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My germ of an idea is that the PC's are in the Mist Realm (an alternate plane where visibility is dramatically reduced) and are being hunted by a group of Displacer Beasts. Under the PC's care are several townsfolk who were also drawn into the Mist Realm.

My thoughts so far are this: The characters must:

  • Become aware that they are being hunted
  • Be on the run or lose scuffles with the beasts.
  • Eventually are able to turn the tables on the beasts, perhaps by tracking them back to their lair and killing them while they are off-guard (or similar).

The main issue I'm having is drumming up a cohesive story, and directing the players towards feeling powerless and the fear of being hunted. I need to make it plain that they are being hunted and that standing their ground isn't the best option. Ideally they would run and hide until they have the chance to strike back.

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I'd borrow heavily from Night's Black Agents here. What you're running is a thriller, where the PCs are, in a way, in the position of Jason Bourne. Very capable on their own, but outclassed by an enemy that keeps coming out of nowhere, and if they show up with great numbers, it's all over.

First piece of advice: have a scene where some capable bystanders are utterly and thoroughly destroyed by the hunters. Or even better, have that happen off screen, to prevent the PCs from wading in to a TPK.

Night's Black Agents suggests that there are only two types of scenes - information gathering and action.

So the first thing for this is "gather information." In this case, if they come across a dismembered, disemboweled, folded, spindled, and mutilated battleground, where the losers just happen to resemble the PCs to some extent. This one was brown-haired and wearing mail...just like Bog. That one was fair haired with a bow and leather scale. That's not quite Betterthanyouiel, but it's close enough. Geez, fatal case of mistaken identity!

The tracker could say they were swarmed over and overrun. The point guy of the dead group is in two pieces - but only evidence of one blow (gulp - if they hit us, we're dead!).

So there should be some fear there of individual beasts, as well as a pack.

Then you can stage minor skirmishes (action scenes) where if things go well they escape or can deal with a minor scout threat (a lesser beast?). That's the action bit.

The investigation is (a) why are we being hunted? (b) What's hunting us? (c) Do we fight, bargain, or run? (d) Do any weaknesses exist? (e) Do we need to go on adventures in order to obtain what we need to take advantage of those weaknesses? and finally (f) how do we set it up so we can kick their butts by using clever tactics and leveraging their weaknesses?

If there's an action scene of some sort in between each question, that's at least 12 sessions right there!

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Great answer for the general case, I think it can be improved by addressing the specifics of this case, i.e.: 1. The party needs not only to survive, but also to guard some (probably less capable) NPCs. 2. Their enemies are vicious predatory beasts, with superior speed and maneuverability in most open terrains, greater melee reach and a magical trick making them hard to see and harder to hit. They aren't as intelligent, and may have problems dealing with ladders, doors and such. 3. The whole things is happening in an extra-dimensional plane with poor visibility. \$\endgroup\$ – G0BLiN Aug 17 '14 at 17:14
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There are a lot of great answers here, and I have only one small suggestion to add:

Give them somewhere to go.

If you make it clear that there is a destination - a safe place, a stronghold - some place where there is a person or object of power that can help them, or where the environment changes to favor the PCs, then you have given them a goal besides "don't get killed."

With a destination, this plot becomes a race or chase, and the motivation to reach the goal is clear. You can still have all sorts of thriller moments along the way, and optionally a huge battle at the end.

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This is a very difficult kind of adventure to pull off. Players don't like running in the first place, and unless they are confronted with a truly inexorable force they are not likely to do so. And once one PC is downed, or if even one refuses to flee, the rest are extremely unlikely to flee themselves. I've seen this a lot in my games - they say "Run away!!!" and everyone runs - except for one guy. He either just wants to fight or tries for "one more round of attacks" and, since everyone else has run, gets swarmed and taken down and everyone else sighs and charges back into the fray.

I've only had it work when I present a truly unstoppable force. Like "you're in an abandoned dwarven city and the only thing there is a huge shoggoth you run away and hide from." Or maybe "your weapons are 100% ineffective against the golem." The rules often don't work in your favor for setpieces like this - unless the PCs are faster than the monsters, running just means you'll die tired. Displacer beasts (40' move) are faster than most PCs so this is a bad choice and most PCs will be reluctant to run in that circumstance (you may plan to cheat so they'll get away, but they have no way of knowing that).

Also, the grand plan of "turn the tables on them" is easy to interpret as "let's go fight them all at once on their own turf, while otherwise we're fighting them piecemeal out in the wild." With human(oid) foes where you might imagine their sleep schedule and all you might consider it, but a beast lair not really (unless you have some secret weapon that 'getting them all at once' can empower).

I'm going to be up front and tell you this isn't going to work and you'll get a TPK instead. But if I had to do it, here's what I'd do.

  • Have them fight one or two at a time (make sure whatever the foe is, they can handle a couple at a time).
  • Have a bigger, slower pack of the things chasing them. Maybe they have a giant Alpha, or wounded, or obese queen, or something that keeps the speed of the overall pack below the speed of the party.
  • Give them some ways for quick escape. Maybe tokens of one round of flight apiece, or dimension door, so that when-not-if they get hopelessly embroiled they have one or two get out of murder free cards.
  • Give them an ace in the hole that would make them consider bearding the creatures in their lair. I'm thinking a Cloudkill scroll. Cast, fill up the lair, hold the entrance till some/most succumb, they still have to fight a weakened Alpha.

(You are obviously playing a GURPS/D&D mash-up, so translate D&D terms in this answer to however you're doing those in GURPS.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "the enemies are faster than the PCs, and the PCs have no way of knowing there are ways to escape." \$\endgroup\$ – PotatoEngineer Sep 15 '14 at 17:55
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I'm working on a similar adventure for my group. What I've found that works well is to create encounters that play to the creatures' roleplaying aspects. For displacer beasts, hit and run tactics, close encounters and seeing the aftermath are often scarier than a straight up fight.

Playing up the aftermath of an attack on a settlement can often both raise the stakes and make the monster seen more powerful than it really is.

If the players know displacer beasts, change how they look and give them a different flair. I have done this with my group and it increased the tension without increasing the work I had to put onto it. For example, instead of fighting more zombies, my party encountered orcs driven insane by the pain of spider venom coursing through their veins. Took away their vulnerability to positive energy and played up the revulsion of it all.

In the end, make sure everyone is having fun. Give the players some hope to chase after. If the players don't take it seriously, increase the danger. And don't worry about making it perfect. An okay adventure played is much better than a perfect adventure never started.

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First rule: Tell your player to expect the beast(s) to be nigh impossible to beat, and that the genre is survival for this campaign/adventure.

Include some redshirts (a number of disposable NPCs), and have them killed to show that your hunter means business. Do this slowly — I recommended 3–5 NPCs and have them die one by one using your preferred methods. Pit the party in one fight against the hunter to show them that fighting the hunter is difficult but doable.

Maybe make one displacer beast get wounded heavily when offing one of the NPCs and get separated from its pack. The PCs are then able to finish the weakened beast, and with sufficient thought, they can discover their weakness.

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A way to get this to make a story is with a literal plot device, a McGuffin.

  1. The PCs are recruited and briefed for a mission to the Mist Realm. The objective is to recover the McGuffin, which their sponsor wants. He doesn't know exactly where it is, but he has a clue: he thinks the inhabitants of a village in the Mist Realm will know where to find it, and he gives you the names of people who've been associated with it. He wants it for dealing with Displacer Beasts on the material plane: there's a portal to the Mist Realm that they're coming through, and with the McGuffin he can close that portal. He isn't sending you through the portal because there are lots of Displacer Beasts near it in the Mist Realm, and they'd kill you, because they're very powerful there. He gives you an amulet that will enable the party to return to the material plane, and magically transports you to the Mist Realm.

  2. The village has been attacked. By Displacer Beasts. It's not a pretty sight. The survivors have never heard of the McGuffin, but when the PCs mention their other clues, the villagers reckon that a particular grave-mound is a plausible place. Some of them will guide you there, while the rest demolish half their houses to build a stockade.

  3. The journey to the grave-mound involves a fair few frights. You can't see well in the mist, but sound travels very well, so it seems as if there are always Displacer Beasts around. At the grave mound there's an attack by a single DB, which should be a difficult fight, plus whatever traps, other guardians, etc., you find appropriate.

  4. The McGuffin is recovered, along with some loot, and the papers of the wizard who built it. It can be used against DBs; within its aura, of a radius that you find amusing, they are weaker, only as powerful as they normally are on the material plane, as opposed to their power here. Oh, and it's sapient, and it wants to kill DBs. That's its purpose, and it has been very, very bored stuck in the grave mound for decades.

From there, things are pretty obvious.

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