Many years back I was running a MERP (Middle Earth Role Playing) campaign for some friends. I’d run them through the ‘dungeon/castle hack in the Trollshaws’ adventure that came with the boxed set, and they were headed south to sell their loot in the great port of Tharbad. This necessitated a trek westwards to meet the South Road at Bree, and along the way they were joined by a friendly mage who (unknowst to them) was actually the owner of the castle they’d just trashed, fully bent on getting his revenge.
They spent an uneventful night at Bree and headed south through the Barrow Downs. Around midday a thick fog rolled in (I was taking my cues fairly heavily from The Lord of the Rings) and they lost the road, eventually finding themselves in an ancient and ominous stone circle on the downs. It was this moment that the mage revealed himself, turning on the party with a sneering “So you would despoil my castle, kill my servants and steal my posessions!?” and summoning a fell beast to fight for him. I was all set for an epic multi-round battle royale!
Amongst the treasure the party had looted from the castle was an arrow of fell beast slaying which I’d placed there just to give them a hand in this encounter (a fully grown fell beast being a bit tough for a party of their level). The best archer in the party – a half elf ranger – had taken possession of it and naturally enough announced his intention to fire it as his first action of the combat. I called for initiatives…
Now, MERP ran under a cut down version of the Rolemaster rules, which had extremely detailed and complex critical tables which you got to roll on if you rolled high enough on your to hit roll. An arrow of slaying didn’t give you an increased chance to hit – but if you did hit with it you got a free roll on the critical tables. Additionally the game had an open ended skill roll system where if you rolled above about 95 (the game used percentile dice) you got to roll again and add the result to your initial roll. Finally, the higher your to hit roll the more damage you’d inflict on your target.
So, the initiatives came in. The intrepid half-elf ranger with his arrow of slaying was the first to act. He notched the arrow, drew the bow and let fly, making his to hit roll. The roll? A natural 97.
A cheer went up around the table. He picked up the dice to roll again, although we all knew the fell beast (with two criticals – one from the roll and one from the arrow) was probably already doomed. He rolled. The dice bounced around the table and came to rest on… 95!
At this point everyone pretty much lost it. The poor, innocent fell beast was now looking at three criticals and a totally ridiculous amount of damage (total to hit roll = 192) with more to come. The player rolled again, and got 54, for a total to hit roll of 246 out of 100.
The fell beast fell down dead and the players fell around in hysterics. Just for form I let the player roll his three criticals and described the results, although “the arrow plunges into the fell beast’s eye and its entire body spontaneously dissolves into a fine pink mist” would have been far more accurate. The battle royale was half over in the first turn of the first round, and all the evil mage (the majority of his magic points spent summoning a white-elephant fell beast) could do was throw around a few minor spells before fleeing for his life.
Moral of the story – arrows of slaying are bad news! 😀