Saturday, February 4, 2012

How Might You Handle This Scenario?

Little red X's indicate the PCs in this room

Ok, since the recent discussion of "combat as sport vs combat as war" came up on Zak's blog and on Enworld, I was curious as to how some of you old school players might handle a particular situation my wife and kid have found themselves in our Caves of Chaos game here at home.

First some background.  My wife is playing a thief, my daughter a magic-user.  The above map is that of the kobold lair in B2, Keep on the Borderlands.  The party originally consisted of the PCs, 2 fighters, and a cleric as well as a 0 level hunter who was their guide to the caves.

The PCs have been to every room except 5, where the kobold chieftain and his kobold bitches are.  They've managed to wipe out all the kobolds in the caves except for 4 regular warriors, the women and children, and the chief and his harem.  But basically most of the fighting kobolds are dead.

In our last session, things didn't go well for the party at all.  They entered area 6, which is the common room with a shit ton of kobolds.  The women and children were already huddled in the back of the room, while two kobolds stood at the entrance on either side, knowing the party was in the cave.  They were set to pop some arrows at the party as they came down the hall.

The short of it is, the magic-user is out of spells.  The cleric is out of spells.  The two fighters and the guide died in this combat.  The thief and magic-user fled and ran into room 3, the food storage room, which contains a couple of barrels of water, and some various food supplies, bones scattered on the ground, etc.  4 of the kobolds chased them, but they managed to get into the room and push the barrel up against the door.  The kobolds tried, but couldn't get the door open.  The party then heard the kobolds footsteps as they moved away from the door, and then...silence.

So, now the cleric is somewhere in the caves, but they don't know where...they don't know if he's alive or dead (he's still alive.)  The rest of the NPCs are dead, and they are holed up in this room.  They have no idea what awaits them on the other side.

My daughter's character has already determined to spend the 10 minutes required to memorize her sleep spell again.  They both have standard adventuring gear:  50' rope, grappling hook, torches, rations, etc.  At this point, they are ready to flee the caves fearing for their lives.  But they don't know what awaits them when they open the door.  They also have taken some wounds.  They are both at 3 hit points.  As a side note, they did not trigger the pit trap on the way into the cave, but they don't know it's there either.

So, I'm not sure I even have the readership to ask this question, but I'm throwing it out there anyway.  If you were in their position, what would you do?  Would you attempt to engage the kobolds in combat?  Try to run out?  What sort of plan might you come up with for escape?


  1. Right off the top of my head, I think I'd either try to sneak out of the lair or perhaps parley with the kobolds.

  2. If I knew I'd wiped out most of the fighting kobolds, and I could go out the door with a Sleep spell ready . . . I'd go look for the cleric. Go out carefully, thief first, and try to sneak out. Sleep anyone who attacks them, and try to capture one who can tell us where the cleric might be.

    The other alternative is - if they're really confident in the Sleep spell - is to loudly demand the kobold chief come negotiate with them. If he does, do so from the room with the door open and the wizard hiding in the back behind it. Start the thief talking and then have the mage throw Sleep on the chief's party as they talk. Grab the chief and hold him hostage after slitting the throats of the sleeping guys if possible. Then negotiate for the cleric's body (live or dead) and their loot.

    Either way, it's not good odds, but either way it's memorable.

    1. Loved the idea of taking the chief hostage. That was excellent. This is a great example of the "combat as war" vs "combat as sport" philosophy that has sprung up. Making a tactical decision to create an unfair advantage by taking the chief hostage is a fine example of the combat as war theory realized.

    2. Yeah, I read that post. I do think it's a bit of a false dichotomy at times. I mean, I love that Princess Bride fight. And the Indy fight. And that other Indy fight, when he fights that bald mechanic who beats his ass until Indy uses the scenery to win.

      But I just assume the GM's job is to make the fights seem real, and the PC's job to do whatever the hell, in game, it takes to survive. This is one of those cases - the kobolds don't know the mage only has one spell.

  3. I'd use the barrels as a disguise, and try to sneak out inside them :) Like sneaky tanks.

  4. Huh... Interesting dilemma.

    I assume the group didn't have a "if we get separated we meet up here" plan. And, as I recall, the Keep is less than a day's march from the caves. If that's the case, after the magic-user preps her spell, I'd peek out the door and, if any guards remain, I'd sleep 'em. Then I'd head for the exit and then the Keep, hoping that the cleric, if still alive, would do the same. Otherwise, I'd head for the last place the group camped before entering the caves, rest there, and then move on to the Keep.

    Things change if any in the group can speak kobold. In that case, I might try negotiating with the kobolds to let let us out, a sort of "we'll let you get your food stores again, and you let us walk out." That's a lot riskier, however.

    And I'll admit, I'm certain my knowledge of the adventure is coloring my thoughts here. The kobolds are screwed. They're only options at this point are to flee the caves and hope to find a safer place to live, or submit to one of the "more friendly" humanoid tribes. As things stand, they're now ripe pickings for the orcs.

    1. None of them speak kobold, so negotiating is likely out of the question. And yes, at this point, there are only 4 kobold warriors, and the chieftain left which would be considered "fighting" kobolds. The rest are women and children. The party has done a number on the kobolds having killed over 30 of them so far, so yes, they are ripe for the picking to be subjugated by some of the other monstrous creatures in the region.

  5. According to real laws on subsidence, the cave area 6 which is 25' across has to have a ceiling to surface layer of 30'+ or subsidence is at 100%. This Means the hill above area six is a flat ledge and cliff at least fourty feet high where the next cave entrance is located.