I created two incredibly powerful weapons for the story of one of my campaigns to revolve around.
The first weapon was Occam’s Razor. It was a wickedly sharp sword, and the legend said the wielder could bend reality to her will (twice a day), so long as what she wished to happen made logical sense and didn’t require too many assumptions. If a character wanted to go somewhere, she could hold Occam’s Razor and explain how she could get a ride. She couldn’t say “I wish a helicopter would come down from the sky and pick us up” but the character could say “That nice nun with the twin pistols who drives the church van (an established NPC in that campaign) lives around here. It would make sense if we saw her driving by.”
The rule for the razor was the character held the sword, explained their logic, and I decided if it made enough sense. If it did, reality bent, and it happened.
Occam’s Razor had an equally powerful counterpart: Arkham’s Razor. Arkham’s Razor was a wickedly dull sword that had the same twice-a-day power, but it worked in the opposite way. The user had to explain how something would happen using the least logical means available. With Arkham’s Razor, a person waiting for a ride wouldn’t ask for a bus, a car, or a plane to come by and give them a ride. They’d explain how a purple worm would erupt from the ground, swallow them whole, dive back into the earth, and burrow its way to their destination. Also, the inside of the worm would be fully furnished with a large book and DVD collection, a 72” flat screen, couches, and surround sound.
If you want some of the context, read on. If you want the items my players accidentally created without context, then go here (next week when I post it).
Barebones Context: Because some people care about the plot.
This took place during one of my Monster Campaigns. The players learned an illithid named Solaris, a known enemy of their employer, was actively searching for some kind of hidden, reality-bending weapon. Through some roleplaying and skill checking, they managed to find out information that told them where Solaris thought the sword resided.
They embarked on an epic quest and eventually found the sword. Unfortunately, it was in a giant cemetery and guarded by two undead beholders. Just as the fight began, a thief swiped Occam’s Razor during the fight, and ran off into the graveyard, locking the players in with the beholders.
After a grueling battle, they defeated the beholders, caught up to the thief, and retrieved Occam’s Razor from him. Through some experimentation, they learned how the sword worked and that they could use its reality-bending powers twice per day.
To my surprise, they feared the weapon and decided to use it as little as possible. They knew how powerful such an ability was. They knew they might accidentally cause great harm if they used it, even in a seemingly non-destructive way. Once they returned to their base of operations, they hid the razor in an underground well about 70 ft below the ground. At 70 ft, it was out of the range of a Detect Magic spell if someone was trying to find it on the surface.
They decided to set out and follow up on some leads so they could find Solaris.
Then the campaign started getting weird.
What the players didn’t know was that Solaris had obtained another reality-bending magical weapon, one they had no idea existed, Arkham’s Razor. So every game, I started introducing increasingly strange elements. Coincidences and strange circumstances started becoming eerily common and unexpected events always seemed to favor their enemies.
Here are some ideas on how to make the story purposefully weird:
- Have every discarded item after a certain point always reappear in their bags, weighing them down when they try to get new items.
- A previously unknown colony of people claim that a PCs horse is their long lost ruler. They attempt to murder the PCs for enslaving their ruler.
- Everything the PCs try to eat, whether it is rations or food from a tavern, starts talking and pleads for its life, screaming if it is consumed. It’s up to you whether or not NPCs can hear the food.
- Every time they try to count something, they always get a different number.
I did that steady increase in absurdity over a month or so until they couldn’t ignore it any longer. They realized it truly had to do with the plot and not me being a strange person when they found Occam’s Razor in their belongings while they were hundreds of miles away from where they hid it.
They started doing research on items related to Occam’s Razor. Through some high ranks in Gather Information, they learned of the origins and of Occam’s Razor and learned about the existence of Arkham’s Razor. That coupled with the fact that so many weird things were happening to them, they figured out that Solaris must already have Arkham’s Razor, and he was using it to hinder and try to kill them.
With Occam’s Razor in their possession once again, they started debating what to do. Should they go after Solaris while they had the Razor? What if he managed to take it from them?
While holding Occam’s Razor during that discussion, one of the players accidentally said something that made logical sense.
“If there are two of these weapons, shouldn’t there be more of these insanely-powerful artifacts with different, awesome powers?”
He felt a bit of power leave the sword and they realized they had made more reality-bending weapons. Unfortunately, they didn’t know where they had materialized or what exactly they did.