Last week, in a rather bizarre twist of fate basilisks featured in both campaigns in which I regularly participate. In my Borderland of Adventure campaign, the PCs met a basilisk in the deepest levels of Xul-Jarak while in Red Hodge’s campaign we encountered a dracolisk.
The encounters got me thinking about save or die effects. While I like the concept of save or die effects – they make the game suitably dangerous – the theory of them does suck a little bit if you lose a beloved character that you’ve played for months to a sucky dice roll.
As you know basilisks have a rather irritating petrification gaze attack that means you can suddenly lose your character with one dice roll. Of course, it doesn’t mean your character is dead but it does mean you are suddenly not playing any more until you are restored to flesh. If this happens early on in the session, this can be jolly boring.
Interestingly enough, the basilisk in Sons of Gruumsh doesn’t have a petrifying gaze anymore. It is described as old and half-blind. Thus, its gaze creates a slow-type effect (of course, the players didn’t know this) and I described the affected characters’ flesh as slowly turning to stone – giving them a real impetus to quickly kill the basilisk before anyone fell victim to a second gaze attack (which I intimidated would finish the job and petrify the unfortunate target).
I didn’t think much more of this until Red Hodges petrified two characters on Monday night. While the battle was exciting in that the survivors had to work very hard to kill the basilisk I felt sorry for the chaps who just sat there and watched – after all in effect with one bad dice roll their participation in the combat – and as it turned out the whole session – ended.
It would be cool to design some kind of system that models the petrifying effect while enabling the affected characters some form of limited action. For example,I can think of two systems off the top of my head:
With the first failed save the character is slowed (as the spell). A second failed save (at –2) results in the character being slowed and paralysed and the third failed save (at –4) spells petrifaction.
Treat the basilisk’s gaze as a kind of breath weapon. Everyone seeing it takes a certain amount of Dex damage every round (say 2d6). When your Dexterity reaches 0 you are petrified.
Both systems models the basilisk’s gaze attack, but gives the players more of a chance to dodge the effects. More importantly, they give the other characters time to do something to help. To me, they maintain the suspense and danger inherent in the gaze attack while lessening the immediate effects.
What do you think?