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Thread: Dream Battles

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Mystify's Avatar

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    Aug 2010

    Default Dream Battles

    This was a special session I ran a few months ago, and it received great player response. One of my players, an avid D&D player, described it as "The best D&D session I ever played in". The core of the session was the dream battle, but the entire session was fairly unusual.

    First, logistics. As will soon become clear, this session splits the party. To aid with this, I enlisted the aid of a co-DM who is not part of the party, and gave him the description of the session and the information he needed to run his half.

    intor
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    The initial hook is that there is a powerful enchantress in a nearby castle, and she has been enslaving nearby villagers. The party is asked to help. Assuming the party agrees, they head over to the castle. It is guarded by thralls. Thralls are NPCs who are under the control of the enchantress, but due to her unique method of control, they effectively have a template. They have 0 wisdom, but continue to act to to her enchantment. They will go about their duties, paying no heed to the players. They don't respond when spoken to, and don't properly react to them. They just go about, cleaning the castle, gardening, or whatever task they are assigned.
    The exception to this are the guards, who's task is to stop intruders, and will actively seek out and attack the players.
    Casting a break enchantment or dispel magic on a Thrall will cause them to fall unconscious due to 0 wisdom. At this point, they begin recovering wisdom normally, or can be cured with a restoration spell, as normal for someone with wisdom damage. If questioned at that point, they will tell how they recall working at home or near the village, blacking out, and ending up here. Obviously there are moral implications for killing enslaved people like this. How much that matters depends on your party, but they should be trying to be non-lethal in most cases.


    When the party reaches the castle gate, everyone makes a will save. the person with the lowest save falls subject to the effect. If nobody fails to beat the DC(treat is a top level spell from the enchantress; what this is will vary by level), then nobody is affected, but only 1 person will be subject to the effect at a time. When you know who fails, have them leave the room and go to a seperate room. At this point, you run one room, and the co-DM runs another.


    The real world
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    From the perspective of the first group, their party member just fell unconscious. They will be unable to wake them. Casting dispel magic or break enchantment on them has no apparent effect. Though it does, as seen below. The session can go in different ways, depending on how they react to this. If they go back to town, they can get help from the local herbalist. She will tell the party that their partner has fallen to the enchantress's wiles, and is locked in a fierce mental battle. She can create some herbs that will help them. This will give them a +2 bonus on their will saves against the enchantress, and a +2 bonus on their mental battle checks(see below). If aided by a spellcraft from the party, they can figure out that the enchantress is attacking their mind, and once she has destroyed it she will turn them into a thrall. They must act quickly to save them. Finding the enchantress in her castle and defeating her should break the effect.

    Whether they went back to town or continued to press on, they should end up trying to get to the enchantress. to do so, they have to fight their way through the castle. She has a lot of thralls eager to throw themselves at the party. After each encounter, and at key points in the castle(the staircase to the next floor, for instance), there is another round of will saves, and the loser is sent to the other table and falls unconscious, as before. Also, anyone who falls unconscious for ANY reason(trying to sleep, getting knocked out in battle, a sleep spell, etc) will be unable to be woken up, and joins the other table.


    The dream world
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    Meanwhile, interesting things are happening at the other table.
    The first player to find themselves here should be told they are still entering the castle with the rest of the group, but when they look away, the rest of the party disappears. As they press on, reality slowly breaks down. They are literally trapped inside a nightmare. Walls close in on them, they find rooms of demonic clowns, they meet their personal fears, they see their lover only to have them killed in front of them, etc. Get creative. Seriously, being creative is key to this. Whenever the player is subjected to a horror, they must make a will save. failure means they take 1 point of wisdom drain, as they are slowly driven insane.
    They also experience things based on what is happening to their body. For instance, if their body is dropped, they feel the sensation of falling, if it is harmed they feel the pain, etc. The other DM should alert you of anything notable(We used IM to communicate).
    If other players fall unconscious, they join the player in the nightmare.
    This sequence continues until 2 things happen:
    1. The player realizes this is a dream
    2. They decide to take control of the dream

    At this point, they discover they can alter the world by willing it. They should have a period where they get to enjoy this ability. Let them make ice cream and have it rain kittens, let them dispel the threats. After a bit, their changes start reverting, and they must make opposed charisma checks(against the enchantress, though they don't know this yet) to make their changes go through. They will just have a sense that the world is resisting their attempts. When they figure out it is the enchantress resisting them, they can call her out, at which point she appears, and they engage in a dream battle.
    If anyone runs out of will at any time in the dream world, their mind is shattered, and the enchantress can take control unopposed. They awaken as a thrall, with the directive to kill the party and protect the enchantress.


    Dream battle
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    The dream battle is major event in the dream world. Both the enchantress and the players have full command over the dream world, and get to unleash it against each other. Mechanically, this is very simple.
    The enchantress is a powerful elven sorceress. She has maxed out charisma(18 starting stat, all level bumps go into it, magic items, etc), with wisdom as her secondary. She also has spell focus(enchantment) and the greater version, as appropriate for the level.
    On each persons turn, they get to attack. They do this by describing the effect they want to have on the world. "I summon a hoard of angels" " Rocks fall on everyone" " I turn into a colossal beast and stomp on you" etc. The target(s) of these effects get to respond with a defense "A swarm of cream pies hits your angels in their faces" "I absorb the rocks and become a rock monster" "I catch your foot and push you over",etc. It is a dream, so reality is completely mutable, and very surreal. Assuming both parties make suitable descriptions as to their actions, their is an opposed charisma check. If the attacker wins, they are able to force their way past their opponents defenses and inflict 1 point of wisdom drain. If the defender wins, they successfully thwart the attack and are unharmed.
    There are several things that can modify this. If a break enchantment/dispel magic was cast on the person, they get a +1 on checks to resist their opponent. Anything that offers a bonus on saves against enchantment effects or spells(but not a generic bonus on saves) will give them that bonus on the checks to resist the attacks. Anything that would boost the effectiveness of your enchantments, like the spell focus(enchantment) that the enchantress has, will be added to your charisma check. If the players got the herbs from town, they get a +2 on the charisma checks to defend themselves.
    If the player's think about it, they can use aid another to pool their mental might to attack the enchantress as a unified front, or to stand in opposition.
    If the player's get the enchantress's wisdom to 0, her mind is broken, and she falls into a coma, and the players, and all thralls, are free from her control. See the endgame.
    Since the enchantress is built specifically for this, she should easily win against any individual, but the combined might of the party should be able to persevere if they work together.


    Enchantress battle
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    The enchantress in the real world is asleep, engaged in mental shenanigans with the other party members. She has several bodyguards designed to stop intruders from harming her. If she is threatened by an enemy, she will immediately awaken and start fighting as well. This imposes a -2 penalty on he charisma checks in the dream battle. If the dream battle is going on, she must make concentration checks to cast spells as if distracted. Being an enchantress, she focuses on mind control and sleep spells. If she is killed, everyone wakes up, see the endgame.


    endgame
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    When the enchantress is defeated, all of the thralls fall unconscious. Players in the dream world awake. All of the thralls still have 0 wisdom, but it will recover naturally, so they should start waking up the next day. Very confused and out of it, but the party should be able to herd them back to town to be helped in recovery.The part can loot the castle, get rewards from the villagers, etc. The players will very likely need restoration and mending of their own.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Dream Battles

    This is brilliant. Like, scary-brilliant. I love it, and will definitely be trying this if I get a group together at some point.

    Do you have a specific build for the enchantress you could share, or at least some suggestions for good spells to give her?

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Mystify's Avatar

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    Default Re: Dream Battles

    Quote Originally Posted by Noctis Vigil View Post
    This is brilliant. Like, scary-brilliant. I love it, and will definitely be trying this if I get a group together at some point.

    Do you have a specific build for the enchantress you could share, or at least some suggestions for good spells to give her?
    Thanks! I saw a lot of shows where people ended up trapped in a mental world, and decided to make a D&D session based on that idea.

    The enchantress was an elf sorcereress, starting with an 18 charisma and as much charisma boosts as I could pack in for the level. I think I just used straight sorcerer. As for spells, just pack in your favorite enchantments. dominate person is very appropriate for her, and sleep is very helpful if the party is low enough level to be subject to it. Its important that she is very, very good at the mental battles, as she will end up with a lot of oppisition.

    The funny thing is how balanced it ended up being when I ran it. I enthralled a couple of the party members, the thrall killed somebody, the enchantress was dropped to 1 wis in the dream battle before defeating the people in the dream world, right as the party got to her room. All sorts of outcomes were real possibilities, which was my intent, but I was surprised it worked out so evenly.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Dream Battles

    This is what D&D should be like.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    radmelon's Avatar

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    Default Re: Dream Battles

    Sir, this is brilliant. Have an internet.
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    Quote Originally Posted by A Friend Of Mine
    Bloody Mess: The gift that keeps on gibbing.
    Fatigue makes me wax philosophic and/or babble. If I've posted something strange and tangential, that is probably the cause. This entry would be an example.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Bastian Weaver's Avatar

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    Default Re: Dream Battles

    Great idea, which should provide tons of fun if played right. Excelsior!
    The last crazy minstrel.
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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Mystify's Avatar

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    Default Re: Dream Battles

    Thanks for all the compliments. I'm glad you guys like it.

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