Nov 10, 2009

Moving forward

After finally getting some forward momentum established in my games, I now have something to talk about.

In my campaign, the party is running through a portion of the Pyramid or Shadows (H3) adventure, located within the castle area of an Eladrin feywild fortress.  As they traverse the extradimensional prison at the base of it, the have encountered several nasty critters.  The one we left off on, and the one we are going to talk about.

One of the more powerful denizens of the prison is a white dragon.  I lifted the encounter pretty much word for word, so the situation is like this:  The party has hacked and fought their way through several "pods" of this place.  Each chamber is a seperate dimesional pocket connected by apparently unsupported stone walkways.  The rooms cannot be seen or otherwise detected until one passes through their doors, where they are greeted by reality somewhat twisted to conform to the occupant.  The more powerful the occupant, the larger and more complex the chamber is.

They seemed to understand that, and so when the opened up the enormous icy cavern, they knew they were in for it.  They wisely adopted a appeasement stance, that is, after I informed them that a loud and impatient sounding voice was telling them to hurry up and make with the tributes.  Having my 8-year old daughter playing has been...interesting so far, and she nearly got the party eaten :)

Needless to say, they paid dearly for passage through the chamber, and were offered some back if they would bring back the head of one of his hostile neighbors.

Now.  This dragon is a lvl.9 solo brute, and will likely wipe the floor with a just turned lvl.7 party.  However, they want to kill that thing SOOO bad they can taste it.  In fact, they are already wondering how they will talk it's enemy into helping them take him down.

As such, I am considering upsizing the encounter to about lv1.11 or so.  Is it just me, or are heroe's just inclined to want to kill any dragon they encounter?  Then again, I "might" have spent a little too much time describing it's bed :)

What do you think?  Are Dragons the ultimate sword fodder?  Or should they be the nigh-undefeatable behemoths of legend?


anarkeith said...

The first dragon I ran as a DM (waaay back in the 80's) got slaughtered by the party, with nary a word exchanged. That put me off dragons for a long while. A few years ago I tried again, and the party nearly wet themselves with fright. They talked to the thing several times, without ever getting near to drawing weapons. OK, so most of my friends are almost 30 years older and wiser than they were in the 80's, so maybe that accounts for it. And perhaps the cool, to-scale (mini-scale) green dragon model I have now.

Wickedmurph said...

I would be inclined to keep the dragon at it's current level, even if the PC's manage to get it's enemy to help them kill it. A somewhat easier fight is a reward for creative thinking, essentially.

To give you an example of how I run things like that, in my online 4e campaign, the party was tracking a group of bandits through the wilderness, when they encountered an Orcish warband. They managed to set up a perfect ambush, as they have a Druid, Warden and Ranger in the party, but a few skill checks determined that the warband was a death-sworn band of vengeance-seekers.

Seeing potential allies, the party passed up on the ambush and fight, convinced the orcs that they were not enemies, and discovered that they were looking for the same bandits.

Reaching the bandit fort, the PC's attacked the back, while the orcs attacked the front palisade. It was still a tough fight, but not the brutal one that it would have been otherwise.

Now the PC's have saved the orc village from goblin raiders, and are re-locating the remains of the tribe closer to their home base, so they can protect them better.

By choosing to forgo a fight and talk instead of kill, the PC's opened up a whole new adventure line, new allies and made some really tough encounters much easier.

If you make the Dragon fight even tougher, you're retaining the image of dragons as a dangerous and powerful foe, but you're also telling the group that their decisions don't much impact the difficulty of encounters. Which I think you don't want to do.

Besides, if you really want to keep the tough encounter, have the new "ally" turn on the party the moment the dragon is dead. They get a short feeling of satisfaction, followed by a "what were we thinking" moment. And you still get a really hard encounter.

Donny_the_DM said...

@ Anarkeith - Funny, I had the exact same issue. It was even a fricking shadow dragon! I built it all up to this encounter with a creature that should've devastated them, and the systematically dismantle it by playing smart :) Go figure.

It seems that the buildup is inevitably going to be a letdown unless the matchup is perfectly equal.

@ Wickedmurph - good example, and better common sense hath not been spake in some time :)

I think I'll compromise, they LOVE killing minions :) I'll have to spring a swarm of them at either battle start or finish. As to betrayal, on a blog my players read, "why ever would I do something so underhanded and devious like that". ;)

Mr.Dobkin said...

Actually, a level 7 party should have no problem defeating the level 9 dragon. They'll have to spend some dailies to do it, but unless there are only 3 or maybe 4 of them that dragon is a gonner. The modules tend to be combat heavy---so it was probably planned that they could fight it....but it might be more interesting for them to find a way to free the dragon and have it owe them a favor....

Donny_the_DM said...

@ Mr. Dobkin - Greetings and welcome to my blog :)

You are correct. A 5 man lvl.7 party should be able to take a lvl.9 solo out without TOO much fanfare. Which is why I am working to make it a little more memorable than "party whacks 400 hp out of iconic sword fodder" :)

I'm thinking minions and terrain. See, the numbers do not reflect the inclusion of either, just the probabilities of X vs. Y.

The dragon battle is actually only the first part :) The dragon is guarding Varylis's body (a slight change from the RAW) who is IIRC, a lvl.10 solo controller!

Out of the frying pan, into the fire :)

With lots of crunchy kobold minions to keep things fun.

On the other hand, Gharash (the neighbor that the dragon wants dead) is going to be played as a real piece of shit. They may just kill him and help the dragon out anyway.