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Yesterday, I spoke out against dawdling, and how 1st Edition D&D dealt with it. Here’s an adventure idea that takes that to the ultimate level.
Someone posted an encounter idea on Facebook. The gist of it is an adventure where the PCs are asked to retrieve an item at an adventure site. They arrive at their destination, and it’s littered with dead bodies. The wander through the entire site towards the room where they know the object is kept. When they get there, they run into another party. They have the item and are drinking some brandy in celebration of their accomplishment. In other words, another party got there first. How do you handle it?
Honestly, I don’t care because I think the opposite scenario is better.
The PCs’ benefactor hires them to retrieve the item. When they agree, the benefactor hands them the bottle of brandy and says, “This is for when you succeed in finding the staff. It’ll make it easier for you to get back to me.”
That makes it sound like the brandy has magical properties, but all the benefactor means it that it gets you drunk. This is a flimsy way to try to get the PCs to get drunk once they’ve accomplished their task, but it’s not critical. Moving on, allow the party to do what they expect. They arrive at the site, fight off the creatures, and retrieve the item. Ideally, they’re the ones drinking the brandy, and that’s when the other party arrives. The party face asks, “Did you really think your benefactor was the only one that hired parties to retrieve such an important item? There are several of us.”
Obviously, absent miraculous role-play, the other party attacks a (hopefully drunk) party. When the PCs have dispensed with the other party, the adventure pivots to something like the movie, The Warriors. The job now is to avoid as many fights as possible against rival adventurers (as well as the occasional wandering monsters) while returning the item to the benefactor.
There’s a reason I prefer my scenario. First, the PCs get what they signed up for. They were told they were going to infiltrate, for example, a mind flayer necromancer’s stronghold, and that’s what they got. It doesn’t mean they can’t be surprised by what they find there, but it’s what the players were anticipating.
Second, I’m going to assume that the scenario I rejected doesn’t consist of just one fight, but instead, several planned challenges on the way home. However, if the spirit of the twist is respected, those challenges on the way home are one adventuring party after the other. Repeatedly facing five to six classed humanoids will quickly get boring. Keeping the bulk of the adventures in the stronghold has a potential for far more variety of challenges. Lastly, the rejected scenario’s “dead time” consists of just walking through a dungeon following a map, noting the already looted corpses along the way. That’s also boring. In my scenario, the “dead time” is still very much alive; it’s just a different kind of action. The PCs must use skills and logic to avoid those fights. Maybe that’s boring for some players, but it’s not as boring as the rejected scenario, and it’s a great change of pace for those who enjoy it. It also doesn’t handwave a part of the adventure that’s generally handwaved (returning home), which means the players are given more to do. This is a general idea that can be tailored to your adventure’s mission and, if necessary, to your RPG’s genre and setting.
While I’m sure this has been done before, I don’t recall having seen it.
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