Monday, May 8, 2017

Old News: Kranky the Kobold Kaptain

Get that fresh, fresh bling
Another week without a weekly game, sadly. It's almost becoming semi-monthly at this point, but things should return to normal in a bit. May is a busy month for a lot of people in my gaming group, and to combat that I'm running a series of one-shot games that aren't part of my ongoing campaigns. Should be fun.

For this week, though, I thought I'd recap a dungeon that I built very early in my 5e career, and how it has become something of a legend among my players.

Old News: Kranky the Kobold Kaptain

When I began running my campaigns in Ahneria, I had two groups: my original players, and my friends at the video game company. However, that summer we had an excellent set of interns at the company, who vocally complained about not being included in all the D&D that everyone was talking about. Being a new DM, foolhardy in my estimation of my available capacity to run games, I decided to let them have their own campaign: Intern Quest.

For Intern Quest, I decided to use a bunch of ideas from the Angry GM, whose work I had recently begun perusing. Those poor kids. I threw a massive, procedurally-generated kobold dungeon at them as level 1 characters. They got blown up, had rocks drop on them, fell into pit traps, and otherwise beaten up by kobolds.

Not to say they didn't have fun. In fact, they fell into their characters really well. There's just something about nearly dying to stupid little dragon monsters that really brings a group together.

Pictured: baby's first murder
Anyway, I had set up the final boss of this dungeon to be Kranky, the Kobold Kaptain. It was my first foray into using paragon monsters, and I have to say it worked perfectly. Kranky felt like a final boss fight. Even for level 1 characters. Now, that's a good system.

If you haven't read the article I've linked twice now, a paragon monster is basically two or more monsters smashed together. Then, the monster gets a number of turns during combat equal to the "monsters" left in its HP pool. You can also reverse that, so a monster gets a number of turns in a combat equal to the "monsters" already killed in its HP pool (plus 1 of course). Since Kranky was supposed to be kranky, I decided to go with the latter.

To make a deadly encounter using just CR 1/8 kobolds, I would need 8 of them. I decided that Kranky getting 8 turns in a round was a bit excessive, so I dialed him down to 6 kobolds smushed together and gave him two CR 1/8 pets: a pair of Giant Weasels. To make them interesting, I named one Stubby (missing a leg, -1 Dex) and one Barfy (bad stomach, -1 Con). Kranky, Stubby, and Barfy were ready to roll!

Lastly, I had to decide where Kranky would be. And I wanted him to use one of his first turns to set off some sort of trap, since that what kobolds do. I picked three locations where Kranky could show up, each with a trap built in to the room, and a place for Stubby and Barfy to hide.

So our little band of Intern explorers made their way to Kranky's bedroom, a sure place to find him. After exploring a bit, they realized they were not alone, and that's when Kranky sprung the trap on them.
This isn't Stubby or Barfy, but dang it would be fun to play a Redwall campaign
Hooks shot from the ceiling and floor, grappling the party's barbarian. I let him know he could break the grapple as an action any time he wanted, but he'd take 1d6 damage for doing so. I also sent Stubby his way to keep him occupied.

Meanwhile, Kranky and Barfy took on the party's rogue, sorceress, and druid. As I expected, they focused their efforts on Kranky, knocking out three of his "HP pools" before he had a chance to go. however, they were squishy, and Kranky was getting awfully kranky.

When his turn hit, Kranky unleashed his four attacks, along with Barfy's bite. The druid dropped immediately, and the rogue and sorceress were barely standing. The tide of battle had turned in a single round! Meanwhile, the barbarian took out Stubby and began throwing javelins, refusing to take the 1d6 damage.

The fight lasted a couple more rounds, long enough for the sorceress to drop and the rogue to finish off Kranky. However, by that point the druid had rolled her final death save failure, and died.

I felt pretty bad about killing a PC in the group's first game, and as expected, the party immediately swore revenge. The girl playing the druid rolled up her character's twin sister, a bard with nearly the same name as the original character. However, she differentiated the two by having the Bard wear the skull of Barfy as a helmet.
Kobolds and Giant Weasels: who knew?
Overall, I was happy that the fight proved challenging, and I decided to use paragon monsters more often. Though it isn't always the best solution, it definitely helps the action economy in 5e.

Side note: for those who haven't looked into it, action economy is huge in 5e. You can basically figure out who is going to win a battle by counting how many actions each side can take, assuming the CR is within the limits listed in the DMG. It's so relevant, it's the reason behind Legendary Actions, Lair Actions, and nearly every creature gaining some form of multiattack.

I actually had a chance to run the dungeon for a separate group later on, as a short pickup game. They faced off against Kranky in his throne room, and the fight was certainly no less difficult. Kranky sprang his pit trap on them, and Stubby and Barfy leapt out from side tunnels. I think over half the party was down by the end of it, but the group had a cleric so they were okay.

In the end, Kranky and his pets Stubby and Barfy became somewhat infamous in my gaming group. It was a sign of a good combat - challenging, memorable, and dynamic. I'd like to think I've achieved a few combats like that since, but as any DM knows, there are good combats and there are bad combats. Sometimes it's all up to the dice, but learning how to set up a better scenario is very important.

"Hello, my name is Kranky and I haven't had an anger episode in a wee-WHAT DID YOU SAY TO ME"
Thanks for reading!

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