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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    So, since I don't like to play vs. players as a DM, I sometimes like to ask here regarding some NPC reactions. Also, playground ideas are often really cool and I hope, you guys get me out of a conundrum this time too. Here is a story:

    NPC is a semi-powerful Cultist of the Dragon, has access to hundreds of troops and well, basically, anything a lesser Cult Boss would have access to. He also managed to get under him a Drow warrior, a rather competent luitenant, who is controlled by mentioned Cultist via extortion. Drow is currently, per orders of the Cultist Mini Boss, clearing a small dungeon in a hevily forested area. The plan here is to re-ignite an ancient magical forge in a dungeon in order to churn out a bunch of magical weapons for Draconic cause.

    Plan is going along well, but then first reports come in of some of Drow's troops in a forest being eradicated and chased away. Initially, Drow had his own Dungeon Clearing team (him, a few bugbears and a shapeshifter) plus under his semi-command, three small bugbear/goblin tribes(they were kind of under his command, but they mainly did some looting and general mischeif on their own). Reports come throught the Drow to our Cultist Mini Boss, that several of these goblin tribes/bandits/raiders have been destroyed by a group of adventurers.

    Also, Drow reports, that with such events taking place, mentioned party may pop up upon his doorstep one day and he may not be able to stop them, if they do.

    What would be Cultist's reaction?

    thanks

    I'll provide any adittional info, if needed.

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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    Depends on a few factors.

    Mostly, how important is the Drow and his current mission to the cult leader? If the drow is important but his task is not, then he may pull his minion out of the area. Likewise if secrecy is a priority. If the mission is high priority but the drow is not then force him to press on, possibly with reinforcements. It really all depends on risk vs reward for the cult leader.

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    BardGuy

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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    The miniboss has an incoming enemy he's not sure he can beat.

    He needs to decide (based on his priorities and on his relationship with his boss):
    * Can I kick this upstairs to someone who can deal with it?
    * Can I walk away, taking as many resources with me as possible?
    Am I walking away from this mission or the organisation as a whole?
    * Can I gather as much of my power as possible and attack the party?
    Am I looking for an ambush or to wear them down with harassment?
    Do I have indirect methods to attack (family, supporting merchants etc. If I burn down the inn, will they be stuck without food? Is poison in the horsefeed going to force them to head out of the area? Should I buy every horse in town first?

    The most mysterious (and probably frustrating for players) is that they walk away from the whole thing. All the PCs find is where the boss ran away from. It's very realistic and has lots of surprise value plus the chance to find that miniboss much later

    The most conventional narrative will be the miniboss isn't free to walk away. So that means he's going to have to actively respond to the PCs. He may want to gather his posse and just go out hunting, but a more sophisticated response is to try to gather info. If you have a drow working for you, you better be at least this sophisticated!
    Then it's a matter of how much info can the miniboss get and what's his best plan of attack
    I love playing in a party with a couple of power-gamers, it frees me up to be Elan!


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    FabulousFizban's Avatar

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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    is he sane or insane?

    If sane, run him like a megachurch pastor.
    If insane, run him like Raul Julia in Street Fighter.
    May I borrow some bat guano?

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    WhiteWizardGirl

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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    Extorting a Drow lieutenant into working for you is NOT a long term strategy. The Cult Boss should be focusing on extracting as much value as possible while minimizing his ability to enact a dangerous betrayal. That means if a chance comes up to burn the Drow as an asset while still gaining some advantage from it, the Cult Boss should be happy to take it. In this case, that means getting him killed by these adventurers.

    The Drow, on the other hand, should be looking for a way to get out of the extortion. I'd suggest giving the shapeshifter (in the guise of a mystic smith searching for the forge) to the goblins as a prisoner and then arrange for the adventurers to defeat that particular goblin cell and 'rescue' your shapeshifter. Who then leads them into the dungeon to their death and/or to the forge which then gets re-ignited using instructions from the 'smith'.

  6. - Top - End - #6
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    Allrighty. First of all: Thanks for input. Now to my answers.

    @redwizard007
    It is a sort of "high reward" mission. If Drow has the forge running, production of magical weapons will benefit the cult immensely. At the same time - Cult leader CAN afford tossing some reinforcements Drow's way.

    @Duff
    * Can I kick this upstairs to someone who can deal with it?
    Not really, Miniboss is on his own, but he has the tools, to pull this off.
    * Can I walk away, taking as many resources with me as possible?
    No. All resources are tied to dungeon forge being operational.
    Am I walking away from this mission or the organisation as a whole?
    Hell no. He's doing good, he's greedy for power and is already in the last stage of preparing a massive region-wide attack upon a number of smalled settlements.
    * Can I gather as much of my power as possible and attack the party?
    Well ... yes? Most of his forces are tied to "sacking the region" plan, but "gathering as much power as possible" is always an option. Once he deduct's the people, he will use in his attack upon the region, the rest can be used vs. these meddling adventurers.
    Am I looking for an ambush or to wear them down with harassment?
    I'd leave this to helpful playground to decide.
    Do I have indirect methods to attack (family, supporting merchants etc. If I burn down the inn, will they be stuck without food? Is poison in the horsefeed going to force them to head out of the area? Should I buy every horse in town first?
    Hmmm. Now THIS is a nice thought. Sending a single man to a town, they operate from, to poison a well. It is a question, if adventurers would actually be dealing with this problem, instead of something else.

    The most mysterious (and probably frustrating for players) is that they walk away from the whole thing. All the PCs find is where the boss ran away from. It's very realistic and has lots of surprise value plus the chance to find that miniboss much later
    Good point and always an option, but in this case, I'd say Miniboss wants forge operational.

    a more sophisticated response is to try to gather info.
    This is A GREAT idea! Drow has a shapeshifter at his side. He could use the shapeshifter to scout the opponents in town.

    @FabulousFizban
    Well, he believes a firm draconic leadership, under divine lordship of her grace Mother Tiamat, will bring prosperity to Aber-Toril and many other worlds. Insane, I guess. Insane, but highly intelligent and wise.

    @Grek
    Extorting a Drow lieutenant into working for you is NOT a long term strategy. The Cult Boss should be focusing on extracting as much value as possible while minimizing his ability to enact a dangerous betrayal. That means if a chance comes up to burn the Drow as an asset while still gaining some advantage from it, the Cult Boss should be happy to take it. In this case, that means getting him killed by these adventurers.
    Let me explain a bit more on this. Drow was a Drow family luitenant and had fled Underdark. Miniboss integrated him into his network of Cult of the Dragon cells and has thus offered him some sort of sanctuary. BUT! If Drow gets uppity, Miniboss releases him into the world, which is a probable death sentence for a Dark Elf.

    I'd suggest giving the shapeshifter (in the guise of a mystic smith searching for the forge) to the goblins as a prisoner and then arrange for the adventurers to defeat that particular goblin cell and 'rescue' your shapeshifter. Who then leads them into the dungeon to their death and/or to the forge which then gets re-ignited using instructions from the 'smith'.
    THIS IS GENIOUS. Any ideas on how to set up the trap? We have a dungeon and we can stuff it with opponents, traps, whatever. I'd love the general concepts, I'll work on details by myself.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    Quote Originally Posted by Pinjata View Post


    THIS IS GENIOUS. Any ideas on how to set up the trap? We have a dungeon and we can stuff it with opponents, traps, whatever. I'd love the general concepts, I'll work on details by myself.
    It's a way cool idea, sure - but it's very high risk for the Cultist. Depending on how reckless vs wise the Cultist is, they might not go for it. If you can do this sort of thing without breaking the character of the Cultist, then I'd say go for it.

    Getting the adventurer's right up to your target goal, even if they're being tricked, could have unexpected results.
    Be prepared for the party to figure out what's going on, e.g.:
    • seeing through the shapeshifter's disguise somehow (work out what skill checks and DCs are needed, what magical detection abilities your party have, etc.)
    • figuring out what the dungeon / forge is for themselves (skill checks and DCs again)
    • work out how the bad guys will react to being discovered (will the shapeshifter be able to call on allies, or are they on their own?)


    That isn't to say "The PCs will figure it out" or to say "Let the PCs figure it out" - what I mean is that there should be a chance that they can figure it out, and you need to be ready for that.

  8. - Top - End - #8
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    Quote Originally Posted by Altair_the_Vexed View Post
    It's a way cool idea, sure - but it's very high risk for the Cultist. Depending on how reckless vs wise the Cultist is, they might not go for it. If you can do this sort of thing without breaking the character of the Cultist, then I'd say go for it.

    Getting the adventurer's right up to your target goal, even if they're being tricked, could have unexpected results.
    Be prepared for the party to figure out what's going on, e.g.:
    • seeing through the shapeshifter's disguise somehow (work out what skill checks and DCs are needed, what magical detection abilities your party have, etc.)
    • figuring out what the dungeon / forge is for themselves (skill checks and DCs again)
    • work out how the bad guys will react to being discovered (will the shapeshifter be able to call on allies, or are they on their own?)


    That isn't to say "The PCs will figure it out" or to say "Let the PCs figure it out" - what I mean is that there should be a chance that they can figure it out, and you need to be ready for that.
    Splendid input. But I'm realy thinking HOW would the trap be set. What is a good conceptual trap in a dungeon? Something, that traps the party and kills it, not just a hole in the ground, that causes them 2d6 damage :D

    As far as I go, trap can mean anything, including something like this. :D
    Last edited by Pinjata; 2019-12-03 at 07:35 AM.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    Quote Originally Posted by Pinjata View Post
    Splendid input. But I'm realy thinking HOW would the trap be set. What is a good conceptual trap in a dungeon? Something, that traps the party and kills it, not just a hole in the ground, that causes them 2d6 damage :D

    As far as I go, trap can mean anything, including something like this. :D
    Have a +1 British bonus for use of may favourite word "Splendid"!

    I'd say make the trap be a feature of the forge: the forge doesn't only run on fire, it uses all the elemental forces, with a giant machine that harnesses those forces through complex mechanical (and symbolic) means.

    For example, the magical force of water is gathered by opening a vast sluice-gate at the bottom of the lake that sits on the side of the mountain.
    The force of fire comes from the deep underground lava chamber, via a magma pump.
    The force of air is captured by huge wind turbines, and cranks and drives to power the bellows.
    And huge counterweight pendulums (pendulae? pendula?) give you the force of earth.

    Each one of these must be started up, and they each are hazardous as hell!

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    Is it plausible for the cultist to recruit the PC's? Let them do the dungeon and start the forge at the prompting of the shapeshifter, then show up with an impressive ambush of dudes and offer the PC's a job or death. This can be done badly of course, but if they have real options (a chance to win the fight) it could be fun and in character.
    Alternately, just set an ambush for after they restart the forge and forget recruitment. If the forge needs a kick-start from spell slots or blood or whatever even better.

  11. - Top - End - #11
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    GnomePirate

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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    You've got a really nasty counterparty already established and in place. Bugbears would love the chance to sneak attack, and the shapeshifter is great for misdirection. The most diabolical, and most finicky, would be to dig and set up a series of trapdoors. All but one drops the party 2 floors, into a lake or something equally inconvenient but harmless. The other drops the lone party member into a room with the bugbears and the drow.

    Now the shapeshifter has to know this is coming, and shift into the missing party member when he hits the lake. Ideally, at some point before this he's loudly declared he can't swim while being the victim. Your cult now has a prisoner, and can hit the rest of the party as they climb up from the lake room.

    Be prepared to offer a hefty bribe for the player of the bushwhacked character to continue role-playing as if nothing is wrong. And call in at least 2 others individually immediately after the trap to describe some cool details of their plunge into the lake- maybe one finds a skeleton, feels a snake move past their leg, or grasps a swordhilt which breaks off in their hand.

    I would expect this to be the only trap- Drow arrogance, and bugbear laziness demand that if it works it should be ended quickly.

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    WhiteWizardGirl

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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    Quote Originally Posted by Pinjata View Post
    THIS IS GENIOUS. Any ideas on how to set up the trap? We have a dungeon and we can stuff it with opponents, traps, whatever. I'd love the general concepts, I'll work on details by myself.
    Depends on what's in the dungeon. I assume the Drow's clearing team has at least a rough idea of what's inside, so lead the Adventurers toward whatever seems like the most dangerous threat, but with actively unhelpful 'advice' drawn from legends about the forge.

    Say there's supposed to be a Basilisk inside the dungeon. The sneaky option would be to say that there's probably goblin ambushers inside (and the Drow can set some up to sell the illusion), so everyone should bring bright lights and keep their eyes peeled for danger. Or say that the forge is guarded by fire elementals. In that case, you'd want to claim that the forge uses powerful magnetic fields as part of its operation, and that metal weapons and armour will be useless deeper in - bring wood stuff instead.
    Last edited by Grek; 2019-12-03 at 01:43 PM.

  13. - Top - End - #13
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    Even with tools, they have at the moment, this are some neat ideas. Shapeshifter luring them in, exposing them to combat, draining their powers and then have Drow and others attack them, when they are drained of resources. Nice.

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    BardGuy

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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    Quote Originally Posted by Grek View Post
    Depends on what's in the dungeon. I assume the Drow's clearing team has at least a rough idea of what's inside, so lead the Adventurers toward whatever seems like the most dangerous threat, but with actively unhelpful 'advice' drawn from legends about the forge.

    Say there's supposed to be a Basilisk inside the dungeon. The sneaky option would be to say that there's probably goblin ambushers inside (and the Drow can set some up to sell the illusion), so everyone should bring bright lights and keep their eyes peeled for danger. Or say that the forge is guarded by fire elementals. In that case, you'd want to claim that the forge uses powerful magnetic fields as part of its operation, and that metal weapons and armour will be useless deeper in - bring wood stuff instead.
    Or tell them that "Bree Yark" is the local goblin dialect for "We surrender"
    I love playing in a party with a couple of power-gamers, it frees me up to be Elan!


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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    If the boss is competent, i would apply the evil overlord list:
    If my weakest troops fail to eliminate a hero, I will send out my best troops instead of wasting time with progressively stronger ones as he gets closer and closer to my fortress.
    seriously, there are two reasonable solutions to this pc problem. if they can take a lot of your mooks, then you have to take them seriously. you either do your best to kill them - because anything short of your best won't suffice and will just drain your resources - or you bolt.
    do notice that "your best" does not necessarily entail a straight fight. perhaps you can try to poison their food. perhaps you can pull some political strings to make their life harder. perhaps, if your objectives are possibly compatible, you may even try to bargain with the pcs. but you certainly can't just send a few more minions their way.

    another interesting option i just realized is to try to sway the pcs with some sidequest. spread voices of an unrelated dungeon. have your mooks commit mysterious crimes and hope that the pcs will spend time investigating them. leave clues that may point them in another direction - possibly at one of your rival.
    all different possibilities depending on the resources of the cultist
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

    Ridiculous monsters you won't take seriously even as they disembowel you

    my take on the highly skilled professional: the specialized expert

  16. - Top - End - #16
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    If the boss is competent, i would apply the evil overlord list:

    seriously, there are two reasonable solutions to this pc problem. if they can take a lot of your mooks, then you have to take them seriously. you either do your best to kill them - because anything short of your best won't suffice and will just drain your resources - or you bolt.
    do notice that "your best" does not necessarily entail a straight fight. perhaps you can try to poison their food. perhaps you can pull some political strings to make their life harder. perhaps, if your objectives are possibly compatible, you may even try to bargain with the pcs. but you certainly can't just send a few more minions their way.
    Great resoning. Say, you go along "sending a kill team after them". YOur info is, they managed to handle several groups of goblins (about a dozen goblins per group) in separate fights and two groups of hobgoblins/goblins (a bit stronger then first ones). What would you send?

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    Quote Originally Posted by Pinjata View Post
    Great resoning. Say, you go along "sending a kill team after them". YOur info is, they managed to handle several groups of goblins (about a dozen goblins per group) in separate fights and two groups of hobgoblins/goblins (a bit stronger then first ones). What would you send?
    Do I have any witnesses to those fights? If I have, and I can estimate the ease with which they killed my troops, then I can estimate who I need to send to finish them off.
    That is - I may want to send my best troops, but really I want my top best guys here, looking after me. Instead, I want to send troops that can comfortably do the job, but without exposing myself.

    In game terms, if I can estimate that the party must be about 4th level, then I send my squad of 8th level troops to wipe them out. I keep my 12th level guys here with me.
    You can substitute any numbers you feel like for the levels - but the team I send to kill the party is going to be about 2x my estimate of the power of the party, leaving me with the close protection of guys who are 3x that level.

  18. - Top - End - #18
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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    Quote Originally Posted by Pinjata View Post
    Great resoning. Say, you go along "sending a kill team after them". YOur info is, they managed to handle several groups of goblins (about a dozen goblins per group) in separate fights and two groups of hobgoblins/goblins (a bit stronger then first ones). What would you send?
    as the overlord manual says: your best troops.
    assuming that the boss can't just overwhelm the pcs, then if i were him i'd send everything. i'd even go myself, unless i was the white collar kind of boss.

    of course you don't want that, as it would end the story arc immediately. it's then up to you to find some plausible reason for him not to. perhaps his best minions are busy with something really important, and he's on a time run, and so he's sacrificing some more weak minions with the intent to just stall the heroes for a few more days. perhaps he got wrong intel, and he was told that the goblin bands bickered and killed each other.
    but if he knows that those people have superpowers (what the world would call "being high level") and they were after him, and he tried to send a kill squad, then it would make the most sense to send his very best.
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

    Ridiculous monsters you won't take seriously even as they disembowel you

    my take on the highly skilled professional: the specialized expert

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    If you know your tropes, surely the most effective way to distract a party is to have a trusted lackey, e.g. the shapeshifter, pose as a mysterious questgiver who gets them to run off on some other adventure a long way away... but that would likely derail the whole campaign.

    More seriously, come up with a series of scenes you think might be fun to throw together (shapeshifter distraction gambit / showdown with the Drow agent at the forge / showdown with the cult boss at his base), and have sufficient clues at each to hopefully get the players to the next.

  20. - Top - End - #20
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    Default Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    Quote Originally Posted by Pinjata View Post
    So, since I don't like to play vs. players as a DM, I sometimes like to ask here regarding some NPC reactions. Also, playground ideas are often really cool and I hope, you guys get me out of a conundrum this time too. Here is a story:

    NPC is a semi-powerful Cultist of the Dragon, has access to hundreds of troops and well, basically, anything a lesser Cult Boss would have access to. He also managed to get under him a Drow warrior, a rather competent luitenant, who is controlled by mentioned Cultist via extortion. Drow is currently, per orders of the Cultist Mini Boss, clearing a small dungeon in a hevily forested area. The plan here is to re-ignite an ancient magical forge in a dungeon in order to churn out a bunch of magical weapons for Draconic cause.

    Plan is going along well, but then first reports come in of some of Drow's troops in a forest being eradicated and chased away. Initially, Drow had his own Dungeon Clearing team (him, a few bugbears and a shapeshifter) plus under his semi-command, three small bugbear/goblin tribes(they were kind of under his command, but they mainly did some looting and general mischeif on their own). Reports come throught the Drow to our Cultist Mini Boss, that several of these goblin tribes/bandits/raiders have been destroyed by a group of adventurers.

    Also, Drow reports, that with such events taking place, mentioned party may pop up upon his doorstep one day and he may not be able to stop them, if they do.

    What would be Cultist's reaction?

    thanks

    I'll provide any adittional info, if needed.
    Easy. Pull out except for a token force, have the adventurers clear the dungeon for you, then either bushwack them when they come out or just move in after they have left.
    Thanks for Zefir for the custom avatar.

  21. - Top - End - #21
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    RedKnightGirl

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    d6 Re: Figuring out how an NPC Cultist Boss would act

    If a male drow. He has no allies. Women run the show down there.

    If he has found the forge then return later.

    Find some spiders to pull the adventurers in a different direction. Poison is your friend.

    Evil does not abide failure even in small things have petition for more power. Attack the town take zero level prisoners (sacrifice). He gets a wizard of 2 levels lower then he is.
    9 wisdom true neutral cleric you know you want me in your adventuring party


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