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0

The Players have 2 motives: 1) save friend, & 2) reveal conspiracy. Unless I misguess, 2 is a derivative of 1. The players are concerned for an NPC's safety, a treasure trove of future mischief for the DM. Leverage that to make sure they go for the friend, not the conspiracy. I ran a Star Wars game where I was trying to push the PCs offworld and ...


0

In my current open-sandbox campaign that I'm running, I have a similar situation where the players have wandered into an area that's a bit higher than their current paygrade. Our L3-5 adventurers have stumbled upon the lair of an Ancient Green Dragon twice now, and both times have managed to escape with their lives mostly intact. What happened in my game: ...


0

When I'm running games, especially sandbox games, I divide the world into two things "fixed points" and "planned points". Fixed points are things the players have seen, done, read, experienced in some ways. They are only subject to change within the limits of the game world. (For example a village they visited before may be over-run by bandits or burn down ...


0

Killing is not always the solution I used to play a permadeath MUD, with full PvP. We quickly discovered that while it was easy to kill a weaker character, it's not very fun. What we often did was beat up characters unconscious or near death then get them medical help. There's also some squick to killing intelligent beings that are much weaker. Someone ...


-1

All of the current answers are valid answers...it depends upon how you as DM want to spin the situation and what direction you want the game to go. You should leave the party free agency to go in whatever direction they would like -- just nudge them away from a TPK situation unless they force you to. You can let the players attempt to plan a jail break -...


3

Kill the hostage Seriously. You have a beautiful setup here for when the group approaches the Spymaster, for the Spymaster to flip out and have the entire group arrested and forced to watch their friend be executed. After the execution, the group should be sent out with a "scouting party" intended to execute the rest of them. This party should ...


5

I love sandbox games, and it sounds like a wonderful adventure you're creating. The best part about sandbox games is that the story can be changed quickly. The worst part about sandbox games is that, well, the story must be changed quickly. I learned a trick a few years ago that works incredibly well. When the party gets emotionally charged to accomplish a ...


-3

Let the party wipe... "Suddenly, you all wake up after you hear (one character) scream in their sleep! It was all just a dream.. an eerie premonition of what might come if you don't (go a different direction)." Put the party back into the past a safe distance away from the wipe scenario, basically giving them a free "do over".. and if they end up in that ...


-2

A more direct and simple approach. You say the city is a high level area? These outsiders are not welcome in the city because politics. Remove them by force There are 4 PCs in this party, so have a 4 of guards turn up with stun sticks, beat the party unconscious then arrest them. The stun sticks deal temporary damage and stun you for 1 minute. Give the ...


5

Reorder your story / change circumstances Similar to "Gate main content away from the party's immediate goals" from Upper_Case's answer, but I guess different enough to warrant an own answer. Ultimately you decide who guards the girl, where she is, who guards here at the moment the party arrives & what happens if they free her (or fail to do so). ...


45

Don't waste a valuable resource These are 5th level characters. As pawns they are well above the norm. When they confide in the Spymaster, rather than kill them, she uses them. Turns her considerable skills and resources into framing someone else. Someone who is a threat to her. Maybe a minor noble she can't kill directly. She helps the party find the ...


2

Now, these disappearances were all on trumped up charges. The character who'd spent the most time in the capital actually is a spy for the enemy empire and would know this. She was adamant - and correctly so - that her friend was innocent. ... The Queen's Spymaster has defected - she's orchestrating events to deliberately try and undercut faith in ...


10

Gestalt Henchmen are an option In addition to the other good answers, I've run into similar situations as a DM (darn those adventurous players!). It's not always possible, but you might be able to temporarily boost the party's strength by lending them henchmen. What you do is have the party encounter some friendly NPCs (or, at least, NPCs who see the ...


21

Give them new contacts and resources to make the impossible plausible This suggestion is twofold: the new contacts and resources can highlight how difficult this plot sequence is (possibly giving them a nudge to save it for later, or at least making them more cautious) and can also direct the plot in ways that won't be so deadly for the party. I use this ...


70

Telegraph the problem in advance It sounds like the real danger here is that the group might communicate sincerely with the spymaster, and this could lead to the spymaster killing them all. You can avoid this by letting the group discover evidence that the spymaster is treacherous -- perhaps people they talk to can complain that the spymaster is using ...


6

Give them minions like Stormtroopers or Battle Droids. There's a number of scenes from Star Wars media where this sort of thing happens - just off of the top of my head, one of the first scenes where Darth Vader shows up in Star Wars Rebels involves him attacking the protagonists and engaging the group's Jedi in a lightsaber duel while his stormtroopers get ...


4

Use the Angry GM's Paragon Rules I highly recommend reading the post in its entirety (insert warning about angry psuedo-swearing), however I will do my best to paraphrase it as per SE rules. In essence you do use a group of monsters, however they all occupy the same space and you describe them as if they are a single tough monster. If you use four orc ...


1

Split the Party This is incredibally difficult to handle as a GM, but I would advise watching how the SW films and TV shows are paced. At the climax, most of the characters are separated. During RotJ, Luke is fighting Vader, Lando is flying with the fleet, and Han, Leia, and Chewie are leading the ground forces on Endor. The 5 of them were not in a fight ...


7

Note: I've taken some of the great points outlined in this Matt Colville video on Running the Game. Short Answer: Use Minions* and Legendary Actions Minions Yes yes, I know you said that the bad guy is a "loner", but there are plenty of minions who don't count, especially if the character would think they didn't count. Droids, summoned creatures, bound ...


10

I agree with what you've found that having some sort of minion-esque thing is important, if not necessary. The reason I believe this to be the case is because a solitary fight against a creature with nothing else going on except their actions turns into a bit of a crawl, or at least a repetitive process of fighting turn after turn against the same single ...


23

Don't Now, this might seems like a non-answer at first, but bear with me. The reason boss fights "need" more than 1 monster in 5E is due to the action economy. Legendary actions are supposed to offset this, but sometimes you hit level 20 and not even a Tarrasque can slow down your band of murder hobos. Paragon Creatures are your solution. That web page ...


0

You'll want to use the Race Creation rules from the Advanced Race Guide. A link to the SRD for reference: Creating New Races Also, I see you specifically mentioned Kobolds, who have a stat block for making PCs with them (and thus making NPCs as well). Kobolds are a 5 RP (in comparison, humans are 10) race who had their stat blocks printed in the Advanced ...


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