Into the Sewers


Advice


Once again, I have had a case of GM block regarding my game.

Just for reference, this is the overall makeup of the party:

Aribeth, paladin of Sarenrae 5:
Decked out in full plate and equipped with a tower shield, her high AC and saves are most problematic. She uses a divine weapon bond, which she tends to use in conjunction with Smite Evil to interesting effect.

Sayid, cleric of Sarenrae 5:
So far, he's mostly used a conjunction of blasting and supporting, favoring fire spells for somewhat obvious reasons. While most enemies thus far have been fire-immune, I feel his area-effect spells will be more effective in this particular scenario.

Reo, fighter 5:
This guy really likes nothing more than to beat things to death with his scythe. A plot-related custom trait makes him somewhat resistant to fire, and his AC is decent.

Kai, draconic sorcerer 5:
A more dedicated blaster mage than Sayid. The energy-resistant devils gave her a hard time, so she'll probably prove more effective this time around. She likes touch spells, and the player insists on using a mithral armor/arcane armor training combo to pump up her AC.

The party is to trek into the ruins of an ancient sewer system to rescue a paladin of their order, who was kidnapped by an unusually coordinated group of goblins. I already have an idea of what kind of challenges I want to throw at them, but the layout of sewers themselves is proving to be bothersome - dungeon design is ironically one of my weaker points. I don't want it to be linear, but at the same time a labyrinthine dungeon would be a little annoying to run.

I'm also having problems deciding on the goblin leader, an individual who kidnapped the paladin as part of a deal with Asmodean cultists. I originally planned for it to be a greater barghest, but a single CR 7 creature would be a joke to the party, especially considering smite evil, and the fact that the paladin NPC could very well be rescued already by the time they meet him/her. I thought about throwing in some minions, but couldn't really find a good balance between their numbers and the CR.

I'd appreciate any advice and suggestions, just please don't mention Tucker's kobolds... I don't want to give my players nightmares.


Don't worry about the CR. Pull punches if you have to, but give the boss a lot of mooks.

Check out this feat. Don't worry about the fact that technically he can't get it as a CR 7. But make a goblin alchemist. Implant a bomb in the Paladin who was caught. Focus on bombs that will root the PCs in place. Tanglefoot bomb maybe. Then have some simple goblins with ranged weapons pelt them.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

See "Bastards of Erebus" for a good sewer crawl.


Sewers are pretty straightforward. They're aqueducts, so they wouldn't be too complex. There should be long, narrow tunnels with some larger junctions here and there. It all goes somewhere, either to a larger body of water, or to some deeper underground rivers and caves, where the goblins have their hideout.

Barghests are formidable opponents. A pair of CR4s to go with the 7, along with some goblin fodder along the way and a choke-point at the final battleground would be tough. With some warning and a few rounds to use their spell-like abilities, they'll give the heroes a good fight. Blink is a lot of fun!


d20pfsrd.com
has a handy monster builder, if you want to take bestiary monsters and add some templates to them to buff them up some.

Some of the goblin mooks could be wererats, and bolstered with rogue levels.
I also have a personal trope,....any time I do a sewer crawl, I gotta put a bigass albino alligator in there.


Set the battle against the barghest in a chamber partially filled with water/sewage, so that every square is difficult terrain. The Barghest, with its ability to use blink at will, will have a big mobility advantage.

Have a deeper section of the floor running right through the middle of the chamber, so that a swim check is required to get from one side to the other. All of your armor-wearing PCs are going to have some real problems with this.

Maybe have some goblins paddling around in small canoes or rafts. The barghest also can use mass enlarge as a spell-like ability-- that way there could be some goblins tall enough to wade around in the water.

Also, there could be a couple of shafts running straight down out of the chamber that wouldn't be visible due to the water covering the floor. Drowning rules can be pretty scary. Maybe have one of the goblin underlings fall into one of the shafts early on in the battle so that the PCs are at least aware of the threat.


Great ideas so far!

As it would turn out, I have more than a week more to work on this, so I can do some fine tuning.

What would be a good way to have the barghest pull punches during the fight? Would he just float out of reach and buff his minions with his spell-like abilities?

Granted, killing it isn't their top priority, so it could always return for revenge.

Also, asides from hampering the PCs with terrain, what are some good ways of having the goblins stand as a threat, but still be able to exist in larger numbers?


How about a vampire goblin or barghest sorcerer using charmed/dominated innocents to hold the paladin hostage?

Make sure to throw in a few shadows, a gargoyle or two, and a rival mite raiding party just to mix things up.


Hm. Gargoyles might fit in well, since the sewers in question intersect with the ruins of an ancient city. I suppose they don't necessarily have to be associated with the goblins. Same with the shadows.

A goblin vampire would be an interesting alternative to the barghest, and it would be a hook for further exploration of the sewers if he manages to escape. I'll keep that one in mind.

As for the barghest... I think it's powerful enough without sorcerer levels. The paladin will be in the area though.

Dark Archive

A good random sewer encounter would be a Mud Elemental.

Pugwampi Gremlins with thier Unlucky Aura are a lot of fun.

More powerful encounter - adv Serpent Folk with his Degenerate followers

Liberty's Edge

Nobody likes making Swim checks in otyugh poo, particularly not dumped INT divine casters in heavy armor with no skill ranks in it. Acrobatics (it's slippery) and Climb checks (those rungs are rusted clean off the wall) are also good here.

Naturally the ambushers are waiting for the PCs to stow that heavy armor before attacking....

(I don't like random-raid-the-beastiary encounters, btw; core adversaries played smart tend to be more satisfying both to run, and to face. So yeah; the goblin alchemist bomb-implanter & minions idea is much better IMO than BBEMs.)

Next adventure after the sewer-crawl should be mounted across open fields of daisies in clear daylight (i.e., toss the tanks a bone and let their armor work for 'em again).


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No rogue. The party has no rogue.

Traps. Lots of traps. Goblins are bright enough to build traps. Okay, they probably won't be awesome traps. But it doesn't take a lot of CR 2 pitfalls and tripwires to make your PCs thoughtful.

Ambushes. No sneaky guy to go scouting ahead, right? Goblins lurking quietly in the shadows, waiting for the PCs to come into range before launching a flight of javelins. Sure, most will bounce off the PCs high AC. But the goblins run away (small, but 30' move). Chasing them leads you to more of the above-mentioned tripwires and pitfalls.

Locked gates. Nobody to pick the locks. Oh, the fighter will bash? That's fine -- there was something unpleasant asleep just out of visual range. Or it takes him several rounds to bash through, which is plenty of time for the goblin sentry to warn the war party around the corner.

Also, nobody but the paladin is likely to have a decent Reflex save! Duuuude. One first level Grease spell can ruin this party's whole morning. Heck, you don't even need to cast the spell. Sewers have algae and all sorts of slimy glop. You just say "this area is really slippery. If you want to move more than 5 feet per round, you must make a DC 15 Acrobatics check -- fail and you fall prone." Then post goblin archers behind cover on a ledge 50' away.

Seriously: no rogue. Work that.

Doug M.


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Also, if I'm looking at that PC list right, I'm guessing that nobody in your party has darkvision either. You have them in a sewer! Turn their lights out and then hit them with something that can see in the dark just fine.

How to turn their lights out? Man, how do I count the ways. Guy holding the torch hits a slippery patch -- Reflex save or fall, torch/lantern goes in the water. Ssst. Goblin ambush targets the light source first. Fzzt. Spellcaster with Darkness, Quench, or Pyrotechnics. Blip. Party hits a patch of flammable gas (which is a no-kidding real threat in real world sewers). Boom!

"But the sorceror can cast Dancing Lights..." Not if he's grappled, he can't. Or if one goblin has held an action to shoot him as soon as he starts casting. Or if he's just fallen into a 10' pit full of foul water and is trying to make a Swim check. Or if the creature that was stalking them, and that has just charged as soon as the lights went out, is now threatening him.

Oh! Swim checks! I notice that one, two... three of your four PCs are heavily armored! And, hey, paladins and clerics don't usually invest ranks in Swim, do they. You know what happens when you fail a Swim check? "Fail by 4 or less, you make no progress." (i.e., you stay splashing in the same spot.) "Fail by 5 or more, you go underwater." So: slippery slopes, requiring Reflex saves, above water. In the water, something nasty.

Seriously, sewers are great.

Doug M.


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Here's one I used on my own PCs a while back. PCs come to an area where the stench of rotting flesh is overwhelming. They think "undead!", slow down, and go on the defensive.

In fact they're passing underneath the local slaughterhouse. After a few rounds, there's the sound of a hatch opening... and a couple of hundred pounds of offal come sliding down a chute. It's a DC 12 Fort save or be nauseated for 1d4 rounds. Meanwhile, the vigorous sewer ecosystem responds immediately: two advanced rat swarms and a carrion crawler.

The carrion crawler sadly did not make it into Pathfinder, but there are half a dozen monsters that will fit as well. Note that swarms are incredibly obnoxious opponents if you don't have the right spells ready.

Doug M.

Lantern Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber

When in doubt, Swarms of Things.

Seriously; my players cringe whenever they hear the scuttling of hundreds of little feet, and they never seem to prepare for the inevitable swarm encounter. Heck, I even throw in a scroll or low-charge wand with anti-swarm spells every once in a while, and they just sell those.

Swarms are your friends. Carnivorous roaches, snakes, spiders, oozes, frogs, monkeys [less common in sewers], elementals, wasps, leeches, piranha [adapted to lightless conditions], bats . . . it's all good.

Swarms + poor footing + nasty water with hidden pitfalls + goblins laughing maniacally as they harass PCs from booby-trapped positions = one helluva fight


Mike Schneider wrote:
(I don't like random-raid-the-beastiary encounters, btw; core adversaries played smart tend to be more satisfying both to run, and to face. So yeah; the goblin alchemist bomb-implanter & minions idea is much better IMO than BBEMs.)

Cheapy mentioned the idea earlier, but I think you might have sold me on it. The alchemist would have to be at least level 9/CR 8 to do it by RAW, but if he's pulling punches anyway and is surrounded by mooks, then it shouldn't really matter. Since he's at a higher level, I would have more wealth to spend on rigging more of said mooks to explode ahead of time. And at that high of a level, it shouldn't be any problem for him to escape once he's outnumbered. The only remaining issue would be motivation, though it has already been hinted at in the campaign that the Asmodeans were buying him off to use the sewage passageways, and alchemists have many uses for gold.

And seeing as they won't even be fully exploring the sewer system, it's quite possible they'll see him again.

Stockvillain wrote:
When in doubt, Swarms of Things.

Oh, there will be plenty of those. The goblins are always sure to keep a few boxes full of diseases rats, just for the heck of it. (Or as a reliable if not unhealthy source of food). I hadn't thought about using different types though... I'll have to flip through my bestiaries again.

Dark Archive

As stated before, Bastards of Erebus (Council of Thieves #1) starts of with an excellent sewer crawl. Paizo specifically did not provide a fully detailed map of that sewer - just create a handful: crossroads, junctions, zig-zag paths, and two rooms with a few exits, and reuse these simple paths. e.g. "you see a similar junction like the one a few minutes ago, except now the north exit is collapsed". If everything looks similar, it only makes more sense from an architectural point as well.

probably your goblins marked the route to their lair so they could find it again - after all, they're not THAT organized. This means the players can find the markings too. no need to draw them on the map - just give the players a perception roll and tell them that the marking on the wall points to the north. or south. or both (obviously goblins are not going to get it right)

this has a lot of fun encounter. especially if there's something chasing them - maybe add a lot of skeletons in one path and put an obviously way too powerful monster at the far end of the path? multiple fair warnings are key here, but it would make for a great hunter / hunted feeling and it's great if the PC's manage to let the big monster behind them take care of a couple goblins ahead of them.

Liberty's Edge

Mahorfeus wrote:
And seeing as they won't even be fully exploring the sewer system, it's quite possible they'll see him again.

Naturally this guy should love taunting them from the darkness.

"<Sniff><Sniff> I smell a half-elf's sple-een! Those are my *favorite*! Yeeheheheheheeee...."

Dark Archive

Perhaps pick up the Pathfinder Society scenario: Sewer Dragons of Absalom?

For a simple sewer map just have the sewers follow the street plan, with main run-offs to nearby waterways - which is probably not far from reality


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Oh! Almost forgot: it looks like your group is mostly human, amirite? No gnomes or halflings?

So: who says that sewer tunnels have to be the standard dungeon 10' x 10'? Put in some sewer tunnels that are 5' tall and 3' wide. Squeezing through a space too small for you = -4 to hit and -4 on AC. (Yep, there's a rule for it.)

Let's add up the possible things you can throw at them now:

Slippery bits
Climbing
Swimming
Water hazards (powerful currents, creatures in water)
Lighting issues (low light conditions, full darkness)
Nauseating smells
anything that needs a Reflex save
Swarms
Cramped tunnels
Difficult terrain
Gases (unbreathable, poisonous, explosive)
Ambushes
Traps (deadfall, tripwire, pit)
Locks
Diseases (on creatures, in water)

-- and this is mostly environmental stuff; we've hardly cracked open the bestiary yet.

Let's mix-and-match for a sample encounter. The passageway opens up into large chamber, with a 1' wide ledge around a pit. The pit is 15' across and partly filled with water. The surface of the water is 10' below the ledge. There are several drains in the walls of the chamber; water is pouring out of them down into the pit. The air is warm, foul, and filled with a thick mist -- treat as an Obscuring Mist spell, giving a 50% miss chance beyond 5 feet. (Note that this means the PCs cannot see the surface of the water below them.)

The ledge is wet and slippery. Moving more than 5' per round requires a DC 15 Acrobatics check; failing this will send the PC over the edge. A DC 16 Reflex save will allow him to grab the edge of the ledge, but otherwise he falls into the water. The ledge is considered a cramped space, granting a -2 to attack rolls and on AC.

An otyugh lives in the water. It's a mutant with webbed feet, Swim speed 20', and blindsight instead of darkvision. The otyugh is hungry and will attack anyone who moves onto the ledge. It has a 15' reach and will try to grab a victim and pull it into the water. (The grab ability means it gets an automatic grapple attempt at +13 whenever it hits with a tentacle. Note that it will probably get a surprise round unless the PCs are specifically watching the water.) Once the otyugh gets someone in the water, it swims downward (the water is 30' deep) and tries to keep the victim underwater until it drowns. Attacking the otyugh is not easy; the mists give it concealment even when it's at the surface, and once it's underwater it can't easily be attacked without jumping into the water.

The otyugh isn't alone. Two rat swarms lair behind the walls. The otyugh occasionally tosses them scraps -- it considers the rats its pets. The rats will swarm out of cracks in the walls one round after the otyugh starts attacking.

If the PCs get past the pit, they will find that the passageway out of the chamber is blocked by a locked gate. Four goblins wait down the passage -- they're aware of the otyugh and have a truce with it. They'll launch javelins at any PCs who appear at the gate. If a PC starts picking the lock or bashing down the gate, they'll switch tactics and throw alchemists fire, making it impossible to bash the gate without taking fire damage (unless the PC has a reach weapon) until the fire burns out. Their goal is to keep the PCs in the room with the otyugh and the rat swarms for as long as possible. If the PCs break through the gate, the goblins will flee.

Is this the sort of thing you're looking for?

Doug M.

Sczarni

If you're worried about having genuinely threatening creatures without making things too hard, I think the gargoyles suggestion was the best idea... only it's just as likely to attack the barghest as it is the party. You want this sewer to feel like a whole ecosystem of nasties, and that means predators and prey, right? If you decide you want to back off, have the commotion of combat attract another, different kind of monster (and watch your group's jaw drop), then have it attack the things your party is fighting, allowing the party to regroup, reposition, or just retreat. What better way to spice things up than with a melee a trois?

Also, I love all the various suggestions I'm seeing about the natural hazards a sewer poses. Effective use of terrain is a skill all players, and DMs, should learn, as it really adds a whole new layer to the game. Don't be afraid to make the sewer itself as challenging as anything the party might find in it!

Liberty's Edge

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Quote:
Don't be afraid to make the sewer itself as challenging as anything the party might find in it!

Absolutely. Anything that drags the PCs kicking and screaming away from their "DPR calculation zone" is what you're looking for. It makes your world visceral and real rather than a dumb video-game.

I.e., they're only five minutes from the entrance...and encounter a waterfall going down into pitch-black. (They don't fall over; it's just there.) Sounds like rocks maybe 60' below. The falls kicks up a heavy spray which extinguishes non-magical light sources and otherwise acts as an Obscuring Mist which can't be blown or burned away. Slick walls and no stairs down; and the walkway alongside the sewer flume ends.

Now your players have to start thinking.

-- It suddenly dawns of them that it could be freakin' dangerous down there: i.e., it's hard to retreat up a waterfall.

Anyway, after they're done shopping for new equipment back in town, ask them how much their extra crap weigh; and see who's over load limits. Ask them what they want to leave behind, or whether they're taking on more skill penalties.

Does anyone have Survival to check the weather before going down? (That underground river will swell if there's a thunderstorm.)

Who have they hired to watch their mounts, wagon and left-behind gear at the entrance? Is the NPC porter Loyal Fred or Shifty Sam? Maybe Shifty Sam is a rogue or bard with UMD and a few wands, and he'd help them out for a cut of the loot (and thus you the GM get to play along).

...and so on.

Lantern Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber

Douglas Muir and Mike Schneider are two of my newest "Favorite Peoples," and each wins a healthy maniacal laugh!

Liberty's Edge

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Douglas Muir 406 wrote:

An otyugh lives in the water. It's a mutant with webbed feet, Swim speed 20', and blindsight instead of darkvision. The otyugh is hungry and will attack anyone who moves onto the ledge. It has a 15' reach and will try to grab a victim and pull it into the water. (The grab ability means it gets an automatic grapple attempt at +13 whenever it hits with a tentacle. Note that it will probably get a surprise round unless the PCs are specifically watching the water.) Once the otyugh gets someone in the water, it swims downward (the water is 30' deep) and tries to keep the victim underwater until it drowns. Attacking the otyugh is not easy; the mists give it concealment even when it's at the surface, and once it's underwater it can't easily be attacked without jumping into the water.

The otyugh isn't alone. Two rat swarms lair behind the walls. The otyugh occasionally tosses them scraps -- it considers the rats its pets. The rats will swarm out of cracks in the walls one round after the otyugh starts attacking.

1) Unless the PCs are equipped for underwater adventures (which going into a sewer doesn't necessarily imply), this encounter will kill one or more characters unless the GM "nerfs" the core grapple/pin/drowning rules. Being pinned underwater usually means death is automatic. -- The players of the heavy-armor cleric and paladin in particular will be pissed, and assume you've deliberately chosen a CR-level monster with the highest likelihood of killing them easily, then modified it to make it even worse (i.e., it's deliberately trying to drown them rather than making the usual slam attacks).

2) Are these aquatic rats which swim thirty feet down? What do these unintelligent snack-size morsels offer an otyugh in the way of companionship which makes the logic of their relationship sensible? Wouldn't it more inclined to eat them?

-- This is a perfect example of why I don't like raid-the-bestiary. Even if the PCs win, there's nothing satisfying about having done so, because it's really just an "ambush random encounter".

3) Just for once, I'd like to see an otyugh in the bell-tower of a cathedral. It eats pigeons, and is friendly (otyughs speak Common).


The otyugh is a perfect beast for this particular environment, but I'm gonna have to bow out on encounters in extensive, deep water. While I'd like to challenge everybody, they would all be utterly screwed - I don't know if any of them even have ranks in Swim, for one.

They'd more likely fight one in a pit full of dead goblins or something (I mean hey, the alchemist just got his Implant Bomb feat; he can't get it right every time). Fort save to avoid sickness and then difficult terrain because of the corpse/bone piles. Rancor pit style O:

Mike Schneider wrote:
This is a perfect example of why I don't like raid-the-bestiary. Even if the PCs win, there's nothing satisfying about having done so, because it's really just an "ambush random encounter".

I can't say I entirely agree with this sentiment, since my own satisfaction in overcoming encounters usually relies on how... interesting they were. Wrestling a tentacled mutant in an underwater environ infested with rats sounds a tad more interesting than say, having a big-bad pelting them from arrows whilst invisible while his lackies beat on the PCs with flanking bonuses for example. Eh, poor example perhaps.

Admittedly, I used to have a bad habit of trying to shove as many things from the bestiaries into a game as possible...

But I totally like the idea about the belltower otyugh.

Liberty's Edge

Quote:
The otyugh is a perfect beast for this particular environment

To the point of becoming a cliche.

E.g.,

Generic Sewer Checklist

[_] Filth-fever
[X] Otyughs
[X] freakin' rats

...not saying they should find a unicorn in the sewer instead, but mix it up little bit.

Quote:
I can't say I entirely agree with this sentiment, since my own satisfaction in overcoming encounters usually relies on how... interesting they were. Wrestling a tentacled mutant in an underwater environ infested with rats sounds a tad more interesting than say, having a big-bad pelting them from arrows whilst invisible while his lackies beat on the PCs with flanking bonuses for example. Eh, poor example perhaps.

The other problem with plopping a BBEM in front of the PCs is that it wrecks the carefully-crafted verisimilitude of realism and reintroduces the video-game/DPR challenge. I.e., it's a single, huge monster; which means they have to power-attack and blast the crap out of it before it drags them underwater (where it more or less auto-kills them if it succeeds). Neither players nor GM have much flexibility once the fight starts -- within a round, everyone knows if the BBEM is a hapless pushover, or if it's going to be a near-TPK.


Mike Schneider wrote:
To the point of becoming a cliche.

Touche, though on the other hand, originality was never exactly one of my goals, considering that most of my PCs will have no idea what this thing is if I plop it in front of them. In which case, its being a cliche is utterly meaningless.

While I can relate to the intrinsic instinct to beat the living crap out of the most dangerous looking monster in a particular encounter, that is just a consequence of bad encounter design. Everybody knows that even an APL+3 CR creature will be creamed against a party if it is alone. But the same applies to BBEGs, especially if the PCs are more or less aware that he is the "boss."

Or, I could just throw two otyughs at them. They can't very well attack both of them at once.

Liberty's Edge

Quote:
Everybody knows that even an APL+3 CR creature will be creamed against a party if it is alone

It depends on the set-up.

I.e., not many 5th-level characters have a prayer in hell if they're dragged underwater by a grapple monster no matter what its CR rating.

Otoh, I remember an LG mod where the entire party was stymied by a single equivalent-level flying druid who just keep raining crap down on them (Entangle + Spike Growth overlapped is pretty nasty.)


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I belive the best encounters blend the terrain and the monster to become greater than the sum of its parts. Sewers are great for this.

Example: While in an area of rubble and narrow passages the party is attacked by a ghost. The remains for the ghost are in a nearby midden pit separated by 5 ft of earth and stone from the PC's passage. The ghost is lashing out because he was killed and his body dumped into the pit without respect of a proper burial.

Point being, the Party faces a foe that can maneuver perfectly, even through walls, when they can barely stand up.


This is definately a place for random life. Rats are ubiquidious and missing if they are not there. Even if they are just part of the disgusting fluff. I normally cringe at random encounter tables but one consisting of carion crawlers, rats, dire rats, dung beatles of various sizes, otters, beavers, alligators,catfish and don't forget people who don't want to be found. If it is large enough town for sewers it is likely large enough for the homeless. I would make a simple design. People seldom dig more than needed and they do not use more expensive materials than needed. Tunnels that dump into sinkholes or natural caverns are cheaper than complex systems that dump the filth far away. Rember there is a difference from aqueducts bringing water to fountains and baths into the city and the channels and tunnels leading them out.
Many of the movement and environmental hazzards suggested are great, but the severity might differ throughout the sewersystem. One place might be more slippery, one place might be deeper, drains might grant filtered lighting durring the day.


Mike Schneider wrote:


Unless the PCs are equipped for underwater adventures (which going into a sewer doesn't necessarily imply), this encounter will kill one or more characters unless the GM "nerfs" the core grapple/pin/drowning rules. Being pinned underwater usually means death is automatic.

Pas de tout. Even if pinned, it takes a ridiculously long time to drown in Pathfinder. Once the other PCs deal with the rats (or even if they don't), someone jumps in and melees the beast. (Or summons a monster that can swim, or casts a spell.) They don't have to kill the otyugh, after all -- just convince it that this particular meal isn't worth the trouble.

This would be a challenging encounter, but it shouldn't kill a reasonably well-constructed 5th level party.

Mike Schneider wrote:

2) What do these unintelligent snack-size morsels offer an otyugh in the way of companionship which makes the logic of their relationship sensible? Wouldn't it more inclined to eat them?

Why do people toss crumbs to pigeons? The otyugh is tolerably well fed, and just bright enough to get bored sometimes.

Quote:

cliche

Rats and diseases in a sewer are not very original, no. Neither are sharks in tropical waters, flying things in mountains, or undead in a crypt.

More to the point, the OP was "help me with DM's block / help me challenge my PCs". Not "help me craft a truly unexpected encounter / think up something utterly amazing and original". That's a different thread, ya know?

-- Incidentally, I'd be interested to hear from Mahorfeus how things worked out. Did you use any of these suggestions? Did they work?

cheers,

Doug M.


id include some nasty fungus in there like the violet fungus or some stuff like that.

Liberty's Edge

Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
Mike Schneider wrote:


Unless the PCs are equipped for underwater adventures (which going into a sewer doesn't necessarily imply), this encounter will kill one or more characters unless the GM "nerfs" the core grapple/pin/drowning rules. Being pinned underwater usually means death is automatic.
Pas de tout. Even if pinned, it takes a ridiculously long time to drown in Pathfinder.

Only if you're conscious and holding your breathe -- if you're unconscious underwater, you are screwed. It doesn't take long for a big monster with slam attacks to render 5th-level PCs unconscious if it can pin them. If the battle is underwater, it is extremely difficult to rescue people who have dropped unconscious adjacent to the reach/grab/slam monster, and also outside the ability of most 5th-level PCs to cast spells underwater unless previously fore-warned of the necessity).

What happens if you're unconscious underwater?

Quoting the CRB "...In the following round, she drops to –1 hit points and is dying. In the [next] round, she drowns."

"Drown" = DIE. No checks, no saves -- you just die.


"It doesn't take long for a big monster with slam attacks to render 5th-level PCs unconscious"

5th level cleric will have, what -- about 40 hp?

Surprise round, otyugh hits, starts a grapple. That's 1d6+2 damage.

Round one, otyugh pulls the cleric into the water and gets a bite in. (Note that this is bending the rules a bit, since you could argue that under the RAW pulling the cleric in should be a standard action. But let's say that yanking a guy off a ledge is a move and not a standard action.) Another d8+4 damage. The cleric gets an action in here, either before or after, depending on Init -- he can attack, try to cast a spell, drink a potion, try breaking the grapple, what have you.

Second round, converting a grapple to a pin is a standard action and the otyugh can't do anything else. The cleric can try breaking the grapple. The otyugh is at +13. Assuming the cleric is at +5, he has about a 22% chance of succeeding on any single try. (Note that at this point the otyugh is still at the surface of the water, because moving while grappled is a standard action.)

Third round, otyugh can automatically do "a natural attack" of damage -- presumably a bite -- or he can attack normally with a squeeze and a bite. Say he does the latter and succeeds with both. At this point the cleric will have taken about 30 points of damage. Pinned, all he can try to do is break out -- 22% chance again.

Fourth round, the otyugh probably reduces the cleric to negative hits. Fifth round, the cleric dies either from damage or drowning.

However. This assumes that the otyugh gets surprise (likely given the setup, but not certain), makes his grapple check (again likely but far from certain), and makes his pin check. It also assumes that the cleric never does anything effective -- doesn't manage to get a spell off, and fails on every attempt to break the grapple. That's actually pretty unlikely. Furthermore, it also assumes that the rest of the party spends five rounds just standing around doing nothing after their colleague is yanked into the water. Again, unlikely.

Even with all the advantages given here, at the end of the day the poor otyugh is a CR 4 creature facing four 5th level PCs. It's very improbable that it will manage to kill even one.

Doug M.

Liberty's Edge

Douglas Muir 406 wrote:

5th level cleric will have, what -- about 40 hp?

Surprise round, otyugh hits, starts a grapple. That's 1d6+2 damage.
Round one, otyugh pulls the cleric into the water and gets a bite in.

Oh, it's worse that that -- otyughs have Grab and Constrict: if it hits you with a tentacle, (1d6+2), it gets a free-action grapple; if that succeeds, it gets automatic Constrict (d6+2 more).

"...A creature with constrict deals this additional damage every time it makes a successful grapple check against a foe. This includes the first check to establish the grapple..."

An otyugh making a full-attack can potentially do (1d8+4)+4x(1d6+2) on a full attack to a single target who's -4 to -8 to AC (and maybe also denied DEX) on some or all of them, dishing out an average 30.5 damage if everything hits. And then it takes a free thwap if you do anything that provokes (like try to swim up out of the muck so you can breathe).

Given your 40hp cleric example, if the otyugh hits on every attack in the surprise round and the following round, it does an average of 41.5 damage (11pts from the initial surprise 2d6+4 grab/constrict, then 30.5 on the full-attack next round).

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Furthermore, it also assumes that the rest of the party spends five rounds just standing around doing nothing...

An otyugh rather easily killed a local PFS fighter recently: He fell down a trapped sewer grate (took minor falling damage) into the otyugh's lair, where he was mauled into unconsciousness (the otyugh let go of him at that point). The other PCs rappelled down, but he had already sunk into the opaque filth pool (nobody could see him). The cleric channeled and he got some HP back, but he was still below zero. He failed his roll to regain consciousness (upon being stabilized by the cleric's channel), and so drowned on his next turn.

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WhipShire wrote:


Pugwampi Gremlins with thier Unlucky Aura are a lot of fun.

Yeah, people LOVE rolling twice and using the inferior roll. There's nothing more fun than combat dragging out forever because you can't keep your good rolls.


Mike Schneider wrote:


An otyugh making a full-attack can potentially do (1d8+4)+4x(1d6+2) on a full attack to a single target who's -4 to -8 to AC (and maybe also denied DEX) on some or all of them, dishing out an average 30.5 damage if everything hits. And then it takes a free thwap if you do anything that provokes (like try to swim up out of the muck so you can breathe).

Okay, let's run the numbers.

5th level cleric caught flatfooted -> AC 16, CMD +5. I specified that the ledge is cramped (-2 AC), so AC 14. Otyugh gets surprise, attacks with a single tentacle in the surprise round at +3. Its chance of success is 50%. If it hits, then d6+2 damage and a grapple check; the grapple check has an 81% chance of success, in which case, sure, another d6+2. But note that right off the bat the otyugh has only a 40% chance of hitting, grabbing and constricting in the surprise round. If it fails, then it's not killing anyone (and will be lucky to escape with its life).

First full round, let's say the otyugh got its grapple. Now what? Well, the otyugh is Init +0, which means at least some party members will beat it. It's entirely possible that someone will have a get-out-of-jail-free card for the cleric -- a Grease spell cast on him, or the like -- but even if not, I'd expect the otyugh to be hit at least once with a weapon or spell. Let's say the fighter gets a lick in: 5th level fighter with 18 Str, weapon focus and a +1 greatsword -> +11 for 2d6+7 damage; he hits and right away the otyugh has lost 1/3 of its hp. Or maybe the sorceror cuts loose with a fireball; the otyugh's low Reflex save means it likely takes full damage, and that's about half its hp gone. If the entire party rolls tolerably well on Init they could easily kill the beast in this round.

On the otyugh's init, its wisest course is probably to take the move action (move is a standard action while grappled), yank the cleric off the ledge and get underwater. (I'd expect the cleric to protest that the otyugh should need a grapple check, but under the RAW he doesn't.) Half the otyugh's 20' move puts it 10' underwater with the cleric at the surface.

On the cleric's Init, he can cast a spell, attack the otyugh, or try to break the grapple -- 22% chance.

Round 2, the otyugh can make a FRA, but it's very unlikely to hit with all attacks. The cleric's AC is back to 16; he's at -4 Dex for being grappled, which puts him back to 14. But the otyugh only attacks at +3 with its tentacles and +7 with its bite. So its chance of hitting with all three is (0.5 x 0.5 x 0.7) = 17.5%. Alternately, it can constrict, which will allow it to inflict auto damage on a successful grapple check. That's great, because it gets +5 (for an existing grapple) on its already high grapple check, while the cleric gets -2 on his CMD for Dex loss. +18 vs. +3 is pretty much a sure thing. But grappling is a standard action, meaning the otyugh only gets to do constriction damage once per round. (Yes, that's counterintuitive. But that's what the RAW seems to say.) Stretching a point, I might say that the otyugh could get a second constriction attack with the other tentacle -- but it would have to hit first (making a normal attack with that tentacle at +3 against AC 14) in order to activate the second grab/constrict. Looking at the numbers, constriction does d6+2 + (a 50% chance of 2d6+4) or 11 points of damage. The otyugh is actually slightly better off doing the FRA instead, because this does about 11.6 points of damage per round and also offers the outside possibility of a critical.

So, our 40 hp cleric will drop to 33 after the surprise round, 21 after Round 1, 9 after round 2. Round 3 he goes unconscious and Round 4 he dies.

This is one round tighter than my original scenario -- but again, it assumes that the cleric doesn't break the grapple or do anything useful, and that the rest of the party just stands around saying "oh dear".

The otyugh's just a CR 4 monster. It has bad Fort and Ref saves, mediocre AC, and fewer hp than the PC it's grappling. If the party gets a full round of clean attacks on it, it's probably dead.

Doug M.

Liberty's Edge

Quote:
Okay, let's run the numbers.
See last paragraph of last post. You're proposing another hypothetical when I've already provided an actual.
Quote:
5th level cleric caught flatfooted -> AC 16, CMD +5. I specified that the ledge is cramped (-2 AC), so AC 14. Otyugh gets surprise, attacks with a single tentacle in the surprise round at +3. Its chance of success is 50%....
Target falls through a trap, lands next to the monster. Flatfoot AC -6 due to prone in water; otyugh now +13 bite and +9 with tentacle, and +19 to grapple.
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5th level fighter with 18 Str, weapon focus and a +1 greatsword -> +11 for 2d6+7 damage

He better have a one-hand back-up weapon because he can't swing that greatsword in a grapple. And the fight's taking place in a pool of filth, so the PC is desperately flailing a masterwork spiked gauntlet at -8 for 0.5x[d6+4] (attack is -4 prone, -2 grapple, -2 underwater; half-damage underwater).


Dude. You started off critiquing my ledge-and-pool setup: "this encounter will kill one or more characters unless the GM "nerfs" the core grapple/pin/drowning rules... The players of the heavy-armor cleric and paladin in particular will be pissed."

I reply, no, it's really pretty unlikely that this particular encounter would kill a PC -- here's why.

Now you're talking about how an otyugh TOTALLY DID kill a PC in your campaign.

Well. Okay.

Doug M.

Liberty's Edge

Doug, why are we fighting over this?

-- Like most BBEMs tending to live in terrain with special attacks, otyughs are exponentially more dangerous when the GM knows all the rules and uses them (otyughs also have an INT of 5, so they're fairly smart for monsters).

If it's just sitting there in an empty room, the PCs will slaughter it instantly. If it's hiding in the dark in its lairl, it'll have a good Stealth score, and is going to p0wn someone if they get them all to their lonesome for a couple rounds.

(I've seen multiple deaths to generic otyughs.)


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Petty Alchemy wrote:
WhipShire wrote:


Pugwampi Gremlins with thier Unlucky Aura are a lot of fun.
Yeah, people LOVE rolling twice and using the inferior roll. There's nothing more fun than combat dragging out forever because you can't keep your good rolls.

Seconded. Had a three hour combat because of pugwampis. At one point, we rolled a 20 and a 1. Finally we just stopped playing Pathfinder and went to go play Rock Band. The campaign died soon after that. Since then, we've banned pugwampis.

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