This is yet another concept based around a “what if”. When we look at the many magic items available in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, one that seems to be missing is the Helm of Alignment Change. This was a cursed magical item that, once worn, converted the wearer’s alignment to whatever was diametrically opposed. The only alignment that was unaffected was Neutral, as it had no opposite. Some old school players and DMs will remember this awful item, either as a victim or as the DM who seeded a treasure trove with this bad boy to see if a greedy player would take it.
With that established, there are monsters out there for whom putting on a magic helmet would have a very unusual outcome for one main reason – they have more than one head.
So here’s the “what if”…What if an Ettin put on a Helmet of Alignment Change….?
While the players are traveling a winding road through a forest, the echoes of shouting and crashing can be heard in the distance. Before they can react, two draft horses, still in full tack, drag torn harnesses as they charge past the party in the opposite direction. As they close toward the noises of conflict, more might (Perception DC 10) become apparent. The sounds loud shouting are broken up with occasional cries of fear, mixed with the sounds of crashing….and then a guttural plea.
Exiting the forest and entering grasslands, what greets the party is an odd sight. A large two headed giant, perhaps 10’ tall, is both overturning…and then righting…wagons, carts and other caravan vehicles. All the while, the heads argue with each other. One head on the right, long-haired and shaggy, roars and creates the carnage. The other head on the left, wearing a decorative iron pot helm, cries out and tries to stop the other, and immediately rights any overturned vehicle. Two draft horses lie dead on the side of the road, butchered by a large bladed weapon. A mule stands nearby the caravan, seemingly either unaware or uncaring of the carnage. The occupants of the caravan are hiding in a nearby ditch; their heads popping up like groundhogs to witness and then hide from the bizarre sight. Every time the giant roars and overturns a wagon, they scream and duck down..only to pop up one at a time out of morbid curiosity to witness the ongoing drama.
This weird spectacle all began the day before when this Ettin, named Urglegurgle, raided a merchant carrying a satchel which included a Helm of Alignment Change. After a short argument, Gurgle put the Helm on before Urgle could react. Now, every attempt to return to a life of raiding and carnage that Urgle knows, Gurgle works just as hard to either stop or fix. This has lead to this bizarre circus of wrath and repair.
The players can attack Urglegurgle, of course. Urgle will roar and face the challenge. Gurgle will only attack if pressed. Mechanically, this means that Gurgle’s battle axe attack will not occur for the first round, meaning the multi-attack feature is not in play for the first round of any combat. Gurgle may even try to negotiate for peace, although Urgle will try his best to sabotage those plans. Negotiations will be at Disadvantage, but are not impossible. Ettins respond to bribery, so if the party wish to call off Urgle’s rage without harming Gurgle, a sufficient bribe might be enough to get the Ettin to leave. Otherwise, Gurgle may be forced to defend himself along with Urgle.
If they can somehow get the helmet off (with a Remove Curse spell), Gurgle will revert to his original alignment and join in the carnage along with Urgle. This may not be a desired outcome unless they want to kill Urglegurgle with a clear conscience.
“Urglegurgle” Ettin (1) – As per Monster Manual, p. 132
Helm of Alignment Change (cursed) – Wondrous Item, Rare. This iron helmet is decorated with bronze highlights and twisting, swirling engravings. When this helm is placed upon the head of a Large or smaller aligned humanoid or giant, the original alignment of that creature is changed to the exact opposite alignment so long as the helmet is worn. Lawful becomes Chaotic. Good becomes Evil. The Neutral component remains unchanged. The helmet is cursed, so the wearer will not willingly remove it.
Lawful Good becomes Chaotic Evil
Neutral Good becomes Neutral Evil
Chaotic Good becomes Lawful Evil
Lawful Neutral becomes Chaotic Neutral
…and vice versa.
This effect can be avoided if the wearer passes a DC: 15 Wisdom saving throw. If they pass, they will immediately recognize that the Helm has somehow tried to affect their internal morality and ethics, and can choose to discard it. If they fail, then the helmet will alter their alignment to whatever is the opposite. That character can make a new saving throw in seven days, and against the same DC. If they again fail, then the next month. If they fail that save, then it will be another year. If they fail that save, then the change is permanent. A Remove Curse spell can free a character from the helmet and thus revert the character’s alignment. However, should that character have a permanent alignment change, nothing short of a Greater Restoration will repair their moral compass.
Furthermore, if the caravan can be spared, and the horses that ran off can be returned, the merchants will reward the players with a 500gp reward should they make it to their destination (which will be whatever the next town or village is in your campaign).
There are several complications to consider. There is the moral conflict created when Gurgle asks not to be harmed or apologizes for the damage. He only speaks Orc and Giant, so the players would realistically have to know one of these languages to fully comprehend that attempt.
The Helmet itself will fall away from the Ettin if the giant is killed, making it available to be worn by a player character. A character that is so cursed by the helmet should not immediately reveal it’s new alignment if it is contradictory to the party, as the character will believe that this is it’s rightful moral compass. That may mean that this new alignment can lead to sabotages and infighting.
That complication alone may make a player feel like it has lost agency, so it’s important to give them an opportunity to have a Remove Curse spell made available if they are disheartened in such a way, either by finding a scroll or perhaps a beneficial NPC if no other means are available. This could also be seen as a great roleplaying opportunity, and may create it’s series of storylines where a hero falls and then must be redeemed. It all depends on where the player wants to go with this.
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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