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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Default [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    How exactly do I explain this... Some examples:

    Players are attacked by a pair of humanoids. They defeat them. There are no marks of any kind on the pair, not even crafter's marks on the armor. They're also both missing their left pinkies and have nothing of value on them... AND they're scarred beyond any recognition. The players tie them up & wait 5 minutes. They attempt to interrogate, and find out only that the pair were sent to attack the players because the players broke their boss's scrying device... And that no matter how many times they need to fight them to do so, they will kill the players (according to them). Unknown to the players, these are the villain's top 2 guys for "fixing" problems secretly. They refuse to give any more info. I have to resort to the enemies making bite attacks on themselves to keep the players from slamming their proverbial heads against a brick wall for the next 3 hours.

    Players are asking leaders about votes on some common council to many of the towns and cities in the region regarding some war (to prove that the council really voted against it, so the villain will be shown as a traitor). One of the leaders voted for the war, but regrets his decision. He refuses to dishonor his people further by giving the players a signed lie. I have to resort to repeating over and over again "He's not going to help you." to keep the players from slamming their proverbial heads against a brick wall for the next 3 hours.

    I DO give them information as they go, they just never put 2 + 2 together with it to come to any conclusions. They wind up treating all the important info I let them find as flavor text... I can somewhat see why, as most of the information is 300 years old... But when all the events you discover take place within a month of one another, would you not think there could be some relationship between them?

    It seems to me like the players are getting a little frustrated, and I want them to be happy, but I also don't want them to be bored by knowing everything right away and having nothing to discover for several sessions...

    And for what they could already figure out, if they ASKED to do an insight check on which bits of gained knowledge are related, I would certainly allow it, but I'm not going to ask for one just to make them figure stuff out.

    To succeed in their current part of the quest, they need to get 2 more signatures, and there are 2 leaders willing to that they haven't met yet, 3 leaders unwilling to (one of which is the villain), and 5 leaders incapable of it (they weren't on that council, and the players have no idea who was & wasn't in the region). And each of those places has it's own unique situation and history. (I can elaborate if anyone wants. I'm sure they don't read this board.)



    What can I do to appease the players without undermining the campaign?
    Last edited by Thajocoth; 2009-04-08 at 05:10 PM.

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    "You can lead a PC to a railroad, but you can't make them take it"
    - Anonymous

    What you have here is a classic railroading problem; you have figured out one way for them to solve your campaign, and they don't want to, or unable to, follow that path.

    Your first mistake was with the prisoners. If you expected them to be captured figure out what it takes to break their will. If you decide they should never reveal their evidence, give them poison tooth compartments or some prepared suicide technique - it will resolve the scene faster, and impress upon your PCs how serious things are. And you have to figure out if the PCs could notice that suicide switch, and what happens if the prisoners cannot suicide.

    Rule #1 - Don't make any encounter a no-win scenario. Your PCs will either beat it, or get frustrated by you not letting them have a chance.

    Secondly, you need to have the PCs look for information, not just hand it to them. If they figure out a place where a clue should be, put a clue there - the PCs will pay attention to it. Merely peppering them with clues won't get anywhere; they're not in the right frame of mind.

    Rule #2 - React to the PCs, don't anticipate them. If the PCs go down an alternate path, see how you can use that to your advantage rather than trying to force them back onto the rails.

    Now, here's how to fix it:
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    Next time your PCs make a Streetwise or Knowledge check, note that one of the "useless" leaders used to be a good friend of an unwilling leader. Your PCs should then seek out the leader (or other NPC) and try to convince him to talk to a leader on their behalf.

    If this fails, then give them more avenues to pursue - maybe one of the unwilling leaders has rumors about him which could be used for blackmail (with proof), or one of them is open to bribes, or find another NPC that they respect a lot.

    But, if you want to finish things up quickly, have the NPC (when convinced) go to the BBEG. When the NPC comes back, he will say he was unsuccessful but something is wrong with his old friend. Have him describe what caused the falling out - and make that description include a place or a person for the PCs to contact. Go from there.
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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Oracle_Hunter View Post
    "You can lead a PC to a railroad, but you can't make them take it"
    - Anonymous

    What you have here is a classic railroading problem; you have figured out one way for them to solve your campaign, and they don't want to, or unable to, follow that path.

    Your first mistake was with the prisoners. If you expected them to be captured figure out what it takes to break their will. If you decide they should never reveal their evidence, give them poison tooth compartments or some prepared suicide technique - it will resolve the scene faster, and impress upon your PCs how serious things are. And you have to figure out if the PCs could notice that suicide switch, and what happens if the prisoners cannot suicide.

    Rule #1 - Don't make any encounter a no-win scenario. Your PCs will either beat it, or get frustrated by you not letting them have a chance.

    Secondly, you need to have the PCs look for information, not just hand it to them. If they figure out a place where a clue should be, put a clue there - the PCs will pay attention to it. Merely peppering them with clues won't get anywhere; they're not in the right frame of mind.

    Rule #2 - React to the PCs, don't anticipate them. If the PCs go down an alternate path, see how you can use that to your advantage rather than trying to force them back onto the rails.

    Now, here's how to fix it:
    Spoiler
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    Next time your PCs make a Streetwise or Knowledge check, note that one of the "useless" leaders used to be a good friend of an unwilling leader. Your PCs should then seek out the leader (or other NPC) and try to convince him to talk to a leader on their behalf.

    If this fails, then give them more avenues to pursue - maybe one of the unwilling leaders has rumors about him which could be used for blackmail (with proof), or one of them is open to bribes, or find another NPC that they respect a lot.

    But, if you want to finish things up quickly, have the NPC (when convinced) go to the BBEG. When the NPC comes back, he will say he was unsuccessful but something is wrong with his old friend. Have him describe what caused the falling out - and make that description include a place or a person for the PCs to contact. Go from there.
    The fact that they took prisoners surprised me, actually. Once unconscious, I had them purposely failing their death saves... (These two were made as PCs rather than as monsters.) But the players heal checked them so they couldn't keep dying.

    I also don't just hand them the info. They get it when they streetwise, history check, or ask the right questions to the right people... (And they've been very good at getting it. They've only missed one thing, by my count. And these bits of info DO tell them which other places a town or city is allies with, at odds with, and very close friends with.)

    They also have a map and have systematically been going place to place... So they are doing what I expect in that regard... And they seem to expect that they'll finish by doing this.

    They do KNOW who the villain is, and exactly where he resides... So they CAN bypass everything and go right there... (Though they'd likely tpk...) But they don't know the full extent of the problem.


    The problem is that they think everyone they meet/fight has more information than they have... Or in the case of that one king is willing to do more than he is. (Though, he was really the only one in all The Dome they'll get that reaction from. The others who're unwilling to help are outright hostile.)

    By sheer luck, the order they chose to travel in happened to have brought them to most of the people on their side first. (I gave them a map... They tell me where they travel to.)


    When we last left off, they decided to head to a town that's not gonna let them in. (Segirth, a town populated by Dragonborn) The guards there will let them know that only Dragonborn can enter Segirth now, and they're willing to pretend they never saw them if they go somewhere else. (This town has one of the unwilling leaders. Though, it also has one of the useless leaders captured, unknown to the party. If they knew that fact, they could convince the guards to let them in.) On the way, they're gonna come across a group of merchants that travel those mountains that trade with Steelhammer, Pagwar, Segirth & The Dragon's Den, who're on their way to The Dragon's Den. If the party asks for info, they could potential discover from them that Segirth isn't letting anyone in anymore, not even them. The Dragon's Den is a n isolated Kobold city. (And has nothing that'll help them progress, though it's possible to gain a very powerful ally there.)
    Last edited by Thajocoth; 2009-04-08 at 06:19 PM.

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    So... what exactly is the problem? That they waste time asking questions that the NPCs can't answer?
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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Oracle_Hunter View Post
    So... what exactly is the problem? That they waste time asking questions that the NPCs can't answer?
    Yeah, pretty much. But they seem to get annoyed that the NPCs can't answer... Really, what is the peon level 2 archer going to know? (Yes, they tried interrogating one. This was later. The archer was tricked into the fight, so he was more confused than the players.)
    Last edited by Thajocoth; 2009-04-08 at 06:23 PM.

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Two (admittedly general) thoughts:

    1) If your players are having trouble "getting it," you might not be putting the clues out there properly. It's easy enough for a DM to see all the pieces mesh together well, because you have control of the reins. What's obvious to you probably isn't obvious to your players.

    A non-subtle but effective solution is to use one of your friendly NPCs as a clue dispenser. Maybe he asks the players questions you think they ought to be asking. Maybe he offers "suggestions" for possible routes of investigation. Maybe he just blunders forward and the players have to chase after him in the right direction.

    2) You might be controlling the plot too much. That is, if you have situations with one correct solution, the players just might not get around to it, as they might not see it as the best solution from their perspective.

    Consider taking their probing as a guide to where you should go. If your players like to take prisoners, for example, have some NPCs carry important plot clues on them, or perhaps they offer to make a deal in exchange for their lives. Or perhaps the NPCs run rather than fight to the death.

    If the players want to try out an angle, don't immediately think, "No, because that's not what I have planned." Either try to work it into your plans, or see if you can't change things around so that your players are grasping in the dark. Your players will have an infinitely better time if it seems like they're really clever, and everything they do pushes things forward. Consequently, they will have much less fun if they are, as you say, hitting their heads on the walls.
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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Thajocoth View Post
    Yeah, pretty much. But they seem to get annoyed that the NPCs can't answer... Really, what is the peon level 2 archer going to know? (Yes, they tried interrogating one. This was later. The archer was tricked into the fight, so he was more confused than the players.)
    You're letting them waste time. You need to end scenes - either in-character (poison tooth option) or out-of-character ("Let's move on") - long before it gets to the point of frustration.

    Alternatively, you need to start making their efforts pay off. When they persistently look for information somewhere, put information there. (Don't use red herrings; those derail games, because the player's won't believe it was nothing even after they've followed it and found nothing. They'll just think they missed it.) It doesn't have to be anything critical - just a pointer at the next place you think they might want to go.

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Tsotha-lanti View Post
    You're letting them waste time. You need to end scenes - either in-character (poison tooth option) or out-of-character ("Let's move on") - long before it gets to the point of frustration.

    Alternatively, you need to start making their efforts pay off. When they persistently look for information somewhere, put information there. (Don't use red herrings; those derail games, because the player's won't believe it was nothing even after they've followed it and found nothing. They'll just think they missed it.) It doesn't have to be anything critical - just a pointer at the next place you think they might want to go.
    I actually did that regarding the 1st 3 places they went to. They didn't have to go there, or pick up on the information that it'd make sense for them to, but they found the info and promptly followed it.

    The pair of guards they took prisoner? That was between the 1st & 2nd places. They knew that somebody might invade Maladar Outpost soon, because King Orodgard IV happened to mention it while they were escorting him into hiding after he faked his death. After leaving Greenhaven for Maladar, the pair attacked. After they finally just killed them, and got to Maladar, they had no problems actually IN Maladar or with any of it's NPCs. Though, Maladar was completely on their side... And they got what they needed from Maladar's leader very quickly. (He wanted to get underground quickly. The town was evacuating.)

    I had stopped doing that, in an effort to open up the map to let them choose where they want to go... They choose now by "That place looks like the closest place on the map to where we are now that we haven't tried yet..." So maybe they are desperately looking for direction. Maybe I made it TOO open... I hadn't thought of that. Maybe they DO need some hint of direction and have been trying to get one.

    While yes, there's one major solution, it's obvious and the players have been outright told what it is (by King Orodgard IV, the guy who gave them this mission.) Within that are many smaller missions that are unknown until they get them and that they can do in almost any order they choose, and can solve a multitude of ways. (Many of which I haven't thought of, but when suggested, they work just fine.)

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Wow. Municipal politics. Sounds like a riveting campaign.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tsotha-lanti View Post
    Alternatively, you need to start making their efforts pay off. When they persistently look for information somewhere, put information there. (Don't use red herrings; those derail games, because the player's won't believe it was nothing even after they've followed it and found nothing. They'll just think they missed it.) It doesn't have to be anything critical - just a pointer at the next place you think they might want to go.
    This is what I would suggest. I don't know what resolution you're working towards, but clearly things aren't working out. You need to improvise a bit and start rewarding their efforts to resolve the plot.

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Hal View Post
    1) If your players are having trouble "getting it," you might not be putting the clues out there properly. It's easy enough for a DM to see all the pieces mesh together well, because you have control of the reins. What's obvious to you probably isn't obvious to your players.

    A non-subtle but effective solution is to use one of your friendly NPCs as a clue dispenser. Maybe he asks the players questions you think they ought to be asking. Maybe he offers "suggestions" for possible routes of investigation. Maybe he just blunders forward and the players have to chase after him in the right direction.
    This is the right path. More specifically, I'd recommend improper NPCs to say "gee, I don't know. Have you asked X? He'd know about stuff like that." X should be local, and not always the end of the line - he's just a guy locals know.

    If X doesn't already exist, then you have no choice but to invent him!

    EDIT:
    Quote Originally Posted by Face Of Evil View Post
    Wow. Municipal politics. Sounds like a riveting campaign.
    "Fools! You cannot stop the Council from rezoning the playground into a dog park. Where's your community organizer now?

    Muahahaha *snort* *chortle* *cough*

    Last edited by Oracle_Hunter; 2009-04-08 at 07:09 PM.
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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Face Of Evil View Post
    Wow. Municipal politics. Sounds like a riveting campaign.
    Heh, yeah. Half the towns & cities have someone on this very secret council. Supposedly, they voted to genocide the other half. The mission is to prove that they actually didn't. But that's why I have lots of smaller quests along the way. Basically, I wanted them to wind up taking a quick tour of The Dome before actually challenging the guy, to see all the forced peace in place... Most of the places want to fight. They want to be at war. They can't because the big bubble prevents them from getting supplies unless they're nice to the Humans.

    That and Mulvera Jr. is Level 12. The party is level 4.

    And it also makes me able to test out what I can do as a DM (this is my first campaign) in an environment where I can more easily whip up some Deus Ex Machina to save them from me if I screw up too badly. My first attempt at a real dungeon, for example, is waiting for them in Hollowville... Extreme weather? The Chaos Chimney.

    Once they're done, with the tour and storming Mulvera Jr.'s tower, they should be level 6. Probably 7 when they reach him... And I'll try to have it all be more fluid from there.

    One of the people they need a signature from is actually in the Shadowfell. The party has no way to get there at the moment.


    EDIT: Also, the loudest player's character, is the cleric... Who's an inquisitor sort of cleric. So it's also entirely possible that he's just being in character, and I'm seeing his reactions as the group's reactions... No one has actually outright complained...
    Last edited by Thajocoth; 2009-04-08 at 08:00 PM.

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Oracle_Hunter View Post
    "Fools! You cannot stop the Council from rezoning the playground into a dog park. Where's your community organizer now?
    Um, the players must win this campaign. Giant in the Dog Park just doesn't have the same ring to it.
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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Oracle_Hunter View Post
    "Fools! You cannot stop the Council from rezoning the playground into a dog park. Where's your community organizer now?
    CITY COUNCILMAN UNEARTHS MAGICAL ZONING AMULET

    After years spent poring over mysterious and arcane plat sheets and deciphering long-forgotten building codes, city council member Mike LaMere unearthed the mysterious City Zoning Amulet Friday.

    "Behold!" LaMere said, holding aloft the solid-gold amulet, which is emblazoned with the Ever-Evaluating Eye of Surr-Vey, Lord Of Demarcation, He Who Measures And Assesses. "With this sigil, the power of zoning comes. Through me, the power of zoning flows! All will behold my power, and I shall bow to no man when designating matter-of-right developments for major retail and office spaces to a maximum lot occupancy of 75 percent for residential use!"

    LaMere held the glowing amulet aloft and transmuted a neighborhood of low-income apartments into a semi-wooded, single-family, residential district with an adjoining riverside park.

    Although the Rochester City Zoning Board controls all decisions related to city planning, sources at City Hall say that, as long as LaMere's powerful zoning wizardry is performed for the good of the city, they "see no reason to deny him what seems to be his destiny."

    "Two weeks ago, the biggest news in Rochester was our huge public garage sale," said William A. Johnson, Rochester's mayor. "Our city center was still a moribund tax burden with small businesses in big buildings and families moving to the suburbs in droves. Now, with a wave of his mighty amulet, Councilman LaMere can designate matter-of-right medium-density development, with limited offices for non-profit organizations, trade associations, and professionals permitted as a special exception requiring approval of the RCZA."

    Despite the potential improvements to Rochester's civic landscape, some residents remain wary of LaMere's apparent bureaucratic invincibility.

    "It's wonderful that someone's finally doing something to revitalize this town, even if it is someone who can commune with church gargoyles," said local baker Wendy Kittner, whose business was mystically placed on the National Register Of Historic Places last week despite being housed in a building erected in 1981

    "He frightens me, and my concern is that if I defy him, I may be turned to stone."
    Last edited by FoE; 2009-04-08 at 09:48 PM.

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Thajocoth View Post
    I had stopped doing that, in an effort to open up the map to let them choose where they want to go... They choose now by "That place looks like the closest place on the map to where we are now that we haven't tried yet..." So maybe they are desperately looking for direction. Maybe I made it TOO open... I hadn't thought of that. Maybe they DO need some hint of direction and have been trying to get one.
    In fact, that was the vibe I felt, when you first talked about that potential ally in the kobold village. Why is there an ally, if they are not supposed to go there?

    I suggest, you let something explode. Better yet, you let someone tell them something exploded, and they need to take care of the situation right now.

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    (reads Face of Evil's press release)

    And traditional print media wonders why it's dying. . .

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Thajocoth View Post
    To succeed in their current part of the quest, they need to get 2 more signatures, and there are 2 leaders willing to that they haven't met yet, 3 leaders unwilling to (one of which is the villain), and 5 leaders incapable of it (they weren't on that council, and the players have no idea who was & wasn't in the region).
    This is your problem right here.

    The players are in a position where they need to do X in order to advance the plot, and anything else is a waste of their time and yours. They need the yellow keycard to open the yellow door. This is fine in a game like Doom, but it's always going to cause trouble when it comes up in a tabletop game. To you, the solution is obvious, but your players are trying to sift for exactly one answer out of a literally infinite set of possibilities. As a DM, you can make things easier for your players not just by providing hints and waiting for them to Sherlock a solution together, but also by creating and allowing multiple paths to success.

    Here's a better way to organize the plot for the next game you DM:
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    Get out a big piece of paper, and divide your story up into 'chapters'. Each chapter can be a location, a bunch of encounters, a bundle of plot, just some concrete segment of 'stuff for your players to play with'. Chapter Three begins when the players know who the murderer is, and that night he will send his level 5 goons to hit the PCs while they sleep, wherever that is.

    Next, start drawing connections between your chapters. First, think of three different subtle and intriguing hooks to move players from one chapter to another. Then add a fourth, which is a ridiculously obvious blunt instrument. Lay out your bait, give your players multiple things to pick up on, and reel them in- and if they don't, you have a 'Go That Way' sign you can hit them over the head with.

    The wonderful thing about this system is that suddenly it doesn't matter at all which path the PCs end up taking. You don't care how the PCs learn who the murderer is. So if they come up with a solution to the problem that takes you by surprise, you can just plain let it work, and you will know how to handle it. You can let your players pole-vault over the yellow door, if that's what they want to do.


    Here's how I'd get your situation back on track next session:
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    The next time your players pick a village at random and investigate it, Fire Schrodinger's Gun. Surprise surprise, there was another member of the secret council, and he happens to be the leader of whichever town they hit next, and he's willing to talk. Don't forget, anything the PCs don't know can change at a moment's notice. (I don't know if I would have given them that map, personally).

    This is... artificial as hell, but it keeps the plot going. Furthermore, it sounds like your PCs could use a carrot right about now, so let them have a success completely out of dumb luck, if that's all they have going for them.


    So yeah. Good luck!

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Thajocoth View Post
    If they ASKED to do an insight check on which bits of gained knowledge are related, I would certainly allow it...
    They have "passive Insight", which essentially means that you can remind the players of relevant things whenever you like. I don't see the point of making the players say "I make an Insight check to see if I have any insights" any more than having them say "I make a Perception check to look at the ceiling".

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by MartinHarper View Post
    They have "passive Insight", which essentially means that you can remind the players of relevant things whenever you like. I don't see the point of making the players say "I make an Insight check to see if I have any insights" any more than having them say "I make a Perception check to look at the ceiling".
    I use passive insight when they're talking to people and stuff... Though only one member of the party has any sort of decent insight, and he uses it actively after every sentence an NPC says. (Which is totally in character, being an inquisitor type cleric.)

    Basically though, you're saying, that I'd just say something along the lines of, randomly in the middle of nowhere, "Lilendien, your passive insight is high enough that you suddenly realize these bits of information that you've had for days might be related."?
    Last edited by Thajocoth; 2009-04-10 at 12:11 PM.

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Thajocoth View Post
    Basically though, you're saying, that I'd just say something along the lines of, randomly in the middle of nowhere, "Lilendien, your passive insight is high enough that you suddenly realize these bits of information that you've had for days might be related."?
    Pretty much. "Lliendien, as you mull over your pint in the tavern, you realise that the King of Nowhere is bound to be against this war, since his own son died in it a few days ago." What bits of information are we talking about, anyway?

    Also, I'm a bit confused about the two people they interrogated. Firstly, you say they were making death saving throws when unconscious. PHB p295: when the players knock someone unconscious, they are not dying, and don't make death saving throws. Even if they were dying, you can't voluntarily fail a death saving throw while unconscious, as that goes against what "voluntarily" and "unconscious" mean. Even if you could, why would someone voluntarily fail a death saving throw?

    Once they are tied up and conscious, why do they make bite attacks on themselves? What are they doing - biting their own tongues? How come? Is this some type of suicide attempt? Has anyone ever died of a bitten tongue?

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Thajocoth View Post
    Basically though, you're saying, that I'd just say something along the lines of, randomly in the middle of nowhere, "Lilendien, your passive insight is high enough that you suddenly realize these bits of information that you've had for days might be related."?
    Ugh, I hate that kind of Insight use. It's the "throw us a friggin' bone, DM" effect - cheapens the sense of accomplishment players get from solving problems.

    What you can do is tighten up the linkages between the clues. How about you list the clues you've given the PCs and we'll see if there's any "linking events" that we can think of.
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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by MartinHarper View Post
    Pretty much. "Lliendien, as you mull over your pint in the tavern, you realise that the King of Nowhere is bound to be against this war, since his own son died in it a few days ago." What bits of information are we talking about, anyway?

    Also, I'm a bit confused about the two people they interrogated. Firstly, you say they were making death saving throws when unconscious. PHB p295: when the players knock someone unconscious, they are not dying, and don't make death saving throws. Even if they were dying, you can't voluntarily fail a death saving throw while unconscious, as that goes against what "voluntarily" and "unconscious" mean. Even if you could, why would someone voluntarily fail a death saving throw?

    Once they are tied up and conscious, why do they make bite attacks on themselves? What are they doing - biting their own tongues? How come? Is this some type of suicide attempt? Has anyone ever died of a bitten tongue?
    They didn't say they wanted to deal nonlethal damage to the 1st one, and since I made the pair as PCs instead on monsters, he was making death saving throws. The inability to purposely fail them was unknown to me. Thanks for pointing that out. They had their left pinkies removed to be raised if they didn't return within a few days, so they knew death would be temporary. They had an attack called "Horrific Maw Bite" that was not a weapon or implement attack. It was an encounter, so they only used it once... But yeah...

    Info that they know includes:

    1 - A large arcane dome was created over the region by the villain's father 300 years ago by tapping into a source of arcane energy in the Elemental Chaos. The villain now maintains it in his tower in the city of Quilthrin. The only exit is a 10-foot wide gap on the southern end in the city of Greenhaven. This gives Greenhaven & Quilthrin enormous power over the other towns & cities. Prior to that event, they were all at war. Various separate wars. These two cities forced them all into peace.

    2 - The trees of Treetwist Forest all bend towards The Dome's center.

    3 - The northernmost region of The Dome, The Chaos Chimney, is spewing some sort of purplish ooze that dissolves into the air and soaks into the ground. The weather there is also exceedingly chaotic. (There's a Genasi town surviving there anyway.)

    4 - Surrounding the Chaos Chimney is The Ash Plain. Plants can't live in the ash, so the animals in the region all died out, which has made things quite difficult on the Gnolls.

    5 - A Deva died in The Dome without resurrecting nearly 300 years ago.

    6 - The Drow that live in Freana Caverns, underneath Treetwist Forest, feel that Lolth forgot about them and have been trying to pray to various other gods.

    7 - People with weird looking staves made a deal with a young Dragon to teleport her into Steelhammer so the Dwarves will pray more.

    8 - They party fought some people with weird looking staves. They were disciples of Mulvera Jr., the High Portalmancer who's maintaining The Dome.

    9 - Some orb wound up in Lake Pell that was magically teleporting Sahuagin there to attack the town of Pell every sunset.

    10 - There's a secret council that meets every new moon to decide if there are any threats that need to be removed from The Dome, and for the first time in 300 years, it supposedly voted that there was... And therefore voted for the genocide of half The Dome.

    X - <Not known yet, but they'll probably figure this out quite soon> The Gnolls of The Dome believe Yeenoghu has forsaken them, and they've been reduced from warriors of chaos to scavengers. They have more reason to be angry with Quilthrin than anywhere else in The Dome.


    The full truth this is all hinting at:

    The Dome needs the arcane power to exist, yes, but it also needs divine power to control it... So it winds up absorbing most divine power sent to the region. It leaves small enough divine things alone, enough so that a cleric can still cast... But if a god were to enter The Dome, it'd drain their power until they were no stronger than a level 10 Cleric. So, people see less miracles, so they pray less, so less divine aid is sent to The Dome. This is making The Dome go chaotic. At it's northernmost point is a sort of arcane overflow vent that's spilling out excess chaotic arcana, which is, in turn, slowly turning the place to ash. No gods forsook anyone. Their power was simply never received when sent. So, Mulvera Jr. is trying to do anything he can to stabilize The Dome, which means inciting large scale war. He falsified the council's votes to cause this situation.


    That doesn't tell the players where to go next... And I don't think that all of that is discernible with the information they have, but they don't seem to see any of the facts as related at all. Though, they do know some other random bits of information that don't imply anything whatsoever...



    I've decided what I'm going to do next session though. They already decided to go to Segirth next. The leader there is supposed to be hostile to them, and he has most of the people of the neighboring town of Velnazia imprisoned there... So, the players will get to talk to him, he'll tell his guards to arrest the players (and join the fight himself [if the players fight].) They'll have to fight their way out of the town [or get locked up and pick the locks or whatever... I'll just play it by ear...] (bonus XP and a temporary ally (Angry Mob: lvl 5 gargantuan humanoid swarm) if they free the Velnazians.) The Gnolls are currently at Velnazia, and will easily ally with the Velnazians if brought to them. This quickly gets through 3 of the leaders who aren't too helpful... And, turns out one of the Velnazians (or Gnolls if the party didn't save them) heard something was going on in Hollowville (a place the party does need to go to.)

    After handling the situation in Hollowville, they'll have 5 signatures out of 6. They have said many times at the table that they think the Minotaurs of Marzanu Maze have the last signature because that's where King Orodgard IV went to hide out after faking his death... So the players will probably go there, where I can have the King suggest Essetheh. If they don't, well, the people of nearby Keegora also know about Essetheh as a possibility. They really need the Dythen rep, but he's not in Dythen, he's in Quilthrin, and the only way to Essetheh is through Quilthrin. (Essetheh & Dythen are in the Feywild & Shodowfell respectively. Turns out The Dome is cross-planar... And an open portal between the Shadowfell & Far realm opened on the northern end of The Dome, so Dythen's rep is in Quilthrin petitioning for aid.)

    The only other place they haven't been that they could decide to go to is The Chaos Chimney. There's a small town of Genasi there... Fairly isolated.

    So... Once again, I can nudge them without forcing them, and play it by ear, mostly... Thanks.
    Last edited by Thajocoth; 2009-04-10 at 04:47 PM.

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    I read somewhere that whenever you need to give the PCs a clue, always provide at least three different ways for them to find that clue.

    And sometimes they'll find a fourth way that you didn't think of.

    In the end, just be flexible. Yeah, you're the DM and you came up with the story, but if you find that you're flexible enough to roll with whatever your PCs come up with, not only will they be more engaged but you'll be less stressed in trying to come up with the perfect plot, biting your nails whenever the PCs deviate from it.
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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Sounds like a good plan, but I have to say your "clues" wouldn't tell me much.
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    #s 7-9 would seemed linked to me: The High Portalmaster seems to have some sort of organization that is meddling with affairs. I linked in #9 because 7&8 indicated some sort of hostile organization that is tied to a man known as "The High Portalmaster" - I'd bet he has teleportation-linked powers.

    #s 1-4 seem to detail the world. We know that the High Portalmaster is maintaining the Dome (#8) which means that the Dome needs to be powered by something - but I'd only assume that the Tower has some sort of Arcane Powerplant in it, rather than it having to do anything with the Divine.

    #5 seems like a plot hook, but not linked to 1-4; an isolated incident.

    #s 6,7 & X all have to do with religion, but I'd have just assumed that the lack of piety was due to cultural concerns, not difficulty with getting divine powers. Particularly because it sounds like Divine classes experience nothing out of the ordinary. Now, if the PCs had learned about Great Divine Wonders made before the Dome that had ceased working after the Dome was created (let's call it #11), I'd link divine power to the dome. In addition, it would explain why the High Portalmaster cared about dwarves praying (#7).

    #10 is clearly the plot hook. Using the Law of Conservation of Detail, I'd probably have linked the Portalmaster's Organization to the sudden change in policy. I'd have no idea why the Portalmaster wanted to cause a massive war - unless the preparations for war showed a marked increase in religious fervor (#12 - new religious organizations are appearing in cities, spurred on by fear of war) and I already knew #11.


    Now, I don't know if you wanted your PCs to figure out "the truth" by this point, but I'm not surprised that they discarded most of these clues as red herrings - without important keystone clues (like my examples, or just more instances of the Organization furthering religious causes) I'd have forgotten about them too.

    In the future, it's usually best to start a mystery at the Hook and then reveal details linked directly to the Hook as you go along. The trick is to leave out the "whys"
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    The PCs find out about the Declaration of War and want to stop it. As they move about the world they run into the Staff Guys - sometimes directly opposing, but usually in the background, doing stuff. This should make the PCs curious about the Staff Guys and their hostility will link them directly to the Declaration. But who are they and why do they want to cause War?

    Interrogating most Staff Guys reveals nothing - they're members of a Secret Order and they just follow the instructions of their Cell Leaders. So the PCs will assault an Order Base and capture a Cell Leader. He may try to kill himself when captured (have a suicide tooth ready, for example) - now the PCs know that whoever is behind this organization is Serious Business.

    By now the PCs will comb through their knowledge of the Staff Guys to figure out what their true motive must be. Thinking hard the PCs will notice that the Staff Guys were either inciting hysteria, supporting local religious leaders, or doing other religion-based things. All this tells the PCs is that (1) The Staff Guys are whipping up religious fervor across all denominations and (2) the Declaration of War must be linked to this behavior. But who would gain from this? The PCs will start interrogating religious leaders who've been helped out and all will say that they didn't know who these people were, but when they offered help, he accepted. That, and the fact that he Staff Guys aided religions that were at odds with each other, should make the PCs even more suspicious of the Staff Guys' Secret Plan.

    The raid on an Order Base should reveal a link with a Base in another town, leading the PCs about the world trying to track down who is behind it all. Eventually they'll capture a Cell Leader and keep him from committing suicide (or they'll Speak With Dead one of the dead Leaders) and they all will reveal that they receive their orders from the Order Master in Quilthrin. Naturally, the PCs go there.

    When in Quilthrin the Divine characters will notice weird things happening to them. Perhaps not mechanical penalties, but they start feeling cold and weak the longer they remain in town. Quilthrin also has many churches but no Clerics, Paladins, Invokers, or Avengers - despite the highly religious nature of the town's population. There they will learn about the Dome (possibly for a second time) and how it is maintained by the High Portalmaster in his Forbidden Tower. Chances are they won't connect him to the Order yet - but this is just a set-up.

    After a difficult search, the PCs find out where the Order Master is supposed to be and they set up a trap to catch him. A massive battle ensues and the Order Master is captured and revealed to be a known associate of the High Portalmaster - the PCs may have even met him in his "civilian' capacity in the town. The High Portalmaster does not suicide (he knows about Speak With Dead) but will confirm (if he breaks under interrogation) that the first Portalmaster set up the Staff Guys to promote religious observance under the Dome. Why, he does not know - but the new Portalmaster has instructed them to instigate war-like religious orders across the lands, and to stop the PCs.

    At this point the PCs may try to assault the Tower but they should be too low-level to get past the defenses. But, armed with this information they can try to convince the members of the Secret Council to stop this war - which they only launched because they were tricked. At this point the Portalmaster will start launching direct attacks against the PCs, trying to stop them from converting Councilmen (possibly assassinating those who turn) just as the dawn of battle approaches.

    Sure, that's not much help to you now, but maybe it'll help structuring intrigue campaigns in the future
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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Well, The Dome's existence is well known, as is the High Portalmancer and his followers. He acts as an adviser to Quilthrin's King. His father was an master ritualist who experimented with pushing rituals to their extremes. The Dome covers an area about 1/4 the size of Ohio. All these towns and cities are inside it. So #1 is common knowledge, and #10 is their current major quest.

    Most of the people of The Dome haven't noticed any weirdness with divine power... The Gnolls have because, when marched on about 280-290 years ago (by the combined armies of 8 of The Dome's towns and cities), they called to Yeenoghu to overcome those odds, charged at the incoming military force, and were promptly defeated. The Drow don't have any one event to link it to, I just figured I'd have at least one group be perceptive enough to notice the change within that 300 year span of time.

    Each player, based on what race they choose to play as, gets a short paragraph pertaining to stuff they would start off knowing. It's also possible to get these bits of information by doing a history check on a town, going to the town and streetwising, or just talking to the right people. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & X are among such bits of information. The party has an Elf, Drow, Human, Genasi & Minotaur, and used to have an Orc and a Dwarf. (Orc ran off after a bear after the 1st session and the Dwarf decided to reroll a Human.) Also, I never made starting info for the Githyanki or Githzerai. Kinda glad no one picked them.
    Last edited by Thajocoth; 2009-04-10 at 08:05 PM.

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Thajocoth View Post
    Most of the people of The Dome haven't noticed any weirdness with divine power... The Gnolls have because, when marched on about 280-290 years ago (by the combined armies of 8 of The Dome's towns and cities), they called to Yeenoghu to overcome those odds, charged at the incoming military force, and were promptly defeated. The Drow don't have any one event to link it to, I just figured I'd have at least one group be perceptive enough to notice the change within that 300 year span of time.
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but the reason the High Portalmaster is instigating war is that it'll increase the numbers of prayers - right? And the PCs are supposed to figure out that he needs to increase the number of prayers to stabilize the Dome, which feeds off of Divine Power. That's an important part of the plot for the PCs to discover, yes?

    But, how can they ever figure that out if, well, it hasn't noticeably impacted anyone's connection with the Gods? People call upon Gods for Divine Intervention all the time, and they don't always get it - not even in D&D.

    Are those clues you listed supposed to lead you to the Truth you described below them?
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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Well, no one gets any sort of divine intervention. Like, Clerics can still cast... But beyond that nothing. So, over time, the average pray rate has waned, and thusly the amount of divine power coming down is decreasing, so the chaotic arcana fueling The Dome is is more free to react chaotically, increasing the more problematic side effects of the ritual.

    I don't expect that they figure out the entire thing either... But you'd think they'd, at minimum, realize that the group with weird staves and cloaks that the dragon mentioned to them are of the same group as the people they fought ONE battle prior, in the same session, who were wielding weird staves and wore cloaks. (After they beat the Gelatinous Young Black Dragon within an inch of it's life, they offered it surrender. Quite nice of them. Got some backstory on him for that. [Gelatinous just added +2 stealth, and it was thematically made of Jello. That's what the dragon received in exchange for terrorizing the Dwarves.])
    Last edited by Thajocoth; 2009-04-10 at 09:16 PM.

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Thajocoth View Post
    I don't expect that they figure out the entire thing either... But you'd think they'd, at minimum, realize that the group with weird staves and cloaks that the dragon mentioned to them are of the same group as the people they fought ONE battle prior, in the same session, who were wielding weird staves and wore cloaks.
    Ah. For future reference, if there is an identifying mark (distinctive staffs or robes) it is always good to say to the players "...which look exactly like the stuff the guys you just fought had." Or to have the Dragon say "yeah, these guys with distinctive robes and really weird staves" and then pop in the above line.

    Players do tend to forget those little details the first time they encounter them again - but if you remind them the first time, they will never forget it.

    ...or at least they'll say "oh yeah, those guys with the things!"
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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    I didn't pick up the "greater truth" from your hints 1->X either - not even as much as Oracle Hunter. This is with you laying them all out together for us and saying "these things are related". As a player, with loads of other unrelated information being thrown in, not a chance. Though I also didn't think of the missing fingers being the result of a planned Raise Dead - I assumed some kind of Yakuza-like penalty for failure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Oracle_Hunter View Post
    Ah. For future reference, if there is an identifying mark (distinctive staffs or robes) it is always good to say to the players "...which look exactly like the stuff the guys you just fought had." Or to have the Dragon say "yeah, these guys with distinctive robes and really weird staves" and then pop in the above line.
    At minimum, you need to tell the players that all the weird staffs look the same. Otherwise, you might just have a thing about weird staffs. You can do that with pictures, or by flat out saying "they look the same", but not so much with descriptive text alone. Two dragon-headed staffs could look very different.

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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Thajocoth View Post
    But you'd think they'd, at minimum, realize that the group with weird staves and cloaks that the dragon mentioned to them are of the same group as the people they fought ONE battle prior, in the same session, who were wielding weird staves and wore cloaks.
    That's your problem right there. You're assuming. Do NOT assume your players will put two and two together on something that plot-critical.

    It's like they say, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink it without beating him over the head with the Clue Bat".
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    Default Re: [4e] Slamming against the brick wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Artanis View Post
    It's like they say, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink it without beating him over the head with the Clue Bat".
    Or firing a Clue Missile Mk VI at them, or striking them with the Cluehammer 40,000
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