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#16 Rogue_7

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Posted 21 August 2012 - 06:00 PM

Maybe I'm just too... inexperienced, I couldn't come up with a situation like that Buglips and carry it out (the 2nd one at least); though the way the berserker is now, he could take those 10 kobolds in a straight fight solo (damn him and his lucky 1st Ed DnD boxed set 'GM' dice :D ).

I tend to script out the 1st encounter for the party and wing it from there, with just the end goal as a guide...
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#17 buglips*the*goblin

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Posted 21 August 2012 - 06:49 PM

though the way the berserker is now, he could take those 10 kobolds in a straight fight solo


Yes . . . straight fight. But why would a puny Kobold, who lives in a world filled with danger and terror, ever be compelled to fight fair?

Crafty little creatures. Three of us were dead before we even saw one of them. Couldn't rest in the caves, they knew them too well. Got around us, behind us, under us. Wore us down, exhausted our spells on decoys. Split us up and ran us down. All the while, nothing but gibbering voices . . .

. . . voices in the dark . . .


ETA: It is actually pretty easy to do crafty and dangerous monsters. Just think of what you'd do if you were a player with the resources at hand. Remember, anything in its lair knows the place and has had lots of time to get ready (if they have reason to expect trouble of any sort).

Or just make things interesting by adapting one thing with another. Want to terrorize a party in the wild? Make a small group of orc tracker scouts (rangers) who know the area. 4 of these, at even half the level of the party, can soil their underwear in ways that would make a 50-foot dragon envious.

And smarter enemies = smarter players. It's an arms race thing. Just be sure that when the players get clever you reward them for it . . . and when they do stupid, hurt them bad. Whatever the enemy is, it has some sort of backstory life from before the encounter - it has some kind of purpose, goal, or objective. It has rivalries, prejudices, and ambitions. Doesn't hurt to give them a little thought, that'll translate when you roleplay their reactions.

For example, if a random encounter orc force outnumbered the party and could still take them - would they? Maybe, if they saw the players as a primary threat. But they might instead conduct a fighting withdrawal and retreat.

Why? Well, maybe you think it's too much for the party to handle. Maybe that's true. But maybe nobody needs to know that, see? Maybe Grugg the underboss has had enough of taking orders from Throk The Unforgiving, and has decided a change of leadership is in order - and is on his way to do just that. But he needs all the loyal orcs he can gather, and doesn't want to take casualties fighting a bunch of no-good meddling adventurers who are just passing through. Grugg's got fish to fry.

Maybe the party lets them go. Maybe the party pursues. If they do, make them work for it. If they do it directly, then Grugg needs to deal with it. He'll leave behind a rearguard ambush to weaken/hurt them and get them out of his hair. If they pursue but they're sneaky about it, then maybe they'll get an idea of what Grugg's up to (now they're being clever). If so, then they can wait until Grugg's forces fight Throk's, and take out whoever wins.

Bango, you've turned a random encounter into a major, memorable story event - all with the help of your players and what choices they make. Just takes some practice and looking at it the right way.
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#18 buglips*the*goblin

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Posted 21 August 2012 - 08:22 PM

If you really want to tear the lid off things and get creative, there's a couple of other things to note about monsters/villains.

1. Everybody has family and friends, even monsters. Killed Thuragmog the Warlord? Maybe his brother's gonna come looking to settle the score down the road. Might just be that he shows up at the wrong place at the wrong time while they're on another adventure. Or maybe, if he's smarter than the average Ogre, he'll craft a finely-tuned plan of revenge that sees him undo all the pc has worked to achieve, ruining him like Bane ruined Batman until finally both of them, grudged to the max, have their final showdown atop a keep (doesn't matter whose) while battle between their friends rages below. Even if, say, the Paladin wins . . . he must still deal with the fact that every human and allied settlement razed by Thuragmog's brother in his quest for revenge spawned from something the Paladin did. Everybody loves to torture Paladins, but taking their Paladinhood is the easy way out. Weigh that sucker down with grief for thousands of innocent dead and still have everybody hail him as a hero. Then keep him away from the liquor cabinet. Or not, if you think that'll be more fun.

2. Villains should escape/live/come back several times. I found this out the hard way when, faced with a desperate situation fighting a dragon with most of the party down and the battle almost lost, I had the brilliant idea to Plane Shift the thing. Picked a fork at random, made the hail mary roll, and sent him to The Abyss.

Turned out he learned a few things there, and came back for more. Epic battle ensues, dragon defeated after ferocious fight.

Guess who came back as a Dracolich? Have them retreat, have PCs kill their doppleganger, have them come back from the dead. Keep it plausible, that's the only rule. But keep them coming back!

3. Monsters who live, learn. Want to mess with some players? When they fight Grugg the underboss and defeat him, maybe one of his henchmen escapes. Maybe he starts thinking. Maybe this isn't the first time he's seen man, elf, and dwarf fight together as one group even though they're so different. And they always have such nice stuff. Where do they get it? How?

And the next time they run into Grugg's henchman, he's not alone. He's got a Kobold thief. A hobgoblin cleric. An ogre fighter. He's got himself an adventuring party. He figured it out. He's a rarity, but he did it. Now the party has an equal nemesis they never expected - and if you want it to be really good they should serve as rivals. Sometimes they have to work together, and maybe there's a little bit of trust gained. Maybe next time they meet, they're serving different lords. They fight, but they might still owe one another a thing or two so they're maybe not going to be eager to get lethal about it. And maybe eventually something happens and they have no choice but to settle it once and for all. Epic heroes on opposite sides.


Now imagine, if you will, what happens if we combine all this.

Grugg's henchman, Morokh, gets himself an adventuring party and sets out on some adventures. Meets the party, rivalry forms. Respect is earned.

Later the Paladin kills Thuragmog, and Thuragmog's brother, Grumgush, sets in motion his plan. He enlists Morokh's group to go out and find stuff for him to use. They don't know what he's up to. Maybe they find out, and maybe they decide to help the party because what Morokh's doing for personal revenge they know will destroy their people. Nobody wants a war. Maybe this humanoid adventuring party is the key to helping the pc's win.

And maybe the Paladin, racked with guilt, hangs up his sword and broods. Maybe he forgets himself. Maybe he goes a little nuts, and when he comes out of retirement he comes out as a menace.

And maybe Morokh's band of fighters, getting on in years, are the first to know. So they go and seek out the Paladin's old companions, who all have their own little keeps and fiefdoms now. They band together to find and stop the mad Paladin, knowing there is yet honor in him still (and perhaps suspecting some magical influence, if a sorceror got away from them long ago).

They adventure and hunt him down, trying to save him. Maybe this isn't possible, and they must make the hard choice to stop him by force. Fighting side by side Morokh and the PC's battle the Paladin, who is more powerful than all of them (curses are neat like that). Several of Morokh's band fall. The Paladin is defeated, but slain. The survivors bury their friend and fallen allies, knowing that he was once a good and just man, a real hero, who could not bear the guilt and this allowed his mind to be enslaved. They resolve to keep this a secret, to concoct a legend that he disappeared heroically fighting some great evil (dragons work nice) and preserve his memory.

Hey? You like that? That's another trick: the years-skip end of story. Pop forward a few decades once the party gets real powerful. Work with them to establish what happened in the meantime. Players eat this up, especially if they're attached to one they've played a long time. Bringing them out of retirement for one last big hurrah with old faces, nemesi and friend, allows them to explore the changed world and interact in a fresh new way.

Plus . . . it neatly sets it up for their fresh-faced new low levels to come along and make their own legend in this world you've all built together.
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#19 Rogue_7

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Posted 21 August 2012 - 11:39 PM

Wow.. that's just.. wow :)

If only there were survivors from previous encounters...

I shall endevour to remember these pointers
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#20 buglips*the*goblin

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 08:44 AM

It's really all just about developing your method and then it gets easy. I mean, the stuff I'm putting out there in this thread is just off the top of my head, but I've been refining the method for some 20 years (the method, incidentally, works well for players and DM's so there's lots of opportunity to practice).

What it all comes down to, at the most basic level, is just asking: "why". The whole thing is a quest for why. Why are the Orcs here? Why do they want to do X? Why do they want to possess Y? Why don't they just leave, or find an easier way? (that one's a good one for checking that you're giving them good motivation).

It takes practice to get good at it on the fly, but anybody can. And enourage the players to ask why, too. Not only will it keep you on your toes for holes, but it'll get them more deeply involved in their characters if they start working out why Algath the Assassin is where he is and doing what he's doing. What's driving him, deep down?

Once they start looking at it like that, things will naturally spring from it. What if one of Algath's big motivations clashes with another player character? It might not be a problem yet, but it will be eventually. What will he do? Will loyalty to his friends trump his initial goal (has learned something about himself, now has a new angle, and has possibly created consequences he'll have to answer for) or will he betray them in order to fulfill his goal?

Alignment can help answer that (or answering that might indicate an alignment revision on the sheet is necessary). And I've got reams of stuff about alignment. I've worked that topic over like no other. Few people bother to exploit it as the character building tool it can be. A lot of people think alignment is about action, but it's not - it's about intent.

Know what I mean? I'm not sure if alignments have changed since 2nd, but take Chaotic Evil. Totally opposed to Lawful Good, right? No way they can get along. Except if alignment's about intent, not action, they most certainly can. A chaotic evil guy could be absolutely charming, friendly, helpful, the best sort of fellow. The Paladin's bestest friend and most loyal ally. Because how mr. CE acts is only to further his intent. He's got the best cover story ever, nobody suspects a thing (especially not Sir Shinypants goody two-greaves) and he can manipulate different sides behind the scenes to sow absolute chaos and evil (and if he's really good at it, he can confuse and muddle the hell out of the Paladin - jamming him into moral dilemma after moral dilemma until Shinypants don't know what's what). The Paladin and his Chaotic Evil buddy can be entirely consistent with their respective alignment's intent and still be on the same team. For a while. Inevitably that's going to develop into complications - but when it does, those are going to be some deep, tricky, and compelling complications.

Now you've got some hardcore character-driven story going on, as interesting (sometimes more than) any good fight n' loot adventure. I've had entire sessions run off this stuff without a single combat and you could cut the tension with a knife. And when your players get used to it, you'll find they do half the work for you anyway. You don't need to contrive hooks anymore, they'll do that. They'll be eager to interact. All you need to do is be ready with your method to fill in the blanks. Once it's rolling, the story will write itself and be self-propogating.

Which gives you more time to develop your method - which encourages player interaction with their developing method - and presto snowball. Ten times the fun for half the effort.

I'm happy to elaborate on anything if you find this interesting/useful. Remember, too, that inevitably it will get easier over time. You'll start building archetype threads this way, and can mix them up or recombine them on the fly. After you make ten different orcs do ten different things, you've created a multiple-choice villain sheet to refer to. And if you recombine archetype 9 with archetype 3 you'll get a new thread. Rinse and repeat as necessary. There are no new stories, but there's always a new way to tell an old one.
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#21 VileKnight

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 10:21 AM

It's not possible for the party to have an uneventful walk to town, the Assassin will & has shoot anything that moves, so far he's lost a +1 dagger to a lynx & nearly lost his life to a bager because he went to retrieve it.. been tormented by a rabbit & it's friends when he couldn't shoot it with several arrows.


If you have a party member who wants to fight anything that moves then it's on that player for a TPK. As the DM you can toss them a bone if you want, but if a player wants to hang himself its going to happen sooner or later. If they get mad about it then you can remind him that he didnt have to pick a fight with everything he ran across. The other players can also let him fight while they keep heading toward town. :)

One thing I would add is that you want to try and do your random rolls for encounters/treasure before game. It helps keep things moving.

Keep your players guessing. Don't fall into a pattern. When needed (sparingly) you can just switch to more of a storyteller mode for some stuff. I find that at times that really helps draw them in. Setting a stage, and maybe a little suspense will do wonders.

Buglips has a lot of great pointers too!
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#22 Baphomet69

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 11:09 AM

Man, Buglips, I really want you to DM my games...
"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
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#23 psyberwolfe1

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 11:58 AM

To riff off of Buglips' kobolds idea. if you can get a hold of Dragon Magazine 127 you'll find and infamous article called "Tucker's Kobolds." This is amazing reading, I read it at the tender age of 10 and forevermore had a tool in the belt that is awesome.

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Does anybody else find it odd, by the way, that the information age has led to language becoming an oblique and imprecise tool where even the most straightforward phrasing is pored over with chicken entrails and bone tossing to divine the true meaning?


... nobody remembers Slave Leia because, "Oh my gosh! What innovative use of bronze."

 
 
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#24 haldir

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 01:07 PM

Come across a ancient graveyard site. Kinda goes along with the orphan cleric suggestion.
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#25 buglips*the*goblin

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 01:12 PM

Man, Buglips, I really want you to DM my games...


I don't actually DM very often. I consider my "A" game to come from being a player. My old regular DM got used to me quick, and realized that the more he fed me the more I'd give back. Give me half an opportunity, and I'll ham it up enough to make William Shatner faint from envy.
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#26 Rogue_7

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 04:08 PM

To riff off of Buglips' kobolds idea. if you can get a hold of Dragon Magazine 127 you'll find and infamous article called "Tucker's Kobolds." This is amazing reading, I read it at the tender age of 10 and forevermore had a tool in the belt that is awesome.


I'll dig out the CDs and have a look on there; wish they'd release update discs for the set.

The Assassin character doesn't have long to live, I'm just putting it off so it doesn't look... pre-planned; while giving the player a chance to learn from these slip-ups.
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#27 psyberwolfe1

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 06:33 PM


To riff off of Buglips' kobolds idea. if you can get a hold of Dragon Magazine 127 you'll find and infamous article called "Tucker's Kobolds." This is amazing reading, I read it at the tender age of 10 and forevermore had a tool in the belt that is awesome.


I'll dig out the CDs and have a look on there; wish they'd release update discs for the set.

The Assassin character doesn't have long to live, I'm just putting it off so it doesn't look... pre-planned; while giving the player a chance to learn from these slip-ups.


Why plan it out? He'll be the instrument of his own demise.

2014 Painting Goal: 6 Figures/ 36 Painted as of 01/22/2014

For other Wargame and miniature related stuff you can read my blog at http://tacticalrock.blogspot.com

 
 



Does anybody else find it odd, by the way, that the information age has led to language becoming an oblique and imprecise tool where even the most straightforward phrasing is pored over with chicken entrails and bone tossing to divine the true meaning?


... nobody remembers Slave Leia because, "Oh my gosh! What innovative use of bronze."

 
 
Meep.jpg


#28 Rogue_7

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 07:27 PM

I'm not planning it, I just don't want it to look that way :D

this is roughly how the scene with the rabbit went..

Me: As you round the bend in the path, there's a dark shape on the path ahead of you.
As: I sneak closer.
Me: It doesn't seem to notice you.
As: I draw my bow.
Me: O..kay...
As: I shoot it
Me: You missed the arrow shoots right off into the woods, it sits there.
As: I try again
Me: Missed again the arrow shoots off into the woods again it turns arounds and looks at you.
As: Gah!, again
Me: Missed again, it cocks it's head to the side watching you.
As: Gah!, again
Me: The arrow passes over it's head, it twitches an ear, and bounds off the path into the forest

Not an exact re-telling, but it's close, notice the lack of 'What is it?' I like to use just descriptions of the creatures, based on the pics in the monsters manuals, that way the party has to think and make up their own mind as to what they're facing.

Later (mainly for my amusement) I had the rabbit & it's friends (abt 20 of them) follow the party at a distance for 5 mins
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#29 Qwyksilver

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 07:55 PM

Little bunny Foo Foo hoppin' through the forest.
Scoopin' up the PC's and boppin' em on the head.

:lol:
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#30 psyberwolfe1

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 02:41 PM

Then the assassain found out he was dealing with the Rabid Rabbit. :blink:

2014 Painting Goal: 6 Figures/ 36 Painted as of 01/22/2014

For other Wargame and miniature related stuff you can read my blog at http://tacticalrock.blogspot.com

 
 



Does anybody else find it odd, by the way, that the information age has led to language becoming an oblique and imprecise tool where even the most straightforward phrasing is pored over with chicken entrails and bone tossing to divine the true meaning?


... nobody remembers Slave Leia because, "Oh my gosh! What innovative use of bronze."

 
 
Meep.jpg





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