Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sunder Wallbane

The following events actually happened during a game of Pathfinder I ran last night. (We're taking a break from Traveller.)

The Player Characters (PCs) were exploring a dungeon and ran headlong into a nasty hobgoblin pincer ambush that ripped them a new one. Despite taking heavy damage, the PCs managed to kill the chieftain and his cleric consort and many of the remaining hobgoblins, and so the surviving hobbos fled to an inner room and bars the doors. The PCs, bloody and low on hitpoints and completely out of magic, retired to their own secure room to rest for the night.

The next morning -- having not been attacked during the night by counterattacking hobgoblins, which was a fear of theirs -- the PCs return to the site of the ambush to see if they can get through the door and into the rest of the dungeon. The resident trapsmith takes a looks and declares that not only are the doors barricaded, but they are probably trapped as well, and so getting past them will be a long and probably risky undertaking. She further observes (because I am feeding her this info) that it would probably take as much effort, and be safer besides, if they just tunneled through the stone wall and bypass the traps entirely.

I suggested this for the following reasons:
  1. They're an all-dwarf party, so tunneling is completely reasonable to them. 
  2. There's a PC, Perga, who has a heavy pick and the Profession: Miner skill.
  3. I like making odd suggestions and seeing what the party will do with them. This has given me hours of amusement, and if a GM can't laugh at her players, she's not properly enjoying her role. 
The party decides that this is actually a great course of action, and decide to have Perga (who is actually a Gunslinger -- this will become hilarious later) do his thing. I immediately start looking up rules for hardness and hit points of dungeon walls, and calculating how many wandering monsters will come investigate the sound of metal on stone. After I'm all set up, giggling to myself at the wickedness of my plan, I have Perga roll his Miner skill.

He rolls a natural 20.

Since this is technically an attack, I have him roll to confirm a critical hit. He does. He rolls another natural 20. He rolls again, and gets a 17. I look at the Break DC of the wall and see that it's 35. I look at the critical multiplier of the heavy pick and see that it's x4.

I think about this for a moment, then decide "Oh, why the hell not. This is a game about magic and epic adventures, and two nat 20s in a row is 1 in 400 odds. Also, it moves the plot forward, and it amuses me." The entire PC party is on the edge of their seats as I describe what happens next:
Perga carefully sets Matilda, his musket, to the side. He looks thoughtfully at the wall, as if to say "Where should I hit?" His decision made, he carefully draws an X on the wall.

He takes his pick out of his pack, spits on his hands, and takes a few swings, limbering up like a professional baseball player. "Right, the power of the swing comes from the hips... remember the follow through..." Then he hauls back and, with a mighty swing, the pick whistles through the air and buries itself deeply into the stone.

It doesn't want to come free. He wiggles it, and there's a cracking sound as a fracture races out from the point of impact. Then another. Then another. Then the entire wall crackles as fissures spiderweb outward from where the pick hit, all while Perga is trying to pry his pick loose. Straining with all his might, he gives the pick one last pull, this time with a bit of a twist to pop the head free by prying out some masonry with it.

The bit of masonry is pried out. The head pops free. And with its departure, all 20 feet of the cracked wall collapses with a roar into rubble, leaving a massive hole into the room.

Perga looks at the wall. Looks at his pick. Wall. Pick. Wall. "Huh," he says. "Never seen that happen before."
Later that evening during post-game wrap-up, I tell Perga's player "Give that pick an epic name, because you managed to infuse it with a little bit of legend."  He chose the name "Sunder".

I told him "Congratulations. You have a Pick of Wall Slaying."

Sunder Wallbane
(Heavy Pick)
Sunder has +2 to hit against structures, and does an additional 2d6 damage to them. Against all other foes, it is considered a magical weapon but has no additional properties.

Further commentary from the GM:
Technically, magical items first need to be masterwork quality, but you live in a magical world and you double-critted, and it moved the plot along, and it amused me, and the rest of the party will be talking about this for years, so yeah, it's magical. Epic actions can turn mundane items into relics in my game.

Given that you critted and one-shotted a wall, it seems fitting that Sunder be a "slaying" weapon, and what it slays is walls. Well, structures I guess, because floors are just horizontal walls and ceilings are lifted horizontal walls and roofs are slanted walls. Don't get cute by trying to use it on non-wall things like rock outcroppings or canyons or hills, because that gets into a semantic argument like "Well, that golem is made of stone, and walls are made of stone, so etc."  No. Sunder kills man-made structures because non-dwarf engineering is feeble. The benefit of this is that so long as it's constructed and not natural, you can slay it.

This is all hilarious to me because it's the first magical weapon the party has, and it's a melee weapon, and it's in the possession of a Gunslinger who shoots things at range. I do expect that it will get more use as a tool than a weapon,  because while it's merely an adequate weapon it's an amazing tool, doing 3d6+2+strength against fabricated structures.

I also love my idea that magical weapons can be spontaneously created through epic deeds. It avoids the soulless "You find or buy a weapon" issue because Sunder now has history with the PC group. They aren't going to want to part with it, because it's sentimental to them. Instead, they're going to use it, and its legend will continue to grow. In the same way that ancestral katana were said to have inside them the souls of the ancestors who wielded them, so too will the deeds of Perga Ironfoot increase the power of Sunder Wallbane. With more epic uses and epic successes, I can see it growing into a magical weapon of legend.

I look forward to seeing what the rest of my players can do. 

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