I am about to wipe the party, because I wrote bad story. Help.


My party is in the Fey, and started a blood feud with the Centaurs that live there. The Centaur's have asked for the help of an Erlking (CR18) against my APL9 party.

They are MEANT to run away, and have a chase scene where they escape it. Currently they are saying:

"We can take it".

I need them to FEAR it, and choose to run. And I have 5 minutes to fix this at the start of the session, or it's a party wipe.

(Note: I know Centaurs are not meant to be Fey, I changed them because they originate in Greek mythology. Just like Nymphs and Satyrs.)

if you wanted them to run you had to set up for it. It needs something powerful enough for the players to recognize it dying is bad, but weak enough that the monster can kill it pretty much in one shot.

As is youre going to have to have it gimp a player, or at least hit their strongest player so hard they know its hopeless.

Fudge the numbers if you have to, but dont go crazy. If they really can take it then they should be allowed to. Best way to do this is treat its first attack as if it had rolled a 15 and ask them if the resuting (large) number hits, and then roll the damage but use 3/4 its maximum damage no matter what it rolls (do all this in secret of course). This should make a big enough dent in the players that they might be afraid, but wont imbalance the fight too much against them if they decide to fight anyway.

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The fey like sport, so have the Erlking hunt them like an English noble enjoying the Sunday weather, he can essentially chase them away, and maybe take a trophy for memories sake.

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Your choice of monster was pretty bad too. If you want them to be scared you dont choose something that basically looks like a human, down to size. You have to pick something that LOOKS like it means business, or it is really going to have to show them it means business.

That said, its description says "An erlking is a blur of motion on or off the battlefield" so take this to its full effect and DBZ it, make it move super fast, too fast for their low level eyes to follow, when it attacks. It can (and has to if you want them to believe they escaped)move at a normal speed, but you need to emphasize how hopeless blocking its attacks or getting around its guard is at their power level.

Sovereign Court

Well, presumably it opens with Finger of Death.

So pick the toughest PC and say, "Okay, that's 200 points of damage. Oh, no, sorry, you get to save. Roll a fort save."

Either they save, take 3d6+20 damage and know to run because you 'let slip' the chance for 200 damage, or they have to run while carrying a corpse.
Let them know in round 1.

I think a bigger problem may be running from a creature with a fly speed of 90'

Sovereign Court

You could give the PCs the chance to see it one-shot something powerful.

Or 'accidentally' leave your bestiary open at the right page when your players arrive.

If they don't know what it is yet, make it a dragon which drops its magical disguise as it prepares for combat.

Good idea, or even give it a set of "Fearsome" armor, which specifically calls out "the subjects briefly see their worst terror"

have it stay an erlking, but make them make a will save when it charges. when they do, have them see a dragon even briefly, and tell them a wave of terror washes over them. You know its the fearsome armor, they probably think its frightful presence.

oh also if they do fight and they cant take it, kill them.

They need to learn when they should run or they never will.

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If you throw a very high CR creature at the party that far exceeds their APL, it is always best to have them encounter the creature from a distance. This gives them a chance to see the creature rampaging and releasing utter destruction and devastation upon the land which in turn should give the PCs a pause.

They should consider whether or not fighting this thing is in their best interests or not. If they still insist on fighting it, have it wipe out a sidekick or animal companion first - as a warning. If they continue to press the fight after seeing the damage it can unleash in one attack, then kill the party.

I do have to say this sounds like horrible GMing, but I don't know the full context of how you've presented this encounter. When I started my current campaign, I gave the party a warning that there would be times when they would run into something that could outright kill them such as an ancient dragon or something similar. In that instance, they are advised to use common sense and take discretion as the better part of valor.

The onus is on you, the GM, the storyteller, to relay the potential consequences of the party's actions to them. Make sure you do some of the things I've mentioned to warn them a few times before having the beast drop on them and start killing them one by one.

Have it use an Invisibility Potion.

Proceed casting.

Summon a Storm Giant.

Party should now realize that if the guy can summon a Storm Giant, it's pretty badass

I once did a similar set up with a 2nd level party and an Allosaurus. The PC's were supposed to gawk and flee in terror, but they didn't. Instead, the Samurai drew his sword and told the rest of them to run. He died extremely unceremoniously in an instance of "It's what my character would've done", so, in short, watch out for this kind of behavior.

If you want to incite fear into your players, especially when using a humanoid creature, you really have to play up the power of it. Describe the Erlking as projecting an aura of light befitting of a sunset, it's eyes burning with an alien glow. Their eyes cannot truly make out it's features, as it's mere presence warps the space around it, making ripples in reality all around it. They feel the heat of the summer sun under it's gaze and the icy hand of winter in it's voice. It is a creature too beautiful to behold, with an inhuman grace.

Any member of the party educated in fey or monster lore simply know this foe is beyond them. Erlkings are quite literally the vengeance of nature incarnate, and fey royalty. It wouldn't even take them seriously as foes, instead most likely animating a mob of treants to teach the troublesome mortals a thing or two about respect.

TL;DR - Humiliate the party, the Erlking is so far beyond them that it would treat their tenacity as a curiosity, lile a cat playing with a mouse.

Have something else intercede and distract it. A friendly tribe of something else intercepts the party and convinces them of their folly. "Don't allow the ??'s sacrifice be in vain."

Grand Lodge

Any easy way would be have it use repel metal to ignore the party while it goes for it's target, the centaurs. Unless their packing cold iron they probably can't get past it's dr and fast healing. Have it not even notice the pc's while it rips the tribe into tiny pieces, only acknowledging them once it's done. Then have it laugh and leave, because that's all the party is to something that strong, a laugh.

A little more detail would be nice ... but unless I misunderstand your "I have 5 minutes ..." it's too late except as advice for the future and future readers.

I agree in particular with Baval's "They need to learn when they should run or they never will." Especially when combined with Brother Fen's "When I started my current campaign, I gave the party a warning that there would be times when they would run into something that could outright kill them such as an ancient dragon or something similar." You and your group need to cross this bridge (learning to run when you throw something much more powerful than they should be able to handle) early or it'll only get uglier down the road.

Are any of the Centaurs who managed to summon the Erlking around at the start of the encounter. If so unless the party is as overpowered vs the Centaurs as the Erlking is vs the party perhaps the first target of the Erlking is to obliterate a Centaur for bothering it for something they should be able to handle without its help and then have the Erlking turn on the party who now hopefully have some idea of just how powerful the creature is and run as they should. If they still haven't figured it out and you are still feeling merciful then I personally tend second Gypsy's TL'DR comment and humilate them. Keeping in mind that as long as there is a relatively intact corpse that unless your campaign is grimmer than the 'standard assumption' a 9th level party likely has access to magic to revive the dead so there are definitely fates worse than death for an APL 9 party.

The Exchange

Does the Erlking have SLAs that allow it to neutralize the PCs without killing them? Even if the centaurs are out to kill the PCs, their ally may not feel the same. Of course, he probably has his reasons for sparing them, but at least it backs you (and the PCs) out of the corner for now.

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Ooo, I get to drag my suckers players into the First World. Eventually.

Anyhow. Have the Erlking basically wave the centaurs off, if they are/would be involved in the fight. "You wanted me to take care of this, so now a) you owe me a favor, and b) I get to do this the way I want to do this. So go the Blight away, these are mine now." Have one of the young, 'new warrior' centaurs disagree violently; have the Erlking take him apart in one round, literally and gorily if you think it's necessary. (The rest of the centaurs, of course, are not stupid; the young one just let his ego get in his way.)

Then have him turn to the PCs and, basically, parley with them. "Look, you're like that young warrior back there - full of juice and fire, but with no real experience. Do you know what that means for me? I hunt things. Right now, you lot are very poor prey for me to hunt. So go away. Go home. Improve yourselves - hunt some monsters, get better weapons, gain greater knowledge. Become prey I can be proud to hunt. And if you make of yourselves great enough predators ..." The erlking slowly smiles, displaying a mouth that seems eerily more full of predatory teeth than it has room for. "Then perhaps the hunt will end together, rather than with you in pieces."

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Nothing screams "RUN!!!" like winning initiative (the Boss let them win), they go all out Alpha, and when the dust clears (end of round), they find out they didn't even scratch it! "Centaurs! Deal with These Foolish Mortals! I have a Dragon/Lich/Demi-God(Draco-Lich Demi-God?) to deal with!"

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Can you add a Fear Aura to the Erlking? Will Save DC 30 or be panicked and flee. Intimidating Presence?

Maybe in combination with almost 1-shotting a tough PC or actually 1-shotting a tough NPC/ally/enemy/monster.

A similar incident occurred back in the 80's, long before CRs and the like. We were locked in a death game with powerful undead we had no business messing with. The GM ran the full encounter and slaughtered the characters that chose to stay, regardless of what they did. Those smarter players who wanted to exit were even more butchered and horrifically shredded.

Suddenly, the whole party 'awakens' screaming. The 'leave fast' crew had no memory of the dream, but the 'we be bad' did. Above us stood an incorporeal Banshee, pronouncing our souls would be eaten by the BBEG (no rez) if we stayed. Having 'seen' what they faced, even the insane 'kill, kill, kill' decided to run like a scared bunny. We cleared the area by dusk.

The Fey are a contentious and conflicted bunch. Anyone attracting the notice of an Erlking grade power will attract others and they will all get in on the game. I suggest a Grand Hunt by a variety of Fey, giving the players good reason to avoid such nonsense in the future. Constantly shifting terrain, myriad Fey interlopers on the Hunt, separation of the party into digestible nibblings, alone to face creatures not even in the books are just a few of the twisted things you can bring. A running commentary of the various Fey powers and factions betting on the outcome and cheating to gain in their 'orange/blue' ethics could be done to confuse the players. Once divided, let the other players torture who is on the hot seat, players being far meaner to their own than any GM.

Of course the Hunt is its own reward.

Dang! This sounds like an very 'potential ridden' night! Let us know how it goes.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, PF Special Edition, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Maybe this is an opportunity to point your campaign in the right direction. I'm not sure how a chase was a viable scheme with a move speed of 70' and fly of 90'. Can they even hit a 34? I would think the erlking could have some task he deems unworthy of him to send them on after a couple rounds of seeing their determination. Lock them down with black tentacles after that and have him make them an offer.

When I use a dude that I want the PCs to be dangerous, only of the tricks I like to use is to have him display his might before taking it out on them. For example, if some redshirt NPCs are tagging along, I might have him oneshot one of them first to show he must be taken seriously. In your case, maybe the PCs cross orcs that were coming to plunder the forest, and then see this guy coming out and killing them all without a sweat.

Liberty's Edge

My general advice for something like this:

1. Ask them all to roll to identify it. Well, all with Knowledge (Nature) anyway. Someone is likely to roll high if you have more than one PC with that skill. Either that identifies it...or more likely, it doesn't. Casually mention what CR it must be for that not to have worked.

2. Have its first action be terrifying. Summoning a Storm Giant is indeed one good option. I mean, that's a CR 13 creature in its own right, and people paying attention will know that's a 9th level spell (hint: when 9th level PCs meet things that can do 9th level spells, they should know to run away).

3. Have the Erlking be super amused. Not in a malicious way, but in a vaguely impressed 'Wow. You guys have guts!' way. Have it laugh when they attempt to hurt it. Because that's funny.

4. As others note, have it tell the centaurs that it'll handle this, and have them say 'Yes, milord.' and back off.

5. If they utterly ignore all warning signs...have it kill them. If you're unwilling to kill PCs, you shouldn't ever put them in a situation where they might fight something like this. Or any difficult encounter at all.

I was looking at it's stats and figure that my 10th level vivisectionist could solo that thing.

nicholas storm wrote:
I was looking at it's stats and figure that my 10th level vivisectionist could solo that thing.

It can kite you.

Liberty's Edge

Yeah, it's not so much that a 9th level character can't have a chance against an Erlking in a straight fight (though usually their odds aren't gonna be great). It's that the Erlking can move off and then summon 3 Dire Tigers, 3 Treants, and a Storm Giant to back him up (and can give them all Haste)...or several other combinations of minions. It can use Repel Metal to keep you at bay while it summons, too.

Also, most 9th-10th level character just die to the Erlking's Black Tentacles. +25 CMB checks to grapple are nothing to sneeze at. Freedom of Movement will protect you from this...if you happen to have it pre-cast.


If a lawful character is in the party, and follow a code that doesn't allow retreating, then all I can say is know your party. Then the neutrals and the chaotics can say how stupid that code of honor is, because he's dead now. But the lawful character will know in their heart that they did the right thing. They did...the lolful thing.

I'm nothing but puns today; you're welcome.

Wow, what a great response! Here's the ideas you guys have come up with:

- Mock battle the players abort after I crush one of them, fudging numbers to prevent a one shot kill.
- Use an example creature in a "cut scene" to demonstrate it's wicked power
- Use the terror effect to force the party to flee
- Let them die, they need to fear the DM.
- Have it summon something else, like a Storm giant that is visually fearsome.
- Make the encounter humerous, to humiliate the party instead.
- Use a cut scene to intercede and distract it
- Have the monster dismiss the party as simply too weak.
- Have it ignore the first round of combat, tanking damage to threaten them.
- Use a flashback to have the party awaken at wipe at an earlier location

I can flip this situation into a pretty cool encounter, that mimics Dragon Ball Z style enemies when they first turn up.

1) Erlking is presented with a DM owned party, that it obliterates as a show of power.

2) Erlking laughs at the weakling PC party, inviting them to a first round of combat, tanking damage.

3) Erlking is not visually scary, but can summon things that are. So it wastes a second turn on summoning a storm giant, which is scary.

4) On turn 3, Erlking can demonstrate wicked speed and smack a PC in the face knocking them to less than 10hp in one go.

5) If Party has not decided to leave by now, then I just run the combat and see if they can survive. If they do flee, then I get to run my chase scene!

How will a chase scene work with something that fast, though?

Kobold Cleaver wrote:
How will a chase scene work with something that fast, though?

Good point. I'll give it a sore leg, or slow.

I get mocked for plot holes like this. (fun mocking tho)

I'm not sure if your campaign has any sort of serious time crunch but if it doesn't here's an idea:

Have them roll initiative, then, before combat actually begins a mist rolls across the battlefield, which quickly clears. Have them make perception checks, with a relatively low DC - they notice that the centaurs facing them are vaguely familiar but definitely different, and that the PCs all now have some vaguely animistic features (not enough to say "that's not human/elf/dwarf/etc. anymore"). The Erlking states "your terms of servitude are complete" and disappears in a swirl of red, orange, and yellow autumn leaves. (as a bonus for the deus ex machina thing, give them all a permanent +1 bonus to their primary attribute, and have the vague animistic appearance change be based around that - dex might be rat or cat features, str might be a bull or bear, int might be alien gray-like, etc.)

The centaurs are now obviously afraid of the PCs, and do whatever they can to avoid combat.

Upon returning to the prime material plane, it quickly becomes apparent that the PCs have been gone for 101 years. Stories of both their heroism and their disappearance have become legend and infuse the areas they affected with their deeds - perhaps some of these have actually been overblown, and when the PCs are finally recognized (probably by an elf, or by stone monuments erected in their honor) the expectations of the inhabitants are very high.

Keep in mind that the Fey realm is very much inspired by the stories and fairy tales of first millennia folklore. The fey love to toy with mortals and with time, include it in your story.

Oh, you could also send the PCs a dream—perhaps from a god or outsider, if there's one closely associated with the party—where they play the encounter out in advance. When it predictably ends in tragedy, they awaken, realizing "it was all a dream" and that the god/being has sent them a warning.

Another idea: The Green Knight is a great test to ruffle the players' souls.

The EK shows up and grants the party free attacks upon him with the same promise in return. Those who agree get their shot only to find their best ain't good enough. He gives each a different place a year hence to meet him for his turn. Poof, those get ejected from Fey lands.

Those remaining get soundly thrashed for not grasping the proffered chance. Awake to find themselves slaves the the centaurs for unspecified time. A bit of RP until each discovers his utter stupidity, at which time each is transported to the first bunch at the next dawn. Regardless of time or all taking the longest's time ala Rip Van Winkle.

I eagerly await the Golem's treatment, but all past GMs I've had make mucking about with the Fey unsettling in the extreme! We had one grueling quest end with 'Loves First and Last kiss', the odd quest. It involved a PC (who was graduating and about to be gone) dying as he kissed his Fey lover and died. The wimpy girls left crying that night, I just was overcome by the onions on the pizza several hours earlier. Heartbreaking and better RP than I can do!

Mulet wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
How will a chase scene work with something that fast, though?

Good point. I'll give it a sore leg, or slow.

I get mocked for plot holes like this. (fun mocking tho)

Have a nearby sewage slide or garbage disposal flume. Something that is obviously a fast but ignominious way out. Jumping out a window into a smelly moat or compost heap might work as well. Even if the enemy might still be fast, try to make it seem like it might hesitate to wade into sewage or jump out a window after them unless they really annoy it.

I have had many encounters where the party should have/wanted to run but one player would say 'It's got a higher movement speed' and so no one tried, even though they should realize they only have to outrun the slowest character.

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I don't know how some mook centaurs got owed a favour from an Erlking. That's like saying 'the trolls got together and now they're going to sic a dragon on you!'

If you really must have an Erlking face them, banish them from the Feywild. Remember to give them a nasty stinging debuff like negative levels. No one wants to fight something that deals negs.

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Consider the following language from the description:

"An erlking is a blur of motion on or off the battlefield, using his powers to coordinate attacks against despoilers, manipulate terrain to his side's advantage, and call in reinforcements when his forces would be overwhelmed. When his services are not needed, an erlking retires to the realm of the fey."

To me, it sounds like the Erlking would avoid directly engaging your PCs unless absolutely necessary, and would instead coordinate the attacks on them via area control and summoning reinforcements. I can see this being a nice setup for a Wild Hunt sort of event (which fits conceptually with the Erlking mythology).

So maybe have him arrive with a large centaur war party and make an impressive entrance as per one of GypsyMischief's suggestions. Then "let the hunt begin".

Instead of having him attack the PCs directly, have him use Plant Growth to shape the battlefield and create an obvious escape route (along which the PCs will be hunted and harried by the Centaurs). He can also use Black Tentacles and Animate Plants for battlefield control, to keep the PCs moving along the intended route, or else extremely inconvenient to deviate from it.

If flying PCs are an issue (and not getting pushed around by the other area control spells), maybe have him summon 1d3 Elder Air Elementals via SNA IX to create whirlwinds and drive them from the skies.

If the PCs don't flee, another good option is to use SNA VI to summon a bunch of Tigers to harass your PCs, and/or Satyrs to spam Fear and Suggestion ('flee!'). Also, Treants, who then use Animate Trees to create even more allies to harass and harry the PCs. It should soon become extremely obvious to them that they are overmatched.

In the event a PC has the temerity to try to strike out at the Erlking, have him simply drop Finger of Death on him or her, then take the next round to Repel Metal or Stone to prevent any other interlopers from daring to test his majesty. Another fun idea (on theme) would be for him to shoot at PCs, but aim to do non-lethal only... but still inflicting the bleed damage to slowly weaken them for the Hunt.

What happens at the end of the Hunt is up to you. Perhaps the idea is to drive the PCs to the edge of the Fey realm and maybe into a portal elsewhere (I like the idea that the Erlking not only drives them out of his lands, but perhaps uses one enemy against another by driving them into the realm of his enemy). Or perhaps the idea is simply to corner them (with another, larger centaur war party awaiting them, or some other fey group) and once they are trapped, seek their surrender and then negotiate some demands from them from a position of power.

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Has the party commited some great sin against the Fey? How did the Centaurs get something like an Erlking to take a side in what would otherwise be extermely beneath its concern? perhaps it just shows up, kills the Cnetaur leader for daring to bother it with the matter and exiles the party from the Fey realm?

Let the party know something about them from legends, is there a bard in the group? Let it slip in one of those old legends that an Erlking will always accept a parlay or allows offenders to accept a geas to make up for their transgressions. If they want to fight it have it start by disarming and collecting everyone's weapons and then subduing them before forcing them to take an oath to complete some task for the Erlking. And in 9 levels if the party wants, they can come back and try to make up for their previous loss.

Mulet wrote:

My party is in the Fey, and started a blood feud with the Centaurs that live there. The Centaur's have asked for the help of an Erlking (CR18) against my APL9 party.

They are MEANT to run away, and have a chase scene where they escape it. Currently they are saying:

"We can take it".

I need them to FEAR it, and choose to run. And I have 5 minutes to fix this at the start of the session, or it's a party wipe.

(Note: I know Centaurs are not meant to be Fey, I changed them because they originate in Greek mythology. Just like Nymphs and Satyrs.)

Let them try. APL 9 then won't be able to hit the thing unless they are specialized at hit fey like ranger with favored enemy fey. At best you might have a +24 to hit. So a 50% change to miss, when they do hit a 20% chance. That thing has speed on it's side and can heal it's self. So let them see the Erking doesn't see them as threat. Then have the earlking send a bunch of summoned centaurs after them.

Scarab Sages

It was all just a dream.

With all due respect, they CAN take anything a bunch of primarily racial HD centaurs should be able to summon.

Liberty's Edge

So assuming the party is composed of humanoids, the melee attacks are as follows, with favored enemy +10 taken in to account.

+3 cold iron keen longsword +30/+30/+25 (1d8+22/17–20 plus bleed)

They are basically getting hit every time, and if someone takes a full attack, they are getting 3d8+66 with a decent chance at crits. You need to just tell them OOC they will die if they fight it. At 34 AC and 270 HP, with a DC23 save of die heading to their biggest threat, they will not succeed. Add to that 2 extra AC and save bonus if the PC is lawful or good.

Liberty's Edge

The damage is actually worse than that due to Power Attack and being able to use the longsword two-handed. That makes it +27/+27/+22 (1d8+33/17-20 plus bleed). Or 3d8+99 damage if all attacks hit (which is likely).

The Erlking is a scary guy.

The one thing to note is that you *never* *need* to wipe a party, particularly with an intelligent antagonist (and the Erlking has INT 19). Just fiat that the antagonist wants something from the PCs other than their deaths. Assuming the Erlking isn't mad at the PCs because they willfully despoiled the wilds, he's just mad because the PCs were irksome, you can have the Erlking beat up, largely humiliate, and then have his minions heal the party up and impel the party to complete some task to appease the Erlking's wrath.

I mean, if the King of the Forest is mad at you, it doesn't need to be fundamentally different from any other King being mad at you. You don't need to engage in regicide or pull a coup, most efficiently your goal should be some kind of appeasement, since (barring high level 9th level casters and kineticists) you probably don't want to face an army.

Just have the Erlking take -4 penalties to attack (he'll still hit) to deal nonlethal damage and have the PCs end up geased or something, instead of dead. There's probably someone else in the fae that the Erlking has beef with, and he'd happily use the PCs as proxies.

Mulet wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
How will a chase scene work with something that fast, though?

Good point. I'll give it a sore leg, or slow.

I get mocked for plot holes like this. (fun mocking tho)

Dont have to, youve been given the out for that as well. It might not consider them worth putting that much effort into. It has agreed to help the centaurs but no necessarily chase the players to the ends of the earth. It might even let them run away and tell the centaurs it will make sure they dont come back and organize them into a fighting force that can take them, but it wont chase them because its beneath him. Then have them start fighting centaurs using advanced tactics or buffed and so on. eventually they can fight him, but before then he acts as their general, not their attack dog.

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