Thursday, January 15, 2015

Adventure Difficulty: I Like Peril

I'm writing my next micro-adventure, it's a low-level tromp through two encounters.  It's a treasure map adventure type.  I tend to make adventures on the tough side.  Some say too tough.  I'm a fan of peril.  I like to develop the feeling of danger, situations where the players are damned if they do or don't, and the awareness that death is a possibility.

The adventure that I'm writing, gravity is the real threat, the monsters (harpies) while dangerous aren't as dangerous as a 100' fall.  Here's the setting: players find a map, leads them a waterfall (I haven't named it yet) where the lost treasure of the bone soldier is supposed to be waiting.  A good old buried treasure. 

The players have to traverse a narrow path along a steep hill, where the path encounters the harpies is about 100' up.  The harpies are singing their song and lure their charmed victims off the cliff.  A little Wile E Coyote action.

I think it creates interesting scenarios.  If the charmed character attempts to walk off do the rest of the party grab him or attack the harpy.  There is very little room for failed rolls in this case.  A failed roll could result in a character's death.  There are many who disagree with this philosophy.  But without this kind of threat I think the adventure weakens and I lose my peril.  As I said, I like peril. 


  1. I keep being told to make it more weird, I am also going to make it more perilous. Which to a degree is starting to sound like Monty Python isn't it. Sir Lancelot: [Sir Galahad the Chaste is being seduced by an entire castle full of young women] We were in the nick of time. You were in great peril.
    Sir Galahad: I don't think I was.
    Sir Lancelot: Yes, you were. You were in terrible peril.
    Sir Galahad: Look, let me go back in there and face the peril.
    Sir Lancelot: No, it's too perilous.
    Sir Galahad: Look, it's my duty as a knight to sample as much peril as I can.
    Sir Lancelot: No, we've got to find the Holy Grail. Come on.
    Sir Galahad: Oh, let me have just a little bit of peril?
    Sir Lancelot: No. It's unhealthy.

    And this is how my brain works. great post Tim!

  2. I made a ruined tower of a wizard with harpies living in the top. After failing to enter two other ways, the PCs decided to try to scale the tower and enter through the top, having a familiar (an imp) fly invisibly and tie a rope to the battlements.
    Once there, the harpies flew out and began to sing. I granted characters that failed their save one more save to break the charm before walking over the edge. Still, one character went right off the edge for a 120' drop before saving characters could stop him. Unfortunately, that was new player, first session in the game! After saying, "sorry man, we told you this was old school", I assured him that I had places in the dungeon where a new character could be found by the party and encouraged him to roll a new character then and there. But he never came back ....

    1. Old School: Weeding out the faint of heart wimpy players for over 40 years.

  3. Tim, your character (Adzeer) almost experienced this a few weeks back, had it not been for the safety rope thanks to your knack with rolling 1's.

  4. Peril is good. Keeps players honest.

    Or as my old dwarf character Grubby Buks was fond of saying, "Son, there's gold in that there peril ... usually."

  5. Oooh!

    By bringing in the Wile E. Coyote analogy you've given players a loophole.

    Their characters will now only fall to their grisly demise once they notice they're standing on thin air. Characters with low INT and/or WIS could be out there for hours.

  6. A little dose of peril in every adventure is definitely a good thing in my book. It makes things much more interesting and adds a nice level of tension to the game.