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A Trade of Secrets

04 Apr

This encounter is intended for five players of varying heroic tier levels

You’ll notice this is the first “Story Challenge.” When I wrote the tag for Story Challenges I wasn’t sure what I meant. Skill and combat encounters are plain enough but I wanted something that incorporated player choice in a more ephemeral way – or at least challenges that influenced the story and direction of the game as much as/more than they influenced hit points. So let’s give it a shot.

“Secrets secrets are no fun, secrets are for everyone!”

Partially incorrect! Secret are fun but only for the keeping and unkeeping of them. Not every player intends their characters to have any deep and dark (or at least valuable) secrets – but they can be a great vehicle for adding party tension that doesn’t grind gameplay to a halt. This encounter is intended to force an information trade between the players – while still maintaining some measure of uncertainty as to who’s secrets are who’s.

Structure
The goal is to subject the characters to an accidental magical information trade. The players write about a secret their character has in a first person format. Later on the characters will encounter an unstable being of the Far Realm that on death, causes a psychic shockwave to jaunt uncomfortable memories randomly between the players. What they choose to do with that information will (hopefully) spice up your campaign with a new wrinkle, and get those players role-playing!

Player Homework
Have each of your players write a brief (2 – 5 paragraph) first person narrative for their character (It’s best to do this a few sessions before actually running this encounter). This narrative is a memory (and may be subject to some of the after-the-fact revisions that memory often is – though avoid outright lies). In particular, an unpleasant memory. Ideally this is a dark secret the character is concealing from their fellow companions but it may not need be that extreme – a “worse thing you ever did,” a childhood trauma, something the character surreptitiously witnessed, forbidden knowledge, damning personal opinions or political convictions – all would fit the bill. This has to be something that emotionally effects the character – or at least something that could make things complicated if it got out. The specifics don’t matter so long as there are stakes in the information.

When pitching the homework be concise about your specifications. Play this up as a “getting to know your character” exercise. Sell the deception. The players should NOT know that these essays will later be shared with other party members. It’s up to the player to decide if his/her narrative reveals any “tells” about the character – their name, their race, characters from their background yet to be mentioned, etc.

Ideally, get these typed up and print them off in some relatively uniform fashion (to avoid the player’s identifying who gets which memory when the time to swap comes). When it comes time to hand them out, remove the memory for the player you are handing to, shuffle the remaining memories, and foist one over (repeat this process until each player has another’s memory). You will hand these out in concurrence with the Unstable Abomination’s “Psychic Shockwave” power – a burst of psionic static that is emitted when the creature is killed.

The Unstable Abomination
The catalyst for this strange effect is an unstable, mutated monster from the Far Realm. It doesn’t have a goal of sewing discord among the players, (unless you want it to) the psychic shockwave that causes this jumble of memories is simply a side effect of its mutated and already alien biology. Apply the following template to a monster in the encounter:

Unstable Abomination
HP: +10 + level
Resist: +5 Psychic

Memory Drain (Recharge 5-6): Ranged 5; targets creatures: Wis vs. Will – 2d6 + level psychic damage and the target cannot use encounter powers until the end of its next turn.

Psychic Shockwave (Encounter – TRIGGER: when the Abomination reaches 0 hit points): Close burst 20; targets enemies: Wis vs. Will -HIT: 1d10 + level psychic damage. The target is stunned until the end of their next turn. MISS: the target is dazed. EFFECT: All targets succumb to chaotic psychic eruptions. A single memory from each target is transferred to another target. Creatures of the Far Realm are immune

NOTE: With a range of 20 squares you will likely effect all of your players. But if not, then leave out the memories of the character who is out of range and likewise, he receives no swapped memories from his friends.

Suggested Encounters
Below are some possible monster arrangements this encounter could take place with. In each case, the bearer of the Unstable Abomination template is indicated.

Level 1 Players
x1 Fell Taint Thought Eater – Unstable Abomination – (Monster Manual 2 pg. 105)
x1 Fell Taint pulsar – (Monster Manual 2 pg. 105)
x3 Fell Taint lasher – (Monster Manual 2 pg. 105)

Level 5 Players
x1 Ustilagor – Unstable Abomination – (Monster Manual 3 pg. 118)
x2 Ochre Jellies (Monster Vault pg. 220)
x1 Fell Taint Warp Wender (Monster Manual 2 pg. 105)

level 9 Players
x3 Foulspawn Berserker (Monster Manual pg. 112)
x1 Foulspawn Mockery – Unstable Abomination – (Monster Manual 3 pg. 89)
x2 Foulspawn Grue (Monster Manual pg. 112)

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