Help me make an encounter for an Instigator
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  1. #1
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    Waghalter (Lvl 7)



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    Help me make an encounter for an Instigator

    I have a player who's a classic "instigator" as described by the 4E DMG.

    An instigator . . .
    ✦ Likes to make things happen.
    ✦ Takes crazy risks and makes deliberately bad choices.
    ✦ Thrives in combat and dislikes having nothing to do.
    ✦ Takes decisive action when things grind to a halt.
    Engage the instigator by . . .
    ✦ Including objects and encounters that invite
    experimentation
    ✦Letting her actions put the characters in a tight spot but not
    kill them all.
    ✦ Including encounters with nonplayer characters who are as
    feisty as she is.
    If an encounter is going smoothly, he'll grease something and make everyone fall off a cliff. When he walked into the boiling bubble in White Plume Mountain, the first thing he did was fire off some ranged spells that could break the bubble if they missed. I want to give him a big red button that says "Don't push me" and watch him push it.

    The party is currently halfway through the adventure "Cave of the Spiders," and I had the idea that the one big empty cavern on the map could be filled with one four-story-high spider web, which is destructible terrain that the players could climb around in. If I put some fights in the web, responsible players will do things that don't risk destroying the web. My instigator will break out the burning hands. I hope.

    So what can I do that makes the web fun and interactive? I want to have a giant egg sac in the center. It can sag the first time players destroy its supports and fall and break the second time, releasing... swarms of Tiny monstrous spiders that do 2d6, Distraction DC 14 and Poison DC 10 (1d2 Str)? I also want to have prisoners hanging in the web so they don't out-and-out destroy it. I guess I need some kind of unexpected treasure that results from busting up the web too -- any ideas? I also would like some threads to snap like whips when you cut them, but physics seems to dictate they wouldn't hit the person who cut them.

    As for fighting in the web, I was thinking of making some thick strands that you could Balance on and sticky strands you could Climb on if you didn't get entangled. I have araneas available as an enemy, haven't thought of much else.

    Any ideas for making this encounter more fun for an instigator? Anything needed to make it a realistic encounter that is easy to DM and the players can't solve with a single spell I didn't think of yet?

  2. #2
    I have a player like that!

    My first thought is to reverse the 4-story web... have the group come out at the top of a large cave that the web crosses. Skill challenge time to cross, and as they are crossing they notice deeper in the webs are three things: cocooned humanoids {with treasure still worn/carried.. possibly alive if you need a guide/plot prompter} and sleeping monstrous spiders. Lots of Monstrous Spiders.

    The third.. what looks like a tunnel at the base of the cave that is *probably* a shortcut to where the PCs are going.


    Options are to try to sneak past, climbing very carefully, or burn thier way down, or fight their way down.... or skip the entire encounter and just move on.

    If you make sure someone notices a cocooned creature has magic items, perhaps its glowing or singing... there will be a debate as to what to do.
    During which, your Instigator is sure to act and awaken some of the spiders.

    You can control the rate at which the spiders join the fight and have a combat balancing/walking/climbing in a maze of webs. Abstract it to 10 levels or so that have 5' of clearance between them. The PCs and spiders can create pathways between the levels.

    I would have a few 'traps' of sticky web that the spiders can move through freely, but not many.
    {edit..} You could also have one or two of the cocooned creatures be 'ripe' with a swarm of young spiders... the PC's opening/messing with the cocoon could release the swarm.

    Sounds like a lot of fun to me!

  3. #3
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    Waghalter (Lvl 7)



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    Quote Originally Posted by Primitive Screwhead View Post
    My first thought is to reverse the 4-story web... have the group come out at the top of a large cave that the web crosses.
    That's really creative, reversing the perspective like that. Sneaking across a web is so much more exciting than looking up at one. And falling or dropping through a web to somewhere you haven't been is so much more exciting than falling back out of one.

    Having the spiders be sleeping adds a ton of mood and tension.

    Adding the tunnel at the bottom makes great "treasure" -- now there's a goal to navigating the web. Kind of hard for me to make the group want to both cross the top of the web, and go down to the bottom of the web. You mention "Options are to try to sneak past, climbing very carefully, or burn their way down, or fight their way down.... or skip the entire encounter and just move on." I do have a player who would probably appreciate feeling like he could skip the encounter, even though I wouldn't like it.

    You can control the rate at which the spiders join the fight and have a combat balancing/walking/climbing in a maze of webs. Abstract it to 10 levels or so that have 5' of clearance between them. The PCs and spiders can create pathways between the levels.
    I should let the players in on the abstraction so that they can make navigation plans, right? To the extent that I am drawing like a Donkey Kong map on the playmat so they can move their minis in side view? Or would it be better to tell them to imagine it mentally, and explain the abstraction so that they can keep track of what's going on?

    I wonder if the pathways between the levels are the four or five support strands of the web. You could even use them as a zipline and go down multiple levels... you might end up smacking into the egg case at the center though!

    I would have a few 'traps' of sticky web that the spiders can move through freely, but not many.
    {edit..} You could also have one or two of the cocooned creatures be 'ripe' with a swarm of young spiders... the PC's opening/messing with the cocoon could release the swarm.
    You are a font of ideas. This is a great board.

  4. #4
    I love this board, and am only trying to give back at least a little of what I glean from the other folks here!

    As for the levels, my prefered route would be to actually have 10 battlemaps that I could lay out as the group decends...that is the easiest way to handle if/when the party gets split up. Its alot more visual and provides a clear indication of where the characters are in relation to each other.
    .. kinda like a 3d chess board really.

    The less prep-intensive route would be to use one battlemap and level indicators next to the miniatures... you would have a harder time tracking PC created openings in the web.

    The last option works only with the right group... go off the battle-map and wing it!


    I like the idea of the 'chutes and ladders' zip lines! I know that if my player were at the table... they would be used!

  5. #5
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    Waghalter (Lvl 7)



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    Okay. When the instigator player messes with the spider web's structure, have the web start to swing back and forth in the cavern. The more weight that is on the edges, the more it swings. The more the supports are tampered with, the more it swings. Eventually, if enough damage is done and the weight is distributed correctly, you've got players and spiders hanging on for dear life lest they be sling-shot off the web at its far extension or slammed into the wall. Then, while it goes back towards the center of the room, they frantically climb towards the center.

    It becomes a battle for space in space.

  6. #6
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    I'm not sure if I can handle continuous swinging, but definitely if all the supports on one side get trashed, the rest of the web is going to swing and bash everybody against the wall. That way, no matter how badly they trash the web, they can still climb back up out of the pit on the "rigging" that is left hanging off the side of the wall.

    Ten battlemaps would make this seem to be a much more complicated encounter than I was expecting. But I guess to get all the spiders and cocoons spaced out would take a good 30x30x60 map at least.

  7. #7
    I wish I could find the thread again, but somewhere there was a discussion about a formula for the optimal fighting area based on the number, size and types of creatures.

    10 full size maps would probably be overdoing it, but would give the more mobile spiders an advantage. The more the battleground shrinks, the less easier it will be for the PCs to stay close together, as a more efficient fighting machine.

    30x30 is a single move from one end to the other. 60' depth is a double move for the spiders to get from the bottom to the top. With 'difficult' and balancing that might actually work out, but I would prefer a bit more space..

  8. #8
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    I ran the encounter tonight and it was really fun. Here's how I used your ideas.

    First, I wanted to force a little bit of combat on the party right away, hoping they'd be cautious and not damage the web too much (this would make it more transgressive to start damaging the web later on). So I had the last surviving bugbear cavalry flee into this room and down the thick strand supporting the web. But his monstrous spider mount had been killed under him by a monk that could run faster than it, so he failed a Balance check and fell into the web. A spider woke up and bit him, then he climbed out (glad I made the web not-too-sticky like you said) and made it right on top of the egg sac.

    I think the barbarian was about to zip-line down the thick strand, but Mr. Instigator had the initiative next and he just ran into the room without even stopping to take in the situation and fireballed right onto the egg sac. Oh yeah. I didn't even need to put a sign that said "Do not fireball" on it.

    So the whole top half of the egg sac caved in and the bugbear's corpse fell into a sea of 1200 tiny monstrous spiders (four CR2 swarms that did 2d6, distraction and DC 10 poison). The top section of the web was ripped apart, and one of the prisoner cocoons also fell into the boiling nest of spiders, enough of the web being burnt off that they could see it was the cleric's girlfriend they had been trying to save. This was great because it made the cleric grouse and complain about how irresponsible the fireballing was, which I imagine makes an Instigator like it even more.

    So the swarms start coming up the web and a fireball takes out the other main strand, dropping the egg sac to the floor of the cavern and hurting the girlfriend even more. One half of the web went swinging against the wall, slamming all the prisoners in cocoons (some of whom were being swarmed) and setting off the monstrous spiders.

    The other half of the web stayed put, because I took the suggestion of adding mystery by having one of the cocoons glowing and put a lantern archon in there, and it floated and held the strands up.

    So the cleric dived down 60 feet right into the sea of spiders and the remains of the egg sac (I should have explained his survival as being slowed by the remaining strands of web).

    The Instigator summoned a small Air Elemental. Now he's whirlwinding up 150 tiny spiders at a time and then ejecting them -- splat-splat-splat-splat -- all over the walls and floor of the cavern. Meanwhile he is "rescuing" all the prisoners whose cocoons are being swarmed by shooting Scorching Rays that are burning away the spiders and the webs and the prisoners too. I couldn't have designed a crazier scene.

    I used one big side-view battlemap, even though it makes a 2-D battle out of a 3-D space. I think it's worth it. Kind of like how Galactic Civ II sticks with the 2-D galaxy for gameplay that doesn't require mental rotating. I didn't have to go more than 60 feet because it turns out spiders only have a climb speed of 20, so a double move was 40. (Tiny spiders only have climb 10.)

    The best things I got from this thread were having the characters start at the top, rather than the bottom, which meant anything that fell was further out of their control, instead of closer. And the basic starting image of tranquility and quiet, with one cocoon glowing for mystery. Maybe someday I will mount a battle on an even bigger, building-sized spiderweb that will not be so easily destructible. That would make the swinging effect and the multiple chutes-and-ladders battlemaps viable.

    It was a really great scene and a fun level 9 encounter made of just four CR2s and twelve CR1s. Thanks a lot for helping me build it.

  9. #9
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    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)

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    Awesome!

  10. #10
    Damn, I wish I was there!

    That sounds like it worked very well... now to find a good upside down cavern for my group

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