Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The Brotherhood Complex, organized opposition, and the DMG

The Brotherhood Complex was the site of a full TPK in my Felltower campaign. Literally no one escaped that fight. The PCs ran into organized foes, beat them up a bit, and then lost against a regrouped foe.

Part of this I can credit to Gary Gygax. I was hugely influenced by the DMG as a young gamer. It's one of the two first books I owned - the Fiend Folio and The Dungeonmasters Guide. One section I read over and over was MONSTERS AND ORGANIZATION, DMG p. 104-105.

That outlines a number of scenarios - PCs versus undead in a dungeon crypt, against giant ants in a lair, against humanoids, against a town, against a bandit camp, and against a fortress.

They're all great stuff. Let me quote extensively to show you what I mean:

SITUATION 1 (Sl) is where encounter occurs for the first time, and while the party inflicts casualties upon the monsters, victory is denied; the party then leaves with its wounded, regroups, and returns one full week later to finish the job. SITUATION 2 (S2) is where the party, rested, healed, and ready for action, has now re-encountered the monsters in question. In both situations the response of the monsters concerned will be detailed so you can use the examples in handling actual play.


EXAMPLE VI: The party discovers a fortress and attacks.

s1. Guards will instantly sound a warning to alert the place. Alarms will be sounded from several places within the fortress. Leaders will move to hold the place, or expel invaders, with great vigor. Spell casters will be likely to have specific stations and assigned duties - such as casting fireballs, lighting bolts, flame strikes, cloudkills, dispel magics, and like spells. Defenders are out to KILL, not deal stupidly or gently with, attackers, and they will typically ask no quarter, nor give any. In like fashion, traps within the fortress will be lethal. As action continues, commanders will assess the party's strengths, weaknesses, defense, and attack modes and counter appropriately. If the party is within the fortress, possible entry points and escape routes will be sealed off. When the attackers pull back, it is very likely that they will be counterattacked, or at least harassed. Additionally, members of the force of the stronghold will track the party continually as long as they are within striking distance of the fortress.

S2. The fortress will most likely have replaced all losses and have rein- forcements in addition. An ambush might be laid for the attackers when they approach. A sally force will be ready to fall upon the attackers (preferably when engaged in front so as to strike the flank or rear). Siege machinery, oil, missiles, etc. will be ready and in good supply. Repairs to defenses will be made as thoroughly as time and materials permitted. Weak areas will have been blocked off, isolated, and trapped as well as possible under the circumstances. Leaders will be nearby to take immediate charge. Spell casters might be disguised as guards, or hidden near guard posts, in order to surprise attackers. Any retreat by the attackers will be followed up by a hot pursuit.

How to Defend Your Lair is a good, modern version of the same.

I absolutely run my foes this way, with the bit about S2 from the bandit camp as well - sometimes, they're just gone. But if they're there, they act like the above. They are fighting hard and intelligently. They won't sit in clumps and let you clear them room by room. They won't let you just rest, recoup, and attack again without a response.

The Brotherhood Complex is such a place. The deeper levels of Felltower - with the "Gith," are the same. The orcs, same. They want to fight and win, and you can't gobble them up little by little without risk. It might take a decisive win and immediately followup; what makes that win decisive depends on their center of gravity and their interests.

The PCs can absolutely smash the place . . . but it's not a "beginner" dungeon anymore. It's not a quick side trip. If it will be done it will take something more than a series of tentative delves. It's not that kind of place anymore.

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