Campaign Crunch #10: When a character is headed for a TPK…

So our session this week was nearly all role play. The gang moving from one social encounter to another. We built several leads since the players historically haven’t followed every lead that’s been floated out to them. This was the week that they explored every lead!

One thing that we typically do to prepare for these scenarios is to lay out some key NPCs. One tip that we dole out regularly to DMs is this: NPCs typically only need ONE memorable trait. More than that and they become too complex and thus (ironically) less memorable. We had a one-armed human supervisor, a flamboyant Kobold, the swolest Goblin, and a literally crazy Goblin. We also jot down some notes of what useful information each of these NPCs has stored in their make-believe heads. This helps us to keep the conversation with them unscripted and flowing AND still make sure we convey the important bits to the players at the table.

So, the click-bait byline: When you have a character headed for a TPK. In our scenario the gang was in a camp of Goblins… roughly 100 or so Goblins. They’re level 4 and there’s 7 characters total but 2 were in another location so that means 5 Level 4 characters vs 100+ Goblins. Keep that in mind. Using the encounter calculator at Kobold Fight Club (link in notes below) we found that the encounter for 5 level 4 characters is considered deadly when 15 standard goblins are present. FIFTEEN! Not 50…15. We’re talking about a Goblin encampment that numbers over 100 (easy) of the stabby green-skinned little murderers. So when a character repeatedly shoulder charged a rickety gate to force it open while Goblin guards yelled at him to cease and desist… he was headed for a TPK! When the Goblin guards blew an alarm horn mobilizing the whole encampment did the barrage on the door cease? NOPE. In fact it was at that point that the STR check DC was met and one of the weak gates burst open!

>>>Pause<<< We could’ve just set a DC so high the door couldn’t be burst through. Or given it a damage threshold with a stack of HP. Or just ignored his attempts with a narrative hand wave of, “the gate is sturdier than it looks and it does not give under your charges.” But we didn’t. We had already described the slap-together nature of the gates, that they were made of literally salvage the Goblins had drug together and hastily erected. Plus, we’re big believers in player agency. In hindsight MAYBE we should have gone with one of the routes above, but we’d set a reasonable DC for bursting the door with a STR check and we ran with it.

So, as the Goblins rush to the gates of their little fortress what happens… A strong argument could be made that the Goblin horde would attack the party for their hostile actions. It would have lead to a long and drawn out combat encounter that NOBODY has enough minis for. Players would’ve been frustrated. It would be a sad sad day behind the DM screen. 2 players would sit and watch as their friends lost beloved characters… So we leaned more on the story the other characters were pushing towards: one of bribing the guards to get an audience with their Goblin leader and just sort of brushed the door busting down under the rug. NOT what felt right for the Goblins to do, but what we hope was in the long run a better story for the table as a whole.

But… we will make a note in our little DM footnotes section that this one character is disliked by the Goblins… that’ll play out eventually one day.

Kobold Fight Club

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