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

   
Great suggestions from the MW community- thanks!

Here's the intro I posted on the Facebook event page:
Your party has taken on the task of escorting the dwarven caretaker of an ancient prison into the ruined stronghold to renew a mystical seal. The seal helps keep a terrible beast from emerging- the Tarrasque! The characters must overcome the traps and wards of the stronghold as well as its occupants to make sure the seal will last for another millennium.

1-shot goes like this:
A. Start party at the front gate. Get past orcs that are squatting in the abandoned dwarven halls. Orcs don't know about secret door to 'Hall of the Wardens Eternal', which is the entryway to the room with the Seal. Deep inside the mountain, the Seal prevents the Tarrasque from emerging in this part of the world. It's one of many Seals that are said to help keep the Big T dormant and prevent it from popping up in that region. (A speed-bump encounter with some orcs, a rope bridge, an Umber Hulk, a statue/secret door and a trick staircase)

B. Uthor, the dwarf who's been tasked with renewing the Seal, has outlived most of his clan and needed the help of the PCs to make it to the Seal. But after hundreds of years of studying this Tarrasque, keeping the lore of it for the next generation, the gravity of the Seal...it's too much for ol' Uthor. When he gets to the Seal, he flips- no way can he deny such a powerful force of nature it's place in the universe, and smashes the Seal. And guess what? That sends a vibration that awakens you-know-who. (an few select traps from the many dungeons in Tales from the Yawning Portal).

C. A small clan of Fire giants occupies the other half of this abandoned dwarven stronghold, and the party is forced to exit through their turf. The mountain starts to shake and crack...the fire giants think the party is responsible for all this, and fight the PCs...until the Big T actually emerges and starts to chomp on everything. Fire giants use this mountain as a forge to build the Vaugonaut- something like the Vonindod...50' tall, wicked armored thing resembling a mechanical fire giant), but it's controlled by 4 (or however many PCs there are!) Large creatures that climb inside to operate the head (amplifies spells cast from it), the sword arm and the hammer arm, the chest (fires hot shrapnel) and/or (depending on the number of players) a shoulder-mounted spear-launching mechanism. I need to solidify the mechanics of it all (attack bonus, damage, etc). The efreet engineers/smiths that are helping the FGs build this thing cast Enlarge (maybe twice, to make them Huge, because the Vaugonaut is built for the giants to operate) on the PCs to go in and operate the Vaugonaut and go and fight the Tarrasque that just busted out of the mountain. Why not have the Giants operate the Vaugonaut? Too many of them perished, and the ones that are left weren't the ones being trained for running the Vaugonaut...I dunno...it's a bit contrived, I know...I'm hoping the players are too excited to jump in this thing and battle the Tarrasque to question it too much Once the PCs do X amount of damage to the Tarrasque, it'll go back underground until who knows when. Replacing or repairing the Seal- that's for someone else to worry about!
(PCs have to deal with Fire Giants by negotiation and combat, along with their pet chimera, and make some skill checks and attack rolls to operate the Vaugonaut.)

I picked elements of a few TftYP dungeons, the SKT Ironslag, Critical Role, and a PAX-AI game. I have some encounters I can cut if things are taking too long. I figured that telling the players up front that its the Tarrasque will generate excitement, and giving them a way to fight it I hope is a cool twist at the end.

Small tip: It's easiest to pull this off with a monster that has a defensive ability that the players have no countermeasure against. You might want to make an animate artifact monster/guardian so you can ensure that only one method exists by which it can be destroyed.

The problem with using a super-high level monsters is that they either one-round wipe the entire party or that they just straight-up beat it to a pulp.

I did have this idea once that I wrote down where the PCs, after being kidnapped for a sacrifice to an evil deity and brought to the very bottom of the Underdark, escape and have to get the heck out of the Underdark to avoid the rising floodwaters that the ruined sacrifice caused...

Gonna be honest, none of those things sound all that scary except maybe in a "higher-level-than-party" way.

I suggest a swarm of Rust Monsters.

There was a similar sequence in one of the prince of persia games, where Dahaka chased you. Could make a case for how this thing should 'chase' the party: slowly walking but just crushing everything in its path, going through walls, etc. As for what it could be... Depends on system. PF's got a lot various templates, there's one for minions of elder evils I believe, very customizable depending on HD. There's of course Spawn of Divine Destruction 'template' if they dont actually need to fight the thing, only seal it. You'd just have to make it slow moving. Could also make the monster more of a thing that doesnt move and more expands through the space, filling the lower levels as they flee.

I ran the 1-shot on Saturday and overall it went well. People had fun, 2 new players enjoyed themselves and want to play again, and the experienced players had fun with the dwarven traps and everyone thought it was cool to climb into a big ol' mecha fire giant and fight the Tarrasque.

Of course, at a backyard picnic, we were dealing with people getting up and getting food/drinks, people dropping by and lots of side-conversations, new players trying to figure out the spells of a 13th level character...no aspect of the 1-shot was ideal (but I went in expecting that).

Thanks for the input, all!

I've done this before. There is real wisdom in suggesting something that the PCs don't really have the ability to hurt. It is probably unwise to make the foe intelligent, as such foes like Balors aren't really beatable for most PCs.

I suggest something like a wall of darkness with arms and mouths. It moves slowly, at a rate of 5 feet per round. However, it's not moving so much as it's growing along every front at a rate of 5 feet per round. Light spells can stop its forward progress for a number of rounds equal to the spell's level, but you should probably give the darkness SR. When PCs attack it, make it clear that their attack connects and cuts/bludgeons/whatever, but that the arms simply reach around and engulf the person/weapon/whatever attacking them.

PCs within 5 feet of the wall are automatically hit by the wall of arms and must make a grapple check (+10 for the arms) or be pulled another 5 feet into the arms and take X damage. If the PCs are just inside the wall of arms (within 5 feet of the edge), the grapple check is made at +15. If they're 10 feet inside the wall, the grapple is made at +20, etc.. PCs with freedom of movement can freely move OUT of the wall, but cannot move further in (you can only be PULLED in).

If the encounter is being run live, then make some effort to make it seem that you are writing down total damage numbers when the PCs attack and damage the wall. Then, just ignore the totals. The players will probably let at least one of their number get eaten by the wall simply to try to prove their badassery and deal a buncha lotsa damage.

It makes their map-making important, since they can very easily be cornered by such a monster advancing on two fronts. It's easy to keep ahead of the being, but difficult to rest while being pursued by it.







 

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