View Full Version : Help me fix a DMing mistake!

2011-07-16, 03:52 PM
So I recently started running a series of 1 on 1 sessions for four players leading into a full campaign. I've run two of them already and the plan is for all the characters to end up in the same city shortly before it falls under siege. As I said I've run two of them and the players ended up where I wanted them and the siege started happening.

The problem is, one of the players is starting in a community that the invading army will pass on it's way to the city and he will be asked to go warn said city of the impending siege. In the two sessions I've run already, the city is unaware of the attack before it happens. I was busy making sure the end game story stuff all meshed together that I spaced the fact that I pretty much doomed this player to fail his first mission.

This is alright with me, but I need to figure out how to make him fail in warning the city on time without too much railroading. The biggest issue is that he needs to be IN the city at the end of the session. How would he get into the city without warning them of the attack? How would he get into the city after the siege is already started?

I need the playground to help me fix my oversight. Thanks in advance!

2011-07-16, 04:02 PM
1. He gets arrested.

2. He is dismissed as insane.

3. He tries to force his way in, because it's blocked (after curfew, anyone?). Go to one.

4. He finds an underground route in that will take him there "faster", but means he gets there too late.

2011-07-16, 04:09 PM
Depending on how he announces it, maybe the militia captain/governor's steward/duke's secretary is corrupt, dies, or is otherwise rendered unable to spread the word along until it fits the plot.

Alternatively, have his travel delayed so he arrives before the army, but still too late for them to react.

2011-07-16, 06:20 PM
I would say the simplest solution would be to have the character report the imminent attack to someone who is a spy for the invading army.
The spy should send him to do some work in the sewers or scouting outside the city, pretending to help with the defenses, but in reality being put in a place where he won't realize his warning goes unheeded.
If the character notices the problem, the spy has to do something to keep the character from warning the authorities (like putting him in jail on fake charges or something).
If the character falls for the scouting mission "trap", the spy should try to frame his superior for stopping the warning, and keep sabotaging the party from the shadows as long as (s)he can.
In any case, the spy would be perfect as a nemesis for the character.

Edit: The player's "reward" for realizing what the spy is doing, would be that the spy has to break his cover, and actually show the character that he is actively working against the city.
If the character doesn't realize the "trap", he should come back to find the spy has framed his superior, giving the impression that the character completed his mission, and a spy was caught because of it, giving him a degree of victory.

This would work best for a character more prone to sneaking and manipulating though. A less intrigue filled prologue might fit better if the character is more of a brute.

2011-07-16, 06:26 PM
Don't try to railroad the plot. :smallconfused:

2011-07-16, 06:38 PM
Don't try to railroad the plot. :smallconfused:
He's not railroading, and if you read his post you'd have realized that.

He's planning on running four one-on-one sessions that explore each character's actions right before the campaign's start. Two of the four have been completed, and those two characters have arrived in the city on the day of the siege. The siege began for both of them, and the city was caught unaware for both of them; which is appropriate, since they're in the same world.

He then began the third session, and the third player has gone to warn the city. If that player succeeds, the city is not caught unaware, and suddenly the GM needs to retcon everything that the other two players did.

Now, that said: Just for the sake of avoiding time travel shenanigans, are there any other "landmark" events? Is there anything stopping you from having the intrepid Player from arriving on the day of the siege, thereby being unable to warn the city in time?

2011-07-16, 07:10 PM
Yes, however it will still be railroading. There's essentially nothing you can do to avoid that at this point except to get rid of the conditions "must be in the city at time X" and "must fail at helping the city".

It would I guess, help to know at what stage of a siege the city is in. If you mean the city has already been sacked, then you're pretty much up the creek without a paddle, but in any other condition he could simply get there in time to do "something" that perhaps the average soldier/man on the street would be unaware of. PCs and NPCs aren't omniscient, just because the average citizen thought the city was caught completely unaware doesn't mean the leadership was.

2011-07-16, 08:11 PM
Have him swept up by the army, and get free in time only to arrive the night before the army, so even though he does warn the city, it doesn't do any good. By the time they get up in the morning to send out scouts, there's no need, they can do it from the walls.

Possibly get him... volunteered...

Human Paragon 3
2011-07-16, 08:15 PM
Have him run into a a scouting party from the city that is about to be under siege. He will probably tell them about the coming army. Have the leader of the scouts ask to meet with him in private, and when they are talking (or even before the PC arrives in the commander's tent) the commander is assassinated.

The PC is accused and captured by the scouting party. (Have them have dogs and such to track the PC down, fast mounts and the like, so they can catch him in the event he runs). His warning is now highly suspect. The scouting party now escorts him back to the city (or he escapes and continues onto the city) but by then it's too late. When the enemy army arrives, the PC is vindicated and freed.

Alternatively, the commander could be a traitor who is purposely trying to bring down the defenses of the city for the coming army. He asks to meet the PC in private, then attempts to kill him. Then, follow the above formula.

2011-07-16, 09:57 PM
I agree with Yukitsu... Well, not about the railroading part, as I'm a big proponent of plot... but about the perceptions thing near the end of his post.

Who says the player can't reach the city in time to warn them after all?

A city is a big place. Really big. News takes time to travel, and to keep a general panic from ensuing, it's likely that news is kept concealed to a select few. News begins to travel through channels, people begin to react, but large portions of the populace, even of the government itself, has yet to become privy to the information.

I had this same exact scenario develop in my game (well, mostly the same, except for that all the defenders were dead, as were the attackers. Undead wars can get messy). I had the city in a total panic as the seige began, but then I went back and played the events coming up to the arrival of the PC's, and unexpectedly they were able to learn of the advancing army and warn the city. So the previously described 'panic' was in one half of the city (some of the PC's were there), while on the other side of the city, the other PC's were leading a quick counterattack which disabled some key elements of the attacking army. In a battle as huge as this one, it was only one small victory, but it led to the main city gates not falling, which led to the attacker having to redirect the attack elsewhere, which led to, which led to, which led to... yeah, even little victories can snowball into an avalanche.

So... what you do is this: The attacking army is going to seige the city, right? They need seige weapons, towers, battering rams, ladders, and whatnot. Since they are expecting surprise and wanting a quick victory, they have these seige weapons on the front lines. They intend to rush up and place ladders and towers up quick, and storm the city.

PC's find this out and get into the city, warn the defenders. (If the PC's are already in the city, they need only to warn the defenders. Once the defenders start looking, it'll be obvious what the attacker has put on their front line.)

Now, we know the attacker was able to reach the city undetected, based on the play of the first two PC's... at least from the perception of the PC's. So we must assume that either the central leadership (King?) does not yet know, or he only just got the information, and so general orders to his troops have yet to be issued. Why was the information delayed? (Thinking furiously....) I got it. Spies and Infiltrators. So, let the 3rd and 4th PC get into the city, warn the military leaders stationed on that side of the city. They send a runner to the King, but that runner is intercepted. Perhaps even have a cool battle to fight as the infiltrators ambush the communication network. Net result, King doesn't get the information, and the PC's and the military officer are cut off from further communication. They have to decide on their own, act on their own.

This is where the whole bit of how the attackers are sending the seige towers and ladder crews in first comes into play. Local leader must act on his own, before the attackers storm the walls. He devises a plan (or even better, the PC's propose the plan and you adjust the game to go with the PC's plan) to counter-attack before the seige weapons are in range. Using cover of fog (the attacker had put up magical fog to conceal their final approach, right? Use that against them), have the two remaining PC's be part of a quick strike using firebombing materials to burn the advancing towers and kill the ladder-crews. (Well, destroy the ladders, that's the important thing.)

By the time you switch back to the other PC's and the rest of the town, they hear about an attack in progress and blow into a full panic, but then fires break out on the west side, outside of town, and in time news begins to spread that a counter-attack successfully prevented the towers from their approach.

The battle isn't over, not by a long shot. Surely they will have more seige weapons. Surely they can make more, depending on the time frame. But victory is ours for the day, or at least the first few hours. And by then, the PC's are together, each was able to affect the outcome by their actions instead of the actions dictating what the players can do, and your storyline can progress forward from here.

In a place the size of a city, the perception of how the battle is going can vary greatly from one area to the other. Some parts of the city might still be waking up the realization that there is some kind of threat on the horizon, while others are celebrating their first victory. I guess that's true with defeat too. The walls break, the enemy pours in, and there's going to be some chaps going into the tavern thinking they need a stiff drink to drown out all this nonsense gossip about an approaching army.

Within that level of miscommunication and confusion, you can be quite free in describing the scene and the level of information known, and then change that greatly when describing it to a different PC in a different part of town.

And the players can be free to succeed in their first mission, without invalidating the perceptions of what's happening on the other side of town. Let the game play out however the PC's direct it, and then simply modify the flow of the battle as the small victories here and there begin to pile up.

Don't look for ways to insure the players defeat. Look for ways the players can succeed, that still allows for the game to progress forward as planned. And even better... think of how the game might progress forward differently, based on the PC's actions!

Good Luck!

2011-07-17, 01:10 AM
-Stuff- Welp, you are now a minor diety in my campaign world :smallsmile:.

Pretty much everything you said lines up with stuff that either A)has happened, B)I plan on happening or, C)the players expressed interest in causing. Also, about the fog thing....uncanny! That is exactly what they did haha. Siege towers and ladders are not up yet but I ended both of the first two sessions with the opening barrage of flaming catapult shot. The invaders are gonna be using trained burrowing monsters to infiltrate the walls so even the players inside the wall will have stuff to do.

In regards to all poor communication stuff, that all fits perfectly as well. The current town leader, while a good man, is disorganized and often bows to the will of the reigning oligarchy. If the city survives the siege I was planning on having two other NPC's vie for power of the city because the current guy is "unwilling to do what is necessary to protect the city" or whatever political mumbo jumbo. The players will be able to pick who they want to support if they care at all. Heck, if they really care maybe they'll try to run the thing on their own. Anyways, all I'm saying in this ranty paragraph is that giving a sense of disorganization and poor communication on serves to drive home the current leaders unfortunate traits.

Thanks for all the suggestions folks!

2011-07-17, 10:29 PM
In regards to all poor communication stuff, that all fits perfectly as well. The current town leader, while a good man, is disorganized and often bows to the will of the reigning oligarchy.

Well, there was your answer all along. You don't have to worry about spies and/or infiltraitors--the player warns the leader, but instead of mobilizing the city's defenses, he calls a committee meeting. It also gives you plot justification for the average person not hearing about the warning--the ruler has the player stay with him through the meeting to repeat what he knows to the council. Buy the time the council accept what he's telling them as the truth, it's too late to act on the info.