Encounters with Alternate Goals

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I thought it might be fun to post some encounters with alternate goals for the PCs and monsters here for discussion and reference. Here's a scene from a one-shot "delve-style" adventure I'm running this month called "Dogs of War."

 

 

T H E   S I T C H

The gnolls have dug their trenches close to yours and have found a weak spot in your lines to exploit. They are about to send a raid over the top and through your lines to get into Fort Castle. Stop them or be one step closer to watching the fall of the last bastion of man.

 

O B J E C T I V E

Prevent the gnolls from moving off the left side of the map. If three or more gnolls manage to make it across, you fail and the scene ends. PCs start in the reserve trench on the left side of the map.

 

T E A M   M O N S T E R

Braaag, a reskinned b'rohg (10th-level elite soldier)

2 infernal contraptions, reskinned constructs of some kind (8th-level standard artillery), RBA attacks 1 to 3 targets

15 gnoll claw fighters (6th-level minion skirmishers) that have an interrupt to avoid AoE

6 iron boot mines (6th-level minion traps) that you can lose a foot on

 

Monster Goals: Braaag sets about tearing up sections of the barbed wire so the gnoll minions can get through it. He and the gnolls know where all the iron boots are. The infernal contraptions sit in superior cover and fire on any enemies foolish enough to stick their heads up. Gnoll minions start in the reserve trench. On their turn, they move to the communication trench and to the front-line trench, prone and crawling if possible. If there are no gnolls in the reserve trench at the end of a combat round, five more gnolls are placed on the map in the reserve trench. When three such waves are filling the trenches, the gnolls go over the top and rush the PCs' lines trying to make it off the map.

 

With all that said, how do the PCs prevail? What encounters have you done that have alternate goals like this? Let's get a few posted and a discussion of ideas!

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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When and where are you running this and how do I watch?

I'm running it June 27th in the evening (Eastern) on Roll20. I'll take a few observers, sure. I'll PM you a link to the game.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

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I like the encounter design there, iserith.

 

The monsters have a singular goal that doesn't even involve direct conflict against the PCs, and the PCs have a goal that could be accomplished in a (figuritive) dozen ways besides killing all the bad guys.

 

Last time my players were in a position similar to this, the blocked up the connecting trenches and filled what you call the front-line trench with burning pitch and oil, and used a squad of archers to pick off any of the enemy brave enough to jump the flames, buying them the time needed to invisibly sneak across the flame line to the enemy leader, kill him, and break troop morale.

 

They had also thought about using their invisibility spells to turn some spears on hand into traps by positioning them so that enemies would likely run full-speed into them without seeing them until it was too late and impaling themselves, but they decided that they didn't have enough invisiblity spells to cover enough area that way.

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Thanks. I could see a group doing what your players did in this scenario. Gathering the oil and putting together a squad of archers would likely fall into the realm of a skill challenge give that time is of the essence. In 4e terms, that'd basically give the players a zone or maybe a wall of fire as an asset with a companion character squad of archers that could do area burst attacks with arrows. Gnoll be nimble, Gnoll be quick, Gnoll better jump high or he burn his... fur.

 

How else might a group achieve victory here? For you optimizers - what's a "dream team" of 5 PCs with reasonably balanced roles that could easily take this down? (Don't say 5 invokers with hand of radiance.)

 

What other encounters have you guys run that had alternate goals like this? How did the players handle it?

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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There was an encounter I participated in that had three groups in play:

 

1) Some Ghaunadar cultists. Humanoid, probably Drow, but I think they also had pet oozes.

 

2) Several draegloths.

 

3) The PCs.

 

The goal of the cultists was to complete a ritual, which, if the PC's hadn't interfered, would have involved sacrificing the draegloths. The ritual could still be completed if enough blood was spilled in that room. So, to complete their goal, they just needed to do a certain amount of damage to the draegloths.

 

The goal of the PCs was to stop this ritual. Killing the cultists and their oozes would accomplish this, but only if it was done before the draegloths got hurt too much. Moving the draegloths out of the room would also accomplish the goal. Hurting the draegloths would be counter-productive.

 

The draegloths were enraged and attacking anything that moved. Their goal theoretically coincided with the PCs, but they didn't really know this.

 

My character, who was a bard, managed to strike an uneasy truce with the draegloths, to discourage them from attacking the PCs. I can't remember now how well this worked, but I think we did stop the ritual.

Iserith:

 

don't use elite soldiers of a level higher than the PCs, that is just uncool

don't make the minions avoid AoEs entirely, that possibly voids one players presence / build

please figure out how you wish to deal with line of sight for the controller, the archer, as well as the teleporter

I am not seeing how the goal here is alternative, kill all gnolls still seems to lead to win

what happens to the PCs that lose a foot? I would describe it's effect as "injure a foot" and damage + slowed + ongoing damage

 

 

baldhermit wrote:

Iserith:

 

don't use elite soldiers of a level higher than the PCs, that is just uncool

 

I'd agree with you if the goal was to kill everything on the map. PCs probably don't need to attack that guy at all.

 

baldhermit wrote:
don't make the minions avoid AoEs entirely, that possibly voids one players presence / build

 

Incoming!  At-Will

Trigger: The gnoll is targeted by a close or an area attack.

Effect (Immediate Interrupt): The gnoll shifts up to 2 squares to a square outside the triggering attack’s area of effect and falls prone.

 

Won't be effective against all AoE or AoEs in succession. Probably okay here.

 

baldhermit wrote:
please figure out how you wish to deal with line of sight for the controller, the archer, as well as the teleporter

 

I don't think there is any issue with LOS here. Superior Cover where it exists is noted, otherwise an open field. What are you seeing as an issue?

 

baldhermit wrote:
I am not seeing how the goal here is alternative, kill all gnolls still seems to lead to win

 

That's one way. Goal for monsters is other than kill all PCs. And kill all gnolls doesn't mean kill all monsters on map as opposed to many D&D combats.

 

Edit: The encounter would probably benefit from a time limit like holding the line for X rounds without 3 gnolls getting past would count as a win. I'll consider adding that. What do you think would be fair?

 

baldhermit wrote:
what happens to the PCs that lose a foot? I would describe it's effect as "injure a foot" and damage + slowed + ongoing damage

 

Attack  Encounter

Trigger: A creature enters the trap’s square.

Attack (Immediate Reaction): Melee 1 (triggering creature); +9 vs. Reflex

Hit: 1d6 + 5 damage, and the target is grabbed by its foot, if it has one (escape DC 21). Until the grab ends, the target takes ongoing 5 damage. Each time the target makes an escape attempt against the grab, the target takes 5 damage. If the trap drops the target below 1 hit point, the target loses the foot. A creature with a lost foot is considered to be balancing and treats all surfaces as unstable (see the Acrobatics skill in the Rules Compendium). A creature can regain the missing foot through the cleric power holy cleansing or similarly powerful restorative magic.

Miss: Half damage, and the target is immobilized until the end of its next turn.

 

This is an actual trap from the Compendium. Not sure if it's called "iron boot" though. I reskin/rename a lot. I probably leveled it up.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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From my phone, so formatting and spelling will be bad:
a possible way to win would be for controller / archer / teleporting striker to incapacitate the only one that can open the breach.
you could go out of normal by removing monster hit points entirely, and making their existence binary in a shaman spirit companion kind of way

now all you need are some duckboards for them to balance across or risk falling into the muddy quagmire

baldhermit wrote:
From my phone, so formatting and spelling will be bad:
a possible way to win would be for controller / archer / teleporting striker to incapacitate the only one that can open the breach.

 

Yep. I got the infernal contraptions as backup, but those would be easily burned down as well. They're only standard artillery (on-level) - the superior cover is the only thing saving their butts.


baldhermit wrote:
you could go out of normal by removing monster hit points entirely, and making their existence binary in a shaman spirit companion kind of way

 

You mean the minions? Having a minimum damage requirement to take them down would be nasty. I did that in a one-shot I ran called Fimbulvetr where the Shades of Fenrir would attack the people of Grimfjord. Resist 20 except to radiant. Made for interesting approaches by the PCs.

 

What do you guys think of a countdown for Team Monster to fail? How many rounds would be challenging to PCs?

 

(By the way, the map is 16 x 16. I didn't put the grid on it when I screenshot.)

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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Chainsawhand wrote:

now all you need are some duckboards for them to balance across or risk falling into the muddy quagmire

 

Drill Instructor: "Get the **** off my obstacle, Pyle!"

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
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Spirit companion is 10+ half level, I think.

Some encounters from Zeitgeist adventure path (which I currently run and highly recommend):

  • prevent an explosion of techno-magical ship engine, sabotaged by enemies. Lvl+1 encounter + party has to stop the engine from exploding (various means, from shoveling out the fuel, to creative usage of Affect normal fires ritual)
  • suppress an epic-level NPC: basically, a stand-off of lvl1 party against severely wounded lvl 20 elite. Not really "alternative" (they still can kill him, as usual), but definitely not typical
  • survive a night on the haunted hill: party is basically surrounded by a horde of minions and some lvl+3 monsters, which are attracted to light and blood. It's not as tough as it sounds until an antagonist arrives with several sunrods, which he throws at the party...

Couple thoughts on that one:

 

1. What is the PC victory conditions?  Kill all gnolls?  Do they stop spawning after they try going over the top?  Or is there a turn limit where if they haven't done it by turn X, reinforcements arrive and mop the floor with them?

 

2. I know this encounter's weakness.  It will crumble when confronted with the most OP class in the game... the dreaded Seeker!

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1. Prevent 3 gnolls from getting off the left side of the map. They stop spawning once the third "wave" is on the map. I'm probably going to add a round limit the PCs can "hold the line" to cause the gnolls to lose, but haven't settled on a fair amount of rounds.

 

2. Dammit.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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Let me start by saying I am neither truly experienced in alt-goals or Dming in general, so what follows might be completely wrong.

iserith, may I ask the make up of your party? 

So the Braaag gets 3 rounds before the gnolls make a run for it. If his stats are the same, that would be 1 square a turn, from double attack. So if he AP, that is either a 2x2 hole, or 2 seperate coridors through it, (I'm guessing a 2x2, so the Braag can come through). Since the gnolls would need close to a nat 20 to jump the wire, they have to go through those spots. if the controller has any decent zones, he could stop them from coming through just by blocking it. Or making those squares difficult terrain.

Do the gnolls care about OAs?

With the 15 gnolls, all of whom I'd guess are double moving, the ones in the front-line could make it all the way to between reserve and comm trenches with a speed of 6.
I'm not quite sure how your PCs play, but I'm not seeing an way of stopping 13 gnolls from crossing, since I'd think at least 1-2 PCs would have tried to engage the Braaag. Actually, if they could stop him from destroying it all, the gnolls are stuck. Depending on the controllwer, they might be able to hold pretty well.

Since the first three round the gnolls won't be attacking, I'd say a total of 5-6 rounds before some help arrives., since any gnoll would have made it across by then anyway. (assuming double move)

 

Why must Magic cost me an arm and a leg?

Daemod wrote:
iserith, may I ask the make up of your party?

 

I'm not sure yet. Only one PC has been posted so far - Lieutenant Void, an eladrin starpact hexblade/swordmage.


Daemod wrote:
So the Braaag gets 3 rounds before the gnolls make a run for it. If his stats are the same, that would be 1 square a turn, from double attack. So if he AP, that is either a 2x2 hole, or 2 seperate coridors through it, (I'm guessing a 2x2, so the Braag can come through). Since the gnolls would need close to a nat 20 to jump the wire, they have to go through those spots. if the controller has any decent zones, he could stop them from coming through just by blocking it. Or making those squares difficult terrain.

 

Depending on how initiative shakes out, Braaag might have four rounds to break the barbed wire before the gnolls go over the top. It only takes destroying a 5' square to break through (this would be more clear with a grid overlay as the barbed wire straddles the line between two squares but is only 5' wide itself). So Braaag could create 4 such gaps in the barbed wire, 5 if he action points. This also assumes no natural 1's and all attacks doing an average of 15 damage each (his MBA is 2d10+7 so that's doable at 18).

 

Looking at the minions' stats, even a Natural 20 can't get them over the barbed wire. (Braag could probably throw gnolls over, too, but only one at a time - easy to pick off.) A controller with zones or walls could block the gaps, sure. Preventing Braaag from making the gaps would be another way. His job is to make gaps so I'll have him focusing on that as long as possible, even after the gnolls go over the top if needed. I could also have the infernal contraptions fire at the barbed wire, but they only do 2d6+5 per attack (average of 12). Whether it's better to attack barbed wire or harrass the PCs with those attacks will remain to be seen.

Daemod wrote:
Do the gnolls care about OAs?

 

It will depend on the situation. If the gnolls are overwhelming the PCs, they probably won't care if they lose a few to OAs. If they're fewer in number, they'll likely be more cautious about that.

Daemod wrote:
With the 15 gnolls, all of whom I'd guess are double moving, the ones in the front-line could make it all the way to between reserve and comm trenches with a speed of 6.
I'm not quite sure how your PCs play, but I'm not seeing an way of stopping 13 gnolls from crossing, since I'd think at least 1-2 PCs would have tried to engage the Braaag. Actually, if they could stop him from destroying it all, the gnolls are stuck. Depending on the controllwer, they might be able to hold pretty well.

Since the first three round the gnolls won't be attacking, I'd say a total of 5-6 rounds before some help arrives., since any gnoll would have made it across by then anyway. (assuming double move)

 

Once they hit the PCs' trenches, some or all probably get slowed down a bit due to the difficult terrain and needing to change directions to maneuver through the trenches. So I think it's more likely that they can manage getting across to the left side of the map in two turns. It seems like the first three rounds will be a mad dash to prepare and mitigate with the final two rounds being fights in the trenches. Since my goal was to use the mechanics to create an experience during actual play like trench warfare, I think this might hit the mark. Thinking about the countdown, if all goes according to the plan of Team Monster, they should have 3 gnolls off the left side of the map in 5 rounds. Maybe a decent countdown for the PCs to win by holding them back is 10 rounds at which point they break off the attack.

 

Side thought - I wonder how hard it would be for the PCs to just rush the other trench as the gnolls are staging and take them down. That'd be cool to see - a pre-emptive strike...

 

A controller does seem like the key role in this scenario. Thanks for the analysis - that made me think!

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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survive a night on the haunted hill: party is basically surrounded by a horde of minions and some lvl+3 monsters, which are attracted to light and blood.

 

I did a thing kind of like that. The players were in an old temple of Nerul in the Shadowfell, and they needed to take a series of measurements with something like an astrolabe to figure out the exact positions of the stars, in order to look up the pass code for the portal leading out. This meant going outside in the Shadowfell at night, and staying out there long enough to take the measurements. Which in turn meant fighting off waves of undead things. Basically it was a skill challenge with small encounters in between the rolls, with the twist that whoever wanted to make a skill challenge roll couldn't take a short rest.

Here's another encounter with an alternate goal from my "superhero" D&D 4e mashup campaign. This takes place in a city at the Cracker & Sons Fireworks Factory. This is a fairly average encounter for 8th-level PCs in our game as far as the XP goes.

 

 

T H E   S I T C H

The villains Lily Larkspur aka Mistletoe and Brian Teaser aka The Puzzler have taken over this location as their temporary base at the behest of supervillain The Comedian. They've rigged the factory owner Cletus Cracker and his sons, Bobby and Jimbo, with explosives and put hidden them in the loaded powder stores (batteries). Clues have led the PCs here while The Comedian sets about some dastardly deed elsewhere in the city. If the Crackers aren't found in time, then the fireworks factory will go up in smoke.

 

There are two large, guarded entrances to the factory and one skylight above the long table at the center for superheroes inclined to dropping in. Suitably mocking graffiti is sprayed on the sign out front making fun of the PCs.

 

O B J E C T I V E

Find Cletus, Bobby, and Jimbo and disarm the bombs before they go off. They are located behind closed doors. Complications to overcome in order to disarm a bomb are listed in white left of the captive with a DC 16 for each. (One of them, determined randomly, is DC 23.) Once The Puzzler sets the timer (when they first see him), the PCs have 30 seconds (5 rounds) to succeed. Failure means the fireworks factory is destroyed as are any normals (non-superheroes) within and the distraction allows The Comedian to advance in his nefarious schemes across town.

 

Secondary Objective: The Puzzler has on him one magic item from a randomly determined character's wish list. This is noticeable by the PCs in some way when they see him.

 

T E A M   V I L L A I N

Lily Larkspur aka Mistletoe

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Mistletoe aka Lily Larkspur
Medium fey humanoid
Level 8 Controller XP 350

HP 87; Bloodied 43 Initiative +8
AC 22, Fortitude 19, Reflex 20, Will 21 Perception+5
Speed 6 (forest walk) Low-light vision

Traits

Charmed Defense
Mistletoe gains a +3 bonus to all defenses while it is adjacent to a creature dominated by it.

 

Standard Actions

 Poisonous Kiss (charm, poison)  At-Will
Attack: Melee 1 (one creature); +11 vs. Will
Hit: 1d6 + 3 poison damage, and the target is dazed (save ends).

 Slow-Mo Pollen (charm, poison)  At-Will
Attack: Ranged 5 (one creature); +11 vs. Will
Hit: 1d8 + 5 poison damage, and the target is slowed (save ends).

 Floral Perfume (charm)  Recharge when no enemy is dominated by this power
Attack: Ranged 10 (one slowed or dazed creature); +11 vs. Will
Hit: Mistletoe pulls the target 3 squares, and the target is dominated (save ends).

 Bedroom Eyes (sleep)  Encounter
Attack: Area burst 2 within 10 (nondominated enemies in the burst); +11 vs. Will
Hit: The target is slowed (save ends).
First Failed Saving Throw: The target falls unconscious (save ends).

Skills Bluff +15, Diplomacy +15, Nature +10
Str 16 (+7) Dex 18 (+8) Wis 13 (+5)
Con 15 (+6) Int 15 (+6) Cha 22 (+10)
Alignment unaligned Languages Common, Elven

 

 

 

 

Brian Teaser aka The Puzzler

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The Puzzler aka Brian Teaser
Small fey humanoid (gnome)
Level 8 Artillery XP 350

HP 71; Bloodied 35 Initiative +7
AC 22, Fortitude 19, Reflex 19, Will 21 Perception+3
Speed 5 Low-light vision

Traits

Illusory Defenses
The gnome gains a +2 bonus to all defenses against ranged attacks.

 

Standard Actions

 Giggle Stick (psychic, weapon)  At-Will
Attack: Melee 1 (one creature); +13 vs. AC
Hit: 3d6 + 4 psychic damage.

 An Enigmatic Riddle (implement)  At-Will
Attack: Ranged 10 (one creature); +13 vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d8 + 7 damage, and the target cannot take immediate actions or opportunity actions until the end of the gnome’s next turn.

 A Real Stumper  Recharge if the power misses every target
Attack: Area burst 1 within 15 (enemies in the burst); +11 vs. Will
Hit: 3d8 + 5 damage, and the target is dazed (save ends).

 

 

 

Triggered Actions

Disappearing Act (illusion)  Encounter
Trigger: The gnome takes damage from an attack.
Effect (Immediate Reaction): The gnome becomes invisible until the end of its next turn.

Str 10 (+4) Dex 17 (+7) Wis 8 (+3)
Con 17 (+7) Int 12 (+5) Cha 20 (+9)
Alignment unaligned Languages Common, Elven
Equipment: giggle stick, ONE MAGIC ITEM

 

 

7 hired goons

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Hired Goons
Medium natural humanoid, half-orc or human
Level 7 Minion Soldier XP 75

HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minion. Initiative +7
AC 23, Fortitude 20, Reflex 19, Will 18 Perception+4
Speed 8

Standard Actions

 Beatdown Stick (weapon)  At-Will
Attack: Melee 1 (one creature); +12 vs. AC
Hit: 6 damage.
Effect: The goon marks the target until the end of the goon's next turn.

 Bicycle Chain (weapon)  Encounter
Attack: Ranged 5 (one creature); +10 vs. Reflex
Hit: The target is immobilized (escape DC 16).

Str 17 (+6) Dex 15 (+5) Wis 12 (+4)
Con 14 (+5) Int 11 (+3) Cha 10 (+3)
Alignment Evil Languages Common
Equipmentclub, chain, membership card to the local #431 hired goon union

 

Villain Goals: The Puzzler and Mistletoe have no desire to stick around once the heroes have arrived on the scene. Upon meeting the PCs and trading barbs, The Puzzler uses a device on his giggle stick to set the timer on the bombs. They'll stick around and fight until blooded or until Round 3 of the countdown at which point they will try to get in The Puzzler's car and escape (or flee on foot if necessary). The goons stick it out as goons will do.

 

Special: The Puzzler is actually bad at riddles and puzzles, so instead he tells dirty jokes. He tells one dirty one-liner at the start of his turn as a free action. If any PC can interrupt him with the right punchline before he can say it, he gets so angry that he's stunned until the start of his next turn. The notes to his act are in the glove box of his car. If the PCs find it, they'll know all the punchlines.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

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I enjoy the time limit. I imagine it in play with some kind of oversized clock ticking down. 

 

But one thing is that all 3 brothers have these bombs. I feel like one should be different. 

My only comment is that if you want him to be around to be able to be bloodied and not dead in round 3, you might want to consider a lot more than 80 HP. Seems to me outright killing both elites in R1 is feasible at level 6+, making the alternate goal less of a viable option.

bawylie wrote:

I enjoy the time limit. I imagine it in play with some kind of oversized clock ticking down. 

 

But one thing is that all 3 brothers have these bombs. I feel like one should be different. 

 

Each complication is different and suggests a different skill be applied. "Aggravated Wounds" is probably Heal. "Fat Man on a Bomb" is likely Athletics. Etc. I figured that'd make it different than Arcana and Thievery checks being thrown at it. What did you have in mind as far as differences go?

 

baldhermit wrote:

My only comment is that if you want him to be around to be able to be bloodied and not dead in round 3, you might want to consider a lot more than 80 HP. Seems to me outright killing both elites in R1 is feasible at level 6+, making the alternate goal less of a viable option.

 

They're standard monsters and I'm not too concerned with them living or dying. I just wanted them to harrass the PCs while they set about their objective. Any time spend on killing them is a tradeof against the countdown on the bombs, kind of the "Oh, sure you can kill me, but will you be able to save these innocent Crackers?" sort of trope. How long is the minimum time to diffuse all three bombs do you think? Figure the PCs are all in the chamber where Mistletoe and The Puzzler are. They don't know which battery the brothers are in. Minor to open doors. Standard to make skill checks.

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Since the PCs will likely need three or four rounds to physically get adjacent to the Crackers, it's a save or suck situation.

I could see it getting done - with teamwork - in four rounds. Less with AP. My guess is that it comes down to the wire when factoring in the combat distractions and failed checks.

 

What do you think would be a better countdown?

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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Not at home, but I would not use a set count, instead use story to pressure the PCs. They only need to know explosives about to go off.

baldhermit wrote:
I would not use a set count, instead use story
Would you handle combat the same way? Using the players' in-story descriptions of their attacks "instead of" attack/damage rolls vs. hit points?

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Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
A game is a fictional construct created for the sake of the players, not the other way around. If you have a question "How do I keep X from happening at my table," and you feel that the out-of-game answer "Talk the the other people at your table" won't help, then the in-game answers "Remove mechanics A, B, and/or C, add mechanics L, M, and/or N" will not help either.

Beldak: making it a skill challenge would kill the excitement of this encounter, so no, I would not suggest that.

 

What I am talking about is something I talk about (elsewhere) quite often, adjusting the encounter to the party. In this here case the party makes it into the fireworks factory by some means, they come face to face with dirty one liner guy, and at some point this NPC chooses to pull something out of his pocket, or perhaps already has it in his hands, and presses a button.

 

In every party I come across, there is at least one radar. You know the guy, "a pregnant brown haired mouse walked by that corner three weeks ago". Whatever his passive perception is, and perhaps the next PCs as well, he/they hear from the backroom the sound of a clock ticking, a sound that started immediately after the Puzzler pressed his button.

Players know what that means. There is no need to inform them of 5 rounds, as ideally you want them to feel like heroes, so you do want them to be able to free the Crackers.

 

So do not inform them of 5 round limit, forget yourself there is a 5 round limit. If the players ignore this sign and engage in combat instead of attempting to make it to the back room, make a show of the bad guys running from the scene, even provoking opportunity attacks while doing so, in a desperate attempt to get away.  If your players are halfway smart, and they should be since they choose you to DM for them, they really should know what _that_ means, and can make the appropriate judgement call (fight/flight).

I'm open to changing the number of rounds or coming up with another mechanism entirely for fairly determining if the players have made the right decisions to succeed in saving the Crackers in time, but managing it by way of narrative isn't something I like to do. It's too squishy for me. A hard limit and agreed-upon stakes is where I tend to go in encounter designs these days.

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Thats entirely your perogative. You could also determine the number of rounds based on character speed, and generally optimisation, prior to actual start of session.

 

There is a vast different with some optimised elves or some teleporters in the group as opposed to a handful of speed 5 dwarves.

I wonder what kind of countdown or mechanism sits sort of in the average of those two "extremes." Five feels right, but like you said, could be that 4 rounds are just spent positioning which doesn't leave time for skill checks. I'm okay with some groups not being able to cut the mustard, but one would hope that would spur further creativity to get it done. I think if everything is made clear up front, 75 actions (between 5 characters) should be enough to get 'er done.

 

I'll have to poke Jerico_Mason to take a gander at this. This was actually from the campaign he was in (he played El Fuego, a sort of Human Torch superhero), but they skipped this scene. He'd be able to think about it in terms of the PCs we had at the time.

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Some interesting reading here for a new DM, thanks for the inspiration! I'm trying to incorporate some alternate goals in my encounters but balancing them always seems hard.

 

iserith, what program do you use to create those maps and is it a program you would recommend?

You're welcome. Let us know what you come up with in this thread!

 

These maps were created in Roll20, a virtual tabletop.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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The move speed of the group ranged from an elven ranger with quicksilver motion, to a Bozak Sorcerer with Mark of storm, to a dwarven paladin although the sorcerer and the paladin were both second string players that only got to play when one of the main crew couldn't.  I think that it would be doabable in 5 rounds, but fuego would need to AP nova them to make sure that they don't waste any time on taking down Puzzler and Ivey  (at 80 hp there's good odds that they never get to act).  Also I expect Fuego should stay back from the bombs given that he is on fire, but hey I suppose he could extinguish himself.

 

Edit: The group in question often liked to do second story entries, so they would likely opt for dropping in to the room from the skylight, I know that Fuego and The Darkness would have done that for sure, not so sure about The Amazing Bulk or The Mastermind, but at least half the party would have been able to engage the puzzler and Ivey right away.

Sounds about right. The Unbelievable Bulk would most definitely have tried throwing the Puzzler's car at somebody.

 

Thinking about it, perhaps the Puzzler's pocket watch or whatever he used to start the bomb countdown can be used to add another round if the PCs get their mitts on it.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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This here little enclave of shot-kickin' inbreds and desperate refugees in the Stinkatoe Swamp seemed like a good 'nuff place to lay low for a spell while the zombie apocalypse raged on in the rest of the world. Till the gol' dern walker herd showed up one night. Then it all went teets-up.

 

Soon as the alarm was raised, Ratty Bobby and his crew broke in two. The wererat and some of his people ran to Ol' Zeke's still to snatch some moonshine. The rest of his gang swam out to The Ruby Mamma Jamma - an elemental airboat, and the only sure escape from this mess. And just like Ol' Zeke, the boat needs moonshine to get runnin'.

 

Meanwhile, Ol' Zeke's taking out some rotters and feeders that are converging on his crapshack. Behind him, he protects Angelica, the Living Dead Girl, who book larnin' types say is the only chance the world's got to stem the undead tide. After taking a vicious bite to the neck, Zeke and Angelica hole up in his boarded-up hovel. They might could hold out fer a while, but if Ol' Zeke meets his maker, he'll be up feedin' in no time flat...

 

What are y'all gonna do?

 

 

 

T H E   S I T C H

 

The 1st-level PCs - Crystal Meth, Mousetrap, Red Creek Rufus, Streetwise Hercules, and Vector Sanchez - come upon this harrowing scene and start on the bridge area. Ol' Zeke's crapshack is boarded up tight, windows and doors both (AC/Ref 5, Fort 10, HP 20, Strength check DC 16). Zombies are trying to get in as well and lots more are roaming around the scene, attracted by the commotion.

 

Meanwhile, Ol' Zeke's dying and can't be saved, making a death saving throw at the end of every combat round. If he fails three of them, he turns into a zombie feeder at the end of the following combat round and acts on the zombie feeders' next initiative count.

 

The terrain is pretty rough - lots of swimming and difficult terrain to contend with as noted on the map. 

 

O B J E C T I V E

Rescue Angelica, the Living Dead Girl, from the zombies. Mechanically, she is treated as an item held in one hand (minor to pick up, free to put down, etc.). Get her off the map and the PCs succeed. If at the end of any combat round she is adjacent to an enemy, she takes a strike which cannot be removed in this or future scenes. Upon receiving her third strike, Angelica is killed.

 

Secondary Objective: Escape. To escape, a PC need only willingly move off the map. Such a PC is removed from play until the next scene.

 

Tertiary Objective: Ol' Zeke's a bit of a hoarder. There might be useful stuff to be found in his crapshack. Spend a standard action to poke around and make a roll on the random junk table.

 

T E A M   Z O M B I E

3 (possibly 4) zombie feeders, 1st-level standard soldiers

8 zombie rotters, 3rd-level minion brutes

 

? zombie throngs, 3rd-level standard soldier (swarm)

 

Zombie Goals: Brrraaaaaiiiinnnss! Zombies tend to move toward and attack the nearest target, fighting until destroyed. The area beyond the map is swarming with undead. The map is separated into four equal quadrants (noted by the faint green lines on the GM layer of the map). If at the end of any combat round there are no zombies in a quadrant, the quadrant becomes Overrun. A zombie throng is placed on the map at the corner, rolls initiative, and acts accordingly in the next round. Living creatures suffer a -2 penalty to attack rolls in a quadrant that is Overrun and cannot escape through that quadrant. This is a fear effect.

 

Special: Angelica, who is both living and dead, counts as a zombie for the purposes of determining if a quadrant becomes Overrun. She must be not be in anyone's possession to be counted for this purpose.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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If there are NO zombies in a quadrant, it's overrun? By what?

 

im not clear on that one. 

 

Also, I'm assuming the undead have the same terrain issues. 

 

This gives us a minimum of 3 rounds to get to Angelica. 5 if we let her get attacked by a turned Zeke. I like our chances beating the zombies to the shack. 

 

I don't know our equipment, but I always buy a portable ram for strength based characters. A crowbar will do. Someone playing an essentials ranger could slow the soldiers to nothing at range. 

 

But you know what's missing? An unaligned crocodile or something. A random chaos that might save us or eat us, depending. Very genre. 

 

Edit, depending on the moonshine available, we could get some decent ranged explodey weapons. (And I might seriously consider burning Zeke's dying body if I were less than good aligned). 

bawylie wrote:
If there are NO zombies in a quadrant, it's overrun? By what?

 

im not clear on that one. 

 

A zombie throng (3rd-level soldier swarm, Large).

 

bawylie wrote:
Also, I'm assuming the undead have the same terrain issues.

 

Yep. I believe I gave the zombies a swim speed of 2 though due to bloating and not wanting to make a ton of checks every round. They still have difficult terrain issues though.

 

bawylie wrote:
This gives us a minimum of 3 rounds to get to Angelica. 5 if we let her get attacked by a turned Zeke. I like our chances beating the zombies to the shack. 

 

I don't know our equipment, but I always buy a portable ram for strength based characters. A crowbar will do. Someone playing an essentials ranger could slow the soldiers to nothing at range.

 

Zombies tend to go for the nearest creature regardless of terrain, so the feeders will probably try to bash their way into the shack at first as they start really close to it. As the PCs get closer, they would shift their attacks to them instead.

 

bawylie wrote:
But you know what's missing? An unaligned crocodile or something. A random chaos that might save us or eat us, depending. Very genre. 

 

Edit, depending on the moonshine available, we could get some decent ranged explodey weapons. (And I might seriously consider burning Zeke's dying body if I were less than good aligned). 

 

There's something like that crocodile in another scene in this same adventure. (This is one of three set pieces therein.) There's also a scene with the moonshine still where you're trying to get the mountain dew, but so is Ratty Bobby (a wererat) plus his flunkies Otis and Delilah. Meanwhile, more zombies. You can find moonshine in Ol' Zeke's crapshack via the random junk chart, but it's one of like 20 items so odds aren't great.

 

I'm sure Ol' Zeke wouldn't mind being burned given the alternative of becoming a zombie. He's good like that.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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iserith wrote:

 

bawylie wrote:
If there are NO zombies in a quadrant, it's overrun? By what?

 

im not clear on that one. 

 

A zombie throng (3rd-level soldier swarm, Large).

I think the point is more 'if a quadrant is empty, what zombies are in it to overrun it, where do they come from'?

 

(I was wondering the same thing)

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thespaceinvader wrote:
I think the point is more 'if a quadrant is empty, what zombies are in it to overrun it, where do they come from'?

 

(I was wondering the same thing)

 

Ah. I mention it but maybe it's not clear: "The area beyond the map is swarming with undead. "

 

So if the quadrant is empty at the end of the combat round, the DM puts a zombie throng into play at the corner of the map and now the quadrant gets the Overrun condition (-2 to attacks, can't escape that way). Fictionally, it's a big gang of zombies moving into the area. Mechanically, it's an over-level soldier swarm and probably not a good idea to mess with.

 

I've run this adventure about four times. I've had it where there were four swarms in play at one time with all quadrants overrun because the PCs took out the zombies and/or the zombies moved around left quadrants vacant. This meant the PCs could not escape until they enticed a swarm to leave a quadrant or destroyed it. Very exciting stuff. 

 

Fighting the zombies is basically not a good idea in general - you can't win that way. They just keep coming.

 

Edit: To be even more clear, a quadrant is Overrun if there's a zombie throng in it.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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So one throng can overrun the entire board if it occupies the space where the four quadrants intersect?

 

That makes mroe sense now and sounds fun.

Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
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