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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Lotus Eater Machines

    Suppose you're a player. Your game is going well. Then the DM surprises you by having you wake up from a Matrix-like vivid dream. You wake up minus your items, sans powers, at 10 HP, deleveled and in Hell. You have to find your way out, so to speak.

    How would you see this as a player? Why?

    Would you do this as a DM? Why?

    I genuinely wanna know that; I'm considering the idea of doing it to my players, but not sure they'd enjoy it.
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    DruidGuy

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    Default Re: Lotus Eater Machines

    Depends how long I have been playing the character I suppose. If I didn't have much vested in my character I think it could be cool. Or if I reached the end of a campaign and was starting a new one it could be an interesting tie in/dovetail. But if it happens in the middle of a good game there will be resistance for sure. It is a nasty surprise after all.

    As a GM I'd only try it after a pretty strong finish to a campaign arc or transitioning into a new game. This is more than a little twist we're talking about. There's a lot of potential great stuff but I think you'd need players' trust.
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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: Lotus Eater Machines

    This could go... poorly.

    The first problem is getting sucked into this reality, with no save or transition. In other words, a railroad of the highest order. The second problem is the fact that you're taking away their powers, which players despise. Depending on how much prep work they put into their character sheets, this could cut way, way too deep for them. The third problem is that in hell, there is no real way to make progress against devils who have had thousands of years to get better at the ways of hell than the PCs could ever hope to.

    How I would run it is rather different. The players are trapped in a dream very similar to the real world, save for one key difference: nothing they do has permanence. They kill enemies, the NPCs respawn as the moment the PCs have left the area. They solve a problem for an NPC, the NPC thanks them, but when they return, the NPC doesn't recall the problem being fixed, and when they check, the problem is still there. The PCs die, they disappear, and then reappear when the rest of the party enters a new area. There's that same sense of powerlessness there, the same sense of not being able to do anything, not knowing why, and struggling to find an out. But you're not forcing them into a new area. You're not taking away their abilities or anything they've earned, but you're still getting the effect that you're looking for. All you need to do is design a way out.
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  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: Lotus Eater Machines

    Quote Originally Posted by DMofDarkness View Post
    This could go... poorly.

    The first problem is getting sucked into this reality, with no save or transition. In other words, a railroad of the highest order. The second problem is the fact that you're taking away their powers, which players despise. Depending on how much prep work they put into their character sheets, this could cut way, way too deep for them. The third problem is that in hell, there is no real way to make progress against devils who have had thousands of years to get better at the ways of hell than the PCs could ever hope to.

    How I would run it is rather different. The players are trapped in a dream very similar to the real world, save for one key difference: nothing they do has permanence. They kill enemies, the NPCs respawn as the moment the PCs have left the area. They solve a problem for an NPC, the NPC thanks them, but when they return, the NPC doesn't recall the problem being fixed, and when they check, the problem is still there. The PCs die, they disappear, and then reappear when the rest of the party enters a new area. There's that same sense of powerlessness there, the same sense of not being able to do anything, not knowing why, and struggling to find an out. But you're not forcing them into a new area. You're not taking away their abilities or anything they've earned, but you're still getting the effect that you're looking for. All you need to do is design a way out.
    Thank you! :)
    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    Oh Lord, somebody said "The_Weirdo" three times into a mirror again, didn't they?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lacuna Caster View Post
    Weirdo... I'm not sure you're entirely clear on how an 'alliance' works.

  5. - Top - End - #5
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    Segev's Avatar

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    Default Re: Lotus Eater Machines

    The key to pulling this off well is to give the players a sense that not EVERYTHING is futile. Or to do it as a one-shot (or very brief campaign) where the twist is revealed in the first session. That is, they start off doing well, and all of a sudden the hell thing is revealed just as they're starting to think "this is going too well/fast; the campaign's already over!"

    In an ongoing campaign, you don't want to make it be revealed that everything since before the game started, or even since many arcs ago, has been a "lotus eater machine" incident...unless it's something you're sure the players are okay with to revitalize a campaign that's gotten staid and "too easy."

    In an ongoing campaign, therefore, I'd have a definite incident be the starting point for it. In fact, if I were doing it, I'd not specify the incident, myself; I'd just wait for some point where the party truly is in over their heads (these things often happen on their own), and I, as GM, feel I need to pull some behind-the-screen cheating to save them. For example, if I were at a point where I'd lower the hp of a monster, or change its AC, or have it start missing when it should hit, or have it not deal the fatal amount of hp damage it "should," that's when I'd kick this into motion.

    I'd do whatever GMly cheating in the players' favor I had in mind...but only to the players' perceptions. What's "really happened" is that the cheating was the lotus eater machine's kickoff. The party really got screwed, TPK'd, what-have-you. They're saved only to be put into this lotus eater machine. In fact, I'd let them make Will saves, and anybody who succeeds...dies. The players of those characters may or may not be told, depending how I wanted to handle it: option 1 would be to tell everybody those who made the saves died, and to make new PCs; option 2 would be to not tell them, but their PCs in the game now are constructs of the lotus eater machine, designed to help keep the illusion going for those actually in it.

    For the latter option, I'd probably tell those who made their save that they receive an offer of deus ex machina aid, which they may reject due to the cost they would be told they'd have to pay (something along the lines of giving up their souls or something). Those who agree are sucked into the machine; those who don't die in reality.


    In any event, I'd run it as the idyllic victory-fest a lotus-eater machine would create until the players started questioning or investigating or I felt it was time to just "wake them up."

    The reason for having a specific event is because it lets the players have a sense that they DID achieve stuff with meaning in the game, and be able to point to when that stopped. When the delusion took over. It means they have a place in the world to get back to that is meaningful to them. And, doing it this way ensures maximal agency to the PCs. They either do fail a save, agree to this scenario (even if that's not what they THINK they're agreeing to; evil beings are so untrustworthy), or have to make a new PC.

    I would not orchestrate the event specifically because that way you avoid railroading. you didn't create an unwinnable challenge on purpose; things just didn't work out. So they don't look at The Incident even in hindsight and accuse you of forcing a loss. Nobody likes forced losses.

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    cobaltstarfire's Avatar

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    Default Re: Lotus Eater Machines

    About the same as has already been said.

    I'd be really irate if it happened in the middle of an ongoing campaign.

    Less so if it was at the beginning or end. At the beginning of a game it would still irritate me a bit, mainly because I'd feel like the time spent building the character, and working out gear and such was just a waste.

    The negative feelings I'd feel would probably be anger, sadness, apathy, and a strong sense of having somehow been cheated.

    If at the end it's could be a nice hook though, so long as it's clear that things are coming to some sort of an end.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Lotus Eater Machines

    I guess for me it would depend on how far the depowering goes. If your hitpoints disappear, your gear is left in the real world and all your connections are at the far end of a plane shift you can't cast that sucks, but it might be a nice challenge if say you get to keep your single greatest quality. I am still skilled like a badass, or I can still talk his way out of anything, or I still inspire fear in almost everything, or I can still take a hell of a beating, or dodge and tumble past almost any obstacles. This way I get to do what I'm good at, but because everything else is gone I don't have much of a backup plan. I've got a lot more riding on these checks, and on top of that a whole new class of enemies to defeat with nothing but my best quality and the guile of my soul.

    I wouldn't want to stay there permanently, I'd be happy to find the way out after one or two sessions. But as long as I knew that that was what's going on, I'm temporarily being challenged in a different way from normal, I might think this is pretty cool.

    I would prefer not to lose absolutely everything though, and I'd want the transition to be semi-logical story wise. We've stormed the castle of a wizard demon prince, and killed him. Mid-looting the structure starts to collapse around us. We try to make it to the exit, but there are so many hallways, so many skill checks. Then everything goes dark.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Lotus Eater Machines

    The other alternative is that the players "waking up" is actually the dream and the characters have been put into the lotus eater machine for some reason - they've still got all their gear and skills, they just can't access them for a while (like the Tranquility Lane mission in Fallout 3).

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Lotus Eater Machines

    I have to say, this strikes me as extremely railroad-y. I would change it as follows:

    - Don't have them wake up in Hell. Have them sent there by some other means (cursed artefact, enemy spell etc) so that they retain at least a little agency in getting there. Even better, send them on a quest to Hell, eg to rescue someone - the downside being that it's a one way trip and they have to make their own way out.

    - Don't depower or delevel them, except possibly to block them from just Plane Shifting home. It's HELL, the literal worst place in the world. You should be able to justify difficult challenges for them regardless of their level. Depowering for any length of time annoys your players and unfairly disadvantages those dependent on magic (the depowered fighter can still punch things, but the depowered wizard is really screwed).

    Alternatively...

    - Have the depowering part of their backstory, but don't make them generate the powerful characters beforehand, only to take away almost all of their abilities. Generating powerful characters is generally a lot of work, and the campaign premise means that most of that effort will be wasted. Have them generate low-powered characters from the very start, all of whom have it in their backstory that they were once much stronger.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: Lotus Eater Machines

    Ridiculously, this had happened once and we all find it absolutely hillarious.

    Basically, the game was a superhero/sentai game and we the players are playing teen heroes in some sort of academy. We've all been planning to have a beach vacation for a while, and the chapter start with us in that beach, doing vacationy things. We had a particularly spirited volleyball game, where some of us used our limited resources (hero point and such) for that stupid game.

    I forgot the details, but it turned out everything was just a dream, we did actually went to the beach, but a monster attacked us and trapped us in that dream, I forgot how, but we managed to realize it's a dream, wake up, and beat the monster, with all awkwardness that entail on whether things we do in that shared dream is should be considered real. And of course, with us laughing at how we used our limited resource for a stupid volleyball game and when we have to actually fight the monster, our resource had been depleted.

    But on your scenario, I actually did have an idea for a campaign where the players start high powered, and they either easily beat up a villainous big bad monster, or eaten by them, to wake up and realizing that it's all just a dream and then the actual game happened. But the key point is it should be really short that players won't feel too attached to their characters yet, it might even serve at taste for the high power they'll have later.
    Last edited by Fri; 2015-12-29 at 09:35 AM.
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  11. - Top - End - #11
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    SolithKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Lotus Eater Machines

    If you planned on giving them back all their powers n such when they escape, then I guess it'd be alright. Should probably promise them OOC that everything will be made right again, though.

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    NecromancerGirl

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    Default Re: Lotus Eater Machines

    Surprise twist: they wake up in storage-pod futuretech dystopia*, only to find that something went wrong in the dream-to-reality transfer, and they've still got all their magic-style powers that aren't supposed to exist.

    *That is, not literal hell, but close to it.
    Last edited by ExLibrisMortis; 2015-12-29 at 12:13 PM.
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    Default Re: Lotus Eater Machines

    If done right it could be really interesting. Give everything a bohemian rhapsody "is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?" inceptionish feel. Make it a mystery. Was the world where they were merlin the magician, conan the barbarian, and super thief jimmy snooka real? Is this world real? Do we want to go back? CAN we go back? Probably would fall flat with a group of murder hobo players though. Could even be a fun transition point as was said for a new campaign. They wake up in the dream machine and discover they are actually x class instead of y. They are starting from scratch and their first mission is to figure out what the heck was going on here. Add an amnesia factor so they have to discover who they really are and so on.
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    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Lotus Eater Machines

    Quote Originally Posted by ExLibrisMortis View Post
    Surprise twist: they wake up in storage-pod futuretech dystopia*, only to find that something went wrong in the dream-to-reality transfer, and they've still got all their magic-style powers that aren't supposed to exist.

    *That is, not literal hell, but close to it.
    I'd play that game, a sci-fi world getting wrecked by what are in universe almost literally high level d&d characters. That would be awesome.

    The campaign might get a little ridiculous ones we figure out how to give people made up powers on purpose...
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    Default Re: Lotus Eater Machines

    I would say it works best as a translation between campaigns. Getting depowered that far would probably be jarring.

    The other option is to only take them back a few levels, back to some point in the game where things didn't quite go right. Maybe have a session end right before a bossfight and pretend that your notes on it went missing, and have the end of session EXP be enough to level them (there's a boss fight coming after all, might as well make sure it's a good fight). The next week, start the game right after they won the fight, avoiding all questions on what happened other than a vague "Oh yeah, you curbstomped him." In reality, they got taken out and put into whatever lotus eater machine you have planned. This allows them to have a good place to start when they resume reality, and gives them a new goal (kill/interrogate whoever put them out of commission).
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    Default Re: Lotus Eater Machines

    Quote Originally Posted by Kami2awa View Post
    It's HELL, the literal worst place in the world.
    Assuming Planescape, Hell's pretty bad, but there's easily other contenders for "worst." Take the Grey Wastes of Hades - it's so bleak and so evil that simply being there requires a save to not succumb to despair and huddle on the ground, waiting for death to take you.
    Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 2015-12-29 at 10:26 PM.

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