This past Sunday was the latest session of the Storm Point campaign, featuring the siege of Storm Point by an army of mixed humanoids led by shadar-kai heretics worshiping Vecna. We didn’t finish up the siege in one session, so we’ll have to get back to it next game.
I patterned the siege after the skill challenge I used for the defense of the mines last session. I varied it a little, because I wanted to accomplish a few very specific kinds of things:
- Time pressure. I wanted the characters to feel that there just wasn’t enough time to do everything.
- Resource pressure. I wanted the feeling of scant resources.
- Random siege length. I wanted to have the actions of the characters determine just how long the siege goes on.
I also didn’t want to have the option each turn for the characters to kill attackers – in a siege this size, I felt that the impact of killing a few dozen besiegers just doesn’t tip the scales that much.
So, I decided to run the siege as a series of skill challenges, with eight-hour rounds. If a character worked more than a single round in a row, he had to start making Endurance checks – failure cost one healing surge and imposed a -1 (cumulative) penalty on all rolls. This, I felt, would make for some interesting choices, as the players try and decide whether they should take a nap or spend another eight hours manning the walls or whatever.
It worked, too, in that the players were all trying to push their characters as far as possible without sleeping, but saw their effectiveness diminish as they stretched too far. It also allowed for the Endurane skill to really shine for those who had good scores: Thrun the Anvil, for example, went three whole days before even starting to slow down.
The siege itself I broke into two phases: preparation and the siege itself. I set up a range of skill challenges in the preparation phase, each of which granted an advantage during the siege phase; things like training a command squad, laying in stores, reinforcing the walls, seeding the surrounding area with traps, and scrying on the approaching army. I gave them three days to get as much accomplished as they could, and they managed all of the preparatory challenges.
There was a longer challenge available, as well, one that I expected to run through the bulk of the siege. The Wizard was researching a mystical weapon created by the Bael Turathi tieflings in their war against Arkhosia. It was a set of runestones that could be used to unleash violent destructive energy in a wide area, and was called The Lightbringer. The DC on this challenge was tougher, and the Complexity higher than the other challenges. The swordmage and the cleric jumped all over this challenge.
And botched it. The experiment blew up, badly wounding the characters and killing the Wizard. The party paid to have him resurrected, but all the research notes and volumes were destroyed in the explosion.
Once the siege was established, I gave the party a list of nine different tasks that they could spend their time on, each one a skill challenge. This was stuff like planning, wall defense, blockade duty in the harbour, magical defense, leading a sally party, maintaining civil discipline, etc. The catch was that, every task they didn’t work on in a given round, automatically failed. When they succeeded in a task, they could either take the success or erase a failure. Failures also imposed some minor penalty, like costing a healing surge or giving a penalty to another roll.
To help alleviate the inevitable mathematical downslide this set-up produces, one of the tasks (Command) allowed the characters to remove a failure previously acquired in another area, and didn’t suffer from the possiblity of failure. Their success in the preparatory phase also gave them a command squad that they could assign to one of the tasks.
Now, the accrual of three failures on any given task results in something bad happening, but not in the failure of the siege. A certain number of challenges (which I’m not going to spell out here) need to fail for the siege to break the city. But, for example, if the party acquires three failures on the Magical Defense task (which they did just as we wrapped up for the evening), a band of demons is conjured into the city and begins wreaking havoc. They’re going out to fight them, now, and a few of the characters are very tired.
Breaking the siege will happen if they manage to succeed in a few key tasks, which will trigger the final battle, or after a certain amount of time, when off-stage developments will catch up with things.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the way the set-up has been forcing the party to make some hard choices during the siege, and dealing with the consequences. The players seem to be having a good time with it, too. We went all evening without a single combat, and everyone was engaged and involved in the game.
Of course, next time starts off with a nasty demon fight just to make up for things.