Your adventurers travel through an idyllic countryside towards a quiet farming village. Approaching the main street, they are greeted by … shrieking? Wailing? ... a barrage of… expletives? Oh. Lots of Expletives.
A young woman trips just ahead of them, dropping her basket full of laundry into fresh horse piles. A man walks by, shoulders hunched in resignation, with a wide-brimmed hat absolutely caked in droppings as flocks of birds dive bomb from above. Nearby, another villager tries piteously to remove splinters from his feet, only earning new splinters in his fingers. A woman bursts out of her home, frantically tearing at her clothing and hair as cockroaches swarm over her skin.
A blanket of despair cloaks the village, save for a group of rats, which happily skip down the street with armfuls of burned bread from the bakery.
What foul creature would unleash such a curse of inhumane, er… relatively mundane torment?
Hi, I'm Katie with Into the Dungeon. In today’s reading of The Tome of Dungeoneering, we're going to explore a Goddess capable of striking terror and madness into the masses, reducing the most stalwart Paladin into a gibbering pile of slobber and indecency, and twisting the most kind and patient Druid into a maelstrom of mania and insanity. Lady Doom, Goddess of Misfortune: Beshaba.
Beshaba's creation is laid out for us in the 1996 Forgotten Realms Game Expansion: Faiths & Avatars.
Once upon a time, there was a much nicer, albeit just as fickle, goddess of Luck, named Tyche. After an unfortunate brush with a God of corruption and decay (who had disguised himself as a rose bush), Tyche begins to rot from the inside and leak misfortune. When her best friend Selune sees what’s up, she tearfully blasts Tyche with purifying light and splits her right down the center, at her infected core. From the destroyed Tyche springs forth two opposing goddesses: twin sisters trying to kill each other immediately upon birth.
One sister is Tymora, Lady Luck. The other is our gal Beshaba, Maid of Misrule. As it goes with some unhealthy family relationships, Beshaba's life revolves around trying to make her sister miserable. If Tymora’s presence becomes known, then you can bet Beshaba is not far behind.
Uh, Did someone just thank Lady Luck at the card table?! Oh gods! Duck and cover! SHUN the ill bringer!! Nothing is more likely to anger Beshaba than hearing her sister's praise.
Actually, if you want to avoid Beshaba's ill attention, the best thing you can do is attempt to appease her with oodles of desperate flattery. Terror of the goddess inspires her veneration, and she is invited to most every celebration and formal event, specifically named in opening speeches and announcements. Goddess forbid you forget to mention Beshaba at a sporting event. That ball is going to fly somewhere… <deep intake of breath> unpleasant.
But, but, but -- let’s don’t be too hard on Beshaba. Although her alignment typically ranges from chaotic neutral to chaotic evil, she can have any alignment she wants. Faiths & Avatars also makes sure to point out that Beshaba’s actions are not random. Really, she just wants the same love--or at least lip service!--that everyone gives so freely and genuinely to her sister Tymora, Lady Luck. Is that too much to ask for? Is it?
Helping to insure Beshaba is commonly worshipped in the realm, her followers preach a doctrine of…. Is that Timon from the 1994 Lion King? “Look, Kid. Bad things happen, and you can’t do anything about it!” Basically, since you can’t stop bad things from happening, at least you can beseech Beshaba to make it a little less painful in more frequent doses. Good and bad luck are meant to be balanced, and if you find yourself in a stretch of amazing luck… <conspiratorial whisper> something reeeeeeeally bad is probably on its way down the pipeline. Best take your bad luck in small, manageable doses. After all, isn’t it better to have the milk sour a few times a month instead of the cow dropping dead on a random Tuesday?
Now, the part you're here for: how can you use Beshaba to tormen--- ah, I mean, delight your party and enrich the setting?
Flexibility of Concept
One of the greatest benefits of inflicting Beshaba’s attention on your party or on the unfortunates nearby, is the wide range of misfortune at your disposal. Bad luck can be as simple and irritating as constantly finding rocks in your boot, or it can stretch out to utter devastation, like an entire region suffering crop failure, drought, and wildfires. So you have a lot of choice and control shaping what is at stake for the players and deciding how lighthearted or serious you want to make the adventure.
Faiths & Avatars has some helpful ideas for applying this concept to your players. On the very rare occasion that Beshaba manifests outside avatar form (as--OH, my Goddess: is that a 12 FOOT TALL FLOATING HEAD?!), players get a -6 to all saving throws and ability checks for the next 1 d4 days. Even if the story doesn’t call for a wild, yellow-eyed and white-haired head floating around town, this type of penalty can be modified and applied to other aspects of the game.
Characters having to roll against constant misfortune creates a lot of room to build intensity and suspense: what starts out as spoiled food or burnt fingers in the campfire can crescendo in consequence as time goes on. So, let’s hope the players realize what is going on with their rolls before they wind up in a tough battle somewhere.
Story Application: Micro
Battle aside, misfortune can be applied to all kinds of story interactions, helping you guide the party with comedic accidents, well-timed interventions, and very memorable upsets. Are the players going to remember a dusty tome someone found in the library the next time that y'all meet up? Maybe. Will someone remember what they read from it? Doubt it. Are they going to remember how the fighter had to roll a check when nature called, then ended up falling face-first in the latrine and getting stuck? Oh, yes, they're going to remember that. Or how they had to roll to save for the most mundane actions, like walking through a doorway, passing a puddle in the street, or standing underneath the window in town? Ohhhh yes. They will remember having to dodge misfortunate at every turn.
Story Application: Macro Which brings us to the next point: What’s causing the misfortune? What has drawn Beshaba’s ire, and how is this impacting the characters?
Was it, as we mentioned earlier, as simple as someone praising Lady Luck or forgetting to name Beshaba in a speech? How does the town react? Do they set out to kill the offender and ask for your party’s help, lest the wrath of Beshaba intensify from mere accidents to complete annihilation? Does the party come across the offender, fleeing a mob of townsfolk in the forest and pleading for help?
Could a DOoMmAstEr (that’s a cleric of Beshaba) be in town, fear-mongering the villagers and inciting them to burn their possessions in dedication to the mad goddess? Or could it be that the town doesn’t know why they have been targeted, and are seeking help to figure out the cause of their suffering?
Actually, Is it even Beshaba causing the trouble? Or is there something else at work? Is Beshaba being unfairly blamed for someone else’s handiwork? And does she respond to the insult?
There’s a lot of room for mystery, comedy, philosophical choices, and much more. How Will you use the goddess Beshaba in your game?
Until next time: Beshaba Provides!
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Thanks! We can't wait to read you another chapter from The Tome of Dungeoneering.