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This question is specifically for the module "Rescue at Rivenroar", but it's applicable to any dungeon-crawl with the following premise - the antagonists have just attacked a village/town, and have withdrew to their stronghold with hostages and treasures. The townfolks hire the PCs to enter the stronghold (a dungeon in this case), and rescue the hostage and retrieve the treasures.

As my groups tend to have very pragmatic players, they will definitely assess the risk of the venture. Off the bat, it looks unreasonable for the following reasons:

  • The hobgoblins camped at Rivenroar has just attacked a town with 200-men strong garrison, and it is said that the town can muster another 200 if needed.

  • If the town defenders can fight off a hobgoblin attack with their 200 strong army, why are the PCs required? Since the defenders are able to drive the hobgoblins away, they should have no problem marching in to get rid of those hobgoblins

  • If the town is unable to clear out the hobgoblins at the Rivenroar crypts, due to a number of problems, how can one expect the PCs to succeed?

  • Likewise, if the town barely defended itself from the hobgoblins, then the hobgoblins are necessary stronger. Wouldn't sending the PCs to their strong to save the townsfolk and recapture the leaders a foolhardy and suicidal enterprise?

The module for Rescue at Rivenroar doesn't address those questions. So the question is - how can I tell the PCs that it is plausible for them to enter the dungeon and succeeded, considering the odds and that their services are actually needed?

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to make text bold or italicised, use either one or two '*' characters both before and after the text you want to affect. To see it in action, click on 'edit' on a question or answer that uses the technique and look at the markup applied. –  Dakeyras Jul 6 '13 at 12:53
    
Are you asking this without your system tag because you actually genuinely want answers that don't deal with your system, or because you feel the question itself is higher than your system and that means you should make it more general? If you want solutions that respond to your system specifically and possibly involve your system's mechanics, I recommend you add its tag and describe it in your system's terms. If you feel there is nothing really gained from doing so, don't worry about it. :) –  doppelgreener Jul 6 '13 at 13:10
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Mm..my players don't tend to meta-game. Meaning, they'll look it as "you want just five men to go against a forces that even your 200-men garrison can't handle? Are you kidding?" In addition, this is a level 1 adventure for D&D 4E, which I am porting to 13th Age. So...it's complicated. –  Extrakun Jul 6 '13 at 14:08

2 Answers 2

Disclaimer: I am not familiar with the module you mention. I had a short look at a review, and apparently it's for a 1st level party... correct?

Possible reasons to justify the plot weakness you outlined:

  • a) The garrison can't leave town for fear of another attack by the hobgoblins (or maybe a completely different menace).
  • b) Part of the garrison will mount a diversionary attack allowing the party to get in and/or reducing the strength of the opponents (I suppose this is not what the module says... well, just fudge the numbers so that the hobgoblins are now twice what the module says, but half of them will be fighting the garrison attack).
  • c) (Works fine with (b)) the party has some specific resource (a thief? the place is supposed to be brimming with locks and traps) that is supposed to be vital to the success of the mission, while the garrison members lack the specific training. Even if your party is really composed by 1st level PCs, you should be able to find a reason that makes the PCs the best bet for this job. Even just the ability to "Read Magic" or something like this.
  • d) The weakest of them all: the town mayor, or priest or any other important figure has dreamed up that a party of strangers will come and save his wife, currently hostage of the humanoids.

Note that point (c) could be based on false information, like "the hobgoblins are hiding in the dungeon of Whatsamcallit and we know for sure that only a Cleric of XYZ can safely pass the Runes of Defence that were inscribed there centuries ago..." - even if this is just a legend (no rune whatsoever, or these were rendered inactive by hobgoblin shamanistic magic when they choose the place as a base), your party happens to have the only 1-st level Cleric of XYZ in miles...

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It's a lot easier to defend your home turf. 200 men can defend the town from inside their walls. The same 200 men would be slaughtered if they approached the hobgoblins walls.

The town requires a small strike force that can penetrate the hobgoblins' keep and carefully find the hostages and remove key leaders. There simply aren't enough volunteers in the city who would have a chance of accomplishing this.

The removal of leaders will have a side effect of causing infighting as the hobgoblins decided how to fill the power vacuum.

Another thing to consider is that most NPCs are Level 0 characters, where as PCs are at least level 1. Other systems have the concept of "minions" or "extras" who aren't heroic/villainous or important to the story and have only 1 hit point. While levels and hit points are only game mechanics, it represents the characters level of dedication.

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