Sometimes you just need to lighten up and have fun. A series of high-tension encounters filled with danger and worry can certainly establish the right tone, but sometimes you just need to laugh or have fun. It is my hope the following encounter will combine what would normally be dangerous D&D imagery with good old fashioned random fun.
In this case, what we’ll do is create a moment or encounter that can be dropped into various settings, whether it’s a dungeon, a marketplace, a circus, or randomly appearing in a wilderness setting. The encounter itself is random and unpredictable, so it could logically be placed wherever the DM might think it’s fun. It’s location is less important than it’s purpose – to have random fun and lighten the mood.
Furthermore, to make sure this has less to do with an overarching issue or have any permanent detrimental effects, we’ll make any effects of this encounter temporary – an hour or less. These effects should not severely hamper player characters. The short duration should aid in that aspect. The effects will be randomly generated, and by the players themselves, just to add to the random fun and inject agency and fairness.
Environment: Any (DM’s whim)
Suggested level: Any, but it’s more appropriate for low to mid levels.
Description: For the purposes of this encounter, we’ll place this moment in time in a dungeon to remove outside influences so we can focus on the encounter itself.
Entering into this 30’ cubical chamber, the central feature is immediately evident. A low one-tier circular platform no higher than 1’ tall and 5’ in diameter is home to a levitating device of the strangest origin. Hovering perhaps 2’ above this platform is a 5’ diameter spherical construct slowly rotating, revealing a 1’ diameter circular and shuttered porthole along its equator. Atop the sphere rests an over-sized jester’s cap with four tails. Each tail ends in a white 3” diameter sphere. Each hat tail is painted a separate color. There is one each of red, yellow, blue, and green.
In scratched and peeling gold paint above the closed porthole, written in common, are the words “Play Your Fate.” For those who succeed in either a Wisdom/Perception or Intelligence/Investigation at a DC:10, they will notice a small 1” vertical slot next to the porthole. The gold trim which would normally make it visible is worn and faded, making it difficult to spot from any distance. Tiny writing above it, also in Common and equally worn, reads “1 gold per play.”
If the player characters speak to this odd construct, nothing will happen. In fact, unless one of them puts a coin into the slot (and it doesn’t have to be a gold one, in case the specific player is especially “thrifty”), the machine will remain inactive. However, should this one condition be met, things will start to change.
Loud calliope music will start to play, which is able to be heard as far away as 200’ under normal conditions. The four tails of the “hat” will start to slowly spin like helicopter blades, but will not move faster than making one rotation every 6 seconds. The shuttered portal will open, revealing a large, metal hand-painted, eyeball. This eyeball will glance around swiftly as if to randomly look at each player, then look in random locations. This eyeball isn’t actually looking at anyone, but feel free to play up when it does, and when it looks past the players at something that may not be there.
So long as the person who put the coin in the slot remains in the room, they will be the target of a random ray from one of the balls at the end of one of the hat tails. The beam of light will match the color of the hat tail. The player can chose to try and dodge the ray of light. If they do, they will need to succeed on a Dexterity saving throw of DC:15. Otherwise, the ray will strike the player character and an effect will occur according to the ray color that strikes it.
If that person who placed a coin in the machine leaves the room during the activation or successfully dodges the ray, then the machine will revert to its inactive state at the end of that turn and will require another coin to start the cycle again.
Should the character who placed the coin in the machine remain in the room and either choose to be struck by it or fails the save, then consult the table below to determine randomly which ray struck the player character, as well as its corresponding effect:
Red: Increase one random Attribute by +1 (Maximum 20) for 1 hour. Roll 1d6 to determine the Attribute.
Yellow: Decrease one random Attribute by -1 (Minimum 3) for 1 hour. Roll 1d6 to determine the Attribute.
Blue: Gain +1 to all saving throws for 1 hour. This stacks with current saving throw modifiers.
Green: Suffer -1 to all saving throws for 1 hour. This stacks with current saving throw modifiers.
At the end of the duration, the effect of the ray fades. The machine only works for each character once. The rays do not stack with each other. Therefore a character cannot try to get a ray to affect them twice by any means. The machine can detect whom it’s affected and will not target the same player character twice. Any attempt to do so will always fail.
If the players come up with the idea to try and break into the machine to see how many coins are in it, the construct has an AC of 19 and 27hp. Should the construct be reduced to 0hp by any means, it will explode. The explosion will cover a 20’ radius sphere and will do a total of 6d6 Piercing damage (as small metal fragments fill the room), with a Dexterity saving throw (DC:15) for half damage. The construct will have contained a total of 50 gold pieces, 25 silver pieces, and 50 copper pieces. These will be scattered about the room by the explosion and will take a full hour to collect among the debris (divided by the number of people collecting … so it would take four people 15 minutes to collect).
Treasure: A temporary boon is treasure-like, isn’t it? And who doesn’t like picking shredded coinage out of their hair. I do.
Complications: There are a few complications. Attribute modification’s most significant change will be in the alteration of hit points and hit point maximums. This could alter player character fates for the next hour significantly and should be monitored by the DM. It’s important to note, though, that this machine in no way unfairly inflicts anything upon a player character – a player character had to place a coin in the machine … mind you spells like Suggestion, Domination and the like could alter this voluntary choice. That’s important to note as well. The intent of this encounter was to inject some old school fun house dungeon hilarity into a game setting. That’s why the effects are temporary and relatively short lived. It will mean, however, that the DM should keep an accurate track of time as of the first ray effect’s initiation. It may well be the case that the players gain some benefits, want their coins back for some reason, and end up dying in the blast or wasting the duration of the ray collecting coins from the constructs wreckage. Trust me, I know – I’ve had “those players.”
Try to have fun with this in any regard. I hope it inspires similar randomness at your table to break up what may be some very serious or high-tension moments and remind us all that we are still playing a game.