Campaign Notes: Traps in the Trees 7.22.10

   Posted by: Blackbird   in Wardlands

After wrapping up a couple of details in town the freshly outfitted party tracks the thieves to their meeting place.  What they find there nearly ruins them all.

Here’s an audio log of the night:  http://www.blackbirddreams.com/recordings/7.22.2010.mp3

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 at 8:16 pm and is filed under Wardlands. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 comments so far


I thought I’d post a couple of comments from our email discussion:

From John (Jamalamin)

The signs and indicators that you gave that this was an ambush were totally clear. I thought about having Jamlamin climb a tree since they were meant for climbing, perhaps to get a better view of the situation. But he is lvl 1 and is lower on intelligence, so I decided to play him brave. I wonder what he might have seen if he climbed up a tree, and would that have changed the encounter? Or was this designed to be an inevitable ambush? I feel like it came really close to a TPK, but maybe that’s also the way it was meant to work out. It was really exciting and had me on the edge of my seat. I wondered if we were going to make it out alive and am surprised that we did, but I know you were rolling openly.

I’m just trying to get a feel for if this was a complete blunder from the party and went particularly bad and we just lucked out in our rolls to survive, or if this was all designed? If it’s the latter, I wonder if it’s a little much? I would wonder if in a way you were lucky on your rolls and didn’t wipe out the party, and I would also wonder about a less skilled GM. It just felt really close to a TPK. Maybe stronger hints or another hook / path to avoid the ambush might help in that case?

In any case, I had a great time and look forward to the escape with our prisoner.

August 5th, 2010 at 5:37 pm

From Eric (DM):

Apologies in advance for the inbound wall of text, I’m glad people are enjoying the game and I thought I’d give you a look into how that encounter was prepared.

I created the fight as a “CR 5 Very Difficult” fight for a CR 1.5 party (6 characters makes for an extra half a CR). I do think that if we had all six people at the table that things would have been a tad easier on you guys as it’s a bit hard for me plan both the attack of the NPCs I’m controlling and the appropriate response for those who aren’t here. I don’t have Nick’s character sheet and I think we’re going to retire Rystime since Nick hasn’t made it to any of the sessions other than the first one. Ideally I’d like to have those at the table try to run an extra guy if someone’s absent so the party still has it’s full stopping power.

I had planned for the ambush to be somewhat obvious, the thief that the party got directions from made it somewhat clear that those who they were supposed to meet were more powerful and/or expecting them or would lay an ambush if things went awry. So I was somewhat expecting for the PCs to try and climb trees / probe defenses / or investigate the boarders of the clearing.

The thieves aren’t stupid though especially their leader so he placed 2 thieves near the road to create a bird call signal with the signal arrow so that the thieves would have enough time to “set up” before the PCs got to the clearing. Given enough time they could have hide checks requiring a DC 26-32 in order to spot them. My intention was that if the PCs started climbing trees that I’d have the tree that they climbed (unless it was really small) be a tree with a hidden thief archer in it. Who would wait until the trap was sprung or the cleric was discovered and then try and sneak up on the PC in the trees. If the PC chose a thin tree on purpose I would have waited until the trap was sprung then had the 2 signal thieves come up and try to hurriedly chop the tree down with axes to inflict falling damage.

If the party had split up and searched the boarder of the clearing or the clearing itself someone would have blundered into the caltrops (which I used the DMs discretion to remove when nearly the whole party was caught up in the trap) which would have caused the cleric to try and darkness / silence as many of those as he could. With the party spread out that would have created different difficulties but also made it harder for the cleric to bring is AoE attack against the party as a whole.

The main part of the trap was what the party walked into. The party did well in bringing the wagon up which did provide effective cover from the archers in the trees but with the whole party grouped together nearly all of you got caught in the flash trap and the subsequent AoE attacks from the cleric. I scarified one of the cleric’s feats to give him a feat which allowed him to channel energy at a medium distance rather than in a 30 radius around him, which may have been too powerful of a boon.

Bale as the fighter laid out a large amount of hurt, Rystime correctly identified the silence spell with a successful spellcraft but with silence spell running he had a 50% chance of failure to cast light which would have undone the effect. He (I) just rolled badly there. Abdul was successful in keeping the party aloft with healing and seems to be the main buoy which the party keeps clinging to which is the correct role for the cleric to have.

I think things could have gone a bit different and they may have been a bit easier had the party broken up into 3 groups of 2 provided that Abdul didn’t get dropped. If the party were a little more spread out or more cautious they may have expended fewer resources. Also had the group succumbed to the assault by the cleric he wouldn’t have just burnt the life out of you without at least figuring out who you are. If 3/4s of the party had been disabled my plans were for the cleric to have done his best to capture the rest of the party or demand their surrender. If so you would have woken up in a different place than you are now.

I’m trying to see if I can write encounters so that there’s less of a “right” way for the encounter to run but more of just a set of results. If the party had not saved the book from the thieves there would have been a frantic chase scene as Barah would have given them a coin purse and requested/demanded that they get their asses to the livery and grab any horse available and set off in pursuit. Instead of arriving refreshed and outfitted with gold and new armor you would have come to the clearing exhausting after a harrowing night on the road.

The woodsman could have been a tense encounter at night with reduced vision but then again 2 of the PCs are dwarfs too which could have helped there, but instead the party found him in daylight and it was far less of a big deal.

Had the party chased the thieves down at night to where the clearing was they would have caught them sleeping/unprepared but the book would have been handed off to the cleric who would not have been there. Instead, the party arrived fully refreshed with all its spells, armor and fresh equipment and went toe to toe with a very difficult foe and have succeeded. Even if the party had failed the story would have continued there just would be a different result than there is currently.

It takes a bit to write these this way but it’s how I prefer for my games to run. Players seem to love to throw wrenches into plans though so it’s nice to not have any plans that can be “ruined.”

2 campaigns ago I had a scene where the players were delivering a sword as homage to a being calling itself “The Storm God” which was a disguised Blue Dragon. Drake being a generally areligious person thought he’d have a swing at the deity who took the assault as a form of heresy and picked him up and let him meet back up with the ground after a 10,000′ free fall. It resulted in character death but it seems appropriate massive changes which resulted in the plot. The original plan was for the “big bad” of the campaign to be a fallen paladin that the PCs had met earlier who gains power through an ancient crown. The dragon was supposed to be killed by the paladin later on when he steals the sword back as a sign than the paladin is the big bad threat. Instead the fallen paladin became an ally and the dragon became the one of the big bads.

I’m glad people are enjoying the game it’s been a lot of fun and I think the encounters I’ve created for this game are tighter and offer more challenge and atmosphere than in some of my previous games.

Thanks a lot for the feedback, I hope you find the insight into the encounter creation process somewhat useful!

August 5th, 2010 at 5:37 pm

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