Skill challenge scenarios: Discover the river pirate lair (part 1)

As part of a continuing series, I’ll be posting a few of the skill challenges I’ve run in my games. After describing the challenge goals and the mechanics of the outcomes, I’ll follow up on what the group did and how it played out.

Skill challenge goal: Find river pirate’s camp along the river.

The Setup – The river boat the group was guarding was attacked by pirates. After fending off the attack, the surviving pirates fled down a river branch on small boats. Using one of the crafts the attackers left, the group set off to pursue them, and hopefully find their base of operation. As they chased the pirates, they lodged their boat on a sandbar. Frantically trying to get the skiff dislodged, they saw their quarry round a river bend and out of sight. Several minutes later the group continued, only to lose track of the pirates. Did they pull off and head out by land? Or did they continue down river? The sun was setting and they had to move quickly to take advantage of what little light they had left.

I all ready set my mind that the players would eventually discover the pirate lair. What I wanted to determine in the skill challenge was how easy would they find it, and if they could approach the lair at an opportune time of their liking. The camp is a series of caves under a cliff that can only be approached by water. Also, I noted to the players that the surrounding countryside was dangerous and likely resting through the night would mean being attacked by some creature (3 in 4 chance of a random encounter). So taking their leisurely time to track down the pirate camp would be unwise.

Skill challenge rating: 2, moderate DC (encounter worth 2 monsters of the group’s level)

  • Complete Success (6 successes) – Players manage to track down the pirate camp efficiently. They stumble across a narrow crevasse in one of the canyon walls. It would be an ideal place to rest up for the night (1 in 10 chance of a random encounter) if the group chose to. Continuing on, they discover the pirate lair in the early evening. They could move in quietly now, or rest through the night and try to attack the camp later the next day.

As they deliberate on a course of action, they see a boat creep out of the lair. Two pirates are paddling upstream to scout around. Players could dispatch them, capture and interrogate them, or let them go. Either way, the entrance encounter will be easier as some of the guards have left the camp.

  • Partial Success (4-5 successes) – Players approach the pirate camp late in the evening. They have spent their reserves trying to make ground and are tired (losing 1 healing surge). Resting however, would be a dangerous option as all around them they hear the howls of beasts. They may be able to surprise the pirates, but unlikely at this late hour
  • Failure (4 failures before either condition above is reached) – Players eventually come across the pirate lair early the next morning. The push through the night was tiring. Also they were harassed by particularly nasty river crayfish. While not a serious threat, some of the group suffered some nasty bruises from their powerful claws. Each player has lost 2 healing surges.Also they find the entrance to the lair guarded by a lone pirate. The element of surprise will be very difficult, and likely any pirates they find in the caves will be ready for them.

Primary Skills: Nature (+1 to rolls), as the ability to read the land and find likely locations that could hold the lair would be based on this skill. Additionally this skill can be assisted by other players.

Secondary Skills: Perception (+1 to rolls, cannot be assisted), simply being each party member carefully scanning their surroundings. As each player is busy looking for signs individually, players cannot assist each other when making this check.

That is the setup. Next post will be how it ran with my group.

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