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High Level Assassinations

Calypso

Bunny With a Glock
Validated User
#11
If this were a Fate game, I would suggested that this lich-vampire has the "Always has a backup plan" aspect, and when the PCs do something that you think it would reasonably have a contingency for, you would pay a fate point and explain how he anticipated that very move and was ready for them. Of course, eventually its luck (and fate points) would run out.

In D&D, you could give it an ability that lets it use one use of its legendary resistance (if you're even playing 5E) to slip through the characters' fingers. It's a bit hand-wavy, but at least it's not completely arbitrary. So in this case, it knew the PCs were coming for it and had a lesser (but still damn powerful) mage ready to summon it back with gate. It used one of its legendary resistances though, so it is at last using a resource.

Then you just have to decide when it should get back those uses.
 

SetentaeBolg

Registered User
Validated User
#12
Well, I kind of want them to get it on their next try, provided it's a game effort. I don't want him slipping away any more than he has already, I just want to make sure he's not too much of a chump when the PCs take him down.
 

Gyrfalcon

They said I was mad, MAD!
Validated User
#13
Question for the OP: is it irreversible canon that the counter-Gate that last-second rescued the villain was invoked by one of the villain's allies? In particular, I have this notion that it might have been invoked by something on, say, the level of an archdevil or demon lord, who doesn't necessarily want the villain alive but also can't allow the PCs to gank the villain at this time & in this way. Once the party learns of who exactly interfered, they can set up a cosmic distraction to block similar meddling during Round 2; strike some kind of bargain to insure that the meddler stays on the sidelines (or possibly even comes in on their side); or just go and beat the meddler up enough to keep it from interfering in the future.
 

SetentaeBolg

Registered User
Validated User
#14
Question for the OP: is it irreversible canon that the counter-Gate that last-second rescued the villain was invoked by one of the villain's allies? In particular, I have this notion that it might have been invoked by something on, say, the level of an archdevil or demon lord, who doesn't necessarily want the villain alive but also can't allow the PCs to gank the villain at this time & in this way. Once the party learns of who exactly interfered, they can set up a cosmic distraction to block similar meddling during Round 2; strike some kind of bargain to insure that the meddler stays on the sidelines (or possibly even comes in on their side); or just go and beat the meddler up enough to keep it from interfering in the future.
Unfortunately, it is; before doing their time reversal, they followed the villain through the Gate, hoping to finish him off. Then the bodyguards started to wipe the floor with them, so they rewound time to escape (this used their last charge on the time device, so they can't use that trick anymore).
 
#15
My out-of-game justification is I want their fight (or even theft, it's a particular item he has that they want) to be a bit more interesting than the Gate. So I'm aware I probably don't want to rob them of sweet victory more than once.


It is a common GM trap. The players found an interesting fight since they wanted to go through with that plan. They found the plan interesting enough to execute. But it's not interesting to you, and you accidentally imposed your definition of fun onto them.



As you've acknowledged, your out-of-game fix is to let them succeed next time. How to fix in-game? At that level, there's all manner of weird stuff you can do.



A simple solution is that the PCs have a mole. Someone close to them is actually working for the target. Or if the PCs don't have any close allies, a diviner could be scrying on them. Or perhaps just a divination spell informed them that the boss is going leave the plane involuntarily and will die. This allowed for the gate.



You could have a side plot where the PCs discover who the leak is and shut them up. Then the Gate works without interference.
 

Terry Herc

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#16
I feel like such a high level target would "always have a backup plan" as Calypso mentioned. It could be as simple as a magical item that "pulls" back the target if it detects any sort of magical interference, like pulling them into some sort of safe room.

Since you took away an easy victory, it would be best if you dropped a pretty clear trail of breadcrumbs to the real victory. Give the characters a "good try, but no" and then reveal to them why the plan didn't work, and suggest a few ideas of what they really need to do. I would reccomend you give the characters more information about the target's lair or plane (if you intend an assault/defense). You might also involve another McGuffin or a more powerful ally that wants this target eliminated (but doesn't want the risk).
 

SetentaeBolg

Registered User
Validated User
#17
It is a common GM trap. The players found an interesting fight since they wanted to go through with that plan. They found the plan interesting enough to execute. But it's not interesting to you, and you accidentally imposed your definition of fun onto them.
I don't actually agree with this. As a GM, it's not just my role to go with the players plans and allow them victory. Ideally (in my style of GMing), I should have a clear idea of the opposition they might face ahead of time, to make their plans interact with them in a way that seems real and presents challenges which make the game fun, coherent and tense. My goal is to make players feel that their victories are earned - my expectation is that they will achieve victory, that's what I'm aiming at, but that isn't the same as making their plans work by default. Normally, this involves knowing ahead of time the resources that face them. There are always times when the PCs improvise away from an area where I have a concrete idea of what they face - that's what happened in this case.

Their Gate plan certainly made them feel powerful - and that is a big part of enjoying high level play. However, it's important that the game is still challenging. So letting such a (relatively) straight-forward plan work against a villain who they know has tremendous resources to draw upon would make it cheap, and in my view, damage the coherence of the gameworld, lower the tension, and ultimately lead to less fun in the medium to long term. As it is, they had a chance, they got the drop for a round on the villain - if they were lucky and better prepared, perhaps they might have killed him in that single round.

The mistake was not knowing ahead of time what preparations the villain should reasonably have taken and going with a gut assessment of them instead, one that worked against the PCs. This does lead to significant GM temptation to simply make the problem too serious to tackle - I much prefer to know (or have a good idea) ahead of time as that way, if they outthink the defences, it's a *real* victory and there is no temptation to stretch the difficulty. Improvising as I did here, to thwart the players makes me feel guilty as thwarting players (which I think has a vital role to play in a game) is not ultimately the goal of my GMing or them playing.
 

Leonaru

Taxidermic Owlbear
Validated User
#18
The issue is that you, based on your first post, retroactively decided that the lich had a plan when he didn't actually have one. From that post, it sounds like the ally that gated the lich to safety was made up on the spot, which gives the impression that you decided to create that ally after the fact.
 

SetentaeBolg

Registered User
Validated User
#19
The issue is that you, based on your first post, retroactively decided that the lich had a plan when he didn't actually have one. From that post, it sounds like the ally that gated the lich to safety was made up on the spot, which gives the impression that you decided to create that ally after the fact.
I think you may have misread the first post or perhaps I didn't communicate clearly. The enemy (not a lich but close enough) is the emperor of a vast and powerful empire in the midst of conquering the world. He has many allies and minions and the players know this. The ally who specifically did the return Gate is an NPC the PCs know well and who is an unwilling minion of the emperor. The PCs knew him before he was turned (and they know he has been turned) and he is a potential inside route to the emperor. He was definitely not created after the fact, and it should not be a surprise to the players (and in fact, it wasn't) that he has multiple lich-level allies and servants.

I definitely improvised the enemy's plans (he would definitely have had plans - he's a cautious and brilliant thinker, and he's led an undead empire for hundreds of years - it's wrong to say "he didn't actually have one", it's right to say "I hadn't thought through his plans yet"); I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with that, but it's not my preferred modus operandi when the stakes are this high, because of the risk that it might prove unfair to the players. In this case, on balance I don't think I was, for both in-game and out-of-game reasons, but I am trying to crowdfund ideas for his defences so to give my players a realistic set of challenges to solve this particular problem.
 
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