Am I the only one who's bothered by my brain when running through some modules?


Pathfinder Adventure Path General Discussion


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Why aren't the baddies teaming up and concentrating their forces against the PCs?

OR... why isn't the village that is threatened by the baddies helping out the PCs more?

First of all, I am sympathetic to Paizo's writers because you often have to serve several masters at once: give the PCs a fighting chance to win, a chance to be the heroes, and a realistic world and set of NPC personalities, all while not overwhelming the GM with massive battles.

But I am just now reading through an Adventure Path chapter (I won't name it), where the PCs are liberating some territory, and they track down the military leaders in their headquarters. For each military leader (in each in his own room of course), they do not respond to ALARMS that their HEADQUARTERS is being invaded because they are too busy focusing on commanding their army outside the headquarters.

This AP chapter is:

Spoiler:
Chapter 6 of Legacy of Fire

And of course, when these leaders are slain, their army collapses. So why didn't these generals focus on saving their own skins? As commanders of their army, isn't their own survival vital to the success of their military?

As a GM, I find myself always bothered by my brain. Why do the baddies stay in their own rooms, waiting to be plucked off? If the town is really threatened, why don't they help out? What if one of my players asks the dwarven kingdom's leadership to send a squadron of high-level fighters with them?

It's gotten to the point where I'm so jaded that, whenever I hear or read something explaining why an enemy is occupied, or why a town guard must stay in town, I think to myself, "Oh, that's because the adventure writer or the GM is forcing us to act alone." I don't know how many times I have seen a BBEG tied up and staying in one place, because they are about to accomplish the final stage of some evil ritual.

So I figured to hell with it: I am running an AP right now, and I'm having a portion of the town guard join the players in raiding a fortress. But now, as they explore the dungeon beneath the fort, they find themselves ambushed by the intelligent denizens of the place, who of course are on high alert because the fortress above has been destroyed by a superior force. But now the PCs' escape route is cut off by an overwhelming force.

But also, the adventure I'm running doesn't address these possibilities, or what I should say to players if they want to recruit the town or when the enemies think smart. I see a running assumption usually that I will run things as written, as static.

Are there others out there who are bothered by these questions? And how do you handle it?


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I realize I'm playing a game, and everything suddenly seems to make perfect sense.

Dark Archive

Legacy of Fire Forum
The Legacy of Fire forum might have some suggestions for you.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

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It does and it doesn't bother me.

It bothers me at my table, because it punches a whole in my own sense of verisimilitude. When preparing to run a module, I like to print out my pdf, mark the heck out of it, and prepare a series of contingency plans for intelligent and sophisticated villians to deal with the PCs and their meddling dog.

It doesn't bother me in the context of the module or AP itself because the words/pagecount required to provide a detailed plan for the NPCs to react to the PCs would likely be too much work to produce and edit. Particularly at high levels, the authors can't anticipate every tactic a PC party may take. Maybe they write up a page of counter-tactics that are triggered by the PCs invading the dungeon, only to have the PCs use scry-and-die instead. Maybe they close the loophole allowing for scry-and-die, but miss the fact that the lair is vulnerable to a shapechanging druid and an earthquake spell.

That's my take. I'd suggest that if you have a particular module where it's a problem, hunt down one of the threads dedicated to that module to see if there are some ideas that might help (or people willing to let you bounce ideas off of them).


Scott Betts wrote:
I realize I'm playing a game, and everything suddenly seems to make perfect sense.

If my players press, I can have a metagame discussion with my players, true. But while this is a game, we also purport to have some kind of coherent fantasy "reality," which in the world I prefer includes having some intelligent enemies and NPCs. And sometimes having "realism" adds to the "game" -- like using stealth and staying silent in skulking around an organized fortress, for instance.


Sebastian wrote:
That's my take. I'd suggest that if you have a particular module where it's a problem, hunt down one of the threads dedicated to that module to see if there are some ideas that might help (or people willing to let you bounce ideas off of them).

Thanks. Will do. I haven't spent a lot of time on the forums and I'm happy to see I'm not the only one who thinks these things.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

You ask good questions, and deserve some well-considered answers (instead of snark about "you take it more seriously than I do, so I mock you, hur hur").

Part of this is due to practical limitations; with page and space constraints, there's only so much you can write about any given NPC/section of the adventure. Likewise, there are only so many combinations of reactions that you can give for how various NPCs will react to various tactics.

One of the best articles I've seen on this subject was in a Polyhedron magazine from around 2001 (at which point it was folded into Dungeon) that talked about setting "alert levels" for dungeons. This basically stated that NPCs had various "levels" of alertness (a la Defcon settings) where they made more proactive preparations at each level, what kicked things up a level, how long it would take for them to start standing down, etc. It was great material, and addressed your issues directly.

I've long wished that Paizo would make something like that standard for their adventures, since as a guideline it could be very useful. Alas, we don't have it, and probably won't for the foreseeable future, but the baseline article from Polyhedron is still a good source to have on hand.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I feel bothered in some instances where there should be a real question why the BBEG doesn't take notice that his underlings are being snuffed out one by one. The answer from APs normally is "they don't communicate" or something of the like. Which seems a bit ludicrous, with easily available spells which allow long range communication.


You probably remain the only person bothered by YOUR brain, until you interact with others in some medium, such as speaking or writing (like on these boards).

Right now, I feel a bit bothered by your brain. But I'd say that the vast majority of the time I am not bothered by your brain at all. In fact, I give your brain little, probably closer to zero thought whatsoever, and so am not bothered by it.

Yes, it is a basic conceit of RPGs in general that, due to a mechanism designed to compartmentalize danger to make it "fair challenge" for the Player Characters, encounters come in parts. So most of the time the whole castle doesn't come running to kill the PCs the first time the cook on the lower level hears a funny sound. But this conceit was not invented by the people at Paizo. It exists in video games, came from the world of tabletop RPGs, and goes back to the movies and novels that inspired those first RPGs. It is an ancient conceit, meant to maximize the heroes' "screentime," so to speak, and to make sure we the audience do not get totally bored with a story that amounts to nothing more than a few pages of character introduction, their subsequent capture or annihilation by page 20 (following an endless, boring description of battle), and the end of the novel around page 30.

You are doubtless thinking to yourself, "I want this to be more realistic." And "how do I change this so every single time a PC sneezes, fifty orcs crash through the door and destroy them with extreme prejudice?"

And my response is: This is not reality. It is a game based on fantastic conceits such as orcs not noticing the invasion of their lair until it is time to fight. And yes, you can mix it up occasionally to have the whole castle come running - variety is the spice of life, and my own players have asked similar questions and enjoyed similar scenarios. But never think you can get away with capturing the whole party (one of two inevitable outcomes from trying to force your reality on the game) or a flat out TPK (the other inevitable outcome) more than a couple of times before you are rightly tossed out as GM. Players do not like gimmicks - which your newfound reality will surely become by the second time you enact it. Nor do they like constant failure, which such a change cannot help but to encourage.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Although I think minding encounter balance is advice well taken (I went through a phase where the entire population of the dungeon/fortress would make their way to the first few rooms as soon as the PCs entered and raised the alarm, resulting in an insanely difficult fight followed by a mopping up session), I don't think it's a binary choice between OMGBADWRONGFUN unbalanced encounters and "I'm a super lich with a vast array of spells, so of course I'm just here chilling and am surprised when 4 heavily armed and armored thugs break in."

I find the harder challenge is when the PCs hit the fortress/dungeon/etc., and then take a break before reaching the BBEG. It can be difficult to come up with a response that satisifies my sense of realism, can be thrown together on the fly (typically the 10-20 minutes it takes the players to make camp and plan how they will make their watch), and doesn't completely destroy the PCs (who are usually low on resourcse, and thus resting).

Still, a lot of what I enjoy when running a module is taking the pieces I'm handed and making them work, including the villian's goals and personal blindspots.


The Rot Grub wrote:
Scott Betts wrote:
I realize I'm playing a game, and everything suddenly seems to make perfect sense.
If my players press, I can have a metagame discussion with my players, true. But while this is a game, we also purport to have some kind of coherent fantasy "reality," which in the world I prefer includes having some intelligent enemies and NPCs. And sometimes having "realism" adds to the "game" -- like using stealth and staying silent in skulking around an organized fortress, for instance.

See, I used to care about this a lot. I wanted intelligent bad guys who worked to ensure their own survival, and intelligent monsters who would attack with overwhelming force to minimize casualties. And then I slowly realized that the more I cared about these things, no matter how much work I put into "fixing" them, the less enjoyable the game became. The reason we play games like D&D is to escape from reality (to one degree or another). Not just in the sense that we want to escape from the real world into a world where magic and dragons exist, but also to escape from a world where we aren't the main characters. The real world doesn't really care about your personal story, or in facilitating your rise to fame, but we can create a game that does. Remember, D&D (like most cooperative RPGs) is noteworthy for making the basic assumption that the players will win. This is pretty easy to demonstrate simply by asking how many times your party has suffered a TPK against the first "balanced" encounter they fight. That's almost never the case. In fact, it's usually quite the opposite - the PCs typically come out on top of the vast majority of encounters with few casualties.

The best possible advice I can give is to suspend your disbelief as much as you possibly can, and to focus your efforts not on making the game "realistic" for its own sake (if you make that your goal, you will never be satisfied) but rather on making the game as enjoyable as possible for your players.


The Rot Grub wrote:
Are there others out there who are bothered by these questions? And how do you handle it?

Well, just because the PCs cry wolf doesn’t mean the entire town should come running. They often don’t know the PCs or can necessarily believe the PCs. Or perhaps only 1 guard comes. And maybe if the bad guys are infiltrated, they run, leaving no loot for the PCs and a very hard time tracking them down. Maybe they are (correctly) afraid for their lives?

Or if the PCs make lots of noise, there’s no reason why every other room can come running a few rounds later. You’re the GM, make it happen.

High level NPCs aren’t always available. Sure, the town might be in trouble but perhaps there is something more important. Or perhaps they feel their flunkies can handle it.

Or if the PCs get a bunch of low level NPCs to help them, often they will die horribly and the PCs will be partially responsible for it happening. A CR10 threat can kill a lot of CR2 helpers. Which is a good case for leaving them behind.

That’s the beauty of home games; the GM can react in any way he feels is realistic or appropriate. The AP and modules are only guidelines.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I did this once. I had a 2nd edition villain who had an Intelligence and Wisdom of 25 (in Pathfinder terms that would probably be an Int and Wis both of 40 or more) who was realizing no matter what he did, the party was defeating him... and that the prophecy he was trying to avert was coming to fruition. Then I went and thought it out thoroughly. "I'm already extremely powerful. I'm immortal. I don't NEED to become a God... especially as I'll be killed according to prophecy as soon as I ascend. That's it! I quit, I'll give them the artifacts I need to become a God and then go on vacation!" And so he did.

The party response was summed up with one plaintive voice asking "can he do that?"


Jason S wrote:
The Rot Grub wrote:
Are there others out there who are bothered by these questions? And how do you handle it?

Well, just because the PCs cry wolf doesn’t mean the entire town should come running. They often don’t know the PCs or can necessarily believe the PCs. Or perhaps only 1 guard comes. And maybe if the bad guys are infiltrated, they run, leaving no loot for the PCs and a very hard time tracking them down. Maybe they are (correctly) afraid for their lives?

Or if the PCs make lots of noise, there’s no reason why every other room can come running a few rounds later. You’re the GM, make it happen.

High level NPCs aren’t always available. Sure, the town might be in trouble but perhaps there is something more important. Or perhaps they feel their flunkies can handle it.

Or if the PCs get a bunch of low level NPCs to help them, often they will die horribly and the PCs will be partially responsible for it happening. A CR10 threat can kill a lot of CR2 helpers. Which is a good case for leaving them behind.

That’s the beauty of home games; the GM can react in any way he feels is realistic or appropriate. The AP and modules are only guidelines.

Or the town guard and/or high level NPCs go with the party and the town is attacked while they're away.


I decided that my NPCs have learned in-character the same thing that I learned out-of-character: In a world where dudes are walking around with Area of Effect spells, gathering all of your mooks into a constricted area is often a very poor idea.


Your job as a DM is to make the core conceit of D&D, which is "Evil sits in a dungeon, waiting to be killed" make sense.

So, you have to come up with reasons that the enemies don't work together, because fighting all the monsters at once is beyond the PC's ability.

Here are some possibilities:

1) The evil overlord mistrusts his lieutenant and wants him taken down, thinking that he'll step in and take care of the PCs once that's done
2) the evil overlord has been going insane and is incapable of reacting strategically
3) underlings are afraid to communicate the attacks up the chain for fear they'll be punished for being weak (my favorite!)
4) the evil overlord's attention is occupied by other threats

Just a few off the top of my head.

Ken


At some point in a long, "take down the evil overlord" kind of campaign, the PCs rise to the level of a serious annoyance and really should be taken down. This is a serious problem, since the bad guy usually has the resources to do so and the PCs don't have a lot of defenses. It's really hard to guard against scry and fry style attacks from a higher level enemy with plenty of minions. Especially if you can't go to ground and hole up somewhere.


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First off, no - your brain doesn't bother me in the slightest.

Next, I find it helpful if you look at an AP as a stArting off point. As what you could run if you wanted to, but with the pieces there for so much more. Remember when you were a kid and you bought a Legos pack that had a specific thing on the front that you had the pieces to build? It was cool and all and might present a challenge for all of an hour but what really mattered was 1) the ideas it inspired and 2) the fact that you had new peices to add to your collection - or new peices you could add your collection to. That's how I tend to view AP's. As structured inspiration and a wealth of tools.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16

It makes sense so long as the action keeps moving. Think any good fantasy movie where the adventurers storm the keep, hacking their way to the top and rescue the victim. To reference the best source material that I can: remember in Return of the King, when Frodo is kidnapped in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, and Sam hacks his way through all of the orcs, and rescues Frodo, returning the Ring to him? If Tolkien can do it, you can do it. ;-)

This made cinematic sense. Remember, even though the series of battles that constitute a dungeon-crawl might take several hours (or even several sessions), they really only take a few minutes in-game. The are storming the tower, before the foes can react.

Now, if the PCs take any time to rest (even a few minutes), then this doesn't make sense. Overnight rests make NO sense at all. But so long as things are propelling forward at a blistering clip, I think it's okay.


Scott Betts wrote:
The best possible advice I can give is to suspend your disbelief as much as you possibly can, and to focus your efforts not on making the game "realistic" for its own sake (if you make that your goal, you will never be satisfied) but rather on making the game as enjoyable as possible...

I agree with this. When I ran the invasion, I just relaxed and stopped worrying about a lot of the details and knew that my players are just looking for a fun time. My OCD/obsession side of me makes me love being on the GM's side of the screen, but also sometimes I forget what it's like to be a player.

I hope that in my original post I made clear that my worry is basically *internal* (in my brain!) and that it's not something I have seen (yet) come up as a problem spoiling my players' enjoyment.

Btw, I should note that while I have run the NPCs and enemies more intelligently, I have also "winged it" in terms of encounter balance, letting fewer enemies appear so as not to overwhelm the party if they are ambushed, for instance. I get no joy out of springing "gotcha!" moments on my players. In the example I gave in which my players were ambushed from behind in a dungeon and their escape route was cut off, they agreed that their course of action didn't make much sense, and they had had warnings that the denizens of the place had scouted them, knew they were there, and were organized.

However, if I had given anvil-sized hints, including out-of-character hints, to the players that what they're doing makes sense at all whatsoever and is putting them in GRAVE DANGER, I think in that situation I should take the gloves off and give them a VERY tough fight.

So I wield the GM Discretion Stick quite a lot. But I'm trying to do that, while also maintaining some illusion of "realism" when I can. Sure you can't always please every master, but I sure as hell try when I can.


The thing is, there are lots of different ways to respond to an intruder other than "Everybody converge on one spot".

Let's go over what constitutes a party intrusion:

If your PCs storm the enemy's base/camp through the front door, then yeah, having all the troops rush to their location makes sense, and frankly, they deserve it. On the other hand, if the PCs can cause enough chaos and manage to vanish or disguise themselves, then the area would simply go into High Alert (more on that below).

But if the Party's entrance was stealthy, the first clue the base as a whole is gonna be either if their first battle makes too much noise (careful with those fireballs, dude!) someone gets away to raise an alarm, or when another patrol finds the bodies if they were quiet/fast. In this case, they'll know the party is there, but not their location (and if it's their first encounter, they won't know numbers or strength either). In this case, the denizens are likely to both roam more widely than usual, and likely to combine groups for safety (less encounters, but bigger).

The "Villain Waiting in Their Lair" thing actually makes a fair bit of sense. If they are unwilling or unable to evacuate, gathering forces in a single defensible position isn't a bad strategy.

As a GM, my suggestion would be to make a tally of the total minions in the dungeon, and as the party tears through the dungeon, start moving some encounters and key enemies closer to the BBEG's lair for protection.

The Exchange

SAMAS is talking a lot of sense. I spent a (brief) time as a soldier (only went through the most basic training, then broke off to continue my degree in before returning). There was a different protocol for base defense (that is, how to act when enemies are approaching the base) and base invasion (that is, an enemy has somehow sneaked into the base).

In case of an attack fro outside the orders were to converge at the walls of the base and await in battle positions. In cases where (even a small number of) enemies are already in the base, the soldiers were to find defensible positions and guard them.

Of course these orders could be changed on the spot by officers giving commands more suiting the basic case, but the principle stands.


There are some modules that provide general information on how the enemies react in case xyz happens, and others that include information on how a specific NPC/monster reacts in case of xyz, but in general that kind of thing is left up to the GM to decide for themselves for a variety of reasons.

For instance, the space spent on detailing possible responses might mean something else would have to be cut, such as another encounter, a custom monster, or some background information. And even if such responses are detailed, the PCs might decide to do something the author never thought of and therefore couldn't predict.


This thread is giving me a lot of ideas about keeping the immersion in the sessions I GM. Keep it up!! :D

Liberty's Edge

I always like to give a realistic approach to situations. For the most part this doesn't mean changing much to the adventures but if I read something where a group full of baddies is hanging out in a house and a fight breaks out in one room the mooks in the adjacent room do not remain unaware and likely go to help their friends. Alternatively, if an alarm is raised in a larger setting, such as Lord Snow's military base example, I have the intelligent and organized adversaries move to defensive positions.

Adversaries are not always intelligent and organized. Lack of intelligence means simple tactics such as wandering to investigate a disturbance or running and hiding somewhere safe. Lack of organization means that a whole horde may go charging at an intruder only to be blasted flat by a fireball when the bottleneck themselves in a room.

When it comes to a town's defense, as a player I always make appeals to the beleaguered townsfolk to make an organized defensive strategy. It is the job of the heroes, in my opinion, to go out and face the threat on the field of battle while the citizens remain behind in case the attack fails. However, I would not be adverse to allowing players the opportunity to attempt to recruit a militia to accompany them and have had players hire mercenaries on several occasions.

In the end, it all depends on how you want to run things. As has already been said, published material is a toolkit. What is written is a baseline and you can, and I highly encourage you to, modify what is there to as much or as little degree as you see fit.


Tangent101 wrote:

I did this once. I had a 2nd edition villain who had an Intelligence and Wisdom of 25 (in Pathfinder terms that would probably be an Int and Wis both of 40 or more) who was realizing no matter what he did, the party was defeating him... and that the prophecy he was trying to avert was coming to fruition. Then I went and thought it out thoroughly. "I'm already extremely powerful. I'm immortal. I don't NEED to become a God... especially as I'll be killed according to prophecy as soon as I ascend. That's it! I quit, I'll give them the artifacts I need to become a God and then go on vacation!" And so he did.

The party response was summed up with one plaintive voice asking "can he do that?"

I love this. Everything about it. :D

-The Gneech


The Rot Grub wrote:


As a GM, I find myself always bothered by my brain. Why do the baddies stay in their own rooms, waiting to be plucked off? If the town is really threatened, why don't they help out? What if one of my players asks the dwarven kingdom's leadership to send a squadron of high-level fighters with them?

It's gotten to the point where I'm so jaded that, whenever I hear or read something explaining why an enemy is occupied, or why a town guard must stay in town, I think to myself, "Oh, that's because the adventure writer or the GM is forcing us to act alone." I don't know how many times I have seen a BBEG tied up and staying in one place, because they are about to accomplish the final stage of some evil ritual.

So I figured to hell with it: I am running an AP right now, and I'm having a portion of the town guard join the players in raiding a fortress....

Oh, I get exactly the same thing, and deal with it by simply ignoring what's been written and making the changes that make more sense to me.

A lot of the time you have to adjust things on-the-fly when the party doesn't do what was expected anyway, so I just see it as a natural extension of that. I tend to read through an adventure module, do an inventory of main groups and NPCs along with a rough timeline, and then use that to construct a dynamic game world that adjusts as things progress along the timeline. If the PCs take too long to do something, that group of goblins in the cave will start thinking they're in a safe area and go raid the nearest village. If the PCs leave a few monsters alive in an encounter, maybe a few will escape to warn a later group and they'll be better prepared. I think it's important to use a prewritten adventure as a jumping-off point, not a static script, especially when it's quite likely members of the group may also have had access to and read it.


On some level I agree with the idea with this. But I think having things react too close to a real world level can be un fun for the players. Though I fully agree about a greater reaction if the pc go through the front door.

I'm biased however as the one time I played with a dm that did this doing return to the temple of epemental evil. The first time we retreated survivors spread word spread and encounters got harder so we retreated more and they got harder til we were bogging down to single encounters and retreating.

Though I think part of my dislike from this is the dm insisted we manually map out many of the rooms which were now empty due to regrouping monsters. This sucked up so much time it wasn't fun.

Anyhow long story short a little realism is great but not too much.

Scarab Sages

For PFS play, I can kind of understand keeping the encounters isolated for play balance purposes. In homebrew play, I think enemies should communicate, often resulting in untiered encounters.


In some cases, such as when attacking orcs and ogres, sounds of fighting are probably just quotidian background noise so wouldn't necessarily cause anyone to raise the alarm. It helps here that the opposition is usually evil, and evil monsters do evil things to each other which frequently involves hitting, yelling and screaming.

Otherwise, consider the alignment of the enemy. If they're chaotic, they're probably badly organised and won't get their act together. If they're lawful, they might have STRICT ORDERS NOT TO MOVE and don't react sensibly. Of course all this depends on intelligence and style/competence of leadership.


Whenever I run a module with a pre-made/pre-populated dungeon the first thing I do is take the map and scribble in each room small notes about what's there. I then post that map on the back of my DM screen.

Then anytime the PCs are making a ruckus I have an easily referenced picture of exactly who/what might hear them.

This for me makes it way easier to have the dungeon residents respond to an incursion in a manner that feels realistic and organic.

- Torger


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Let's see.

13th Warrior handled this by having a river raging through the 'dungeon'. The warriors still approached by stealth as best they could. The sound of the river covered much of the sound of fighting.

In Conan the heroes approached by stealth and managed to avoid fighting until they were within sight of their goal. Then they ambushed the baddies while they were at rest and after the BBEG had... turned into a snake (which never helps).

In LOTR they relied entirely on being quiet and sticking to upper galleries in Moria. Once they were revealed they simply had to run like hell against overwhelming numbers of enemies.

Likewise in the Hobbit the plan was to have the burglar evade Smaug until they could find a way around him.

In Willow the heroes brought a whole damn army with them and used that to kick the door down so Valeros... I mean Mad Martigan could cut a hole for Willow to get to Elora Danan.

In Dragon Slayer there were no mooks - The dragon was more or less alone in it's cave.

In Legend there were mooks, but they didn't really talk to one another and the approach into Darkness' fortress was almost entirely through stealth.

The Dark Crystal, stealth, natch.

In the movies the heroes mostly manage by sneaking around and doing what they can to manage to size of any given battle.

As far as BBEGs - I'd just play them smart. There's ways to have them isolated, of course. If you can get to them you can bar the doors against the guards long enough to deal with their boss. You can ambush them while they're travelling with a small guard. You can pull a scry-and-die with some high explosives.

I think there's a lot to be said for distractions. If you can fill a castle with summoned monsters, freedom fighters, demons, undead, illusions that make a lot of noise and serve as a distraction the castle will probably go on lock-down. Depending on what kind of BBEG you have he'll either go to the most secure part of the castle or armor up and go join his guard in dealing with the problem. Either way it's an opportunity to drag him away from his prepared defenses.

Isolating the BBEG so you can kill or incapacitate him should be an important part of any attack plan. If you're going on the offensive it'd be extremely important to know what you're up against and have a clear understanding of your objectives and a clear plan as to how to accomplish that.

Ditto an escape plan. If you're trying for a decapitation strike you should, hopefully, be causing enough chaos that the enemy can't organize an effective response. But you should still expect pursuit by cavalry, wizards, summoned beasties - Basically someone's going to chase your ass.


FrankManic wrote:

Let's see.

13th Warrior handled this by having a river raging through the 'dungeon'. The warriors still approached by stealth as best they could. The sound of the river covered much of the sound of fighting.

In Conan the heroes approached by stealth and managed to avoid fighting until they were within sight of their goal. Then they ambushed the baddies while they were at rest and after the BBEG had... turned into a snake (which never helps).

In LOTR they relied entirely on being quiet and sticking to upper galleries in Moria. Once they were revealed they simply had to run like hell against overwhelming numbers of enemies.

Likewise in the Hobbit the plan was to have the burglar evade Smaug until they could find a way around him.

In Willow the heroes brought a whole damn army with them and used that to kick the door down so Valeros... I mean Mad Martigan could cut a hole for Willow to get to Elora Danan.

In Dragon Slayer there were no mooks - The dragon was more or less alone in it's cave.

In Legend there were mooks, but they didn't really talk to one another and the approach into Darkness' fortress was almost entirely through stealth.

The Dark Crystal, stealth, natch.

In the movies the heroes mostly manage by sneaking around and doing what they can to manage to size of any given battle.

As far as BBEGs - I'd just play them smart. There's ways to have them isolated, of course. If you can get to them you can bar the doors against the guards long enough to deal with their boss. You can ambush them while they're travelling with a small guard. You can pull a scry-and-die with some high explosives.

I think there's a lot to be said for distractions. If you can fill a castle with summoned monsters, freedom fighters, demons, undead, illusions that make a lot of noise and serve as a distraction the castle will probably go on lock-down. Depending on what kind of BBEG you have he'll either go to the most secure part of the castle or armor up and go join his guard in dealing with...

OTOH, the movie heroes have the writer/director on their side. This helps a lot.

In a game, trying to sneak into/through major enemy forces generally just means when they inevitably notice you or you have to come out in the open to reach your goal, you're now surrounded in the middle of the complex without a clear way out, facing the entire adventures worth of opposition at once.


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that depends, it shouldn't as long as you have the "director/GM" on your side, as they should be.

The Exchange

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Most humanoid opponents should be NPCs of lvl 5 or less (per inner sea guide) So armies shouldn't be to hard to infiltrate at mid levels. And you can fight your way out not to long after that.

Communication will always be an issue. The spells are high level and people are hard to organize.


captain yesterday wrote:
that depends, it shouldn't as long as you have the "director/GM" on your side, as they should be.

Many people would argue that.

But even so, he may be on your side, but he's much more limited than the author. He usually won't rewrite bad rolls or bad decisions on your part. He usually won't have you just happen to make the right choices or give you the brilliant idea at just the right moment.

And we don't usually want him too.

But that makes it harder. Gaming characters really can't handle the same kind of odds that heroes in literature and film can.


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thejeff wrote:
captain yesterday wrote:
that depends, it shouldn't as long as you have the "director/GM" on your side, as they should be.

Many people would argue that.

But even so, he may be on your side, but he's much more limited than the author. He usually won't rewrite bad rolls or bad decisions on your part. He usually won't have you just happen to make the right choices or give you the brilliant idea at just the right moment.

And we don't usually want him too.

But that makes it harder. Gaming characters really can't handle the same kind of odds that heroes in literature and film can.

well those people are jerks then!

its a game, sure sometimes people's characters die, but the GM shouldn't be sending say, an entire fortress of giants at the PCs just because someone fails a stealth check, or a monster gets away.

Sovereign Court

You don't have to run the module as written. We rotate and one of my players wont run PF APs anymore because they don't work for him right off the paper. He keeps trying new systems looking for that one that will allow him to do so but it doesn't exist. We don't mind trying new systems either. When my brain says "no way" I re-write it. Sometimes that's a little bit sometimes its a lot. I ran CC and we are closing in on the finish. I changed it up a bit while GM-ing it, but nothing too serious until book 5. I pretty much rewrote the entire thing because I disliked it so much.


I think it's incumbent on the DM to fill in enough details to give you options. Watch how many different ways they try to escape in the first ten minutes of The Great Escape. Look at how Altair moves around Jerusalem. It's up to the DM to create the world that you get to run around being heroic in.

Of course the characters also have to be smart. If you want to infiltrate an army camp you should expect to have to spend a few days sitting in a tree memorizing guard rotas, set up some clever ambush involving nymphs and a grease spell to steal uniforms, and then bluff and bluster your way through all the signs, countersigns, and passwords standing between you and the inner camp.

I suppose the players need to ask the right questions. Are there any ruins in the area? Can we access them? Do they run under the camp? Is there brush that would give us cover? How disciplined are the badguys and would we be noticed if we just sauntered in?

What does a camp do when, say, a thousand screaming burning skeletons appear out of nowhere on the western wall? Do they rouse the whole camp? Or just the sentries? Does everyone rush to the western wall or does each squadron have an assigned duty post? Does the army have a procedure to check if those are real skeletons or just illusions?

You can make these things work in a believable way, but it takes some research, some imagination, a lot of bad movie watching.

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