Did you run "Monster in the Closet" (with Gresgurt)? Was it worth it?


Rise of the Runelords


I'm not quite sure what the point of the Gresgurt encounter is supposed to be. It seems like a trivially easy combat against an enemy the PCs have already faced, with a foregone conclusion that Alergast dies and the PCs kill/capture Gresgurt. As written, it doesn't really seem like it adds anything to the story.

Did you run this encounter, or skip it? If you ran it, how did it turn out? Would you make any recommendations on how to make it fun and interesting?


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The original version of Rise of the Runelords chapter 1 included this sidebar with the Monster in the Closet encounter:

Quote:

GOING TOO FAR?

Up to now, the goblins have been as much comic relief as they have
menaces. While the fate of the Baretts is grim and depressing, it serves
an important role: putting some fear into the game. It establishes
the goblins not only as dangerous creatures, but as remorselessly evil
little bastards. As the adventure progresses, the PCs should come to
think of goblins with equal parts dark humor and worry; sure, they’re
comedic in some ways, but they also eat babies. They’re vile monsters,
and it’s no good to have the primary villains of an adventure be nothing
more than a laughing stock.
Nevertheless, for some game groups, this event might be a bit too
gruesome and depressing. In this case, feel free to have the PCs arrive
just in time as Alergast is being pulled into the goblin’s hole. He’s at –1
hit points, but if the PCs act fast, they can still save him from a tragic
fate. In the end, as long as the PCs remember that the goblins are as
dangerous as they are anything else, this encounter serves its purpose
regardless of how many NPCs you kill off.

I really liked the sidebars Paizo included with their earlier adventures because they offered these insights into their encounter and adventure design. I miss them terribly.


RumpinRufus wrote:

I'm not quite sure what the point of the Gresgurt encounter is supposed to be. It seems like a trivially easy combat against an enemy the PCs have already faced, with a foregone conclusion that Alergast dies and the PCs kill/capture Gresgurt. As written, it doesn't really seem like it adds anything to the story.

Did you run this encounter, or skip it? If you ran it, how did it turn out? Would you make any recommendations on how to make it fun and interesting?

I ran it. It changed the mood of the campaign from fun romp to 'damn, those bastards are evil' quite efficently


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I ran it as-written the first time (though I sprung it on my players on a whim because the rest of the group decided they were going to help the rogue deal with Shayliss' "rat problem" after the two of them left, so I had them run into Amele as they were rushing out of the Rusty Dragon) and the group found it kind of depressing and were irritated when Amele's sister blamed them for failing at their hero-ing.

For my second run-through I had little Aeren run up to the "Heroes" on the street to ask for help with the monster in his closet, only to have Amele come over and apologize for her son's behavior. The group told the kid to be brave and stand up to the monster.

When events then unfolded as written in the AP they ended up feeling really guilty about the whole thing and willingly took their lumps from Amele's sister. They also vowed to show any further goblins they met no mercy.


I ran it and for the reasons listed in the sidebar Bill Dunn provided though I did not have access to that text. It wasn't fun - it was meant to be sad and awful and leave no doubt that goblins are dangerous to normal citizens and just plain evil. Another advantage - it suggests the nasty buggers are like termites - they can show up anywhere. Lastly, though the AP seems to suggest there's some kickback from the community because the pc's didn't save everyone (it makes the people of Sandpoint seem ungrateful if you emphasize that part) it also suggests why much of the town thinks of them as heroes - defeating several goblins running amok in the middle of town armed with fire and lunacy saved a lot of lives.

I'd agree with the sidebar - probably not much downside to giving the pc's a chance to save everyone if you think that will fit better at your table. If I ran it again for other players, I'd probably think about going that route - but at the time, we had just finished a very long period of home-brew campaigns and I was very interested in things that I would never do as a way to change things up for my players.


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I ran it as written the first time I ran the campaign. I didn't feel it had much impact on the players (in fact getting blamed by the aunt for not helping when they had done everything they reasonable could gave probably helped lead to the PCs taking a generally negative view of the town and the people, which is the opposite of what you're supposed to want foster) and was a complete non challenge that wasn't worth the time it took to run/draw out a map/ect ...

As I'm gearing up to run the campaign again again I will not run it as a combat encounter:

The PCs will be invited to a party being thrown by Titus Scarnetti who will make promises about outfitting the town's new heroes properly. The PCs will be warned about Titus and his tendency to get angry about any perceived slight (such as skipping out on an invitation and embarrassing him) as a great affront and hold a grudge.

At the party the kid will approach the PCs with the story of the monster in his closet just as the family is ready to leave early (his mother is feeling ill), with his father telling the PCs that he's making up stories and has checked the closet himself and found nothing.

If the PCs stay they will be gifted a appropriate masterwork (or similarly valued) item and gain Titus's favor. However, when they leave they'll come across the aftermath of Monster in the Closet (a pair of guards having answered the call for help and defeated the goblin). Dead father and Petal, scarred Alergast, angry aunt shows up later to throw shade at the PCs for not helping.

If they go, Gresgurt is not quite to the point that he's more mad/angry than he is afraid of the dog and will see the PCs as his salvation from the Great Beast, he'll throw down his makeshift dagger and willingly surrender without a fight. No one dies, PCs are praised as heroes, but Titus is insulted and will hold a grudge against them.


Kalshane wrote:
For my second run-through I had little Aeren run up to the "Heroes" on the street to ask for help with the monster in his closet, only to have Amele come over and apologize for her son's behavior. The group told the kid to be brave and stand up to the monster.

Oooh, I love this! I think I'll try it this way.


Kalshane wrote:


For my second run-through I had little Aeren run up to the "Heroes" on the street to ask for help with the monster in his closet, only to have Amele come over and apologize for her son's behavior. The group told the kid to be brave and stand up to the monster.

That approach does have a few things going for it. It foreshadows the tragedy that will play out in the closet and gives the group a chance to realize that a monster in the closet right after a goblin raid might mean a bona fide monster (goblin) in the closet. And if they dismiss it as childish imagination, they can't really say they didn't get a chance to intervene.


Hythlodeus wrote:
RumpinRufus wrote:

I'm not quite sure what the point of the Gresgurt encounter is supposed to be. It seems like a trivially easy combat against an enemy the PCs have already faced, with a foregone conclusion that Alergast dies and the PCs kill/capture Gresgurt. As written, it doesn't really seem like it adds anything to the story.

Did you run this encounter, or skip it? If you ran it, how did it turn out? Would you make any recommendations on how to make it fun and interesting?

I ran it. It changed the mood of the campaign from fun romp to 'damn, those bastards are evil' quite efficently

It doesn't work on that level for me because Gresgurt is clearly starved and has been driven insane with fear and hunger. If anything he's one of the few Goblins whose evil behavior is painted in a somewhat sympathetic light. The fact that the PCs then get chewed out by the family for "failing" when the adventure makes it impossible for them to do more just makes them care even less about the victims.


another thing I'd like to add: when I was a player in RotRL our group had a very hard time fighting the Goblin, one of us, IIRC, was nearly killed in that encounter. Gresgurt has an AC, like every Goblin, that for lvl 1 adventureres is very hard to beat unless the dice are on their side. Our dice weren't.

Scarab Sages

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*checks Rolodex for a 'Gresgurt'....*

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I am planning on running this for a slightly larger party, so I am thinking instead of the CR 1/2 commando, I will use the CR 1 goblin sneak from the Monster Codex. I will probably only let her have some of her equipment, to explain why she has not run away already.


It seems clear that this isn't intended to be much of a threat to the players. I probably won't even bother drawing the room when I run it this weekend.

Both Kalshane and Ninja in the Rye have great ways to make this encounter more compelling, so . . . por que no los dos? I'll combine the two--the mother and child will interrupt the party on the way to Scarnetti's. It's possible that the party will split up so that one or more members check on the kid; if so, Titus might try to drive a wedge between the ones who showed up and the ones who didn't, cementing his reputation as Sandpoint's sleazebag.


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I have something to add and hopefully it will help someone.

I changed the whole thing from a "Damn, we just watched that happen and now feel failure at something we couldn't prevent but man do we hate us some goblins now," to something more like, "Woah, bad things are happening... let's investigate through all this confusion... Woah that was really bad, but at least we did what we could."

Ramped it up to a fully fleshed encounter with maps.

Explanation

Three of the characters are locals and one is the son of the (now single mother) proprietor of the House of Blue Stones.

During the raid, Mama Monk acted quickly to gather all the children in the streets and fortify the orphanage while the adults helped with the defense of the town. There is a standing and modestly trained militia in this version of sandpoint. All this matters now because in the aftermath, it takes some time to find the families to which the children belong.

Next Day

Ending the cemetery encounter in which Tobyn's body is found missing, the party is walking back around front of the church with Zantus. We introduced a couple more characters at this point and the encounter helped to knit it all together nicely. (Up to six players on and off)

It's about midday at this point and as one character joins the rest with information about goblin scouting parties north of town in the woods, the party is confronted by a lone frantic child running toward them down the street.

He is crying and (through some surprisingly soft coaxing by the party's mercenary Bloodrager) eventually gets out that he and the grownups have been looking all day and can't find his parents. The child is Aren Barret.

He directs them to his house which is just down the street. Cue arrival of new player who's just found that Vernah's Fine Clothing two doors down is closed to business.

The house itself is locked and all the windows are curtained. Doors are barred and immovable. The party, after some time of fiddling with different ideas, breaks a window and pushes down a table that had been set against it on a mound of junk inside.

Long Story Short

The party found the Barret house barred and trapped Tucker's Kobold style by three goblins left behind in the aftermath of the raid. Murderholes, boards with nails in strewn about the hallways (Alergast was a carpenter and had many tools upstairs), and every book in the house dumped and piled on the only stairway to the top floor, ready to be torched.

After negotiating the murderholes with a large table that had been used to bar the door and moving the dangerous spiked boards with a longspear to make a path, they turtled to the stairway. Party rogue and cleric both reacted swiftly enough to catch the oil and alchemists fire before it set the stairwell alight.

A little later, three goblins lay dead in the upper floor and a search turned up a couple of bags of mangled and sticky bones packed behind The nest they'd made in The corner. The goblins feasted well through the night. Three bodies were found and the party got a little torn up at this point. They'd even eaten the toddler and stuck the bones in a separate sack.

Reactions

I made my players cry. Literally. Emotionally hurt and charged to strike back at the goblins.

Yes. I hear you say that it's cruel and dark, but it led to some of the best role-playing I've ever seen the folk in this group get up to. And the best part is that they didn't feel like failures. They didn't feel helpless. They felt sympathy and disgust, sure, and it made them all care so much more for these people that are little more than numbers and names.

The cleric in particular solemnly and quietly had an aside with Zantus about the bodies and then smoothly picked Aeren up and began walking him about town on his hip. Silently. Sharing space with him and making him comfortable. Wanting to do anything to keep the kid from feeling alone.

Anyway. That's what we did.

I agree that it changed the tone significantly. I find that running it my way was an excellent counterpoint to the fun and frivolity of the fair the day before. It was even hit upon quickly enough that by this point the players hadn't had time to really process their situation or the town's, keeping them on their toes.


Hythlodeus wrote:
another thing I'd like to add: when I was a player in RotRL our group had a very hard time fighting the Goblin, one of us, IIRC, was nearly killed in that encounter. Gresgurt has an AC, like every Goblin, that for lvl 1 adventureres is very hard to beat unless the dice are on their side. Our dice weren't.

Same. Given the space limitations (this is one of many of RotRL's "knife fight in a phone booth" battles) it can be very difficult for more than one PC to engage Gresgurt at once. My players brought 3 PCs to the encounter and were nearly TPW'd.

This fight, the fight with the skeletons in the graveyard, the Erylium encounter, and the final fight with Nualia are all deceptively challenging for the level your players will encounter them.


SoylentG wrote:

Same. Given the space limitations (this is one of many of RotRL's "knife fight in a phone booth" battles) it can be very difficult for more than one PC to engage Gresgurt at once. My players brought 3 PCs to the encounter and were nearly TPW'd.

This fight, the fight with the skeletons in the graveyard, the Erylium encounter, and the final fight with Nualia are all deceptively challenging for the level your players will encounter them.

So true, I had to be intentional about laying out the house in a manner that let all four PCs engage Gresgurt at once. They found the story element behind Gresgurt compelling, disgusted and angry in turns, but they are all brand new to RPGs and a death so early would have murdered their budding joy.


Each time I ran this for groups I attempted to run with this, this fight did two things. The first one was give them actual reason to really care about stopping the goblin thread beyond murderhoboing everything that wasn't human, and the second was it gave them a chance to find another goblin to interrogate and get more information from. Usually that ended up with Gresgurt eating the other goblin in the cell (who I've typically named Birdbukit. Poor Birdbukit).

The thing with this fight though is that it's not meant to be a challenge. Mechanically speaking, you put the big hitter in front of him, and a healer right behind him and the fight is over in about 3 to 4 rounds, if that. It is (and this is stated in the original Burnt Offerings) meant to be a piece of story that helps get the characters invested into the town and the horrors it's dealt with.

James Jacobs wrote:


Up to now, the goblins have been as much comic relief as they have menaces. While the fate of the Baretts is grim and depressing, it serves an important role: putting some fear into the game. It establishes the goblins not only as dangerous creatures, but as remorselessly evil little bastards. As the adventure progresses, the PCs should come to think of goblins with equal parts dark humor and worry; sure, they’re comedic in some ways, but they also eat babies. They’re vile monsters, and it’s no good to have the primary villains of an adventure be nothing more than a laughing stock.

Nevertheless, for some game groups, this event might be a bit too gruesome and depressing. In this case, feel free to have the PCs arrive just in time as Alergast is being pulled into the goblin’s hole. He’s at –1 hit points, but if the PCs act fast, they can still save him from a tragic fate. In the end, as long as the PCs remember that the goblins are as dangerous as they are anything else, this encounter serves its purpose regardless of how many NPCs you kill off.

It saddens me that a lot of the notes from the original printing didn't get put into the Anniversary Edition for this very reason. It makes it seem that the little encounters don't mean anything. If it weren't for this design note, I would never have been able to properly convey the context for this encounter and give my groups the effect it was meant to have.


KyleS wrote:


It saddens me that a lot of the notes from the original printing didn't get put into the Anniversary Edition for this very reason. It makes it seem that the little encounters don't mean anything. If it weren't for this design note, I would never have been able to properly convey the context for this encounter and give my groups the effect it was meant to have.

Oh, yeah. Those designer notes were awesome, not just in Burnt Offerings but several other Paizo products at the time, including adventure modules. I recognize they cut into the space available for content, but if RPGs and adventure material are missing something useful these days, it's designer notes. I'm a big fan of them since way back in my wargamer days.


Agreed, I boughta bunch of early Paizo GameMastery modules and the design notes are great for understanding why things were done and how they can be changed.


Not to mention that the design notes are really nice teaching moments that help us make our homebrew stuff better.


This encounter turned quite deadly when our paladin pulled back the gnawed on body and the starved goblin lunged and nearly pulled her into the hole. Then when he decided not to come out of the crawl space under the house our paladin decided to fight in the small confined space. And it nearly killed her. Our party having just finished Savage Tide after almost two years of play seemed to forget how vulnerable 1st level characters are and how tough a goblin could be one on one with limited space to fight!

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