Turning the party into Goblins

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I'm about to try something that I've never done and it's risky. So I'm looking for some advice on managing the situation and any consequences I might need to be ready for. 

I plan to have a witch turn the PC's and villagers in the town of Delwin into goblins. The reason for the witch doing this is revenge on the town of Delwin for their poor treatment of her, granted she has earned it. But the goal is to have the PC's find and defeat the witch or find a way to remove the curse or magical transformation. So here are my problems,

(1) What do I do if the players or a player freak's out completely, and don't buy into the adventure?

(2) I will have to re-build all the players character sheets, this is going to change the mechanics of their characters. This might upset a few players or it might not, how should I manage this?

(3) There is always the chance the players characters will fail to remove the goblin transformation. This might mean the party continues as goblins or starts a new party. Are there any other options I have not considered?
(1) Well I guess it depends on the dynamics of your group and the level of trust between you and your players. If you are a group that has done this for some time, there is a good chance they will roll with the punches. If it does happen to be a new group I suppose it cna greatly rely on word play. If you stress, via however they learn about what is happening, that this is a curse and is breakable, they should be cool.

It's really difficult to say because everyone is different and sometimes players can have a crazy bond with their characters. It truely comes down to the level and trust and how you describe the events. If you go through with it and you do have a panicking player or a freak out you could take the extra step and stress the point about it being breakable. I don't think I would go as far as condemning them as a goblin forever if they fail to break the curse unless they are okay with it. When it comes to player character it's in their field. If it came to that, give them opportunities to search for someone else that could break the curse, toss out a rumour in a future session, etc.

Last suggestion for this subject before moving onto the next is you can right out tell them (maybe not all the specifics) That the adventure will involve character changing and see how they react.

(2) With you as a DnD insider I don't see this one as much of a hurdle as the first, because the first one is still touch and go no matter how you look at it. If you have their character saves, save them as a copy, change their class to goblin and most of the rest should do it for you.

(3)I guess I covered this part in number 1 with out thinking.

Hope this helps.
1) If you are going to do (2) then ask first, otherwise I don't really see anything wrong with it.  Might be seen as railroading, but otherwise sounds pretty cool.


2) I don't really see why you have to rebuild the character sheets.  The only thing that has to change about the characters is appearance.  So outside of the town where everyone was changed into a goblin the chars will be treated different otherwise mechanically no reason to change.  If you feel for some reason medium sized goblins are out of the question when they exist because of magic then make them hobgoblins.  There are no mechanics that need changed.  Why would you change the mechanics?


3) Removal of the transformation should be a choice for the characters.  If the characters do not set out to remove this curse, you should be fine with them continuing as goblins.  There should also be more than one way to remove the curse.  One of the ways to remove the curse should be just killing the witch.  I don't know what you have planned, but if there is only one way to remove the curse and it is possible to fail while killing the witch I think you have done your players a great disservice.  They might not catch your hints of what they should actually do and I know if I was presented with this as a character that would be my first idea of how to remove the curse.  Also if for some reason despite the fact that killing the witch should lift the curse you choose to not make killing the witch lift the curse, make sure that killing the witch does not make it impossible to lift the curse.

I think you have a very cool story idea.  One thing that you could do that might make it more open ended is to make the PCs not in town when the witch curses the town.  Then the players are left with more of an option of either helping the town or doing whatever they want.  Also if the town, but not the PCs are cursed then i think you would still need more than one way to lift the curse, but probably could get away with less ways.

I also find you could have that happen, but let the PCs know depending on the level of the PCs they are helpless against this witch at this time, but if they do a few things to get stronger/prepare for facing the witch they will be able to defeat her in the future.  Basically if you don't make it seem like something the PCs must deal with right this second (because they themselves are goblins) you can make the story arc last longer.  Kinda depends on what you want out of the adventure.
It's a cool idea! I would be inclined not to make any mechanical changes to the characters. Changing the fluff is simpler. Rather than being a physical change, it could simply be an illusionary one, which is pretty much the same when you're dealing with NPCs now treating the characters as monsters. This is also likely to evoke a discovery phase in the game:

Player: "So am I actually a goblin? or do I just look like one?"
DM: "You seem to be a goblin."

I argue that this is more interesting from a RP perspective, than being able to look at the character sheet and seeing the goblin racial abilities. Also how awesome would Dragon's Breath be on a Goblin!
(1) What do I do if the players or a player freak's out completely, and don't buy into the adventure?



Before you put pen to paper on this adventure, ask your players, "This witch in Delwin - I think that based on the fiction we've established so far, she casts a ritual that turns everyone in the town into goblins, including you guys. What do you think? Is this a good situation to be in at the start of next game?"

This is an example (albeit a pretty minor one when you consider my response to #2 below) of "putting the characters in a spot." As I relearned myself recently, some people don't like this. Get their buy-in before you do it. They may even have some good ideas on how to make it work better.

(2) I will have to re-build all the players character sheets, this is going to change the mechanics of their characters. This might upset a few players or it might not, how should I manage this?



Don't rebuild - just reskin. You're the same dude mechanically you always were, but now you just look like a goblin. For some, this may mean only that they go from Medium to Small. There aren't many mechanical changes related to that, so you can ignore them. Where something seems to contradict something else, view it as an opportunity to flesh out the character or situation with some shared storytelling. 

(3) There is always the chance the players characters will fail to remove the goblin transformation. This might mean the party continues as goblins or starts a new party. Are there any other options I have not considered?



Some other more powerful witch can remove it. Perhaps an estranged sister of the first witch, or someone who was ejected from the coven. If they help her with the trolls in the swamp that have been bothering her of late, of course...

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Thanks guy's. Some very helpful comments.

(1) I'll not prepare much on this adventure, just simple notes. Next session I will present the situation and if there are problem's I'll just dump it if needed and wing the rest of the night. I've had this group for just over a year, so still a little new. The group is made up of family members and friends.

(2) I'll stick to just reskinning the characters, no mechanical changes. Although I'll present them each with a goblin miniature as their new form.

(3) I think I'll go with more options as suggested. Kill the witch, force the witch to remove the curse or seek an outside mage, etc.

This was all spawned by three player requests (plot twister cards being used).

(a) They want there to be something odd about the village.
(b) A player wants to find pixies.
(c) The path must be easy to follow.

So as a result I came up with the village gets turned into goblins, by a witch who has capture pixies. The witch has used pixie magic to give her the power to affect the whole town. The details still aren't fleshed out.
I like the idea a lot. I'm glad you're incorporating your players' ideas on elements to be included. Please let us know how they receive it.

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I would make some mechanical changes, but only minor ones that wouldn't destroy combat effectiveness.
I wouldn't change a thing mechanically because it would be awfully fun collaboratively figuring out what types of goblins can breath fire (dragonborn), teleport (eladrin), or turn invisible (gnome). Then once we've established them in the world, I can use them in a future scene. Hell hound riding fire-breathing goblins from Baator who serve the Night Hags of Avernus. That sort of thing.

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I like the idea a lot. I'm glad you're incorporating your players' ideas on elements to be included. Please let us know how they receive it.



This is the first time the players have stacked so many requests at one time. I'll be running this next Friday. I'm looking at taking elements or structure from 'The Wizard of Oz', 'Bad Jelly the Witch' and 'Willow'.
I'd personally freak out and not want to continue.  if I wanted a goblin, I'd have rolled one.  Unless there wasnt a way to get turned back with a /quickness/, I'd be gone.  That's just me.
I'd personally freak out and not want to continue.  if I wanted a goblin, I'd have rolled one.  Unless there wasnt a way to get turned back with a /quickness/, I'd be gone.  That's just me.



I recall a 2e Ravenloft adventure built along a similar premise (though it was flesh golems, not goblins, and the transformation was implied to be potentially permanent). It caused a significant stink at the time because in the olden days of D&D it was considered appropriate to keep this sort of event as a "surprise" in the interest of using it as a plot twist. I think it sounds like the players have been informed and bought into the idea, which ought to avoid this sort of issue. "Let the players know if the DM plans to unilaterally and unavoidably change their character's status" is an intuitive practice to some, but it's still good to remind ourselves explicitly once in a while.
I'd personally freak out and not want to continue.  if I wanted a goblin, I'd have rolled one.  Unless there wasnt a way to get turned back with a /quickness/, I'd be gone.  That's just me.



Naturally the DM would want to get buy-in, but just out of curiosity, if nothing changes mechanically, why wouldn't you like to explore this neat idea and be reskinned as a goblin for a few sessions?

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Well, I'm very picky about my races for one. I'm very much a standard races kind of person. I dislike 90% of the 4e races. I definitely do not want to play a goblin, Orc, gnoll or other monsterous race. I'm not interested in being reskinned, polymorphed or otherwise. In my humble opinion, the dm has the right to kill my character, but not mess with it. Now for this particular thread, I'm mainly trying to show an alternative view point to the op...that it may not go over well. Only he knows his party.

I personally don't think it's a neat idea at all. Not saying its bad, I'm just saying its not my cup of tea.
In my humble opinion, the dm has the right to kill my character, but not mess with it. ... Not saying its bad, I'm just saying its not my cup of tea.



Killing a character seems like the Ultimate Messing With It.

Do you object because it "deprotagonizes" your character? In other words, makes him less of a protagonist in your eyes because he got polymorphed in something so "weak" as a goblin? (Again, talking about nothing changing on your character sheet - just that you "look" like a goblin for a little while.)

Not criticizing, just trying to figure out the underlying source of the objection, which might be helpful. 

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Well, character death is an expected risk. While I don't like it, I can accept it. Being reskinned takes my character away from me and morphs it into something I don't want. There's more to my character then the mechanics. I get to choose his fashions, style personality, weapons and looks. The dm taking my character sheet away and crossing out elf and writing orc takes that away from me, and is guaranteed to kill my interest in playing the character. The character is mine, not the dm's. he can kill it off because that's the risk of adventuring. He can't edit it and force me to still like it.
Well, character death is an expected risk. While I don't like it, I can accept it. Being reskinned takes my character away from me and morphs it into something I don't want. There's more to my character then the mechanics. I get to choose his fashions, style personality, weapons and looks. The dm taking my character sheet away and crossing out elf and writing orc takes that away from me, and is guaranteed to kill my interest in playing the character. The character is mine, not the dm's. he can kill it off because that's the risk of adventuring. He can't edit it and force me to still like it.



Okay. So would you say this preference comes from believing the DM has control over "this stuff here" and the players have control of "that stuff there?" (If that makes sense.) In other words, you prefer a strong definition of what the DM controls and what the players control? If so, if/when you DM, do you carry that notion with you?

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I don't dm. I'm god awful at it, and recognize that. If I did dm though, I would consider the characters outside of my control. I could set limits at the beginning of the campaign, such as sources that the players can choose from, races available in my world and how stats are rolled. I don't get to pick the race itself, how the character is built, equipment, god etc. that's up to the player. I can ask for changes, or make suggestions, but at the end of the day it's not my character. It's the players to invest in and to help grow.

One they have built their character it's my job to weave them into the story
I don't dm. I'm god awful at it, and recognize that. If I did dm though, I would consider the characters outside of my control. I could set limits at the beginning of the campaign, such as sources that the players can choose from, races available in my world and how stats are rolled. I don't get to pick the race itself, how the character is built, equipment, god etc. that's up to the player. I can ask for changes, or make suggestions, but at the end of the day it's not my character. It's the players to invest in and to help grow. One they have built their character it's my job to weave them into the story



Cool, it's good to recognize our strong suits. If you'll indulge me in a couple more questions, it might help the OP understand and handle where objections might come from with regard to his idea:

- If you were in combat, say with this witch, and she polymorphed you into a goblin by way of a spell (e.g. "polymorph other" or the like), would you object?

- Do you identify more with the simulationist approach to gaming or narrativist?

- Which edition do you play? 

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I presently play 4e, but I got my start in the mid 80s with the red box set, then some gurps, and 2e.

I would absolutely object to being polymorphed. I should clarify here: I am more opposed to my character being taken out of my hands then I am being a goblin. While not terribly interested in one, I could play one if that's what I signed up for in the beginning. If I sign up for a dwarf though and get changed into a goblin, that's where the dm and I will have issues.

I don't really understand your question about simulationist vs narrative, so I can't really give a good answer to that.
If I sign up for a dwarf though and get changed into a goblin, that's where the dm and I will have issues.



Okay. So what if before the DM approached the group and asked for buy-in before the adventure, maybe even before he writes the adventure. Something along the lines of, "I'm thinking of changing everybody into goblins by way of this witch's ritual in Delwin. I think this will be an interesting complication to deal with for a couple sessions. What do you think?" Is your answer a firm "No?"

I guess what I'm trying to figure out is if you'd be okay with the scenario "with notice" or if your objection is rooted in being changed without your consent.

I don't really understand your question about simulationist vs narrative, so I can't really give a good answer to that.



That's okay, we can disregard this one.

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While it wouldn't be my first choice, if the dm asked me in advance if I'd follow along, I'd probably do it. The option to say no, backed by the knowledge that its not a permanent deal is probably enough for me to feel I was still in control of my character and the direction it grows
While it wouldn't be my first choice, if the dm asked me in advance if I'd follow along, I'd probably do it. The option to say no, backed by the knowledge that its not a permanent deal is probably enough for me to feel I was still in control of my character and the direction it grows



The power of buy-in! Another great example of why we DMs should ask before we do. Thanks.

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Showing the OP a possibly point of view was the main point of my original answering of the question.  While my personal opinions and perspectives are not likely the same as his party's, its certainly worth noting that opinions such as mine are out there.
Showing the OP a possibly point of view was the main point of my original answering of the question.  While my personal opinions and perspectives are not likely the same as his party's, its certainly worth noting that opinions such as mine are out there.



Your original position was "Nuh-uh, I'm outta here." When I asked, "What if the DM approached your beforehand about it?" you said, "Yeah, probably."

That's the power of the DM simply asking before attempting something - you went from a firm "no" to a decent "yes" - which was my point to the OP.

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Showing the OP a possibly point of view was the main point of my original answering of the question.  While my personal opinions and perspectives are not likely the same as his party's, its certainly worth noting that opinions such as mine are out there.



Your original position was "Nuh-uh, I'm outta here." When I asked, "What if the DM approached your beforehand about it?" you said, "Yeah, probably."

That's the power of the DM simply asking before attempting something - you went from a firm "no" to a decent "yes" - which was my point to the OP.



Yep.  The simple fact is that most game problems (short of people being jerks) can be eliminated with DM/player communication.  If the DM is doing things the players don't like, it's the players job to tell the DM that they don't like things...or else how is the DM supposed to know?

Likewise, the DM has to be able to say, look guys, this is kind of out of hand, and has to be able to communicate things to the players.  My present DM does a great job of doing that.  There's a lot of situations where he's like "what do you guys think about this" and we say sure, or uhm no.  A prime example is, he wanted to run us through Tomb of Horrors. 

We put our foot down, with no interest in that.  He poached a few encounters out of it, and they pretty much flopped as far as we were concerned, and let him know we didn't enjoy those encounters.  Our communication is generally pretty good between DM and players, so our games /usually/ go pretty smoothly.
Yep.  The simple fact is that most game problems (short of people being jerks) can be eliminated with DM/player communication. 



Definitely. It's so simple, in fact, it's often overlooked, even by people who should know better. I've found myself screwing this up from time to time.

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Yep.  The simple fact is that most game problems (short of people being jerks) can be eliminated with DM/player communication. 



Definitely. It's so simple, in fact, it's often overlooked, even by people who should know better. I've found myself screwing this up from time to time.



I'm glad you guys have had a nice chat, and I'm not totally unaware of the problems I might face. I'm a player in other games myself. I'm aware that my players may not accept the adventure, this is why I'm asking how to make it work. I think this adventure could be a terrible mess or be super awesome. I'm not totally new to DMing, but I also have to ask for help like anyone.

crzyhawk, I don't want my players to be happy about being turned into goblins that would screw the adventure over. But I need them to stay at the table long enough to give it a chance. I need my players to want to get even with the witch and remove the curse, without focusing on treasure as their motive. Most of the adventures I've seen have treasure focused hooks. A few have other goals, but PC's can usually just walk away if things get to hard, boring or they get side tracked. This adventure strikes the PC's on a personal cord, not their parents or friends. My goal is not to have their characters be goblins forever, nothing is forever in fantasy games. My goal is to pull them into the adventure and have each persons character mean more than mechanics on paper.

For my part, I think it's a great idea. It'd make a really fun one-shot, too. Something like the PCs have till dawn to get themselves switched back to normal. Set in an awesome iconic location, swamp monster, coven of hags, vampire pixies, possibly even flying monkeys. It's got a cool fairy tale vibe.

Actually, make that definitely flying monkeys.

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For my part, I think it's a great idea. It'd make a really fun one-shot, too. Something like the PCs have till dawn to get themselves switched back to normal. Set in an awesome iconic location, swamp monster, coven of hags, vampire pixies, possibly even flying monkeys. It's got a cool fairy tale vibe.

Actually, make the definitely flying monkeys.



If you are gonna include flying monkeys which are awesome, then you got to include the witch's sister lying under a house.  There is the reason the witch cursed the town.  Because you showed up and dropped a house on her sister.
Flying monkeys and witches....Heck I'd be disappointed if I was transformed into a goblen.  Now transforming pcs into flying monkeys that would be hilarious.  I would be completely down with that.

As far as trying to get your players to buy in try foreshadowing the witches behaviour beforehand.  It may soften the surprise if they know she has done this before and that it is overcomeable.  Tales of her goblinizing another town and how they suffered before a unlikely, or bumbling saviour  miysteriously lifted the curse.  Certainly if mere commoners can eventually lift the curse it shoulod be no problem for real heroes
Now transforming pcs into flying monkeys that would be hilarious.  I would be completely down with that.



Sounds fun to me.

The witch has been doing this to many towns, building up an army of loyal flying monkeymen for reasons that are unclear at first. Once changed, you've got until the setting sun of the third day before the change is permanent and you find yourself in the service of the hag. Go! 

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Ok, I was going to steal heavily from 'The wizard of Oz'. I'm fine with the town being responsible for hiring a person or group that killed the witches twin sister. By making the adventure very familiar, it could help settle any player anxiety about their characters getting turned into goblins. The players know that there is a happy ending for Dorothy, so its possible for them. I'm not keen on giving the players a time limit anymore, it might make the stress levels too high.

As for other villages being turned into flying monkeys, I can go with that. Although, that might not be the only thing she has turned people into. I love the idea of vampire pixies, it would be very amusing to see what happens. I have a pixie and vampire in the group, it could create some fun roleplaying discussion or it could turn into a bizzare battle.

I'm writing up one page of basic notes, today.
I've been toying with an adventure idea where the PC's start out as ghosts, standing over their own bodies, then notice that the bodies are still breathing, just not conscious, and have to figure out how to get back inside them.
I've been toying with an adventure idea where the PC's start out as ghosts, standing over their own bodies, then notice that the bodies are still breathing, just not conscious, and have to figure out how to get back inside them.



It's an interesting idea if the players will buy in. If I ever have a TPK, I might include an adventure that breaks the commonly stated cliche 'death is forever'.

I've got my easy to identify NPC's: scarecrow, tin man, but I'm going to drop the cowardly lion.

I have a few threats along the way, such as: living tree's , vampire pixies, swamp monster and flying monkeys.

Does anyone have anymore suggestions as encounters for the party's journey to the witches house or lair?
A field of poppies.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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A field of poppies.



Ha, ha. You remember that scene. It's a funny development with multiple suggestions. No poppies, need to keep in out of the R16 realm.
Ok, I turned the party into goblins last night. I didn't warn them before hand. It was not a disaster, the players were good sports about it. They asked if it was possible to change back and I said it was after a few arcana checks. I then asked how they felt about the situation, and they responded that the witch was going to get toasted. I then pulled out the chocolate mallow-puffs for being so willing to be involved. I presented them with the witches location deep in the wild woods, through an NPC and they are on their way to remove the transformation curse. The only issue that might unwind this adventure is that one player is considering staying a goblin. This would mean he'd be working against the rest of the group.
Ok, I turned the party into goblins last night. I didn't warn them before hand. It was not a disaster, the players were good sports about it. They asked if it was possible to change back and I said it was after a few arcana checks. I then asked how they felt about the situation, and they responded that the witch was going to get toasted. I then pulled out the chocolate mallow-puffs for being so willing to be involved. I presented them with the witches location deep in the wild woods, through an NPC and they are on their way to remove the transformation curse. The only issue that might unwind this adventure is that one player is considering staying a goblin. This would mean he'd be working against the rest of the group.



Maybe the transformation away from goblin has to be desired in order for it to take effect.  This way he can work toward restoring his friends, but permanently remain a goblin.  I would probably make it so that if a player wanted to permanently be a goblin they really were a goblin at that point.  Not just cosmetics anymore.  This may or may not change his mind about staying a goblin, but will definately allow him to work toward helping his friends.
TheBozz, I'm really not sure how to make it work. I'm going to wait and see if the player was just trying to tease me with a complication first. It might be an idle threat of throwing a spanner in the works.
I was just suggesting a possible way to make it work without leading to him actively working against the group.  That probably wouldn't be fun for atleast 1 person at the table.  It would work kinda reverse of say in Hook when Peter has to believe before he can fly or see the food and what not.  Another example is like in The Skeleton Key.  In order for the Hoodoo to work the victim has to believe in it.  Only instead of having to believe in it, the characters also have to desire it in order for it to happen.  Maybe the characters have to perform a ritual to remove the curse, and only the witch and her cousin know the ritual, but they both have it in ritual books.  So you seek the ritual, then perform it to lift the curse.  His character can either not be involved in the ritual or because he doesn't really want the curse lifted remains a goblin after the ritual is performed.
 
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