The low-level PCs

We are a party of an Oracle 5, a Rogue 5, a Sword Saint Samurai 5, and a Wizard 7. We have a contract on our heads, put there by an ex-party member in retaliation for some party members (without other party members' knowledge) putting a contract on the ex-party member. Yeah, it's complicated, and we can't get to her anyway, so it's not that important.

The high-level foe and his minions

The foe is a not-evil (maybe good) Cleric 15 and the cleric's force of around 25 pirate buddies. The cleric has taken on this contract more out of romantic desire for the ex-party member than for the cash.


In a town governed by money. Anything goes in this otherwise lawless town if the state's drawn up a contract permitting it. The town's laws, such as they are, support the cleric collecting on the contract.


The cleric and his force arrive tomorrow. Instead of dragging this out, we'd rather have this encounter now in the town and resolve this conflict, one way or the other (for instance, one way is we live, the other is we die). We have 1 day to prepare. Our funds aren't liquid, mostly tied up in our gear. It's likely the town has shady and dangerous resources available, like black powder and opium.

What can we do?

Is there a way for the party to win a fair fight against this foe and his force? Is there a way for the party to win an unfair fight? What other ways outside of the fight box are there to deal with this situation?

Note: The campaign's imploded since this situation, so answers relying on talking to the DM to point out the mathematical error in sending such a foe against the party aren't helpful nor are other metagame methods of dealing with this (for example, bribing the GM with money, pie, or special treatment for his character in the next campaign a current player runs). We never got the chance to deal with this foe, and I'm wondering how and if we could have dealt with him in-game.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Please do not answer in comments. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Mar 22 '15 at 7:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this question probably has a best answer (and other answers that can show off contributors' creativity), but it'd still be useful to have more information about the PCs (e.g. significant magic items, allies), the foe (e.g. his god, his church, his superiors, his pirate allies), and the town (e.g. size, constabulary, major players). \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Mar 22 '15 at 7:48

Yikes: that's a tall order. Step one might be a conversation with the GM...

1. Recon

You have an advantage in that you know who will be trying to collect the bounty. Try to sneak a peek at the cleric's favored tactics, and that of his pirate crew. Knowing the tactics should let you come up with counters (eg., if the cleric prefers offensive magic, investing in some anti-magic zones might be wise).

Investing in some scrolls (or time with a friendly wizard) to pump up your wizard's versatility is always helpful; this information should give you a good idea of what specific spells to try to find.

There are numerous methods by which this information can be gathered, from Gather Information (ie., Diplomacy) to Stealth to various divination magics. A local temple might be a good starting point, if there's a relatively-friendly one which is aligned with the cleric.

1b. Recon Redux

If you can't get good information about the cleric's favored tactics, you still might be able to figure out how he keeps his pirate buddies as buddies. They might be convinced to turn against him for sufficient gold, or if too many of them were to die (or just be knocked out) before you were taken out. Maybe the cleric has a specific McGuffin that keeps them in line, and you could destroy/steal/kill it?

2. Flee

You've said that they'll try to hunt you down if you flee; that doesn't necessarily mean that they'll be successful, nor that they'll do so in short order. If you can keep one step ahead of them for long enough, you might be able to delay the inevitable until you're powerful enough to stand a reasonable shot of surviving without both specific preparation and a lot of luck (say, APL 13 or so). It'll drastically change the tone of the campaign, but the GM might want that for his own purposes.

3. Form a Posse

Do the townspeople like you? Might they be convinced to stand with you even against such incredible odds as a CR 18-20 (depending on the number and level of the pirates) encounter?

4. Challenge the Frame (ie., use diplomancy)

Why is a cleric chasing a bounty? Was there a misunderstanding that you might be able to clear up? Does the bounty specify dead, or can you choose to join the pirate crew (either to change up the flavor of the campaign or to bide your time until you can challenge the cleric properly (which, that's a variant/combination of Flee and Form a Posse, really)). Or, perhaps the cleric has some business to which you are uniquely suited to attend...

5. Hunker Down, Choose Your Battlefield, and Pray

A part of this will depend on how far the cleric and his minions are willing to go to kill you. If they're unlikely to kill innocent bystanders, go to a theater or a high-class tavern. If they kill with reckless abandon, find a local dungeon that you can co-opt for a few hours.

You've got a good point about using terrain to reduce the usefulness of their numerical advantage. You're going to need other advantages, too.

  • Do you have a lot of low-light/darkvision/Blindfight? Fight in the dark.
  • Are you good at ranged combat? Find a place where you can snipe and retreat.
  • Are you good with traps? Find a place with traps you can bypass without rendering them useless, and let the horde trigger them.
    • ... less good with traps, but good at illusion? Make the horde think you're on the other side...

This is also the time to invest heavily on disposable/one-shot items: alchemist fire, tanglefoot bags, and between a quarter and half of the alchemical items in the game. With a supply of healing potions/scrolls/wands (as part of the "snipe and retreat" plan), you've got a reasonable chance of driving the cost of gathering the bounty up enough that the cleric will cut his losses. With a bit of luck (and some well-placed shouts of discouragement while you're running away), the pirates may even turn on the cleric.

  • \$\begingroup\$ We have only a day, and the cleric is just unloading and restocking in the port, so he won't be fighting very much. It is possible that we could talk to his crew. There is no misunderstanding, he has a well paying bounty on us and so is going to collect it. It doesn't hurt that he wants to get in the pants of the person who wants us dead. He's not the captain, so there isn't really any chance of them revolting, since they both have the same boss. The town guard will remove us if we try to get civvies in the way, and the town has no allegiance one way or the other. We could hire mercs. \$\endgroup\$ – Lex Hammerwood Mar 21 '15 at 21:51

Recruit Get as many NPCs on your side of this conflict as possible. If this town is ruled by money, then there are bribes you can make, bounties you can place on the cleric's head. Greed is king here, and greed is indifferent and disloyal, so use that.

Sapping Yes opium and other means applying wisdom damage to the Cleric is a great option. As for the gun powder. That'll work once. Then the cleric will resist fire, so the second time, you put the gunpowder pile on the other side of cheap wooden wall, and spray him with shrapnel for piercing damage. If possible toss negative levels at him as well. Also, if you can steal or destroy his divine focuses (holy symbols usually) most of his spells will be untenable.

Information Figure out as much as you can about about the cleric, and use it against him. Find out what his god tells the cleric not to do, and make sure that is the fastest way to you. Figure out how much these pirates are being paid and see if you can get them to betray him.

Accounting Tricks Money talks, and it can also lie. If you can negotiate for paying 'half up front' or 'money when you give me his head' you don't actually need to have the resources you're promising to give later. It's much easier to evade dozens of low level debtors then it is to evade a single level 15 cleric.

Distract If the cleric is being guided by his 'rod of lordly might', it might be possible for you to use honey pot tactics to delay him, or get him off your scent.

Combo If you can steal what you need and frame the pirates, you're increasing your resources, and turning NPCs against other NPCs.


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