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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Kill Your Darlings

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This encounter is intended for any number of players of any level

Let me tell you a story about my early days of DMing – back when 3rd edition didn’t need a decimal point after the number. Back when you were excited about “Song and Silence” hitting the shelves of your FLGS. Back when Cause Fear lasted 1d4 minutes (seriously, why not make a spell that just tells one of your friends to go home and hang out by himself?)

I was asked to run an impromptu game for some friends. We were all pretty deep into playing Warcraft III at the time (this was, after all, the world before the World of Warcraft) and that had infected our thinking. Their was a mutual suggestion to play a party of orcs – a short term brush with running an “evil” campaign. This half-cocked little session ended up being the impetus for a long running campaign, but that’s another story for another time.

So as they all rolled up their heartless orc raiders I started digging through stat blocks and the DMG for challenges. While going through our collective resources I stumbled upon some character sheets that the guys had used a week before, for a game I wasn’t present at.

I slipped those character sheets in with my notes.

I ran the game. It was what they expected. They raided a village, killed its militia, pillaged the farmsteads, laid siege to the kind-hearted land-baron’s villa, and awaited the armed response from the incensed lord of the realm. That response came.

It was headed by their characters from the previous game.

It was a resounding moment for the players. A conflict of interests slashing into their previously simple world of callous orcish brutality. They wanted to win – but winning meant destroying something they cared about. Also they had min/maxed those characters like crazy, and the fight would not be won easily. In the end it was a memorable game in which the players were invested, conflicted, and had a lot of fun.

And that’s the goal for this weeks encounter: have your players make a one-off character, grow to love them, and then force the players to betray their darling PC. Old school DM cheatery – or compelling gimmick to encourage player investment? I’d argue it’s both.

Part I: The Bait
New sourcebooks are coming out all the time, and so are new ideas for characters. Running ongoing campaigns is great, but it doesn’t provide players that opportunity to mess with other character concepts, races, class builds, or backstories. That’s where the one-shot adventure comes in – and that is stage one in your emotional terrorist plot! This will take some careful planning on your part, but the payoff will be worth it.

Propose a one-shot adventure set in your campaign’s world (in fact, you may wish to abstain from any mention that this session takes place in the same continuity, but don’t be untruthful if asked.) Secretly the purpose of this adventure is to establish these player-made characters: their history, group dynamic, and accomplishments – just before they are handed over and made NPCs. For maximum impact, they should not return for a couple sessions, giving your players time to get back into the swing of your usual game, to the point where their “alt” is almost forgotten. Almost.

While the one-shot has a nefarious goal, there’s no reason why you can’t use it as a chance to introduce a place the “real” PCs will soon visit, explore another aspect of the campaign world, mess around with gameplay at a higher or lower level (adjusting these characters accordingly when the final showdown with the “main” PCs occurs) or to tell the story of other NPCs both new and old. This one-shot gets maximum use as a “flashback”, “flashforward,” or a “meanwhile, 100 miles to the north…”

So the location of this adventure is likely to be somewhere the original PCs will be going soon (whether they know it or not). Set some guidelines for the one-shot characters, but encourage your players to try new things, or explore other aspects of the campaign world. Playing a valiant paladin who is a sworn vampire hunter? Try playing a necromancer! Used to your city dwelling guild assassin? What about a skilled, anti-social ranger? Steering them toward characters who would conflict with or (worse) be friendly towards their usual characters isn’t absolutely necessary, but it might not hurt. Maybe run it as I did, demanding that all the players choose an evil alignment (assuming your PCs to be predominantly good).

Now comes the hard part: running a session that is fun and having the players make characters they enjoy. Obviously there’s no quick and simple advice for this: it’s a honed craft and an art all its own. But giving the players an opportunity to try out some off the wall or atypical characters is usually enough. I’d suggest setting most of the encounters on the easier spectrum – that way the players succeed more often, and have a good opinion of the usefulness of these characters. Don’t wuss out on them or anything, but definitely pull some punches. Consider it an investment for later.

Part II: The Switch
Your game returns to normal. You run a session or two as always, with the same Pcs the players have been consistently playing, furthering your group’s collective plot-lines. You might lay down some hints of what will be to come, but you’ll lose the element of surprise if you get too heavy handed. Then, roundabouts the 2nd or 3rd session after the one-shot, the “alternates” show up!

Don’t just state that the characters are there – describe them in detail as though the players had no knowledge of these knaves. Let the realization sink in! Remind your now conflicted players not to do too much metagaming here. While they may love Torbash the Dark: Half-orc Necromancer, their lawful good paladin has no appreciation for him. And if he never took prisoners before; why would he now?

The “alt” characters (please don’t mind the MMO terminology) can be in conflict with the PCs in many ways: commanders of an enemy army, a rival adventuring company, they might be bandits preying on the PCs, mercenaries hired to “deal” with the heroes, mind-controlled pawns of an evil overlord, opponents in a competition, etc.

Though I joke about being brutal to your players it is mostly just that. This is meant to be a fun challenge and add some drama and pathos to your game, not to be particularly emotionally abusive. The PCs very well might find a way to avoid bloodshed, take prisoners, escape, or even turn enemies to tenuous allies. As always, give the players a fair shot to improvise and “make things right” no matter how hopeless or straightforward a situation you throw at them.

Stats and Powers
Running a full player character sheet as the DM can be a bit much – even worse when you have more than one! To simplify things, you might consider “monsterizing” the alts. Draw up a Monster Manual style stat block, using one or two of their At-Will attacks, and one encounter, and one daily power of the highest level available. Keep any iconic abilities (marking, a “Healing Word,” sneak attack damage, etc). Think about what powers, skills, and items the players made use of during the session with this character and use or emphasize those, ignoring the bits that got ignored anyway. That might make a combat encounter with around five fully-fleshed out characters more manageable.

Special Considerations: Ominous Foreshadowing!!!
So I’ve highly encouraged you to conceal the presence of the “alts” before they are finally revealed for dramatic impact – but it can be just as engaging to instead do the complete opposite: foreshadow their arrival at every turn! Building anticipation of this confrontation can be just as valuable a story-telling tool as making it a “twist.”

Maybe the last moments of your one-shot reveal that these characters have arrived in a location the usual PCs have just/will soon explore. Perhaps their last goal put them in league with a hated enemy from the ongoing story. Maybe they arrive in the wake of the PCs, and it becomes clear a confrontation will soon occur as the new characters track the old. This final scene can be used to build anticipation for your next session, and serves as a good cliffhanger.

Another thought: Let’s say you have a player who is very unhappy with his or her character, and you’ve been seeking an appropriate exit for this PC. Now is a great time! The player can “swap” characters in a way that is rooted in the story and the action of the game. Maybe the alt has a change of heart and turns on his allies, siding with the PCs when the conflict is at its most desperate. If the new characters aren’t morally at odds with the party, perhaps the no-longer favored PC duels the alt in a rigged contest and loses, leaving the victor a clear and valuable new companion for the party. Perhaps it is this PC you want to get rid of that proves a turncoat, and the new character, though appearing at first a foe, instead proves to be a misunderstood ally. Whatever your approach, this can be a great avenue to introduce a “replacement” character that already has a place in the player’s hearts and minds.

A final word: the goals here are to be surprising, to get your players emotionally involved in the game’s characters, to add a nice twist to your plot, and to remind them that just because the game is designed for them to ultimately “win,” it does not mean that the challenges along the way will be easy!

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2012 in Playtested, Story Challenge

 

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D&D NEXT/5th ed Playtest Experience (Points)

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Many apologies for the intermittent and off schedule posts. As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m rather involved in Cleveland theatre, and am currently part of a cast devising an original play. That involves acting, rehearsing, writing lines, memorizing those lines, revising those lines…you get the idea. Thus the brunt of my writing time has gone to that, and poor Save vs. Weekend has become second banana. But fear not! I have neither lost interest nor resolve to keep this blog afloat. That said for the next few weeks posts will be at zany times, and likely only once a week.

Due to my time constraints and in the interest of contributing to the D&D community, I thought I’d sidestep the expected weekly encounter write-up (insert obligatory chiding of my breaking from the Blog’s intention) to instead discuss a bit about how things have been going with the sporadic D&D 5th/Next playtest games I’ve been running.

The last game was run with 5 total players, using a self written adventure (2 combats, a puzzle, a potential hazard, and lots of random tables) all while the old school Dungeons and Dragons cartoon played in the background and DMDJ set the mood.

So, my bullet-point observations about 5th Edition / D&D Next:

Easy to Pick Up – My last session included three (THREE!) players who were completely alien to the tabletop roleplaying experience. So new to it, that I had to remind myself to explain the “little things” to them – like what 2d8 means in terms of those little plastic dice. Even then, among the two experienced players at the table, only one had played using the 5th Edition rules and not at all extensively. Given that lack of knowledge base, I found that character creation went very smoothly. Focusing the game more on the attributes gave new players a very easy, understandable touchstone to work from. They knew what things their characters were best at, and what things they should leave to other party members if possible.

Backgrounds and Specialties were extremely helpful for this process. I didn’t need to explain an exhaustive list of abilities and skills – the names were all the players need to know what they wanted to be. “Artisan? Oh yeah, that sounds cool. Can I be a painter?” “Archer is an option? Yeah, I definitely want to use a bow since my strength is, like, nothing.” Quick, simple, and easy to understand and roleplay.

That all said: I’d ultimately like to see a list of feat for those who feel a little too confined by the Specialties and want a little more flexibility in describing their character.

Less Stringent Spells = More Fun – I think the new spell formatting really got to shine in this session. You all know I love 4th Edition with a grandmotherly warmth, but power descriptions are very precise and focused – which isn’t a bad thing. The problem is that it tends to force your mind to think solely in terms of what the spell can do statistically, and ignore its implications and interactions with the world.

To new players, having a paragraph that described the spell, and a paragraph that explained the nitty gritty was invaluable. Combat spells were easy for them to learn “Oh, so this text at the bottom says, I roll these dice and that’s fire damage and I get everyone in a 15 foot cone, cool.” The descriptive paragraphs got them thinking of their spells in precisely the right way – trying to come up with clever, out-of-the-box applications. I admit that I hand-waved some rules to make their ideas work*, but isn’t that the point?

I think an inherent and hard to pin down problem in 4th Edition is the accidental psychological paralysis it puts on DMs and players. Seeing all those neat, clean, precise rules makes you think they need to be followed to the letter or else you are “doing it wrong.” Of course that’s false, but our brains work in funny ways. I’ve run into that problem less and less while running 5th ed games.

*[I suppose using Command and saying “Reveal” was not intended to force Orc Warlords to admit useful or embarrassing secrets, but the players loved it. I also maybe give Mage Hand to much credit; but when a players uses it to pour out flammable liquid onto burning opponents or shove its spectral fingers into the mouth of an arguing party member to end a discussion – only a monster would let rules nay-say!]

Solving Not Just Rolling – A thought related to that aside: The new mechanics seem to encourage a “problem solving” route just as much as they encourage a “gameplay” route. And yes, that narration oriented approach is a thing very subject to the DM’s handling of the game (Ahem! DMG pg. 42!!), and it can certainly exist in 4th ed (I try to steer my games in that direction as much as possible.) But the emphasis on skills/skill challenges and feats can sometimes get in the way of that free-form problem solving approach to complications – making mechanical choices more appealing than a clever or logical idea.

Monsters and Low Hit Points: Feast or Famine – Maybe it was my fault for throwing orcs in as the primary combat antagonist. To be fair, the PCs were 2nd level (due to my concerns about PC fragility), so it wasn’t an unreasonable monster choice, but the orcs sit in a strange place of high damage, and not quite high enough Hit Points. Nearly all the orcs went down with a single blow. Having the “Relentless” trait kept them hanging around a bit longer, so they fit their role better in this iteration of the playtest than the previous, but they still seemed oddly fragile. On the other hand, the inclusion of the great axe as their main weapon made them incredibly potent – especially against weaker PCs. I think this is meant well; a single d# of damage should be threatening, but not overwhelming if the DM lands a single lucky roll. At this point in the game’s life I think there’s an imbalance somewhere. Mind you, I haven’t played with that wide a range of the monsters to choose from.

Still it seemed I was either dropping players or they were dropping monsters all at once, with rarely anything in between. While my goal wasn’t to replicate the feel of 4th ed combat, I think 5th ed’s battle and gameplay in general is speedy enough due to action-economy that having a lot super-low HP monsters isn’t always necessary.

I agree with the logic in lowering Hit Points across the board (to improve the significance of magical healing), but I think this move made 1st level PCs too fragile. One thing I loved about our current edition of D&D is that 1st level wasn’t a terrified rush to earn experience points enough that you could snag that extra Hit Die and survive the lucky crit you would occasionally absorb. Of course, you want plenty of room to grow, but starting between 10-25 Hit Points gives some good breathing room for characters and encourages them to take risks right off the bat, without anticipating total and utter failure.

The Fighter is Awesome – I had two players each playing very different Fighters: a “Dwarven Defender” type, and a staff wielding, light armor clad amazon huntress. Both were effective and unique and made good use of combat maneuvers to both set their characters apart and contribute to the “game” aspects of play. I was very happy with how the Fighter is shaping up.

Follow My Lead – I saw fit to give the PCs a couple followers during an appropriate moment of the game. I think the way monster stat blocks are laid out, and the system itself, less dependent on the troublesome effects of level creep, makes integrating a handful of followers and easy and not too unbalancing prospect.

Magic Items are Special and Interesting – The document covering magic items was still pretty hot off the PDF presses when we played, and I hadn’t had too much time to look it over before tossing some of its contents in. I’m pleased to see that many items have peculiar quirks (the demands of the “Oathbow” made sure our archer held off on its devastating power until she was sure she could take down her target) and value outside of their obvious applications in combat. I know it’s early yet, but this is the way to go. I enjoyed that 4th edition offered a wide range of magic items, but so few of them had any real appeal – I think giving items a lot of character and “extracurricular” capabilities can make even statistically sub-par treasures worth having.

3D Terrain Fosters Creative Thinking – This isn’t strictly a 5th edition related note, but it’s worth mentioning since I’m giving an after action report. This was one of the first times I busted out my 3D terrain pieces provided in the Harrowing Halls map tile pack. I found my players using the tables and stairs in thoughtful ways, and I think having those pieces there – rather than just an image of a table on a tile or the mention of one in a description – really fostered that kind of thinking. Sure, you might think of using a table as cover even if there wasn’t a table miniature, but it’s easier to overlook that possibility if the environment isn’t emphasized. 3D terrain is just one way to do this, of course. A very descriptive and thorough DM can do just as well, but I’ll make the case for my silly props enhancing play and inspiring characters (Ha! Take that you graph-paper loving grognards!)

In general my comments are positive but bear in mind this is just the results of a single session, and it went well, meaning we had fun, and that my impression of any flaws in the system are probably negated by that. Also, our pizza was late, and thus free…who can be in a bad mood when THAT happens!

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Posted by on October 17, 2012 in Announcements

 

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Incidents – Pie Eating Contest

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The next round of “Incidents” will be focused on events at or during a tourney. Regardless of where jousts, festivals and tourneys stood in the public mind at various points in actual medieval history, our picture of them in the pseudo-medieval fantasy world is pretty clear. They are kind of a big deal.

I’m not going to touch the highlight of the traditional fictional tourney: the joust, because that ground has been pretty well covered in this and other editions of the game. I’m focused on the events that happen during and around the tourney celebrations. That will take us down some predictable paths – there were other contests and feats of arms held alongside the jousting. It will also take us down some weirder and wrinkly roads. I decided to start us off with something out-of-the-ordinary because…well…the artwork that Jenn put together for this is just incredibly charming.

Circumstances
The PCs are at a tourney, festival, fair, or holiday celebration

Event

The PCs will get plenty of heads up about the pie-eating contest, since it is a favored event and one of the few that any person: commoner or highborn, can enter. The PCs need only register their name, with the maestro of the competition, and take their seats.

Eat to Live
Run the pie eating contest as a sort of skill challenge. Each participant makes an Endurance check for each “Round” of the contest. In a round, most participants will eat one pie. Exceeding the DC by 5 means the participant can cram in 2 pies. Exceeding the DC by 10 allows the participant to shove down a whopping 3 pies.

•Round 1: DC 11
•Round 2: DC 12
•Round 3: DC 14
•Round 4: DC 16
•Round 5: DC 18
•Round 6: DC 21
•Round 7: DC 24
•Round 8: DC 28
•Round 9: DC 35

The competition will go on until the 9th round, or until all the contestants either stop or are disqualified. The contestants can “call it” at any time if they think they have eaten enough total pies to win. Contestants who vomit are disqualified and their score does not count. If all contestants end up being disqualified, the winner is the contestant with the highest score before expectoration.

A single failure means that the participant skips the next round – they are still struggling to finish off that last pie. Two failures indicates the participant is really having some difficulty, and must skip the next two rounds. The third failure tears it; the participant vomits, and is thus disqualified.

The Stakes
This contest does not happen in a vacuum! Be sure to have set aside three to five NPCs who will also be participating. It is assumed there are many other participants, but rolling for 100 people isn’t much fun, and the narrative comes down to the major players in the end. The majority of people won’t be able to put away more than four pies before giving in. Only the PCs and their prime competitors have a chance of exceeding this.

The NPC contestants are more than just an Endurance bonus! Give them character, charisma, and a backstory. Whether they are villains or sad sacks the PCs should feel some way about them. Don’t give them an unreasonably high Endurance bonus either. Perhaps the reigning champ will have a heroic bonus to his roll, but other than that this should be a relatively fair contest.

This boils down to a game of die rolls which is ultimately not that exciting. The life here is in how you describe the contest, and in establishing an inter-party rivalry that can finally. Be resolved without killing all the PCs and ruining the player’s fun! Try offering a prize that all of the PCs desire as a means of establishing a rivalry between them.

Possible EXP and Rewards
Completing the contest is a noteworthy but not monumental accomplishment – granting experience equal to a single monster of the PC’s level -1. The real payoff should be the reward for winning the contest. A magic item, significant monetary amount, or a more practical reward; like ownership of Old Ma Thranduil’s prizewinning war-pony should be the temptations on the table. Not to mention the boost to reputation the PC will receive! Imagine being (INSERT CHARACTER NAME HERE) Pie-Bane! Or (INSERT CHARACTER NAME HERE) Pie-Slayer!

Unusual Considerations
If you anticipate the PCs wandering into a combat encounter soon after the contest, consider saddling them with some penalties or providing some possible options. PCs who fail this challenge might be Slowed or Weakened (as a result from overeating) for their next encounter.

You might also consider letting PCs spend a Healing Surge to cancel out a failed roll in the pie eating skill challenge. Ding so makes it to easy for them to win if there is no combat after the contest, so offer this with the full knowledge that they are making a gamble on their resources, and let them feel like that’s the case as well. It should be a strategic choice. Tactical pie eating. That is now a thing.

Your players will, of course, ask: “What kind of pies are they?” This is D&D…consult the random pie chart below:

Roll 1d20

  1. Apple
  2. Rhubarb
  3. Meat
  4. Blackbird
  5. Peach
  6. Custard
  7. Strawberry
  8. Blackberry
  9. Blueberry
  10. Owlbearry (Guess what the secret ingredient is…)
  11. Apricot
  12. Chocolate
  13. Pear
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Pecan
  16. Cream
  17. Lime
  18. Lemon
  19. Pumpkin
  20. Wizard’s Pie (Possible random enchantment)
 
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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Incidents, Not Playtested

 

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Passage of Arms

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Who knew that the code of chivalry also included permission to be kind of a dick

This encounter is intended for any number of PCs of any level

I’m no medieval scholar (though I know a handful of them!) but I admit it’s always nice to inject one’s D&D game with some of the actual quirks and wrinkles from our real world age(s) of swords and chainmail. One thing that caught my attention while doing some research on tourneys was the Pas d’armes. It’s not the sort of thing you usually find cropping up in your campaign and it certainly provides for an unexpected and potentially exciting encounter!

Setup
At the gates of a city or in the middle of a bridge on a well travelled road stand (# of PCs) knights in full armor, their tunics bright and their shields recently polished. These men have established a Pas d’armes. They challenge any armed and able-looking traveller to a duel. If the knights are defeated by any challengers, they will agree to give up their game and go home. Each challenger they defeat, however, is allowed to pass – though he leaves behind his pride.

Under the normal rules of honor; if the challenged warrior should decline, the knights would claim his spurs and shame him as he passes. These knights, however, have chosen a more aggressive tact. Stating that anyone who turns them down is a coward, and seeing as how armed cowards tend to get themselves in trouble, the knights will “preserve the conscientious objections” of the passerby by relieving him of his weapons – which they will then keep to either use, sell, or outfit their pages and squires. They are particularly interested in acquiring any magical or well crafted weapons this way.

Because this is a duel of a sort, the knights impart a few rules upon the PCs. The sparring is to be one on one, and non-lethal blows are expected. Anyone engaged in the fight must accept the request to yield, and those that do yield admit defeat and quit the field. If the PCs violate the rules of decorum, such as making attacks that hit multiple targets, making opportunity attacks (considered poor sport here) or ganging up on an opponent the knights will get quite irate. They will switch targets, all of them focusing on the offending PC to bring him down first, defending their own violation of the rules with shouts of “Honor demands it!”

Though competitive and forceful, the knights are not without honor. They don’t attempt to kill any of the PCs, instead knocking unconscious any PC who drops to 0 HP. Should the PCs opt to kill any of the knights, this restraint, and any rules of decorum are dropped as the sparring becomes an all out skirmish.

For all their bravado the knights are hard losers, and will only keep to the gentlemanly standards of the duel while they are winning. When bloodied, any of the knights will begin ganging up on the single strongest melee PC. At that point, the fracas becomes an all out melee – albeit still a civil and ideally non-lethal one. For all their talk of following the rules of one-on-one combat the knights are eager to give this up.

In defeat however, the knights retain their gracious attitude, and politely congratulate the PCs before leaving and allowing the challengers to pass.

Page 186 of the Player’s Handbook governs the use of the Intimidate skill during combat to convince bloodied opponents to surrender. While nominally errata or ignored by some DMs, this rule makes a lot of sense for given the encounter’s curicumstances. Point this out to your players as it may keep the goals of the fight fresh and prevent it from dragging on.

Talking Your Way Out
D&D is all about options, of course. Though the knights who have set up this Pas d’armes are hot-blooded and itching for a fight; they are still governed by their other goals: behaving like proper nobles, getting richer, wowing the crowds, and impressing potential courtship partners. Drawing on this knowledge, the players could just as easily avoid the confrontation by convincing the knights this is not the fight to pick. If your players wish to avoid the confrontation, they’ll need to pass a skill challenge to do so.

Skill Challenge

Goal: Convince the knights of the Pas d’armes to let you pas over the bridge/through the gates unhindered.
Complexity: 4 Successes before 3 Failures

Primary Skills:
Diplomacy, Bluff, Intimidate (all Moderate)

Secondary Skills:
History (Hard): Citing times when emergencies have permitted knights to forgo challenges without losing face might convince the eager champions to let the PC’s pass…seeing as how it won’t besmirch their honor. This use of the skill can only earn 1 success.

Arcana (Hard or Easy): Can be used in place of Intimidate to warn the knights of the consequences of dealing with such a powerful foe. If the knights have no training or little familiarity with magic, this becomes an Easy DC. This use of the skill can only earn 1 success.

Insight (Moderate): Studying the knight’s personalities grants an advantage in the negotiation, providing a +2 bonus for the next Diplomacy, Bluff, or Intimidate roll. A failure incurs a -2 to the same rolls.

Perception (Hard): Pointing out flaws in the knight’s weapons, armor, and position might make them disinclined to fight. This use of the skill can only earn 1 success.

Athletics (Moderate): An open demonstration of strength and prowess might make the knights reconsider picking this fight. This use of the skill can only earn 1 success.

Map
I’m leaving this one up to you, Gm. I’m sure you have plenty of city gate or bridge or tunnel or town square locations in your stock of map tiles and poster maps. And if you do not, well, there’s always the battlemat! This encounter doesn’t depend much on terrain and is instead a straight up fight, so map choice is not critical (though knocking an opponent off a bridge would render that combatant “defeated” in the duel, if this condition comes up in your game). Your goal in this case is immersion of character in the world and depth of the situation, not providing a tactical obstacle course.

Monsters
To represent the knights, choose a Natural Humanoid Soldier of the player’s level. Look over the creature’s stat block to make certain that it makes sense for this encounter – simpler creatures are better. Since this fight is intended to be a series of one-on-one matches (at first) consider the following modifications to whatever monster you use to represent the knights:

Change the ‘Marked’ condition to the ‘Hard Pressed’ condition: this one-off status effect imposes a -2 on attacks employing Encounter or Daily powers (thus the Essential’s Fighter’s “Power Strike” would fall under this category, even though it is activated after making a melee basic attack).

Typed Damage: Unless you want the knights to be arcanely talented or paladins of an order, change any damage of an elemental type to normal damage (representative of shield bashes, thrown elbows, kicks, etc.)

Some good options include:
-Dwarf Clan Guard (Monster Vault pg. 101)
-Knight of the Eye (Dungeon Magazine Issue 171, Pg. 93)
-Warforged Soldier [Ignoring Battlefield Tactics while still fighting honorably] (Monster Manual pg. 261)
-Warforged captain [See above] (Monster Manual pg. 261)
-Eladrin Fey Knight (Monster Vault pg. 114)
-Human Duelist (Monster Vault pg. 173)

 
 

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Incidents – Tramps and/or Thieves

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“I don’t care how many of you have yellow exclamation points over your heads – nobody gets in!”

Circumstances
The PCs are about to enter or exit the gates of a city.

Event
A caravan of Vistani (Think of them as being like the folkloric version of gypsies, or some other campaign appropriate vagabond society that is considered outcast by the world at large) is seeking entry into the city, but is being hassled and warded off by the gate guards. The authorities are gruff and have the approval of the city’s rulers to bar the entire caravan from entry if they perceive the vagabonds as a threat. If they are refused admittance, the vistani threaten that “grave consequences” will result – a threat laughed off by the annoyed guards.

In truth, if denied access to the city, the vistani will bestow a curse upon the town gates. This curse isn’t precise – but instead causes all manner of accidents to happen to those who are attempting entry through the gates. The PCs likely have the authority or cunning to convince the gate guards to ease up their restrictions and let the gypsies in. The decision would be unpopular due to common negative perceptions of the wandering outsiders, and the PCs may find that they step on some toes in the community by doing so (or perhaps even fall prey to less than law-abiding elements among the vistani themselves).

The vistani, like any society, are a mixture of personalities and alignments – be certain to portray them as such. They are neither antagonist nor ally as a whole, and plenty of adventures and side plots can erupt from their presence.

Below are some suggested mishaps, should the curse be cast. Make certain that the PCs truly feel the vistani’s wrath if they fail to come to the traveler’s aid (it may not be fair, but curses aren’t always discerning in their choice of victims):

  • An extra wide wagon busts it’s wheel in the middle of the gate, preventing anyone from entering or exiting for an hour while it repaired.
  • Guards begin falling off the wall walk. While not fatal accidents, each is out of commission for some time due to broken bones. Each tells the same story of feeling an arcane force push or pull them to wards he precipice.
  • The gates become stuck either open or closed for a whole day/night.
  • Objects from one visitor’s bag, satchel, or cart, are teleported at random to another, leading to many false accusations of thievery and a big headache for the already overtaxed guards.
  • Animals, most often horses, become spooked and irate while passing under the gate, causing traffic jams and occasionally running off without their owners.
  • When it rains, there is a torrential downpour focused right over the gate.
  • Torches cast only dim light near the gate.
  • Food and drink left too close to the gate quickly spoils or attracts insects.
  • Those sleeping in houses near the gate complain of chronic nightmares about either falling, or being pursued by an unseen and malevolent force, only to have a door closed on them when the entity draws near.

Possible EXP and Rewards
If the PCs side with the gypsies and manage to get them into the city, a Farseer among the grateful travelers will read each character’s fortune – equating to a hint about some danger in an upcoming adventure, a vague prophecy, an answer to a question about a character’s backstory or the ongoing campaign plot, or a re-roll on any die roll during this session (chalked up to a warning in the Seer’s premonition).

If the PCs do not aid the vistani, they might still want to remove the curse placed on the gate. After a week when it has become apparent that the curse is no laughing matter, town will become desperate to remove it, and would happily reward the PCs for doing so. Consider offering a moderate treasure parcel for accomplishing the task. This could be done through an Arcana and Religion heavy skill challenge, a ritual, or by accomplishing a quest to convince (or fool, or threaten) the gypsies into lifting the curse. Particularly vicious groups of PCs might seek to solve the situation through combat. The curse is fueled by the vistani’s sense of having been wronged – were they all to be killed, the curse would have no fuel to sustain itself, and thus be lifted.

Regardless of their tact, grant the PCs experience equivalent to a monster of their average level +1, though it is possible that this incident may require further adventures with their own rewards.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2012 in Incidents, Not Playtested

 

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