View Full Version : Pimp my encounters.

2009-04-10, 06:10 PM
This is a fast-paced campaign for 4-5 20th level characters. Ridiculous cheese is balefired. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balefire) Classes/feats/spells are from any 3.5 WotC book. Anything else for players (items included) is SRD. The encounters are supposed to be tough.

The PCs are visitors to the city-fortress of Silverstar (think Gondor only bigger and with more wizards), a major stronghold of the White Magi against an evil power from the West (no, it's not a witch). Everything in Silverstar is at least somewhat defence-oriented; mages of the Order are continiously practicing battlemagic and arcane defence techniques, there's a strong standing army provided with quality magical weapons from the city's crafters, there are continious security tests to make sure the city is secure against thieves and sabotage and the city's clerics are upholding standing agreements with celestial forces in case the city ever comes under attack.
Ironically enough, it is during one of those drills that the city becomes target of thieves unknown. The city's ruler, one Aramis Silverstar, calls all important visitors that aren't part of the city's garisson in his private quarters and explains; the keystone, the focus for the city's major defencive magic, has been stolen during the drill. Despite his divinations, the protective spells against such eventuality and various other defences, the thieves have not been found. Aramis theorises that only someone working from within could have known of and neutralised all the defences in so short a time and thus he has to ask for help. He can keep working through divinations only for a short time and he is not sure he'll succeed. Meanwhile, he needs outsiders to search with more mundane means to see if they can uncover the culprits. Should they find anything, in addition to saving a bastion of Order against a great evil, they will be generously compensated with both gold and favors. This is where the party comes in;

The PCs are briefed after rest, before spell preparation so they can prepare however they wish.

Encounter 1; Social
The PCs must find info on when the theft was done and who the culprit was. They must interrogate two captains and one wizard responsible for the night's drills and several guards on duty as possible witnesses. Forceful persuasion is not allowed (the Order are the good guys). The PCs can try magic but it will probably be resisted, especially from the culprit who has been conditioned against such things (Zentharim Spy anyone?). So Gather Information 3x, Sense Motive 5x, Diplomacy 2x, Bluff 1x and Intimidate 1x at around DC 30-35 to find clues. Every 2 successful checks will reveal a clue with 4 clues needed to identify the inside man.
Should the PCs fail, Aramis comes later and reveals he's managed to briefly Hindsight through the misdirections employed the night before and identify the collaborator. Naturally, the PCs get no XP then-and magic is spent where it might be needed later.

Encounter 2: Skill/Utility
The PCs must find how the theft was done and the thieves' escape route if the thieves are to be tracked. The city gates were heavily guarded during the drill so they couldn't have left that way and the city's secondary wards prevent exit via flying. The problem is nobody has seen the thieves themselves for some reason.
Detecting Magic (or similar) on the keystone chamber reveals that only faint auras of transmutation remain from before. A DC 40 spellcraft check (the keystone's enchantment is a 20th lvl spell equivalent) reveals that the magic of the keystone must have been powerful enough to cover any spells used there while it was still active and thus only magic employed after its deactivation would leave a trace.
If the PCs don't think about it themselves, a DC 20 wisdom check prompts them to ask the size of the keystone. The keystone happens to be too large for a human to easily carry.
If the previous check is successful, a DC 40 spellcraft check on the trace magic reveals they were left by some sort of shrinking or form altering spell powerful enough to work on the keystone.
A DC 40 search check (whoever is searching should take 20) reveals a place on the wall where the stone is not solid but has been magically worked to fit exactly with the rest of the place, leaving almost no trace. The stone cover of the secret passage is revealed to be too thick for divinations to work through and too heavy for most humans to move.
A DC 30 knowledge; architecture or dungeoneering check or DC 25 listen check followed by a DC 25 wisdom or intelligence check similarly reveals the passage from the faint, slightly odd echoes the cavern beyond does.
XP is awarded based on how many clues the party found. If they find nothing, eventually lord Aramis notifies them of some cracks in the wall several chambers away that have just been found, possibly the result of a secret tunneling attempt. The cracked wall is opened, revealing the tunnel.

Encounter 3: traps
The tunnel is revealed but Lord Aramis and his wizards and clerics must perform a difficult ritual that will temporarily protect the city. Thus the party must hunt down the thieves. Rewards (treasure) are given based on previous successes, plus a couple of items to help them in possible fights.
The tunnel leads to the roots of the mountain through layers of metal-rich volcanic stone (sorry, no earth glide). The remaining wards of the fortress prevent extradimensional travel; if they didn't, the thieves would be untrackable anyway. Find the Path leads either back to the entrance or to a couple of other decoy exits nearby the thieves have intentionally dug to mislead such divinations. The group must search the tunnel complex manually. The thieves have left behind a few presents;
Several (12) permanent symbol of weakness traps. Search DC 32+4 due to bad illumination. The symbols are warded from divinations (CL check 35 allows the divination to work)
Four screen spells (similarly hidden from divinations) hiding pits of magma. Two on each pit to enforce two saves and two CL checks, the first time someone falls in no save is allowed to disbelieve since there was no reason to disbelieve before.
One teleportation circle Search DC 34+4, warded as above, that sends you back to aforementioned pits of magma. There's no save-if you step on it, you get teleported.
XP awarded for survival, no matter how it was acheived. :smalltongue: The PCs can move on by disarming the traps, finding and (temporarily) dispelling the traps or falling into and surviving the traps then having the cleric heal them. Should the traps be disarmed, the PCs also get 12 pretty nifty nonlethal defencive symbols as treasure if they remove the tiles they're written on and take them along (10.000 gp cost each)

Encounter 4: fighting fire...
Eventually the PCs find their way to the lower levels of the tunnels and a pretty big magma pool through which a small path of stepping stones exists. The thieves (who, the PCs should know by now, are serious casters) have left on of their experiments to guard the place and eat anyone coming through. As they come in out of the magma jumps them a Phrenic Elite Elder Fire Elemental with 12 unassociated class levels (CR 20). Those unassociated class levels include blackguard 2, monk 2, assasin 3, wilder 1 (don't argue, a wizard did it). The elemental can't have items (they'd melt in the magma or from its fiery touch) so it is enhanced with inherent bonuses instead. As for feats, infinite deflection chain, ascetic mage, whatever gives elusive target, thick skin, some fast healing and Blade of Ragnarok chain. The elemental will meele the group, ignoring spells since its SR 46, 35+ saves, evasion and infinite deflection ensure spells will not harm it much. After the group kills it (~250 hp and immune to uberchargers), it is revealed it was just the fissioned duplicate of the original elemental which has buffed with psionics and is jumping the party now. (450 hp, can recover back to half HP three times if slain, some nifty AC buffers).
The PCs probably win here with considerable resource expenditure, as was the intention. It's supposed to be a battle of attrition, especially once the elemental starts trying to grapple or bull rush them into the magma. There's no treasure but Lord Aramis should compensate them once they return with news of the thieves' location.

Encounter 5: rocks fall...
Upon the elemental's final death, the last contingency of the thieves comes into play; a series of earthquakes and magma from the pool begin to destroy the passages to prevent further pursuit. (if any player asks why they didn't do that first, the answer is easy enough; they wanted to use the tunnels in a future assault upon the fortress. It took years to covertly build them so they wouldn't easily sacrifice them)
The PCs have to flee on the path ahead as the wards still prevent them from extradimensionally moving and the mountain itself is not easy to move through (one of the reasons for building the castle there). The problem is that in their path activate contingent animate objects spells, making the stones, the earth and, occasionally, fiery magma, rise up and block their path. They have to kill the blockades to pass through.
This is a minion encounter; the minions should be easy to kill individually but numerous enough to delay the PCs that are attempting to flee. The DM should pace the quakes/magma so the PCs barely manage to escape. Should someone try something cute (I shapechange into incorporeal stuff) remind them that neither incorporeal creatures nor flying creatures can run and even spectres have to be adjacent to the edge of objects. So if the roof falls, they are still pinned by the stones as there is no longer an edge to be adjacent to.

The tunnel leads to the edge of the mountainrange, where the White Order's territory ends and a seriously creepy forest begins. Aramis opens a Worldwalk (portal) to the PCs' location to speak to them face to face, congratulate them and reward them. He informs them this forest is home to evil fey and worse things and they need to rest before advancing, should they choose to take up the task of retrieving the keystone from the thieves since, after how much time has passed, he no longer believes capturing them on the road is possible.

This concludes day 1 of the campaign. I'll write day 2 later.