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Micromanic

Outrunning tidal wave on foot?

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So in my next session, my group of PCs are headed for a lost research facility that's primarily located underneath a river. Most of the facility has been long since flooded, but there's still safe passages to get deeper into the structure. The end goal is a terminal located in the lower depths that contains data the party has been hired to retrieve.

Long story short, once the data is collected the facility is set to do a "purge" which centuries prior would have collapsed the tunnels around the facility, but now with it being flooded it's more dangerous as it's going to unleash the torrent of water built up behind the nearby sealed elevator shaft, that the PCs will have to outrun.

Which brings me to my question, how would people handle this mechanics-wise?

I want a sense of urgency as if they dally they could be swept up, and choices they make to reach the data may help or hinder their escape. My initial thought was to perhaps have them roll initiative and then roll an "initiative" for the water to signify the timing of it sweeping through. The PCs maneuvers/actions can then be spent outrunning the tidal wave?

Still a relatively rookie GM as it's my first campaign, so was wondering if anyone with a bit more experience might have a take on it?

Edited by Micromanic

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Using structured time isn't a bad idea, since it makes it easy to determine exactly how many rounds ahead of the wave the PCs are. Personally I'd run it somewhat like a chase, with PCs having to make Athletics (or other appropriate skill) checks each round/between each round to stay ahead of the water. Maybe throw in some opportunities to make Mechanics checks to shut bulkhead doors behind them to slow the water down, or a Skulduggery check to get another door open quickly before losing too much time.

Yeah, the more I think about it the more I like it. They can take actions like the ones outlined above on their turn in the initiative sequence, while using manoeuvres to close the distance to their destination, while in between rounds they make chase checks to see if the water gains on them or they can keep ahead.

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I'd say group athletics checks (where you pass on excess successes to the next player) might be the order of the day as they make a bee line for the exit, unless they get split up. But there's something enjoyable about a group athletics check - players picking each other up or geeing each other on. Jolly good fun!

I'd probably not give the water initiative - just make it a challenge that they need to tackle which has the benefit of not being a headache if they subvert your expectations and manage to stop it somehow. You could make it [x] turns or decide a number of obstacles or rooms that they need to pass - whatever gating you use I'm sure you'll want to avoid killing them so I'd probably think up some submerged challenges as well, for if they get swept up in the wave. Avoiding wall collisions comes to mind but you might also be able to get them heading for holes in the roof etc. 

I think I'd keep it pretty brief to maintain pace, though - may 3-5 parts? Krieger22's door ideas are quite exciting too. Could help them buy time or help you introduce tension if needed

Edited by SanguineAngel

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6 hours ago, korjik said:

first: what happens if they fail?

One is nautolan and another is a droid, so they'd be less stressed I imagine, more the other two. Got some contingency plans for the others if they don't make it.

I want to amp up the suspense, but definitely no intention to kill them haha

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While the breathing may not be a problem, they should still be concerned about being hurled with excessive force that might kill them outright. Plus while droid don't need to breathe, there is nothing that suggests that they are waterproof, thus they could still drown as their system  get stressed and start to fail. They might be fine where breathing isn't an issue, but being flung into a bulkhead or grate with many tons of propelling force is just as bad.

 

though our PCs have a fair chance of survival, our war with the empire claimed many of our best.

Edited by LordBritish

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8 hours ago, korjik said:

first: what happens if they fail?

Micromanic, you mentioned still being fairly rookie. Honestly, this is the best advice and I'd suggest asking this question in any situation where you are considering calling for a roll.

You want to make sure that something intersting will happen in the event of a failure if you're going to introduce the possibility by having the player roll. Preferably you'd probably want to have your player failing forward so that you maintain momentum. 

If you can't think of an outcome for failure I'd reconsider the roll (or your assumptions about what failure in this task means for the player)

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10 hours ago, SanguineAngel said:

Micromanic, you mentioned still being fairly rookie. Honestly, this is the best advice and I'd suggest asking this question in any situation where you are considering calling for a roll.

You want to make sure that something intersting will happen in the event of a failure if you're going to introduce the possibility by having the player roll. Preferably you'd probably want to have your player failing forward so that you maintain momentum. 

If you can't think of an outcome for failure I'd reconsider the roll (or your assumptions about what failure in this task means for the player)

This is exactly what I mean. If you are going to start an encounter, you should have an idea of what is going to happen, and what all the rolls mean, then what happens in case of success and failure. 

The goal is not to kill the players, but you do need to add suspence somehow. How? If you just make it 'The water is rising, you have to run away', and then all the players just run away, there was not really any point to the encounter.

There needs to be obstacles to overcome. Say a door has closed and the thief needs to unlock it or the mechanic hot wire it. Say there is a part of a tunnel which has collapsed and the players need to get across, quickly. Maybe they have to climb a ladder in a narrow tunnel, quickly. These can be all different skills needed to get out.

Then on a failure bad things can happen. Stun damage or wounds from being bashed by water. Ending up underwater (what are the rules on holding breath?), and loosing the McGuffin to the rising waters are all things that could happen. You also have the advantage of the Nautolian and the Droid. Give the Nautolian the choice between saving a PC or getting the McGuffin. 

If they do well, the get to the surface soggy and bruised. If they do poorly, you now have an adventure hook to go sewer diving to find the data. All this is stuff you want to figure out before you start rolling dice. 

 

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I wouldn't use structured time, because I personally dislike that.  I would use Dramatic Time.   I had a similar situation in a game I ran with some friends.

They were in a ship, that had been critically damaged, and it was falling out of orbit, crashing to the planet.   Instead of tracking time, I used the Despair mechanic.    For EVERY check they did, one of the dice was a Despair dice (don't increase the difficulty to accomplish this, just always replace one with a red.  Be sure to explain what you are doing, and what it represents).  If there were more due to the nature of the check (you upgrade it with a DP flip for example), make sure you designate which one is the Dramatic one.  If that specific die comes up with a Despair, move them up a Doom Track.  Make some arbitrary number of ticks on the Doom Track.  If they reach that level, the water has caught up to them.    Because really, in movies, the water never actually chases them at realistic speeds.  It chases them at "dramatic speeds".  It's not as interesting for the water to overtake the hero in the middle of a street.  But hanging from a ledge, holding onto their loved ones hand?  THAT'S when the water should catch them, for extra drama.

So, my experience with it was great.  Every time they did a roll that moved them up the Doom Track, I would add another layer of danger, and challenge.  Lvl 1, the ship began to spin (they were in zero g, causing lots of the rooms to have dangerous objects bouncing around like a tumbler.  Lvl 2, they were starting to hit atmosphere, temperatures were increasing in the ship, adding a setback die to all check, etc etc.  Lvl 5, they crash.  Trust me, it worked really well to cause them tension and doubt about how to proceed.  They wanted to try and save someone, but they knew they were close to the end.  They had a great RP moment, yelling at each other "I won't leave her to die! We have to save her!" kind of thing, before they went off to try and save the other person.

So that's my advice,  Doom Track.  Come up with little things at each lvl of Doom to ramp up the tension (adding setback, increased Challenge dice by 1 for all checks, suffer 1 strain damage every turn (due to heat in my example), etc etc.   I think you will find it to be far less of a hassle to track, and more fun for the table.  Be sure to describe the roar of the water as it gets closer.  How they can feel the splash of the spray on their backs, and the ground shake from the weight of the water (a good reason for a setback die too).   

I think you will enjoy it.

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Okay . . . churning, turbulent water in massive quantities . . .

TPK?

IRL that is a very lethal force to mess with.

Let me put this in context.  Go to a grocery store and head to the dairy section.  Count out 20 gallons of milk.  THAT is the weight of an 'average' person.  (160 lbs).  Also note how very little space that 20 gallons takes up.

I have another recommendation for you from a long ago forgotten RPG source:

When you are employing something as lethal as this, make sure that you set up the mechanics so that it takes at least 2 failures for a character to . . . die.

In this case, if the group is fleeing from a surge of water and one of the PC's just doesn't make it, then the first result is that the water "catches" the PC and knocks them about.  (Be creative) but doesn't necessarily take them under.  Give them another turn for their comrades to rescue the hapless victim or for the subject PC to extricate themselves dramatically.

My other thought (and I appologise if it's already been covered by someone else) is to set up the escape routes (yes plural) as a series of obstacle courses, closed doors, partially flooded halls, arcing electrical conduits, collapsing infrastructure, shorted out elevators.  That kind of stuff.  And with a wall of churning roiling water trying to outpace the party!

Oh the nightmares . . .  Micromechanic, you are one devious GM!  <shudder>

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