a fish in a bowl and I changed it to a goldfish in a crystal sphere. The strange thing about this "trinket" is that the fish doesn't seem to have any need for food or air and is just happily floating around his little crystal orb.
Of course I gave it to one of the newer players who immediately throws it into a group of Hobgoblins that the party attacked.

All players look at me as I'm sweating bullets, the fish in the orb was supposed to be the actual end boss. A trapped Aboleth that has been controlling things from its prison was suddenly freed. I simply described how the Aboleth squashes the Hobgoblins and makes its way to the nearest lake after mind controlling one of the party members (The party is only 3rd level).

I talked with the player of that character already and we agreed that his character is now a servant to the Aboleth though he'll get some awesome magic and will be the next mini boss.
spectre
 member, 903 posts
 Myriad paths fell
 away from that moment....
Thu 15 Apr 2021
at 11:06
Best Campaign surprises!
Alright, that's pretty sweet. Those moments where everyone is hanging on your next word. Excellent feeling. I like the twist with the PC turned mini-boss angle. Very nice set-up as well. Giving the PCs some rope to get themselves into trouble with is a really fun tactic.
NowhereMan
 member, 431 posts
Thu 15 Apr 2021
at 11:45
Best Campaign surprises!
The first one to come to mind was in a homebrewed d20 crossover monstrosity that used a modern setting, where PCs had access to all sorts of special powers and abilities, including good ol' D&D spellcasting. My players like to play their characters fairly close to the vest, so no one's ever entirely certain what capabilities the rest of the party possesses. This particular surprise hinged on that little quirk.

This story involves a lovely young lady, a recent graduate from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She was a mild-mannered woman with a passionate interest in magical fauna, and most of her spellcasting in-game was centered on protection and buffing her teammates. After a rather lucrative mission, they went shopping in a magical marketplace the group was fond of visiting, and Miss Witch buys a curious toaster from a vendor they knew to have all sorts of strange and interesting items for sale, magical and otherwise.

She loves it. Decorates it with stickers, carries it around like a beloved pet, the whole nine yards. The group thinks it's a bit strange, but so was she, so they head on back to their brand-new base of operations. Well, turns out that it's a very bad toaster. It's possessed by an evil, destructive spirit, and it has our poor little witch in its grasp. That's actually not the surprise, though.

They get back, start getting settled in, and then someone notices that the witch (toaster in hand) seems to be attempting to light the curtains on fire. They intervene, and ask her why she's trying to burn down their nice, new home.

"Well, the toaster wants me to."

Clearly, the toaster's gotta go. This is where the surprise comes in. See, our little witch might stick to protections and buffs, but that's a choice, not a requirement. The witch's player reasoned that, while she had her focus, there were plenty of reasons why she would have studied every kind of magic available to her, and thus she had access to the entire repertoire of d20's spells, all the way up to 5th-level spells, being an across-the-board full caster at 9th level.

Therefore, when her turncoat party members attempted to part her from her beloved toaster, the full force of a very upset spellcaster was brought to bear, fireballs, lightning bolts, and all. The reaction of the party - both in- and out-of-character - to their meek little support caster turning into an angry ball of death and destruction right in the middle of their freshly-built (and very expensive) base of operations was priceless.
writermonk
 member, 267 posts
 Freelance Writer
 Librarian
Thu 15 Apr 2021
at 12:12
Best Campaign surprises!
So, in Changeling: the Lost there are ways to move from the real world to the Hedge (and from the Hedge to the Dreaming). Any opening, archway, doorway or even reflective surface is a potential gateway, provided it is large enough for the changeling to pass through. It merely requires a changeling or other fae being to activate it. Activating a gateway is not complicated. A changeling merely needs to touch part of the gateway and make some sort of request to be admitted.

Running a game, and the characters kept having to deal with this build up of activity in the Hedge. It was clear that the Fae were up to something, marshalling for war, planning a huge raid... something.

Every time a PC had to enter the Hedge there was this chance that either things were 'normal' (for the Hedge), or that they'd spot a scout running away from them (sometimes vanishing, sometimes not), or that they'd run into a bunch of adversaries who were hunting escaped Changelings.

It was a big thing. The Players figured that there was someone in the Changeling community who had escaped with something that the Fae desperately wanted back and were trying to figure out who/what it might be, all while trying to keep various doors and portals that they were near closed as much as possible.

The Kicker/climax came at the 'end' of the storyline. See, what I don't have mentioned above is that the game was set in St. Louis, MO.
St. Louis... where there is a huge 'Gateway Arch'...

Yup, the final 'scenes' of the first season/end of the first storyline was Changelings around the city feeling (and the PCs seeing) the Gateway Arch turn into a giant Hedge portal and the True Fae riding through en masse.