Monday, July 28, 2014

Mobility and the Dungeon

Last week the Ironbreakers discovered that they were much faster than a number of slimes and jellies. Taking into account that they were level one and couldn't afford to fight these things toe to toe for fear of being annihilated in a single strike, they hired up a number of halflings proficient with slings and sling-stones and brought them into the dungeon (the chambers beneath an abandoned wizard's tower) and set them up in a central place. Whenever they encountered something they couldn't fight that was slow, they taunted it at a distance, hit it with arrows, dragged it closer and closer to the halflings, then let the slingers take care of it. This was a brilliant strategy to get around a slow monster that could easily devour them. Two people reached level 2 executing this strategy, even after the experience was split with the slingers.

This brings up the question of mobility in general. They weren't laden with treasure, and even those in mail were strong enough not to be slowed by it. Where the slime could cross a distance of 15' every round (15 second C&T rounds with C&T movement) any one of the party could easily make 30' (the halflings) or 60'+ (everyone else). There was simply no way the slimes would catch them. Now, they took the proper precautions to ensure that they couldn't be flanked or attacked from the side wings of the dungeon while doing things (mostly by the nature of their exploration) and were very careful about dropping slimes on the ceilings, tapping every surface with 10' poles and generally moving very slowly. The result was an extremely successful dungeon run for them, which culminated in a number of levels being awarded through fighting xp.

Mobility is a key element to victory in any combat situation, whether on the field or in the dungeon. It is this terrifying mobility that often causes kobolds to wipe out even moderate-level parties. While they are not particularly fast, they have been classically associated with wolfpack hit-and-run tactics ever since Tucker's Kobolds (and possibly before). The example of the party can be compared with creatures that have mastered their environment in the dungeon. Slimes and jellies aren't very bright, simply sloughing towards that which they want to eat. The adventurers, in this case, mastered the dungeon terrain. But kobolds in the 10th Age generally build looping structures into their warrens so they can fade away and strike from a different position. They enjoy flanking groups that are unprepared and striking from a distance. This is another example of the superiority of mobility.

The clever DM will be wondering how to cut down on the PCs mobility, since otherwise their speed will allow them to simply murder-from-a-distance pretty much any creature that's slower than they are... and they can't, they can do as much damage as they are able and then ascend from the dungeon or run from the mouth of the cave. First of all, this is not for the DM to mitigate intentionally, since it's a legitimate tactic. However, we cannot go letting it occur all the time, since it would begin to take on the semblance of a loophole in the rules rather than a "strategy" per-se. There are plenty of other things to keep in mind, such as: is the ground strewn with debris or rubble? It might be materially more difficult for a PC to move across that then something with a lot of legs or variant method of locomotion. Is the floor wet? Are the PCs laden with treasure from having looted another chamber? These questions are all important, because movement is important.

Since mobility is a material contribution to victory, it's critical that we as DMs make sure we're keeping track of everything that might affect it. While it didn't change the outcome of the encounter, for example, many of the slimes chose an alternate straight-line route to the PCs by climbing up a 15' lip of wall, something the PCs had to go around by means of one of two stairways.

Just something to keep in mind.

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