by Mark Terrano
There was an old "psychological" party game where you would ask a new arrival to see if they could guess the plot of the movie you were all writing. When they asked a question ending with a consonant, you would answer "no," and when they asked one ending with a vowel, you would answer "yes." W or Y would get a "maybe" answer. I took this concept and turned it into a new type of encounter. The players' questions are used to create the Darkman. I modified the original party game quite a bit, in order to make it playable, and have made decisions on various divinatory spells that are common in AD&D.
The Darkman Encounter Begins
DM: "You have proceeded down the hall (through the woods, up the stairs, wherever), until at the edge of your torchlight, you can just make out what looks like a wall of shifting grey and black. You are now 35' from it." (Feel free to change this distance.)
If the players shoot missiles:
DM: "The missiles seem to have no effect, and have dropped harmlessly in front of the 'wall'."
If the players cast offensive spells:
DM: "Your spell has no effect on the wall, and seems to have (passed right through, glanced off and stuck to the wall, whatever)." [DM Option]
NOTE: Spells of a divinatory nature will reveal little or nothing. For specific spells, see NOTES section at the end of this encounter.
If the players want a closer look:
DM: "You have moved a bit closer to the wall (25 feet). It looks a little like oil when on the surface of water, but half-formed images keep appearing. You get the impression of a man pacing on the other side of a curtain or screen."
When the players get to the 10' point, the Darkman will speak:
DM: "A strange deep voice, in Common, emanates from the wall. It says, 'I am the Darkman. Query thoughts of past bring forth events of future.'"
If the players go 25' or more from the wall and approach again, it will repeat the line. It will not speak this line again otherwise.
If the players speak to Darkman, it will speak to them again, interrupting the speaker by saying:
DM: "I answer all asked with yes, no, perhaps."
The Questions Are Asked
If the players ask a question about something other than the Darkman, e.g. "Where is the nearest treasure?" "How fast does a swallow fly?" etc., it will reply:
DM: "Question my nature and nothing else, for I speak of naught but of myself; I am the Darkman."
If the players ask any questions as to the honesty of the Darkman, or the truth in his replies, respond always:
DM: "When seeking my essence to all I'll reply: I answer with truth, and never a lie."
NOTE: This one is important. Don't let the party get trapped in a 'loop' of questions about the validity of the Darkman's answers.
If the players start to get stuck, you can tell them this after maybe 10 questions or more. Let 'em fumble around awhile; if they're heading the wrong way, feel free to give hints, again DM Option.
"An unknown foe may not be challenged,"
A wiser one than thou didst say.
Find my nature then defeat me,
If you should wish to pass this way.
NOTE: For all other questions pertaining to the Darkman's nature than the ones above, use the following system to answer questions.
When the players ask questions about the Darkman's nature, reply using the following criteria:
Answer YES to all questions ending in the letters E I M O P T U S
Answer NO to all questions ending in the letters A C G H J K L N Q V X Z
Answer PERHAPS to all questions ending in the letters B D F R W Y
(Optionally, use "I don't know" or "maybe" where applicable.)
The players come upon the Darkman. After the Cleric tries to Turn it and nothing happens, the Fighter shoots an arrow and it has no effect other than bouncing to the floor. The Magic-User casts Detect Magic, and reads a strong magical force. The MU casts Lightning Bolt and it appears to pass through (or maybe be absorbed).
They confront the Darkman and hear the saying. They start asking questions.
PL: "Are you a spirit?"
PL: "Are you evil?"
DK: "No, the Darkman is not evil." (Optionally, you can rephrase the questions when you answer them.)
PL: "Is it your duty to stop us from passing here?"
PL: "Are you hungry?"
DK: "Maybe." (Or "I don't know.")
PL: "Can you be dispelled?"
DK: "Perhaps." (If the players try Dispel Magic, it will do nothing.)
PL: "Does someone in this party have the power to dispel you?"
DK: "Yes. Someone in your party can dispel me."
. . . etc. . . .
In this question and answer phase with the players, they will be building the Darkman. The NO answers will define the Darkman in one way, the YES answers will give him definite qualities. If you come up against a seeming contradiction, find a way to meet the criteria of both.
After 25 questions answered "YES" or 30 questions answered "NO", the Darkman will appear in whatever form the players have created him.
NOTE: You may wish to extend this number up or down a bit depending on how much info you have to create the Darkman from. If you don't have enough, try to guide the players into the correct line of thinking.
Note, if you give the players a "NO" answer, you can answer them back with their question. For example, if the players ask, "Are you a living thing?" and DM says "No," then if the players later ask "Are you alive?" don't be contradictory and say "Yes," say "I said before that I was not a living thing."
What happens thereafter is DM Option.
The Darkman is a being from the plane of shadow, cursed to stop all passage in a particular direction until its nature is defined and it becomes concrete. It will hold this form for a period of a year and a day, whereupon its curse is lifted and it returns to the plane of shadow. The Darkman is bound to answer the questions in the method described above. If the players create a beneficial Darkman, it will not accompany them on their adventure, unless it was created specifically to do this.
In his finished form, the Darkman can be anything from an ancient red dragon to a rat with an affinity for jelly doughnuts. The players' own fears/hopes/ideas will be turned into a creature.
Extremely Important! You will want to write down the questions that the players ask, so you will know and be able to describe the Darkman's form when he appears.
This is mainly up to the DM, but I would award a large bonus to any player who figures out that the Darkman is bound by the ending letter of the sentence. Award about half that number of points to the player who deduces that the Darkman is being created from the questions. Award half those points to someone who takes actions to protect the party from the Darkman's eventual form, or tries to bring out a good form by asking positive questions (of course, this will just as often bring out a bad Darkman because of the negative answers).
Effects of Common Spells / Magic Items
Most spells will have little or no effect on the Darkman, but will work normally once the new creature has been created. The new creature has no innate magical resistance unless this is "questioned in."
Clerical turning will have no effect on the Darkman.
Augury - If the cleric makes his roll, then he will get both good and bad as an answer.
Detect Charm - Positive.
Find Traps - Negative.
Dispel Evil - No effect.
Commune - Even the Gods cannot tell how the Darkman will come out. Answer the questions asked by the cleric, but be vague.
True Seeing - No effect.
Stonetell - The Darkman is as you would ask him to be. They will give no other information.
Detect Snares and Pits - Negative.
Magic User Spells
Detect Magic - Very potent magic. If type is known: Evocation.
Detect Invisible - Negative.
Detect Good/Evil - This will respond negatively. The Darkman is neutral until its nature is completely decided.
Dispel Magic - No effect.
Polymorph - No effect.
Contact Other Plane - Depends on plane contacted and on questions asked. See notes under clerical Commune spell.
Passwall - Fails (only works through wood, stone, or plaster).
Disintegrate - Save as 5th level fighter or Darkman is destroyed.
Phase Door - Fails (as Passwall).
Power Word: Kill - Save as 5th level fighter or Darkman is dispelled.
Limited Wish/Wish - As always, be very particular on the wording.
Detect Illusion - Negative.
Alter Reality - Dispels Darkman, if done correctly.
The Darkman is something I thought up on 16 Sept 1984. It was playtested around the TAG (Thurnocian Adventurer's Guild) first, and then I unleashed it on the TUUG (Technically United Users Group) players. Many thanks to all those who helped me with the many playtests.
(Originally appeared in The Spell Book, issue #13, Fall 1987, pp. 8-13; Corey & Lori Cole, editors.)
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