Building a Campaign from the Ground Up Part 9

Let’s hop to it; shall we?

This week we’re going to look at designing a Timed Encounter for our players. Now, this rendition of it will be left a little open. We’re going to base it around the idea that the party is going to scale the wall with crafted ladders. However, the DM could have to tweak this if their players decided on an alternative means of escaping.

So I figure we should have set points to keep pressure on the characters. First would be to see if the characters react quick enough. There have been times my players just stand around and don’t know what to do or they spend forever on deciding what they should do. Players should think through things, there’s no issue with that, but if you allow them to have all the time in the world then it takes away from the gravity of the situation and in the end breaks the self-immersion. Our players are trying to escape! They don’t have a half hour to decide what to do.

Event 1: The players have 1 minute to decide what they’re going to do. Whether it’s rush up the ladders as fast as they can or turn to face down the countless amounts of guards, they have to choose quickly or they’re in trouble. If they don’t start doing anything before the minute is up, they find themselves surrounded by guards. The ladders are knocked down and things don’t look very good.  If they do decide what they want to do, the DM can have them roll initiative and move on. Otherwise they’ll skip through this entire section. Which is fine. The players failed to react, there are consequences for that.

After the initial moments, the characters will proceed with the escape through each round as they would any encounter. From here, all events will occur after a set number of rounds. This will give them time to achieve their goal with more consequences of being slow. Of course, we’re going to make it extremely hard for them to succeed. The plan is to get them in the arena and jump shards there. If they successfully escape-which they very well might-the DM will have to improvise; but we can make a suggestion on that later as well.


End of Round 1:  Guards begin flooding the area. If they players set up some sort of trap or distraction, then the Guards must make a check to survive/get around the party’s defenses. If the guards fail, this event and each that follow are delayed 1 round.  If they succeed, they continue on with the current order. Make sure to describe to the players how the guards fail/succeed to get around their designed interruption.

End of Round 2: Guards begin thwarting the escape plans. They will move towards and attack slaves they are near during the round. But after the round they begin focusing their efforts on chopping/knocking down the ladders. Be sure to have the guards make the correct check (Str to knock over) per ladder/obstacle. Also be sure to make sure the party takes any reciprocating damage during the following round. If the guards knock down a ladder that they’re on, they’ll take falling damage as it timbers.

End of Round 3: Guards slaughter Minnie Torre. Really live this one up. Make it brutal! Or don’t whatever suits your groups play style. Throughout the encounter she’s been shouting orders and inspiring the others. So a group of guards honed in on her and took her out.

End of Round 4: A LARGE amount of guards begin focusing their efforts on the party. Whether it’s knocking down their ladders, or cutting them off at the top of the wall, the party is now in the thick of it. They’re not the only ones, everyone else is facing the same force; there is just that many guards.

End of Round 6: If the party has not already been incapacitated and has not already fully escaped, a massive group of guards have gathered on the other side of the wall/area of escape. They are simply waiting for the party to get out just to beat them senseless. If the party has already escaped by this point then they made it successfully. If not, then here is where they meet their doom. Once they fall into the hands of this regime, they will be given a chance to surrender. If they don’t, well, enjoy laying a few haymakers at them until they drop.

Throughout the encounter the players will get beaten and battered and beaten. Every Guard will have the same base stats and not stop beating on the party until they fall incapacitated. The guards will choose not to kill the characters but merely drop each of them to 0 HP. For simplicity sake we’ll say there are up to 50 Guards. The outside group at the end of Round 6 will consist of 25. So if the party runs into them and can somehow beat them, they deserve to be free.

I haven’t tested this and I’m sure it will need to be tweaked but I think it will throw on the pressure. Every passing round things will get worse and worse. The players will feel the gravity of the situation, experience the hopelessness; and in the end have a very near death experience. We’re going to break them down all the way before they climb their way to the top.

Once the party is good and battered, they’ll awake once again in the tunnel to the arena at 1 HP each. Janu will be leaning against the entrance gate leering at them as they come to.

Janu looks over at your battered forms; a wicked smile on his face. ‘You had so much promise. You could have been my prized slaves; future champions of the arena. But you just had to go ahead and be stupid. ‘ Janu spits at you, his guards pull you to your feet. If it weren’t for their support you think you would collapse from the aches. ‘The only thing a runaway slave is good for, is dragon fodder…and perhaps a bit of entertainment. Now get in there and die for the crowd. Enjoy it too. They’re screams of enthusiasm will be the last sounds you ever hear.’

Janu notions his guards to drag you towards the gate as it opens and toss you on the sandy arena floor. The crowd’s screams tear at your ear drums as you get to your feet. The opposite gate begins to open and a warrior donned in metal from head to toe enters. He bears a shield crafted into the face of a dragon and yields a long serrated spear.

Here the players are in a horrendous and terrifyingly deadly encounter. The arena champion can slay any of them in one successful hit while they’re at 1 HP so they better stay clear. Now, the party can fight, but I think this is a great opportunity for them to learn when to run and fight later. We held training wheels on for the arena encounter with the Hill Giant, here we’ve dumped them in the middle of nowhere with no wheels. The danger is real and they’ll either have some wits and understand that or learn the hard way.

This encounter is obviously built one sided. Chances of the players defeating the experienced gladiator are finite at best. But that’s the goal. We need them to understand that they can’t always win, that they should have a little worry and fear for their character’s mortality. So I think this encounter should be run to 2 ends.

  1. A character is killed by the gladiator. Sucks to be them, but now the characters learn that mortality is a thing.
  2. 3 rounds of combat go by. This number may change later, but I think that if all characters manage to survive the absolutely ridiculous odds for 3 rounds, then they all deserve to live.

Once they meet one of these ends, the players will hear Unknown’s voice from every direction at once:

‘Go now! Into the tear!’  The mystical raspy voice hollers from every direction at once. The air beside you rips apart like a piece of paper. A hole into another world or dimension or something. You know not where it may lead, only that the stranger told you to jump through it. Face the dragon in his layer or leap into the unknown.

And then let them decide what they want to do. End Chapter 1!

That’s it, our  first Chapter all in all. As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback. Next week I’m going to be gone on vacation so there won’t be a post, but we’ll pick up after that with an overview of the entire Chapter and what each part is to achieve. We then may have to step back again and look at where we go from there while trying to meet our 7 point outline.

Until then, Your Resident Evil Playing Blogger


One thought on “Building a Campaign from the Ground Up Part 9

Add yours

  1. This is awesome and has renewed my excitement for my own campaign. I am definitely using this outline with some tweaks and inserting some of my own ideas. I just found this blog recently and have been really enjoying it. I look forward to the next post 2 weeks from now.


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