When Little Things Take Over

Isn’t it fun when a little detail becomes something major?

Seriously. You introduced it as a plot element. A joke, even. Or it happened as a coincidence, a bunch of lucky rolls. But now it’s got a life of its own.

There are a bunch of documented stories of a nameless NPC becoming a force of nature in the PCs’ eyes because they rolled poorly and it rolled well. Or of someone who was introduced as a one-shot gag character, but that someone’s PC decided they liked and wanted to keep around.  Or curious PCs turned anonymity into recognition.  It’s usually their fault, after all.

This happens to me a lot, actually. But my personal favorite was a potted plant.

It began as a joke. Most of these things do. I was trying to populate a city in which the only thinking entities were automata. So I brought it to my muse, and one of my muse’s suggestions was a plant automaton. Yes, you heard me correctly. On the surface, it looked like a potted sunflower. With eyes. And little spidery legs. Its job was to choose a target, follow that target around, and then, when the target turned to look at it, rather obviously revert to standard plant form. (The creator was making fun of a rather paranoid acquaintance.)

And I introduced it. And it followed them. What I wasn’t expecting, though, was what happened after they saw it waiting for them when they exited the one building. One of the members of the group had a spell that would let him understand anything, so he cast it and started asking questions.

“Why don’t you come out?”

“He’s looking at me.” (Everyone in the group except the target had seen the plant in open form by that point.)

“What were you made for?”

“Is joke. Funny. Sense of being followed, turns around—plant.”

They spent an hour talking to that plant, during which it acquired its own theme music and a more than decent amount of personality. When they asked for its name, the closest it could come to one was “Are you following me around too?” (I’m still trying to figure out how they added the ‘Now’ too it, but they ended up using that as a name, calling the little guy Ayfmtn, or Ayf for short.)

Twice they planned to take it home, and twice they forgot at the last minute. But that didn’t end its time there. One of my players asked for a very minor modification to it—I accepted, it was just too amusing not to. Which resulted in a Western-style faceoff between the plant and an invader to their city. One powerful demigod. One ticked-off plant. With a cannon. A joke cannon, sure, but it was a very impressive joke cannon, and the way the player described it led to it managing to get the opponent to use one of her most powerful defensive abilities…. on ZAP in glowing letters in the air in front of her.

I already have plans for what happens when they invite it to the costume party they’re planning….

So who or what is your Ayf-analogue?

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