D&D 5E "It's OK, I've got the head"

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Jeremy E Grenemyer

I think I have had a player say something like that in one of my Realms campaigns, I just can't remember the circumstances.

I do recall a time during the changeover from 3.0 to 3.5 when one of my players asked, "Does my character know about this errata?"


One answer to the question in the OP: this came up in a game I ran today.

The principal characters: Jobe, a wizard who wants to redeem his brother possessed by a balrog, and learn the balrog's plans so as to stop the pending apocalypse; Joachim, the balrog-possed brother, lying unconscious and healing in the tower of Jabal, a powerful and socially prominent wizard,who is hoping that when Joachim recovers he will be able to serve as teacher of wizards; Alenihel, a Glorfindel-style elven warrior down on his luck, and so serving (ronin-style) as a bodyguard to Jabal; Halika, a wizard-assassin who was apprenticed to Joachim and treated very badly by him, and has now sworn to find him and flay him, then send his soul to . . . [a bad place]; Tru-leigh, a snake-handling oracle from the hills who is under the control of a dark naga, and has been tasked to bring Joachim to his master so that the naga can spill Joachim's blood and thereby bind the spirits of nature to it.

The events (last session): while Jobe and Tru-leigh (both PCs) were recuperating and restocking in a dodgy inn, Halika (a former PC, now mostly NPC) scouted out Jabal's tower so as to learn how to break in and take vengeance on Joachim. Jobe and Tru-leigh were worried that Halika was about to strike before they could go and recover Joachim themselves, so they fed her a sleeping potion. But then, as they tried to sneak into Jabal's tower through the catacombs, they got lost. So Halika was able to wake from her coma and head off on her own, trying to preempt them.

Halika broke into the tower (using her jumping spell) and went to the room where Joachim was recovering. Alenihel (another PC) tried to stop her, but was blasted to unconsciousness by her Emperor's Hand (force lightning-style) attack. Opposed checks were then made: could Halika decpaitate the unconscious Joachim before Jobe and Tru-leigh got there? Halika won the role, and so the answer was yes. The session ended with the head dropping to the floor and landing next to the body of the unconscious elf, just as Jabal entered from one doorway and Jobe from another with Tru-leigh behind him.

The events (today's session): Jobe wants Joachim's body, so that (i) he can summon his dead spirit to learn (a) is he free from the balrog?, and (b) what the balrog's plans are; Halika wants Joachim's body, to (i) flay it, and (ii) make sure the soul goes to . . . [a bad place]; Tru-leigh wants Joachim's body and blood, to take them back to his master.

Shocked by the decapitation, Jobe and Tru-leigh stand for a few seconds while Halika tries but fails to cut down Jabal so she can escape with the body. When they regain their senses, Tru-leigh rushes in to grab a chamber pot and place it under the neck of the body, to make sure no blood is lost. Jobe, meanwhile, tries but fails to grapple with Halika. Halika decides that discretion is the better part of valour and tries to cast a jump spell to escape past Joachim and out the window, but she fails and internalises the magic, falling unconscious.

Jobe then grapples Jabal to stop him taking revenge upon Halika. Alenihel (an NPC this time, as the player has not yet arrived) regains consciousness and Jobe persuades him to take over the job of restraining Jabal while Jobe and Tru-leigh escape, Jobe carrying the unconscious Halika (who is the only summoner of the dead that Jobe knows) and the body of Joachim, Tru-leigh carrying a chamber pot and a jug full of Joachim's blood.

They run out of the tower and through the town (Hardby, in the World of GH setting). Jobe is strong, but not that strong, and fails a check to endure the load. So the two of them are approached in the middle of town by the watch - 3 watchmen and a lieutentant.

The watch call upon them to stop. They don't break their stride, and Jobe tries to order the watchmen to help them carry the bodies. This is a difficult check, to say the least, and fails. One of the watchmen, then, says "Hey! This one's decapitated!'

And Tru-leigh replies, while lifting off the cloth covering the chamberpot he is carrying, "IT'S OK! I'VE GOT THE HEAD!"

Tru-leigh then attempted to summon a spirt of the sky to distract the guards failed, and he was struck by lightning instead, although managed not only to survive but to not even spill his vessels. The session ended with the two of them being marched off to the watch-house.

(For anyone who is interested: the system for this game is Burning Wheel. But I think the ideas and events are pretty typical of fantasy RPGing.)


About a year ago, we played a short scenario involving bringing back the head of a freshly-slain dragon to town in order to claim our reward and break up the dragon-worshipping cult that had been gaining influence there. My oath-of-vengeance paladin was in charge of the head, carrying it strapped on the back of his large mountain-goat divine steed. I did indeed have to make several such assurances during the course of that adventure as we evaded the frequent attacks of the pursuing cultists (plus occasional pirates and lizardfolk tribes).


First Post
I was misquoted. What I actually said was "Head!" as i took I took our bounty's severed head from the sack I was carrying and threw it at the magistrate who had refused to pay my group the promised reward.

Never renege on an agreement with a half orc barbarian- it may be the last thing you ever do.


Guest 6801328

... of Vecna!

If you cut off your head and your friends place the Head of Vecna in its place quickly enough, you get all kinds of crazy legendary powers.

But you have to make the switch really quickly. If it doesn't work it means you weren't fast enough and another character should try.

True story.

Jobe wants Joachim's body, so that (i) he can summon his dead spirit to learn (a) is he free from the balrog?, and (b) what the balrog's plans are
Halika wants Joachim's body, to (i) flay it, and (ii) make sure the soul goes to . . . [a bad place]; Tru-leigh wants Joachim's body and blood, to take them back to his master.

Were those the goals that were established and agreed at the beginning of the session?

And were those the 3 PCs - I got a bit confused as there were lots of characters but it wasn't clear to me who was NPC and who was not... :)


Were those the goals that were established and agreed at the beginning of the session?

And were those the 3 PCs - I got a bit confused as there were lots of characters but it wasn't clear to me who was NPC and who was not... :)
Here's an elaboration on the characters, sblocked for length:

[sblock]Jabal is a strict NPC. In the first session of the campaign Jobe tried to circle up an ally in his sorcerous cabal (Jabal of the Cabal, naturally) but failed, and so Jabal has never taken kindly to him. Jabal has been a recurring NPC who has also been built more fully into the backstory of the PCs.

Joachim is also a strict NPC. When Jobe was created, he had a demon-possessed brother as part of his backstory, and a Belief about freeing him from possession. When Halika was created as a PC, she had a Belief about her horrible master against whom she was going to get revenge. At a certain point it became established that the horrible master and the possessed brother were one and the same.

Alenihel, the elven ronin, is a PC. When created, he had - as a 1 RP personal effect - a token of his former master, the broken, black-headed orc arrow that had slain him. It later emerged in play (due to a failed Scavenging check in Jobe and Joachim's ruined tower, another part of Jobe's backstory) that the black arrows had been made by Joachim. So Alenihel was conflicted between loyalty to Jabal, his employer (a relationship established in an earlier session as part of an attempt on Alenihel's part to overcome a series of bad Resources checks), who wanted to protect Joachim and see him recover; and his loyalty to his slain master, for whom he should seek vengeance. In the first of the sessions I mentioned he earned a Mouldbreaker persona for this before being taken down by Halika. Alenihel's player was absent for the session yesterday, though, and so Alenihel spent most of the time out cold and then when he woke up only figured as the (successful) object of a Persuasion attempt to keep Jabal restrained long enough for the other two to escape with the bodies (and with a Brawling 5 against a locked-out Jabal with a bunch of physical 3s and 4s, I was happy to say "yes" to that - I don't want NPCs to be the focus of action, and there was nothing remotely implausible about it in relation to established fiction and character capabilities).

Halika started as a PC but has drifted into NPC status (the player finds BW too gruelling). This means that her Beliefs aren't changing very much, but given that her settled Beliefs give her a clear trajectory in the game, she remains pretty significant. Her desire to find Joachim, kill and flay him, and send his soul to . . . [that bad place] has been established since session 1 and has never changed (she has a Driven call-on for Sorcery when pursuing this Belief, which is what enabled her to get a strong enough Emperor's Hand to take down Alenihel).

At a certain point - when the black arrows came to light - Halika had persuaded Jobe, via Duel of Wits (and with Alenihel helping), that his goal of redeeming his brother was futile (because the sequence of events established in the backstory made it clear that the black arrows in the tower had been made before the possession, and hence showed the Joachim didn't become evil because he was possessed, but rather became possessed because he was evil). At some point, though, Jobe shifted back to the goal of redeeming his brother - I think after the first time I actually introduced Joachim into a scene, on the docks in Hardby, and Jobe saw him for the first time in over 15 years and pitied him. (In terms of the rules for working around a Duel of Wits I can't now remember what the details were that allowed this transformation to take place.)

Jobe and Tru-leigh are both PCs. Jobe started the sessions with (I think) three Beliefs all related to his brother - rewritten after the unfortunate decapitation last session. One is to make sure his soul is freed from the demon's influence so that it can go to a proper afterlife, which will require Halika's abilities to summon and talk to the dead; the second is to learn all he can about the balrog's plans from his brother's dead spirit (now that he can't get it directly from his brother) - which will also require Halika's ability to summon and talk to the dead; the third (slightly macabrely, but not entirely out of character for Jobe) is to obtain some of Joachim's blood to serve as an antecedent for enchanting a sorcery-boosting item.

Tru-leigh was introduced into the campaign a bit later than the others. In his second (or thereabouts?) session he confronted a dark naga deep inside a cave of chaos (I was using bits of the Keep on the Borderlands), and due to an unlucky roll on his part and a lucky roll on mine ended up being subjected to the naga's Force of Will. We've handled this via him having an appropriate Belief, in this case to find Joachim and bring him back to his master so that the naga can spill Joachim's blood to bind the spirits of the land to its will. Tru-leigh had finished the last session (the decapitation one) with this Belief still not fully done, but then apparently superseded by events. So it was rewritten at the start of yesterday's session to be a Belief that he would bring Joachim's blood back for his master: hence, in the initial scene at the start of the session, while Jobe was trying to deal with Halika and then Jabal, Tru-leigh Assessed to find some vessels in the room (chamber pot and jug) and then scripted (unopposed) physical actions to use them to capture all the blood spilling from Joachim's neck.[/sblock]

So after that long exposition, I think the short answer to your question is yes. The body and blood were the agreed-upon goals, with Halika and (to a lesser extent) Jabal being the initial opposition; and the guards being brought in as the result of a failed Beginner's Luck Hauling test.

With the PCs in the watch-house, obvious questions become: where does Joachim's body get taken? what happens to the vessels with the blood? can Halika be persuaded to help Jobe, or will she use her lockpicking (which for various reasons around some early episodes became something of an obsessive focus for the character) to get herself out of jail while leaving the others there?

Because it's the "second" game in a group which only gets together for four or five hours once every two to four weeks, it's not going to advance that quickly (mostly just an hour or a bit more of play in each of those sessions), but I'm fairly happy with the melodramatic/blood operatic trajectory of play.

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