DM Advice Needed - PCs to infiltrate slaver camp.


Advice


So the PCs are about to be tasked with infiltrating a slaver camp to rescue the most recent captives.

BUT..they are made painfully aware that this needs to be a covert mission as much as possible because the slavers are too powerful for a direct assualt.

They are in a desert and will be given a poison to slip into the water supply but must first masquerade as slavers....the NPCs requesting this will provide poison, members of thier own tribe as mock slaves to support.

The leader of the slavers is a drow thrall of a mindflayer...this is not known to the majority of the slavers and the mindflayer will not be present at the main camp, he only comes weekly to re-establish his thrall over the leader and collect slaves.

So my intent is for the PCs to RP thier way in ...find the water sources at the main camp...poison them...await the results and escape with minimal combat.

However and this is where the advise portion comes in...I need some good social skill checks/challenges etc.

How hard should it be for them to convince the slavers they want to join up?

Will a simple Bluff check get the leader to let them in temporarily?

Any thoughts?

PS - eventually the mindflayer will come looking for vengence. :)


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I see an initial problem. Poisoning the only water supply is going to inconvenience everyone, including your players(unless they create water), the slavers, the slaves, and any locals afterwards, as well as camels, horses, etc...Better include an after the fact antidote with the poison.

Socially, diplomacy is better than bluff as that's more than a one shot conversation. Maybe modify the diplomacy check by things they discover prior to infiltrating by scouting out the camp, for every successful tidbit they get a +2 on the check. For example: Sense motive checks, knowledge local, perception, disguise, etc let them know the slavers have a secret handshake, are all fond of dark haired women, and each wear their hats like gangstas, and love to show off tattoos. They use each of these they learn and now they have a RP way to get into camp. Your "face" player, usually a bard or paladin (probably not since they are poisoning people) should have the best chance at this, with bluff as a get out of trouble card to escape. As a counter to the players rolls, for every screwup or obvious thing they forget to disguise, add to the bad guys sense motive to figure out things aren't exactly as they seem. Really you want them to succeed but make it close.


ClarkKent07 wrote:
So my intent is for the PCs to RP thier way in ...find the water sources at the main camp...poison them...await the results and escape with minimal combat.
Too many moving parts. Even if you could railroad the PCs into following the tracks, any ordinary bad dice roll blows it. I'd prepare contingencies. If it's a rescue mission there are other ways to go about it. Even if they get caught and enslaved themselves, there still may be an oppertunity later to accomplish the mission. Being a pessimist, I'd count on everything going wrong. It's a shame it's sort of already mapped out. As a PC, half the fun is concocting the Ocean's 11 heist masterplan yourself.
ClarkKent07 wrote:
How hard should it be for them to convince the slavers they want to join up?

Depends on if there are any vacancies. Even so, I'd imagine their HR department would want to check references and start them off as probationary employees.

ClarkKent07 wrote:
Will a simple Bluff check get the leader to let them in temporarily?

Did the mindflayer thrall the drow for its good looks or its business acumen? I'd imagine slaver administrators see their share of double crosses. It should take a while to build the drow's confidence in the PCs. Waltzing in and getting the keys to the executive washroom on day one is unrealistic and all video game questy.

"Welcome to SlaveCo, here's all our slaves and our water supply. Lock up when you're done."

ClarkKent07 wrote:
Any thoughts?

You could offer a gauntlet of oppertunities to increase/decrease the slaver's trust. Anybody too eager to be friendly would stick out. Gaining a reputation as an unsavory character probably would do more to put slavers at ease. Getting into organized crime typically requires a great resume and even then it's still mostly nepotism. It's a business though, so the slavers should get something of value to show for adding new members, but short of a "donation" of slaves. I'm sure there's work in & around a slaver camp that can't be done reliably by slaves, but that slavers still would depend on to operate.


Heim - the poison is not lethal only temperarily debilitating. Also they are not poisoning a continuous water supply but a stored water supply.

The PCs also will have info from a captured slaver to go on for a bit of insight into thier habits, behaviors, etc.

@Lich - Good points and truth be told that is just my plan, but I try to allow for as much player freedom as possible. This previously mentioned plan will be suggested by the hiring party but the PCs will ultimately decide how to execute said plan.

The Slavers just lost a small group and are somewhat isolated. Also the PCs will be bringing "fresh" slaves in with them, but that's why I brought this to the masses for input...I hate "railroading" or DM fiat to circumvent logic.

The mindflayer thralled the drow because she leads a group of slavers and thus provides regular brains.....I am hoping the PCs will RP thier way into at least a short term acceptance.

I like your last point and will have to work on they fly to see how the PCs RP for meeting specific challenge goals.

Thanks for the feedback!


Uncertainty Lich wrote:
ClarkKent07 wrote:
So my intent is for the PCs to RP thier way in ...find the water sources at the main camp...poison them...await the results and escape with minimal combat.
Too many moving parts. Even if you could railroad the PCs into following the tracks, any ordinary bad dice roll blows it. I'd prepare contingencies.

This is extremely good advice. I'd also recommend against fudging rolls. The PCs have to be able to fail. Not only are catastrophic failures often as fun and memorable as successes, but without those failures, there's no joy in those successes anyway. As that's the case, you should have a good idea how things will go down if the PCs fail at any point in their infiltration.

Quote:
As a PC, half the fun is concocting the Ocean's 11 heist masterplan yourself.

Also very true. Rather than coming up with specific and set skill challenges, instead I'd suggest you give the PCs a ton of details and let them decide how best to infiltrate and rescue the prisoners. Have a group of desert dwellers visit the slave camp each day to use the well. Have the camp guards switch at specific times. Maybe there's a nest of sand wyverns roosting at a nearby rocky crag. Are the slavers superstitious believers of the legend of Gorthaag, the Phantom Sand Spider? Does the enthralled slaver leader enjoy a certain vintage of surface liquor he can't get in the Underdark?

Describe the camp in detail, giving them plenty of things to potentially interact with. Bonfires. Horse picket lines. Perhaps runaway slave-tracking dogs. A special tent for segregating those slaves to be sold as pleasure slaves. etc. etc.

Then let the PCs go wild coming up with ways to use all these things to attempt to get in and out without starting a fight.

Also, be prepared for a fight. Because catastrophic failure. Yeah.

Quote:
ClarkKent07 wrote:
How hard should it be for them to convince the slavers they want to join up?
Depends on if there are any vacancies. Even so, I'd imagine their HR department would want to check references and start them off as probationary employees.

To be honest, I can't imagine a slaver group accepting any random strangers into their group. Slavers don't just seem like the "you seem trustworthy, join our venture!" kinda group. They'd pull in people they knew only if/when they needed extra people. And even then I'd imagine it'd be someone's brother or cousin or old friend, etc. Or someone known by one of the slavers from the same village...


Again all good points...

I had really hoped to encourage my PCs to explore opportunities for RP instead of just running in swords slashing, but I detest railroading...so I may tweak things as described by Pendragon and Lich to allow them to be more creative...also fudging rolls too much can defeat the purpose of playing...but I still want to encourage them to avoid the direct approach...


ClarkKent07 wrote:
I still want to encourage them to avoid the direct approach...

Perhaps make them aware that there would be consequences to fighting the slavers beyond the battle itself. Maybe six months back a group of paladins ventured into the desert and discovered a a similar camp of slavers and destroyed them, only to have allied groups of slavers all across the desert retaliate by raiding defenseless nomadic tribes in the deep desert and causing hundreds of casualties while also enslaving hundreds of additional victims.

So not only are these slavers well-armed and potentially more than the PCs can handle, but even if the PCs were to do battle and be victorious, other innocents would pay the price for their actions.

This scenario has the added benefit of providing an additional plot hook if things do go south and the group does wind up fighting the slavers after all.


A charmed slaver buddy could provide intell and a good word for the players. He could be mentioned by the person hiring the party. If the party uses him more RP easier life.
Most players flow like water, path of least resistance, greatest gain. Point out the cost of a fight to the party; lost magic like potions, scrolls and the potential loss of tribesmen.

Add rewards like a bonus on diplomacy or add pay for keeping the tribemen and slaves alive.

It's not railroading to punish stupidity...or arrogance. It's actually fun.


They will have a captured slaver...no one currently has the ability to charm him...mayhap the tribe who is being raided will have a shaman who can charm?

EDIT: I should also mention the PCs are level 4-5


Maybe have a friendly slaver in the camp, that if they get enough intel they'll learn who he is and that he's a sympathizer with the party. If they try to befriend him, he could prove useful later, and this way you can work a few more steps into the session that would reward a subtle approach. Make him valuable enough they want to find him, and this also means they're less inclined to firesnake the barracks since they could accidentally kill him to.

Have the corpses of other would-be rescuers adorning the camp, decked out in their equipment still to show that an 11th level, heavily armoured paladin with a flaming greatsword was taken down by the slavers somehow, so clearly an outright confrontation could be bad.

I also find from personal experience that whenever there's guard towers with archers or ballistas on them, my party gets much more cautious. If we blow our cover, we may get annihilated from them, and so we are more inclined to try to blend or hide. This way, the warnings should strongly discourage them from direct confrontation, but if they decide to go rambo, they had fair warning. The joy of ballista towers is that a single failed diplomacy check against a guard won't likely result in a volley from the towers since they may not be aware there was a problem right away, giving the PCs an opportunity to troubleshoot rather than "Bad roll, fight your way out".


Intimidate? Bluff? Diplomacy? BRIBE! The bastard is a slaver, that he's likey evil. Bribe him into helping, you don't mention the poison, or the real reason for the raid. Sign him up. CASH MONEY! Franchises...sell him the dream of his own slave outlet mall. No magic lots or RP no rail road. Have the captured slaver ask about a deal, he's evil and looking for a way out.


If I were looking at this from the angle of the PC, I would have a few questions to ask: what race are the slavers, predominantly? Does their camp, such as it is, have fortifications? Is there any way for me to do this other than what the DM has provided?

The first question would be to establish whether or not the enemies had darkvision. The second would be to decide how good or bad an idea sneaking in or slashing in would be. The third is because I don't want to walk into a trap (which is what I, as a player, would immediately suspect).

If I were one of your players, my first instinct would be to hack my way in. Once that was shown to be a bad idea (perhaps in a previous combat with the same slavers), I would attempt to sneak in. Talking my way in would be a last resort.

As such, it would probably be a good idea to plan for that. Bear this in mind--if the PCs sneak in, they might get away with it without any witnesses whatsoever.


More details....

Slavers are currently residing in a coastal cave complex.

The local tribe who is "hiring" the PCs to rescure thier members taken by the slavers says "these guys are bad news" ie. they will likely kill you if you try to fight your way in.

Local tribe offers up 4 of thier members as "slaves" to help the PCs bluff thier way in as new slavers who encountered the previous mentioned lost slaving group and were informed of the cave. (remember the tribe has one living captured slave)

In truth the PCs could likely take the slavers down in small groups but not all at once...except that the leader is higher level.

still lots of good input here and I do appreciate all the ideas.


Or, if they can't charm the captured slaver, what can they do to get him to play along? The heroes could threaten his life, but that grows weak when surrounded by the slavers allies. They might be able to mock a spell on him, if some one has high enough preform ("If you betray us, this spell with fill your skull with gonad eating maggots!") and intimidate. Does he have family? Can his family be threatened? Does his family know what he's doing ("please, I'll do anything, just don't tell my mom!")? Can he be bought? Slavery can be very lucrative, so buying his loyalty won't come cheap.

Is this a camp of a particular band or swap meet/point of sell? If its just one band, then a lot of each of the raiding parties will know each other. At the very least, the bosses of each band/raiding group will know each other on sight (they work and/or sell to the same drow). If the heroes somehow convince Fred the captured slaver to work with them, and lead them into camp, what happens when one of the thug slavers comes over looking for his buddy "Ramon" who he went drinking with last time they got together.

If its a swap meet, the heroes might be able to pull off that they are a new group operating in the area, and are trying to get into the action. The other bosses will not like this, as another slaver band is competition. As the resident new guys, I would expect some bullying, slave stealing, stealing, some beatings, accusations, and all that just flying around, all pointed at the new guys. "Best just to kill them off, and split up their product, says I", a slaver boss could say.

To add in more fun, make the heroes the second new band of slavers to show up. The other new band, having weathered through the abuse before finally achieving acceptance (and survival), take pity on the heroes and steps in to protect them, helps them out, and all in all act like good guys to the heroes...they just happen to be slavers as well.

I would have each band/raid party rotate through guard duty on the water, and its a mark of status that the drow lets a band guard the water. Now the heroes have to earn some slaver respect; how are they going to do that? Or are they going to sneak up and plant it? What happens when they find out the drow has a cleric cast create food and water for her everyday?

As for convincing everyone that the heroes are, in fact, slavers, showing up with slaves helps. Knowing the current prices, knowing what kind of slave is a good trade for another. Knowing the proper way to handle a new slave that won't behave in such a way its still marketable. Knowing when to cut your losses with a slave, and its throat. Knowing how far you can walk your merchandise, and when you have to start loading them on wagons to keep their value. Which kind of people are good at what things ("Everyone knows dwarves are good at crafting, but can you tell me, just by looking, which of these hunters are good for the gladiator pits, and which on is good for the mines?").

Also, being able to fake having been in other slave bands would help.

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