Help me prevent a TPK on my players!


Advice

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

So, at the end of our last session (I like to leave 'em on a cliffhanger), the party had just knocked over a whole rack of clattering armor and weapons while sneaking through a dungeon. A few secret GM rolls later, and I describe the following to my players.

"As the clamor of the dropped equipment fades away, you hear a soft, beautiful voice begin to sing a wonderful song from down the corridor to the west. After a moment, a second voice joins the first, generating an awe-inspiring duet.

Everyone make two will saves."

So the monk, the witch, the alchemist, the gunslinger, and the druid's animal companion all fail their saves against the Harpies' songs. Several of them failed twice.

The druid, and the witch's familiar saved against both.

With an "Oh... crap" feeling settling into everyone's stomachs, we ended the session with our usual "To be continued!" ending.

-

So tonight, we pick up where we left off. The druid is hardly a potent combatant on her own. What can I do to make sure these Harpies don't wipe out my group, considering that all but one of the players is going to wander into certain death and sit still as they happily get torn apart?

Give me some ideas! I am a merciful god, and I want my players to live, without me fudging things and making them realize I spared them by GM fiat.

Liberty's Edge

suggest and allow a varient on the classical solution. allow the druid to be able to plug the ears of the other party members and at least allow new saves. I have not used harpies ever, so i am a little rusty on the actual rules involved.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'm just hoping the druid comes up with that idea herself. If they can't hear the harpies' song, the effect will end. Whether she figures that out or thinks it's her turn to fight two monsters with CR equal to her level... I'm not sure.

Sovereign Court

Well, if the Druid or something else can block off the corridor, problem solved. If there happens to be something with Silence cast on it nearby, the druid could somehow get the party within range of it so they stop hearing the harpy songs. Also, the song only lasts for one turn after the harpy stops singing, and IMO it's reasonable to say that the harpies have trouble singing and attacking at the same time, especially with interference from the druid.

Failing all that... get yourself a Gandalf.


The harpies still need to hit with their attack, and keeping their song going is a standard action for them, why do you think you're headed for TPK? If you're worried you can always fudge their attack rolls and have them miss, but I doubt two harpies can cause a TPK unless your players are a lot lower level.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Quote:


Captivating Song (Su) A harpy's song has the power to infect the minds of those that hear it, calling them to the harpy's side. When a harpy sings, all creatures aside from other harpies within a 300-foot spread must succeed on a DC 16 Will saving throw or become captivated. A creature that successfully saves is not subject to the same harpy's song for 24 hours. A victim under the effects of the captivating song moves toward the harpy using the most direct means available. If the path leads them into a dangerous area such as through fire or off a cliff, that creature receives a second saving throw to end the effect before moving into peril. Captivated creatures can take no actions other than to defend themselves. A victim within 5 feet of the harpy simply stands and offers no resistance to the harpy's attacks. This effect continues for as long as the harpy sings and for 1 round thereafter. This is a sonic mind-affecting charm effect. The save DC is Charisma-based.

Put something dangerous in their path. Maybe a couple somethings.


Harpy's victims move towards them using the straightest path. Have the druid roll a knowledge check to remember that victims get an additional saving throw if they move into a dangerous area. The Druid can throw down a flaming oil slick for example. You could have a brazier in the room directly in the players path prompt an additional save. The charm works while they are singing, have the druid or the animal companion's grapple cause them to stop while they fend off the attack. Worst case, when one of the characters starts to get chomped on, perhaps that would cause the other characters to realize they were walking into danger. That might set a bad precedent moving forward, but no-one wants a TPK if they can avoid it.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Kris Vanhoyland wrote:
The harpies still need to hit with their attack, and keeping their song going is a standard action for them, why do you think you're headed for TPK? If you're worried you can always fudge their attack rolls and have them miss, but I doubt two harpies can cause a TPK unless your players are a lot lower level.

I roll in the open.

I like the ideas about putting hazards in the way. I'm hoping the druid had Entangle or something prepared, at the very least... she's sort of the type to pick spells by going "But that's what she would pick" as she prepares an utterly useless spell in two second-level spell slots.

If the Harpies are smart, and they kill the druid while singing, the other party members will sit there and willingly get shredded to death. So, essentially, one specific player dying = TPK unless I intervene.

I suppose I shouldn't worry too much. They've been wanting a bit more of a challenge anyway...


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Druid has tons of options.
Entangle. Slows the party down, depending on placement, maybe tie up the harpies as well.

Also even while affected by a harpy's song....

PRD wrote:
Captivated creatures can take no actions other than to defend themselves.

They still get full defenses. If the harpy chooses to drop the song, the charm effect only lasts for one round after and then the party is immune for the next 24 hours. So the harpy is only getting one round of attacks.

If the harpies focus fire, then sure they can probably drop a lower AC/lower hp target. But that's about it.

Harpies work much better when there is someone/thing else dishing out the damage while they maintain the control effect.

Dark Archive

You can have the harpies capture the PCs. Put them in cages and then fight in the arena for the Aboleth's pleasure. After a few battles in the arena the make friends and escape with treasure

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

to reiterate what kris said- harpies have to use a standard action to keep singing... that means as soon as they attack once everyone only has one round left of the effect. granted, they could start singing again the following round but everyone would get a new save (except the druid) and once you make one save you don't need to roll another one for 24 hours. its not a great way to start a fight, but it shouldn't be a TPK.


Just to make sure that they don't forget anything: do they have any unused Hero Points?


Mention that the ceiling up ahead is held up by fragile beams and may collapse if those are broken.

Put in a pit-trap up ahead. Sure the first PC will fall in but the rest will get a second save.

Let another rack of armor or weapons fall over in a domino effect, the clattering of which may disrupt the effect of the song (e.g. Perception check, those who fail may make another save).

Mention that the Druid could Beast Shape into a monkey and let her bang two shields like cymbals.


nate lange wrote:
to reiterate what kris said- harpies have to use a standard action to keep singing... that means as soon as they attack once everyone only has one round left of the effect. granted, they could start singing again the following round but everyone would get a new save (except the druid) and once you make one save you don't need to roll another one for 24 hours. its not a great way to start a fight, but it shouldn't be a TPK.

It doesn't exactly say that it takes a standard action each round to sing. It definitely takes a standard action to activate it, but thereafter, speech is a free action so one could argue that singing is as well. The Bard sets that precedent.

Worst-case scenario: two PCs wander up to the harpy, they stop singing and coup de grace for a measly 2d8+2. Those PCs will probably not die from that damage (average 11) and have a chance to save vs (average) DC 19. Overall, it's not that insanely lethal by any means.

Just keep in mind that Harpies are not that smart, so play them chaotic and reckless and you'll be fine.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

7heprofessor wrote:
It doesn't exactly say that it takes a standard action each round to sing. It definitely takes a standard action to activate it, but thereafter, speech is a free action so one could argue that singing is as well. The Bard sets that precedent.
hmm... that's an interesting point... i did a little digging and it turns out the harpy is a super poorly written monster >:0
pfsrd wrote:
Supernatural abilities are magical attacks, defenses, and qualities. These abilities can be always active or they can require a specific action to utilize. The supernatural ability's description includes information on how it is used and its effects.

the harpy entry should specify what kind of action it takes, but decided it wasn't necessary apparently. i guess its completely up to the GM </shrug>... you want to bail their asses out- standard action to sing every round; someone else wants to screw some PCs free action every round.

someone do an FAQ post for harpies.


I feel mean. Have an ILLUSION over a pit. Have the first two people fall into and be impaled. Even better if they are close to 1 hp but not negative. Lots of screaming is good!

Lets see, druid. . . .well, a devine caster prays for spells. As a referee, I have said, "you get to take these spells and the rest you pick." I mean, you are dealing with entities that have a lot of experience at this. If she is picking inappropriate spells, she does NOT get them. Just sayin'.I had one character really argue the point. The diety said, "Fine, you don't get any for today." and they didn't! Not too much worm grovelling was required.

Familiar . . . .what kind of familiar? A cat? Cat chases birds. . . . how classic! Can it activate any magic items? Influence its mistress? Scratch across the face?

The harpies would realize what they can do and not do. Really, a few nice traps, some drugged wine, hey, its too easy! Except for that damn cat!

Surrender is always a possibility.

So is parley. The cat could say, do you know whose witch you are messing with? The druid should have KA RAZ MA! Time to use it. Acccuse the harpies of being off key.

None of this really saves the party.

Btw, I never roll in the open. If I want something important rolled, I ask a player to roll the dice and never tell them whats its for. I do this at random intervals when I want to heighten paranoia too!


Surrender? *cough cough* that will just be an extended TPK as the harpies jerk the druid around making them hope they can wiggle out before offing the others for the giggles.


Check equipment. They may have interesting one time use goodies. Summon loads of stirges. Summon bigger animals.

Basic idea is Druid expends all resources possible (including other pc's) in order to survive); unless of course u decide to have some dangerous obstacles in the way.


Let the druid save the other PCs, by that i meen in stead of making a plan she can follow, give what ever she comes up with a good chance of succes. I find as a GM it is always good to figth the urge to save the PCs and it is always good to let the players do it.


Harpies can lure in victims, but they don't get to tear them apart while the victim stands there willingly.


nate lange wrote:
7heprofessor wrote:
It doesn't exactly say that it takes a standard action each round to sing. It definitely takes a standard action to activate it, but thereafter, speech is a free action so one could argue that singing is as well. The Bard sets that precedent.
hmm... that's an interesting point... i did a little digging and it turns out the harpy is a super poorly written monster >:0
pfsrd wrote:
Supernatural abilities are magical attacks, defenses, and qualities. These abilities can be always active or they can require a specific action to utilize. The supernatural ability's description includes information on how it is used and its effects.

the harpy entry should specify what kind of action it takes, but decided it wasn't necessary apparently. i guess its completely up to the GM </shrug>... you want to bail their asses out- standard action to sing every round; someone else wants to screw some PCs free action every round.

someone do an FAQ post for harpies.

If no action is given for a given ability, it will normally cost a standard action. There's numerous posts and threads about the harpy's captivating song ability already.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Captivating Song (Su) wrote:
A harpy's song has the power to infect the minds of those that hear it, calling them to the harpy's side. When a harpy sings, all creatures aside from other harpies within a 300-foot spread must succeed on a DC 16 Will saving throw or become captivated. A creature that successfully saves is not subject to the same harpy's song for 24 hours. A victim under the effects of the captivating song moves toward the harpy using the most direct means available. If the path leads them into a dangerous area such as through fire or off a cliff, that creature receives a second saving throw to end the effect before moving into peril. Captivated creatures can take no actions other than to defend themselves. A victim within 5 feet of the harpy simply stands and offers no resistance to the harpy's attacks. This effect continues for as long as the harpy sings and for 1 round thereafter. This is a sonic mind-affecting charm effect. The save DC is Charisma-based.

THIS is how the harpies can harm them without resistance.

I ruled that it was a free action to continue singing. It is, after all, explicitly stated that the harpies can attack while singing (as above).

The druid ended up using expeditious excavation to open a pit in front of the witch, who made his save due to a "hazard, such as a cliff" in front of him and was very helpful in waking up the others. An ear-piercing screech stunned one harpy long enough to interrupt her song, and enough players got free that they slaughtered the two harpies easily. It was a very tense combat though! The monk almost died due to a few full attacks from the harpy (I didn't think to coup de grace her - perhaps I should have... :P)

Dark Archive

They offer no resistance, but harpies still get 1 round of attacks. Unless they focus-fire, they're not going to take out everyone.

Harpies song IS a standard action (since it does not state otherwise), but continues 1 round after they stop singing. So the harpies can each attack 1 person, who will be flat-footed (not offering resistance) but not wholly defenseless, for 1 round as they are attacked. Most PCs can surive this. The song then ends for everyone, since again it is a standard action and they chose not to keep it up.

Trust me, it's not that bad, and if they attempt a cliff or such, the victims get a new save. If you try the illusion-pit, they get a reflex save and a second save to avoid. But 1 round of harpy-attacks will not kill anyone.


Aw no monkey banging cymbals?

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

It seems clearly implied to me that the harpies can continue singing and attacking without interrupting the song.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

where is that implied?

as several people have pointed out the reading of this ability which is most inline with established general rules is that the harpies would get 1 round of free attacks before the ability wears off.

also- i was (mostly) being facetious about the GM doing whatever he wants. the general rule (which always applies, unless overwritten by a specific rule) is, as Kris stated, that abilities require a standard action to use unless stated otherwise. so... captivating song is a standard action to use each round. i said 'mostly' being facetious because you can always "rule 0" an ability to make an encounter more like you want it to be (though be aware that too much of that should result in augmented CRs- with matching increased XP).


Let it play out. It's not a TPK until people start dying. Give the druid an opportunity to save them. That's all you're obligated to do.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
nate lange wrote:

where is that implied?

as several people have pointed out the reading of this ability which is most inline with established general rules is that the harpies would get 1 round of free attacks before the ability wears off.

also- i was (mostly) being facetious about the GM doing whatever he wants. the general rule (which always applies, unless overwritten by a specific rule) is, as Kris stated, that abilities require a standard action to use unless stated otherwise. so... captivating song is a standard action to use each round. i said 'mostly' being facetious because you can always "rule 0" an ability to make an encounter more like you want it to be (though be aware that too much of that should result in augmented CRs- with matching increased XP).

This, otherwise the harpy song would be a complete save or die for the party. Thats rather exterme for a CR 4 monster (which theoretically could be an enemy for a level 1 party). 4 failed saves at level 1 should not mandate a party wipe. It simply means the harpy gets 1 round to make attacks, after wards the party gets to act, in which case its really unlikely the harpies will have dropped the whole party.


If you tpk you could continue their adventures in the afterlife, maybe questing to get back to the land of the living. I say play it out, if they tpk than they know you're willing to do that. More importantly though, if the druid figures something out and saves the party than congrats, you've created the ultimate heroic experience for that player!

Keep a straight face too do they think youre being cold and ruthless!


Captivating Song is a Supernatural Ability. Unless specified otherwise, Supernatural Ability use is a Standard Action that does not provoke an Attack of Opportunity - per the Actions In Combat table.

My experience has been that one harpy might continue a song while another attacks, but without that division of duties, when a harpy attacks, the song ends and the "1 round thereafter" duration starts for the round of the attack. For initiative order of Party Member (P), then Harpy (H):

1 P captivated, moving to H
1 H sings (standard action), can also move freely

This continues until P ends adjacent to H

2 P captivated (from last rounds song)
2 H attacks (song ends at beginning of H turn)
P defends normally: "... take no actions other than to defend..."

3 P free to act, because song was not active last round

If initiative is reversed:
1 H sings (standard action), can also move freely
1 P captivated, moving to H

This continues until P ends adjacent to H

2 H attacks (song ends at beginning of H turn)
2 P captivated (from previous round's song)
P defends normally, otherwise takes no action

3 again P free to act because song was not active last round

Result: 1 free Full Attack by Harpy with no response that round by Party Member.

The Druid has several choices on how to get another save for various party members - perhaps a quiet question to the Druid asking "how are you going to get them another save?" can prompt the Druid to use a knowledge check or figure out a creative way to force a check.


IMO it's up to that Druid to save the party not you.

You might start by recapping the events from last week making it sound as dire as it is, then turn to the Player playing the druid and ask. What do you do?

I'd even go as far as say. "Joe, I'm going to give you 5 minutes. I want you to look over your character sheet and all your items and think of something."

Then just walk away. After 5 minutes sit back down and let the player be the hero that he is supposed to be.

He might surprise you. The druid might pull out a thunderstone he had squirreled away in his backpack and slam it down possibly giving the other players another chance at a saving throw. Or he might wizard lock the door or entange/block the hall such that the harpies can’t get to the players and the players can't get to the harpies.

Let the players rise or fall to the occasion. But give him/her every oportunity within reason to rise.

Curious to see how it panned out.

-MD


I have not read the full topic, but you already have several ways to save them. Next time apply a will save to only ONE harpy song, even if with a increased DC (+1), having them roll 2 saves for the same effect was not fair, I think. Two songs would either counter one another or increase the DC, not be the reason each for a save.
Otherwise with 10 harpies you would CONQUER the world, cause it's highly unlikable that any character will save 10 times against such effect.

Shadow Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I did already post what happened. :P The druid opened up a pit with an expeditious excavation spell in front of the witch's path to the harpies. He got a save (not wanting to fall in, since I considered it a "hazard") and snapped out of it. I immediately stopped being worried, since now there were two of them active. An ear-piercing screech from the witch stunned one harpy and interrupted her song (freeing the gunslinger), and the druid squared off against the other harpy, using call lightning several times before its talons finally dropped her to the ground. However, a "dodge this" moment from the gunslinger felled her, and the witch and monk chased the other harpy down the hall... into a group of six lizardfolk helping their comrades come down from being enthralled themselves.

I assumed they were going to fight them, but the alchemist runs up and starts shouting in Draconic that they're not here to fight, they just want the lizardfolk's prisoners freed. Long story short, the players accidentally triggered a civil war between the tribe's warlike chieftain and its peaceful shaman, killed the chief, and saved the lizardfolk from an insidious corruption that plagued its clutch of eggs...

But that is a story for another adventure. :P


Kolokotroni wrote:
nate lange wrote:

where is that implied?

as several people have pointed out the reading of this ability which is most inline with established general rules is that the harpies would get 1 round of free attacks before the ability wears off.

also- i was (mostly) being facetious about the GM doing whatever he wants. the general rule (which always applies, unless overwritten by a specific rule) is, as Kris stated, that abilities require a standard action to use unless stated otherwise. so... captivating song is a standard action to use each round. i said 'mostly' being facetious because you can always "rule 0" an ability to make an encounter more like you want it to be (though be aware that too much of that should result in augmented CRs- with matching increased XP).

This, otherwise the harpy song would be a complete save or die for the party. Thats rather exterme for a CR 4 monster (which theoretically could be an enemy for a level 1 party). 4 failed saves at level 1 should not mandate a party wipe. It simply means the harpy gets 1 round to make attacks, after wards the party gets to act, in which case its really unlikely the harpies will have dropped the whole party.

Color Spray.


RegUS PatOff wrote:
...stuff...

Do you believe that "Captivated creatures can take no actions other than to defend themselves." and "A victim within 5 feet of the harpy simply stands and offers no resistance to the harpy's attacks" are contradictory?

If not, then once the victim is within 5ft. of the harpy, she is free to coup de grace.

If they are contradictory, then the monster needs errata.

Simple enough.

morphling wrote:

I did already post what happened. :P The druid opened up a pit with an expeditious excavation spell in front of the witch's path to the harpies. He got a save (not wanting to fall in, since I considered it a "hazard") and snapped out of it. I immediately stopped being worried, since now there were two of them active. An ear-piercing screech from the witch stunned one harpy and interrupted her song (freeing the gunslinger), and the druid squared off against the other harpy, using call lightning several times before its talons finally dropped her to the ground. However, a "dodge this" moment from the gunslinger felled her, and the witch and monk chased the other harpy down the hall... into a group of six lizardfolk helping their comrades come down from being enthralled themselves.

I assumed they were going to fight them, but the alchemist runs up and starts shouting in Draconic that they're not here to fight, they just want the lizardfolk's prisoners freed. Long story short, the players accidentally triggered a civil war between the tribe's warlike chieftain and its peaceful shaman, killed the chief, and saved the lizardfolk from an insidious corruption that plagued its clutch of eggs...

But that is a story for another adventure. :P

Sounds like an awesome battle and very cool RP aftermath. Happy gaming!


The resolution was great. Sounds like an interesting group to game with.

7heprofessor, my take on RAI is that "stands and offers no resistance" is flavor for the "Captivated creatures can take no actions other than to defend themselves." So no coup de grace.

I agree the description is open to several interpretations & errata would be helpful.

Liberty's Edge

Most of the responses I've read have been of the following variety:

Try to survive.
Try to escape.
Debate the rules about harpies.

My question, to answer your dilemma, is: why does there have to be a fight at all? It's called GM fiat and you can change this scenario how ever you want. It's not, and has never been, GM vs. Players. Why can't you change this encounter on the fly? Does every meeting with monsters immediately have to be combat oriented?

Your job is to make sure everybody enjoys themselves. If you truly believe a total party kill would add to the enjoyment of your group then have at it. If you think fudging something FOR THE GOOD OF THE GROUP would be better then do that. And, yes, I'm aware that sometimes characters have to die to teach the group a lesson about the consequences of their actions.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Gideon Rowe wrote:
Your job is to make sure everybody enjoys themselves. If you truly believe a total party kill would add to the enjoyment of your group then have at it. If you think fudging something FOR THE GOOD OF THE GROUP would be better then do that. And, yes, I'm aware that sometimes characters have to die to teach the group a lesson about the consequences of their actions.

The players want to succeed without me fudging things. They love knowing they, and they alone, were responsible for succeeding at the difficult challenge due to their cleverness and tactics.

That's the issue here. If I'd spared them via GM fiat, it wouldn't have been as fun for them and they would have known what I'd done.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Advice / Help me prevent a TPK on my players! All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.