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Quietus
2009-11-11, 07:47 PM
So I've got an adventure coming up in a couple weeks, where the players are currently at the foot of a mountain, and they need to get to the top. I have skirmish-style encounters planned with mountainous halflings and white-dragon-blooded humans, where I'll be using the natural terrain against the players - ledges where I can snipe with sneak attack ray of frost against flat-footed/touch AC's, climbing surfaces that suddenly get greased or soften-stoned, a flyover by the dragon they're going after as it goes out hunting, that sort of thing. But I want the actual CLIMBING to be interesting, as well... and I'm not sure how to go about that.

Climb checks, of course, should come into it; Those trained in the skill should have a definite advantage here. However, I don't want it to just be a length of time spent climbing based on how well skill checks are rolled. I was thinking of setting out a DC of 15, and have it so anyone rolling 10-14 needs help from those who roll better, and anyone rolling below 10 slows the group down unless balanced by someone rolling over 15. Below 5, they actually hurt themselves; A sprained ankle, or falling and landing on a shoulder, that imparts a -2 penalty for the next day or two on checks involving that limb. I'm willing to go outside the RAW, and go with the rule of cool here - I want their skill checks to be more than "How many times do you need to roll these dice to reach the top". Any suggestions?

Crafty Cultist
2009-11-11, 09:15 PM
Maybe have loose rocks as improvised traps of some sort?

Sstoopidtallkid
2009-11-11, 09:35 PM
Climb checks should only be part of it. I'd look at Mario(any of the 3d versions) and Shadow of the Colossus for inspiration on how to make climbing fun. Basically, map the side of the mountain, create areas that are easier or harder to climb, areas with cover, ledges, areas that can be jumped across, and for once, give the party the majority of this info in advance. Some of it should be incorrect, and some should be hidden in the beginning, but let them plan and map a route ahead of time because they can see the mountainside from the ground. Include a couple shortcuts, where players can get to easier routes by, say, jumping down off of a ledge, or going through a small cave. I'd recommend finding someone with rock climbing experience to advise you as well(I'm sure there's a person on this forum willing).

Also, flying enemies are awesome for this.

ericgrau
2009-11-11, 09:46 PM
Wand of spider climb :smallbiggrin:.

IMO "You roll low, take damage and/or face a penalty, cleric heal him" isn't that fun. But non-random challenges could be. If they're not in combat they can take a 10 on their climb checks. Making multiple climb checks for a big ledge would be foolish, since they're bound to fail one. So technically either they can climb it or they can't. If they can't then party members could lower a rope or etc. Or maybe there's a looser section of rocks that they may or may not notice (climb/spot/search checks). Then someone falls from it and they learn to use safety lines, learn to go around, learn to search for other loose sections by sending the better climbers first ("I made my check but that spot had loose rocks, go around"), etc. Bringing lots of pitons helps. They're spikes that can be hammered into the rock with an eyelet where you can loop rope through. I'd tell any player with ranks in climbing about pitons, climbers kits, ropes and grappling hooks. Adding opportunities for other skills like jump, as noted above, is a cool idea.

Anyhoo eventually the party can and should figure out the climbing issue and you should fill the mountain with other challenges instead of making it all about climbing (or jumping/etc.).


Maybe have loose rocks as improvised traps of some sort?
Or as real traps, if they're approaching someplace important.

Quietus
2009-11-11, 10:50 PM
Already had the "loose rocks fall" trap... in this case, someone pushing rocks down at them. I rolled poorly on the damage and they rolled well on reflex saves, but still, it was fun. I do intend for the majority of the conflict not to be the mountain itself, but rather, the challenges they face climbing it as they climb - namely, those trying to stymie their efforts. I just don't want it to seem like they're "teleporting" from encounter to encounter and I'm ticking off an altitude number as they go.

As to the party : They're all level 3, just recently started, and they aren't particularly close to any given town.. there IS a small settlement, but magic items are rare there - anything with CL3 or less may be available, but is rare, and anything with CL4+ simply can't be purchased there. Not to mention they aren't exactly wealthy right now. And I dont' even know if they're giong to try and talk their way into said settlement, it doesn't take well to "outsiders". Their problem here is that when they heard the words "dragon" and "north", they immediately set north without any sort of preparations, so they don't have any climbing kits or anything of the sort on hand.

I *don't* plan on using a map of a mountainside and then playing it like a Mario game, simply because that's not how my group really operates. The table we play around is quite large, generally accomodates food while we play, and it would be difficult to get the group to crowd around a sheet of paper to plan their route. Although if someone does say "Hey, I wanna try and find a shortcut", and they roll well on their Climb check, then I'll certainly shave some time off, as though they were using accelerated climbing.

And as to taking ten, I'm fine with them doing so, as long as they have ranks in Climb. I know at least one member of the party does.. I'd have to check the other's sheets. It's a houserule we play with; You can't take ten in a skill if you're untrained in it. Anyone trained in climbing can make their way up this mountain easily enough, it's not difficult, I'm just looking for something to serve as a between-assaults "this is how you're making progress" thing.

Draz74
2009-11-11, 11:21 PM
Check out Teamwork Benefits: "Climbing Squad" from Dungeonscape, and "Expert Mountaineers" from PHB2. These are good ways to get everyone in the party to actually take a rank in Climb, and to get a reasonably strong benefit out of that one rank; and also to make the one character with a really good Climb skill into a climbing "leader" that the other characters will follow and get a benefit from following.

Mr. Mud
2009-11-11, 11:56 PM
I'd make only some parts climbing, and other parts a road of sorts? E.g., they climb for a few leagues, but then there is a mountain road that has been damaged. So, they can travel along it, find some loot and a journal or something for flavor, then get back to the climb? This would the the ideal place for a minidungeon with a CL4-6 weapon or something. Or a shortcut, if they get creative. Describe all parts of the road, just not the part going up (the part leading down, that was detroyed as well. Maybe if they go down it, the find said minidungeon or a shortcut?) Maybe they have to chase someone or something down a snowy road, but it escapes as it climbs faster than the party can?

Just a brainstorm. I'd just try and make it flavorful.

Jergmo
2009-11-12, 12:49 AM
This is a monster I made to torment my players when they were traveling through a mountain range, if the party isn't too high level and you'd be interested in using it. :smallsmile:

Sinthar
Size/Type: Medium Magical Beast (Extraplanar)
Hit Dice: 9d10+18 (67 hp)
Initiative: +10 (+6 Dex, +4 Improved Initiative)
Speed: 70 ft. (14 squares), Climb 35 ft., Burrow 20 ft.
Armor Class: 22 (+6 Dex, +6 natural)
Base Attack/Grapple: +9/+13
Attack: Scythe blade +13 melee (2d4+6), or bite +13 melee (1d6+2 and 2d4 acid), or claw +13 melee (1d4+2)
Full Attack: 2 Scythe blades +13 melee (2d4+6) and bite +13 melee (1d6+2 and 2d4 acid) and 2 claws +13 melee (1d4+2)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Pounce, trip
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, tremorsense 60 ft., scent, resistance 10 acid, cold, electricity, fire, and sonic, spell-like abilities, fast healing 3, telepathy 60 ft.
Saves: Fort +8, Ref +12, Will +4
Abilities: Str 18, Dex 23, Con 15, Int 10, Wis 15, Cha 6
Skills: Hide +18, Jump +26, Listen +10, Spot +10, Survival +10 (+14 when tracking by scent)
Feats: Improved Initiative, Multiattack, Improved Multiattack, Track
Environment: Any land or underground
Organization: Solitary, pair, or pack (3-6)
Challenge Rating: 8
Treasure: Standard
Alignment: Usually chaotic evil
Advancement: 10-13 HD (Medium); 14-17 HD (Large)
Level Adjustment: —

Sinthar, also known as scythebeasts, are vicious, highly adaptable insectoid-like creatures that roam the planes, and stand at waist height to a man. Its claws and mandibles, with the aid of acid-like saliva, are used for burrowing into the ground where it often lies in wait for prey, sensing vibrations through tremorsense and using their ghost sound ability to mimic creatures that it has heard to attract them. It has very powerful rear legs and runs on all fours with its forelimbs. On its back are two very formidable limbs with scythe-like blades made of bone.

Spell-like Abilities
At will—ghost sound (DC 16), 1/day—planeshift. The save DCs are Wisdom-based and the Sinthar gains a +4 racial bonus to the save DC.
Pounce (Ex): If a Sinthar charges, it can make a full attack.
Trip (Ex): A Sinthar that hits with a scythe claw attack can attempt to trip the opponent (+1 check modifier) as a free action without making a touch attack or provoking an attack of opportunity. If the attempt fails, the opponent cannot react to trip the Sinthar.

Skills
A Sinthar has a +8 racial bonus on Hide, Jump, Listen, Spot, and Survival checks, and have a +4 racial bonus on Survival checks when tracking by scent.

Curmudgeon
2009-11-12, 02:13 AM
If you've got a Scout in the party they can take the Dungeon Specialist Alternative Class Feature (Players Handbook II, page 59): trade fast movement for climb speed = ˝ land speed; +8 racial bonus on Climb checks; can "take 10"; retain DEX to AC while clinbing; and attack with a light weapon too! And it's only a -5 penalty to Climb at full speed, so you could have a real disparity between a Scout zipping along and other characters worrying about ropes.

AslanCross
2009-11-12, 02:45 AM
Snowboarding orcs. :D [/kol]

Quietus
2009-11-12, 03:01 AM
Snowboarding orcs. :D [/kol]

Nah, I used the orcs already, there's small tribal group of them who've laid claim to the forests that surround the base of this mountain. The settlement on the mountain itself is a group of outcast humans who have visible marks of draconic blood. And the actively hostile (as opposed to just defending their territory/assuming the PCs are with the opposing group) enemies are a small number of advanced white dragon-blooded, as well as the arctic halflings (think viking halflings - thick red beards and body hair, lots of fur clothing to keep warm, possibly horned hats because it amuses me, with a penalty to charisma instead of strength, due to their very gruff demeanor and tendency to be EXTREMELY insular) who are forced to work with the white dragon the party is chasing. Of course, nothing's stopping THEM from using something like the crazy rugs that we used to go tobogganing on when I was a kid to zip down the mountain and crash into people... depending on how crazy I want them to be.

BobVosh
2009-11-12, 03:08 AM
Nah, I used the orcs already, there's small tribal group of them who've laid claim to the forests that surround the base of this mountain. The settlement on the mountain itself is a group of outcast humans who have visible marks of draconic blood. And the actively hostile (as opposed to just defending their territory/assuming the PCs are with the opposing group) enemies are a small number of advanced white dragon-blooded, as well as the arctic halflings (think viking halflings - thick red beards and body hair, lots of fur clothing to keep warm, possibly horned hats because it amuses me, with a penalty to charisma instead of strength, due to their very gruff demeanor and tendency to be EXTREMELY insular) who are forced to work with the white dragon the party is chasing. Of course, nothing's stopping THEM from using something like the crazy rugs that we used to go tobogganing on when I was a kid to zip down the mountain and crash into people... depending on how crazy I want them to be.

Hmm. Goblins snowboarding on other goblins.

Jastermereel
2009-11-12, 06:06 AM
If it's a fully snowy mountain, you could involve consequences for various actions the players take. Too loud a noise? Expect an avalanche. Use a fireball or otherwise fire-causing effect? Expect to melt the ground you're on to reveal who knows what sort of tunnel.

Rocks are only the beginning of the environmental effects you could invoke.

Thespianus
2009-11-12, 07:21 AM
Introduce some kind of time element, and use the climb checks to indicate how fast they manage to traverse certain parts of the mountainside. Having a low-dex Cleric constantly fall and get hurt is actually less fun than it sounds. :smallwink:

However, putting some kind of time constraint on the activity, letting them pick their path carefully, maybe using a rough map , award "speed bonuses" in climb speed for clever use of magic and/or equipment, etc.

Maybe using Survival/Track (if anyone in the party has such abilities) could help them avoid areas of the mountain side containing monsters? Maybe make the climb more of a stealth activity rather than a climb-check activity (or mix both elements). If they move to avoid monsters maybe they can move faster, or get other bonuses. Maybe let them encounter prisoners in a cave somewhere that they can free (if they want) and/or get information from?

Sorry, just throwing out ideas here. :)

bosssmiley
2009-11-12, 08:17 AM
Fritz Leiber's Swords Against Wizardry, specifically the story Stardock. Fantasy mountain-climbing made interesting.

You might also want to look up some adventure fiction about the Himalayas. Even in the strictly historical action adventure stuff there's useful source material FYG.

Quietus
2009-11-12, 08:24 AM
Sorry, just throwing out ideas here. :)

All good ideas - in fact, there's been a lot of them in this thread so far, for which I'm very thankful to everyone. I may incorporate some of them; The mountain road idea, perhaps, as an old and in disrepair thing that once lead to the nearby Dwarven city of Fograd. I may implement my own monster, adapted from the Ankheg, which is essentially a large electric beetle that damages targets with every bite, and conducts that damage whenever it's struck by metal weapons. A dungeon along the way isn't a bad idea either, though I'd prefer to stick to an outside dungeon and make heavy use of the white dragon blooded here.

I'd just like to point out; I'm not looking to end up with a crippled party. I just want to make low rolls MEAN something, without having them roll to see if they simply don't die. If they come up with creative ways of ensuring the untrained don't fall, then I won't even ask for rolls.

Thane of Fife
2009-11-12, 08:44 AM
Roll low and drop something of value?

"Your satchel slips from your shoulder and bounces from a few ledges before snagging on a small outcropping about a hundred feet down. Wanna try and climb back down to get it?"

Fights with flying monsters while climbing can be interesting (though, in retrospect, you appear to have one planned):

"As you cling to the mountain-side with one hand, desperately fumbling with your sword, you see the griffon wheeling about for another pass...."

Inclement weather could be interesting:

"As you cling to the mountain face,you feel water falling on your shoulders - it looks like it's beginning to rain." Then the PCs can try to find shelter where they are, try to continue climbing, or climb down a bit to a cave they passed a while back. Or they can try something else.

Find stuff that the PCs need to respond to, rather than just applying penalties or damage (though there should be the opportunity for either or both based on how they react).

Optimystik
2009-11-12, 09:59 AM
I'd say something fun is to give the players an NPC guide of some kind, like a kobold sherpa. Say, as long as he's within 20 feet, they all get a +3 circumstance bonus to their climb checks. He could be nimble as a monkey, refer to himself in the third person, make jokes, chastise the PCs for being slow, etc. The PCs, if they want to keep the bonus, have to protect him during any random encounters up the cliff face - he's great at climbing, but a coward in combat.

Radar
2009-11-12, 11:19 AM
Hmm. Goblins snowboarding on other goblins.
U mean this (http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=159049)? :smallbiggrin:


Inclement weather could be interesting:

"As you cling to the mountain face,you feel water falling on your shoulders - it looks like it's beginning to rain." Then the PCs can try to find shelter where they are, try to continue climbing, or climb down a bit to a cave they passed a while back. Or they can try something else.
I was thinking along the same lines, but it would be good, to let the party know about weather changes a bit in advance. People with Survival should get a chance for an early warning (something is building up on the horizont), the others should notice thick clouds above their heads or winds getting stronger before it becomes dangerous as well (those few minutes can be precious). This way it's more about pressing the party on time and making then enter the nearest cave and less about risking a TPK due to natural disasters.

Clouds passing by (if the mountain is high enough) would be much less lethal and a tricky obstacle to overcome.

Sun reflecting from snow or ice can literally blind people - that's why, you never see high mountain climbers or arctic explorers without heavily shaded goggles.

Something to remember as well: after the rain, rocks are still very slippery and if the sun is shining, then the area can get quite foggy.

Quietus
2009-11-12, 05:52 PM
Hmm... a sherpa, yes, but not a kobold. I might give them an NPC expert from the dragon-blooded community, if they befriend the group... a hermit that lives out on the mountains for whatever reason. Actually, I can move a plot point I had given to one NPC over to that hermit, potentially, and have him gone stark raving mad after the dragon took his parents (master gemcutters, needed to create a macguffin). Now he's out on the mountain, seeking ways to get up safely without being noticed, and would be willing to guide the PC's...

Regarding fights with flying monsters, I don't know if they'll actually be *flying*, but I do expect to have an encounter where the players are 20-30 feet up, balancing/climbing across a ledge, being fired at (probably from further up) by rogue/sorcerers. I've given a houserule where all cantrips can be used at-will, so they can spam acid splash/ray of frost at the flat-footed individuals for AC based exclusively on size and deflection. Flying monsters isn't a bad idea either, though I'd have to pick something out.. likely a territorial animal of some sort. The griffon idea isn't bad.. something that could have a nest nearby with the monster's "treasure" being in the form of viable eggs? Gives the players access to a neat mount.

Weather is a good idea, too - it's something that we usually gloss over in our games, but they're climbing up the side of a mountain, toward an area known in the game world as the Frozen Peaks. There should probably be SOME transition from "nice dry rock" to "OMGICE". Maybe pass by a mountain waterfall, too.. runoff from the mountain lake that ended up getting formed when dwarven tunneling got a little too ambitious and collapsed a valley. The arctic halflings are still nursing a grudge over that one...

Thanks guys, I'm leaning further and further away from the climb checks thing, and more toward just encounters along the way, which give the impression of progress.