What to do when a PC becomes possessed...

edited August 2010 in General Discussion
I have a question for all the GM's out there who've ever had a situation in a game where a PC, through no fault of their own has failed their will save or what not and no find themselves possessed by an evil spirit. In cases like these, is it proper to let the player still play the PC only with the motivations and stats of the possessing spirit? Or is it best for the GM to temporarily take over the player character themselves until the other players exorcise the evil spirit? Or even possibly force the player of the possessed PC to fight to regain their mind in a series of strange "Inception" like environments and scenarios.

Twice I've been able to play a PC while they were possessed and both times the games went quite well, but I was curious to hear what other GM's thought.


  • arsheesh
    Posts: 850 edited August 2010
    Never happened in a campaign I've been a part of but sure sounds like it could be allot of fun. Well I guess the first question I'd ask is "who knows that character X is possessed?" If the roll was made in secret and you only informed the character whose player was possessed, then I think it might be a really interesting idea to simply let the player take over the possessed character; only with a whole new persona. If the possessing spirit is crafty, and the player is experienced, this could lead to some really interesting developments. The possessing spirit might attempt to destroy the party before they are even aware that their friend has become the unwitting host to a malicious phantom. This would work especially well if the not only the characters, but the players themselves were unaware of the possession of their friend. Imagine their surprise when their beloved comrade suddenly turns on them.

    On the other hand, if everyone (players and characters) is aware of the possession, I think I would take over the character until the spirit was exorcised. In the mean time I'd let the player whose character is possessed run an NPC. Course that's just me. From what I've read so far of your campaign Dyluth, I'm really interested to see where this is going. Guess I'll have to wait till September to find out though won't I.

    Post edited by arsheesh on
  • Duskreign
    Posts: 1,085
    This happened about six sessions ago, Dyluth. The spirit of a little girl lost in the woods was possessing members of the party and the hunters that chased them into the woods to begin with. Suddenly, the hunters (bad guys, mind you) were fighting their own men while the party was divided up and fought amongst themselves.

    So, I gave the possessed PCs control of the hunters that weren't possessed, and had a two-front battle.
  • gnunn
    Posts: 423
    I have a slowly emerging case of this very thing in my current campaign. One of the PCs is possessed by a demon, but is only vaguely aware of it. He has begun having dreams of fighting a mad, foaming orc while the demon's voice asks him to kill and make her whole.

    The trick is that the demon's spirit is currently split between the PC and this as yet unnamed orc. While split, it is weak enough for the PC to manage, because I halved all it's stats. The demon needs the PC to kill the one holding its other half or vice versa, so that the demon's spirit will snap back to whole leaving the victor possessed by a full-power marilith. So far, the demon has been largely hiding, except during the PCs dreams, or when he comes in contact with sources of taint.

    Whether you let your player continue to have control while possessed depends on how much you trust them to play the part... and in any case, it is only really a factor if the possessor is taking on a controller roll, as opposed to an enemy, ally or rider.
  • Duskreign
    Posts: 1,085
    This really wants me to make use of spirit possession more often.
  • gaaran
    Posts: 740
    Indeed! I've never tried demonic possession, but I'm thinking that it could be a lot of fun! Thanks for the ideas.
  • FemmeLegion
    Posts: 521
    If it were one of my characters getting possessed, I would probably let the GM run the character for that session. If the possession persists, then I might get in touch with the GM between sessions and try to get an idea of what the demon or soul wants with my character's body so I could play it properly next time. However, I think that sort of discussion would take longer than I'd want to spend during the game itself.

    Last week, I kibitzed a 4th-ed game and my GM asked me to run one of the monsters for him. It was a succubus. Succubi dominate people. Whenever I had folks dominated, I got to tell them where to move and what to attack, but I had them roll their own dice - mostly to help the players keep *some* sense of control over their characters during the fight. They could psychically influence their dice to roll poorly, you know the superstitions. :)
  • Phaestus
    Posts: 7
    I actually played a possessed character in nWoD.

    Mostly, I played my character and the GM whispered in my ear as the demon. I had minor control, and he'd let me make rolls when my character really didn't want to do something. But on the occasions that the demon took over, I let the GM have total control.

    In other cases, for the shorter term type thing, I generally ask the GM exactly what my character is now thinking/feeling/seeing and act based on that. If my character has no control, but the party doesn't know, I'll have secret text conversations with the GM about what he wants to see happen with it.

    Ultimately, I think it depends a lot on what the player wants to do.
  • Duskreign
    Posts: 1,085
    Yeah, there definitely isn't a hard and fast answer. If there was, it would be:




    or something of that nature, which really doesn't help at all, and only tends to scare you into messing my pants just now.

    Gotta go,


    "Wyrmshadow Campaign Setting":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/wyrmshadow
    "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/star-wars-knights-of-the-old-republic
  • Arch4ngel
    Posts: 1
    I dunno. I'm really fond of letting players handle their own character's trials.

    Tell them - in vague terms - the demon/spirit/casserole's motivations, and let them have a refreshing break from the norm. I mean, who doesn't love a get-out-of-jail-free card to inflict mischief on their friends?

    Admittedly, it doesn't work unless you have a group of solid role-players, and an antagonist who is restrained enough to not start rampantly team-killing, but a similar sentiment actually bred one of the greatest table-top moments of my career.
  • gnunn
    Posts: 423 edited September 2010
    Okay, I just wanted to throw in an update that the other shoe dropped on the character's possession in my campaign last night. A single D20 roll completely altered my planned course for the evening and it was GLORIOUS!

    What happened:
    Party goes to the library to research the plane of shadow
    The library's expert on the subject is kind of creepy, so the paladin detects evil.
    botched hide check for the demon possessing our monk.
    The player for the paladin shouts *what the f!" when she is told that evil is present, but not where it is suspected.
    The paladin then tries to nonchalantly pull the others aside while the bard keeps the plane of shadows expert talking. Post-it notes begin to fly about the table.
    The bard's sense motive tells him something is up, but he assumes it's with the expert and so tries to keep him talking.
    Once everyone is filled in, the whole party goes back to the thieve's guild to hold a great big, "WHY ARE YOU RADIATING EVIL AURAS!?" intervention for the monk, who thinks they suspect, but is not sure. Only, at the guildhall, the evil aura is gone (the demon hid more successfully)
    The monk reveals some of what has been going on, voices, dreams etc.
    The cleric suspects possession, then the bard who has major issues with evil outsiders tries to taunt the demon out.
    The taunting works and the demon tries to take direct control of the monk for the first time, but the monk successfully resists.
    The monk then tells the whole story of what has been happening.
    The group wants to exorcise the demon, but the monk doesn't, because he thinks it may provide insight into his forgotten past.
    They compromise and head to an Olidammari temple to see if they can remove and bind the demon elsewhere.
    When the priestess casts True Seeing to see what she is dealing with, everyone learns that it is not a whole demon, but half of a really powerful demon who is weakened and manageable by being split between two bodies.
    The group's attitude instantly switches to "We can live with a manageable half demon! rather than restoring it to its full power somewhere in the world."

    YAY! Possessed monk! The first of several epic reveals I have planned is now complete!
    Post edited by gnunn on
  • arsheesh
    Posts: 850
    Nicely executed Grunn!
  • Duskreign
    Posts: 1,085
    Gnunn, that is an example of a PC-driven campaign, and I am thrilled for you that you have players as intuitive as that. I love it when my players are clever enough to alter the course of my campaign. They can be a pain, but more often, they are my muse.
  • gnunn
    Posts: 423
    One of the best parts was when the monk finally filled the rest of the party in on the whole story, the rest of the players realized that this had been a simmering subplot developing in secret between myself and the monk's player for months! The monk didn't know the full nature of what was going on until the cleric recognized it as possession, but the session where he had his first vision was played back in March.

    Of course now I have to figure out how to appropriately play the motivation of the demon without breaking my own game. The good news is the monk has proven he can resist direct control, and the demon wants him alive, because to be made whole the two vessels carrying her essence must meet and transfer the spirit through combat. The bad news is the bard really pissed off the demon with his taunting and the demon has no issues with trying to kill other party members should he get ahold of the monk. Hopefully the possibility of a 1/2 orc monk suddenly turning on the party will add spice & depth without overwhelming the overall story.
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