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Old 10-02-2019, 10:13 PM   #1
Gavynn
 
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Default [Spoilers] Improving “I Smell a Rat” with Better Motivated PCs

Like many it appears, I have converses about the “hook” and opening room for the “I smell a Rat” adventure because there does to seem to be a lot that is driving the players but also for other reasons. Here are my thoughts:

1. The cellar of the inn is huge, especially given that there is an encounter map. It seems a shame that it is not used. The battle takes place with the PCs huddled in one corner of the map on the stairs as spiders attack them. Everything else in the cellar covered with spider webs. Why not have an opening encounter where PCs can actually use the space and move around and learn how to use their characters? There can still be spider webs, but I would localize those. Let the players learn to fight by hacking up some giant rats.

2. The PCs are sent to kill rats, but when they get into the basement, there is scarcely a word about rats being down there. In fact Lee says that she is hearing the rats in the cellar. But when the door is opened, the place is covered in spider webs and the PCs find themselves fighting off spiders. How could she have heard the rats if they are all caught in layers and layers of spider webs?

3. The only time the rats are mentioned is to say that after you burn the webs, there are the 40 rat corpse there. It is not clear to me that it was the fire that killed them. It could have been I suppose, but it seems more likely to me that these rats were caught in the webs, drained of blood, and what the spiders had been eating. If the rats are supposed to be alive (and running somehow through the webs) wouldn’t the adventure mention it? Where you really not supposed to fight rat in the basement after being sent to? Why not some up with an encounter that is equally is dificult as the spider thing, but rat focused?

4. Besides a secret door (which it says even our big bad guy does not know about), there is just a pile of junk in the corner with nothing really in it but a passage to the sewers. There is nothing in the sewers when explored if the PCs miss the secret passage. I can completely see the point of others who have written in here, that the PCs could find the spiders had eaten all the rats, and then just find that corner of the cellar needs to be bricked back up to keep out the sewer rats. Task accomplished. I think they need a greater sense of drive than that.

5. I thought that the PCs being locked in the cellar was going to be a major point, but instead, they can get out at any time they want. Wouldn’t actually trapping the PC’s down there increase the sense of dread? I think they need to either be intentionally locked down there or have Lee be killed by someone trying to trap the PCs down there.

I think this adventure can be improved by means motivating the PCs to go down there more than just to get some copper as rat exterminators and also hinting much more strongly as Merle’s involvement in Black Magic. I would also make the opening combat something with rats that uses the space. I am trying to think of ways to make all of that work.

Someone could be missing (besides Merle) because it makes it clear that the cult is sacrificing people down there. Maybe someone important got kidnapped an the PCs must go find them. That would certainly motive the search of the cellar more. Especially if the players thought the person was going to sacrificed at midnight or something and so were on a clock to make the rescue happen.

I noticed that someone else had written that they had a group of crusaders coming into the town because they had heard about some evil that needed to be put down. Why not have the PCs be a group that has heard about the evil here that needs to be put down? That would also make them a bit more heroic that “rat killers” and motivate the search of the cellar more.

I am trying to rework all of this so that all of that can be explained and the game can begin with the PCs staring at the cellar door about to go down. (No need to have them making rolls and everything else to find work and bargain with Lee - I am going to be pressed for time when running this, so I think moving them into the action is better.) Or actually, it could be even more dramatic if the game begins with the cellar door closing on them, locking them downstairs with whatever it is they are about to have to fight.

I love all the secret cult stuff, so I think we need to move on to it.

What do you think? Has anyone done a rewrite that would but some more bite into the adventure?
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Old 10-03-2019, 05:02 AM   #2
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Improving “I Smell a Rat” with Better Motivated PCs

1. As someone who has suffered through whole campaigns where ranged combatants are useless, because everything happens at melee range without a chance to back off, I really enjoyed the first encounter as an opportunity for the players to form a rank, protect the wizards and scouts and let them shoot.

2. I have mixed feelings on that. On one hand, yeah, it's a weak and unmotivated plot twist. On the other, it sets up the players not to be too sure about what they're about to encounter, and hopefully to be more careful. (Yeah, didn't work with my players). And I think it would be better if the adventure mentioned, that the spiders make squeaky rat-like noises.

3. Huh… To be fair, I was 100% sure the rats have been killed by spiders. Didn't realize it wasn't mentioned.

4. Yeah, that's my biggest issue with the adventure. I've unveiled the secret passage, saying the camouflage was damaged.
One thing has to be said, though: a lot of my first complaints came from my players not reading Exploits, and me trying to teach them all the basics. The play experience is a lot better if at least one player has read about the need to search and scavenge for loot.

5. I'm running the adventure with quite a small party and being able to back off and rest is very important.

Overall, yeah, I think it lacks in motivation (though not saving a world for once is a breather) and, mostly, hints at something more down there, but I just asked my players to roll with it. I've been trying to run a game (different campaigns) a couple of times already and I always got tired quickly, trying to make it perfect from the start.
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Old 10-05-2019, 05:02 AM   #3
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Improving “I Smell a Rat” with Better Motivated PCs

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Originally Posted by Gavynn View Post
I think this adventure can be improved by means motivating the PCs to go down there more than just to get some copper as rat exterminators...
If you think about it too deeply, honestly, you're just better off skipping the pair of Rat adventures altogether because you're going to end up with so many holes that they'll start to resemble Swiss cheese. I know the part of your quote I put in bold would be enough for my players to laugh me right out of the room, so I'd have to do enough work for them to be usable, that I may as well just make up my own or convert from another system.

Declaring that your party of PCs has been dispatched to the town to look for the source of Black Magic though, that would probably be a good place to start. You might have to change things to make Lee Merle's apprentice, and her unwilling to allow the party access to the basement, thus forcing them to sneak in or subdue Lee to gain access. Of course, then you've got to carry out the investigation that leads them to Lee/Merle in the first place, so, see? ;) Just make your own or convert, if you want some level of logic.
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Old 10-07-2019, 08:52 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Improving “I Smell a Rat” with Better Motivated PCs

Spoiler:  
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Old 10-07-2019, 03:56 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Improving “I Smell a Rat” with Better Motivated PCs

Our GM gave us a chance to settle into the abandoned Inn and start organizing ourselves and start building it as a based of operations. The more we looked for potential adventures the more we heard about giant rats that had shown up and how they were murdering livestock and even attempting to drag children off into the sewers. So when we got into the sewers we were already oriented towards needing to deal with the rats.

We opened the trap door and prodded the webs with a spoon and immediately decided we weren't going to mess with that. We stacked boxes up on top of the trap door figuring it would deal with big spiders. We were negotiating some stonework with Dwarves when we heard screaming in the kitchen and found that giant spiders and broken through the trap door and were dragging one of our cooks into the cellar so we fought them mostly in the kitchen, then we quickly bought an alchemic grenade, put it inside of a live pig and dumped it into the cellar. Later we killed off the few spiders that didn't die from the poison gas and we hired folks to clear out the spider silk. That spider silk along with two of the giant spiders we captured in the earlier encounter paid for our renovations.
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Old 10-07-2019, 05:28 PM   #6
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My example:

The standard evil runes might have DR15 and 50 hit points. So a cleric with exorcism 18 would do 18 points of damage per minute minus the 15 DR so it would be 3 points of damage per minute. At this rate it would take about 15 minutes to destroy the runes.

The DR would be the same as the skill level of the the caster that made it. If the skill was 20 then the DR would be 20 and the cleric with the skill 18 exorcism would be unable to damage the evil runes. I would think the cleric could be helped by others with holy power or power investiture and it would add to the skill of the cleric but the helper is not able to fight while helping. Maybe the helper has power investiture 3 to add to the cleric with exorcism 18 to make the skill become 21 and able to damage the evil runes with DR 20.

This would make it exciting if monsters were attacking and then the cleric would have to be protected until the evil runes are defeated.
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Old 10-07-2019, 05:39 PM   #7
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Improving “I Smell a Rat” with Better Motivated PCs

Eh, the way I'd make exorcising evil runes exciting is by making it a quick context (exorcism vs runes), and losing the contest means you're affected by the runes.
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:57 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Improving “I Smell a Rat” with Better Motivated PCs

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Eh, the way I'd make exorcising evil runes exciting is by making it a quick context (exorcism vs runes), and losing the contest means you're affected by the runes.
I guess I just like the idea of whittling away evil runes instead of just having one dice and either you succeed at removing them or you fail. If monsters were just roll once and f you succeed then you kill it or fail and you are killed then combat would not be too fun for me.
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Old 10-09-2019, 07:40 AM   #9
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Improving “I Smell a Rat” with Better Motivated PCs

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Players who don't search for secrets (passages, treasures, traps, etc.) aren't going to do well on any kind of dungeon crawl.
That's fair, but I would say that's something that players need to learn. If running for players new to RPGs, I just don't think they are going to go in with this mindset. They'll need a hint, push, or straight up tell. Even experienced players may not go looking for secrets in every location they come across. I think they have to have some level of expectation that something worth while is hidden.

And there is a risk vs. reward aspect. Any attempt to go exploring is a risk of life/limb/loot. Only the most curious will go off when there is no expectation of loot or a reward. The argument that "It's DFRPG, of course there is loot" works on a meta-level, but I find most players tend to want some reason, even just a shallow excuse, to justify their characters actions.

IMO the only thing that needs to be added to ISaR, is to add some rumors of wealth stashed under the Inn.
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Old 10-09-2019, 07:02 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Improving “I Smell a Rat” with Better Motivated PCs

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That's fair, but I would say that's something that players need to learn.
And that has been my biggest complaint about ISaR, it isn't written for newbies. Both the GM and the Players need to be experienced, the GM specifically with GURPS and the Players with Dungeon Fantasy play and tropes.
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