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Thread: DM Advice

  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
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    I have a question I cannot answer for myself, so I'm looking for some more experienced advice in the matter.

    Here's the situation:

    I run difficult encounters. My players know this and have experienced them. They enjoy the thrill of a possibility of failure (except one player, but that's not what this is about). I prepared encounters in advance, including one that simply terrifies me, and this world is one I intend to use again (so there has to be stuff the players can't take yet, too).

    My players (7 characters (!) who are 7th level) spent the night in a brothel operating in the middle of some ruins in the desert. Deciding that these players would be killed by the encounter I had prepared for this area, I decided that these two more powerful creatures would be out in a city 3 days away, getting supplies. During their stay at the brothel, some of the prostitutes (vampire spawn) attacked a few of the players who had hired them. Although the players were weakened at the start of the fight due to their unpreparedness, they easily dispatched the ten vampire spawn and checked the basement, smashing the twelve coffins and getting way too much treasure for that encounter.

    Realizing that there were two vampires unaccounted for, the players decided to stay in the brothel and take them out when they returned so they didn't have two vampires stalking them. Not a bad decision...

    Except that these vampires will murder them all with very little trouble. The vampires also have no reason not to come back; they know their coffins and spawn are dead, and they want vengeance. If the players left, the vampires wouldn't be able to track them easily, so they would simply rebuild their coffins and stick around.

    I am faced with a decision: Dues ex machina to get the players out and ruin the verisimilitude of the world, or TPK and ruin the fun of the players by ending the campaign. There could, however, be a fantastic third option that I can't see.

    Thoughts?

  2. - Top - End - #2
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: DM Advice

    Invent a reason for the vampires to not want to fight right now. They know the players are capable of taking out their spawn so maybe they have a grotesque monster pet they unleash on the players to hopefully take them out or at least distract them (while the vampires retrieve their coffins).

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Ettin in the Playground
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    How much do the players actually know about these vampires? Do they *need* to be as powerful as you've written them, or is there a way to nerf them to be a reasonable encounter?
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    Have you tried dropping hints, that maybe the head honcho vampires are BAMFs and not to be trifled with? Say, some kind of diary kept by one of the unlucky ladies before she became a spawn for instance, detailing how just one of her masters utterly obliterated an adventuring group similar to that of your players?

    Or the vampires could be extra cautious and send in a flunkie first - under heavy compulsion - but when the players beat on him a bit, he comes to his senses and urges them to flee?

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    Seems to me this is a simple case of recurring villians; have the vampires hunting the PCs, maybe through proxies (hiring other adventures to find them after they leave the brothel, etc). Then when the PCs are stronger there's a big showdown. The best battles are big vengances battles.

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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: DM Advice

    If the players don't know who or where the other two vampires are... is it necessary for them to return at the exact same time? Who says they have to return together?
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    Griffon

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    My first question would be, why can't this party be tracked? I run a campaign with 11 (cout 'em, 11) players and trust me, this party never manages to get through a city without creating some kind of a disturbance. PCs typically don't think subtle. Vampires typically have a certain level of cunning. If all they want is revenge, and they have nothing better to do, then following and slowly torturing the party to death with mind games isn't a half bad way to go.

    I don't know what system you're working with, but depending on the rules for vampires in what you're working with, the vampires in question might have a vested interest in keeping the party alive. Think of it from their perspective. Their underlings have just gotten trounced by a group of individuals who are stronger that the underlings, but not stronger than the vampires themselves. This group is now sitting at home and waiting for the vampires to come back. From the vampire's perspective, why not "enlist" (ie. bite and turn) this group as new underlings for the vampires?
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    How powerful are these vampires? Can they produce an effect that scares the PC's into negotiating? Threaten them to drop the stuff and leave or else.

    Sure, the PC could think the vampire is bluffing, but that's why you need the scary powerful effect to make them think twice. And if they don't believe it... they die.

    Worst that happens is that they continue on as vampire spawn, right?
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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    The vampires don't know if the players stuck around or if they left town. One vamp runs home to check up on things and the other goes looking for the PCs. Now the players only have to fight one overpowered vampire. Does that make for a reasonable encounter?

    Or...

    Go for a social encounter. While the vampires were in another city picking up supplies, they got shanked by paladins or Buffy or something to that effect. Instead of vampires returning to the brothel, Palabuffything does and expects its share of the treasure. Whether it wants to guilt the players out of the treasure or intimidate them out of it is up to you.
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  10. - Top - End - #10
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: DM Advice

    That may work. One of them is a cleric who could summon some monsters. After getting a little burned, they may wish to grab what they need from the brothel and go, using the summoned monsters as a distraction...

    I can use this time to introduce them as a threat, maybe drag one of the weak players off (one has 3 con after the vamp spawn fight, his grapple sucks), and after trying to go after the players and getting hit with a ton of fire attacks (basically the only thing they're not resistance to, which the players figured out during the vampire spawn fight), they could summon and take what they need, so they can stalk and plot.

    THANK YOU :D

    Edit: Wow, LOTS of good suggestions :o
    Last edited by Barrin; 2010-12-06 at 02:57 PM.

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    Default Re: DM Advice

    You are the gm. Just plain make up stuff, the players will never know!
    When there's no way they will survive that fight and they are unaware of the scale of the danger, either make the two vampires weaker than you had planned, or don't let the fight happen.

    I'm all in favor of letting characters die because they picked a fight that was just too big for them, but that's only fun for anyone if the players decide they want to risk such a dangerous fight. When they don't see it comming at all, it's just anoying and not fun for anyone.

    The two vampires might find out what happened and overestimate the characters, so they get to scared to risk a fight with them, after they killed all the servants.
    Or alternatively, the vampires are in dire need of new servants, having just lost such a great number. In some campaigns, it might even work to transform the characters into vampire spawns under another vampires control.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sipex View Post
    Invent a reason for the vampires to not want to fight right now. They know the players are capable of taking out their spawn so maybe they have a grotesque monster pet they unleash on the players to hopefully take them out or at least distract them (while the vampires retrieve their coffins).
    Don't make the vampires do things Evil overlords are not allowed to do. This is cliche and from my experience players don't enjoy it. It's better to die honorably than see the DM letting you slide.

    You may make their trip a bit more complicated. So they need to stay there a month or something. Most players don't enjoy just waiting for a month in the middle of nowhere for their encounters to come to them.

    Also another good idea was presented. If they haven't met them, make a pair of weaker vampires and place these two in your folder and have them pop up later.

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    I'm not sure if it's perfect for your world or not, but I'd suggest you let the PC with the best knowledge religion or history or whatnot find some clues around the coffins to suggest that the remaining two vampires are really strong, some crest or something that can be linked to those vampires, who are known in some capacity to have done things on a power level that you're thinking of. If that doesn't work, have a vampire knock a PC into negatives in one hit, and they'll get the picture that this is a "chase" encounter now.
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    Quote Originally Posted by obliged_salmon View Post
    I'm not sure if it's perfect for your world or not, but I'd suggest you let the PC with the best knowledge religion or history or whatnot find some clues around the coffins to suggest that the remaining two vampires are really strong, some crest or something that can be linked to those vampires, who are known in some capacity to have done things on a power level that you're thinking of. If that doesn't work, have a vampire knock a PC into negatives in one hit, and they'll get the picture that this is a "chase" encounter now.
    Why didn't I think of that! Great advice, most likely he will have somebody with adequate knowledge in a 7 member party.

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Orc in the Playground
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    (1)- The piece of loot you forgot about- let's call it the sun pendant...- this is something that shields the party from the vampires. The vampiresses seduced the adventurer that sought them out to slay them long ago, and once he put the amulet down, they fell upon him. It was in a lead box, but unsheathed it strips away the vampires defenses. The vampires are worried that the players have it / know that they do, and will attempt to stalk the party later, disarm them, and then attack. Presumably this will be once the players are stronger. The amulet may have some other effect that would make it worth wearing right away.

    DOWNSIDES- a bit deus ex machina. Whatever properties you give to this item will let the PCs have advantages versus undead, or vampires, or something later.

    UPSIDES- a plausible reason for the vampires to not attack- the party is now suddenly much stronger than expected. You solve the problem by buffing, everyone is happy, and the buff hopefully doesn't wreck your campaign or anything.

    (2)- The players find evidence that these vampires are BADASS. They get a lot of data that they will get torn apart from the place. Perhaps a memior, or a shattered holy avenger, or something that lets them understand that this is CR: U LOSE.

    DOWNSIDES- They may ignore it, and you TPK them hardcore.

    UPSIDES- It doesn't mess with your world. Your description of it they might take to heart- I don't think good DMs pull punches, but they try to help the players out when the whiskey is glossing over some details.

    (3)- Deus ex machina, minor- Vampire hunters are in town, and were watching the brothel. They have expert knowledge, and want to help the PCs. They are either powerful enough to swing the battle in the PCs favor, or they are not, but more importantly KNOW IT AND CAN EXPLAIN IT WITH WORDS. Either of these would be great.


    I would do one of these things, depending on how much I wanted to see these vampires later in the game. If the players insist on challenging something they can't handle, they all die- or, rarely, survive by ludicrous dice rolls.

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Remind me why I don't come here more often for advice? Thanks a ton, guys, I have a lot to think about.

    Quote Originally Posted by WarKitty View Post
    *snip*
    Number-wise, there is no real way to nerf them without ruining the concept. Situation-wise, however...perhaps. They'd be PISSED and acting recklessly...at least, at first.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    *snip*
    Hints are a good idea, but it would have been something to do before. I might be able to slip something in...

    Right now, they don't have any flunkies, though. :P The players just been 'em all up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Z3ro View Post
    *snip*
    This campaign has so many recurring villains right now...but what's the harm in adding another pair? XD

    Quote Originally Posted by Mordaenor View Post
    *snip*
    They're lovers, and BOTH of their coffins and spawn were destroyed. It makes sense they'd both return.

    Quote Originally Posted by Drenn View Post
    *snip*
    Neither of the vampires have ranks in survival, making the track through the desert would be difficult. They could probably find them at a later date, though...I think stalking might work if they think they've bit off more than they can safely chew, too.

    Quote Originally Posted by gbprime View Post
    *snip*
    They're CR 9 werewolf/vampires. Technically. Really, though, they can beat up the party by themselves, as long as they use their abilities to their advantage, without taking much damage. They have no fear effects, but they really just want the PCs dead at this point.

    Quote Originally Posted by valadil View Post
    *snip*
    It makes sense for them to return together, as described above. As for the social encounter, I would hate to meet the paladin who can kill these two.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    *snip*
    The vampires will definitely be trying to get a few new servants out of this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaww View Post
    Don't make the vampires do things Evil overlords are not allowed to do. This is cliche and from my experience players don't enjoy it. It's better to die honorably than see the DM letting you slide.
    *snip*
    I see your point.

    Quote Originally Posted by obliged_salmon View Post
    *snip*
    It's the decision of the PCs to use their skill checks, really, but that might be an idea...

    Edit:

    Quote Originally Posted by cfalcon View Post
    (2)- The players find evidence that these vampires are BADASS. They get a lot of data that they will get torn apart from the place. Perhaps a memior, or a shattered holy avenger, or something that lets them understand that this is CR: U LOSE.

    DOWNSIDES- They may ignore it, and you TPK them hardcore.

    UPSIDES- It doesn't mess with your world. Your description of it they might take to heart- I don't think good DMs pull punches, but they try to help the players out when the whiskey is glossing over some details.
    I do like this. Even the downsides aren't downsides. They'll know they're in deep **** if they fight these things, and they know I don't pull my punches...
    Last edited by Barrin; 2010-12-06 at 03:30 PM.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barrin View Post
    As for the social encounter, I would hate to meet the paladin who can kill these two.
    Yep, that's the idea. He's obviously more powerful than the PCs by the transitive law of badassery (if A is more badass than B who is more badass than C, it follows that A is more badass than C. The players are C.). And he wants/deserves something they have. But he has no reason to be out to get them.
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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: DM Advice

    Hm, it's a brothel with vampire spawn prostitutes? I'm guessing that's not generally known, so maybe you could have some would-be customers show up just before the vampires do. Either they could help out with the vampires, or they could be so powerful and simultaneously vile that the party might have little compunction about leaving the vampires completely to them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grelna the Blue View Post
    Hm, it's a brothel with vampire spawn prostitutes? I'm guessing that's not generally known, so maybe you could have some would-be customers show up just before the vampires do. Either they could help out with the vampires, or they could be so powerful and simultaneously vile that the party might have little compunction about leaving the vampires completely to them.
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: DM Advice

    I don't like the idea of adding in people not with 7 already. Couple of ways

    Normal straight out fight - drop hints that they are powerful, but they have the drop on them and see what cunning plans your players come up with. Have them scaled to a hard encounter. Always give them a way out to run if it turns out tough. Thats why this can be a hard encounter.

    Evil Dm - Siege Scene. Lets think about what they are doing. Sitting around in a 'vampire brothel' while the two head honcho's are out. Having killed all their children. Vamps take that pretty bad. Whats to say there's not another sect in town? (perhaps with links to the next stage of the plot) whats not to say the two big bads (now scaled way down) don't bring some of them back. Whats not to say they get surrounded by, 10? 20? 50? Spawns! (if 4th Ed I would go minion crazy!) What not to say they try and burn the brothel down?

    EDIT a skill challenge A third way - have the two powerful vamps come back the next day - with the town guard. Have all the vamps turn back to looking normal. Have the PCs sitting there - in this normal looking brothel - surrounded by dead bodies and blood - have the captain of the guard try to arrest them for murder! Skills needed all over the place here. Quite a nice set up,
    Last edited by Grogmir; 2010-12-06 at 06:56 PM.

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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: DM Advice

    What if only one returned? The other (presumably the stronger one) might be delayed. Could they take one vampire? If they could, would you want them to or would it ruin your future plans? If it didn't, then you might be able to have the party defeat the creature by the skin of their teeth, but fail to destroy it (it teleported, d-doored, word of recall, turned to vapor, turned ethereal) because they don't know where its alternate resting place is. Even if the vamps aren't spellcasters, an appropriate item will accomplish an escape as needed.

    Alternatively, they could destroy one, but the other one would remain just as much a threat and could easily create a replacement for its lost cohort (perhaps a replacement deliberately chosen from among the PC's friends/family/contacts, once it discovered who was to blame).
    Last edited by Grelna the Blue; 2010-12-06 at 07:09 PM.

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    Griffon

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grogmir View Post

    EDIT a skill challenge A third way - have the two powerful vamps come back the next day - with the town guard. Have all the vamps turn back to looking normal. Have the PCs sitting there - in this normal looking brothel - surrounded by dead bodies and blood - have the captain of the guard try to arrest them for murder! Skills needed all over the place here. Quite a nice set up,
    This seems like it would work really well. The PC's bacon gets saved (though they might not realize it) and the vampire can still plot his revenge at his own leisurely pace, while having a good reason to move his "shop" some place else without arousing local suspicion.
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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Option 3: the campaign continues with everybody playing enslaved vampires.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barrin View Post
    There could, however, be a fantastic third option that I can't see.
    Don't think of it in game terms for a minute - think of it in personal terms from the vampires' point of view.
    1. The vampires know someone or something killed their spawn. They probably don't know who or what. Nor do they know exactly how powerful the killers are...except that they were powerful enough to take out ten spawn...
    2. Vampires don't get old by taking risks.
    3. Most vampires use cunning and trickery over brute force.
    4. Vampires can take a long view since time alone isn't an issue.
    IMO, no elder vampire would make a direct attack when they can set up an indirect attack through proxies. Time isn't an issue...they'll set a spawn or two to following them while they build up a suitable force of proxies to take them down. After all, why take personal risks when you don't have to? Why risk your eternal 'life'?
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    Quote Originally Posted by KillianHawkeye View Post
    Option 3: the campaign continues with everybody playing enslaved vampires.
    I would do this one. Or just tone down the ECL of the two vampires coming back. There's no reason they have to be super-powerful is there?

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