Guardians of the Past
General Advice and Strategy
Keeping your Point Man alive
When exploring a dungeon with a lot of traps, the person who walks point basically acts as a trap detector. Needless to say that this person should have a lot of hit points/dexterity/good saving throws.
Splitting up the party
Never, ever do this. No matter how good an idea it may seem at the time. Remember that ‘divide and conquer’ works just as well for the enemy. If you are, by some act of God, forced to split up, then at least agree on a rendezvous-point and time and also on a recognition sign or password to help i.d. friend vs. foe.
Use the proper authorities whenever possible. The watch is a lot less likely to think you are a crook when they see you show up every three months bright and chipper to renew your weapon permit. If someone breaks into your room and tries to steal incriminating information, you have choices. You can either deal with them yourself creating a situation that might get you into a jam later or you can summon the authorities.
When you’re on a mission or if you’ve got something to hide like having a body hidden in your loot wagon, don’t do something stupid to get stopped by a patrol. Also, don’t get into fights and when a guardsman tells you to do something, say “yes sir” and play the concerned citizen. Don’t overdo it though. An overly helpful person gets remembered as much as a troublemaker. If you have expensive/magic/or hard to get gear, do not flash it around. People would just love to take things away from you if they can.
Don’t mess with the law
Don’t shoot at the watch or pick their pockets or make a general nuisance of yourself. (It makes them mad, and this point can never be overstated enough).
These were already mentioned in the combat section but they can also be useful in other situations. The party should have a short list of subtle signs, with meanings like:
“Something is wrong, try to leave unobtrusively.”
“Get ready for a fight.”
“Get ready to run like hell.”
When you’re making a plan, always make a backup plan for when things go wrong (which, let’s face it, they often do). So don’t just say: “We’re going to sneak into the temple, steal the Ruby Eye of Cyric, and then sneak back out again”, but also decide in advance what you’re going to do if you get discovered halfway in and you’ve got hordes of mad priests and guards coming towards you from all directions, while bells madly toll the alarm. If your group usually starts arguing, with half the players wanting to make a run for it and the other half wanting to go on and try for the Eye anyway. Of course, while you’re arguing our DM happily lets the guards and priests close in.
In general, try to keep plans simple. You can’t plan for every contingency anyway and having too many/too long/too detailed plans only ensures that things will get messed up, not to mention the fact that they suck up a lot of game-time.
Whenever you decide to make a plan, stick to it. Just because you discover a hidden door which might hide a load of treasure (and your usual Demon Lord or two) that doesn’t give reason enough to sidestep from your original plan and screw it up completely, making your original goal harder to achieve.
When heading into unknown territory, try to get information beforehand if you can. Try to find out about weather and terrain conditions, monsters you might encounter, local leaders, customs the people might have, laws of nature, laws of supernature, etc.
The real deal
Ask questions FIRST, shoot later. So many punks accept the line they are fed without bothering to check the facts. Get your employers line, then visit your local information sources and find out the REAL deal.
Do some research
Always check out your job and the person hiring you before you take the job and learn about the goal before leaving the city. Don’t take everything at face value. Don’t assume things. Get proven facts.
A good rule is don’t let the other party chose the place for the meeting. Make sure it’s held somewhere public and unenclosed, such as a busy market. If you need more privacy, try to meet somewhere in the open, a public park for instance. That way, it’s harder for your enemy to box you in. Always arrive at the meeting place early and spend some time observing it. Note the available exits. During the meeting, have some backup waiting (preferably with a getaway vehicle and a few well concealed spellcasters or archers).
Before going on an assignment, try to get pictures or descriptions of people important to your
mission. A group can go to talk to an important npc without taking this precaution. The person can later turn out to be a very well-armed imposter.
When accepting a mission, try to get as much money in advance as possible. Not only does this reduce the chances of being cheated, it also makes it less likely that your employer will try to stab you in the back in order to avoid having to pay you. Don’t forget to ask if your expenses (healing costs, ammo, broken equipment etc.) are covered. Also, make sure that those surviving will receive the shares of deceased team members.
Be careful not to leave traces at the scene of the crime. You might want to invest in some gloves, a disguise or perhaps even some spells specifically designed to clear all traces. These can be extremely handy, where even a single drop of blood or strand of hair is enough for a ritual magic team to track you down.
Have more then one bolt hole or safe house with some extra gear, money, and faked papers. If you can set them up through third persons, it will help to keep them hidden from your enemies.
While (or before) trespassing through a fortress/dungeon/noble’s villa, see if you can pick up an appropriate outfit that will allow you to blend in. Also, pay attention to the names of high-ranking personnel (again, try to find this out beforehand if possible). That way, when someone stops you and asks you what the hell you’re doing in the Inner Citadel carrying the Scepter of Urgh, you’ll be able to say: “I’ve got direct orders from Lord Xerox, out of my way, you flunky.” This will probably not be enough to get you out of trouble, but it should keep the guards from attacking you on the spot and thus buy you some time.
‘To do’ list
Make a list of all things your group is supposed to do, especially the dumb things. If you don’t mention them, you will forget them. Have the list go around having rest of the team members make additions.
Some advice for thieves
If you detect traps, do NOT assume just because you have a “Remove Traps” roll after the
“Detect” that you are somehow responsible for removing each and every trap. Even at medium levels, the odds of you failing your roll and being killed by a trap are high. So, let the mage spend some spells removing it. Let the fighter use his polearm to poke around a bit. The best thieves will go to the front of the party and say “Yep, there’s a trap here” and then promptly return to their place in back of the party.
Keep a sharp eye and ear on the local fauna. When something is wrong, the animals often know about it before you do. An unusually quiet forest or a flock of birds that suddenly takes off for no apparent reason could both indicate trouble. You might also want to consider giving your character a trained dog or another animal with sharp senses.
If you’ve got it, don’t forget to use it. Saving your resources ‘for the real emergencies’ is all very well, but when you feel you REALLY might have need of a certain item or spell, don’t hesitate to use it. Some characters die with unused healing potions in their backpacks and unused spells on their minds. Don’t let that be you.
Know Who Your Friends Are
Many groups fail to note who’s good to deal with. Or worse, they even fail to remember who they’ve dealt with at all. Sometimes an old friend has just what you need, or knows who can help you – why takes risks all over again by asking favors of new contacts when you don’t have to? Associates from years past don’t drop off the face of the earth because you’ve been out of town for a while. In fact, they may have just the information you need, but you’ve forgotten all about them.
Make sure you’ve done enough recon. Nothing is funnier than a bunch of PC’s who’ve done NO recon (through clairvoyance, sneaking around, spying) stumbling into an area and finding it COMPLETELY opposite from their expectations (the dark cathedral really is a gate to some nether plane…)
Confirm your kills
Some parties behead anything they think they have killed. Others take a hand with the head. That way if it does come back, at least it’s pissed. Always confirm your kills if possible. If you didn’t confirm the kill, don’t be surprised when you see him/her/it walking down the street or crawling through your bedroom window.
Assume nothing. Don’t leap to conclusions. Don’t assume that another person has a particular intent, whether “good” or “bad”. Don’t assume that you can defeat every monster you face. Don’t assume that the orcs cannot use magic against you. Don’t assume that every halfling is a thief.
When you make any assumption, even one of good faith, you are creating for yourself an illusion from which the truth may disappoint you and create problems because you assumed something without proof. More pertinently, you expect a series of interactions that may or may not be fulfilled. Ultimately, you reduce everything to your OWN prejudices and preconceptions. If instead you assume nothing, nobody will ever correctly accuse you of assuming bad faith, and you will never fall short of the truth. Indeed, it’s the best way out of that thought trap.