View Full Version : Send in the Assassins

2008-02-20, 04:14 PM
My players have recently pissed off a major power in my D&D campaign world, and in a big way. Without going into too much detail, they wound up owing a favor to the massive, wealthy Ambrosea Trades, Ltd. corporation. Some time passed, and later on they were called upon to retrieve the lost Ruling Relics for the baroness of their city, Wildsgate. Upon receiving this mission, the party was accosted by a representative of Ambrosea Trades, who said that they were calling in the favor they were owed - the players were to not retrieve the relics.

The players conferred, and decided to go against the wishes of the Corporation and get the relics anyway. I'd given them fair warning that this was a Bad Thing (tm) as far as their personal safety was concerned, through the words of the aforementioned representative. But now they've gone, and retrieved the relics, and it's time for some payback.

My goal here is to make life a little more difficult for my players, just as it would be if they had pissed off any other major power (a god, a government, a powerful guild). I want to make them jumpy, and sending in assassins seems like it'll do the trick.

My question is, what's the most reasonable way to actually do this? Sending in high-level rogues to kill them in their sleep is obviously the most straightforward method, and it's certainly within the power of the corporation to do so, but it's not really very fun for anyone. For the same reason, I don't want to send capital-A Assassins (that is, npc's with levels in the Assassin PrC) against them, since an encounter in which one of the characters is killed instantly just isn't that much fun for that player.

What I'm looking for are cool ambush-y things that will keep my players on their toes, and may be a significant challenge to overcome, but won't result in instant death. I've already got plans for a ninja-esque band of swordsages to ambush them on their way back to the city and try to take the Relics before they can return them. Any other suggestions?

2008-02-20, 04:27 PM
Actually, if you send in high level rogues, I'd send them in to steal the relics, rather than kill the party... That way the party has to go try and hunt down whoever lifted them.

Also, does the entire party sleep at the same time? Do they not set up any sort of defense (e.g. Alarm spell)? If so, before sending in an assassination squad, have a low-level cutpurse sneak in and remove some of their petty cash... so that they learn to do this WITHOUT losing their lives. Then I'd feel more comfortable sending in nocturnal death squads... because the party has been subjected to the trick once in character.

Another possibility... the corporation sends in an anonymous phony tip suggesting that the PCs are guilty of a crime (e.g. theft), and sets up a frame job (make sure it's a good one, if you do!). Sure, magic can clear the PCs, but there this is difficult, and there are ways to reduce its effectiveness...

If you send in a hit job, it could be the classic "ambush on the road", because that way it looks like the PCs might have been randomly targeted...

One fun variant on the ambush: druid charms a number of assassin vines... so that the party is suddenly grappled by plants.

Babau demons are nasty little ambushers too... Or if you wish to tone down lethality, you could have multiclass rogues (fewer sneak attack dice) do some of the work. This can also lead to more durable foes.

2008-02-20, 04:33 PM
#1: money = power. our party of heroes walk into a city where they are instantly arrested for a crime not known to them. the one who testifies against them is accidentally the messenger of the company. the jail-time shouldn't be too long (1 week or so BUT they would have to pay a big fine then) but behind the bars the "random encounters begin". lets see how they manage to defend themselves against the bribed prisoners without their weapons. especially if one cell is filled with monks (the underground combat league). and when the party is finally free again they'll be visited by the friendly company representative again... evil scheme unfolds... AND NOW GET THOSE RELICS BACK TO THE LADY BEFORE I UNLEASH REAL TROUBLE UPON YOU.

EDIT: NINJA'ED. i hate the shuriken wounds in the morning!

2008-02-20, 05:06 PM
A very similar thing occurred in my campaign... and has yet to be resolved.

The first ambush was straightforward: a group of thugs went at the PCs head on. I didn't expect the encounter to be particularly challenging as it was to function as a sort of warning.

The next ambush... when the party's rogue went into an apothecary, said apothecary hit him with a sleep spell. He then sent the rogue's pinky to the remaining party members with a message arranging a hostage trade. Said trade was another trap. There was much garroting and poisoned darts and whatnot, but the PCs managed to rescue their rogue and dispatch their would-be dispatchers.

After that ambush failed, the next assassin was a retriever sent to kill them and bring back the bodies. While straightforward, this encounter was fun because the players had enormous difficulty figuring out just WHO sent it after them.

In my view, that's really the fun of an influential, rich enemy: he can essentially PAY someone do anything you want to spring on the PCs.

2008-02-20, 05:40 PM
For an actual team of hitmen, you might want to send multiclass scout/rangers with favored enemy:(PC race) and the Swift Hunter feat to stack their scout and ranger levels for the purpose of Skirmish and Favored Enemy increases.

The band of Swordsages is a good idea too (though in my campaign I try to keep ToB NPCs as few as possible so that they're fairly unique).

What's the party level? I can throw out a couple more ideas:

Rakshasas in general make good assassins due to their shapeshifting abilities. The only problem is that they're easily detectable due being outsiders. Slip them potions of undetectable alignment.
-Naityan Rakshasa (ToB, CR 7). Your martial adept Rakshasa.
-Rakshasa (MM, CR 10) Not to be sent alone, but they can definitely be a powerful force. If advanced by Sorcerer levels, you can give them offensive Conjuration spells like ice knife and icelance. Other good "assassin" spells would be phantasmal assailants and phantasmal killer.
-Naztharune Rakshasa (MM3, CR 11) Panther-like TWFing Rakshasa with innate Rogue abilities and Sneak Attack? Sign me up.

-Nimblewright (MM2, CR 7, but actually much stronger than that). Fast-moving, agile, intelligent, alter self-ing construct that likes to trip its victims.

2008-02-20, 07:29 PM
I would suggst going for the 'stealing the relic' option already presented. If you are inending to go the 'hit team' rout then You dont nececarily need to make it any higher than an encounter they would normally fight.

a cr 10 encounter that happens int he middle of the night while your sleeping naked is still a cr 10 encounter. Multiple rogues or asassins attacking the same target and then leaving without being seen is a good way to send a message.

2008-02-20, 08:10 PM
Actually, if you send in high level rogues, I'd send them in to steal the relics, rather than kill the party... That way the party has to go try and hunt down whoever lifted them.


Or if you wish to tone down lethality, you could have multiclass rogues (fewer sneak attack dice) do some of the work. This can also lead to more durable foes.

This sounds reasonable. Maybe one rogue at middle levels, and a high level rogue/fighter who has the job of protecting the rogue while he is getting the relics.

2008-02-20, 08:32 PM
Have some fun. Send in Awakened Dire Bears.
C'mon, who would expect a bear attack? Honestly. Send like 8 or 9 bears and as the players kill them off, they flee. Later, the surviving bears show up again, maybe a couple more hit dice now. Just keep sending wave after wave of bears until they contact the people they angered.

Maybe include a druid NPC who torments them with summoned bears later, just to make them worry and think they did something wrong.

Man, I'm insane.

2008-02-20, 08:36 PM
Fun ideas
All based off the "hit them when they sleep" method

1. Put them in a Tavern, set Tavern on fire, those setting Tavern on fire will then attack them(A mix of bounty hunter style Rangers and a few assassins style rogues should do the trick)

2. Local Town Guard Arrests them on tromped up charge. After shopping see if you have have an NPC rogue sneak something into the PC's gear then arrest them for stealing.

3. The ol' Balder's gate method, Tons of encounters with the mob's holding letters promising rich rewards if they kill the PC's

2008-02-20, 09:17 PM
A dire monkey with boosted (10?) Intelligence, and Sorcerer levels... But only if the players can handle the comedy...

K, Seriously now, have some scouts attack them, and appear to be winning when back up from the friendly company comes, finds they lost the relic, get ticked, and say "Get it back or else." But my players like fighting side-by-side with npc allies.

2008-02-20, 09:35 PM
My favorite is the innocent appearing couple who requests the aid of the PCs in some way. Maybe say they are happy to have an escort through a dangerous area, maybe they need help finding something or someone, maybe they pose themselves as willing allies in whatever quest the PCs have been given. These than turn on the PCs in full fury at the right time (see third paragraph)

The other classic is to have a random NPC give the players a quest which is really leading them straight into a trap or ambush - after they've already been weakened by a day's adventuring.

Fun ways to attack the players
-The perfect time: (probably night) rogues attack with full fury
-poison the player's food (you may need to get a nasty one, fortunately, the company has money)
-sabotage their equipment (Disable Device on a grappling hook, Dispel their bottle of air, etc).
-Nuke them with magic. The company has gold, why not have NPCs with little training but high power (although if you intend for the PCs to defeat them and not for the NPCs to retreat, the magic items will have to be consumable, unusable, destructible, marked so they can't be sold, or really not that valuable after all)
-Garotte attacks (http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/Garrote_(DnD_Equipment)): Really scary to the players. Make it a magical garotte, a rogue that can use sneak attack with it, and has improved Grapple and other grapple-related bonuses.
-Bloodhounds (Ranger Tracking Prc) track them relentlessly. The PCs know they are being followed and they know they will die if they are caught - the victory is in running, hiding, and possible either hit-and-run or defending when they get to a better location.

2008-02-20, 10:15 PM
My thoughts on this: PCs are blacklisted by the trading company, and must resort to the "black market" to buy anything of value that isn't looted off a dead goblin. PCs find themselves hounded by legal authorities and debt collectors (legitimately or otherwise) until they fulfill their debt.

Hmm. You know? It occurs to me that the nastiest sort of assassin a PC might face is a character assassin (pun not intended, but I'm happy to have popped it out). The trade organization hires prominent artisans and bards to utterly ruin PC reputations, perhaps based on real events, perhaps based on fabrications. "Gather ye citizens and hear the tale of Sir Bixley the Impotent! Courtesy of the East Greyhawk Traders League..."

2008-02-20, 10:56 PM
I'm rather fond of ambushes using urban-variant scouts and rangers attacking from the rooftops.

What would be cool, though, would be to have spring-attack Urban Soul assassins. You can't escape him in his city, he can attack and then meld away into crowds or the city itself, and at high levels teleport around... fun times.

2008-02-20, 11:13 PM
I'm also a big fan of the 'frame the PC's thing; they walk into town and are arrested for highway robbery, attempted assasination attempts, etc. Perpetrated by this roving band of swordsages that you have under the guise of illusions in the image of the PC's. Obviously there are holes in the descriptions, but that's also intentional as we don't really want the PC's to fight their way out of jail er...do we?

2008-02-20, 11:14 PM
You have to consider the motivation of Ambrosea Trades here.

They don't care about "revenge" in and of itself. Revenge is unprofitable. What they care about is that people pay what is owed. They need to make an example of the PCs so that no one else will think they can get away with breaking a deal.

This has certain requirements.

1. It must be publicly known (whether officially or not) that Ambrosea is responsible for the misfortune that the PCs suffer.

2. It must be publicly known why this is happening. The PCs broke a deal and now they are paying for it.

Ideally it should be a continuous inconvenience that drives the PCs to find a way to repay the debt with interest.

2008-02-20, 11:57 PM
Well my suggestion was, again, based on the idea that the corporation wanted the relics out of the PC's hands before they were handed over. And that they would be able to get their hands on any confiscated 'evidence' the PC's had on them during their incarceration and subsequent trial.

2008-02-21, 05:22 AM
I say go at it with style. Throwing mooks at them is good fun and all, but this is a professional organization they angered. This could be a great set up for the party to try to take them down.

So do it right.

One round, one attack or full attack action, and then get out. Either by attacking and leaving, or using some nifty cheap MIC items to teleport five feet backwards and off the roof top. Preferable in the streets so the message reaches everyone.

You attack should be a dangerous one, something with a bit of sneak attack and some magic. And enchanted arrow wielded by a rouge could do well, maybe with a ranger splitting it. You may, if you wish, choose a wizard, but we want deadly, not death. You give the party one roll, heavily penalized, spot or listen, and then start the suprise round shoot someone whose flatfooted, and then your gone by the time they try to retaliate.

With any luck the character you target will be hit, but not fully killed (nearly though, or the party will not know true fear.)

If this doesn't work, your next attack should not be a full assualt, or more death attempts, it should be hosers. You'll be wanting specilized mages and sneak attack -> penalty feats, maybe a neat monster or two. This time the attack should be somewhere seculuded where the enviroment it'self poses a threat to the party. Again the idea is not wasting company men on these targets.

And that's just the beggining of a beautiful relationship.

2008-02-21, 06:41 AM
Really you can't go too far wrong with a few highly intimidating warnings before sending in the death squad. When they camp for the night after a random encounter, have an arrow shoot into the campsite with a note attached describing how the party could have dealt with the fight better. Make it sound like a direct threat against one member ('I wouldn't rely on your wizard so much' or 'The fighter seems to let his guard down straight away'). This lets the party know they're being watched and studied. If they attempt to find their stalker, another arrow fires in with another note telling them to stop wasting time, they'll never see him till it's too late.
After a few times of this happening, another arrow, this time poison coated and aimed at the one on watch. This time the note reads 'A present from Ambrosea'.

2008-02-21, 08:37 AM
Sending them rotting pig's legs would be a pretty strong message too.