Out of the Box D&D Encounters, Series 2, #46 – “Your Deal”

Out of the Box D&D Encounters, series 2, #45 "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
Out of the Box D&D Encounters, Series 2, #47 - "The Stray"

Out of the Box introduction

Player characters have tool proficiencies they never use. That’s a fact. I cannot remember the last time any character used a gaming set at my table, either when I was a player or a Dungeon Master. Outside of bards, I cannot remember another character using a musical instrument. Therefore, let’s create a circumstance where at least the gaming set comes into play.

Put those tool proficiences to use in your Dungeons & Dragons games! [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]
To sweeten the pot, as they say in gambling circles, we will add something worth gambling for. We could offer simple money or other treasure, but I am also a fan of roleplaying character class training and multiclassing choices. To that end, we will combine a tool proficiency (gaming set), a chance to multiclass into warlock (specifically Fiend Patron), and add a dash of roleplaying.

In the interest if disclosure, this entire encounter comes from my own series of character concepts, and goes into the back story of one warlock. It will delve into how he became a warlock, and what…or who…tempted him into that position. It’s also important to disclose this concept will delve (or at least hint) at adult themes. Therefore, as DM, if you have players or audience members who are sensitive to this sort of content, you may wish to save it for another table or time when it might be more appropriate.

Zariel, the fallen angel who rules Avernus in the Nine Hells, as seen in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]
Furthermore, it expands on the concepts of how some monsters, in this case fiends, can be portrayed. At my table, many fiends can express as male or female. This has established canon in the current lore about the Nine Hells, as I believe the first layer of Hell is currently ruled by a female pit fiend. [NERDITOR’S NOTE: The current ruler of Avernus is the fallen angel Zariel, according to Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes.]

Plus, it has to be admitted, the idea that fiends could express as male or female would make their job a lot easier when it comes to recruitment and manipulation. This should not be solely the property of succubi or night hags. It would also be promoted by “female” Dukes of Hell like Glasya, who would take full advantage of such options.

To that end, we will create a circumstance whereby a possible fiend Patron might be the outcome of a card game, and a little female imp named Noir will play her game of manipulation and seduction to accomplish her goals. The outcome might be a chance to multiclass. It might be an odd ally, or it might be an enemy. It all comes down to how the cards fall, as they say.

Environment

Urban/Tavern, inn, or gambling house

Level

Any (DM’s choice)

Monsters

Blackjack McGee – spy, with lightfoot halfling racial traits

Jergen – commoner

Noir – imp

Treasure

Gambling winnings, up to 101 gp, 15 sp 20 cp, and in case someone forgot, a fiend Patron warlock multiclass option to a great little devil

Description

Entering the inn, the fist thing that strikes characters is the noise of cheers and groans. Most tables are a bustle of conversations and meals, but one seems to have drawn a crowd. For any character who chooses to draw near, they will notice what looks like a game of cards underway where the two participants have drawn a crowd. This game can be altered if the DM so wishes. It’s more important that a character actually knows and is proficient in the game than what the game actually is. If no one is proficient in a game as a character, choose a card game that a character knows — but not one so involved it takes a lot of time. Twenty-one/blackjack or a hand of poker/five card draw are easy enough and fast enough to do. If the DM so wishes, they can use the dice game In Between from Out of the Box #17, The Ante. The rules for such will be posted below for easy reference.
One player is a human, dusty from travel on the road or a day’s labor. This is Jergen, a local laborer. He is heavily invested and a successful DC 10 Wisdom (Insight) check reveals he seems to be on a losing streak. The other player is a halfling. He’s dressed in fine clothes and wears a fine hat at a jaunty angle. He lounges back at in his chair and has a wide smirk. He currently has a stack of coins in front of him upon the table (1 gp, 15 sp, 20 cp) and his dirty companion has none on his side of the table.

The halfling will, if asked, refer to himself as Blackjack McGee. Blackjack is an accomplished card cheat, so any gaming set rolls he makes in a challenge are made with advantage. If a character wants to monitor Blackjack for any sort of cheating, and they declare as such, allow them to do a contest with Blackjack, pitting the character’s Wisdom (Insight) against the halfling’s Dexterity (Sleight of Hand).

If the game in question isn’t a use of the gaming set and is instead a card game the DM and player are both familiar with, Blackjack will get to draw an extra card and use that in place of a less favorable one if he passes his contest. If the player and DM are playing a game of In Between then Blackjack will get to roll an extra die and use it to his advantage. (Again, if he can achieve a cheat.) Blackjack has a total of 100 gp on his person he can use to bet, in addition to what’s on the table.

An imp as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]
What the character does not know is Blackjack has made an ally of someone who’s watching the proceedings. This is Noir, an imp. Noir is an attractive devil of tiny size who seduces humanoids, especially those of small size, into one of her contracts. She’s been watching Blackjack for some time and has been watching him cheat. At this point, she has been whispering in his ear to let him know what the other player’s cards have been.

If or when a character challenges Blackjack to a game, Noir will still help Blackjack. This is accounted for in his cheating and gaining advantage and provides no additional effect. However, if the challenging character sticks with it and defeats Blackjack in three hands or rounds of whatever game they are playing, Noir will consider her options. Devils back winners, after all.

If the character in question beats Blackjack in three hands of cards, he will quit in a huff. His sly and calm demeanor will change to an accusatory one, and he will accuse the challenger of cheating. What may ensue is a social or physical challenge. If the character(s) attempt to calm him down, consider Blackjack hostile for the purposes of social interaction with him. If they can talk him down to the point where he will do no one harm, he’ll leave, but will be unhappy.

If Blackjack leaves humiliated or disgraced (DM’s discretion, and keep in mind he’s a prideful creature), he will attempt to sneak into the offending character’s room later that night and either steal back his lost winnings or kill that character. Noir will not assist in this endeavor, but she will be watching from outside the window or doorway (whatever may be available given the circumstances).

If Blackjack is defeated again by this character, then Noir will have a change of heart, if that is indeed possible for a devil. The following night, Noir will approach this character invisibly at first. She will speak to that character in very complimentary terms. She will whisper how she admires this character’s cunning, intelligence, courage and wit. If this character is also of small size, she will describe their appearance in very flattering terms. If this =haracter is small and possesses a Charisma with a positive modifier, she will find a way to reveal herself to this character if or when they may be alone.

Noir is an imp, of course, but she is very attractive. She’s manipulative and used to getting her way by flirtation, seduction and compliments. She really should have been a succubus, but such is not the way in Hell. She will use whatever wiles are necessary to lure the character into a contract, and she does not care how far she needs to go to do it. She can always just shapechange into a tiny fly, a raven or other shape and escape if she feel threatened. Her goal will be a contract.

At this point, it may be important for the DM to talk to the player privately. The DM can convey through simple narrative that two things may take place. The first is that a small character may well be seduced into something intimate and not for the general audience of the table. A character should always have the final say if this will be allowed. Noir is not an idiot. As a devil, she knows what the word “no” means.

Secondly, she will offer a pact. What this means is the opportunity will exist for a character to multiclass into warlock when they achieve their next level of experience — unless they already are, in which case she will “smell” this on them and not approach the character in the first place.

If you feel either the table or the character will not be approving of this sort of sexually-oriented conduct, simply have her offer a pact. Again, this is an adult concept and should be offered at a table of an appropriate age or level of maturity. Let the encounter play out as best fits the table that the DM feels is fair to everyone.

Complications

During this entire process, it’s important to keep something in the front of your mind when running the encounter. Noir is a devil. That means something very important. She’s lawful evil. That can take on multiple meanings, but a few things remain true. She will hold others to the letter of her agreement, but her interpretation will always remain open to opinion, but she will always interpret things in her favor. Consider devils like you would a casino. The house always wins. That’s her outlook. She is nobody’s fool.

It’s also important to repeat the possible adult nature of this encounter. This sort of content is not for everyone, and not for every table. Some players will be sensitive to this sort of content, and it may lead to very awkward situations. Always try to get a feel for where your table stands. Long before an encounter like this occurs, a DM should try to talk to their players away from the table to establish where the boundaries are.

Know your players. Be up front. Remember — it’s all about the table and their definition of fun.

In Between – a dice game

The rules are simple. This can be played as a one or two player game, but all other players at the table can wager on this.

As a one player game, the single player requires three d20s. The single player rolling will have to declare, before rolling any of them, which is to be “between.” The other two are called the “surrounds.” Then all three are rolled at once.

If the between is a value between the other two dice and equal to neither, the rolling player wins the bet. Simple. If the surrounds are sequential (like 10, 11 or 15, 16) then the rolling player automatically loses. If the surrounds are doubles, then the rolling player can either accept the loss, or can roll again. If they lose again, then their loss is double. Otherwise, if the value of the roll is between the surrounds as per the normal winning conditions, the roller wins.

In a two player game, one player rolls the between, and the other rolls the surrounds. When the surrounds are doubles, then the surrounds player elects to roll or not, and they lose double their wager to the betweener. If the surrounds player rolls sequential dice, they automatically win.

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Follow Mike Gould:
I fell into gaming in the oddest of ways. Coming out of a bad divorce, my mom tried a lot of different things to keep my brother and I busy and out of trouble. It didn't always work. One thing that I didn't really want to do, but did because my mom asked, was enroll in Venturers. As an older Scout-type movement, I wasn't really really for the whole camping-out thing. Canoe trips and clean language were not my forte. Drag racing, BMX and foul language were. What surprised me though was one change of pace our Scout leader tried. He DMed a game of the original D&D that came out after Chainmail (and even preceedd the Red Box). All the weapons just did 1d6 damage, and the three main demi-humans (Elf, Dwarf and Halfling) were not only races, but classes. There were three alignments (Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic). It was very basic. I played all the way through high school and met a lot of new people through gaming. My expected awkwardness around the opposite sex disappeared when I had one game that was seven girls playing. They, too, never thought that they would do this, and it was a great experiement. But it got me hooked. I loved gaming, and my passion for it became infectious. Despite hanging with a very rough crowd who typically spent Fridays scoring drugs, getting into fights, and whatnot, I got them all equally hooked on my polyhedral addiction. I DMed guys around my table that had been involved in the fast-living/die young street culture of the 80s, yet they took to D&D like it was second nature. They still talk to me about those days, even when one wore a rival patch on his back to the one I was wearing. We just talked D&D. It was our language. Dungeons and Dragons opened up a whole new world too. I met lots off oddballs along with some great people. I played games like Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Car Wars, Battletech, lots of GURPS products, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Twilight 2000, Rolemaster, Champions, Marvel Superheroes, Earth Dawn...the list goes on. There was even a time while I was risiding with a patch on my back and I would show up for Mechwarrior (the clix kind) tournaments. I was the odd man out there. Gaming lead to me attending a D&D tournament at a local convention, which lead to being introduced to my paintball team, called Black Company (named after the book), which lead to meeting my wife. She was the sister of my 2iC (Second in Command), and I fell in love at first sight. Gaming lead to me meeting my best friend, who was my best man at my wedding and is the godfather of my youngest daughter. Life being what it is, there was some drama with my paintball team/D&D group, and we parted ways for a number of years. In that time I tried out two LARP systems, which taught me a lot about public speaking, improvisation, and confidence. There was a silver lining. I didn't play D&D again for a very long time, though. Then 5E came out. I discovered the Adventurer's League, and made a whole new group of friends. I discovered Acquisitions Incorporated, Dwarven Tavern, and Nerdarchy. I was hooked again. And now my daughter is playing. I introduced her to 5E and my style of DMing, and we talk in "gamer speak" a lot to each other (much to the shagrin of my wife/her mother...who still doesn't "get it"). It's my hope that one day she'll be behind the screen DMing her kids through an amazing adventure. Time will tell.

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