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Resting in the Kopru Ruins

Shackled City Adventure Path

My players have just about exhausted their spells after slaying Triel and lots of other baddies, but they also crashed the cage into the lake and can't all get out across the lake without some help. (And the skulvyn, after almost killing two of the players, is still lurking about.) So they're planning on holing up in the armory near Triel's room and resting for spells. They've killed all the Hillfolk, but there are still 10 Alleybashers here and there, and Skaven and Tarkilar are still around. I'm trying to decide what the remaining baddies would do while the party rests, since I don't think they'd just sit there and wait for the party to show up. My present plan is to let a couple of hours pass until the bad guys start sending out scouts, hooking up with the scattered allies, and coordinating a response. Tarkilar won't get involved -- he's too mental and vicious at this point to be able to work with his humanoid "allies" -- but I can easily imagine Skaven cooking up something nasty. I'm thinking he'll have 4 of the Alleybashers barricade the stone door of the armory with some heavy wooden furniture and then set the big pile on fire, trying to suffocate the players. The smoke will start to fill the room after 2 rounds of burning, and then they'll have to make Fort saves to do anything other than stand around and cough. If they get the door open, they'll have to either extinguish the fire or take fire damage moving through the squares right in front of the door. The Alleybashers will have set up position down both halls leading away, and start taking shots at the party. But they'll try to retreat toward the "gauntlet" room, trying to draw the party into the trap. Best case for them, they do serious damage to the party. Worst case, they at least interrupt the party's rest. Questions: Can anyone think of anything else I should try? Do you think Skaven would do more than issue instructions, actually taking a hand in the attack?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber

My party made the mistake of resting after one battle.

Skaven scouted out the party using his Arcane Eye. Triel then split the forces between them and proceeded to attack the party from both sides. They barely made it out alive.

I suggest throwing everything at them. Skaven should definitely be throwing spells from behind the Alleybashers.

The full powered counterattack makes sense to me, but for the "smoke 'em out" scenario, I'd go with longer than 2 rounds between noticing the smoke and getting needed by it. 2 rounds is only 12 seconds. I'd probably give 2 minutes - 20 rounds - for realism. That gives them time to prep while building up tension as they must find a way to batter down the barricaded door. Also, I'd make them roll to detect the smoke early on, with a big bonus for animal companions to detect and penalty for Fort saves for any bird familiars - "canary in a coalmine", as it were.

I can see doing an all-out attack. Do you agree it would not involve Tarkilar and his forces? I tend to imagine him as a lone agent at this point, and obviously the undead he still controls are not going to get involved unless he directs them. Do you think it's reasonable to get the harpoon spider and its ettercap into it? (The party stopped to rest after killing the other spiders and two ettercaps, but didn't go into the harpoon spider's chamber.) Apart from the 10 Alleybashers, I don't think there's much else Skaven can bring to bear. So I'm still thinking I'll lead with the smoke-'em-out tactics, beginning with Skaven using his hold portal spell on the door. Between hold portal and a barricade of burning wood, I'll put the Break DC of the door at 35 for 7 minutes, which I don't think the party can beat even by using their portable ram and taking 20.
I also think you're right, Haakon, about having a couple minutes pass after the wood starts burning before smoke starts filling the room in sufficient quantities to trigger Fort saves. I actually worry a bit about the physics here; how likely is it the smoke would get around the door's edges at all? Would the fire be more likely to use up the air in the room than to fill it with smoke? I don't know enough about how fire would actually behave in a stone dungeon. But I think it's a smarter strategy than having them launch a frontal assault on the room when the party has the door locked; the Alleybashers won't stand much of a chance under those circumstances, even in numbers.

If they are resting because they are out of spells, does that also mean that they're out of HP? Because if you're going to interrupt their rest, that means no HP and no spells. I don't know how you and your group feel about TPKs.

I would leave Tarkilar and the harpoon spider out. If I recall correctly, the rest of the Triad gives Tarkilar a wide berth ever since his ritual went wrong and his loyalties are questionable.

As for the Harpoon spider, I think the biggest question you have is if he has room to maneuver and fight. Though I think that Skaven may want him to continue to guard the wands "just in case".

I don't have my maps in front of me at the moment but, if the PC's room is going to fill with smoke, will the hallway the alleybashers are staging in fill too? It's something I know my players would ask about though a wind wall from Skaven would solve that easily.

An interesting twist you could use is that the fire draws the air out of their room. Suffication would become a threat while the party is trying to break out.

Cleanthes, I'd have the Triad muster everything it controls to attack the party. But I'd be reasonable about what it controls. Tarkilar (the crazy guy, right?) would not be "controlled", so not involved. I believe that also goes for the harpoon spider and other critters -- they are placed, more or less as living traps, rather than being strictly controlled/movable/commandable. You might say one of the Triad leaders to be the "master" for each semi-intelligent "pet" monster, but if Triel was the master and she's dead, or Tarkilar's the master and he's nuts, then the monster is uncontrolled and left out.

As for the fire pushing smoke in, or taking air out, or perhaps just failing to do much of anything (stone door, after all), there's three ways I can see approaching that:
1) Just have it work like you think it should work. It's fantasy, after all. I'd say if there's an air vent from the room, it sucks in the smoke, but offers the PC's a way to squeeze out. If there's no vent, the smoke 'em out idea backfires, sending the smoke at the Triad. Not every idea the bad guys has works!

2) Ask a fire fighter, though I would guess the answer is about air flow (like my air vent idea). I have a friend who's a former fireman and used to be into D&D, so I'll try to remember to ask him, next time I see him, but that's probably not for a few weeks, so I'll probably forget! You might want to post on a more widely trafficked D&D site like ENWorld -- bound to be a fire fighter to answer it there!

3) Determine several possible outcomes, and roll dice to decide. This sometimes works best by the dice coming up with the "wrong" answer, which let's you decide what the "right" answer should have been more easily!

These are helpful posts, so thanks for that. I think what makes the most sense is just Skaven and the Alleybashers attack, and they begin with Skaven casting hold portal on the door, making the Break DC 33 (which the party's dwarf fighter (who took Dungeon Crasher from Dungeonscape) can beat if she takes 20, uses her portable ram, and gets help from a friend). Then the Alleybashers start pushing piles of broken furniture into place in front of the door for a few rounds, which the party will probably hear. Then they light it on fire. A couple minutes later, it's blazing pretty well, filling the hallway with smoke for about 20' down each hallway (and thus providing concealment for anyone willing to stay in the smoke.) There are no vents in the door, so only wisps of smoke get into the room from around the edges, but the door itself becomes hot to the touch, and they'll have a pretty good idea what's going on. The real danger for the party will be the fact that the fire will start drawing the oxygen out of the room, which they'll be able to recognize if they put a hand near the door's edge and feel a small flow of air toward the fire. I seem to remember seeing a Sage Advice article in Dragon ages ago that gave principles for handling a running-out-of-oxygen scenario, but I haven't tracked it down yet, so in the meantime, I'm thinking that after 2 or 3 minutes of burning the oxygen will be depleted and I'll start using the suffocation rules, though perhaps making them less instantly fatal and do non-lethal damage for a while. (The party also has a magical bottle of air they could make good use of if they thought to use it, which is doubtful.) By then, though, the fighter ought to have the door open. Moving through the fire will cost 1d6 of fire damage, though maybe they'll think up a way to put it out. Anyone who stops inside the smoky area will have to beat the smoke inhalation DC or just stand there coughing. They won't be able to see further than 5' while they're in the smoke, so they won't know what they're walking into, which will freak them out. The Alleybashers will have orders to fire arrows at any PC's they see, and Skaven will open up with his offensive spells as soon as he sees a good target or targets (meaning magic missile, lightning bolt, shout, and phantasmal killer). He might use his slippers of spider climbing to get above his archers. If it starts looking like the PC's are going to break out, Skaven will order the Alleybashers to fall back and start engaging in hit and run tactics; if they can manage a way to get archers into the Gauntlet hideyholes and maneuver the party into that room, they'll try to do that. If it looks like the party is going to try to find another place to rest, Skaven will order the Alleybashers to try to harass the party at random intervals, and he himself will go off to rest in the harpoon spider's lair to regain his own spells (maybe collecting his spellbook on the way, which the party hasn't found.) All of this harassment should at least make the party secon-guess the whole "let's rest in a dungeon surrounded by intelligent eneimes" idea, and they'll probably have some bruises to show for it too. I don't think a TPK is likely, but it shouldn't be easy to deal with either.

Sounds great, Cleanthes.

Only one thing I'd add: have the Alleybashers fire blind into the smoke. I've had fun with this when PC's used Smokestick and Obscuring Mist, and I've been told it's standard military procedure to fire on smoke like that, if it's clear the enemy is in there somewhere.

The rules on Total Concealment in 3.5e:

"If you have line of effect to a target but not line of sight (for example, if he is in total darkness or invisible, or if you're blinded), he is considered to have Total Concealment from you. You can't attack an opponent that has total concealment, though you can attack into a square that you think he occupies. A successful attack into a square occupied by an enemy with total concealment has a 50% miss chance"

I run fights like thsi by rolling dice to see what square each archer is targeting. It's fun!

Like it! Will use it!

Emailed your question about fire in a stone dungeon to my former firefighter friend. I'm hoping he'll either post here or email me back something interesting.

We had a chance to play last night, so I ran the encounter as planned. The party tried to rest, and most of the party stripped their armor off. The scout, who was on watch, heard the noises of the Alleybashers starting to pile up wood outside the armory door, although they didn't know that's what it was at first. They woke everyone up and started getting their armor on. But before a couple of them had even gotten close to having their armor on, they realized that there was a fire raging outside the door, and they had a good idea what the bad guys were trying to do. Freaking out ensued :-) They decided to open the door and peek outside, only to find the door magically held. The wizard burned his last dispel magic to strip the spell from the door, and they peeked out to find a large fire raging, and smoke immediately began filling the room. They gave up trying to get armor on, leaving a couple of party members with heavily reduced AC's, and even abandoned their armor on the floor in their rush to get out fast. They had to take fire damage to leave the room and enter the hallway, and as soon as Skaven and the Alleybashers knew that they had left the room, Skaven ordered volleys of arrows to be fired blindly into the smoke, and a few of them hit over the next several rounds. Players started failing Fort saves in the smoke and spending rounds hacking and coughing; the party's elf scout spent like 5 rounds that way and took a lot of nonlethal damage before the monk ran back in and carried him out. Once a party member got to the edge of the smoke, Skaven started opening up with his spells; standing on the ceiling with his slippers of spider climbing and surrounded by Alleybashers, and unseen by most of the party, he started hammering them with magic missile, lightning bolt, and shout. The party tank, a dwarf fighter, was down to a couple HP twice, and had to spend most of her time drinking potions. The bad guys only lost two Alleybashers before Skaven ordered a retreat, and one of them Skaven killed himself when his shout at point blank range made the poor guy's head explode. Skaven ordered the Alleybashers to take up positions behind the Gauntlet's arrow slits, and he drank an elixir of hiding and waited for the party in the main meeting room. Sure enough, the party decided to pursue the wizard while his spells were depleted, and walked right into his trap. He hit the scout with a phantasmal killer as he entered the room (which the blighter made his save against, sigh...) and ran into the Gauntlet room. The scout followed him in and was met with arrow fire. He also set off the first pit trap, though he made his Reflex save and didn't fall in. He was able to make a trip attack on Skaven, which didn't work, and now Skaven has made himself invisible and is going to run off to the harpoon spider's lair. The party has given up any thought of resting, and is going to pursue Skaven whatever the cost. We ended on that note, but they're going to be charging after the invisible wizard into the gauntlet's arrow fire next meeting. Overall, a very satisfying way to mess with the party's plans, and I definitely got their attention and made them sweat. (One player was making comments about D&D costing her years from her life.) Very satisfying! Thanks all for your advice and ideas!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber

Outstanding. :)

Sounds like everyone had a good time. :)

I'm still curious to know the response from the firefighter though.

Sorry Grogg, I emailed him but I haven't heard back yet.

Firefighter update!

I talked to him on the phone just now. He said, "It's complicated. But cutting to the chase, with a stone door that's reasonably well made, the people inside would barely notice the smoke -- the door would get very hot, but smoke would not be an issue, for the people inside. That's because almost all the smoke would seek the main exi, which isn't through the door, but up and out through the dungeon -- and of course it would rise (it's hot!), so if it's deep in the dungeon, it would affect upper levels."

This answer amuses me, because it's fun to see NPC villains trying stuff that just doesn't work out like they planned. That shows the PC's -- hey, we're not the only ones whose plans sometimes misfire.

Wow, that's cool! It's pretty much how I ran it. They made a Listen check to hear the sounds of the wood getting piled up, but they didn't open the door to check it out. By the time they were thinking of opening the door, it was starting to get hot to the touch, and I told them wisps of smoke were starting to come through the door's edge. But they were in no danger from smoke so long as they kept the door closed. They decided, however, that they didn't want to risk suffocation (which I was in fact going to make an issue, since it seemed quite plausible to me that a big fire outside the non-airtight door would steadily draw oxygen from the room), and so dispelled Skaven's hold portal spell and opened the door, at which point smoke did come pouring into the room and soon started a Fort save-a-palooza. But I also had the smoke filling the hallway for some distance and giving the players who stood in it total concealment. At which point they had to choose between making Fort saves and risking getting hit by randomly fired arrows, or moving out of the smoke and becoming a target for Skaven's spells. Nobody died, but I definitely had them sweating, and they kept making comments about how smart their opponents were. Which is, of course, music to a DM's ears :-)

Thanks again everyone for helping me make this a memorable encounter!

That's awesome Cleanthes! Sounds like you did a great job running it.

Scarab Sages

Thanks for the write-up1 My group is just about up to this dungeon and given their usual approach to things they are quite likely to try to hole up to rest somewhere.

Just to round out the story:

Last night they followed Skaven into the Gauntlet room. He turned invisible, but the party bard cast Glitterdust on him so he stayed visible for a few rounds (but beat the blindness save). He then used his slippers to climb to the ceiling and move toward the far doors, taking a moment to cast displacement on himself. The party monk tried to jump up to pull him down, but didn't make the jump check (I said the ceiling in that room was 15' high.) Skaven got hit by a sling bullet and an arrow while he crossed the room, and meanwhile the Alleybasher archers behind the arrow slits kept up a steady assault, doing particularly bad damage to the bard. The monk crossed to the far doors and pushed the doors closed just before Skaven could get through, but Skaven called to the two Alleybashers he had stationed in ambush behind those doors to open them, and the monk wasn't able to hold both of them closed at the same time. Skaven tried to get through the doorway but had to take an attack of opportunity from the monk in the process, got hit, and failed his save against the monk's stunning fist. On his next turn the monk knocked Skaven into negatives. One of the Alleybashers managed to drag him out of the room and pour Skaven's cure potion into him, and by that point the Glitterdust had worn off. But most of the party had made it through the gauntlet by then, and the wizard had cast see invisibility, so he knew where Skaven was. Skaven drank his potion of gaseous form and tried to make his getaway, but the wizard blasted him with a lightning bolt, and that was that -- one dead halfling wizard. The only consolation was that the bard got knocked into negatives by the Alleybasher's arrows and had to be dragged from the room.
Oh well, the little guy put up a good fight, got off almost all his good spells, and made the party miserable for two solid gaming sessions. I guess I can't really ask more of him than that!

After my party(I'm a player not the DM) killed the little wizard guy, all his spiders,a bunch of mooks we then had a hard fight against treil.
She killed our cleric of Kord and kept us out of her room for ever and a day but when we FINALLY got in the sorcerer used fangs of the vampire king (original Book of Vile Darkness version) and dropped her while we cleaned up the rest of her gang. We rested in her area because it was soo heavily fortified. I used Owls wisdom to raise the DC of a speak with dead and she told us where the next wands were but didn't make any mention about the creatures guarding it.
All in all a very, very fun adventure.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Sounds like your group had a good run there Cleanthes.

My group opted for a heap of bluffs and acting as reinforcements for the Triad until they got to Skaven.

They retreated using rope trick to recuperate .... :)

I gave my players a metamagic Extended Rope Trick, just in case they need a "uh-oh, we're gunna die" time out to recuperate and regain spells.

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