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Climactic encounter idea for a city under siege? [Jun. 22nd, 2010|07:05 am]
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition


I'm trying to plan out a climactic (combat) encounter for my next D&D session--something that will wrap up a story arc, and end with a bang for a player who is leaving. The players are Level 12, so I need something suitably epic.

Currently the PCs are heading back towards a hostile Orcish city in an attempts to return to their ship and escape the area. But the city is about to be attacked by an army of Giants, led by one who is carrying a McGuffin they've been interested in. I've planned out a good climax if they go to fight off the Giants, killing their leader and saving the city and such.

But I want to have an idea for if the PCs decide to try and actively avoid the fighting, sneaking through the attacked city in order to get out in the confusion. I don't want to just move the Giant general fight to the PCs if they attempt to go around the battle, but I still feel like I want some kind of big fight to end the story arc.

Any ideas? What kind of big fight do you have for a group of low-paragon characters who are trying to return to their ship in the harbor outside a city under siege? (the city is being attack from land, so away from the harbor)

[User Picture]From: schlake
2010-06-22 02:45 pm (UTC)
My first thought was that as they sneak through the alleys they come across a band of assassins sneaking in to assassinate the city leaders. While the party doesn't have to kill the assassins, the assassins will have no choice but to kill the party, so a fight is assured.
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[User Picture]From: highbulp
2010-06-22 03:48 pm (UTC)
Hmm, maybe... that has a bit of a "random encounter" feeling though, rather than a big finish. I'm not sure the Giants would be trying to assassinate people rather than just crush them (and city leaders would be in the opposite direction anyway). Any any Orc dissidents the PCs would probably try to side with (this group has been trying to make friends with the Orcs, who want none of that :p).

Thanks for the suggestion though :)
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[User Picture]From: archmage45
2010-06-22 02:46 pm (UTC)
Is there any reason for the Giants to seek out the PCs? Maybe the Giants have some sea going allies who'll attack the ship, stalling the PCs till the Giants arrive?
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[User Picture]From: highbulp
2010-06-22 03:50 pm (UTC)
I could probably make up a reason for the Giants to seek out the PCs, but they'd have to get through the Orc army first (and the Orc army is top-notch in this world). So that might feel a little forced. The idea was a kind of "stuck in the middle of a war" episode for the characters.

The Giants could potentially also attack by sea; see response below.
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[User Picture]From: archmage45
2010-06-22 07:24 pm (UTC)
Presuming that your giants are elemental chaos creatures like they're described in 4e, there isn't any reason that they couldn't call forth/summon/pay off some further elemental assistance to block the port.

I'm thinking some reskinned Balhannoths with some kuo-toa?
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[User Picture]From: serpentgod
2010-06-22 02:51 pm (UTC)
My first thought is, just how ruthless and clever are these giants? If the giants want to ensure that as few orcs as possible escape (to prevent a possible threat later), then they should attack on two fronts - send a unit of aquatic giants out swimming along the coast, and stay out of sight (submerged, if possible) until the first batch of orc escapees tries to make a break for it... then punch through the hull from below and scuttle the ships.

If the PCs decide to head for the harbour, then, you could have them arrive just as the giants have begun their attack on the ships; the PC's vessel would still be in port, so the PCs would have the option of either turning back into the city or trying to fight their way past the aquatic giants. Either way, it would work well as a delaying action. The giant leader could also be a part of the sneak attack, rather than leading the obvious charge at the front gates, which would give the party a way to run into him.
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[User Picture]From: highbulp
2010-06-22 03:54 pm (UTC)
I considered that, and it may be a possible work-around. The idea is that the Orcs have been holding off the Giants for more than a year now, but the Giants have just acquired the McGuffin which is giving them the strength to lead an all-out attack. So it feels a little off having the Giants also attack by sea (from behind the Orcish lines), since they hadn't done that already. It could still happen and work, but I'm trying to see if I can find a solution that feels a little better to me. The PCs probably won't mind either way, but I like having a little internal consistency.

The Giant leader isn't a character really--just a way for me to stat up a Solo fight ;p And he needs to be attacking the front gate, cause the PCs are going to know that he's there (this is an idea for what happens if they decide they don't want to take the obvious fight and instead want to skip it ;p).

Thanks though :) I'll keep thinking about it :)
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[User Picture]From: kensan_oni
2010-06-22 03:50 pm (UTC)
My thought is that the end up negotiating with giant Owls to stealth fly (Becuase Owls don't make noises when they fly) in under the cover of night to their ship. They have to evade the giant bats of the Giant's army by diving through crowded streets and swooping through bell towers.

I'm not exactly sure how to pull it off, but that's what I would do! Or would want to do! Or ...

... well, it's kinda like the new trailer for TOR. I've been waiting for Decades for someone to think of using Energy Dispersion in the way they do in that film, but I didn't think I ever was going to see it happen. It's like that. This scene would be AWESOME, but I'll never see it happen.
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[User Picture]From: highbulp
2010-06-22 03:59 pm (UTC)
Difficulty: the other major force at play here is a group of dragons/dragonmen who live on floating islands in the sky and stuff. And they don't take kindly to other flying armies (which I rather firmly established in the last session), and so Giant Owl and Giant Bat army wouldn't work. Also, I've only got about 1 session (4 hours) to work with before one of my player leaves, so a negotiation scene won't quite do.

I'm considered having the dragons mount they own attack from the sea/sky, so that the PCs have to take on a dragon who is intent on destroying their ship (and everything else). But that would mean that the "wing of dragons attacking" moment will have been used, so I won't have it in play for later. That said, this might be the right time for it, as the PCs have finally figured out the dragons' place in the story, so having the dragons show themselves could make a nice reveal. But I'm also exploring other options :)

Thanks for the thought :)
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[User Picture]From: zakarntson
2010-06-22 04:09 pm (UTC)
I know nothing about your campaign, so I could be way off. Hope this helps!

Have they made any long-term enemies during or before this adventure arc? You could bring back a foe they thought dead, trying to kill the party again. Perhaps this resurfaced enemy is in some way responsible for the trouble the PCs are in (giving the encounter some story oomph).

As a reward for their sneaking, they can run into a controller/lurker encounter, reinforcing their decision to sneak away. Maybe it's a hostile force that wants to encourage/press the party into recovering the MacGuffin and will resort to combat if they can't convince the party.

Don't forget to give each decision narrative power. You've got the heroic ending planned if they fight the Giants. But don't forget that if they run, something epic will happen without them. Perhaps they can escape successfully, ending the current story arc Empire Strikes Back style: They sail away, witnessing the destruction of the Orcish city and the new dominance of the Giants.

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[User Picture]From: highbulp
2010-06-22 04:19 pm (UTC)
They have made some long-term enemies: one that they are currently chasing after (which is why they might decide to not "spend the time" on the battle), and the other that they just made a deal with (this group was trying to convince them to recover the McGuffin, the PCs gave them directions and are setting out after another McGuffin). So otherwise, nobody that could be in this location without super heavy explaining.

But yes, the idea would be that they'd sail off and the Giants would take over, and then they'd eventually have to deal with those Giants if they wanted to fetch the McGuffin again. I'm just trying o think of what that Lurker-style encounter would be that would make the escape exciting and such. The idea is not to stop them from escaping, just to put in a cool action scene on the way.
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[User Picture]From: zakarntson
2010-06-22 04:34 pm (UTC)
I get you. What are your "action figures" and themes at your control?

If you want to throw something just for fun: The Giants' attack smashed a famous landmark. That landmark was in reality a magical seal holding back something awful. Now, as the PCs are fleeing, they have to contend with whatever this is. It gives you an excuse to cherry-pick from your Monster Manuals. The PCs are in trouble because they have something (magic items or some other MacGuffin) that attracts whatever or whomever has been released.

Or, the Orcish city has magical guardians in place to help against invasions. The party accidentally stumbles into a guardian encounter and, surprise! the party aren't citizens and the guardians don't discriminate against good and evil.
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[User Picture]From: highbulp
2010-06-22 04:44 pm (UTC)
Overall campaign: the PCs were trying to acquire these McGuffins because they thought that would release a seal blocking out good things (good gods, angels, etc)--now they've recently discovered that it may also let in bad things (evil gods, demons), and that the Good Gods might not be so good afterall.

This makes breaking random magic seal somewhat redundant, sadly.

Magic is also pretty uncommon--the Orcs are about their own physical prowess, so magical guardians doesn't quite fit the bill [that said, the Orc Emperor is supposed to be powerful and magical, and so encountering him fleeing the city the same as the PCs could be interesting--but that would most likelyy turn into an RP thing rather than a fight (the players wouldn't want to fight him I believe, and might be less than excited if he attacked them)... I'll have to consider that one).

Mmm, I guess my difficulty is that most of my "action figure" NPCs (assuming I'm understanding your use of the term correctly) have been accounted for in the last session or so, as the PCs are using those accounts to plan their current action (so I don't want to just change what has been established). I could introduce a third party or so---there was an army of Sahaugin that the PCs encountered way earlier and could show up again, but I was hoping to save that encounter for a later scene (but reinforcing the Sahaugin as an element of the story could give later appearances more weight).

I'll need to think on it for the day, to see which kind of story/fight I like better (also need to make sure that the mostly melee PCs will be able to have a good fight trying to get across the harbor to their ship (at anchor in the bay), etc).

Thanks a bunch :)
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[User Picture]From: zakarntson
2010-06-22 04:46 pm (UTC)
No problem! It's fun to brainstorm, even if it just gets those creative juices flowing.

I love your idea where they meet up with the Orc Emperor. It sets up the possibility of betrayal (of course, the Emperor wouldn't get his own hands dirty) when the Emperor feigns cooperation, only to leave his trusted bodyguard assassins alone with the party.
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[User Picture]From: katu
2010-06-22 06:15 pm (UTC)
You could always do some sort of skill challenge for navigating the streets full of soldiers and panicking civillians - with debris falling, possibly projectiles, and things like bridges being out and whatnot, you could come up with a number of obstacles to pass. You could offer them the option to take the sewer/catacombs out, where they could encounter undead, or possibly the rejected insane orcs from the city above.

There are also your regular disaster happenstances: looting, raping, etc. People (or orcs), getting away with whatever they can while the authorities are distracted. Just brainstorming, not sure how much - if any of that will apply to your campaign.

If it were me, I'd also play a lot on the fact that they wanted to prove themselves as good allies to the orcs - possibly hint that they would forge a truce of some sort if the party successfully fends off the giants. At the very least, they should meet with disapproval ("Typical humans, always fleeing.") if they decide to avoid combat. XD
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[User Picture]From: highbulp
2010-06-22 06:24 pm (UTC)
Yes yes, I was going to have a skill challenge like thing for moving through the battle. But I'm trying to figure out what happens after the SC. A skill challenge isn't particularly climatic or exciting IMO.

And yes, I was planning to have the PCs finally be able to ally (sort of) with the Orcs if they saved the city, but the goal is to figure out what will make for an exciting session if they decide NOT to save the city. Something a bit more exciting than simply being disapproved of.
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-11-21 02:37 am (UTC)

ur climatic battle

i was wondering if they are around the 12th lvl then why must they get attacked by giants or assassins....? what if you were to bring a new "player" have them attacked by a roving band of sahuagins. they are close to the 12th-15th lvl
so they would be a difficult fight.. and they enjoy attacking people at oppurtune moments. they would see it as a time to make a living off of the misfortune of others and they dwell all throughout water. have their leader by "allied' with the giants. so no giants are submerged but sahuagin have been added to the ranks now tht you can attack the city
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