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 …
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.
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.