[4E] My PC's will be fighting on a lightning rail tomorrow. Any tips on how to spice it up?

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Basically the PC's pissed off a local assassin's guild and are getting the hell out of Sharn. Midway through the trip they'll be attacked by the assassins who are dogging at their heels. What should I do to make the fight more interesting?
Khyber is a dark and dangerous place, full of flame and smoke, where ever stranger things lie dormant.

  • Have at least one of the assassins "escape" onto the roof. Rooftop train fights are always fun. Especially when a tunnel is approaching.

  • Consider having someone decouple the car the heroes are in from the engine to slow their escape from Sharn.

  • Perhaps someone has disarmed the dead-man switch, and the train is accelerating each round, when it should be slowing down as it approaches a fairly sharp curve.

  • Perhaps the PCs learn of a trap laid on a bridge the train will be crossing soon.


Combine some of these for added stress. Perhaps decoupling becomes the only way for the heroes to avoid the high speed turn, but sacrifices some of the passengers (or the engine itself) in the process..
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
Basically the PC's pissed off a local assassin's guild and are getting the hell out of Sharn. Midway through the trip they'll be attacked by the assassins who are dogging at their heels. What should I do to make the fight more interesting?



They are assassins, right? Wouldn't they just stalk the PCs and wait until the perfect time to strike?

Since the assassins can disguise themselves as people, they can make the PCs paranoid as hell.
Imagine the PCs resting at an Inn. How would the assassins do their operation? How quickly can the PCs catch on from all the extra staff in the Inn? How will it all go down?

Ask your players leading questions before or during the encounter. They'll give you ideas and be engaged in them.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

They are assassins, right? Wouldn't they just stalk the PCs and wait until the perfect time to strike?

 Because it's Eberron, and you've got an excuse to run a combat on top of a train. Duh!

Why choose to have your bad guys (who are destined to all die anyway) do something the sane way, when you could choose to have the combat be Awesome instead just by having them be a hair stupid.

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima

They are assassins, right? Wouldn't they just stalk the PCs and wait until the perfect time to strike?

 Because it's Eberron, and you've got an excuse to run a combat on top of a train. Duh!

Why choose to have your bad guys (who are destined to all die anyway) do something the sane way, when you could choose to have the combat be Awesome instead just by having them be a hair stupid.



Darn right. Why pass up a chance to inject some style into an encounter? A favorite tactic of mine that seems to be ignored so often: Bullrushing enemies over cliffs and ledges. Though, in this case, setting up the occasional round where the PCs can do the bullrushing will be fun.

Toss a couple of minions into the fight just for the chance sake of this. PC bullrushes a minion over the side of the train? No save to avoid falling: Just describe the minion getting thrown off a moving train.


A few other options:
1. Have the fight be about protecting the engine, rather than just be about fighting off the assassins. If they don't stop the assassins in the engine fast enough, the train gets brought to a halt and they'll have to find another way out of the city.

2. Have multiple train cars. Have the assassins uncouple the cars one at a time, with the PCs starting near the back of the train. So the PCs only have two or three turns to force their way to the next car before the rear car gets left behind. (Having them in the second to last car is great here, because you can uncouple the very last car to show them what's about to happen.)

Though don't have it as an instant "You didn't make it in time, you're left behind" thing. Offer them one round where the released car is still within jumping distance of the next car, so they can try to pull of a cool leap to safety.


Given, which options you go with depend on how difficult you want the encounter to be, so some of them may not fit your intentions. Still, hope I helped.
Gunmage, a homebrew arcane striker. (Heroic Tier playtest ready.) GDocs link. (More up to date.)
A few other options:
1. Have the fight be about protecting the engine, rather than just be about fighting off the assassins. If they don't stop the assassins in the engine fast enough, the train gets brought to a halt and they'll have to find another way out of the city.

Very cool, and I heartily recommend having goals in combat other than killing the enemies. Having things stop tends not to be interesting, though. It turns into a block. If the PCs fail, let them still get out of the city, but have them wind up in some kind of other trouble.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I tink it would be neat if the assasins set up some sort of trap for them on the train. The assasins have already set up several contingencies to try and kill them, and after several harrowing battles, the party narrowly escapes with thier lives.

They are traveling, and then hear a comotion coming from the front-most car. They move forward to check it out, and the passengers are in a panic, and many of them have pushed thier way out into the second car. They say that someone has attacked the engineers up front. As the party gets to the door seperating the first car from the engine, the door swings open to reveal one of the assasins smiling grimly. He points behind the party, and they turn around to find the remaining "passengers" in car 1 removing clothes and wigs, revealing themselves as assasins. One of the assasins in the rear of car one is seen through the door, disconecting all the remaining cars in the train (limiting the players chances for escape). A battle ensues within the car, and the players are (temporaily) victorious.

One of the dieing assasins pulls out a magic "control rod" and speaks a command word. A bright glow indicates to the party that something has been activated. The parties arcana expert thinks it is a control rod for a magical "bomb." During the search that is surely going to follow, the party finds several things. The assasins are yet again, several steps ahead of them. A few rounds later, they move into the engine room and find that the controls for the train have been stuck into full-throttle. All levers have been broken or removed. This train has no breaks. The connection between the first train car and the engine has been chained and locked together. They know that hidden somewhere within the first train-car there is this magic time-bomb. Once they find it, reveal that it is "dimensionally shackled" to the train. There is no way they can remove it from the train-car. The next obvious choice is to break the connection between the engine and the car. As they are moving to do so, cinematically, a group of mercenaries are seen flying up beside them on mounts.

The party moves to engage them on the roof as the mercs begin to land. For some ideas concerning the roftop battle, see this thread
community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...

Once they have defeated the mercs, they move to the engine, and release the last train car, watching as it explodes/implodes fantasicaly moments after it has disconected. The train then speeds out onto a bridge. They can see that at the end of the bride, the tracks make a sharp turn. Too sharp for the train to corner at this spead. The party leaps off the back of the engine into the water below. Moments later it reaches the other side of the bridge and flies off a ciff into the sea.

It's reasonable that the assasins will asume the party surly died, and won;t bother looking for them anymore.
Very cool, and I heartily recommend having goals in combat other than killing the enemies. Having things stop tends not to be interesting, though. It turns into a block. If the PCs fail, let them still get out of the city, but have them wind up in some kind of other trouble.


Well, some possibilities here: The group could fix the train, or they could just travel by foot, but this would cost them time. Time that the assassins could use to regroup and call reinforcements, or to spread word of where the PCs are headed so there may be an ambush waiting for them when they get there.

I'm not suggesting that they get completely blocked from leaving, I'm just saying that it should feel like they've lost access to the 'short cut' route and now have to go the 'long way' to their destination. So instead of fighting off the assassin's first attack and putting a lot of distance between themselves and the next group of assassins, they instead have to deal with the pressure of having that second group right at their heels.
Gunmage, a homebrew arcane striker. (Heroic Tier playtest ready.) GDocs link. (More up to date.)
How about the attack unleashes a hidden cargo, some sort of monster, that both sides equally fear? Love the idea of an assassin and a hero having to fight together... or run away at the same time.

Also, one of the great things about the lightning rail is the image. If they are outside for any reason, play up the Tesla-like arcs of power. You could even make the entire train ride one big skill challenge, with combat being just one part. Don't announce its a skill challenge, just keep track of successes and failures, perhaps with failure derailing the train, causing it to be stopped or delayed, or the assassins making off with a target, either a person or object.

Make sure any failure leads to another part of the story.
They are assassins, right? Wouldn't they just stalk the PCs and wait until the perfect time to strike?

 Because it's Eberron, and you've got an excuse to run a combat on top of a train. Duh!

Why choose to have your bad guys (who are destined to all die anyway) do something the sane way, when you could choose to have the combat be Awesome instead just by having them be a hair stupid.



Don't you know? The perfect to attack the party is when they are on top of the train. 
I'm sure the assassins and the PCs want the fight on top of the train, who wouldn't?

When I did a similar encounter in my current Eberron Campaign the pirates attacked the train from the outside using an air ship and ropes to get on the train.  It was pretty epic since when the fight went bad for the pirates they jumped off the train and climbed the ropes back to the air ship.  Intense action !


"Non nobis Domine Sed nomini tuo da gloriam" "I wish for death not because I want to die, but because I seek the war eternal"

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Every eighteen seconds (three rounds), an overhanging lantern/bridge brace/ etc... strikes anyone that isn't prone. Attack vs. Reflex. Hit:damage and push target 3 squares, knock prone.