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CrossNightwalker
Kalkydrite
(10/28/03 9:55 am)
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Strategy: How can I avoid killing the players?
OK, here's the situation. The players have reached the Fire Temple, after losing a couple of folks in the Bridge Complex (I apologize, I don't remember which complex, only that Eeridik and Tac were in command.) The players have lost a few people, three in the bridge complex alone. Currently, they stand as:

Cirden: Half-dragon (silver) Fighter 5
Rolin: Elf Druid 8 with Brown bear companion
Tharin: Dwarf Cleric of Moradin 8
Durth: Half-Orc Sorcerer 8

The players are coming from the north, and have discovered Tessimon's quarters, as well as the torture chamber of Firre Oranac. I've already placed Tessimon in the Fire Temple proper; the Water Temple had only recently made it's horridly unsuccessful raid against them. Basically, then, the temple is at Stage 2 alert, with Zert and Skassik prowling the halls.

The party monkeyed around in Tessimon's quarters for a while, causing all sorts of racket when they bashed open the treasure chest inside. This drew Firre's attention, who peeked around the curtain unobserved and watched the group for a few moments before deciding that he needed help to take them. He scuttled off down the hallway, back around to the southern door to the temple.

By now, the party had wandered into the torture chamber to find the comatose body of J...Jir...Ja..the bard (doh!), who I'm replacing with the new character brought in by one of the aforementioned dead players (a Rogue 5/Slayer of Domiel 3).

The party is currently deciding what to do with the new, unresponsive player. I figure Firre has about 4-10 minutes to round up a few folks, and prepare an ambush. I'd like not to slaughter the party here, but with all the weapons the Fire Temple has, I'm not sure what to do. If they end up in the actual Temple room with Tessimon, it's going to get very ugly, very fast (no flight capabilities at all on any player, and not a lot of ranged atacks).

Note: the party is only level 8 because they've skipped an awful lot of the mines, including the bulk strength of the Water Temple, who had holed up after the failed raids on the Fire Temple. This may be a factor in a retreat scenario...if the party turns around and leaves, they might well run into some of the Water warriors.

Thoughts on strategy? I don't want to make this a cakewalk for them (a lot of things really are...Tac went down in 1.5 rounds to this group without doing a single point of damage), but I don't want to make it impossible either.

Any ideas would be much appreciated.

-Cross

Cordo Crowfoot
Cherub
(10/28/03 4:39 pm)
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Re: Strategy: How can I avoid killing the players?
Does your party regularly or ever run away or do they expect to be able to defeat anything they meet? If the former then I don't see any problem with amassing a huge force, they should run away and from what you are saying may do better against them than you think. If the latter... It depends on your style but maybe they could use a lesson.

CrossNightwalker
Kalkydrite
(10/28/03 9:06 pm)
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Re: Strategy: How can I avoid killing the players?
The party has a difficult time retreating. Usually, one or two guys run to the front to "hold off the enemy", while the others are supposed to run. The spoosed runners end up no wanting to leave the guys who stayed behind, and in the end, all of them get pretty well beaten down. They've been lucky so far, but I'm not sure if luck will get them through this bit.

Renegade
Cherub
(10/28/03 9:33 pm)
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Re: Strategy: How can I avoid killing the players?
I suggest teaching them the proper use of tactics. ;) I'll go add in a bit about how to do a running retreat now. I've been meaning to do that anyway.

"Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names."--John F. Kennedy

Cordo Crowfoot
Cherub
(10/29/03 12:00 am)
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Re: Strategy: How can I avoid killing the players?
Yes, learning how to run becomes more and more important the higher level you get. Luckily it becomes easier as well with Dimension Door and Teleport for the entire party to retreat relatively instantaneously.

"They were immediately and absolutely recognizable as adventurers. They were hardy and dangerous, lawless, stripped of allegiance or morality, living off their wits, stealing and killing, hiring themselves out to whoever and whatever came... They were scum who died violent deaths, hanging on to a certain cachet among the impressionable through their undeniable bravery and their occasionally impressive exploits" China Mieville, Perdido Street Station

Infiniti2000
Cherub
(10/29/03 6:24 am)
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ezSupporter
Re: Strategy: How can I avoid killing the players?
Just want to chime in and agree with Cordo. Maybe it's time for the party to learn a lesson. Whatever you do, don't hold back or your group will feel cheated.

msherman
Kalkydrite
(10/29/03 6:34 am)
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What if they never run?
I don't think my party has _ever_ run away. I've even had NPCs practically beg them to run, and they still stand thier ground. When they fought the re-stocked Earth temple (with Kobolds and Vranthis, led by trogs), it looked like a TPK was coming, so I had Uskatoth cast Charm Person on the barbarian, call for his kobolds to halt their fighting, and command the barbarian to surrender the Sword of Earth and the Keys and then leave, if they wished to leave with their lives. The party cleric was, IIRC, down to single digit HPs from repeated fireballs, and what does he do? He Dispels the charm, and pointedly (and rudely!) refuses to run.

I think I need to hand these guys a serious defeat to teach them some humility, but I'm concerned about how to do that without a TPK -- they've got resources to raise 2 PCs from death, but how can 2 die without the other two quickly following?

Edited by: msherman at: 10/29/03 6:34 am
Infiniti2000
Cherub
(10/29/03 6:52 am)
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ezSupporter
Re: What if they never run?
It's hard, but you must be willing as a DM to hand out a TPK. I know it sucks, but if the players expect that it can never happen, such behavior and the "I am invulnerable attitude" will be fostered. If the players know that a TPK can happen and still risk it, that's fine. It works out great if it doesn't occur, but without a real risk then their heroics are rather empty.

There are ways to recover from a TPK if your group is willing. They must be willing if they are flirting with it so readily. In some cases, a TPK is better than a near TPK because the group as a whole loses a level and maintains an equivalent amount of XP.

Gwyddno Maolan
Memunite
(10/29/03 7:57 am)
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Re: Strategy: How can I avoid killing the players?
Quote:
If they end up in the actual Temple room with Tessimon, it's going to get very ugly, very fast (no flight capabilities at all on any player, and not a lot of ranged atacks).


That's OK, Tessimon is cruel and enjoys other peoples' suffering, if she's got an overwhelming upper hand she'll probably toy with them and kill them slowly without calling for reinforcements. That's a good opportunity to teach your party the value of a strategic withdrawal - if Tessimon takes her time killing them off and they don't figure out that leaving is a good idea, they probably can't be helped ;) . But a party that goes to the outer fane thinking they can take anything they run into is a party that's in real danger of getting killed at one of the doors, so it's almost required that they face a "we're really in over our heads" moment somewhere in the CRM.

More generally, the way to avoid TPKs in the Fire Temple is not to present them as a unified force. Skassik is jealous of Zert, Zert has no loyalty to the temple so he won't put his life on the line for it, Tessimon is a megalomaniac, and nobody likes Firre. This makes it easier to justify scaling the opposition to the group - if they're having a hard time, you don't have to pile on all the reinforcements at once. If it's a cakewalk, the prospect of annihilation can concentrate the bad guys' attention wonderfully.

Gwyddno Aonaranach - Serene Master of Pain and... Forestry?!
Earedwyn Lanngaoth - Swashbuckler Extraordinaire
Last Warden Standing, Vae Victis!

Lunus Quelnegarde
Memunite
(10/31/03 12:15 pm)
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Re: Strategy: How can I avoid killing the players?
For the most part I never held back... and grouped the enemies when they had knowledge of what the PCs could do.

I almost killed the group a few times. But they know that I ain't gonna spare them when they are up against hell.

I do, however, fudge the dice when it's just one of them who gets really unlucky without any bad moves. Like when the rogue got repeatedly rended by the fiendish girallion. He didn't even trigger the trap - it was the invisible wizard. He just happened to be the first thing the girallion saw.

Anyways, how it turns out is that my group avoids combat whenever they feel sub par. They used to suck at combat, now I'm pretty sure I can't kill them all. They don't run a lot either... because they know to scry and figure out what they are up against next... then they prepare before the enemy knows what's coming.

They know to shoot the single ogre that turns and runs down the hall - they know he's going for backup. They know to go still when they feel something scrying on them. (usually it's just the other party members though)

I'm sure they don't all turn out like this. But my group never used to run... they had a "we're PCs, we can't die" attitude. They didn't figure out what was around the next corner. They weren't respectful in unholy places. They were pretty fool hardy and terrible at winning... it was put on their plate so many times before by ex-DMs that they expected victory.

But then the Temple brought them a choice - Learn, or Die.

All in all, after enough flamestrikes if your party isn't running... I guess that's all. What I'd do is maybe spare the last guy. It will be his task to reform the group out of nothing.

Yes, I'm harsh. But it worked for me :P

(Oh, and the party learned it's almost never a good thing to "cover the retreat." The best you can do is a wall spell or something. Leave someone behind... the enemy will focus on him and kill him.)

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