A Walk in the Dark A look in to the mind of an RPG designer


Contest Winner: Goblins go BOOM!

It's no secret that I love minions. They are an easy answer to making an encounter seem like more than it really is. Sometimes just a handful of monsters is dull... I want droves upon droves of enemies coming at them from all sides! And when I don't want them to die so easily I toughen them up, but sometimes I want them to die in an unnaturally glorious way.

Recently Wastex Games had a contest called Minions Encountered, where the objective was to create an encounter where the boss used his minions in an "interesting way." I decided to submit one encounter that was inspired by my campaign.

To be quite honest, besides what you seen on this blog I've never actually submitted anything to a contest of this nature. Heck, I even failed miserably at NaNoWriMo and the NYC Midnight Short Story competition (I never even got close to finishing a submission for either one). So I looked at this competition a different way: to see if I can physically put something together in a format that others could actually use.

You see, there's a big difference in designing a campaign that you will run and designing a campaign that someone else will run. If you're doing it for yourself, you can fill in the blanks as you go, adjusting the encounter based on the how the players react to it. But when designing it for use by the general public, you either tell them very little (and hope they can fill in the blanks themselves) or explain every little detail so that there's no room for doubt. The former is meaningless for the competition, so I decided to build the encounter in the traditional format that Wizards of the Coast has used on multiple occasions.

And it allowed me to get a little more practice with Adobe InDesign CS5, for that matter. I'm not a graphic designer, so this too was somewhat of a new experience.

Now, about the encounter itself... The encounter is relatively low level, so I chose to use a concept that I'm surprised isn't used very often: the "Goblin Suicide Bomber", which is loosely based on the "Goblin Grenade" from Magic: The Gathering. Whereas most goblins are rather cowardly and flee at the first sign of trouble, these little buggers race forward to protect their leader and their sacred temple, light their fuse, then jump on the backs of unsuspecting PCs while laughing maniacally and waiting for their fuse to burn down.

But that wasn't enough! These guys would die almost immediately and they would have little effect; a poor initiative roll combined with a well placed burst attack can take them out of the equation almost instantly. What we needed is LOTS of goblins. Like... oh, I don't know... dozens of these little guys! I needed something that would keep creating wave after unrelenting wave of happy-go-lucky suicide bombers. So I turned to Save Versus Death and their "Endless Hordes"... Now things really come together! Four suicide bombers per turn, ad infinitum, should get fun quick!

But that still wasn't enough! Players could simply step aside, push them out of the way, or simply move faster than the bombers. What I needed is something to funnel the bombers so the players would have no choice but to charge in themselves, taking a boatload of damage in the process. So I chose to put the entire encounter atop narrow stone bridges over a river of lava.

Apparently that was enough.

I would like to thank Wastex Games for choosing me as the winner! I'm honored, guys! I'm sorry I can't take photos of the prize (I don't have a working digital camera; will try to get one soon), but I really do appreciate the Beholder Eye Tyrant and other minis!

Here, for your enjoyment, is my winning entry on the Wastex Games site:

The "Chamber of Fire"... or, as I like to call it, "Goblin Go BOOM!" (PDF)

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