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Author Topic: DM requires help - How to deal with Cliffhanger?  (Read 828 times)

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Offline Scud.NZ

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DM requires help - How to deal with Cliffhanger?
« on: March 05, 2009, 03:45:53 AM »
Here's my problem, hopefully someone can come up with a few thoughts about it.

In trying to come up with a situation in our campaign that would be a real combat challenge for my players I miscalculated and overdid the difficulty. This, combined with the fact that we stopped the combat in the middle as it was getting late and restarted the following week with fewer players as two of the six had work commitments resulted in four of the six players being reduced to zero hit points, the other two escaping by the skin of their stealthy teeth.

I twisted what occurred and made the decision that the characters were not dead, merely captured. The bad guys are a pack of wererats who are being led by a Changeling/Doppleganger. They had encountered this creature and its partner before. They killed the partner, and this female Changeling escaped. Some number of months later the party and Changeling have crossed paths again. The intention is that this Changeling has become a nemesis for the party and, ideally, will torment them again in the future. My rationale for capturing the characters it that this is the sort of thing a cool nemesis would do. She would use them as bait for the others. Think Catwoman capturing Robin. Batman always rushes to the rescue and ends up in some death trap himself. She doesn't kill Robin and let Batman find his corpse (Ha- the Joker does that!) It makes for a more exciting story.

The four who have captured characters have rolled up new characters. The two who escaped made the decision that they would try to follow what leads were available and wait for the Changeling to make the ransom demand she had said, in a note, would be made.

So she made an outrageous ransom demand giving the PC's instructions to be at a specific location in 3 days time, and the surviving PC's called on their resources and allies [including the new PC's], and the rescue mission is on. The chest that is being carried by some low level lackeys is in fact full of a powdered herb that will go “poof!” when the chest is opened, and is an irritant to lycanthropes,  and doesn't have the money in it.

They reach the cliffside location they have been instructed to go to, and discover a message left for them in a cave mouth “GO IN”.

Yes, I know it's a trap, you know it's a trap, they know its a trap.

They go in, and find that they have been asked to go into a cave complex, lots of little side tunnels and they have no clue which way to go. So adopting the policy of just following the biggest tunnel available they head deeper into the caves, until they come across the first trap, a hidden pit. No-one falls in (my attack roll was a 1). The bad guys have trapped the caves in the hope that one or two of their opponents will be injured or killed. No real surprises there.

Now the party won't play ball. They shout down the tunnels (the wereats are in hides outside not inside the caves.- What idiots would let themselves get trapped inside some caves...oh yeah, the PC's) saying that they had better come out to get the money. They start to head back outside. I stop the session there.

I can see what they want to do. They think the cave system is a dangerous environment for them, and they want to try to take control of the situation. They think if the Changeling wants the huge sum of money they supposedly have in the chest they will come outside and fight for it.

They got wiped by the wererats and Changeling last time. Granted the bad guys had a few extra advantages going for them, but my players actually think they are going to deal with this by main force. I want to get them to think outside the box and find some other solution. The bad guys are too powerful combat adversaries. [I don't want to change that – I made them a specific level and should stick with that]

So what on earth do I do?

Do the bad guys come out, stand in a line and accept battle? If that happens I think all the party will die this time. Do I allow this to occur? My conscience is clear if they make this dumb decision even though they know the bad guys are too powerful, but I would feel bad about it.

Do the bad guys do nothing? Technically, they are under a time limit of a couple of hours. The captured PC's have been drugged, mainly to keep the magic user from being a pain, but that drug will wear off in a few hours, leaving the captured characters able to act for themselves, and escape.

What other ways could my PC's deal with this situation?

I wanted the battle to take place inside the cave complex because I figured that it would be an interesting environment and give the PC's a chance to turn the environment to their advantage if they were smart about it, using corners and side tunnels and their own traps against their adversaries. d**n it. The A-Team would build a tank out of the rocks in there!

Anyway, does anybody have any suggestion about how I could continue this cliffhanger next week?
« Last Edit: March 05, 2009, 10:15:20 AM by manfred »

Offline manfred

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Re: DM requires help - How to deal with Cliffhanger?
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2009, 07:47:10 AM »
Just some thoughts of the top of my head...

 - How aggressive are those wererats? It could be simply their preferred tactic is not direct combat, if it can be avoided (may conflict with game history, then ignore it). Don't think wererats would stand in a line anyway.
 - Nobody is perfect. If there is some distraction, like prolonged negotiations, eating other victims, or whatever, they could forget the wizard's drug will run out... offering your PC's a chance for a surprise strike, or, more reasonably, an escape. How about that?
 - They are left to go. Insert whatever is necessary to make it not seem all too easy, some combat or so, then they withdraw, maybe when a few underlings die, or they are attacked from several sides (see the idea before). Turns out there is a younger Changeling masked as one of the PCs, as a personal test to prove his worth and achieve some other goal, get creative.
 - Worst case, you could always have a third party arrive and annihilate the wererats... Okay, that would seem like the GM is letting them come off easily, but maybe the third party is not good news either. Invasion starting? Dragon attack? The lich from the caves awoke with a really bad temper? They can be saved; they don't have to be killed to suffer the consequences of their actions.

---
Fixed typo in title.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2009, 10:16:00 AM by manfred »
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Offline Scud.NZ

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Re: DM requires help - How to deal with Cliffhanger?
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2009, 11:59:23 AM »
The villains definitely are not the direct confrontation type.

The part of the story prior to my initial post goes as follows and may help to explain their way of thinking.

After the PC's had killed the Changelings partner she flew (as a hawk) northwards towards the town of Charlbury (which is also where the PC"s are heading). Some three months have passed and the PC's have escorted a group of pilgrims from Charlbury to a shrine far to the north. On their return they decide to winter in Charlbury whilst some magic items are crafted and then they can strike out for a dungeon site they heard about during their escort mission.

The Changeling meanwhile has become established in Charlbury whilst the PC's were gone. She has been arranging the smuggling of wererats into the town to act as her cronies, and has herself assumed the identity of a young, pregnant, noblewoman, now the widow of a rich landowner (of several villages) after she killed the man.

She spots the PC's in town after their return from the north and crafts a trap for them. She hires several infernal types to summon deamons in one of her villages a few days travel from the town. The idea is that she will hire the PC's and send them off to try to deal with the daemons. They will find themselves hopelessly outclassed and killed by the daemons. A fitting revenge.

Of course, our brave heroes defeat the daemons and return for payment. Something snaps inside the Changeling. These humans have thwarted her plans again. She will see them suffer, and she wants them to know in their last moments who it was who beat them. [Hence the change of attitude from kill them to torment them].

She asks the group if they will escort her to village so that she might see the devastation for herself. They try to disuade her, but she offers them a silly amount of money for what should be an easy task. They accept.

The plan is to poison their food with a sleep draught, and then do terrible things to them. The PC"s are a little too suspicious at the camp site overnight [I've bred a healthy dose of paranoia in them] to accept food from the noblewoman, so when they arrive in the village the next day and escort the Lady around on foot, I have one of the wererats poision their food in the packs on their horses.

When the Changeling suggests that they spend the night in the village the loudest PC objects strongly. I have the Changeling ask the Paladin in the group to have a private conversation so that she might convince him by reason [and without being interupted] to spend the night in the village. Inside the cottage the Changeling dominates the Paladin. He comes out and supports the Changeling. They are going to stay - he is party leader.

The loud PC won't accept this and stays outside the cottage into the dusk, praying loudly for the group and its safety staying in the d**ned village. He knows somethig is up as he reasons that the Paladin wouldn't behave like this.
The other PC's go off to have their posioned dinner. It only affects one of the PC's but when the guy waiting outside the cottage hears about this he goes charging into the cottage with the Paladin, Changeling and one of her wererats.

At this point the fighting which will result in 4 of the 6 being captured, begins.

So that's the full story, and how the Changeling thinks. Any more suggestions on how to resolve the cliffhanger?

Offline Pariah

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Re: DM requires help - How to deal with Cliffhanger?
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2009, 06:01:41 PM »
1.  Hang some of the captured PCs severed fingers, toes, ears, ect. from the cave entrance, not enough to permanently cripple said PCs, but enough to send the message that if they leave the cave the Bad Things will happen to their compatriots.

2.  Harry them as they try to leave, only a little at first, but as they get closer to the cave mouth increase the pressure; if they turn around slack off and let them just walk through the trap laden tunnel again until it's time for the final showdown.
They were immediately and absolutely recognizable as adventurers... They were hardy and dangerous, lawless, stripped of allegiance or morality, living off their wits, stealing and killing, hiring themselves out to whoever and whatever came. They were inspired by dubious virtues.  China Mieville - Perdido Street Station