Certain creatures (undead for sure, and probably demons) trigger Dark & Dangerous checks under certain circumstances. So to most spell casters (every time they cast a spell).
The Dark & Dangerous check is pretty simple: roll d20, and on a 1 (+1 for every check after the first) something Dark & Dangerous happens. I’m told some of them can be good, but I haven’t seen it. When a Dark & Dangerous check fails (you rolled too low), several things happen.
- You lose a Luck point.
- Your Dark & Dangerous counter is reset
- Your spell does not go off (but is not lost, nor is the action — you can do something else instead).
- Two rolls are made on the actual Dark & Dangerous table, and one of them happens.
Overall, I’ve probably been a little more lucky than I had right to expect. I’ve had the checks fail on low numbers a couple of times, but one adventure I worked it up to about 8 or 9 without it going off. However, I have seen the following happen:
- I grew a foul beard of tentacles (don’t worry, it fell off after a few days).
- A wight summoned — not on purpose, it’s just an undead thing — a horror from beyond… namely, an invisible stalker. Thankfully it ate the damn wight before coming after us, and I managed to lure it away (toward some prisoners, go heroic me!) and somehow did not die… but it was awfully close. Like ‘cover the corpse with a blanket and… wait, is it moving?’ close. It did kill my favorite dog, though. I still miss Hamstring.
- I realized this whole ‘magic’ thing isn’t really needed, I’m totally a great warrior (so good I never wear armor, go go AC 12!) and magic is mostly useful for things that just can’t be done by other means. For purely mundane things like fighting, I’m better off using my sword (moderate madness, backed by a startling run of good rolls; special effect of longswords is that one a natural 19 or better that hits, the target is disarmed… so here’s this half-elf magic-user up against things that by rights outclass him, disarming them and spouting off about how superior skill overcomes brute force, and so on). I’ve managed to work past this, mostly, but I suspect my level 6 unique ability will have something to do with integrating magic and weaponcraft.
- My heart stopped. I’m still totally functional, except where blood flow is needed. Hello, erectile dysfunction!
- My lungs stopped, but that was only temporary (GM realized he’d made a couple of mistakes adjudicating Dark & Dangerous, so let one of the thieves use my scroll of dispel magic to reverse this one, and as recompense ruled that my recent brushes with undeathly traits gave me insight into death, and I can now cast speak with dead).
- Thastro, one of the dwarves we hired, also got hit with Dark & Dangerous and grew a foul tentacle beard. He didn’t take it as well as I did, even when I told him not to worry, it’ll all fall off in a few days.
I think there might have been one or two more, but these are the ones that come to mind.
Magic in Low Fantasy Gaming is hazardous stuff.