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D&D 3E
Persistent players 
22nd-Jan-2006 11:07 am
As is so often the case, the players went off on a plot direction I wasn't intending them to hit-- leastwise, not this early in the game. As a result, they've started to pillage an abandoned temple I wasn't expecting them to get to for several additional levels. The problem is that there is an item that they'll eventually need to acquire for some in this temple, but it's way out of there league right now-- I was expecting them to approach this around level 15 or so, and they're level 4 at the moment. For once, I've got a party that actually uses teamwork and works well together, so they did a fairly good job of getting past most of the encounters without too much difficulty on their part. The temple vault was a series of increasing difficulty level traps/locks/monsters, and I wrongly assumed that the PCs would back off and come back to it when they were stronger when they reached something they couldn't get past easily. They kept on past the traps that the rogues in the party couldn't disable; they kept on past the door that they couldn't unlock, bashing it down instead; they kept on past the monsters that were significantly higher in challenge rating than they-- and through some very clever use of the prior traps and nature of the passageways to deal with monsters. They've now reached the crypt at the end of this series of encounters, and we called it a night there.

I'm torn at this point. On the one hand, I'm very tempted to let them suffer the negative consequences of their actions, as, depending on who opens the sarcophagas and takes the item in question, it could wreak serious havoc on the party. I'm somewhat annoyed at the fact that they wouldn't take the hint and turn back when things got much harder than they should have been. But at the same time, they were doing an exceptional job of working as a team-- far better than I've ever seen them do-- and of thinking their way past these obstacles. So I think they deserve to be rewarded as well. But if they manage to successfully acquire the item in question, they have no idea what it does, and, due to its nature, they'd have a very difficult time finding someone who did, so they'd have to sit on it until they were close to the level they should have acquired it at in the first place. I'm still deciding what sort of consequences to dish out, but I'm wondering what y'all do when you've got players that bull ahead on things when it should be fairly clear that they should turn back.

Incidentally, in cases like this, if the characters get killed, I have no sympathy, and let them die-- however, they played it very well, and though I got the fighter down to 1 HP at one point, that was the closest I can to killing a PC.
22nd-Jan-2006 06:33 pm (UTC)
What's wrong with them sitting on it? Maybe it'll be the kind of them where everytime they come to a puzzle, they pull out the item and say "do something!", hoping that eventually its purpose would be made known. And the more they do this, the more significant it will be when the item finally does do something. I say let them have it, congatulate them for a job well done, and plan even harder adventures in the future. I think this could work out to your advantage, in that stuff from way later will REALLY relate back to what happened earlier. And if you set it up right, the PCs may feel like they actually had some effect on the world by getting the item now instead of later.
22nd-Jan-2006 07:14 pm (UTC)
I'm also in two minds.

Part of me says that there's a monster of awexome power in there; that the adventure was written that way, and everything so far really demands a powerful challenge at the end. Let's see if their teamwork and ingenueity continue to carry them through this final obstacle.

On the other hand, they probably *are* all going to die, as the adventure is written. Which would be anticlimactic after all they've been through. And they certainly have no reason to turn back at this last minute.

I would probably tone it down a little. Make sure it's still a difficult fight, and make sure that it's still in keeping with the theme of the crypt, but make it something that they can (at least mostly) survive. Play to their strengths, if they have any. Do they have amulets of protection against fire? Then let the bad guy have lots of fire-based attacks. That way, he can be a tough challenge from an objective point of view, but the party has better odds than they might on paper.

I don't neccessarily see them sitting on an unknown item for a periiod of time, and I think it could make for some interesting adventure hooks. Who keeps hiring thieves to steal this "useless" item from us?

But, if you don't want that, you could change it so that instead they find a clue to the location of that item. A clue they might not understand for several levels...
22nd-Jan-2006 07:46 pm (UTC)
I would probably put defenses in place that they can't defeat until they're a more appropriate level. It will fire their curiosity and make sure they return later to get it when they are up to the challenge.
22nd-Jan-2006 09:18 pm (UTC)
Well, I have to say as they succeeded in barrelling through your warning signs, that they didn't need to worry aobut warnings. If it was really all that dangerous, then they would have been dispatched, right? I think you should applaud their skill and teamwork in any case and not worry about consequences. If they try it again and get killed, well, so be it. If they can't diddle with the magic thing just now, don't worry about that either, unless they wanna pawn it. I've had my party cart artifacts around while they gained upward of five or six levels not knowing what was up with it.
22nd-Jan-2006 10:45 pm (UTC)
Even if they do pass it on there's the fun of them realising later that that item was the one the needed, and they're now going to have to try and trace where it went and get it back.
22nd-Jan-2006 10:16 pm (UTC)
Have the creature they disturbed be unsure of their power, as it awoke from deep sleep/rest. Figuring it would be safer to flee than fight, it can be hunted again another day.

You might want to have it wear or carry the object that the PCs are going to need later. Chances are they won't return to the crypt for a long while and at 4th level they couldn't trace its teleport or plane shift behind it...so the dweller could retur, restock and re-arm is lair and prove to be a challenge once more for the higher level PCs later.
22nd-Jan-2006 10:46 pm (UTC)
Run it as is and let them face the consequences, for better or worse.
22nd-Jan-2006 11:22 pm (UTC)
Won't they level that much faster, then?
23rd-Jan-2006 05:16 am (UTC)
Most certainly. They've already gained more than a level's worth of experience for this setup. Course, that means I have to rework some of the other encounters, but I think I can cope.
22nd-Jan-2006 11:34 pm (UTC)
What they did was very cool, and it's cool that you didn't railroad them. I woudl probably rewrite the last encounter to an EL (partylevel+4)
23rd-Jan-2006 03:21 am (UTC)
You can rewrite the encounter to level 4 (thus rewarding them for doing so well thus far) and have a much more difficult temple for them when they are ready for it (the CR 15 you spoke of). We have to reward creativity, not crush it.

If they don't feel the sense of impending doom from the last encounter, then that probably means that the first parts were not as challenging as they should have been, or were not described well enough. As they beat them cleverly, I would say it has to be that they don't realize how bad things are. If that's true, then you can't toss the Big Bad at them next, it just wouldn't be fair.

Adn, asking them to hold on to an item for 9 levels? I think you're begging them to get rid of it, or sell it. I'd say rewrite the last part, and either make it an as yet undiscovered part of the tomb (say a cave in reveals it later, or the secret door is too hard to find or that you have to have a certain 'key' for it), or make it another tomb altogether.

Good luck with it, and let us know how it goes, k? I'd love to hear what you end up doing.
23rd-Jan-2006 05:29 am (UTC)
I talked with one of the players about it today, and she indicated that the general feeling (at least between her and her husband) was that they were of the attitude that since it kept getting harder and harder, that there must be something *really good* at the end of this, and that they kept thinking the next room/encounter would be the last, and it'd be right there. By the time they realized they were in way over their heads and started getting really creative and clever, they were so determined to find out what was at the end of it that they'd have gone on past anything at all. I suppose arousing their curiosity to such heights is a good thing, but I just wasn't expecting it.

Here's one example of their tenacity. They reached a point where they encountered a room that had stained glass golems attack them and then some modified clay golems (I nerfed them to a CR 7 instead of the normal 10). In addition, there was a large stone statue of the patron deity in this room. Since they attacked in waves (first the stained glass, then the clay), the players assumed that the statue would be a stone golem. In the process of defeating the clay ones, they navigated a substantial way back through the passages. They spent about an hour and a half of IC time rigging up a trap to help make the stone golem much easier to defeat, using the spiked pit trap they had bypassed earlier, one of the large doors, several blocks of stone, large amounts of cooking lard and oil, pitons, and some rope.

They levered the trapdoor back into place, by hammering the pitons into it, and having the fighter hold it up with the rope, which he would release when the golem stepped on the trap. In the event that the golem stepped over the square, they had shaped one of the doors into a wedge, helping to angle it with some stone blocks, and greasing it down, so that the golem would then slip into the pit. They had also spread grease down the sides of the pit so that it would have difficulty climbing out, if the 50' fall onto spikes didn't kill it. They assumed they could beat on it from there, or at the very least simply leave it in the hole, lift the door back up, and tie it shut, allowing them to simply bypass the monster. Course, the statue wasn't a golem, and didn't react when they reentered the room, but it was pretty clever on their part anyway. They used some similar tactics to avoid have to fight to of my CR7 clay golems at all-- saving them the difficulty of worrying about the damage, as well as not wasting resources trying to take them down.

23rd-Jan-2006 04:14 am (UTC)
Let it stand as is. If they defeat it, then kudos to them, give them the appropriate XP. If not, arrange some sort of "it was all a dream" sequence. This should make them leary of going to the temple in the future. And being as it is that the temple is highly religiously magical, it would be appropriate for it to radiate this sort of effect.
23rd-Jan-2006 04:56 am (UTC)
if you dont want to give whatever it is to the then stump them. make a puzzle that they cant solve a trap that cant be disarmed but nor can i t be bashed... a lock that can't be picked or broken.... make it magi cal and mechanical so it can't just be dispelled... make it truly confusing..... like an actual puzzle or soemthing from one of those books!
25th-Jan-2006 07:00 pm (UTC)
What CR are they defeating? Do you have CR 15 beign defeated by level 4 characters? It sounds like the CR of the creature isn't being played properly. Monsters in that dungeon should have immunities to the dungeon's trap, that's how they survive there (if you have a trap with acid, a monster immune to acid might hang around that trap, waiting for its food).

Anyway, now that they've gotten that far, I wouldn't disappoint them. I would tone it down to something they can handle, then let them sit on their treasure.
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