Total Party Unkill

Sometimes the real world conspires against us and one or more players can’t make the gaming session. Every game group should agree what to do when it happens. In our case, we usually put the campaign on hold and play a one-shot single session adventure for that night. This is easier on the GM who doesn’t need to rework the session to accommodate the missing player, and easier on the absentee who won’t end up feeling like they’re missing out on all the action in the main campaign.

With that in mind, I’ve developed a habit of jotting down all those silly ideas we GMs have that would make for a great one-night adventure. Add a few notes and with a fair amount of winging it on the night, and (if the fates smile upon us) the evening should go without hitch. It also gives us (players and GM alike) a way to playtest things we aren’t willing to subject our precious mainline campaign to just yet (such as 4e’s Monks and Assassins) and can provide a welcome change of pace. If your campaign is coming to a dramatic climax, try running a silly toon-based session when Bob can’t make it, for example.

Most of these one-shot ideas begin with a “What if….?”. Here’s a few:

  • What if Starsky & Hutch featured anthropomorphic animals? Huggy Bear is a bear, Starsky is a sparrow and Hutch is a rabbit – a favourite of mine, and one I keep threatening to turn into a full M&M campaign. Boom Chaka Wow Waaa.
  • What if the evil Necromancer takes over the world and the heroes are freedom fighters? Give the PCs Epic-level characters and just play the final climactic battle. This gives a great taste of a different Tier before you reach it in your mainline campaign – an essential thing for every GM to do.
  • What if Gnomes rule the earth? Ok, I dropped this one. Everyone knows they already do.
  • What if a superhero group forms and they’re the dysfunctional children of supervillains? Who doesn’t want to play David Doom, emo-goth son of Doc Doom? Anyone?

One of my silly ideas is going to become the next session for our little gaming group. Here’s my notes, in full.

Total Party Unkill
What if the heroes are defeated in the dungeon then return to unlife to complete their quest?

“We will not rest until we have returned the Sacred Feather of the Raven Queen”. So swore the heroes to the elderly cleric before they set out on a quest to recover the stolen relic.

They failed.

In the final battle against the vile Gnoll Demonic Scourge and his horde the heroes fell, utterly vanquished by forces greater than they (and several poor dice rolls). Their remains were gnawed then dumped in a forgotten corner of the dungeon to rot. Time passes, and on the next full moon…….

A female voice whispers into each corpse, “You will not rest….”, and the body moves. Re-animated at the command of the Raven Queen herself to complete their oath, the heroes have a second chance to reclaim the relic and return to their village for honourable burial.

Four heroes, all Revenants from several races and classes. While Revenants are normally reborn into a new body, these look exactly what they are – undead half-chewed animated corpses of low-level adventurers complete with missing limbs and rotting flesh. Lovely.

  • Kudruk the Revenant Dwarf Fighter – Missing a hand though he can strap his shield onto the armstump with help.
  • Gallowine the Revenant Tiefling Rogue – Missing his lower jaw. The world loves a zombie mime.
  • Calder the Revenant Eladrin Wizard – Missing a leg, uses his quarterstaff as a crutch. Doesn’t seem to slow him down much.
  • Sir Bors the Revenant Human Paladin of Pelor – Undead paladin! Guts torn out but thankfully his full plate armour is keeping it in. Mostly.

All I have to do is generate the characters at 4th level and hand them out on the day. Simple.

Three encounters, as per MM133. Lay out Dungeon Tiles to suit. See how easy this is?

The Sacred Feather is in the headdress of the Demonic Scourge. He plans to carry out a ritual to rededicate it to Yeenoghu which will grant him some of the Raven Queen’s power. No wonder she wants to stop him.

If the heroes succeed they return to their village in the dead of night and lay the Feather at the foot of the Temple. Their bodies fall where they are discovered in the morning (to the amazement of the villagers) and given burial with full honours.

If they fail, they rise again. And again. And again.

“You will not rest…..”

7 Comments on “Total Party Unkill”

  1. I’m gonna steal this idea for sure! I’ve decided to run more 1-nighters when I can in addition to our new campaign just so we have more chances to explore 4E classes/concepts.

    The last one I ran prior to the new campaign was an all Primal-Powered party. Aside from me nearly TPK’ing everyone and only a couple survivors, everyone had a blast and really loved the chemistry of it.

    Your Revenant idea is really super sweet. I’d probably experiment with an all Divine Class party too….just because I’d like to see a Revenant Invoker and Avenger.
    .-= Rev. Lazaro´s last blog ..Scary New Endeavor this Week…. =-.

  2. Keeping notes for a silly ideas for one shots – must remember that.

    The other week the party was resting in a Rope Trick and we were considering the practicalities of it, namely was there a toilet? We speculated that there would be one that vented into the inter-dimensional space that all Rope Tricks occupy.

    Other thousands of years, and countless casting of the spell, the inter-dimensional space would start to fill up with waste mater. Gravity would have its effect and coalesce it until you had:

    Planet of Poo!

    Just think about big all those intestinal parasite’s could grow. Tapeworm the size of Purple Worms!

    It is a world of adventure just waiting to be explored.

    And thanks to you I have a reason for scribbling some notes on it.

    Umm… Maybe the party really pissed off a god and are now on a quest they will never forget.
    .-= Chris Tregenza´s last blog ..Larger Than Man-Sized – Available for Pre-Order =-.

  3. I’m a big fan and practitioner of making lists and this is a great idea. (I’m a visual/spatial learner) I’m inspired to write up a one-shot or two, even though we never really have a problem with missing players. Thanks, and the undead adventurers, returning over and over again should they fail, is sweet torture for the players. Love it!

  4. They made a series of the last bulleted idea, so to say, called Runaways. I liked it, especially the run with Joss Whedon as writer.

    One shots are a great idea, and would have been put to use in my old gaming group. Of course, there would have been no actual campaign, just a series of one-shots. A better solution would have been to figure out ways to allow characters to go in and out of the storyline without breaking suspension of belief. A city campaign would be easier for that sort of thing, I’m sure.

    With the right friends, ideas are never in short supply. I once played with friends who’d never played before (and have never played since), who, on their own, made themselves an Irish rogue and Canadian Viking (oh, eh, donchaknow, eh) in a Jamaica-like island paradise, bringing down the local crime syndicate one nightclub at a time. (With the rogue sampling the available goods and services along the way.) They played their roles earnestly and nailed the accents, and we all had a great time. All I had to do was come up with thugs for them to hilariously humiliate and roll dice. It rocked. :)

    But yes, having little notes and ideas to use at a moment’s notice is good. “Be prepared”, as they say.

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