November 2, 2015

The Outlaw's Hideout

Today is a small break from tradition.  I'm giving you an adventure skeleton.  This adventure uses the five room dungeon design.  You can find lots of these on the internet, of course.  This is just an example.

The Outlaw's Hideout

Theme:  This is an adventure where the PCs are sent to investigate an outlaw, criminal, or renegade.  They have to find the hidden hideout and search for the outlaw.  Once they find the hideout, they have to get inside and

Locations and Encounters

1. Finding the Hideout:  The PCs are led by an old map, tracking dog, or GPS locator to a very messy or overgrown general area.  Somewhere in the area is the hideout.  They don't know if the outlaw is in or out, awake or asleep, alone or with others...  They are fairly sure the outlaw has the entrance hidden, and probably the approach trapped.

The dramatic question is "How can the PCs find the entrance before they're discovered or set off a trap?"  The system should use a searching mechanic, coupled with a "gotcha" trap mechanic.  Because the PCs are alert to possible traps, "gotcha" traps are fair game.

If this is a single session adventure, you can Open with a Bang here or even make the whole Outlaw's Hideout a Bond Opener for a larger adventure.  To punch up scene 1, start en media res with the PCs in a dangerous wilderness or urban jungle, far from backup.  Describe the sense that they're right on top of their objective, and the feeling of uncertainty that comes from not knowing if the places is deserted, an ambush, guarded, or booby trapped.

2. The Cave Mouth:  The PCs discover a hidden area where there is good ventilation.  The outlaw uses this area to cook.  There is an alarm trap here that they can see at least part of, and have to figure out how to avoid setting it off.  In D&D, this could be a Glyph of Warding.  In Shadowrun, this could be a jury rigged security sensor that needs to be avoided with care.

The dramatic question is "How can the PCs find a way around the alarm?"  The system should be mostly ignored, as the players can just think their way around the alarm trap.  Maybe there is a secret entrance, and the Glyph entrance is just for show, to catch intruders.  Maybe the security sensor is infrared, and can be bypassed by using thermal smoke.

If you want to turn up the threat, have the alarm trap in this scene challenge the PCs before they have a chance to react to it.  Perhaps the sensor zooms in on one of the PCs, a laser turret points at him, and they can hear a microwave transmitter powering up somewhere else.  Quick!  What do you do?  Maybe there's a dog with a collar inscribed with a dangerous Symbol of Sleep or Symbol of Pain spell on it that comes running toward them, tail wagging.

3. The Watery Crevasse:  This is an area just inside the entrance that has a dangerous, jagged hole.  The hole is used as an escape bolthole by the outlaw, just in case.  But it doesn't go anywhere fun.  Inside is a "bug out bag" with rations, a weapon, and some useful items.  The PCs can see the bag deep in the hole.  In a sci fi game, it might be a rickety escape shuttle built into some rickety parts of an anarchic, back-water space station.  In a Cyberpunk game, this could be a computer server that the PCs could try to hack, just packed with dangerous IC.  The paydata inside could be worth something, but it's definitely not worth the risk of hacking past all that black IC.

The dramatic question is "If the PCs risk searching the area, can they find anything of use without getting hurt?"  The system should be an athletic challenge - maybe the PCs have to crawl through nasty space station tubes and cross a leaky module that could break off with the slightest tremor.  Maybe it's a crevasse in a Pathfinder game, and they have to climb down fifty feet of slippery rock to get to a rushing underground river where the bag is.

4. The Inner Chamber:  Past the crevasse is a curtained or otherwise blocked entrance to the outlaw's living area.  They still don't know if the outlaw is home or not, remember.  Inside is either the outlaw or dangerous monsters the outlaw left behind.

The dramatic question is "Can the PCs get information from this place, despite its hostile occupant?" If this is a monster left behind, the PCs don't have to kill it - they can flee or lead it off on a chase while one of them searches the room.  If it's the outlaw, they can't kill her - they have to take her alive.

5. The Chamber's Secret:  The PCs were sent to find the outlaw, and either the outlaw was not present (twist!) or the outlaw is present, but has a surprising secret (twist!).  This scene is generally going to be plot development, rather than a challenge.  If you want a challenge, it's not hard to make one:  Questioning an outlaw could have a challenge associated with it, as could deciphering an outlaw's journal or other clues.

This is a great place to give the players some serious agency.  Instead of one path to follow, the chamber's secret should give them multiple choices.  Either the chamber gives them clues to pursue two separate mysteries, or two different leads for the same mystery, or two different ways to handle a single mystery.  For instance, they may find clues that hint, without any evidence, that the outlaw is an innocent patsy, and she thinks the PCs' employer set her up.

They can choose to believe the outlaw and investigate their employer, choose to believe both her innocence and their employers' innocence and look for the real criminal, or trust their employer and continue hunting the outlaw.  In that case, leave leads to all three options:  The outlaw left a note behind that says "Jericho, Boswell Station - may have seen something."  That could mean she's headed off to kill Jericho to remove a witness to her own crime; or that Jericho might have exculpatory evidence; or that Jericho may have evidence of the PCs' employer's conspiracy, so Jericho is in danger if they pass that information on to their boss.