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Scouts rock… and die!

Written by Expy - Published on February 6, 2008

Have you ever saved the world? Well, I’m telling you: it will keep you busy. So busy that you might not have enough time to kill goblins anymore. That’s why some adventurers and villains choose to hire scouts or henchmen to do their dirty work.

The game within the game

If your PCs have reached the sweet spot (level 6-12 for me) and often choose to hire scouts to gather information, it could be a fun change of pace to have the players play the hired characters. Think of it as a game within the game.

I wouldn’t make this side-story too long because your players probably enjoy playing their usual characters, but it could be an entertaining 1 or 2 hours of play for different reasons:

Recreate the crunchy character creation experience

If your players are a crunchy bunch, they could create the scout character(s) themselves. It gives everyone a chance to experience a different character concept for a little while.

Expy the dragon says:
Want to include a
red dragon in your
campaign but also
want to keep your
players alive?
Roast the scouts instead!

Kill characters!

Having your players play different characters means that it will feel like a tournament or convention game where the DM has no qualms about killing PCs (qualms about killing PCs can lead to the Chosen One Syndrome – be careful).

Make sure this is a high-risk, high-reward kind of thing. If the temporary characters survive and successfully complete whatever task they undertook, then information the “real” PCs get out of it should make a difference in the ongoing campaign.

What do you think?

Do you think this would fly with your players? How much preparation would you be willing to invest in a mini-adventure like this? As a player, do you like the character creation process enough to enjoy a game within a game like this?

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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11 Responses to “Scouts rock… and die!”
  1. Ian Winterbottom says:

    I think it is a great idea; firstly it gives the ubercharacters some practice in playing somebody and something else for a change, they have to think of new tactics and methods as the tried and true ones disappear! Secondly, it makes those players more “jealous” and interested in the Secondary characters if they have invested some care, time, thought and effort into their creation, fleshes them out in their heads? And/or gives them some pause for thought about how they might use that NPC’s skills and talents better in some situations?
    And finally it is just plan interesting, both for the players and the GM! At least, it would bne for me! what does anyone else think?

  2. argokirby says:

    I like the idea of it, a lot of times some of my players love their characters but want to get a chance to play someone new every once in a while. This would be a perfect way.

    I think a good idea would be to reward any XP earned by the scouts to the main characters so not only does it advance the plot, but it advances the main characters as well.

  3. PhasedWeasel says:

    I like the idea a lot. I ran a one shot in my current campaign a few months ago, with the opposite premise: The players took on the roles of extremely powerful NPCs, some of them famous, investigating an incident which was central to the overarching campaign plot. This allowed me to highlight the main villain(s) at their nastiness and full power without pulling punches. Addtionally, by playing high powered characters for one session (like an astral deva, gargoyle assassin, High Inquisitor of the Church, etc) they got their fill of that playstyle for now (their main characters were around level 5).

    I’ve been wondering about another in-campaign one shot, and I think this is an excellent way to go about it. Thanks!

  4. ScottM says:

    It’s an excellent idea. A few other designs formalize it (like Ars Magica’s Grogs), but they way you present it works very well.

    Somewhat related: occasionally let them play an evil horde intent on sacking a town. Then have the adventurers stumble on the town’s ruins later…

  5. Ian Winterbottom says:

    Wease, that is another fascinating idea. Introduces the players to the more famous people populating their World, as well as giving them a behind the scenes glimpse of the villains they have yet to meet In Persona, as it were; gives them an idea of what dangers they may be facing later and perhaps time to prepare? A little like a “flashback” or forward in a movie or book? And allows them more insight into the overarching plot rather than just as it applies to THEM? Nice one, also stored for future reference!
    Ian W

  6. sean says:

    I think it’s cool. I would say if they survive then you get some really important information, however i would really try to kill the players, not with unbeatable encounters but try figure out tricksy simple stuff. like amking them do lots of balance or tumble checks because they have to stay in the trees to avoid detection or something your characters may not normally enouncter but something that you would like to see in a session.

    Personally I always wanted to see a chase scene that spanned a caravan of airships traveling a mile above the surface where the characters had to leap from ship to ship actively spotting the person they were chasing so he couldn’t duck into a hold or jump off the caravan somehow…

  7. sean says:

    P.S. i wish you could edit a post if you are too hasty and make spelling errors :)

  8. Ian Winterbottom says:

    I like the Chase scene idea, which is ideal for Scouts as the Agile type; might be educational for the guy who is used toplaying the armoured Tank or the powerful MU? Also the airship idea, neat, I must think on that one – how about on an actual flying SHIP the Galleon type, with plenty of ropes and rigging? One I always wanted to try was a City chase, along the “Theives’ Highway”, roofs, alleys and sewers. That might also be ideal for Scouts? Suppose that the Scouts go in to recon the City, to bring back info to the Players, but are recognised by the Evil Guard? Local knowledge of the city could be truly invaluable, and might even save the Scouts’ lives; perhaps they may encounter a local thief/Rogue NPC? Even acquire allies for later, among the higher echelons?
    Ian Winterbottom

  9. Sandrinnad says:

    Do you think this would fly with your players?

    Perhaps….it sounds like fun but my players mostly like to play the same character types each time.

    How much preparation would you be willing to invest in a mini-adventure like this?

    For the first one I think a fair amount – a little extra effort to make sure everyone enjoyed it. After that maybe take a look at what flew & what crashed & redirect/reduce prep time accordingly.

    As a player, do you like the character creation process enough to enjoy a game within a game like this?

    3e – no, other systems – generally yes

  10. Yax says:

    Thanks for all the feedback, everyone!

    I think it’s now fair to say this concept should be fun if it’s not done often. I’ll suggest it to my players

  11. Debbie Reed says:

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