Unlikely Encounters: Bear Lure

13 July, 2010

This trap was sprung on my unexpecting group last month. The basic synopsis is that I was able to spring an unlikely, unfair combat encounter on my party that was still thoroughly enjoyable.

Here’s the story.

The Background

A confused out-of-shape halfling wererat NPC named Twitch ran away from the party after the Monk kept picking on him. Meeting with a mysterious villain, he was instructed to assassinate the party, and given one magical bolt, and a mundane crossbow.

Sniffling the whole way and being multiple shades of pathetic, rolling down rocky hills and underbrush, he takes a bush and uses it to hide himself in the middle of a well-worn path. Popping out and pointing his one single crossbow at the party, quivering in fear, his eyes closed, yelling gibberish, the party didn’t even bat an eye.

The Skill Challenge

Goal: Convincing Twitch not to shoot the magical bolt.

Diplomacy: Say something reasonable. Something along the lines of, “put that down you dumb rat and we won’t hurt you” should suffice.

Intimidate: Same deal. Though make sure you alert the party member using Intimidate that they should feel guilty about it.

If anyone cares, Twitch’s bolt is obviously a magical item, glowing. It also sparkles, if you’re into that stuff. I gave a knowledge bonus to the Monk, because he was the only one who would have before come into contact with this sort of magic.

If Twitch doesn’t fire at the party, chances are good that he’ll misfire on accident after everyone’s happy that they beat a skill challenge. In my group, the Monk took the bolt and crushed it in his hands. I gave him an instant check to identify the scent, magically spread by the broken bolt.

The Combat Encounter

Situation: Surrounded by 18 bears within a 5 square radius

The goal of the combat encounter should be player responses like:

“Holy crap, how many bears is that?!”
“…What do you mean, we’re surrounded?”
“What?! BEARS?!” and
“We’re surrounded by over a dozen god damn bears!”

In my group, I got…

“Oh boy, oh boy!”

Reskin appropriate (Level-2) skirmishers as bears. They should be skirmishers so they go down quickly, and they should be a bit lower leveled so the party doesn’t feel as threatened. Throw in some minion-bears if you’d like.

Go ahead and throw out enough bears for a (Average Level +2 or +3) fight. Or throw out enough minions to make the number of bears overwhelming. If you’re using all 2×2 square Large creatures, you can increase the amount of minions without awarding the PCs their full experience (don’t tell them this, though, it’s part of the encounter!). An overwhelming starting amount of bears is key to this combat encounter. I threw this out on a Paragon Tier party and they were bearly phased.

As a base, I used a monster called the Fleshtearer Shark. They were good level skirmishers with a speed of 8. And bears that have a movespeed of 8 are very intimidating. The main reason I chose them is they have a bonus to damage if they attack something without a swim speed.

To further up the ante in the fight, I changed this to, “if you are afraid of bears, you take additional damage”. However, the only one that was really afraid of bears was our Necromancer. My favorite response at the table was our Berserker with, “if the bears are afraid of me, can I get a damage bonus?”

If I were to retry this fight, I would change the bonus to something more general, but still humorous and arbitrary of normal game mechanics. Some examples include “does your character still have food rations?” and “do you look tasty?” (with free immediate interrupts to roll Constitution or Charisma, trying to look not-so-tasty). If a character has an appropriate established persona like the fat cleric, or a barbarian with an endless stomach, this encounter could show that the DM remembers stupid player traits.

…As another option, maybe it would be wise to include a druid casting “Fear of Bears” as a blast attack.

Maybe I just have a poor sense of humor.

-Lancar

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One Response to “Unlikely Encounters: Bear Lure”

  1. Absolutely beautiful. I can’t wait to try this out with my players sometime. We love anything bear-related.

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