I’ve managed to paint myself in a bit of a corner for next week’s session, and was hoping some of you could help me…

I’ve managed to paint myself in a bit of a corner for next week’s session, and was hoping some of you could help me…

I’ve managed to paint myself in a bit of a corner for next week’s session, and was hoping some of you could help me kickstart my imagination.

My players are on the verge of entering a big monastery where a cult of humanoid lizard priests is trying to perform a ritual that will cause the blood god Groth to manifest itself in the body of a girl they kidnapped (and whom my group is trying to rescue. The girl, not Groth. :-)).

The problem is that a couple of sessions ago, in a different location, my group already encountered and beat a second group of these lizard priests who were trying the same thing on a different kidnap victim (sister of the current girl — they were kidnapped together, and then the lizards split them up. I know, I know — it seemed like a good idea at the time…).

You can probably see what my problem is: I don’t want to offer my players a repeat of the same adventure, but I am stuck on how to escalate / differentiate the plot. In fact, I’d like to avoid a second slugfest altogether, so would prefer to enable something with a bit more potential for NPC interaction, and non-hack’n’slash solutions.

What I was thinking so far, is that I could have the players actually be spotted and welcomed by the priests, told that nothing’s wrong, the girl is there of her own free will, they’re welcome to meet her and stay the night, etc. etc. But of course there should still be some nefarious purpose/front behind all of this, and that’s where I am stuck.

Why would the priests pretend to be friendly to the party (considering that in the monastery the players will be vastly outnumbered, and could basically just be slaughtered at any time)? What is the priests’ ulterior goal with the second girl? What sort of non-violent solutions could I help nudge my party in the direction of? (I don’t want or need to railroad them, but my players do appreciate a bit of “there’s something for us to discover/figure-out here” GM prepped puzzle play). Can I maybe do something with the victim’s fiancee, who is traveling with the players as an NPC, and so far has not been of much use on account of him just being a humble peasant boy?

So yeah, I’m somewhat stuck. Does anybody have any ideas for me?

11 thoughts on “I’ve managed to paint myself in a bit of a corner for next week’s session, and was hoping some of you could help me…”

  1. well, off the top of my head, it could be one of two things: either

    A) the priests tried to summon Groth but instead failed and something much, much worse came out, so now the lizards are thinking about making an alliance with the PCs to beat this uber-evil creature, whatever it is, or

    B) they did indeed summon Groth, but they found out too late it was a kind of “you’ve freed me, now submit or die!” situation, maybe half of the priesthood decided to side with the blood god, and the other half, now oficially “heretics” are looking for a way not to die horribly

  2. A variation of the above: suppose Groth is not yet summoned, but some of the cult has discovered that the leader of the cult is not, in fact, a scaly lizard priest, but something worse (e.g. doppelganger, shapeshifting nasty, dragon, etc.). If the leader summons Groth, he would enslave all scaly lizard priests to his own agenda, rather than usher in the One True Scaly Lizard Priest Utopia. Etc.

  3. Groth demands sacrifices, and only strong warrior-types will do. So the priests attempt to lure the adventurers into an audience.

    Alternatively, if you think your group would be cool with a moral dilemma: When Groth was summoned, the girl traded bodies with him. The priests are confused about what to do. Do they obey this human girl who claims to be Groth, or the demon who is terrified and just wants to go home? Both will probably try to get the characters to take them back to town.

  4. Thanks for the help all — very inspirational. 🙂 Nikitas Thlimmenos and Timothy Bennett, I do like the idea of Groth (or something worse) possible already having manifested, but that would come a bit earlier than I had anticipated (Groth manifesting is pretty much the endgame for my entire campaign). How can a party of level 1 characters meaningfully interact with such a truly major Boss God enemy? They could try to outsmart him in some way, I suppose, but dangit, how do you GM prep for something like that?

    I also quite like the proposed idea of the priests (or a faction of them) now requiring the heroes’ help. That could be a good way to counter the numerical superiority of the enemy somewhat.

  5. They probably can’t. And that can certainly be part of the story. All good final battles involve getting licked once or twice. Otherwise how bad is he really. I’d have them encounter him completely off guard and unprepared, inflict some nasty stuff on them (not looking to kill them but more scare the crap out them), and then have Groth leave to carry on his rueful plans elsewhere. The party is whipped and hurting, but they learn something valuable about how to possibly defeat a god. Maybe that springs a quest to find some artifact or ingredients for a ritual or special weapon etc. once they get that stuff they have to find him again (which won’t be hard because doing evil stuff somewhere)!abd the setup for a final battle.

  6. Perhaps they meet one of the monks who are actually resisting a transformation spell that is turning non-hostile monks from a different god into this perverted form.

    Only a few of the lizard clerics are truly lizard creatures being led by a powerful shaman. Their goal now is to prevent the girls possession and release the good clerics from control of this spell without killing them all.

    Perhaps the monk they meet is their feeble leader but once great cleric of one of the players religions and said player might recognize the monastery as a place of peace and order.

    This monk may have been returning with supplies or from an errand of mercy of healing.

    There maybe more behind this shaman than meets the eye. A plot to bring several evil gods into this reality.

  7. If the aim is to differentiate from the previous time, perhaps you could have it that this sister actually escaped, and fled into some place that even the lizardfolk fear to tread. I’m imagining Newt in Aliens.

    So once they somehow learn of the girl’s escape, the party needs to go search for her in a place with environmental dangers and/or much more dangerous things. They’re in a race with teams of lizardfolk who are also searching… the lizardfolk will oppose the party in general, but maybe there might be moments where they need to team up just to survive (followed by moments of sudden and inevitable betrayal). Learning how the dangers work and how to circumvent them is more important than hacking and slashing. And then when they find her, they have to convince the girl that they’re not with the lizardfolk and are here to rescue her.

  8. Maybe it’s a new threat entirely. Perhaps while the two lizard man parties were capturing the girls something else was drawn to the temple. It killed the lizard men and took the temple as its domain, at the expense of the returning party of lizard men. The first girl’s sister is now trapped inside, hiding from the new threat. I’m thinking something like giant spider (think Shelob) or maybe some kind of undead or something was drawn to the dark magic of the corrupted temple? That would bring a new threat to the players that isn’t just the same as last session. One of the lizard priests could be found running from the temple to warn the players of the danger or you could let them see clues to its presence (fresh webbing or cocooned lizard men, rotted flesh cut from a zombie, a foul stench in the air, etc).

  9. UPDATE, in case anyone’s curious: we had the session yesterday. I went with the idea of having the priests be all nice and friendly and simply denying there was anything wrong, up to the point of producing an obviously mind-controlled girl to confirm their story.

    Then I used inspiration from your responses to (a) also introduce a group of lower-level monks who secretly contacted the heroes because they felt there was “something wrong” in the monastery, and asked for help, and (b) have the “wrong” thing be that the Lizard Abott thinks he can control Groth once he manifests, and use that power to lord it over man and lizard alike.

    It was nice session with no fighting, just lots of exposition and talking to NPCs (about which I now have some questions, but I’ll leave those for a separate post). The players said they had fun, and by the end of the session three of them had discovered the magical altar that is going to be used, and the other two had plans to just basically abduct the brainwashed girl and escape from the monastery as soon as possible.

    I suspect it will not be quite that easy. 🙂

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