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PCs must escape a dungeon because they are being chased by a...(?)

   
PCs must escape a dungeon because they are being chased by a...(?)

In short: In a 1-shot, I want the PCs to be chased by something too terrible for them to fight, so they must escape the dungeon, all the while being slowed by traps, hazzards, and the unwitting monsters of said dungeon. Once on the surface, the PCs can use an artifact to stop this terrible thing from reaching the surface. What could be this horrible thing that makes the 11th level PCs run like hell for their lives?

Full explanation
1. designing a 1-shot (for a friend's at-home 'con'). 3-4 hours of play, mix of experienced and inexperienced players, pre-gen characters at level 11 (not my choice, the host decided on it and posted this starting point).

2. Host of the con wants "a dungeon crawl-style adventure with traps and lots of combat."

3. My thoughts: simple, straightforward goal; not a lot of story necessary; an interesting trap/puzzle or two that challenges the players and their characters; 2-3 minor combat encounters with a battle royale to finish.

I've run 1-shots before, and I prefer this recipe:
  • Start with a big splash beginning (thrusts everyone into action by presenting a clear and exciting threat)
  • Present a challenging villain with a simple goal that the PCs are compelled to stop
  • A helpful NPC or two for info/aid/direction
  • Give the characters a chance to shine (the pre-gen characters are all core classes and races for simplicity)...traps, arcane runes, varied foes and obstacles.
  • key location(s). In this case, the dungeon/tomb/prison
  • TENSION. Keep things moving. Hence, the chase and escape.

My idea is to have the party start deep in a dungeon (or tomb or prison). An NPC traveling with the party inadvertently unleashes some Horrible Thing (by miscalculation, tempted by ambition, or betrayal perhaps). The party must make their way out of the dungeon, avoiding traps and some speed-bump combats while they are being chased by the Horrible Thing.

Anytime they get hung up on a trap or combat, the Horrible Thing closes in on them, destroying everything in its path, sometimes even the party's foes (ie cocky fire giants make a stand against the Horrible Thing and get obliterated).

PCs must escape the dungeon and seal it shut to contain the Horrible Thing or defeat the Horrible Thing, perhaps with an artifact from the nearby town that is designed for that exact purpose.

Once I have the Horrible Thing (be it a demon, lesser god, mummy lord, a sentient blood storm, whatever), the rest will fall into place: how to stop it, what kind of traps are in the dungeon, etc.

I appreciate any suggestions. Thanks!

Used in a LARP around here, but my favorite evil thing was the Undead Dragon Lich we accidentally turned lose. We named him Paco.

I second Chase’s idea, a Dracolich or perhaps just a Lich Lord. Size would allow him to get through tight areas a dracolich couldn’t. Maybe the Lich’s phylactery is on level 1 and if they get there in time they are able to destroy it before he catches up to them to obliterate them.

They have to escape the dungeon itself. The party does some horror-movie style trangressing and they wake up the mystical motive force at the core of the dungeon, and then they have to escape before it buries them alive.

<tongue in cheek> The father of a girl they promised to marry. The girl was a Succubus, the 'father' is a Balor.

Setup: pregame, the heroes were hired to rescue a princess kidnapped by a Blackguard. As the princess requires a husband, the successful rescuer can marry her and gain the throne. After hacking their way through a dungeon of traps and foes, they discover the truth, the girl is a Succubus... as was her mother, the Queen! The King is not aware of this. The escape route is already known (ie: you can have an open, pre-printed map). Traps etc were bypassed or fiddly to defeat coming in. Under the stress of escaping, they are going to be more difficult to get past in the other direction.

First encounter: faced with the horrible truth, the princess declares "I don't want to marry a mortal, father. Dispose of them."

Time Limit: either real world, or a number of combat rounds (non-combat rounds are abstract as the EVIL THING moves at the same rate with his army).

Sub-plot: each hero knows of a means to reach demi-god status or immortality; they just need one more ingredient to do so. Can come back and win the hand of the princess for the throne...

  • Cornugon (advanced)
  • Pit Fiend
  • Shoggoth (if you care to stat one out, probably based on a Gibbering Mouther)
  • Mummy lord (advanced)
  • Mind flayer (advanced)
  • Beholder (advanced)
  • Titan (formerly chained or asleep... literally awakened by the party?)

Edit: I like the idea of awakening a titan the best.







 

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