Posts Tagged ‘steal from the best’

I’m presenting this here for comment and peer review.

One of the PCs — a paladin of Erathis, let’s say — has gotten themselves into a fix. Somehow*, they’ve gotten separated from their party and surrounded by bad guys with ill intent. Orcs, for example. Luckily, they’ve got a magical horn or other means of letting their friends know they’re in trouble. The question is, will said friends get there in time to do anything other than mourn?

Here’s how it plays out:

Set up the battle-map with the lone PC facing down a bunch of minions, four for each PC currently running to help. (So if there are four total PCs in the party, twelve minions works). Roll initiative for everyone: all PCs, plus the minions, plus three more (see below).

For the lone PC and the minions, play the battle out as normal. For the other PCs, on their turn they each have to work their way through their own private Complexity 1 skill challenge to determine if they get to their friend’s side, and how long it takes them. Be pretty flexibile with which skills they use, with two restrictions:

  • Each character can only use a given skill twice.
  • By the gods, they describe what they’re doing. It should fit into the setting of the scene, be it woods, deserts, a crowded city, etc.

The specifics of the challenge are as follows:

  • Four successes from a PC gets them to the battle, going on their turn next round.
  • Three failures means they don’t get there until after the fight’s done. (They can use the downtime composing eulogies.)
  • Each of the first two failures should also result in either a -2 to their next check, or the loss of a healing surge. Use whichever fits the description of the skill check better.
  • Aid Another is allowed, but since each character’s dealing with their own skill challenge and time is of the essence, it’s not the best idea. However, when a PC rolls a success, they have the option (with appropriate description) to give their success to another PC. So if the dwarf fighter succeeds, but thinks it’d be better for the elf ranger or human warlord to get on the scene first, he can use that success to move that along; the dwarf doesn’t get a failure, but it’s gonna take him longer to get there. The recipient, in turn, will likely arrive sooner.

And here’s why that matters:

  • In round 5, two standard monsters** arrive on the scene to back up the minions.
  • In round 6, their boss (an elite) arrives to mop up. If the lone PCs’ friends haven’t arrived yet, things are gonna get ugly.

Be sure to use the MM to your advantage here and bring some fun new bad guy abilities into play with these three. After round six you’ll probably know who made it to the dance and who didn’t, so the fight itself needs to be interesting.

Obviously wrinkles may develop. If the PC eliminates the minions before their friends or the new baddies arrive, let them take an action or two to prepare for both sets of reinforcements. If the PC drops before friends arrive, I’m always of the opinion that a dying (but savable) PC is more interesting than a dead one. Some disagree, and some like to have it both ways. Do what works for your table.

In any case, this encounter has the potential to be very, very rough: for a party of four, we’re talking the equivalent of seven standard monsters, plus the skill challenge. It can obviously be tweaked to be less — or gods help them, more — deadly, but there’s some precedent to making this kind of thing a major turning point in a game.

* And let’s be honest: it’s probably because they did something foolish that they thought would be in the best interest of their god, their civilization, their city, or some such. You know the type.
** These are the folks you were rolling initiative for back at the start of the scuffle. I always get a special kind of joy from openly telling the player in charge of the initiative list to include unknown bad guys in the order. It gets everyone at the table so excited.