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Dr paradox
2017-05-01, 05:39 PM
If "Reachmen," "Ironback," "Icosian" and "Harmark" mean anything to you, stay away!




Otherwise, I'm a little stuck on something here and could use some advice.
I'm running a short game for some friends that's more or less a "B" game. When only three people make it, I run some very short adventures for a recurring gang of characters of characters. Yesterday, I threw together a little adventure involving hobgoblins.

The players are guarding a very small caravan - more like three traders that have decided to travel together with a handful of guards. They came to a mist-choked gorge which people usually cross using a dry aqueduct near the road, but they discover that the aqueduct has collapsed. The road technically has a path that switchbacks down the gorge and up the other side, but it's time consuming, and the gorge is imposing enough that the traders are hesitant. Sadly, trying to skirt the gorge entirely would lose several days of travel, so the party volunteers to do some quick scouting. They tangle with a small group of goblins who had a log trap set up, but they get the feeling that there are more around that actually chose not to attack. They find that the wooden bridge across the river is broken, and will need some repair before they can cross.

The party decides that the goblins can't be that much of a danger if they aren't attacking even the three of them, so they explain the situation to the merchants, and they agree to try and make the descent before darkness falls. As they work their way down the gorge, the players spot a goblin lookout in a distant tree, and they elect to take some shots at it, killing the creature. This provokes an ambush, leading to a tense fight where they need to split their attention between fighting off the goblins and making sure the wagons don't start rolling out of control. They capture the hobgoblin and take him with them down to the water's edge, where they interrogate him.

He explains that he and a group of other goblins are the survivors of a fortress-city to the west that was pillaged and burned by the local human army about a year ago. They're lead by a surviving Hobgoblin captain named Sedzra, who sabotaged the aqueduct in the hopes of luring the crown into sending engineers and an army escort to the trap-filled gorge to be massacred. The captive is incredibly dubious about this plan, but Sedzra is his superior, so he's gone along with it. He's emphasized several times that if the caravan hadn't attacked first, the goblins would have just let them pass.

The party elects to release the prisoner as show of good faith to the goblins, in the hopes that they won't try and take retribution for the goblins killed in the ambush. the merchants are greatly displeased, but there's nothing to be done except to continue work repairing the bridge.

They come to the end of the second day. The bridge is mostly complete, but not totally shored up, so it would be a gamble getting the wagons across it tonight. One of the merchants insists that now that the captive has told Sedzra that they know her plan, the hobgoblins will try to kill them to keep them from warning the crown. Ultimately, though, the group votes to wait on this side of the river until they can shore up the bridge, even at the risk of being attacked.

Here's my dilemma as a DM.

I don't know what should actually happen over the night.
The merchant has a good point. If Sedzra knows that they know her plan, she has a vested interest in killing them before they leave the gorge. From a literary perspective, though, this is problematic - this country has a long, deeply ingrained national identity about hating goblins, and this standoff is a direct result of their bellicose policies. The players specifically elected to release the prisoner as an olive branch, to try and break the cycle of retribution. Having Sedzra attack just seems to reinforce that, yes, actually, goblins are just military killing machines who won't balk at killing civilians who showed some halfway decency. Is that a satisfying conclusion? Especially since an all-out attack has a good chance of killing the party?

On the other hand, maybe verisimilitude demands an ending like that. Sometimes centuries-old bigotries can't be untangled by well meaning outsiders, and maybe there shouldn't be a guarantee of good intentions being transmuted to good results.

On the gripping hand, it's Dungeons and goddamn Dragons, not Heart of Darkness. The system is made for feelgood action adventure, and that's what players are signed up for, right?

On that second hand again, isn't a "B" game as good a space as any to explore that kind of Rogue One, everyone dies kind of side of heroic fiction?

Back to the first hand, in Rogue One they were dying FOR something, this is just rewarding decency with nihilism.

The only other thing I can think of is that the prisoner they released might be smart enough, and decent enough in turn, to lie to Sedzra about how much he told them. He might claim that he lied to them, or held up to torture, deliberately to keep her from mounting an attack. Out of gratitude? In a plan to tell her later to get her to give up on ambushing the masons? I don't know yet. Isn't this an anticlimax, where a nameless hobgoblin saves the day without them realizing it?

This has been a long sum-up. If anyone staggers through this and has some advice, I'd appreciate it.

tomandtish
2017-05-01, 07:16 PM
Well, there’s no right answer here, and advice is always hard to give when we don’t know your players that well. What type of game are you running?

Actions always have consequences, but sometimes you have to decide which actions determine the consequences. Releasing the hobgoblin could by them a little good will IF you feel that’s in character for this group of hobgoblins. OTOH, they did kill some already, which is going to cause some hurt feelings.

Maybe this causes a small faction of the hobgoblins to split away, and you combine both worlds. They show up to warn your party, but only a few minutes ahead of the attack.

Maybe they don’t attack at all, assuming that the party would never be so stupid as to hang around and has already outdistanced them. So they’ll change their plans.

Maybe they’ll launch the full assault on the party. After all, the party didn’t let the one go because they were nice. It was OBVIOUSLY a trick to learn more about where we live and our defenses, so we better hit them first!

Ad maybe, just maybe, they’ll actually send someone to talk and figure out what’s going on and why they let one of them live.

So again, it comes down to what type of game you run/your players are used to. If you run a very happy game where no one ever dies, that tells you where to go. If you run a game where death is a possibility if they ignore warning signs, you may launch the attack with enough warning for them to flee (abandoning the wagons). And if you run a classic old D&D game where you were expected to have backup characters ready to go, well you know what to do there as well.

So what type of game do you run?

Koo Rehtorb
2017-05-01, 07:23 PM
The released prisoner runs back into their camp and breathlessly warns them that Sedzra is right behind him, coming to kill them all. He got away and warned them because he owes them a debt for sparing his life.

If they ignore the warning then ruthlessly crush them under the weight of a hobgoblin army.

Blackhawk748
2017-05-01, 09:32 PM
The released prisoner runs back into their camp and breathlessly warns them that Sedzra is right behind him, coming to kill them all. He got away and warned them because he owes them a debt for sparing his life.

If they ignore the warning then ruthlessly crush them under the weight of a hobgoblin army.

This one seems fairly consistent with Hobgoblin norms. I mean, they are basically Klingons and he owes them a debt of honor. Now, maybe his commander will feel similarly, or at least enter a parlay and hold the party hostage until her plans come to fruition.

The big question here is, how honorable is Sedzra?

AtlasSniperman
2017-05-01, 09:37 PM
1) What was the enemy band composition they fought? A couple goblins and a Hobgoblin, or a semi-even mix of Hob's and gob's?
2) What level is the party?
3) How honourable are the party?
4) would you like to run Hobgoblins as an intelligent, wise, but honourable military race. Like a Feudal Japanese meets Roman empire esc culture on par with playable races so far as culture is concerned? I only ask because that's how I run them, but many DM's run them as a more feral thing that's maybe a step below the civilized races.

I love running Hobgoblins, and have a great idea in mind if you're interested, but I'd need to know how you run them and more about the circumstances before I can offer solid advice.


This one seems fairly consistent with Hobgoblin norms. I mean, they are basically Klingons and he owes them a debt of honor. Now, maybe his commander will feel similarly, or at least enter a parlay and hold the party hostage until her plans come to fruition.

The big question here is, how honorable is Sedzra?

Sedzra can be honourable and wise in this case. By setting a situational trap. If Sedzra instigates some form of trade with the party as a way to show they are on okay terms at this point(returning the olive branch), one of the gifts can be something that contains a poisonous gas or dangerous spell that triggers in the presence of royalty from the group that rousted them(or triggers in a specific location such as a room in said castle). So if the players do go back to warn them, this trap can be sprung and attempt to assassinate the leader, making the party the enemy of the hobgoblin's enemy, and making their warning suspicious and untrustworthy.

Mystral
2017-05-01, 09:43 PM
Here's how I would play it:

Have the main commaner decide to repay the favor and let them go unmolested, but one of his Lieutenants takes his men and moves out to raid the "filthy humans". Have them stage a desperate last stand and have Sedzra appear in the nick of time (not to save the humans, but to enforce discipline and punish the upstart). After that, Sedzra and the party can have a nice little chat that can lead to anything from renewed fighting over "get the abyss out of my sight" to a first hint of the possibilities of peace. Award a bonus depending on how well the PCs defended themselves. If they have to be freed after already being bound and bloody, it is far less impressive to Sedzra than if they are standing behind a circle of his soldiers.

denthor
2017-05-01, 10:23 PM
Here's how I would play it:

Have the main commaner decide to repay the favor and let them go unmolested, but one of his Lieutenants takes his men and moves out to raid the "filthy humans". Have them stage a desperate last stand and have Sedzra appear in the nick of time (not to save the humans, but to enforce discipline and punish the upstart). After that, Sedzra and the party can have a nice little chat that can lead to anything from renewed fighting over "get the abyss out of my sight" to a first hint of the possibilities of peace. Award a bonus depending on how well the PCs defended themselves. If they have to be freed after already being bound and bloody, it is far less impressive to Sedzra than if they are standing behind a circle of his soldiers.

I like this one change the lieutenant breaks during the negotiations with the captain. Now the captain makes a choice which side to back. humans who honor a truce or a traitorous hobo . Player actions decide who ever attacks him 1st the other gets his aid. The lieutenant attacks him on 3rd round for inaction which means round four he sides with y he party.

Kane0
2017-05-01, 10:56 PM
Roll 2d6. Each result is an encounter that happens in an order you choose.

1: Troop of Hobgoblins attack by order of Sedzra
2: Troop of Hobgoblins attack of own accord
3: Troop arrives to parlay by order of Sedzra
4: Troop arrives to parlay of own accord
5: Sedzra plays cunning trap / delaying action to fulfil his original plans without risking the potential for peace
6: Party is left alone, possibly by indecision on the part of the Hobgoblins or division between their ranks.

Mark Hall
2017-05-02, 12:02 PM
I like the hobgoblin returning to warn them, but consider that there ARE options other than killing.

Sedzra takes hostages. Presents them with overwhelming force and tactical superiority, tells them to surrender and they won't be harmed, etc. Then he takes hostages... the party, and a number of the merchants.

The other merchants get released to carry a message... because he DOES want the message going out. He wants the fight to be on this land on these terms. Hostages are kept so the message sent is the one he wants.

Session ends, party is captive of the hobgoblins...but hostages and reasonably well treated, not slaves.

Your next filler game can involve them doing something for the hobgoblins... fighting an enemy the hobgoblins needs plausible deniability against, for example.

snailgosh
2017-05-03, 04:17 AM
Maybe have Sedzra decide to spare the lives of the party in a show of good faith for releasing their prisoner, but demand the wagons and the stuff on it as compensation for the killed goblins.

If you send a force that makes a reasonably hard but beatable encounter to enforce these demands the party can decide for themselves whether they want to side with the hobgoblins or the merchants.

If they killed other hobgoblins during their descent, I have a hard time seeing Sedzra forgive the party for that, though.

Herobizkit
2017-05-03, 05:37 AM
Defeat Sedzra, take over as Commander. Then, Guide the goblins on a new path, one that works for their benefit - co-operation with the humans.

This would be MY goal as a player in this situation.

Pugwampy
2017-05-03, 05:52 AM
Wow this is seriously over thinking it . I really doubt the players would ever appreciate this very dedicated complex conundrum you created

You want the players to be satisfied ? Kill the hobgobbies . XP and Loot solves all problems . Life is just that easy .

PotatoGolem
2017-05-03, 09:52 AM
Wow this is seriously over thinking it . I really doubt the players would ever appreciate this very dedicated complex conundrum you created

You want the players to be satisfied ? Kill the hobgobbies . XP and Loot solves all problems . Life is just that easy .

I think this brings up a key point- what kind of players do you have? If your players are like Pug and super muderhobo-y, give them a chance to kill a bunch of goblins while they're distracted. If they're more into nuance and RP, give them an opportunity to talk their way around things/a meaningful dilemma/one of the other excellent suggestions. If they're murderhobos, they'll be sad if they miss out on killing and loot. If they're RPers, they'll be sad if their decision to free the goblin was meaningless. Actually, having the goblins attack full force would signal to me as a player that this is a more murderhobo campaign- there's no point in letting prisoners go or showing mercy, since monsters will always attack you.

Jay R
2017-05-03, 11:39 AM
If the players had asked for help, instead of the DM, I'd tell them that their lives depend on them being more valuable to the goblins alive than dead. So I'd recommend that they offer to take the hobgoblins' complaints and list of demands to the king.

But unfortunately,the DM asked. That means that the hobgoblins need to come up with an idea that keeps the PCs alive.

Sedzra is shocked and impressed that a party of humans would release a captive hobgoblin for any reason, but still cannot risk letting them get through on time with word of the trap. So he makes them an offer.

Further down the gorge, in a swamp not reachable except through the hobgoblins (and therefore unknown to any humans) is an old ruined castle, currently held by another group of Sedzra's enemies.Their position has been difficult because they have been basically trapped between these enemies and the humans. Sedzra has recently discovered a secret entrance, so it might now be possible to enter the ruins for loot them. He is willing to buy the entire caravan worth of goods, and escort the party to the secret entrance.

He is completely honest about the fact that he does not care whether they spend a few days in there and come out rich, or die in the attempt. Either way keeps his enemies busy while he's building his ambush, so either is fine for his purposes. But the caravan arriving on time, with word of the ambush, is not. He is doing this simply to delay their return, and to reward them for freeing their prisoner.

thamolas
2017-05-03, 12:53 PM
I like the idea of the hobgoblins attempting to negotiate with the party based on their goodwill gesture.

Segev
2017-05-03, 01:00 PM
A lot depends on the character of Sedzra. Is she the sort to view sparing her warrior's life worth rewarding? Then perhaps she gets embroiled in some intra-goblin politics and compromises on the old plan, replacing it with an open claiming of the gorge. She will demand tribute to let people pass. And she thus lets the PCs go, because warning the King away from sending repair-workers only makes it easier to control the gorge.

Mark Hall
2017-05-03, 01:16 PM
I like the idea of the hobgoblins attempting to negotiate with the party based on their goodwill gesture.

One thing I like to stress: If you make mercy ALWAYS come back and bite the players in the ass, they will stop showing mercy.

ngilop
2017-05-03, 01:25 PM
I guess I am confused on as to why sedzra just didn't attack the party already if she/he is close enough to have a captive goblin that was interrogated after they made it the rest of the way down the gorge, which from the sound of it took a few hours.
meet up with them mere minutes afterwards and massacre the caravan and party.


I feel that it would take time for the hobo to get in with sedzra and then a while to explain what happened, and a while to get the forces marshaled. by that time it could well be morning and the party starting up the other side o the gorge. queue sup cool fight scene. Now sedzra plan is ruined.

also if it is supposed to be a B side.. why the super long (as in story-time length wise) plot point?

Dr paradox
2017-05-03, 08:20 PM
Back again, to clarify some points and answer some questions.

First point!

The warband is almost entirely goblins, led by only four hobgoblins including Sedzra. They're not really an army - just the scraps left over from one on a mission of revenge. Sedzra sees herself as honorable, but her mission here is pretty barbaric. She's planning on killing the builders and their escorts as brutally and painfully as possible as revenge. It's not actually that great a plan - it depends on relying on her hundred or so goblins having the discipline to pull off an ambush against a superior foe, and as it is the goblins haven't had the discipline to just let a caravan go past. She's justified it to herself, but she's not thinking clearly.

Peace with the local kingdom isn't an option. A lot of their armed forces are there SPECIFICALLY because they hate goblins. The best they could hope for is finding someplace where they won't get noticed by any authority in the region.

Second Point!

My players like a good scrap as much as the next guys, but I've found that they're mostly problem solvers. They like finding novel approaches to problems, whether that's an unexpected combat maneuver, a clever bit of diplomacy, or some stealth and sabotage. I've played with them for years, so my DMing style has adapted into building setups more than plots, with a couple unique ways through along those lines. Two of them are theater people, one's an engineer, one's an artist, and one's a systems-mastery mechanics kind of guy. This game involves the engineer, the artist, and the systems-master.

Third!

Sedzra's resources are very limited. I run a fairly low power, low magic kind of game, and she doesn't have a wizard of any description with her. all she's got is a switch-backed road lined with ewok traps (Which the party already passed through) and a hundred goblins.

The goblins wouldn't be attacking until now because at first they didn't know the hobgoblin had been captured rather than killed - and he'd been breaking orders by attacking, anyway. After he escaped, Sedzra could scout the crossing and tell that they'd be stuck there until the next morning, giving them time for a night attack when they could leverage their darkvision.

In Conclusion!

I'm liking two possible ideas that I've heard so far - that the hobgoblin captive comes back and warns them about the impending attack, or that Sedzra takes the merchants captive to blackmail the heroes into going on another quest.

Thanks so much for all the feedback! It is a little complicated for a "B" story, but that's pretty much how I do these things. The main story is a tangled web that I really need to trim back on.

Keltest
2017-05-03, 08:24 PM
Personally, I like the "Hobgoblins are divided on what to do, some attack the party, and others come in to enforce order on the ones who went off without permission" scenario. Provides a threat that isn't overwhelming and allows player agency to determine how well they come off.

Dr paradox
2017-05-03, 08:32 PM
Personally, I like the "Hobgoblins are divided on what to do, some attack the party, and others come in to enforce order on the ones who went off without permission" scenario. Provides a threat that isn't overwhelming and allows player agency to determine how well they come off.

That's actually what happened earlier. Their captive couldn't stand to see them killing the sentry, so he led some goblins in to try and take them out. During the interrogation, he explained that if he'd been in charge, they'd all be dead.

EDIT: Further worthwhile note, the game is 5e D&D, and they're three second level characters along with three merchants and five NPC guards.