The Dilemma of the Invisible Halfling

by mshrm

My favorite kind of retcons are the ones that rearrange things behind the scenes. If a player wants to move points around on a character sheet after the game has begun, if it’s something that hasn’t yet appeared “on screen”, I allow a free hand. In most games, if somebody wants to spend points to pick up a skill or some such, I’ll accept the rationale of “I’ve had it all along” (or “You never asked“), though in this game, in the interests of simulating the dungeon circa 1984, I’ve been charging training costs.

Likewise, I’ll happily re-arrange the furniture of the room the PCs haven’t seen yet. I’ve often thought it would be possible to run a murder mystery in the tradition of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, by throwing out some inconclusive clues and just accepting that, say, the third good accusation from a PC would uncover the “true” villain. Until a PC opens the box, the cat might be alive or dead, according to the demands of plot and quantum mechanics.

This time around, though, for the Dungeon Fantasy game, I’ve sworn that I’m playing with my cards face-up. In fact, if we can get meta for a moment, that’s the whole reason this blog exists in the first place, and that it’s more than just a monthly play report. The things that I post between games are partly a way of showing off what goes on “behind the camera”. Demonstrating the infrastructure, I guess you might say. Given that, I feel like I shouldn’t let it go unremarked when making such a behind-the-scenes change.

So, to the case at hand:  In the last session, I made a bad call about the way the Invisibility spell works. I remembered the baseline GURPS Magic version, which is not ended by hostile action, and forgot that GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers, page 20, changes that. At first, I was inclined to stand by the ruling, but since then, I’ve been persuaded that there are unseen dangers ahead on that course. If nothing else, it goes against the grain of the “circa 1984” goal.

The problem is, the PCs have seen (well, kinda…) the halfling attacking people while invisible. The easier thing to do would be to wave it off and say it never happened. If any of the players objected, I could just throw shiny goodies at ’em.  “Forget about the spell, and you can find the bag of coins he had concealed in his loincloth. Did I not mention the drawer full of healing potions?”  Trouble is, sometimes I just can’t bring myself to follow the path of least resistance… so I’ve been worrying at it. Now, I think I’ve found a solution that preserves events as they happened.

Originally, my thinking was that the halfling was invisible thanks to a spell. (Ok, the whole story is a wee bit more complicated than that, but it’ll serve.) Now, I’m thinking it was actually a special power that the halfling has access to.

From the chatter I’m hearing, I’m thinking that the first ten minutes of the next session are going to be some sort of medieval interrogation scene. Answers are going to be had, by gum!  The last question I was asked went something like “If we put a bar of soap in a towel, then soak the towel in a healing potion…” so I’m pretty sure the prisoners are going to talk, in the long run, if not the short.  Therefore, I don’t feel that I’m giving anything away here. It’ll all come up in the upcoming conversation.

What’s going to come out is, the halfling has been living in the dwarven ruins for some time, sneaking around the edges of things and stealing what comfort he could. Some time back, he stumbled on to a room deep within the dungeon and found… something. He’ll be light on the details — have to leave some grey areas for the PCs to ask pointed questions about, after all — but he’ll claim that the point is, it granted him a Wish.

(cue dramatic orchestral sting here: da DA DAAAAH!)

A Wish! The most coveted of all treasures, more valuable than gold and jewels, rarer than dragons!

He used his to enhance his stealth. It gave him the Advantage of Invisibility, not the spell, with a series of enhancements and limitations. This, in turn, helped him escape the depths of the dwarven ruins. Since that day, it has helped him make a life for himself with some amount of comfort. Not so long ago, it allowed him to see what happened to Jim Kadabra in front of the giant stone head…

* * *

Final tally. The Invisibility spell again conforms with DF standards, and no longer threatens to become a “must have” buff. The recorded history of the game needs no tweaking. The power displayed by the NPC is hypothetically available to the PCs, if they want to go questing for the source of that power… and if they want to use a Wish to get that power, rather than some other desire. I get to toss out another compelling reason to go deeper into the dungeon. If they do manage to get to the end of the quest, I’ll get a chance to hand out wishes, which is something I’ve never had an occasion to do.

Now I just need to install that dragon…

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