View Full Version : DM Help Setpiece Ideas - This is going to be so cool...

2014-07-25, 02:34 PM
Having fights in empty square rooms is getting dull pretty quickly. That just isn't at all like the cool scenes in fantasy movies and even videogames manage to make battles much more fun by placing them in front of an evocative background.
I am not thinking of scripted events here, but of ways to create situations that make a fight cooler by giving it some more context. Something to make it more memorable and the players think that it was incredible. While probably still just hackingat each other and casting spells like they always do.
The idea is not to script a series of events and how the scenes unfold. Just setting up a start for a scene in a way that it will hopefully be great regardless of what the players do and how things turn out.
Let's share some ideas.

The PCs are assaulting a large mansion or warehouse (or even a cargo ship) to get to an enemy, still an important item, or rescue a prisoner. And at the worst possible moment someone sets the whole place on fire, causing chaos among any remaining guards and filling the place with smoke and flames.

The PCs have to escort a high value prisoner who is hoping to make a shady deal exchanging information for his life and possibly some other benefits. Unfortunately, he's the most despicable person and lots of good people think no information he can have will be good enough to let him get away with his deeds. And they might not even be stopped by having to raise weapons against the PCs.

A group of bandits has decided to claim an inn in a small village as their new headquarter and effectively made all the villagers their slaves, always keeping some around as servants in the inn who also serve as hostages so nobody gets any ideas. It ends up with the PCs to take care of the situation, but as they scout the place (maybe in disguised as bandits or villager) they recognize some of the hostage "villagers" among the bandits as experienced warriors from earlier adventurers. And as the hidden warriors see the PCs, their looks shows that they recognize them to...

The PCs are fighting against an immortal sorcerer, but at some points they gain knowledge of where he has hidden his heart that holds his soul. However, when they attack his hidden lair, he will become aware of it and teleport over there to destroy the intruders. So he needs to be distracted by keeping him very busy at the same time. Instead of splitting the party, the PCs and a group of allies will attack both the secret lair and the sorcerers current base at the same time. But without both groups having any way to communicate with each other. And the GM should keep rolling some dice to see how the other team is doing.
If the PCs attack the sorcerer, they have no way to tell how long his invincibility will last, or if they have to assume the other team has failed and retreat. If the PCs go for the lair and destroy the heart, they will have no idea what has happened to the sorcerer and their allies until they get there. And even when they reach the sorcerers stronghold, it may not immediately be obvious how it turned out. Lots of dead guards at the gate and inside the main corridor, with lots of confused guards still around would be expected in either case.
In a 2 hour movie, the audience has always to be up to date with things as time is limited. In an RPG, the results of the PCs actions don't have to be immediatly obvious.

2014-07-25, 03:27 PM
Are you looking for set pieces for an individual encounter, or plot things?

Your examples almost all seem related to plot. I mean, to me. It's not really that interesting if the situation doesn't effect the combat itself. A fight inside an active volcano with the big bad squeedely spooch stealer of souls is still just a normal fight if mechanically it takes place in a 30' room.

Personally I think setpieces need to fit two primary criteria.

1) They must be easy to imagine, the better the GMs descriptions the easier this criteria is to me.

2) The players should plainly experience mechanical benefit/disadvatages/both from the altered situation/environment.

Shipboard Combat: Ship is being attacked by pirates, who are accustomed to fighting on decks with ropes and other objects, as well as using the rocking of the ship to their advantage. Combat should involve three dimensions as pirates shoot crossbows from the rigging ect. Enemies should leave the super dramatic Errol Flynn stuff (rope swings, using the sale and a sword to descend from the top) to the players so they can feel awesome.

Shipboard Combat in a storm vs ghostly undead: Same hazards as prior, plus now the ship is getting caught in huge waves, and the deck is slick. Players need to hold on and possibly rope themselves the rails ect. Taking negatives to combat and movement for holding on. Sails should be furled and clmbing rigging and masts should only be left to mad men as the rain soaks and makes slick any climbing surfaces. Incorpreal undead from a ghost ship do not suffer from the ill effects. Descriptions should include the players being smashed by waves in a hetic battle atmosphere. Non corpreal undead can also be present and affected by the waves, describing a skeleton losing it's grip and being smashed apart on a rail before its remains are washed below can emphasize the danger.

City ambush: Thugs on the ground try to keep the pcs contained, leaving distance for archers from the rooftops to fire. For extra drama they could be walled in by magical or alchemical means.

Acrobat attack: Acrobat Assassin Troupe in a circus tent uses tumble to easily position for sneak attacks. Injured attackers switch places with those throwing daggers from platforms used in the act. One arrives working to control a furious circus attraction, wrecking the tent and possibly the players in the process.

Root attack: Roots of an aggressive Mangrove tree, attack the party, hoping to kill them and drag their nutritious corpses to decay beneath the tree. Roots are under knee deep water, and may grapple and pull PCs under unseen.

Wall combat: Players must fight there way along a high wall with precarious edges. enemies may be pushed off but so might the players. Especially when they face the large Beast/Demon that jumps from a tower into their way. (Dark Souls Taurus Demon inspired).

Crypt of the Ever Rising: Players must fight there way through a maze of catacombs, filled with undead that rise a small number of rounds after being felled, to reach the necromancer within and destroy him/his thing of power/Pull the magical plug. To stop their incessant return.

Mansion of Animated objects: A haunting/too much magic/a bad guy has caused a the furniture and other objects of the house to become animated. Add undead escaping from the walls their bodies were hidden in for a nice demonic ritual feel. Attack the players with a Large Oak desk, pinning a character down as the drawers repeatedly smash out into the players face.

Rock Wall battle: Players climbing a cliff or the like are attacked by a large clawed beat (Wyvern?) and must fight while hanging from ropes/moving along the cliff face. The creature's movement may be more limited, but it's ability to fly and dig claws into thee wall for grip give it a strong advantage. Force players to tie themselves off with the ever-present danger that one of it's claws might cut their safety line.

Charge!:The party faces mounted cavalry on an open plain.

2014-07-25, 05:05 PM
One thing to remember is that by changing up the environment you can drastically alter how difficult the encounter actually is.
For example a pack of orcs may be of little consequence to the party, but if you have that orc pack attack while they are crossing a narrow rope bridge. Then things can get crazy really fast.
That being said here are some ideas for places for adventures to happen in.

A Narrow cliff ledge with a sheer drop on one side
A Narrow Rope Bridge like above
A Chasm with floating (flat) boulders the players can cross by jumping from boulder to boulder.
A stairwell
A giant sized stair well
A dense forest or jungle with cover and rough terrain
A bottomless pit with a massive updraft allowing players to float across to the other side
A lava field or river where the players can cross by leaping from island to island
A fast moving stream
A room with active “traps”, like scything blades that the players and monsters can use to their advantage.
A hill providing elevation to attacks at the top
A sand dune, should be difficult to stand your ground when the very ground shifts beneath your feet.
Knee deep water (make it murky and add traps in the water to make your players hate life).

2014-07-25, 09:23 PM
Buildings and rooms could be:

Flooded (whether completely, or only up to the PCs hips)
Rigged with traps
Rigged to explode
Already collapsed
Filled with rubble and debris which impede movement
Attacked by Kaiju or other giant enemy (or multiples of either)
Attacked by a giant allies
Shoddily-built (i.e. parts of it crumble when too much weight is on them)
Sustaining artillery fire
Watched by snipers
Set up with holes in walls to allow occupants to shoot with very good cover

Hostages could be:

Allied mooks (i.e. soldiers, low-level recruits in a criminal organization)
NPCs the players like
Dressed up as the enemy so it's hard to tell them apart from a distance.
Hidden somewhere.
Telling the PCs to back down
Telling the PCs to let them die
Being cooked alive (Whether in a kitchen, over a bonfire, in a funeral pyre, being burned at the stake, or over magma)
Being tied to a horse or other vehicle and dragged to death
Being fed to monsters (or even normal animals like dogs)
Being drowned
Being slowly crushed
Being tortured or sacrificed
Already dead
Already dead, but disguised to seem alive
Fake: they're actually enemies in disguise
About to be executed (on the gallows, by an axe, by lethal injection, by electric chair, by being crushed by an elephant, etc etc)

2014-07-26, 04:27 AM
Battle in the Rain: It's been raining for days and the ground has turned into mud that gets everyone sink down to the ankles. Running is impossible, slipping frequent.

Wall combat: Players must fight there way along a high wall with precarious edges. enemies may be pushed off but so might the players. Especially when they face the large Beast/Demon that jumps from a tower into their way. (Dark Souls Taurus Demon inspired).
Well Combat: A big fight taking place around and inside a huge hole in the ground, with ledges and walkways on the wall over several different levels.

Charge!:The party faces mounted cavalry on an open plain.
Charge, uphill!: The party is facing an overwhelming force, but has a position that gives them a good number of rounds to decimate their opponents before they get into melee range. Make it count.

2014-07-26, 06:00 AM
Just steal whatever cool scenes you want from any movie/book/game/comic:

Battle IN SPACE. Make up rules for no gravity+no friction combat.
Continuous fighting while climbing up stairs to mountain. Obviously there's a cliff to one side.
Battle atop a train. Get trains invented in that world beforehand.
Small village/farm/castle siege against incoming army. You should've seen million examples of this.
Fighting on backs of giant flying creatures. Or airship combat for a lamer alternative.
Elevator fight. There's a reason why every single sidescrollybeatmup ever made had one.
Escape sequence. Punch through the enemies before the avalanche/flood/fire/sphere of annihilation.
Honor duels. Everyone must split to face their evil twin/old nemesis/cool miniboss simultaneously.
Freefall rumble. Defeat the enemies to grab their parachutes/featherfalls/magic carpets before you go splat.
Climb up giant monster reach vital spots. You're playing D&D wrong if medium sized dudes are fighting collosal creatures on foot.
Bullethell boss (http://youtu.be/ghb6RKt7Z34?t=2m33s). Coolness here is in running about and not the background fluff. Good luck mapping out that gameplay without reflex save spam in D&D rules however.