Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Holidays in D&D: Part Six - Party Time!

In conclusion of my Holidays in D&D series, here's an encounter your whole group can enjoy!

I ran a festival for my 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons group this past year - a holiday based specifically around actions the characters had taken. The celebration consisted of three parts.

The first part of the holiday was a full-town celebration. The characters had been invited back to the town as guests of honor, and throughout the small settlement people cheered them on as they walked through the streets in a pseudo-parade fashion. Stores had special bargains for them, and wherever they went they were welcomed into homes with fresh-baked pies and other small gifts.

The second part of the holiday was a feast in their honor. I took some time to allow the players to mingle and to describe the delicious meal. During the meal, the third part of the holiday was revealed - a masquerade ball to be held the following evening...

The Masquerade Ball CR: NC-17
Every hero needs a break, and what better way to relax then to par-tay. A night of dancing, drinking, and eventually - *gasp* finding someone lucky to go home with. Surely the most difficult challenge your heroes will ever face...

This encounter contains three parts, with the eventual goal of, yes, your noble adventurers getting lucky. No this is not the kind of encounter you think it is! Rather, it's designed to be a light-hearted and comedic encounter, built to give your players a chance to cool down after closing out a big chapter of their campaign. It also is a prime place to seed future plots or drop any number of juicy rumors.

The first part of this encounter entails preparing for the ball - specifically, purchasing costumes. The second part includes the party itself, where the players can take on a variety of party "roles" to increase their chances of getting lucky and determining who exactly they get lucky with.

The third part, is of course, the roll to determine who goes home alone, and who parties their way into the arms of another.

Encounter Set-Up: This encounter assumes that the players are familiar - at least on a basic level - with some of the individuals who may be attending this party. It is best held in a city which the characters have spent a lot of time in, or have done a little adventuring in - having already met some key characters. This is because part of the ball will be an opportuity to discover the identity of specific party-goers in order to plan carefully which of the guests the adventures want to use their... charismatic wiles on.

Even a general familiarity with townspeople, such as "Hey, wasn't there a portly baker woman who made us the most amazing pies ever? I bet she'll make me pies for breakfast. Wink wink. Nudge nudge." should work fine.

Feel free to set up your gaming table for this encounter however you'd like. The simplest set-up is to take five note cards and lay them out on your gaming table however you'd like. On the face-up side of each card, write one of the "party roles".

On the face-down side of each card, write the appropriate reward for successfully achieving that role.

Stage One: Dressing the Part
"Thank you all so much for being able to come to the feast. It truly is an honor to have you in our fair little town, especially given all you've done for us." The mayor smiled sweetly. "I trust we'll see you all at the masquerade ball tomorrow night.

Remember to bring a costume!"

Every good masquerade ball attendant needs a costume. The more elegant, extravagant, and inconspicuous the outfit, the better. Encourage your players to shop around town and design costumes that suit their characters best. The amount of money each character spends on a costume grants a bonus to their "The Big Score" roll which will be made at the end of the night. DM's should make a note of the bonuses privately until all players have made their purchases.

Encourage your players to describe their guise as they enter the party, and feel free to ham up the many heads that turn for the more expensive outfits. As a note, the lowest end of costumes probably consist of little more then a half-face masquerade eye mask, while the highest end are full face masks accompanied by extravagantly crafted clothing, platinum jewelery, and fine jewel accents.

Stage Two: Now The Party Can Start
"Why, good sir, I don't know who hides behind that mask but I must say whoever it is knows a thing or two about dancing!" The rogue smiled, "Lady, you ain't seen nothin' yet!"

As the encounter begins, invite your players to take turns (starting with whoever has the best costume and so on) to place their miniatures on the party role of their choice. To begin, only one character may attempt each role, though after each round (regardless if it's a failure or success), they may choose to move to other roles allowed by the role they were previously on (even if it's occupied), or to stay and try to attempt that role again (again, even if they succeeded the first time - the rewards are all cumulative).

For each role, the character will be given a set of potential skill checks. They may choose whichever skill check they wish to make, and must succeed at a DC 15 skill check for that skill. If they succeed, they gain the reward for that party role. This entire stage of the encounter has five rounds (ie. five chances to succeed at skill checks). If you'd like to make the party longer, feel free to make it ten rounds and simply cut the rewards in half.

Lord of the Dance: Leave those ballroom dancers in the dust. When you're the Lord of the Dance, none can stand to your funky moves. Stand back ladies and gentlemen, the Lord has arrived.

Jump - Jump around! Jump! Jump! Jump!
Perform [dance] - Did he just invent that move?
Tumble - They're break dance fighting!
Sleight of Hand - Look at her twirl those sunrods!
Concentration - And step, one two, and step, ball change.

Reward: +2 bonus to a character's Big Score modifier.
Progression: From this role, a party-goer can move to the Smooth Talker, Life of the Party or Master of the Bar roles.

Life of the Party: Now that you're here the party can really start. Sure, you make a fool of yourself, but sometimes standing out can be the best thing. And when you're not falling down, standing out is something you've mastered.

Climb - Get off the curtains!
Perform [sing] - Oh man, I LOVE this song!
Knowledge [local] - How refreshing, social commentary!
Survival - We're out of booze? Don't worry, I can find some.
Search - Marco! Polo!

Reward: +2 bonus to a character's Big Score modifier.
Progression: From this role, a party-goer can move to any party role they choose.

Mysterious Stranger: Tall, dark, and handsome. You cling to the shadows, picking out the perfect moment to make your move. Catching the eyes of a handsome noble, or a fair farmer's daughter from across the ballroom and then vanishing into the crowd leaving them wondering... Yeah, all that and more you sly dog you.

Disguise - I have no idea who she is, but she's amazing...
Move Silently - Oh my, you snuck up on me... *bashful giggle*
Gather Information - I owe the mayor a dance. Seen her?
Spot - There she is!
Hide - I was dancing with this girl, but then... she was gone!

Reward: A character can successfully identify a fellow party-goer.
Progression: From this role, a party-goer can move to the Smooth Talker or Lord of the Dance roles.

Smooth Talker: "If your AC weren't so high, I'd totally hit that..." Oh you, master of the silver tongue and the golden pick-up lines. No one can resist your wily charms, and you know it.

Diplomacy - Excuse me miss, care to dance?
Bluff - You know, we halflings get a pretty versatile size bonus...
Listen - Did someone say they needed some punch?
Sense Motive - She digs me.
Knowledge [architecture & engineering] - Need I say more?

Reward: A character can successfully identify a fellow party-goer.
Progression: From this role, a party-goer can move to the Lord of the Dance, Mysterious Stranger, or Life of the Party roles.

Master of the Bar: Adept at serving up drinks of all shapes and sizes, you can hold your own and keep everyone else riding the buzz all the way home. Pelor bless you spinner of the sauce.

Open Lock - Guess who found the liquor cabinet?
Craft [alchemy] - I call this one Alchemists Fire Water!
Heal - I got the drink what heals ya.
Balance - For when the world starts spinning!
Intimidate - I think you've had enough...

Reward: +2 bonus to a character's Big Score modifier.
Progression: From this role, a party-goer can move to the Life of the Party or Mysterious Stranger roles.

Stage Three: The Big Score
The night is winding down. Your adventurers have spent the night asserting themselves as the true heroes of - not only the town - but the party. Dancing, drinking, and sweet-talking the night away, some of your adventurers know the identity of those they're trying to "seal the deal" with, while to others... it remains a mystery. Regardless, it's time to try for the big score.

All players may now make a DC 25 "Big Score" Check. This, again, is a skill check chosen from a list of potential skills. The characters may add the modifiers gained from their costumes and their achievements throughout the night. If they have identified individuals from the party, they may target a specific individual - otherwise it's up to you who they have the potential to go home with.

Ride - [Censored Explanation]
Escape Artist - [Censored Explanation]
Use Rope - [Censored Explanation]
Handle Animal - [Censored Explanation]
Decipher Script - And you thought that skill was useless.

At the end of the night, a round of light applause for the victors (and perhaps a private roll to see if any kids will be knocking on their doors a few years from now) should be in order. What comes of these one night romances is up to your group, but all in all it should be a fun break from their typical adventures to take on a real challenge.

What waits for them the next morning, besides the true identities of their bedmates and a hangover is up to you!

If you're really looking for a fun awakening, take a page from my book and make it the very morning that an army of stone giants come streaming over the hilltops with a red dragon in tow and their eyes set on taking the town by force.

DM: Belthez, you are awakened by three things. The smell of sizzling bacon in the next room, a splitting headache, and the distant sound of war drums just outside the cities walls.

Belthez: Wait a minute. Did you say bacon?

Have a delightful party, and remember:

Friends don't let friends scry-n-die drunk!


Anonymous said...

Such social games are always a fun break and an excellent time for roleplaying. But it is good to have a mechanical backup for those not comfortable with playing out such a situation.

Anonymous said...

Good times Sir Dewey...
Good times...

Storyteller said...

@seaofstarsrpg - I agree! If players are comfortable enough to actually roleplay the whole process of flirting it up and schmoozing the night away, by all means that's probably best.

The way I designed this was more as a mini-game where players could roll some dice, use some strategy, and have some laughs. The romances that cropped FROM the night however were more roleplayed.

@Ian - Yes, they were good times weren't they haha. I thought you guys might get a kick out of seeing this encounter spelled out. One of my greater encounter designs for our campaign if I do say so myself :)

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