Posted in Gaming Advice, Set Piece

Set Piece: The Gladiatorial Arena

Introduction:

The protagonists being forced to fight in a gladiatorial arena or fighting pit is littered throughout sci-fi and fantasy mediums. (Star Wars, Star Trek, Planet Hulk, Game of Thrones, John Carter, Mad Max, Hunger Games).  It is also a staple of roleplaying games.  It is an interesting way to start a campaign(DCC funnel anyone) or a great place to introduce new players into your game.

Scene:

The players are forced to fight for spectators in an arena.  This could be a grand coliseum or a fighting pit.  How they got in this situation is up to you.  It could be the result of them being captured or part of a bargain with the authorities of the place or even something they volunteered as a show of skill or as part of a contest. Continue reading “Set Piece: The Gladiatorial Arena”

Posted in Gaming Advice, Set Piece

Set Piece: Captured

Introduction:

Heroes being captured is something that happens a lot in adventure stories with villains, but less frequently in RPGs.  (Unless you’re Leenik Geelo and your go-to plan is to be captured on purpose) Most gamers refuse to accept defeat and will fight to the death instead of being taken prisoner. Many GMs, however, balk at killing a character or railroading their players by forcing a capture.   My advice is to do the former not the later.  If your players outsmart the antagonist and find a way out of the ambush and avoid capture, good for them!  However, if the Antagonist has them dead to rights and your players refuse to surrender, killing, maiming, or knocking unconscious a PC may be in order.  Though you should probably appeal to the player.  Ask them what their character would really do in this situation.  In the heat of the action, some players forget they are playing characters and do what they think is right or would ‘win’ instead.  However, fighting to their dying breath is the right character decision for many player characters.  So make sure you are aware of that and plan accordingly.    With that said I am going to talk about how to run a “players are captured” set piece.  This is different from a ‘players are imprisoned’ set piece I’ll get to one of those later.

Scene:

The PC have been captured and are being held in a temporary or makeshift cell, something not designed for long term holding.  This could be in something like a prison wagon, (Dragonlance, Way of Kings, Game of Thrones) a cage, a holding cell in a police station, locked in the basement, or simply confined to their quarters. Continue reading “Set Piece: Captured”

Posted in Gaming Advice, Set Piece

Set Piece: The Long Stair

Terry stepped carefully on the narrow path.  A few rocks skittered over the edge into the darkness below. They were lucky to find the path,  he wasn’t sure if it was natural or if someone or something created it.  Kate was sure it led to the lost city of Dzuvia.  They had to be over a hundred yards underground now.  The claustrophobic caverns they had squeezed through to get here had opened up considerably. Terry could feel a cool breeze and the faint sound of a waterfall somewhere far ahead of him.

“I think we’ve found it,” Kate said in a reverent whisper.

“How can you tell I can’t see anything past this lantern.”

“The sounds. This cavern’s huge, just like the one Dzuvia is supposed to be in.”  Kate had taken off her pack and was rummaging around in it.
“We taking a break?” Terry asked massaging his aching calf as he watched her.

“Maybe,” Kate replied and produced a flare from her pack and proceeded to light it.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Terry asked.  Kate seemed to always attract trouble.

“No, but only one way to find out.”  Kate hurled the flare as far as she could over the cliff’s edge.  Both Terry and Kate watched the streak or orange light intently as it seemed to float through the air and towards the cavern’s floor.

The light slowly revealed what Kate had dreamed about for so long Dzuvia.

Terry stared.  The buildings and temples below were clearly Vertruvian in design. They must have dated back to the…

A few pieces of rock landed on Terry’s shoulder.  It interrupted his thoughts as he looked at them and brushed them off.  Slowly he raised lantern high and stared at the wall behind him.  A wall that seemed to be moving…. And chittering.

Terry pushed Kate forward. 

“Stop it,” She complained.  He prodded her forward again.

“Stop it, I might fall.”

“run.” Terry all but whispered.

“What?” Kate asked as she tore her eyes from Dzuvia and looked at Terry.  That is when the wall seemed to lurch forward.

“Run!”

Introduction:

Back when I was DMing D&D with larger groups and higher level players I discovered that the key to a great encounter isn’t usually the monsters but instead the location that can really make the encounter memorable.  I have used the long stair encounter quite a few times, the most memorable being when the party was trying to escape an infernal city in a large subterranean cavern. Continue reading “Set Piece: The Long Stair”

Posted in Gaming Advice, Set Piece

Set Piece: The Proselytizer

Introduction:

This one is all Marc Plourde’s fault.  In our recent Gods of the Fall game, he ran this encounter in our first adventure.  I thought it was a pretty interesting encounter because the setup gave us players a lot of choices and helped us define our characters.  This is not a big set piece I know, but small encounters can mean a lot to players if it helps define themselves and the tone of an area or a campaign. You can find Marc Plourde’s writings and gaming tips over at his Inspiration Strikes Blog.

Scene:

Someone is on the street corner proselytizing to the people passing by.   A group of folks with opposing views come and accost them in sight of the PCs.   Quite a simple concept really but you can do a lot with this.

Mood:

So the mood for a scene like this is entirely in your hands.  You are basically establishing two factions in your world.  How do they act?  If the corner crier is spouting blasphemies and member of the inquisition simply just walks up and shoots him with a blunderbuss, then you’ve established a tone for this conflict.   The inquisition clearly thinks they can get away with this kind of blatant violence.   If the two factions end up in a shouting match none resorting to violence you set a different tone.  If it’s just simply a crowd of people heckling the crier then you’ve set a tone.  The mood is clearly in your hands.   What happens next is totally up to the players. Continue reading “Set Piece: The Proselytizer”

Posted in Gaming Advice, Set Piece

The Banquet

Introduction

The noble throwing a banquet, the feast in the players’ honor, the masquerade ball the players are infiltrating, and the gala used as a cover for the great heist.  Big dinner parties crop up time and again in campaigns of all genres.   While the reason the players are attending is usually tied to some campaign story or plot, I am going to discuss things you can do to make the event more a set piece than window dressing.

(art The Banquet of Cleopatra is a painting by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo)

Scene

The players are attending a dinner, either in disguise, as guests of honor, or random attendees. They are most likely out of their element and forced to interact with people they don’t know and who don’t know them.  I am sure the players are embroiled some wondrous plot, but the party isn’t thrown by them, so theirs aren’t the only schemes in town. Continue reading “The Banquet”

Posted in Gaming Advice, Set Piece

Set Piece: Market Terror

“You got any power cells for a Model 44?” Caleb asked the Toydarian vendor, as he perused the creature’s stall.

“Bolwola ticati” came the reply.

“Ohh, good.  How much….” 

“Caleb…” Renda called as she tapped on Caleb’s shoulder. 

“Hold on.. I’m doing business…   15 credits a pop?  These things are 15 credits mint in the Core and I know what you have isn…”

“Caleb.” Renda tapped more insistently.

Caleb looked over his shoulders toward the Rodian, she made a gesture toward the center of the market.  Caleb followed the gesture and saw a trio of Stormtroopers conversing near the market’s gaudy imperial statue. 

“Yeah Stormtroopers, I see them.  Be cool they’re not on to us.”

“Not the Stormtroopers, looks closer.”

Caleb scanned the crowd and found what had Renda spooked.  Four armed men were posted throughout the market.  They were anxious, Caleb could see the one closest to him was fingering his blaster’s trigger.  They kept glancing at the Stormtroopers in the center and they were also keeping an eye on the few on patrol.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” whispered Renda. “Somethings about to go down.”

“If it does, our mission gets a whole lot harder.”

Caleb watched as the man with the blaster gripped it firmly and started walking purposely toward the nearest trooper.

“Hux and Niner,” Caleb said into his com. “abort.  I repeat abort.”  The man with the blaster walked right up to the Imperial Trooper and shot him in the back.  A few people in the crowd screamed.  Then the statue in the center of the square exploded.

Introduction:

The following scene is about an attack that occurs in a crowded public space.  Given the state of things in the real world, this scene may not be suitable for some tables.   I originally wrote this scene a few years ago for the GamerNation Holocron. I have run this scene quite a few times in a star wars game, with warring Hutt factions, rebel vs Imperial faction, even Hutt vs Zann Consortium factions, each time the player took completely different routes.  I have also run this is a Numenara game and it turned out quite interesting.

Scene:

Players are walking through or shopping at a busy open-air market, when a local gang, or resistance fighters, or rebel cell decided to attack the place. Their attack should be against another local faction or authority but could be against the PC’s directly if desired. Continue reading “Set Piece: Market Terror”

Posted in Gaming Advice, Set Piece

Set Piece: A Ship in a Storm

The deck bucked to the starboard as the wave crashed into the ship’s port side.  Sabastian could not keep his balance and slid across the quarter deck on his rear.  The jackline was the only thing that saved Sabastian from a watery grave.  He held onto the line with all his might as he slowly tried to get his feet below him. 

The captain was yelling orders from the wheel but Sabastian couldn’t hear a word of it above the wind and the rain and the churning seas.   This is bad.  The worst storm he’d seen.  Lightning arched across the sky above them, the thunder that followed did little to mask the load Crack that came from mizzenmast.  Even with sails stowed the mast had taken on more stress than it could bear.

Sabastian looked up just in time to dodge the tangle of rigging falling toward the deck.   Sabastian picked himself off the deck and found himself staring at the wave,  it was larger than their ship and was about to hit them once again on the port side.  It was then that he realized he no longer held the jackline. 

(image from The Perfect Storm ©2000 Warner Brothers)

Introduction

I’ve been reading a lot of the 7th Sea Second Ed. Corebook lately and it’s got me jonesing for some high seas swashbuckling action.  A storm on a ship is a great encounter for the players to fight the elements rather than an enemy. (though having a ship battle in a storm is action extraordinaire) Now don’t think this Set Piece is only for ships at seas.  I’ve run this more times as a spaceship in an ion storm/nebula/fill in the blank/ type storm than I have one at sea.  I’ve even done this encounter with the players in an airship.  It’s always a fun time.

Scene

The players’ ship his run afoul of some nasty weather, can their ship survive? Can they stop themselves from going overboard? Continue reading “Set Piece: A Ship in a Storm”