April 8, 2011

Terrain Powers for a 1-On-1 Duel

from The Karate Kid (1984)

The duel to the death, the 1-on-1 fight, the showdown. These words describe a powerful scenario where a hero must confront and defeat his enemy. Dungeons & Dragons, however, is at its heart a group game, made with the idea of a tactical team of 5 in mind. Must we abandon this epic imagery? This satisfying closure between two rivals so that we can invite the whole team? No, we will split the goddamn party.
I know there are a lot of naysayers out there, some even made up tshirts, that say "Never split the party!" Well I think that is isolationist, risk-aversion thinking that will land you a nice, safe, cushy existence in Boring Town. If you have an eager memebr of your party, and they are just dying to get their hands on their villain and beat that villain to death with their own hands, do not take away that moment of glory from them! If the dice fall against them, if they die, so be it.

"Without pain, without sacrifice, we would be nothing."

from Fight Club (1999)

Anyway, stepping back from the soapbox for a second here; I was presented with such a player at one point. We were wrapping up a campaign, ending up in a decisive way that sought to have closure for everyone and a feeling of accomplishment. This character, Jacare Koral, had a rival brother that featured into Jacare's backstory and subsequent adventures. [I would have said that he was the evil twin brother, but Jacare was definitely more of a jerk. But I digress.]. When this happened, I was determined to make an awesome encounter.

The things that I knew I would need were:

+ A limited area. The other PCs in the group were going to be off doing their own thing, killing monsters and taking their stuff, and I didn't want those actions to overtake the showdown of the brothers. If Jacare was going to die, it would be at the hands of his brother, not by a stray fireball from a dragon.

+ Connected. The encounters had to be thematically connected. I won't get into all the convoluted details here, but the better one part of the split group did, the better the other did. At certain Hit Point thresholds dependant on Jacare's fight, bonuses and penalties would be given out to help or hinder the rest of the team, and vice versa.

+ Movement. With a 1-on-1, there's very little reason for the combatantsto move around. I mean, what's the advantage? Hence, I created an area with dangerous falls and some Terrain Powers for the brothers to use to make it useful for them to move around and position themselves.

With these in mind, the fight consisted of the majority of the group attacking the Arkhosian Duke Abithriax and his army of Draconic Barons atop a crumbling castle (4 PCs vs. equivalent XP of multiple creatures), while The Pontiff (a dungeoneer) commanded the Rebel Fleet to break through an Imperial Navy blockade (ala a Skill Challenge -esque Naval Battle), while at the same moment The Koral Brothers held a duel to the death (1 PC vs 1 Standard Creature) atop the peak of the collapsing main tower of the keep!

Yes, that's right, it was a three-way Star Wars style split. And it RULED!

from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)

 The duel Terrain Powers are presented below.

Shove                                                                 Terrain Power
You kick your enemy in the chest, pushing him back.

Move Action
                                          Melee touch
Target: One creature.
Attack: Athletics vs. Fortitude
Hit: You push the target 1 square.
Leg Sweep                                                       Terrain Power
You sweep your feet, knocking your enemy off balance.

Move Action
                                          Melee touch
Target: One creature.
Attack: Acrobatics vs. Reflex
Hit: You knock the target prone.
Feint and Move                                           Terrain Power
You bob and weave so that your enemy stumbles about the battlefield.

Move Action
                                          Melee touch
Attack: Bluff vs. Will
Hit: You slide into the target's square, and the target slides into your square.

1 comment:

  1. Just read this. Awesomesauce. I've been trying to figure out how to do this in my campaign without making some people "sit out a fight". The +Connected part is great and necessary to help the whole party feel in on all parts of the epic battle! Thanks.