Keeping the Party Awake

ThaDium

First Post
My PCs will be leaving town soon. I'm planning to harass them with goblinoids. Each night, they're going to be tormented, the sole purpose of which is to keep them awake.

The PCs set watch and start to fall asleep, when the camp is suddenly filled with a swarm of spiders, ruining their rest. Then, nothing happens until they begin to sleep again. Suddenly, wolves attack. Then, nothing. The pattern repeats first with seemingly natural events, then leading to everything from pyrotechnics being cast on their campfire to thunderstones being thrown into camp. Anything I can think of to wake them up and harry them, without actually engaging in a full on attack. Searching the woods for the enemy might reveal some of the goblins, but the rest will retreat and hide, only to return the next night.

They'll know about a keep about two nights away where they can get sanctuary, they're just going to have to make it there.

My questions are:

What in-game effects for not sleeping am I missing? (Obviously, they won't heal and the casters won't be able to renew spells.)
Should they be fatigued or go straight to exhausted?
Should they take nonlethal damage as though hustling upon moving out?
Anyone have any other thoughts on this plan?
 

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No healing or renewed spells is a definite. If you don't have 8 hours of rest, you don't recover ability damage either.

I'd probably go for they start out as fatigued the next morning. If they push themselves, do too much, or fail to rest the next night they're exhausted.

I would also say that they can only march half as far the next day before they fall into a forced march. So they could go four hours instead of eight. If they're exhausted I'd say two hours before its considered a forced march.

One thing the goblins could do is create an area that seems safe and is very tempting to rest at. Something secluded or appears "easy" to guard. The PCs will use this area to rest only to be ambushed or captured by the goblins!
 

Mathew_Freeman

First Post
There's only one thing I'm concerned about - what will you do if they pursue the goblins? It sounds like you've already decided they're "undetectable" and this doesn't sound like a wholel lot of fun for the players.

This sounds like a great way to annoy your group. There doesn't seem to be anything in your planning that allows them to deal with this in any way. What if they decide to stay awake and try and catch the goblins at it? What if they have spells that can get around this?

I think you need to think more about a situation you're creating. At the moment this sounds a lot like a scene from a book rather than a game.
 

ThaDium

First Post
Great points! I was rolling ability damage in with healing in my head, but I suppose they are two different things.

Also, the shorter distance covered is important. I'll have to adjust down the amount they have to travel after they start to get harried. I don't think this type of thing would be fun if I drag it out too long and I'm really hoping to get them to the keep. It's a much more interesting plotline than if the goblins capture them. Although, if they can, they will.
 

ThaDium

First Post
There's only one thing I'm concerned about - what will you do if they pursue the goblins? It sounds like you've already decided they're "undetectable" and this doesn't sound like a wholel lot of fun for the players.

This sounds like a great way to annoy your group. There doesn't seem to be anything in your planning that allows them to deal with this in any way. What if they decide to stay awake and try and catch the goblins at it? What if they have spells that can get around this?

I think you need to think more about a situation you're creating. At the moment this sounds a lot like a scene from a book rather than a game.


I see why you'd say that, based on my post, but it's not the case. They can catch/kill the goblins, just not all of them. They do have some spells that could get around it, such as entangle. I expect them to use those spells and they'll get solid results from those actions.

This will frustrate, but not annoy my group, no doubt. That's the point. It's well within the bounds of things I've pulled in game, so I'm sure they'll be able to handle it.

Thanks for the feedback.
 

green slime

First Post
I think its a great idea to challenge players with relatively "mundane" problems, such as sleep deprivation, weather, cold / hot environments, high altitude, other .

Obviously, though, your goblins will not be able to harrow the players as they move through, without incurring the fatigue penalties themselves, OR have co-ordinated groups across the countryside, which would require the ability to communicate between groups. Either through riders, or smoke signals, beacons, etc.

The next question you should answer, is why are they only harrowing the party? If they have this many troops, and the co-ordination required, why don't they just force the issue, and attack straight out? Have they incurred large losses recently, and so are adverse to a straight out confrontation? Or are they harbouring their forces for something else? Testing the abilities of the PCs? Are they trying to scare people off? Are they trying to reclaim territory from an ever-expanding human population?
 

olshanski

First Post
I pretty much agree with Green Slime and ThaDium. It sounds like kind of a railroad situation.
How are these goblins so damn powerful? Why only harrowing the party? With the resources they are expending harrowing the party, it would seem to make more sense to conduct an all-out assault to kill or capture the party, instead of sacrificing small numbers.

It sounds like more of a scene that you want to play, than anything that would logically or naturally happen with creatures acting with a resonable purpose (other than as your personal puppets). It is also a frustrating sitaution for the players.

Things you might be missing:
When travelling, we typically have a scroll of rope trick, if the wizard doesn't already have it memorized. Just to avoid even a single interruption while sleeping.
Also, as long as the wizard isn't engaging in combat or talking or using skills, it can count as "sleep" even if they aren't literally sleeping the whole time. If they wake up during an attack but choose not to get involved, it doesn't count as an interruption.
 

Why are the goblins acting that way?

There's been some military situations like this in history. Cao Cao faced off the Black Mountain Bandits this way (after losing his first battle). His troops, which did not outnumber the bandits, but were probably better 1 on 1, split into 12 groups, and each group would make a 2 hour attack on the bandit's camp, one after the other. The bandits literally got no rest. I'm not sure why the bandits didn't just crush Cao Cao's troops, but I presume Cao Cao's troops had greater mobility. (He liked cavalry, and bandits are usually based on foot.) The bandits were eventually exhausted and surrendered. Instead of killing them, Cao Cao made them part of his army.

The goblin behavior is pretty strange though. If they outnumber the heroes, why not just attack them? Perhaps at long range with bows. They have spellcasters, so why aren't they using attack spells instead of Pyrotechnics? If the heroes rush forward as a group, eventually they can escape (killing dozens of goblins as they do so), or at least face a more traditional fight with wolf-mounted goblins.

This is essentially a capture scenario, which means the goblins have to have massive superiority. Are they actually planning on capturing the PCs?
 

What in-game effects for not sleeping am I missing? (Obviously, they won't heal and the casters won't be able to renew spells.)
Those are the big ones. Except clerics might work around that.

Should they be fatigued or go straight to exhausted?
Fatigued unless already fatigued, in which case they become exhausted.
Have them made Con checks after sixteen hours or so, but start really low.

Should they take nonlethal damage as though hustling upon moving out?
I'd have them just fall unconscious for an hour if they fail a save while exhausted. So their lookout might miss things sneaking up.
After a couple days start imposing penalties to Wisdom and Intelligence skills and checks.

Anyone have any other thoughts on this plan?
Throw in some false alarms and natural problems as well. Such as natural creatures and maybe some rain.
 


ThaDium

First Post
I appreciate all of the concern regarding the impression that I'm railroading my PCs. I assure you, I'm not. It would take too much explaining to go over the reasons why not, but the biggest one is that if they figure out how to thwart the plan, I'll let them.

My motivation for the scene, is to three-fold.
1) I want to establish that the region they are in is dangerous without just filling it with high level monsters.
2) A major plot involves a powerful, empire-wide cult that seeks to bring about the downfall of civilization in order to restore the natural world. The goblinoids are a part of that cult.
3) My main goal is just to get them to stay at a fortified inn. If the forest is safe, they'll skip it to save gold. If it actually proves to be dangerous, they'll pay the money and I'll be able to run nice little social game full of rumors and conflicting NPC groups who can't throw down due to their need to stay at the inn, which my PCs will LOVE!

Also, my plan actually requires a relatively small number of harassers, provided they don't get caught, allowing the rest to sleep. And, they know the terrain while the PCs don't. Will there need to be goblins who are named and leveled (particularly with caster levels)? Yes. But the's not out of the ordinary for my games. (Not every goblin, hobgoblin or bugbear needs to be MM cannon fodder.)

Additionally, I'm only planning to play it out over two nights before they get to the inn. One to establish the situation, and another to up the tension and allow them to respond in some clever way that will, hopefully, totally foul up my plan.

That's how I run most of my games. I come up with a clever idea, set it in motion and wait for my players to ruin it so I make things up as I go in order to handle what they're throwing at me. This is assuming I'm not just making it up with no plan at all other that what had come before. I find my best gaming sessions develop this way; no intention on my part other that giving the players a good time. (Clearly, my earlier posts gave y'all a very different perspective on me as a DM, since I was even accused of writing a novel.)

I've been doing the DM-thing for over 16 yrs and have been running the people in my current group of players for anywhere from 7-16 of those years, depending on the player. Most of them are driving for about an hour just to get to game. If I was a crappy railroader, those things wouldn't be the case. I know what they'll dig, and I admit, this one is right on the edge. That's why I'm asking for help, so I don't screw it up. If I knew it was going to go smoothly, I wouldn't have posted about. That said, when it comes to my players, they trust me and I trust them. For one game, they'll play along with a little tense nighttime harassment.
 

nijineko

Explorer
how are these small groups of harrassers managing to pull off all of the various effects? that is a lot of preparations, or if it is general, then that is a lot of resources committed over a very wide area....

last time this happened to us, we would set guards and let one or two critical members get sleep. most of us had rings of sustenance which shorten sleep times (if not recovery times for powers and spells). we used silence spells when necessary to let them sleep through combat.

as far as keeping them awake, a simple attack with a non-lethal blunt arrow will do it. just attack one at a time, move, and then snipe again. target sleepers. could use horns to wake them. cast magic mouth on the campfire and have it recite bad poetry would take your harrassment from bad to verse.

^^
 

ThaDium

First Post
how are these small groups of harrassers managing to pull off all of the various effects? that is a lot of preparations, or if it is general, then that is a lot of resources committed over a very wide area....^^

A single 4th level druid goblin can summon wolves, a swarm of spiders and throw a thunderstone. That's everything I mentioned and would cover one night for keeping them up.

last time this happened to us, we would set guards and let one or two critical members get sleep. most of us had rings of sustenance which shorten sleep times (if not recovery times for powers and spells). we used silence spells when necessary to let them sleep through combat. ^^

They don't have rings of sustenance. (Speaking of quite a lot of resources.) Though, after this they may seek them out. I expect them to try a silence spell. That would mean those within can't hear a coming attacker, a terrible idea, which I'll point out to my players. They can still do it if they want to, but the goblinoids might take advantage. There's only 4 PCs, 3 of which are casters so it'll be hard for them to set watch such that they all get rest.

as far as keeping them awake, a simple attack with a non-lethal blunt arrow will do it. just attack one at a time, move, and then snipe again. target sleepers. could use horns to wake them. cast magic mouth on the campfire and have it recite bad poetry would take your harrassment from bad to verse.

^^

Thanks for the ideas. Magic mouth, in particular is a good one. It would only mean. Best of all, a magic item could easily cover it, which the PCs might then recover.
 



ThaDium

First Post
Things you might be missing:
When travelling, we typically have a scroll of rope trick, if the wizard doesn't already have it memorized. Just to avoid even a single interruption while sleeping.

Has your DM ever had an enemy just come by and dispel the rope trick? Assuming they've observed you enough to know you use that, it seems like an obvious tactic to let some evil NPCs catch your party unprepared. Maybe even just dig a nice wide, deep hole under the rope and fill it with spikes? Seems to me like your DM lets you get away with that trick because he isn't looking to up the tension. of the game.

Also, as long as the wizard isn't engaging in combat or talking or using skills, it can count as "sleep" even if they aren't literally sleeping the whole time. If they wake up during an attack but choose not to get involved, it doesn't count as an interruption.

Where did you find this ruling? It seems odd to me. Just the adrenaline rush from such a situation is going to ruin the idea that you're getting a full night's rest.

Also, how can you wake up during an attack and choose not to get involved? "Sorry chums, you're all gonna have to die without my help. I'm gonna chill on this rock so I can prep my spells in the morning."
 

olshanski

First Post
Has your DM ever had an enemy just come by and dispel the rope trick? Assuming they've observed you enough to know you use that, it seems like an obvious tactic to let some evil NPCs catch your party unprepared. Maybe even just dig a nice wide, deep hole under the rope and fill it with spikes? Seems to me like your DM lets you get away with that trick because he isn't looking to up the tension. of the game.

Where did you find this ruling? It seems odd to me. Just the adrenaline rush from such a situation is going to ruin the idea that you're getting a full night's rest.

Also, how can you wake up during an attack and choose not to get involved? "Sorry chums, you're all gonna have to die without my help. I'm gonna chill on this rock so I can prep my spells in the morning."

Once you pull up the rope, it is invisible. If your opponents can cast "see invisibility" and "Dispel", then, yes, you will be in trouble.


The ruling about not needing to sleep comes from the rules:
To prepare her daily spells, a wizard must first sleep for 8 hours. The wizard does not have to slumber for every minute of the time, but she must refrain from movement, combat, spellcasting, skill use, conversation, or any other fairly demanding physical or mental task during the rest period.
You could say that combat nearby would violate the rules, but I think an argument could be made that as long as the wizard isn't talking or spellcasting or engaged in combat, it is OK.

It sounds like you have an interesting plot. Good luck.
 
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N'raac

First Post
Once you pull up the rope, it is invisible. If your opponents can cast "see invisibility" and "Dispel", then, yes, you will be in trouble.

I'm amazed how many people think Rope Trick means the party is perfectly safe, come what may.

Seems to me the OP's scenario implies the PC's are being stalked and likely spied on, so I would expect they can watch the PC's climb up the rope and have a pretty good idea where to cast a Dispel. They do, of course, need the Dispel.

Or they can simply surround the area with archers and wait for the PC's to emerge, one at a time, to climb down the rope. They can do a lot outside the field of that 3' x 5' window equivalent. Assuming your PC's are on the ball, they can't, say, build a roaring bonfire right under your safe haven, or dig a big pity full of spikes under there. They can wait until that rope comes down and try to pull it down, shake it wildly to make safe climbing tough, cut it, climb up it, etc. If they have the means to reach the same level, they can also pass through that space to your hidey hole (wasn't there a Druid involved here? Don't they take on forms like birds and bats?)

Coming back to that emergence, how high do you send the rope up? Only ONE person can climb the rope at a time. DC5 is pretty easy, so you might move it up to DC 10 to climb at half your normal speed (DC 5 for 1/4), but that's still at least a full round to get from the top to the bottom. A full round during which you have no DEX modifier (Rogue grins in delight!). Or you could just leap down - 3d6 damage isn't so bad, but now you're probably prone. Standing up means AoO's.

So maybe hauling in that firewood makes sense - either you start coming out, or we build a huge bonfire under your Rope Trick. Once it's lit, we can keep feeding it until your spell expires.

Thinking on it, nothing would prevent a large group of archers firing arrows at the general area. Some will pass through the portal (spells don't pass through. People carrying arrows pass through, so it seems reasonable arrows can pass through). Unlikely to hit the concealed targets within, but probably makes a good sleep pretty unlikely.

Arguably, the space can be reached only by the rope - in which case the flying druid, arrow fire, etc. tactics will all fail. In that case, waiting until half the party climbs up (or the first guy pops out), then attacking to damage the rope itself, burn it, pull it free, etc. seems like a great tactic. Now the rest are stuck there until the spell expires. It seems more likely someone familiar with the spell itself, rather than some goblins lead by a druid, would figure that one out.

I assume none of your characters use Bags of Holding, Handy Haversacks or similar items, as you can't access their contents (which, for most PC's, tend to include food, water and bedding - not to mention spellbooks) while in the Rope Trick's extradimensional space. Of course, you can always take them out before climbing up, but then you have to carry them back down again, likely slowed due to encumbrance. And good luck climbing down with a spell book or two - you need both hands to climb.

The ruling about not needing to sleep comes from the rules:
You could say that combat nearby would violate the rules, but I think an argument could be made that as long as the wizard isn't talking or spellcasting or engaged in combat, it is OK.

To me, the intent of that rule is to say "you have a strange dream and awaken, rolling over and going back to sleep" does not mean the 8 hours start over. It doesn't mean you can just lean back and relax in any stressful situation and lie quietly, awake and perceiving all that goes on around you, and still be considered resting/sleeping.

Mind you, if I ruled it did work, I'd also have to rule most spellcasters are aware of this, and can advise the archers to target characters who stay on the ground, prone, with a few arrows to make sure. I think taking damage would be sufficient to disrupt one's sleep - you may not attack, but that does not mean you are not "in combat".

Of course, the wizards staying quietly on the ground precludes the warriors chasing down the enemy. So the gobins can hide in the trees and snipe to their black little hearts' content. Fire an arrow or two; move somewhere else. Even if two goblins each fire one arrow a minute, hitting with 1 arrow in 5 (so they need a 17+ to hit), that means a single target gets hit 24 times an hour for an average of 3.5 damage (assuming little d6 arrows or 1d4 sling bullets with a +1 STR bonus), so 84 hp an hour. Don't forget that the cleric cannot recover any spells used within 8 hours of his usual spell recovery time.

Oh, one guard chases the goblins into the brush while the other stands watch over the wizard? OK - that's the time the Druid chooses to summon those wolves, and Speak with Animals to instruct them to target the guys lying on the ground.
 
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nijineko

Explorer
one of my characters is forever, and i mean FOREVER, banned from taking watch alone ever again, due to exactly the sorts of situations described with rope trick. smart guy... not so wise. with an extend meta-rod on his rope trick, he thought they were perfectly safe and could outlast any shenanigans the enemy could pull... even if it was looking really smokey out there.


BAD MOVE...


we did survive it in the end, but boy was that a close one. i have the story posted over on penandpapergames.com in my blog there.


yes, it is very useful. no, it is not completely safe, unless the opponents can't detect magic and/or see invisible. and it is a trap waiting to happen dead end if your opponent has the transdimensional meta feat.

however, should they not be able to dispel it, it can also be a great "narrow corridor" from which to snipe them. you only have to stick ranged weapons or wands out in order to fire, and little can penetrate the interface. if they can mass up and wait you out or dispel it, you might want another option, but it can make a great bolt hole for your ranged characters to distract an enemy from your melee and stealth types that are outside the rope trick...

one of my personal favorites is almost as good as coating stuff randomly with sovereign glue... the psionic power molecular binding is only 2nd level, has a short range - 10', is objects only, and doesn't last long, just 1 min/lvl. but there is no save or resistance against it, and it temporarily fuses two objects at the molecular level.

in order to make it a bit difficult once you've woken them up, just before-hand: bind boots to any hand rocks underneath, bind armor joints to each other, weapons to sheaths, clothing to blankets, tents, and other sleeping gear, seal shut backpacks and sacks, join rope knots and whatever the rope is tied to... the list goes on and on.

you could even build random objects'd'art with gear, wood, and stones, and then wake them.



i imagine it would be slightly disturbing if the scarecrow that was in the field next to the camp site last evening was leaning over and staring you in the face when you next were woken up... and if it was bound to your sleeping bag on the molecular level along with your clothes. can't get out of the bag, can't get the scare crow away from you....




...now cast that magic mouth spell. ^^




=D
 
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