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Piggybacking on Cuzzo's Success

Piggybacking on Cuzzo's Success – July 13, 2010 4:30 PM (edited 7/13/10 12:30 PM)
Balerion (1224 posts) Elite Powergamer
Rating: Not Rated
So, Mike's been getting some pretty good encounters out of things here, and I have one that I need to plan for Exalted next week that I thought I'd toss out there and see if people had any feedback about.

Basically, my players are in a city that is currently beseiged by undead armies. They're planning next session to take a boat across the north bank of the river and try to punch through the enemy lines to get out of the city to the north (there is a river bordering the north end of the city that the enemy is encamped upon, using siege weapons and flying units to attack any boats trying to get supplies to the city).

So I guess my question is, how do I handle them fighting their way through an army? I know there was a D&D source book a while back that suggested running a battlefield as if it was a dungeon, with a series of encounters, but I'm not sure how to go about doing that.

I'm thinking I probably need an encounter when they storm the beach, one where they're in the thick of the army, one where they're at the other end, and then maybe one where they're being harried by scouts.

In general I have a pretty broad selection of unit types, so if you have ideas it might just be best to refer to enemies as "fliers / siege / melee / miniboss / etc.".

I'm also thinking there will be just a general background hum of zombie extras, so a given "encounter" ends when all of the non-extra units are off the field. I'll also probably let them leave their scene long charms up for all the fights, since it shouldn't take them more than 20 minutes to get through enemy lines, and if it does they're probably screwed.

What do you guys think? What kinds of things would you do to people trying to push their way through an army of the undead?

Also, they'll probably have some mortal followers with them. It's not definite, but it seems likely.

There are also things I could have them stumble upon - the army to the north has the Abyssal who creates undead units, so they could see him working on some big upcoming projects to give them a clue as to upcoming challenges.

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I really think the three “!”s really captures the exuberance that Clair must have been feeling when he almost said it. -Cuzzo
Re: Piggybacking on Cuzzo's Success – July 13, 2010 5:13 PM (edited 7/13/10 1:13 PM)
Cuzzdog (1522 posts) Head of Gamer Corner R&D
Rating: Not Rated
For some reason, I kind of feel obliged to reply to this thread Wink

The layout of your fights seem pretty good, but I would actually consider having the encounters start even sooner. What about having the first fight take place on the boat itself, where the main enemies they're fighting are the fliers that are harassing boats. You could punch that fight up a bit by having siege weapons be taking pot shots at the party the whole time.

Another idea I'm thinking of is to give your party a choice of some encounters they can take, where the success of the encounter would have long lasting effects on the siege. For instance, once they clear the shore landing encounter, do they go left and try to take out the siege weapons (possibly letting more boats slip in and out of the city), go right to try to take out a general (which would cause confusion in the ranks, letting the party escape easier), or do they man up and do both?

Maybe something the party could see is a cage of freshly caught humans that are being held as a fresh pool of reserve bodies to be killed and turned into undead when needed. I don't know if it makes sense for the people to still be alive, or just make it clear that there's a large mound of bodies there that will be turned, and freeing/destroying the bodies now would cut back on the number of units available to the army later.

Re: Piggybacking on Cuzzo's Success – July 13, 2010 5:39 PM (edited 7/13/10 1:39 PM)
Balerion (1224 posts) Elite Powergamer
Rating: Not Rated
Those are great ideas, thank you!

I think they're going to avoid the general for now, but I might tease him a little bit . . . he's got a nasty shadow of himself who might be one of the bosses that come in and harry them, which will also tie into those fortune cookies from last week.

Keeping around the live bodies actually isn't terribly unlikely, there are all sorts of nasty necromancy spells that need freshly slaughtered victims. And, if possible, I might have the shadow steal something from one of them so that the necromancer has an arcane link, which is necessary for many of the harsher spells.

I'm thinking now that I'll need to draw out the enemy army and give them a sort of "fog of war" deal, where they can make awareness checks or send out a scout to determine what sort of things lie in each direction.


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I really think the three “!”s really captures the exuberance that Clair must have been feeling when he almost said it. -Cuzzo
Re: Piggybacking on Cuzzo's Success – July 13, 2010 5:56 PM (edited 7/13/10 1:56 PM)
Cuzzdog (1522 posts) Head of Gamer Corner R&D
Rating: Not Rated
When I was saying general, I meant more like a mini-boss commander type deal, but I can see how that would confuse you since that's not what I actually said at all Big Smile

The fog of war sounds like it could be fun if you want the escape to be a longer deal. Maybe have a smaller sheet of paper be a mini-map to keep track of the fog of war so you can easily transition from one fight to the next. If you want the escape to feel more fast paced, instead of having a fog of war and encouraging scouting missions and the like (implying that the party would have a safe haven in the middle of the army where they can wait for the scouting results) you might just want to have for yourself a tree of events. Starting at the beach, you would just say "in the distance you see a group of siege weapons and a commander, which way do you go?" Then after they choose the next fight, let them know what they can see from there and so on.

One more idea that could be fun. I would keep a a handful of pointless random encounters before failure on hand. Nothing big or fancy, but you would throw these at the party if they ever spend too much time hemming and hawing about which way to go next. It'd just be a way to remind the party that they have maybe a minute or two for them to engage the army, before the army engages the party. Hopefully they will cut back on two hour long diatribes on the pros and cons of each little decision the party makes while escaping.

Re: Piggybacking on Cuzzo's Success – July 14, 2010 2:05 PM (edited 7/14/10 10:05 AM)
chaoscat (452 posts) Ambassador of Good Will
Rating: Not Rated
I think the random "time limit" encounters are a good idea. I think the hardest part about this would be maintaining the tension level as they flee the city without getting bogged down in slow exalted combat and/or too much planing. You want to keep them frantic.

One idea for that would be if they spend too long in one spot, have them all roll dodge checks for incoming siege weapon rounds. A few of those should be enough to get the point across.

You might also want to think about a bit of background music, if you can find enough that it isn't going to be on endless loop and annoying to people.

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Syllabic (4:14 PM): tozzi are you like dowd's jiminy cricket
Re: Piggybacking on Cuzzo's Success – July 14, 2010 2:45 PM (edited 7/14/10 10:45 AM)
Balerion (1224 posts) Elite Powergamer
Rating: /images/autobot.gif + 1
I'm just going to respond to Tozzi's, since he builds on Cuzzo's most recent idea, but I like both of those last two posts.

I'm really liking the idea of having siege weapon attacks if they take too long, my problem with doing the random encounters is that it's going to slow things down. Which isn't to say that I won't do so at all, but I'd like to have some things that are just hazards for them to deal with. Both options are eating up their essence, which should be of great concern for them, but at least this way one of them won't eat up too much time. And I like the idea that it feels like the 5th act of Diablo II.

I like the battle music idea too, I actually have quite a lot of dark instrumental stuff (several Holst CDs, and I think the LotR soundtrack as well), so I'll pop that on in the background.

One of the other concerns that I should have mentioned is that everyone is still going to be a bit slow at combat mechanics. I'm hoping to have this session be a kind of total immersion deal that forces them to be familiar with the crunch. I suppose if the sequence runs more than one session I'd be okay with that.

I'm also okay with them finding someplace with cover that they could hole up in while the Night caste or the Lunar just run the fuck around and take a look at the lay of the land. It's not unreasonable to think that there are some derelict houses and such, or maybe a cave they could find. I don't know if I'd say it would be "hidden", but it would be a place they could fortify while they wait for their scouts to return.

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I really think the three “!”s really captures the exuberance that Clair must have been feeling when he almost said it. -Cuzzo
Re: Piggybacking on Cuzzo's Success – July 14, 2010 3:29 PM (edited 7/14/10 11:29 AM)
chaoscat (452 posts) Ambassador of Good Will
Rating: Not Rated
To me, the fortification and scouting thing has a different vibe than what I thought you were going for. That's more of an "operating behind enemy lines" feel, where as I though you were going for a "punch a hole in the line and run like hell" feel. If you want the first, very well, carry on then. If you're trying for the second however, I'd say you need to keep them moving and keep the pressure on.

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Syllabic (4:14 PM): tozzi are you like dowd's jiminy cricket
Re: Piggybacking on Cuzzo's Success – July 14, 2010 3:30 PM (edited 7/14/10 11:30 AM)
Cuzzdog (1522 posts) Head of Gamer Corner R&D
Rating: Not Rated
For background music, you should play the 1812 overture and make the party roll dodge checks for incoming cannon fire in time to the music.

Re: Piggybacking on Cuzzo's Success – July 14, 2010 3:59 PM (edited 7/14/10 11:59 AM)
Balerion (1224 posts) Elite Powergamer
Rating: Not Rated
That's a good point, I might be over complicating things there. I think instead we'll have timed in character decisions.

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I really think the three “!”s really captures the exuberance that Clair must have been feeling when he almost said it. -Cuzzo
Re: Piggybacking on Cuzzo's Success – July 14, 2010 7:20 PM (edited 7/14/10 3:20 PM)
chaoscat (452 posts) Ambassador of Good Will
Rating: Not Rated
Ideally, you shouldn't give them time to re-group at all. If they look like they're starting to settle in, immediately call for an initiative roll and throw something at them.

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Syllabic (4:14 PM): tozzi are you like dowd's jiminy cricket
Re: Piggybacking on Cuzzo's Success – July 22, 2010 1:43 PM (edited 7/22/10 9:43 AM)
Balerion (1224 posts) Elite Powergamer
Rating: /images/autobot.gif + 1
I thought you guys might like to know that I started this yesterday. They had some folks to go talk to first, so we ended up only getting through the combat on the boat approaching the army. I had it arranged so that they fought 6 flying dudes that Steve had created, and 5 War Ghosts. The ghosts basically flew out there and then became corporeal right on top of the party, falling on them and clinching them. Which generally didn't work so well, except in the case of the Night Caste, who was using Feather Foot Style to run on water in front of the boat. That particular ghost was successful in the initial grapple, forcing the Night to stop and make some checks to keep his footing on the water, but then he managed to knock the ghost off . . . .and the ghost was wearing heavy armor and a shield so it sunk and "drowned".

It was kind of a slow fight, but everyone was still getting used to combat again. I'm hoping that this served as a kind of combat refresher and next week (when we have some real fights) things will go faster.


FWIW, the decision tree I settled on was:

1) On the boat approaching the shore

2) Making landing
a) Either on the docks, which is swarmed with relatively low level enemies or
b) A ramp that goes up near the Dam, relatively unpopulated, but with guys who are real bastards

3) Choice of inner-army encounter to accomplish a goal
a) Break the siege weapons (guarded by a powerful magic wielding ghost who has summoned some demons and a variety of undead) or
b) Rescue human captives (guarded by the hungry ghost of one of the Abyssals - there is an awesome 2nd circle Necromancy spell for this) and two other fairly potent ghosts.

4) Run for the edge of the shadowland just before nightfall, so that the pursuing army ends up in the underworld when they leave the shadowland, and the party ends up in creation.

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I really think the three “!”s really captures the exuberance that Clair must have been feeling when he almost said it. -Cuzzo
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