Behind the Game: Ornrik Derails The STAP

As you can probably guess, this was a very emotional point in the game. Keep in mind that Adameus (Idae), had been my character as a player under Rob’s DMing, and then became an NPC when I took the reins. Diamondback had grown well beyond what she was ever intended to be in the STAP, and was as close to a PC as an NPC could get. Borrowing an idea from The Dark Knight (and embellished with inspiration from such varied sources as the TV shows CSI and Law & Order CI, and the Saw film series), I implemented a complex plan. The resurrected (and now undead) Rowyn, seeking to extract revenge on Viselys, set up this macabre scenario forcing him, in essence, to decide who would die – his brother (whom he did not acknowledge was his brother) and his girlfriend (whom he had only recently discovered he had feelings for).

Now, I wanted it to be a kind of railroading situation. One of the NPCs was going to die. However, I wanted it to be a fair railroading. In other words, I wanted it to be impossible to save one of them because the plan, under the D&D rules, was 100% sound. I thought through the magic, the spells, the time involved, even the cost of materials and Rowyn’s access to them. I spent months planning it. I started a thread about it on the Paizo STAP message board and received all kinds of input (thank you so much, all of you!). I play tested the scenario with people outside the group! Bottom line: I prepared! Further, if the players came up with something really awesome that nobody else had come up with in my planning, I would have let them “win” and save them both. That just didn’t seem very likely though.

So, then the “big night” came. Viselys and the fighters took the original key to save Diamondback and the magic users took the copied key to try to save Adameus. Cue the player of Ornrik.

I should back up and give some background on Ornrik. The player in question was a challenge to the DM – both to me and to Rob before me. He was a min maxer who, unfortunately, didn’t really understand the D20 rules well enough to make his methods effective towards his desired outcomes. For example, he originally created Ornrik as a dual-classed Priest/Mage; he simply wanted all the magic. However, he did not account for the level splitting. When the gap between game level and Ornrik’s spell level began to suck for him, he wanted to retcon the character as a Mystic Theurge. As awesome as this Prestige Class might be, it still fell far short of the advantage the player had hoped for.

Ultimately, when it came time to try to save Adameus, Ornrik just happened to have every spell he could possibly need memorized, including spells at a level too high for him. When he started whipping out the spells – boom, boom, boom – I called foul. I told the player I wanted to see his list of prepared spells (which, of course, he didn’t have). He argued that he had guessed at the scenario based on the available information and that is why he had the spells prepared that he did (Frankly, I suspect he was trolling the Paizo boards, but I can’t prove that). Then, in a desperate measure of defense, he struck the absolute, most wrong, most high-tension cord there was to strike: He accused ME of being ill-prepared.

I told him he needed to leave. The game was over for the night and I would decide how to continue the STAP after I’d had time to cool down.

The following day, the argument continued by e-mail. He took offense to my insinuation that he had cheated. He also took issue with my rigidity in the scenario. To that, I mounted my defense. I outlined all that I had done in preparation. I also outlined exactly how many spells he had access to and of what levels, and further pointed out the two spells he had claimed to cast that were simply too high a level for his character. In other words, I was no longer just insinuating that he had been cheating. Finally, I told him that he had ruined something that could have been awesome, which I (and many others) had spent many hours working on.

Faced with irrefutable evidence, the player apologized. While I forgave him, I made it clear that he could not return to the game. Ornrik became an NPC and it was many months before we picked the game back up. Sadly, I resolved the scenario in the on-line narrative so that we could continue on.

By the time we started up again, a new player had joined us and offered to re-work Ornrik, yet again, as a sorcerer. He played for a while, but then had to leave the group due to real-life issues. So Ornrik became an NPC again.

Ornrik was used very sparingly from that point on, but when the Battle of Farshore was looming, we decided that we needed every boot on the ground. Rob came back to help with the vast number of NPCs, including Ornrik. There came a point in the battle where Rob wanted to cast a fireball at a group of demons that was fairly close to some allies, including Lavinia. There was some discussion over whether or not he could place the area of effect so as to hit the demons while sparing the friendlies. We opted for a House Rule similar to the rules for thrown weapons like acid and oil. Unfortunately, this resulted in the death of Lavinia. Well, I hypothesized, that this would really piss off Vanthus because it was his obsession with his sister that brought him to Farshore in the first place. I also saw this as an opportunity to finally put an NPC out of the game that we weren't planning to use anymore. So, Vanthus, in a chaotic rage, and in direct opposition to sound tactics, turned all his resources on Ornrik in revenge.

Then came the post-battle damage control. Lavinia, Malfus, Ornrik and most of the Jade Ravens were dead. However, Ken-ji could do a number of Reincarnation spells and he had the time to do it … for all of them. There was really no logical reason why he couldn't bring Ornrik back; at least no in game reason. In deference to good role-playing, we decided to bring Ornrik back (now as a human), but have him retire from adventuring - he'd been through so many major changes in his life, he needed to rediscover who he was (yeah, that sounds good).

We now refer to Ornrik as the “bastard stepchild” of the Savage Tide.

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