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View Full Version : A Question of Tailoring Encounters....



Crow
2010-01-15, 11:01 PM
My campaign takes place in a pretty "consistent" world. What I mean by this is that if the players go somewhere dangerous, the locals aren't going to be automatically levelled-up or levelled-down to make things level appropriate for the group.

So our next session, the group is going to be travelling to the stronghold of an epic npc (ex-character of one of the players), in hopes of convincing the npc to tutor a young heir and king-to-be. However, this npc was played well over a hundred years ago in our campaign world. Even as a human, the group has reliable information that suggests he is still alive, which he will be. How?

Well, it turns out that this npc (who always floated between the neutral to neutral-evil alignments) has been making dark pacts with a dread wraith. The npc ensures the wraith has a regular sacrifices of young blood, and in exchange, the wraith kicks back some of the sacrifice's life force to sustain the npc for a few more years.

The journey to the wraith's domain is treacherous, but the npc cannot do it himself. Throughout the many years of shared sacrifice, he has become irreversibly tied to this wraith in such a way that he cannot near it without his own life energy being forcibly absorbed into it's form. In exchange for his services, the npc is going to request that the player characters deliver the next sacrifice. If they do so, he will agree to help them. He will disguise the true intent of these actions in some way, to conceal that he is performing a fowl ritual, hoping that by the time the "lackeys" realize what is going on, it will be too late.

However, we have a Paladin in the party, and if he doesn't do something crazy, like offer part of his own life energy, or if someone else doesn't de-fuse the situation with a similar deal, there could be fireworks. The party is only 4th level though, so we would be looking at a TPK. If the Paladin allows the original sacrifice to happen, it is going to severely stretch the Paladin's code, but I would not hit him with the fall stick immediately, because that would be a mean thing to do. I'll figure out that whole aspect later.

The thing I am having trouble with, is that I've put a lot of work into this campaign, and would not like to see it end via TPK in an encounter in which the PC's have no chance. If it was a more level-appropriate encounter and they died, then whatever, it's just how it played out. Should I just swallow it and let things fall as they may? Or should level-down the opposition to take it easy on the players? Either way, if it comes down to a fight, things are going bad, because with the death of that wraith will come the death of the npc they are trying to recruit.

I had another idea in case it came to a fight, that if they destroyed the creature's alter, it could destroy it. Of course, they would need to figure that out somehow, but it's an alternative. Does anybody have other alternatives I could steal?

dragonfan6490
2010-01-15, 11:35 PM
You my friend, have quite the conundrum. However, I would not level this NPC down. Does he have minions that would be of an appropriate level? I would have his minions fight the party while the NPC conveniently leaves so that he party does not have to fight him.

Lysander
2010-01-15, 11:42 PM
Diplomacy is an option. Maybe the goal here is to convince the npc that immortality is not worth the price he's paying, and that by tutoring the next king he can accomplish more in a few years then he could in a thousand enslaved by a wraith. Get him to accept aging.

Drakevarg
2010-01-15, 11:46 PM
Or get him to make use of any of the dozens of one-time payment immortality options...

Swordgleam
2010-01-15, 11:54 PM
If you make it sufficiently clear (through primarily IC methods) that this wraith/NPC will destroy the entire party if they mess with it/him, the players will probably come up with a way out. Players are good like that.

Mando Knight
2010-01-16, 12:04 AM
The npc ensures the wraith has a regular sacrifices of young blood, and in exchange, the wraith kicks back some of the sacrifice's life force to sustain the npc for a few more years.

That's not floating anywhere near neutral. Killing the young to sustain your own life is pretty much #1 on the list of "signs that you really are as evil as that handsome lad with the oversized sword says you are."

However, this quest is also way out of your characters' league. They're going to complete a favor for an epic character (who is somehow bound to a CR 11 creature) which involves facing an undead with abilities beyond the party's ability of resisting. I'm gonna file this under "I have no idea what you're thinking."

Drakevarg
2010-01-16, 12:06 AM
He said that when the character was a PC, he floated between True Neutral and Neutral Evil. Clearly he's slid well into the Neutral Evil side in the 100-year gap.

But the epic level guy bound to the mid-level monster is a bit odd, yes.

Lysander
2010-01-16, 12:06 AM
How about this:

The wraith is far beyond them. But there is a legendary artifact designed as a weapon against incorporeal undead, and its mere presence will temporarily leave the wraith much weaker (but still challenging) and unable to escape. If the wraith is killed with this weapon it's soul will be utterly destroyed, and all the energy its stolen from victims will pass to the npc giving at least another hundred years of life. He thinks that's enough time to find another, less unpleasant, way of getting eternal youth, so if they challenge him he'll present retrieving this artifact as an alternate option to delivering the victim.

If you're worried about this artifact unbalancing the game say that killing the wraith temporarily uses up its greater powers for the next few years, leaving it a +1 ghost touch weapon in the meantime.

Crow
2010-01-16, 12:31 AM
I never said that the npc was bound to a CR11 wraith...that'd be dumb. C'mon guys.

Crow
2010-01-16, 01:59 PM
Hmmmmmmm. Ok, well doing the lesser minions seems like it could work. Thanks for the suggestion.

Aldizog
2010-01-16, 02:15 PM
The paladin sacrificing himself in some way (offering his own life in place of the victim, or attacking the altar while the party escapes) would certainly be paladin-appropriate, and a pretty awesome story. Players do remember and enjoy heroic deaths IME.

And if the paladin does that out of honor, with no expectation of a reward, then it's quite possible his god could be impressed enough to send him back to the world.

I wouldn't introduce a plot device so the PCs can permanently destroy the dread wraith so easily. Just my preference.

dragonfan6490
2010-01-16, 10:07 PM
The paladin sacrificing himself in some way (offering his own life in place of the victim, or attacking the altar while the party escapes) would certainly be paladin-appropriate, and a pretty awesome story. Players do remember and enjoy heroic deaths IME.

And if the paladin does that out of honor, with no expectation of a reward, then it's quite possible his god could be impressed enough to send him back to the world.

I wouldn't introduce a plot device so the PCs can permanently destroy the dread wraith so easily. Just my preference.

+1 for awesome. Although, I think you would have to talk to the player beforehand about it so that they would be ok with sacrificing the character they've worked so hard on and put so much time into for the greater good.

Eldariel
2010-01-17, 06:14 AM
That's not floating anywhere near neutral. Killing the young to sustain your own life is pretty much #1 on the list of "signs that you really are as evil as that handsome lad with the oversized sword says you are."

That doesn't mean he needs to act Evil though. Just because an act makes you an alignment doesn't automatically mean you start to act like that in every other circumstance. As such, he wouldn't necessarily need to automatically try and abuse the PCs.

I think he could ask the PCs to get some fundamentally evil creature ( la Orc or the like) to drain so there would be less moral qualms after it. Maybe even one-up it and allow the PCs to just wait until their next encounter with hostile monstrous humanoids, subdue them and then bring their assailants to be drained. This all if the PCs don't figure out what's going on exactly, of course.


And yeah, heroic sacrifice is something that could get the rest of the PCs out of it. I wouldn't mention it before-hand and let the Paladin himself figure out what's going to happen. But yeah, I'd definitely avoid making the encounter winnable for the PCs; that pretty much removes the whole point of "world with dangers you cannot defeat".

Weezer
2010-01-17, 09:30 AM
Perhaps let them stage a "jailbreak" type thing at a different location than either the wraith or the npc. For example have them talk to the npc at point a, give them some clues that somethings wrong, tell them that the wraiths at point b and the sacrifice is at point c. Let the PC's figure out when they go to pick up the sacrifice whats really going on so they can fight to free the captive there or spirit it away en-route to the wraith. That way they only need to fight his guards/minions which you can make CR appropriate without any story problems.

Iceforge
2010-01-17, 11:00 AM
Just delay the extremely dangerous confrontation until when they have a more appropriate level for the encounter.

Let them meet the NPC and he will gladly offer his help, in exchange for their promise to return in X time to help him with Y (Y being the concealment he hides his dark ritual behind), Y should sound like a pretty reasonable request, and if X time is basicly equal to the time needed to tutor the young heir, then it would be a no brainer that the party would have to return approximiately at that time anyway.

Now they got some time to go and level up and face other encounters, until they come back, now much higher level and more appropriate for the encounter and they are send forth to do Y, only to find out what that mission truly entails for them and how the friendly seeming ranger has some very dark and disturbing secrets

EDIT: And sure, he can even have them stick around, so they grow fond of the ranger, who is very good at hiding his dark secrets, they might see him deteriorate and grow weaker as time draws near to when they have to do their task for him. This will seem like an interesting detail and make the confrontation with the dark power make much more sense.

You can spin it in another way too; Maybe the ranger doesn't like sacrificing young blood belonging to his own domain surrounding his stronghold and he is using the young blood from other domains whenever he can. Time is drawing near for the ritual, without him having any young blood from another domain, there is, however, rumours that a band of bandits, who a few months ago kidnapped the heir to another domain, are camping within or near the boundaries of the stronghold belonging to the Ranger.

As the time for the ritual is not far away, the Ranger has grown weaker already, and conceals his intentions by asking the PC's to go rescue this young heir and bring him to him, so he can be send home. He can pretend the father of the young heir is an old friend, who he has not seen in a long time, and the suffering of his old friend is bothering him a lot, so it would make him rest more easily to know the boy was saved and returned home, before his time on this earth would run out.

Surely, once they rescues this young heir and brought him back, the Ranger will explain to them a safe route to take to the young heirs home through secret passages that only he and a few others know, which he shows on the map (surely leading to something quite foul, but your players won't know that).

That would give them a chance to gain levels, and make them a lot more invested in the whole story of the dark pact the ranger made

akma
2010-01-17, 11:15 AM
You could do that instead of a dread wraith it`s a regular wraith.
And I don`t think an epic NPC will bother to fight with low level adventurers. He would just summon some creature and go read a book or something. It`s more likely the PCs will first make contact to the epic NPC`s butler, or some other kind of assitant.

Tyndmyr
2010-01-17, 11:20 AM
Tailors are overpowered, imo. First off, there's the social contacts. These guys invariably work with the wealthy and/or powerful...so, there's a pretty significant chance of happening across someone liable to cause you no end of trouble, but the loot sucks(partially finished clothes? Feh), and due to their normal status as horrible combatants, no xp. Plus, it's not as if you can work with them and get anywhere...even with Profession: Tailor, it's not as if craft checks are worth much gold.

Tailoring encounters suck. Oh wait....THAT kind of tailoring.

Matthew
2010-01-17, 05:51 PM
...performing a fowl ritual...

No big deal, after all it is just a chicken. :smallbiggrin:

Seriously, though, you need a few "ways out" of this situation. The players need to realise what is going on and have a way to escape with the sacrifice left unfulfilled (thus acquiring for themselves two new major enemies). A third party seems to be the way to go to my mind. Perhaps somebody else knows about the goings on and warns the characters or wants to put an end to access to the domain of the wraith and has a plan, but needs the help of the PCs.

Androgeus
2010-01-17, 07:30 PM
due to their normal status as horrible combatants, no xp.

I wouldn't be sure of that, quite a few tailors I know have spent a past life working as some kind of secert agent. Thats worth a few levels in rogue/factotum