These are mostly ideas from TheGimper, which we playtested this week.
This week, the description of the encounter and the map lead you to believe that the party will head into the library and get a face full of random alchemical agents. But to do that, they would need to actually get to the library before facing the enemies. If the boss combatant is in the first room, the PCs won't leave-- they have no incentive to do so.
So, we changed things up a bit:
All the doors are open at the start of the fight.
We put a portcullis in place of the door in the first room, so the PCs could see the assassin getting away. Nothing pisses off PCs quite as much as bad guys escaping, except perhaps when the bad guys escape after stealing your stuff. It's an easy Athletics DC to lift, but it takes time and actions.
The assassin (Merinid) dropped his cloud of darkness in the first intersection where the door is, then slipped through the door (the PCs hear the door slam shut).
As Merinid runs down that first set of stairs, he arms the trap (this might not be needed in a low-level party, but it can be fun!) We had a couple of ideas for the trap, including:
The dark creepers are hiding in the upper right corner, on the northern set of stairs, to take out anyone who decides to go around and avoid the trap.
The hex knights are inside the library, flanking the door, ready to defend and keep the PCs from reaching their allies. When the PCs arrive, Merinid is behind the table, holding a knife to Hoshtar's throat. He then slits the wizard's throat and either throws him to the floor behind the table, or throws him *across* the table, triggering one or more of the reagents and giving the PCs a chance to reach Hoshtar before Hoshtar's third death save.
The fight continues, with Merinid using the reagents to screw up the PCs quite a bit.
When we ran the playtest on Monday night, these changes made the encounter much more lively and dynamic than "let's draw a beautiful map with lots of interesting features... and then we all fight in the hallway." I credit TheGimper with most of the creative ideas... though I think the traps were my suggestion....
Omit the doors leading into the hallway behind where Merinid the assassin is standing when the party first encounters him. That way he doesn't have to open the doors to run away.
The whole time during the dialogue section at the beginning of the encounter, Merinid has a readied action: As soon as the PCs try to attack him he runs away down the hall (the portcullis is hidden at this point). Make sure to have Merinid say something to indicate to the PCs that he's going to go kill Hoshtar, so that they will have a sense of urgency to pursue him quickly. When he rabbits down the hallway he triggers the portcullis (via either a pressure plate on the floor or he hits a button on the wall -- whichever suits you) which then drops down to block the PCs' pursuit (and provides him with partial cover from ranged attacks) and he continues his movement to the first intersection. Everyone then rolls initiative.
On Merinid's first turn he throws up his cloud of darkness (minor action) moves through the door (move action) closes and locks it (minor action). So, the party needs to either try to pick the lock while blinded (Hard DC Thievery check) or bust open the door (Moderate DC Athletics check) or proceed north up the hall hoping that that way will lead to where the assassin is going -- there should be some uncertainty on their part since they can't really see where that hallway leads (you might have to cover the map). On Merinid's next turn he double moves which gets him to the library.
When the PCs gets to the entrance to the library, they see Merinid with his knife to Hoshtar's throat. Merinid says to the PCs "Lay down your weapons and surrender, or Hoshtar dies." If any PC is inclined to comply, allow an Insight check to realize that doing so will just result in their deaths, and maybe a bluff check if a PC wants to try to throw a dagger or something.
If any PCs go up around the corner, have those stairs be a slide trap too so that they fall prone. The Dark Creepers will then attack with Combat Advantage, and probably move away. If the PCs don't go up around the corner, the soft, squishy members of the party will likely hang back in the hallway while the frontline guys move into the library to engage the assassin. Have the Dark Creepers attack the soft, squishy PCs from behind in the hallway.
Well I'm bummed. After reworking this encounter I was really looking forward to running it. Unfortunately, only two of my regular seven players were able to make it tonight. So we didn't have enough. I'm going to try to arrange something this weekend for us to get together and do a make up session. If we can do it, it will actually be nice, as 1) it won't be crowded 2) it won't be as noisy 3) we can take as long as we like.
Rico, did you only have 2 players for the night, total, or only 2 from your regulars?
If only 2 total, you might be able to get away with running this and session 6 back-to-back next week (session 6 is the RP one, right?)
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