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The Plot Thickens (Dungeon ideas needed)

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Guest (Deleted):
Ok, I've started running again. The game was on Saturday after an initial character generation session Friday. The players I've gotten out of the local game store are enthusiastic if a bit immature, but I'll live with it. Something's better than nothing.

Anyway, session one I got them started up in Locshire, a town of 1000 inhabitants. I invited them to make up some resident NPC's which they had some trouble with so I cut this short.  Then on the actual session I started them in the familiar tavern and had the cliche'd to death stranger walk in to see how they'd react.  With trepidation and without initiative.  So I pretty much hand them a mission (I'm running this on the fly to get a feel for how the players play BEFORE I go to the trouble of generating some huge dungeon they may balk at.

They are to go to the mining village of Vesper and find out why nothing's been heard from there in a month.  So off they go without making any real preparations into a blizzard.  I take it easy on them leave out the grizzly details and let them be heroic.  They get into a combat with goblins - enough to seriously threaten them if they don't use their character's abilities (sleep spells off the sorcerer and entangle)  They drill through the combat with ease though one player is panicky and convinced 12 goblins could take out the party.  They camp after the goblin fight, the next morning I roll random encounter and get a young white dragon CR 3 (there are 6 players, a winnable fight but probably not without taking causualties). I decide the dragon is more interested in goblin corpses to eat than a fight, but after they leave the dragon begins to tail them in case they provide more meals.  The druid makes a spot check and notes this.

They reach Vesper and the dwarves driven out of the mines and holed up on an inn house on the edge of the village.  The goblins and orcs have yet to overrun it (they aren't interested, having gotten what they where looking for in the mines).  Party questions the dwarves but they elect on a plan to divide the group - 2 members heading back to Lochshire for reenforcements, the other four storming the mines.  I call up a snow storm to cut this plan short - I don't want to have two players cut out of the action the whole evening.  I then decide the orcs are preparing to leave as well when the weather breaks.

The party concocts a scheme to use a thunderstone to trigger an avalanche to cover the mine entrance - I reasonable plan: secretly I give it a 30% chance to succeed and the dice rolled to the parties favor when the stone went off. This leaves two of my stronger NPC's outside against the party.

Now my original plan was for these two to be seen - not fought - as a foreshadowing bit.  Yeah, right.  Anyway, I figure it's in character and reasonable for the two to make good a retreat since they've nothing to gain from a fight and considerable time and resources to lose.  The NPC's - a 3rd level rogue and a 4th level sorcerer make good their escape (4 castings of web tend to help) and the party rogue was the only one able to engage by herself.  She got bluffed and dropped in a single sneak attack hit by the NPC rogue.

Party makes their way back to Lochshire. The elf ranger decides to run ahead of the group even though I make it clear to him he can only hope to beat the others by a single day at most.  He insists.  Remember the dragon?  First PC kill.

Rest of party reaches town and reports what they've found. The party rogue had heard the word "lochshire" said by the enemy and so fabricates a story good enough to convince the lord to lock the place down for five days. When no attack showed though he wasn't amused.

Party meanwhile looks up the mysterious stranger and decide to confront him. They break into his home, find a secret door down into some passages beneath the city, fight a zombie and some goblins then face off against him - he's the 3rd level rogue they fought earlier - the mysterious NPC bit was due to a hat of disguise.  After a scuffle they drop him with a sleep spell.

Now comes the ugly part.  The party strips him down and decide to torture him very nearly to death. I let this go on for about 20 minutes of real time, 2 hours in the game world and make it clear to the characters they aren't making any real headway (torturing a resolute character takes considerable skill with initimidate, and no one has any ranks in it).

Finally I decide to break the action impass by having the kobold sorcerer show up to bust his friend out.  Under threat of death by fireball (a light wand) the party frees him.

Now going into session 2 I have a couple of problems. 1st is the priest in the group broke several significant behavior codes by participating in the torture of the goblin. That's the least of my concerns - I'll explain to him that he has to do a 5 day fasting penance which is nothing to the player but painful to the character and be done with it since I can't entirely fault the player for not thoroughly knowing what his deity has to say on the matter.

The major problem is word is going to get out to the enemy how this party behaves. Remember the party rogue getting dropped? Well, she survived because the enemy wasn't out for blood.  However the party should now expect to lose a couple members to coup de grace manuevers by their foes. They have shown no mercy so they in turn will be shown no mercy, at least by the local goblins.  If they move to a different area though who knows.

That goblin - Glinki, is going to be following the group and be out for blood.  To further complicate matters is the kobold sorcerer Kenshar.  He had Glinki searching for clues in the cellars of that apartment but after a month of searching nothing turned up.  He's now willing to let the letters Glinki had which had other false leads fall into player hands in the hopes that they will waste some time with them - the active leads he has on his search he keeps to himself.  Now if the party does figure out Kenshar's next move things could get ugly.

Glinki will probably get killed next session. I need him to because he's so damn bloodthirsty at this point he WILL off a PC given a chance, and the players have no right to whine and complain if he does because of what they did to him.  It will be interesting to see - I think this might be the first time this particular party has played in a D&D game where reality can bite.

Thoughts? Ideas?  Love to hear some...

Guest (Deleted):
After an eight hour marathon session the players found that camping can be dangerous and orcs aren't the only thing that can kill you...

I opened session two 5 game days later after the cleric had been chastised for allowing the torture and after the kidnapping of the oyasini child.  The innkeeper, the PC rogue's adopted mother gave her a short short +1 that I ruled was effectively a dagger +1 for her (note that I don't entirely buy into the weapon sizes rule of 3.5 - some weapons are "functionally" equivalent after size changes - Medium Daggers & Small Short Swords are one example because it is a classic from LotR).

The party sets off for Maldanca as the weather switches from snow to rain.  They purchase a cart and I ask them point blank "why" but they insist - less than 4 hours later it's hopelessly mired in the mud so they abandon it.

Party gets to the end of their first days journey and they decide to camp *on the trail* - so the goblins have no trouble finding them and ambush 1 occurs.  They don't have much trouble with this and press on.

Having not learned their lesson they camp on the road again, this time a detachment of 4 orcs.  Party blows their spot checks and after a crit and a hit the sorcerer is cut into the abdomen and beheaded.  The party barely gets out of this without further losses.

(House rule note - IMC when you are awoken from sleep you are only able to take partial actions for 1d4 rounds unless you have the light sleeper feat or are an elf).

Party takes a break while the sorcerer's PC rolls up a new character - a half orc monk with some seriously high stats

(House rule note - my rolling system is 4d6 12 times, take 6 rolls of your choice.  For each level your prior character had you gain a +1 to any one score to the max of 18 normally possible, so he turned 2 17's into 2 18's).

They press on and come across a hidden monk enclave.  The player of the other monk shows up so I put them into an immediate combat with 20 orcs and 3 NPC monks on their side (Those monks soaked up the damage so I wouldn't kill the newly generated character and the other PC).  They see Glinki, Kenshar and a new NPC - a huge orc almost as big as an ogre they guess (rightly) is the 'big boss' the goblins aluded too in session one.  Kenshar ko's the lead monk with 3 magic missiles to which a metagaming player at the table said "hey he only threw 2 last time." to which I smugly replied "NPC's advance in level over time too bub."  After the volley the three major NPC's walk away to deal with lackeys unaware of the PC's joining in the battle.  The PC fighter tries to pursue but Kenshar web's him up for his trouble.

They press on now furious with their enemy but camp on the road AGAIN so again they get hit - luckily this time it's the NPC's that blow a move silently check but not before another party member - the druid's animal companion, a wolf, gets dropped by Glinki who is now leading his 3 best apprentices.  It was at this point that the party realizes that camping on the road where the goblins can readily find you for attack is a BAD idea.

Now during all this it's been raining heavily on and off and the snow has been melted.  The players have reached the first day of spring, a holiday in the setting - and I pointed out to them that if they where home they'd be laughing things up right now a partying hard.  Such is life that they where in the middle of gods knows where.

The party comes up on a stream in full flood stage.  After some discussion they figure the best plan is to shoot an arrow across the raging torrent with a rope and use that to work across. Without looking for another fording point they choose the spot where the road crosses.  The druid goes first (though he's no better at swimming than anyone else). working the rope hand over hand.

Now, consider this precarious position for a moment and realize the party HAS to know they are being shadowed...

The druid makes his way to the center and the water gets over his head.  The water in the center is moving roughly 40 MPH, so I call for a strength check DC 10. Druid blows it but not by 5 so his movement is halted rather than being swept away.  At that moment though Glinki comes out from behind a tree and....

Yes, he cuts the rope.

Away the druid goes and the rope goes taunt and druid rolls a 1 on the strength check.  Fun with raging streams time.

House rules - Rapids, streams or what have you in flood stages tend to drag swimmers under and bash their victims on the rocks.  To represent this each round the druid needed to roll a DC 20 swim check to surface to catch breath.  To make ANY headway towards the shore was a DC 25 check.  On any round the druid didn't surface the stream made an attack roll with no bonus agains the druid's flat footed AC since armor might cushion the blow (which didn't have any so it didn't matter). Each hit was 1d6 subdual damage and yes the stream could and did critically hit.  Every four rounds I rolled a d6 to check for a change in the stream's condition 1 - favorable (a calm spot dropping DC's by 5) 2-5 no change 6 - unfavorable rising DC's by 5 or if they'd be rose to DC 30 the character hit a waterfall.

The druid was bashed around and all the players were getting panicky, scarred and meanwhile I'm thinking to myself why doesn't he just try summon nature's ally for a water elemental when he surfaces?  This doesn't occur to the druid's player so I let him get drubbed down awhile for the drama of it, then I finally prompt him at 1 hit point remaing before the stream bashes him to unconsciousness when he manages to surface to roll an intelligence check for his character.  He rolls a 12 (I would have let anything but a 1 work) and I point out the above.  Concentration check DC 15 - he makes it, get's off the spell and his pulled to safety by the elemental.

(Old DM's adage - it's much more fun and interesting to scare a PC than to kill him outright. Also, by letting the player escape this situation on his character's merits and not via an NPC gives the PC a sense of accomplishment).

I do announce to the PC that had he thought up the plan on his own without my prompting he'd have gotten a bonus XP reward in addition to his hide. As it was he was happy to be alive.

Party revises their plan and crosses using a more thoroughly roping system.  By evening the same day they gain sight of their goal - Castle Maldanca.

That night I let the party cleric show off his bad assness against undead. Maldanca is known for undead and fighting undead is what his character is twinked to do and he'd not been to active most of the night. Party mauls the undead (not hard to do with two extra turning feats, a charisma of 16 and the rest domain from Dusk which grants an extra 1d6 turning damage in addition to a +1 to all turning attempts).

(Another point - try to get everyone a moment to shine.)

The next day they reach the castle - the climax, though a bit anticlimatic. Party yells out for Glinki. After a few moments he shows up, taunts them, and when they demand the child he throws it's corpse over the wall. "Here's an object lesson for you" he yelled, "If you're going to torture with acid, full immersion works best. Her screams where quite delightful for the two hours they lasted).

Party goes ballistic then they take a good look at the walls - 20 kobolds, 20 goblins, Kenshar and that's just what they see.  Despite their rage they back down. They're allowed to collect the corpse and as they walk away the goblins sik four worgs on them so they get some fustration vented and the evening get's it's climatic battle as the goblins and kobolds at the walls cheered and then booed as the worgs where cut down.  A morale victory, but a hollow one.

As they settle down for the evening though they hear the approach of drums. And here I ended the session leaving the party to wonder what happens next.

-------------

NEXT WEEK'S PLAN

The players are visibly pissed at Glinki. The druid has lost his wolf, the rogue has lost her sister and her boyfriend's character the sorcerer (who was her boyfriend in character as well). The monks have lost their village - they are out for blood - so motivation is no longer a problem.

The drums they will learn are Dalsundrian military.  They will espy the head of a column of forces being led to Maldanca, a column some 200 hopolites. They are lead by Lord Viscount Travis Triel who is under orders from Prince Valsil to re-establish a hold over the abandoned castle as Valsil, long term, anticipates a civil war with his brother (plots within plots beside plots outside of plots contained within plots). Triel for his own part is a schemer and will, eventually, become a hated enemy of the PC's if things turn out as normal in the campaign but, for now, he will be their friend.

Triel is a cautious studious man by nature (and secretly a blue mage of considerable power though he rarely brings it to bear openly). Rather than assault the castle (a foolhardy endevour with just 200 men - the castle has withstood assaults by garrisons ten times his size when manned by only a hundred men and Triel knows this) he knows that there are catacombs beneath the castle, and how to get into them. His own men aren't trained in the subterfuge necessary to explore them, besides why risk his own men when, as we'll soon see, he'll have six rather bloodthirsty volunteers for the job.  If they are killed, no loss from his POV. If they survive they will have proven themselves an asset that can be drawn into his plots, plots that will shape the very face of Telzoa for generations to come.

And so this should point out why the title of the campaign is "Pawns of the Prince" And soon the players are about to get in well over their heads - but I think they are ready for it and I can tailor the experience.

Now, to the floor - any ideas for encounters in the catacombs beneath the castle? This is a party 2nd & 3rd levels with 6 members.

Thjalfi:
I'm a big fan of Chokers at that level. 2 or 3 chokers working together for a nasty little ambush could be loads of fun.

catacombs always provide a decent undead angle also. they're a bit low for a carrion crawler, so that's out of the question, but howabout monsterous vermin (large & huge centipedes)?

Dire Rats.

Guest (Deleted):
A choker might be fun - the half orc monk is a grappler with a +9 check so he should be able to cause some serious damage to them.

Guest (Deleted):
Well they have sporadically - the youngest girl of the group has claimed to have DM'ed before but if she has she's making some pretty elementary mistakes - then again maybe I've done too many hack and slash games.

I'm punishing them for their mistakes without allowing them to be disasterous punishments and so far they are enjoying it but they are learning.

The youngest is 15 and frankly that's about as young as I'm willing to allow unless I know the child in question. The oldest is 18 fresh out of High School.

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