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?