So two sessions ago, I snagged the party wizard with a lesser geas. He was bid to “sacrifice a member of his party on the Blood Altar”. The player struggled mightily to find a way out of it, initially settling upon sacrificing the half-orc barbarian (the appropriately named “Mog the Doomed”). A few days before the game where the deed would happen, he realized he had another option and chose to sacrifice one of the trained dogs in the party rather than one of the player characters. Then he had to explain it all to the other characters in a way that would not leave him dead or expelled.
I will admit at this point that the geas was more or less done on the fly. I knew there was a shrine to the Forbidden God in the room and decided that the statue there was faceless. When Sal carefully stood at the doorway and cast detect magic to search the room for magic, I saw an opportunity and decided that this was the link the Forbidden God needed to gain purchase on a new mind. I pulled Sal’s player into another room and explained that nothing in the room was magical, but now he could see a face on the statue and it was looking directly at him. It then gave him the order in the geas and I had the player roll a Will save. He failed spectacularly. Glee!
The player kept what had happened to himself and the other players did not nose in, despite knowing that something unusual had just happened. I was very pleased to see this as other groups I’ve played in would hound the player, trying to “get in on” whatever was going on. The game session was ending just as the players found the Blood Altar, but they returned to the surface, not liking the look of a room with a pool of liquid blood on its ceiling. Conveniently, this gave Sal’s player time to think through the situation and find an acceptable (to him) way out.
Normally I let a week of time pass in-game between sessions, sometimes longer if the players need some time for projects their characters want to do off-stage. When I started the next session only two days after the last session ended, they knew something was up. As Sal explained the situation and what he’d been forced to do, the other adventurers (and to some extent their players) went through a short emotional roller-coaster ride. In the end, they accepted that Sal had done what he could to deflect the geas and maybe spoil things for the Forbidden God (he had bathed the dog in holy water prior to sacrifice), but they were not generally happy about the situation. This is why they started looking for ways to cleanse the shrine and the Blood Altar when they returned to the Iron Keep.
I’m really happy with the way things played out. When faced with a hard situation that would have caused party strife and possibly cost the group two experienced adventurers (Mog from sacrifice and Sal from expulsion), Sal’s player came up with an innovative solution and the other players role-played out the resolution very well.
This, of course, encourages me to do something similar again. Heh.