I'm an old school table-top gamer, and most times the DM. I think that in gaming, world-building is an art. But there are moments that change worlds. The Butterfly Effect can and does play havoc on all realms, real or otherwise. Let me tell you about one of these moments that has become infamous to my local gaming groups.
This particular event happened early with a new group. I was the DM, and the group consisted of three couples plus one. Myself, my wife, her boss, a rival fiber shop owner, her husband, and another couple. We only knew the last couple by a few brief meetings.
Now my style of world-building is based upon small to large, start with building a taste adventure. Then let the world grow around the players back stories, decisions, and off-handed comments. Expand the world as the game grows, throw out as many adventure hooks as I can and the world grows based on what the party does and does not try.
So, in this quick adventure, there was a trap room. It was an arena, based on the current MMA tv shows, the room had bench seating around a raised octagonal platform. The trap was that if two creatures entered, only one could get back off - two enter, one leaves. A pretty standard low level cheat trap- knock one player to death's door, drag them off and heal-or loose a low level character thus establishing that I will kill players to a new group. Either way as a DM I win, I either have a group that thinks and puzzles as well as hack and slash, or I've established that there is a real threat to the characters in the game.
However, the party didn't find the room early, but after leveling and spending some cash at town. And the kicker was that the Monk (Linnaya - played by my wife) had nothing to buy. So while everyone else was re-equiping, she decided to 'spend more than a war-dog to buy an ankle biter pampered pet.'
She then immediately fed the dog elegant meals (she said she had no use for the money) and then named the dog based on what it said... thus 'Woof,' became her pet. And followed her to the dungeon, and the trap room.
Now, in trap room the party is searching the abandoned arena stands, and the Rogue heads onto the arena floor. Linnaya called for Woof as she had found some meat jerky and was going to 'treat' it to the pup, this caused the dog to walk into the arena with the level 2 Rogue. It should be noted that the Rogue is being played by the wife of the couple we had only met in passing.
The Arena lights up, with obvious magical fields of energy surrounding the arena. Panic ensues, and the party figures out quickly that the Rogue can't get off the platform. Thinking she might trick the arena, she grabs the dog, and tries to take it off the platform at once. The magic shocked both of them for a whole 1 point of damage, and bounced them back. The dog did not like this, and bit the Rogue for another 2 points of damage.
So now the Rogue starts asking the other players for ideas. The Dwarven Fighter kept in character with the advice "Obviously, you kill it. Then you've won." This spurred my wife back into character with the startled whine " You're not going to kill my dog are you?"
So now my wife kept to character, and the Rogue player who didn't know if she was 'in character' or actually going to be pissed if the NPC dog died, and carry that through for retribution, or worse in RL interactions.
Then someone suggested (I think it was the party Bard) "You know, you don't have to win."
So, after looking across the table to my wife (and my wife staying in character) and across to me (while I was having a hard time but managed to keep a straight-neutral face) the Rogue player finally decided that maybe discretion was the best option, dropped to the ground and yelled "I yield!"
This was too priceless a moment for me to let go, so I improvised a totally different ending, with magical fanfare and a blast of mystic energy swirling through both the Rogue and the dog, and set them both off the arena surface. Then taking the Rogue's sheet, I subtracted 3 permanent HP, a few skills, and 2 INT points- which I transferred to the NPC sheet of the dog. She was now a first level Rogue, and the Rogue lost the equivalent of a level without the benefit of loosing XP (leveling at the XP requirement for 3rd to get back to 2nd, with the increase continuing for the rest of the character's life.)
But this had some unexpected world repercussions... (Part 2 soon)