Tuesday, April 24, 2012

D&D White-boxing Part 4

Continuing my series of recent posts analyzing and white-boxing recent D&D encounters, I give you encounter 4 – The Stables.  I switched things up a bit and did this white-box in the Unreal Engine rather than 3DS Max.  I'm a little bit rusty, but this small encounter was a good way to brush up.
Encounter 4 – The Stables

So we left off last time with the group entering the castle gates and exploring the main courtyard.  You’ll remember from the last entry, that the courtyard is the central hub of my campaign.  Most of the main points of interest are accessible from the courtyard, and I give the players free reign as to where they want to explore first.  As such, I’ll be tackling blog entries in the order my group tackled the encounters for the sake of story continuity.  My group chose to immediately check the stables to the left of the castle gate.
The stables is a long and simple structure.  A large open entrance to the stables is located on the left end of the building.  Inside are a row of horse stalls along the wall, above is a loft accessible from a ladder toward the back of the stable.  As the players enter, I allow them all to make a listen check.  If any player succeeds, they hear the faint sound of galloping approaching the castle.  Two members of my party succeeded and turned around to investigate.
The sound of galloping stops and they see a knight walk through the castle gate and turn to approach the party.  The knight looks normal from a distance, and the heroes attempt to engage in conversation.  The knight does not answer and continues to approach.  Naturally suspicious the heroes ready their weapons and demand the knight identify himself.
As the knight gets closer, the party can make out details.  What they thought was a majestic shield with the emblem of a lion has morphed into a grotesque serpent-like monster.  The armor that appeared shiny and polished from afar now appears charred and black.  And finally the knight’s eyes are empty of life and glowing red.
By the time the players realized the threat, the knight is right next to them and still approaching the stables.  One player stood his ground blocking the knight’s path.  The knight’s body fades and shimmers a bit, and walks right through the player and into the stables, sapping health away from the player touched.
The party attacks, but most of their attacks miss as if the the knight is not solid.  The knight simply continues walking into the stables and down the aisle of stalls toward the very back.  He enters the last stall with the heroes chasing behind, and vanishes.  He reappears at the entrance to the stables atop a ghostly horse and a wicked looking spear.  The knight charges down the aisle at the party in a ghostly blur!
Designer  Note:  I designed this encounter to stress to the players the importance of avoiding the strengths of the opponent, while pouncing on the weaknesses.  The players don’t know quite yet, but soon find out that the knight is extremely difficult to hit while moving.  While moving the knight is more ghost-like, while standing still the knight is more corporeal.  In addition the heroes need to avoid being charged and trampled by the horse.  Players can strategically position themselves in the stalls to provide some protection, or an agile character would race up the ladder to the loft above.  The turning point of the battle is of course when the heroes realize they need to kill the horse first.  Killing the horse means the knight must fight on foot, lowering his mobility, and thus making him much easier to attack.
The heroes eat a few nasty attacks before dismounting the knight from his horse.  Once on foot, the party slowly whittles away at his health.  Though still difficult to hit, the fight is much more manageable with the knight on foot.  The ghostly knight is eventually slain, turns to dust, and leaves behind his armor, shield, and spear.  The armor is again shiny, the shield bright with a lion emblem, and the spear polished yet still translucent, obviously magical in nature (and an important quest item).  Within the stables the players also find plenty of torches, lanterns, spears, and helmets should they wish to loot any.
Did the battle work as intended?  Only barely.  I made the mistake of giving the horse far too little health.  The knight only got off one charge on horseback before the party ranger buried a quiver full of arrows into the horse.  Most of the players took advantage of the stalls for cover at first, but only had to do so for a couple rounds before the ranger had dismounted the knight.  Nobody took advantage of the safety of the loft.  The players learned fairly quickly that normal weapons were less effective than magical forms of damage against this opponent.  Fire arrows and magic from the wizard ended the battle soon after.  If I had to do the encounter again I would give the horse more health, or give the knight a teleport ability so that he could teleport away to ready another charge easily.  Another option might have been to give the horse some armor on the front of its body, requiring the players to flank the horse and attack it from behind.

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