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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Talakeal's Avatar

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    Default Help a DM plan for a Magnificent Seven style adventure

    In a couple of weeks I am going to be having another chance to continue my ongoing campaign. In the second session this January I ran into the issue where the player characters' village was under attack, and the PCs thought we were going to do a Magnificent Seven style scenario while I was thinking something more like the army of the dead from LoTR. The disconnect caused the session to stall out, and I want to try and redeem myself. So my next session is going to be a rematch, with the players helping to defend a small town much like their own from the same invaders.

    There are three players, a monk, a sorcerer, and a cleric. They also have a summoned Valkyrie and several animated objects with them. I have an open door policy for new players, and I am hoping there will be one or two more for the actual game.

    The premise is that the PCs are on a long journey and they are staying at a tavern near the crossroads. One morning a young man comes in and tells them that a mysterious figure came into town, told them that their village would be destroyed in seven days and if its people do not abandon it they will be killed. The PC's recognize the messenger as the one who gave a similar warning to their village. Some of the townsfolk want to flee, some want to fight, and most are skeptical that the threat exists at all. The young man will beg the PCs for help.

    The town itself is a small logging and farming village set in the deep woods, not far from the main road, and home to a couple dozen families.

    The invaders are culled from "savages" who have been living in the wilderness near the town. The overall plot is that the god of the wild has grown resentful of the power of the human Empire and seeks to balance the world by manifesting avatars amongst the wild folk across the world and inspiring them to rise up and destroy the outlying farms that feed the major cities, hoping to cause a famine that will cull the city-dweller's population.


    So, the players have a week to set up booby traps, come up with tactics, train the townsfolk, and recruit allies.

    Assuming the PCs choose to stand and fight (which I am fairly confident they will) I plan on running the battle war-game style, and dividing control of the various NPC defenders up between the players.

    Now, I am having three problems here:
    First, as I don't know exactly how many PCs I will have or how many allies they will recruit, it is kind of hard for me to balance the fight.
    Second, the terrain is kind of in the PCs court. I don't know where in or near the village they will make their stand, and they can, potentially, set up all manner of booby traps, earth works, or fortifications.
    Third, and this is the big one, the players might not bite the hooks I put before them and have trouble recruiting allies. Judging by how my previous sessions have gone, this is the big one.


    The players are going to be expected to get help, they almost certainly can't defeat all the enemies on their own (although they are free to try, and with a brilliant plan might even be able to succeed).

    So, for allies I have planned:

    The town has between 16 and 32 men and women who have minimal combat training and equipment (exact number depends on how many PCs show up). If the PCs spend some time whipping them into shape they can turn them into a militia. Roughly half will be archers and half spearmen.

    Cheyenne, a ranger whom the party encountered on the road at the start of the adventure. If they track her down and ask her for help she will do so, probably in exchange for a magic bow which puts anyone it strikes to sleep that the players found but can't use.

    Scarlet, a wandering bard and storyteller who was providing entertainment at the tavern. She will help if the players can present her with any semi-plausible rationale for doing so.

    Father Daniel, the town's former priest who was exiled for communing with the dark powers, now living as a hermit in the woods. He will help the players if they find him and give him any plausible rationale for doing so.

    Searching local bars the players can find about a dozen sell swords who will help in exchange for gold.

    If the players travel to the local lord's castle he will eagerly send his sons, five brave knights, to help out. He also has a court wizard, an arrogant young girl named Circe, whom he will send along if asked.

    The campaign world is animistic, and if the players commune with the town's spirit they can receive its blessing, giving them two free rerolls every turn.

    Now, for all of these my goal is to say yes to anything the players come up with. And if they want to find help someplace else I will do my best to accommodate them. However, the one trouble I always have is finding the right level of subtlety for my hooks. Too blatant and the PCs feel railroaded, too vague and the PCs get lost and then bored / frustrated. So how I present each of the above options to the group is where I am going to need the most advice.


    Spoiler: The Forces I Have Statted Out:
    Show
    Heroes:
    PCs:
    Bronwyn, Level 6 Sorceress
    Daemar, Level 6 Monk
    Kore, Level 6 Cleric (Air Domain)


    NPCs:
    Several Animated Objects
    Kara, level 5 fighter
    Cheyenne, level 5 ranger
    Father Daniel, level 5 cleric
    Scarlet, level 5 bard
    Circe, a level 5 wizard whose spell-book contains illusions, evocations, and time manipulating magic
    8-16 Archers, level 2 fighters
    8-16 Spearmen, level 2 fighters
    12 Mercenaries, level 3 fighters
    5 Templar, level 4 knights

    Enemies:
    Calliban, level 6 half celestial barbarian
    4 Minotaurs
    5 Dire Wolves
    2 Hill Giants
    1 Gorgon
    12 Neanderthals, level 3 barbarians
    2 Level 5 lizard man dragon shamans
    1 Level 5 wizard with access to necromancy, abjuration, and some druidic spells
    1 Level 6 Harpy Monk
    1 Level 5 Satyr Bard

    Note: The game is actually going to be run using my own homebrew system, but it is close enough to E6 D&D that I am using D&D terms for familiarity, feel free to respond in kind.



    So, any ideas for how to run or set up this adventure? I would love to hear them. Thanks for the advice!
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2016-11-08 at 02:19 PM.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: Help a DM plan for a Magnificent Seven style adventure

    I have not seen the magnificent seven in ages, but a bit fresher in my mind is Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, the movie the magnificent seven is based on. Same plot and everything, just in Japan instead of the wild west.
    For your issues
    1. In both the movie and in reality, minimal combat training is not a second level fighter. The villagers in Seven Samurai were able to use a lot of spears and surround and overwhelm the enemy samurai, but were by no means combat trained. A few might know how to use bows, but are level 1 fighters at best, they should probably be commoners.

    With the level 5 NPC's, particularly the casters/bard, they stand a huge chance of winning against the enemies put against them. That said, balance the final fight on the fly based on how many people they recruit and of what class. You can always have more or less enemy numbers/waves.

    2. They will probably use the city as a base and set up defenses, like in the movie(s). Choke point bridges, dig trenches, fences, traps. Factor this into how it could slow or stop enemy waves in your balancing of the fight. Also, if the city attackers are ruthless enough, they might resort to fire or tearing through the buildings.

    3. There is no certainty they will take the hook, but you can lock them in the city by having an attack come if they are planning to leave. Or perhaps a messenger shows up again, demanding they leave or else. Maybe they rough up a villager or break some things. The PC's could also leave, only to stumble onto the enemy camp on their way to the next wherever. The enemy could force them back to the village(make it obvious they are highly outnumbered and outmatched) or maybe they even join. There is no way to make them stay short of railroading in some form or another. If they truly want to run, maybe they can take some/most of the village with them. Maybe they help the aggressors kill all the villagers. Maybe they decide that they don't give a crap and just go somewhere else. Understand that if you want this encounter to happen and the player's try to circumvent it, you have to railroad.

    If they have trouble recruiting allies, throw them a bone. If they miss the NPC's of note in the village(which I would assume would fight or flee, being that they are decently powerful) have adventurers wander in. The knights could be sent to collect annual taxes if the players fail to go to the castle, and stay to protect their fief when they hear the news. If your players adamantly refuse to recruit or simply botch each chance, tone down the number of enemies to balance the encounter. Or, if they choose to be stupid and try to take the full enemy force with a couple dozen spear wielding peasants and themselves, let the dice fall where they will.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Help a DM plan for a Magnificent Seven style adventure

    I am literally doing this exact same style of adventure, I'll explain with some details in a bit...

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Help a DM plan for a Magnificent Seven style adventure

    Thank you for your advice!

    Quote Originally Posted by Geddy2112 View Post
    In both the movie and in reality, minimal combat training is not a second level fighter. The villagers in Seven Samurai were able to use a lot of spears and surround and overwhelm the enemy samurai, but were by no means combat trained. A few might know how to use bows, but are level 1 fighters at best, they should probably be commoners.
    Yeah, I agree, it is a bit of a stretch but I wanted to throw them a bit of a bone.

    Basically I condense the levels a bit. In my campaign Level 1=Student, Level 2=Amateur, Level 3=Professional, Level 4=Expert, Level 5=Champion, Level 6=Master, Level 7-10=Legendary Hero, and I don't use NPC classes (although I do use variants of the Dragonlance Noble and Eberron Artificer for non-combat characters).

    So I am assuming that the people who fight with them have some experience, being part of the town militia, sheriff's deputies, huntsmen, or just local toughs who already had just enough combat experience that with the PCs guidance they just barely hit the threshold for being amateurs.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Default Re: Help a DM plan for a Magnificent Seven style adventure

    I strongly urge you to go watch both The Magnificent Seven and Seven Samurai before finishing your plans.

    A small logging village has several very strong loggers who are excellent with axes, even if they've never been in a battle.

    A logging village is downstream of a forest. So it's bounded on one side by a river large enough to float big logs down. This is great for chokepoints. There's probably only one ford (where the river spreads out enough to be shallow). The ford can be quickly blocked by people who have a lot of large logs upstream of it.

    Some reason to sneak into the enemies' camp, to spook their horse, hear their plans, count their forces, steal their biggest item, set fire to their food stores, or some other goal, might help it feel more like a standard party action before the main event.

    The villagers should be untrained commoners who can get some good training from the PCs. It shouldn't be hard to teach them to fight with axes, and the axes in a logging community are very likely high quality. Let the PCs be better than average at training, and let it show in the battle.

    People who aren't in the PCs' plans can still choose to have an effect. As the bad guys attack, they are pelted by rocks from kids hiding in the trees or up on a ridge, for instance. (It should be timed when the villains have to aim all their attacks at the party, so the kids aren't just killed, of course.) Also, kids in a logging community know how to use axes, too.

    When you don't know how to balance the encounters, balance some of them that day. You can decide after the battle starts how many hit points many of the bad guys have. Don't tell them you're doing this. Just save a few decisions.

    I recommend that there be several small encounters leading up to the big one. That gives you more control. The player whose character hasn't gotten to do much can spot the enemy sneaking into town at night, for instance, for a quick solo encounter.

    Each individual encounter ends when it stops being fun. You can decide at that moment whether they break morale, or Calliban decides to retreat and regroup.

    Have fun, and aim at them having fun.

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    Default Re: Help a DM plan for a Magnificent Seven style adventure

    Okay this is a nice game setup and like I said, I was intending on running a game just like it.

    I have an Aasimir paladin, human monk, and a shadowfolk (near human) wizard so far, and expect to bring in another player or two, one of which will most likely be a witch. They are all level 2.

    IF YOU ARE PART OF THIS STOP READING NOW BRANDON, MIKE, SUSAN, KEVIN, OR MATT!

    HOWEVER I intend to have multiple events pan out that cause the players to level up while they are protecting the town. In all I expect that the final battle will result with them being at level 4 when they fight it, and level 5 after it is done.

    Since I am doing ad hoc leveling, it wont be a problem to control that.

    When designing this situation I decided to make a list of enemy assets and hero assets, along with the POTENTIAL assets the players can attain.

    The first thing I did was make up the leader of the enemy forces. To this end, I realized that I needed something big, bad, and rough that was a fair CR for the party. I eventually decided on a Cyclops (CR 5) with a level of Barbarian (Making it CR 6). Players are likely expecting something like an Ogre, so a cyclops will be a nasty surprise.

    In addition, making the whole situation WORSE, is the fact that once the cyclops takes lethal damage, it will set of a contingency spell that will erupt in negative energy and cause the dead cyclops to rise as a Zombie Cyclops. This is because the cyclops is under the control of a bigger, BADDER evil guy that is involved in both the monk AND paladin's backstory.

    In addition to the leader, there are 3 golinoid mercenaries. A Goblin cleric, level 3, riding a worg, a Hobgoblin Ranger level 3 with favored enemy Humans, And a Bugbear with a level of Fighter.

    These are the lieutenants who will cause problems and be part of the initial and mid-way attacks since the leader won't arrive until the day before the final battle.

    The bulk of the forces are a bunch of orc warriors, (about 20) but there will actually be an orc Bard (level 1) who hammers war drums.

    There will also be a half dozen kobolds who are going to try to sneak in during the night and murder some people and sabotage defenses, and they will be lead by a level 2 kobold sorcerer.

    Quite a list of problems wouldn't you say?

    As for the Allies, there will be a level 3 Fighter who is the sheriff, a level 2 deputy and 5 or 6 level 1 commoners who are not even proficient with their weapons yet, and a couple level 1 commoners who are teenagers (-2 on attacks)

    There is also a gnome level 4 expert, but he can assist by using telescopes and knowledges, he wont be too valuable in battle as he isn't even a spellcaster. He'll help the players track down the enemy camp where they will get to see the 40-ish enemies milling about.

    ...Yikes huh?

    Making it even worse, most of them don't have armor, and even then it's padded armor, and poor weaponry.

    That is where the POTENTIAL assets come in.

    For one, the Sheriff is sort of hiding his daughter...who happens to be a level 4 fighter with a Composite Longbow specialization. He wants to keep her safe and does not believe (or care) that she is needed for the battle. The PCs will have to help the Sheriff come to terms with the idea of allowing her to go into battle.

    In addition, the PCs will have the option of looking into an abandoned fort that is not too far from the area, but it has some nasty visitors that need to be cleared out.

    During the preparation, the players will also end up hearing a large eruption near the town, it will turn out to be a fireball If they investigate, they will find out that a couple of kids managed to find an old wand that a merchant left. The wand is a wand of fireballs with 3 charges left (after that initial blast). It turns out one of the kids is a young sorcerer and didn't know about i until now, so the PCs will have to deal with explaining what happened to the kid and their parents.

    Another potential asset is there is a rather savage hunter out there, who is no ally but the PCs can try to convince him to join them. Thing is, he's evil, and rather sadistic. He'll ask for the PCs to allow him to take trophies AND ask to be paid, unless they name drop the name of the Hobgoblin Ranger. The guy will have a personal vendetta against the Hobgoblin and will join up just for the chance to kill him. I'm going to make him a barbarian most likely.

    Finally, a small druid enclave has 3 level 2 druids who could be convinced to help. They are under the command of a dryad, who cannot wander far enough to join the battle. The PCs can either make a diplomacy check to convince them that the orc army will cause more damage then the humans, or they can mention the friendly forest spirit they encountered on the last adventure where they saved a Unicorn for said forest spirit. (The PCs still don't know that the person is a forest spirit, I rather love the character.)

    Speaking of, the players will also be given a token that summons the Unicorn to assist them, but they can only do that ONCE. This is the result of the adventure they just had, I still need to finish wrapping that up.

    I plan on having only a few be there the first time where the Hobgoblin and a few orcs, where they leave almost immediately, but a second attack comes with a more substantial force but not a full force. After that they will wait until their boss arrives, and I intend to make that appearance as dramatic as all hell.

    The players would do well to prioritize targets during the initial attack.

    Aside from all of that, I intend to let the players figure out some of their own strategies.

    I'll also have then encounter a few random encounters here and there for some loot.

    That's my plan so far at least. You got any thoughts?

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    Eldritch Horror in the Playground Moderator
     
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    Default Re: Help a DM plan for a Magnificent Seven style adventure

    Did you clear the air OOC and tell them what the expectations are this time, to avoid a repeat of the first time you did this?

    Also, you've still got a single clue to each of the potential aid sources. Build in at least one 'secondary' lead to all of them in case the PCs miss the first one, which it seems likely they will.
    Last edited by The Glyphstone; 2016-11-11 at 01:30 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel, on quest rewards View Post
    "Is a stack of ten pancakes too many pancakes to give to the party, even if most of them fell on the floor and one or two were stepped on? I wanted to give my party pancakes as a reward but I'm unsure if it's too much. The pancakes are also laced with blowfish poison so the party would have to get an antitoxin before they could eat the ones which weren't pulverized by shoes."

    I don't think anyone would want those pancakes even if you paid them to eat them.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Help a DM plan for a Magnificent Seven style adventure

    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Did you clear the air OOC and tell them what the expectations are this time, to avoid a repeat of the first time you did this?

    Also, you've still got a single clue to each of the potential aid sources. Build in at least one 'secondary' lead to all of them in case the PCs miss the first one, which it seems likely they will.
    I guess? Last time the players were wanting to be the Magnificent Seven, and so I told them that next time I would let them do exactly that, so I hope we are on the same page.

    I actually don't really have any clues to anyone, I just kind of put NPCs around and am trying to let the PCs come up with ways to find or recruit them (and say yes to everything). One of the things I was hoping for from this thread was ideas on how to make idiot proof hooks that don't seem like railroading.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stealth Marmot View Post
    Lots o' stuff
    Seems pretty good at first look. Only problem I see is that there are a lot of failure points for the PCs getting help. In my experience never expect PCs to remember previous games; if you make a huge deal out of giving them a BIGASS ARROW OF DRAGON SLAYING(TM) one session, and then the next fight put them up against an "impossible" dragon encounter they will not put two and two together, they will simply complain that you are a killer DM or a railroader after the fact.

    Also, what are you planning on doing for the terrain and layout? How much detail are you going into about mapping the area and how much control will the PCs have over where the fight will occur?
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Help a DM plan for a Magnificent Seven style adventure

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I guess? Last time the players were wanting to be the Magnificent Seven, and so I told them that next time I would let them do exactly that, so I hope we are on the same page.

    I actually don't really have any clues to anyone, I just kind of put NPCs around and am trying to let the PCs come up with ways to find or recruit them (and say yes to everything). One of the things I was hoping for from this thread was ideas on how to make idiot proof hooks that don't seem like railroading.



    Seems pretty good at first look. Only problem I see is that there are a lot of failure points for the PCs getting help. In my experience never expect PCs to remember previous games; if you make a huge deal out of giving them a BIGASS ARROW OF DRAGON SLAYING(TM) one session, and then the next fight put them up against an "impossible" dragon encounter they will not put two and two together, they will simply complain that you are a killer DM or a railroader after the fact.

    Also, what are you planning on doing for the terrain and layout? How much detail are you going into about mapping the area and how much control will the PCs have over where the fight will occur?
    The Unicorn isn't ESSENTIAL to winning the battle, merely useful. There are a lot of factors. If they forget about the token that they will receive to summon it or decide not to use it yet, that's on them.

    I plan on putting a LOT of detail into the layout of the town. It won't be a HUGE town, but big enough and I plan on making sure there is lots of options for changing the terrain to suit them. I want to make it memorable and the final battle will, hopefully, be a LONG all day event.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Help a DM plan for a Magnificent Seven style adventure

    Quote Originally Posted by Stealth Marmot View Post
    The Unicorn isn't ESSENTIAL to winning the battle, merely useful. There are a lot of factors. If they forget about the token that they will receive to summon it or decide not to use it yet, that's on them.

    I plan on putting a LOT of detail into the layout of the town. It won't be a HUGE town, but big enough and I plan on making sure there is lots of options for changing the terrain to suit them. I want to make it memorable and the final battle will, hopefully, be a LONG all day event.
    Yeah, not essential, just saying that in my experience planning out a "if the PC's do this" bit never pans out.


    One of the problems I am having is that the town is too large to fit on a single battle mat and I really don't want to have to run multiple scenes at once, so I would like to keep in confined to a relatively small area. The problem is I have no idea where that might be, and it might not even be in the town at all.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Help a DM plan for a Magnificent Seven style adventure

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Yeah, not essential, just saying that in my experience planning out a "if the PC's do this" bit never pans out.


    One of the problems I am having is that the town is too large to fit on a single battle mat and I really don't want to have to run multiple scenes at once, so I would like to keep in confined to a relatively small area. The problem is I have no idea where that might be, and it might not even be in the town at all.
    Shrinking the size of the town could help. Only have it be a dozen houses or so.

    Alternatively, watching Seven Samurai inspired me on this one, you can have multiple "Scenes" ready and have the army attack on different fronts at different times, so the players have to run across the town to the other side immediately after one battle is done so you change that by simply wiping the mat and redrawing it for when they arrive. This makes the battle last longer in game and feel more of an endurance test, which is a good thing. It also gives players with quick land speeds reason to feel good about it.

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