The players in my Felltower campaign have a big "blocker" in their way - orcs. An individually weak but organized group of orcs who:
- have an external base north of the dungeon out in the wilderness;
- control of the ruined but defensible surface castle;
- control of large portions of level 1 and 2.
- effective control most of the main known entrances to Felltower.
I like orcs, and I have a lot of orc minis. So inevitably orcs were going to show up repeatedly in this game. But I didn't set out to put the orcs in as a major force the PCs needed to contend with. It could easily have been the lizard men (again, dozens of minis for them), or hobgoblins (maybe two dozen of them?), horde pygmies (many, many minis of them), and so on.
How did this happen?
A combination of PC action and PC inaction, really.
The PCs basically wiped out the orc's enemies. You can even see this come up early as they questioned a hobgoblin captured way back in the first delve into Felltower. They killed off the hobgoblins who held the entrance "pillboxes" but who didn't bother to secure the entrance against general traffic. They wiped out the slimes and trolls and disarmed most of the traps that blocked easy transit. They killed most of the gargoyles. They killed off the medusa. The flame lords. The lizardmen (to a lizard and a newtman). They killed a wizard and his corpse-golems and flesh golem guard and summoned monsters. They killed the ogre duo and their gnolls and apes. They wiped out the cone-hatted cultists who took over a portion of the dungeon. Pretty much, if it directly or indirectly threatened the orcs, they killed it.
Meanwhile, they found the growing orc menace was easier to deal with by paying a toll than fighting them. In fact, the PCs suggested the toll. They handed over money, weapons, and even the corpse of one of the six-fingered ones they know so little about. Not that negotiating is bad, but it did served to relieve pressure on the orcs as well as the PCs.
So the PCs created a void in the dungeon by clearing sections of it, but didn't significantly weaken the orcs who could fill that void.
So, the orcs did just that.
Here are some significant posts:
DF Game, Session 13 - Felltower 4 - 9/9/2012. The first direct encounter with the orcs, perhaps?
DF Game, Session 35 - Trigers, Wizard, and the Wardrobe - 0/27/2013, the PCs solved the problem of the orcs fortifying the entrance by negotiating with them for entrance. The PCs initiated this, and offered a lump sum, a per-trip fee, and negotiated escorts and so on in return for safe passage. Trip fee was 50 sp.
DF Game Session 39, Felltower 30 - 1/5/2014, the PCs bypass the orc-held entrances, get in their own way, and wipe out an orc guard post.
DF Session 46, Felltower 37 - Dungeon and Dragons - 7/13/2014, the orcs raise the toll to 1000 sp, or 200 sp to leave the trap the PCs let themselves be sealed in. The PCs paid the 200 and haven't tried to pay a toll to the orcs again.
DF Session 50, Felltower 41 - Orc Trap Counterattacked - 10/26/2014, the PCs come up at the orcs from below but get ambushed. It costs the orcs a lot, but it spooked the PCs out of bothering the orcs. I did a followup post about the orc tactics.
DF Campaign - Session 54, Felltower 45 - Raiding the Orc-Held Castle - 1/11/2015, the PCs attempt a raid on the orc-held ruined castle but can't followup on some initial damage.
There were some other encounters, of course. But those seem like they are worth highlighting - initial encounters, let's make a deal, avoiding the toll, the deal changes, the PCs and orcs fight.
And that's how we got to here.
Where to from here? That's a post the PCs will have to dictate next game session . . .