#5-02, The Wardstone Patrol, GM Discussion [Spoilers]

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Silver Crusade 1/5

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I played the scenario on RatCon in '14 (it went okay, if we ignore the witch antagonizing the NPC for NO REASON from the start - it really felt like the player just enjoyed pissing of NPCs) and I finally judged it now.
I'm aware this thread is quite old, but maybe the write-up will make future GMs a bit more aware of pitfalls that presented themselves to me which are not yet mentioned in the thread.

The group:
Witch 3
Barbarian 3
Barbarian 4 (Amiri Pregen)
Bard 4 (CHA of 14, but INT of 18 - for whatever reason...)
Unchained Rogue 3

Now, I had to run this more or less cold (had one hour to read through the whole thing) because the witch joined us quite spontaneously and she had already played the scenario I wanted to GM.
This was a home game, so I knew most of the players fairly well.
Subtier 3-4.
It should also be noted I did not consider a diplomacy roll failed if ONE character failed it - if another character attempted to argue with a different angle that was fine with me. Not sure if that's entirely RAW though.

The setup
Nothing spectecular here. Because these guys wouldn't even know their current faction briefings (come to think of it - are there current faction letters?) I pretty much just sent the Dark Archive witch a letter (with lots of "my love", "my pet" and black lipstick below) talking about how important it can be to know where to pull strings, we wouldn't want to lose this war of course, but maybe prolong it here and there just for a few days) and told the Silver Crusade bard "Yo, there's a faction mission to fulfill here, keep in mind you're S.Crusade."
I played Sir Ilivan maybe a bit too detached and they disliked him from the start, but didn't want to antagonize him right away because the VC told them to respect him. They immediatly said he'd die.

The village
The barbarian wanted to charge down right away (robbing herself forward), but Sir Ilivan stopped her by touching her gently and talking about how there was no use charging in there. The rogue failed to convince him. The bard also failed to convince him, but made his check so Sir Ilivan gained a bit of insight in his own lack of empathy.
They managed to kill all the demons (and splattered one commoner across the field) and Sir Ilivan responded basically with "Hm. That was foolish, but I suppose I cannot argue with results."
They were surprised he didn't die right here and now.

  • Look carefully at the numbers of demons and commoners. The numbers in the statblocks differ from the numbers on the map. In Subtier 3-4: THREE demons, TWO conscious commoners, TWO unconscious commoners.
  • Don't give everyone a scythe. Use flails. A scythe has a x4 crit modifier and can be NASTY.
  • Sir Ilivans reaction to the group's decision can color the rest of the scenario. Don't make him needlessly antagonistic. He lacks empathy, but he does not actively wish for anyone to die.
  • Maybe make clear that some of the commoners seem far more distressed than the others. I missed that only the commoners tortured their friends and failed to describe (or grant a Sense Motive to notice) how they were far more distressed than their dead possessed buddies. The barbarian felt bad afterwards and I feel like this was my fault.

The fortress
Went in, discussed everything, grabbed stuff, convinced Sir Ilivan to join them, got out. Not much here.
The only thing from notice was that they convinced him to join them on a SCOUT mission - "No, really, if we're clearly outnumbered we'll just head back and won't argue, but if there are only half a dozen demons we can easily kill them, right?"
Changes: While I am aware that we may not change anything in the scenarios, I made the call that all the weapons the PCs can borrow from the armory are coldiron.

  • Not really a pitfall, but my group asked specifically for the types of demons that attacked the fortress. I dropped the ball here - what I SHOULD have mentioned is that one of the demons seemed to be able to fly, using that as a hint to the not as experienced players to maybe grab a ranged weapon since this might be the first scenario they play with flying enemies in it.
  • Some groups might argue that they should save the crusaders because otherwise the scenario would be over. I told my group OOC that this was not a fake decision, but a real one - the scenario was not over no matter what they decided. I have to admit - that was my train of thought back when I played this, too. While most of my characters are goody two-shoes, if I ever played a more cynical character I'd have said "My character would leave those guys to their fate - that's a suicide mission! BUT I don't want this scenario to be over yet and lose that prestige point, so off into the badly written, forced rescue mission we go..." - it is NOT badly written, but most players probably expect this one to be a "Do it because the scenario wants it, if you don't it's over right now" situation.

The rageweed
My whole group failed the first save and immediatly turned on each other. One or two tried to metagame ("What? I did not say anything, what are you talking about?"), but I ruled that the characters heard the words far more aggressive than they were said. They made their saves one by one until only the rogue and the witch were influenced. The rogue hit the witch with his short sword, the witch ran away from him and then he calmed down.
What was really awesome was how they reacted to Sir Ilivan: They took pity and the bard even used a few rounds of his Inspire Courage to help him get over it. When they heard his story it really shifted their view of him.

The wasps
They saw the wasps, immediatly said "Screw that, I'm outta here" and rode away as fast as possible.

The final fight
This one can turn out BAD. They tried to flank the demons (rogue, witch and bard on the walls, barbarians in the gulch) but failed a stealth check. I ruled this meant that the barbarians weren't in position when the demons noticed them and started a bit further away than indicated. The brimorak was a problem though: He started off by casting airwalk and used his breath weapon to great effect. He burnt the barbarian good and then hit both the rogue and the witch, sending the witch to -6 instantly. (I did NOT feel bad for her - if you've only got 17 hp on level 3 you KNOW what you signed up for.)
They managed to kill him though - Amiri critted him with her bow (3d8 + 3 for her killer instinct + 3 from the bard really sealed the deal) and I let him land, allowing the rogue to sneak him to great effect.

Every round after the third I described Sir Ilivan fighting another demon, making it clear the held his own for quite a while before he went under. They were sad that he died, even though they called his death from the start.

  • If you play the brimrak optimally against a group with little to no ranged options it WILL be brutal. The breath weapon is no joke. If you roll low on his "cooldown" that's 5d6 to one or two characters every round - half if they make their save. At some point I just had him go into melee. Because we all wanted to go home, honestly.
  • The stinking cloud of the dretches can make thinks REALLY problematic. The save DC is only 13 though, so if you're not as unlucky as my RatCon group nothing major should happen...

The end:
The group liked the scenario, but was really interested if they could've saved Sir Ilivan. I told them that they technically could and the rogue dryly noticed that this was the FIRST TIME ever they could've saved a man's life by being a total dick to him.
Also you might've noticed that the demons never summoned help - that was on purpose. The tactics don't mention anything about summoning in one way or the other and I felt like they had enough trouble as is and that the scenario probably didn't have the intention of having the demons summon their buddies.

Great scenario, though I REALLY wished I had more time preparing it.

Scarab Sages 4/5

Having recently played this I enjoyed the scenario design even though we blew the secondary condition right off the bat. My character is an Oracle with the wasting curse, so I'm great at intimidate but stink at all other social skills. It makes for fun role playing. In the first encounter we got the woe is me speech, and one of the other characters attempted a diplomacy with no particular success. At which point my character lost it, that our valiant leader was behaving so weakily and I told that soldier to get his sorry butt in the fight. Crushed the intimidate check, which as it turns out was exactly the wrong thing but it was still fun. Especially later on while he was giving his second angsty speech. Everyone was trying to cheer him up, so I actually attempted to assist on the diplomacy. What does a Dark Tapestry oracle say when trying to cheer up someone worried about the point of it all? "Fear not Sir Iilvan for the cold embrace of oblivion shall soon wash away the pain."

Hello! I'm prepping this scenario right now, and area A1 has me confused. The text mentions four commoners and two vermleks (three in 6-7), the map shows three commoners and four vermleks, and the statblocks list four commoners and three vermleks (four in 6-7). Who do I believe? Am I reading something wrong? Thanks in advance!

Sovereign Court 4/5 5/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden

On the low tier there are 3 vermleks, on the high tier there are 4 vermleks. In both cases there are 4 commoners. So the map lists spawning points for all four of them, in case you're playing the high tier. And it shows one commoner too little.

What the players see at first however is 6-7 commoners and a pile of corpses. Two of the commoners are on the ground, the remaining 4-5 "commoners" are standing around torturing them. Of the standing 4-5 commoners, 2-3 are vermleks in disguise.

The final vermlek is V1, who's just invaded a corpse and is getting up.

So in high tier you need 8 minis, on low tier 7. 4 real commoners and 3-4 vermleks in disguise.

So yeah, there is something wonky about the map, in that it shows one commoner too little.

Yeah, I thought the problem was with the map. Thank you!

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