- Gnome Stew - https://gnomestew.com -

Troy’s Crock Pot: Plan then infiltrate

Looking for a change-of-pace scenario for a longstanding campaign? Consider an infiltration encounter that requires nonlethal solutions against friendly, or at least neutral, opponents.

It’s the sort of single-session event that can satisfy a group that needs a break from the traditional kill the monster loot the dungeon routine.

Players who’ve created combat monkeys might find their characters stretched to complete some of the tasks, but on the other hand, characters with noncombat skills will get the chance to shine.

The setup: This can be a three- or four-encounter scenario. The key is let the players know up front the objective and the nature (but not necessarily the capabilities) of the opposition. Let them know they should take time to plan and prepare for the assault, such as roleplaying obtaining any special items they need. The fun part isn’t springing a surprise on the player characters (though, if you can slip that in, too, all the better), but seeing the players succeed at a different type of objective.

Encounter 1: Obtain the key.

The goal here is to get the key that will unlock the final treasure in the last room. Maybe it’s a combination lock, a magical item that acts as a key, a scroll or special device. Of course, you just can’t barge in and take the key. A blatant breaking and entering will just tip the other side off to what the player characters are doing.

Does it have to be …

Romanced away?

Substituted with a copy?

Taken and then put back before the theft is recovered?

Make your own key option: A PC might decide they’d rather not waste time and resources on getting the key when constructing their own is simpler. Of course, such copies are always imperfect. (Remember, in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Belloq’s staff was one kadam too long …)

Encounter 2: Infiltration

In this, the player characters will have to get inside the stronghold of the opposition.

The cool part of this portion of the scenario is that the GM can tailor it to fit the tables’ mood. It can be played for nail-biting suspense, laughs, run-away action or straight up adventure.

Distract the guards.

Elude any wards.

Trip traps.

Adopt a disguise.

Sneak past the big bad guy.

Hit a snag option: Something goes wrong. Victory wouldn’t be as sweet if the PCs didn’t have to cope with something going wrong in the middle of the adventure. Is the disguise unconvincing? Did they hit a tripwire? If things are going too smoothly, stir the pot just a bit. Not enough to undermine the PCs’ efforts, just make them sweat.

Encounter 3: Treasure room and escape

Getting in is one thing, escaping is another. In addition to the lock, something is guarding the treasure, right? If it’s a three-headed dog, is it better to be clever and let music put it to sleep or attack it with a sword? This is the sort of thing a GM should consider in setting up the room.

Lastly, even if they managed to obtain the goal, the next step can be just as fun. Getting out without resorting to leaving in their wake a series of Rambo-style explosives.

Where did we park the truck option: A lot of things can spoil a clean get-away. A bystander can get in the way, a rival of the PCs could intervene, the equivalent of a flat tire throws a hitch in the PCs’ plans. In this, the PCs might find an alternative before their escape is discovered.




4 Comments (Open | Close)

4 Comments To "Troy’s Crock Pot: Plan then infiltrate"

#1 Comment By Sabrina On April 22, 2014 @ 8:56 am

Good food for thought. That could be especially promising in the campaign my friend and I are running.

#2 Comment By Gamerprinter On April 22, 2014 @ 10:14 am

In the second module of the Curse of the Golden Spear trilogy for the Kaidan setting of Japanese horror, the PCs find themselves suffering a terrible curse inflicted upon them by viewing a powerful magic item they originally brought as a gift to a local lord. They discover they need to reacquire the device to remove the curse, but their last encounter with that lord involved an act of sabotage by their employer to that lord so they want to return in secret. The whole point is to retake that item and not get caught by the many guards and definitely to not alert that lord of their presence. So though there might be some combat the intention is to avoid that at all costs.

So not every published adventure expects combat as the only or primary outcome for adventuring. (I wrote the outline to this adventure).

#3 Comment By Mark Gurv On April 22, 2014 @ 2:49 pm

My list of adventure ideas includes a scenario just like this. The idea is that the PCs are part of a monastic group that hides a dark relic deep within their monastery. But it gets stolen. The thieves are defeated by paladins before the PCs find them. The paladins don’t know about the prophecy that says it must be kept by the monks , lest it unleash dire fates on the world. So the paladins think they are better suited to protect it than some monks who lost it in the first place.

I love the suggestions on different encounters to run as a series and I will definitely be using this post when I write the adventure.

#4 Comment By Blackjack On April 22, 2014 @ 3:53 pm

I’ve seen plenty of cases where a GM or module writer has designed an infiltration adventure that the party winds up fighting their way through by brute force. With some groups brute force is simply their default mode. With others it’s one of several options available, and it’s an appropriate choice to make for challenges that seem like they can be confronted head-on. As a GM it’s not enough simply to want the party to finesse their way through your carefully crafted infiltration adventure; you must make it necessary. And that means answering an important question at design time: Why can’t the party brute-force their way through this?

The obvious reason against using brute force is that it will fail. Because the other side is more powerful. Either in its defense, or its ability to counter attack, or both. Then the PCs must rely on stealth to circumvent defenses, avoid detection, and achieve their goal without triggering a fatal backlash.

What “fatal” means in the story can vary. PCs who sneak past a super-powerful monster while it’s sleeping to steal an item from its horde, like the often slumbering dragons of old, are risking literal fatality. If the monster wakes before they’re done they face almost certain death. But fatality could also apply to an important relationship. The high level PCs tasked to steal a powerful artifact from a rival kingdom currently in a state of political detente must leave no trace of who took it or where it went; otherwise, even though they may escape alive with artifact in hand, the rival kingdom will deem this an act of war by their homeland and rally other countries to its side.