How to deal with large Lairs

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mageofthesands
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How to deal with large Lairs

Postby mageofthesands » Fri Dec 20, 2013 12:22 pm

I've been running a supers game for about three years now, and I always seem to have a problem when it comes to a villain's lair. Small hideouts are easy, but when it's a secret volcano island, a space satellite, a giant space cruiser, or underwater base, well, I seem to falter.

Some examples: an alien space station needed to be raided, and a signal stopped. I cut everything out of it other than the big fight at the end, but this gave the feeling that this big thing was empty. A volcano lair for a HYDRA like group was treated like a dungeon crawl, the players would explore one room at a time, taking the left hand path, etc. I wasn't satisfied, so I just tossed bruises on the players as an abstraction, and moved them to the mastermind's control center. I don't think that worked out well. Another time was storming Erebus to breakout someone imprisoned in Tartarus. I was doing Fortitude checks like the endless ranks of minions were an environmental hazard, with the occasional monster thrown in. The lair itself felt boring though, as there was no sense of exploration, just one monster fight to the next, in corridors. The most recent attempt was on a Death Star like station, and I used the mass combat rules from the Game Master's Guide. I think that worked out better, even if the players weren't challenged, but after they were gone, well, it was just the players in a building, and neither one of us knew what to do next.

How do you handle big bases?

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Re: How to deal with large Lairs

Postby mrdent12 » Fri Dec 20, 2013 2:28 pm

Lairs are difficult to deal with in MnM since players can just teleport to bypass whole sections, esp to scope out everything in advance, xray vision to see through all the walls, etc. You can always say X blocks spoiling power usage, but that makes it less fun for some players. What I normally do is have vague ideas for each of the areas, maybe two or three sentences, and fill it in if the players get there or check it out. In the case of ESP and X-Ray vision, I make them spend the time in game and have something like a ticking time bomb limit how long they can scout the area with powers. The key thing to do is to view the lair as just another environment like a forest or city with the NPC's having their own personalities/motivations/mannerisms when they are in that environment. If an area is boring or all the fun picked clean from it, I move on based upon the actions previously taken by the players.

If you want to spice up a lair, or any environment the game action is taking place, make the environment have challenges such as automated defense systems in a death star, energy draining ambiance in Hades that causes a fort check every X hours the players are in Hades, or security systems and extreme heat in the Hydra base. Unlike DnD, MnM is a big picture type game where a lair is just one small element. Many powers in MnM can spoil the best planned lair, so you also need to take into consideration your player characters as well.

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Re: How to deal with large Lairs

Postby mageofthesands » Fri Dec 20, 2013 4:30 pm

That isn't the problem. The players can't teleport, and they don't have a bunch of those senses and such, nor do they use much in the way of tricks. The problem is there is a lack of, well, super heroics. It's not feeling like it should.

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Re: How to deal with large Lairs

Postby saint_matthew » Fri Dec 20, 2013 7:04 pm

mageofthesands wrote:How do you handle big bases?


I go epic D&D on there arses.

Death traps my man, thats how you make it seem awesome: Death traps & non minions. You pull out all the stops, make rooms full of esoteric dangers, as the villain does what he needs to do to escape, or prepare knowing that the traps wont stop your heroes, just slow them down.

I did this with an adventure where my players stumbeled across a Colony nest... The Colony is my bug themed A.I.M come HIVE super science terrorist cell.... All bedecked in Red Battle Armour of different kinds.

First thing i did was make sure i had sudfficent diversity of bad guys. I started with my
- Standard Ant Soldiers (the base level guys)
- Fire-Ants (Guys with pyro-packs)
- Flying Ants (Guys in flight suits)
- Bull Ants (Guys in mech armor suits, with 5 different weapon suites variations)

Then i added in some monsterous creatures
- Ant Mounts (actual enlarged ants)
- Ant People Riders (genetic freaks who ride the ants)

Then i added in some traps for good measures. It was legendary man.... Thats how you make a M&M dungeon crawl legendary... Just don't let players get bogged down in investigating every room. Give them a ticking clock, that usually stops the game into turning into "CSI: Dungeon" as they investigate every stone & blood splatter.

Edit: Does that help any?
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Re: How to deal with large Lairs

Postby mageofthesands » Sat Dec 21, 2013 8:34 am

So rather than try to get away from a dungeon crawl, I should embrace it? Interesting. Maybe I'll try that out again.

I already thrown them through the Tomb of Horrors. Yes, the actual Tomb, almost unmodified. It's a lot less dangerous when you lead with a guy immune to spikes and other traps. Who then proceeded to trigger ALL the traps. Lost his arm, when through a few sex changes, fell into the 200 foot drop pit, everything. But he had leaping 7, so he just jumped out of it.

Maybe I should break out IM2: Wrath of Olympus next.

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Re: How to deal with large Lairs

Postby saint_matthew » Sat Dec 21, 2013 5:55 pm

mageofthesands wrote:So rather than try to get away from a dungeon crawl, I should embrace it? Interesting. Maybe I'll try that out again.


Sure. Thats what it is after all. The villain is throwing everything at you to slow you down & wear you down while he or she readies for a final battle, or an escape.
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Re: How to deal with large Lairs

Postby peregrine » Sun Dec 22, 2013 11:12 pm

Or give them a map up front. There's less exploring to do, but it also means that they don't have to endlessly debate left or right. And they can get this any number of ways, jump a henchman, hack the computer system, whatever.

Then, you're looking at letting them decide where they want to go. Need to find the prisoners? Well, they're this way, past the security barracks, obviously, and the most direct route also takes you through the cafeteria, where it's time for the nightshift lunch. Or the server farm, which is below the genetics lab, because encoding a genome takes a lot of processing power.

Let them fight their way through, or sneak, or rescue prisoners, or just go the direct route and optic blast your way straight down through three floors to the bad guy's bedroom.

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Re: How to deal with large Lairs

Postby hypervirtue » Sat Dec 28, 2013 4:04 pm

mageofthesands wrote:That isn't the problem. The players can't teleport, and they don't have a bunch of those senses and such, nor do they use much in the way of tricks. The problem is there is a lack of, well, super heroics. It's not feeling like it should.


Aha! This be the root of thine problem!

If your game lacks super heroics... Give the players super heroic things to do.

Here is my advice:

1. Don't try to go the D&D route. Not all villains have secret bases. In fact, in comics, most don't.

2. Give the players super heroic choices, and penalize the tar out of them if they ignore them.

By penalize I mean in terms of RP, not mechanically. Let the players make a choice, take down the villain or stop the missile the villain launched at the city.

Here is one from an actual game I was in:

We busted in on the villain as he was preparing to escape. He turned and smirked at my character (was playing a Paragon type) and declared, "You could stop me. You could capture me and take me in... Of course... I wonder where, exactly, you'd be taking me to. You see, when my sensors detected you breaching my sanctum I executed a contingency protocol. A tactical nuclear weapon was launched toward the heart of your precious city, by my calculations if you leave now, you might be able to intercept it."

My character streaked off to stop the missile while the other PC's tried to fight the villain. It was intense because we knew the price of failure. If the city was struck by a missile that would ruin the city. Our established base, our contacts, our everything.

Had we failed we would have lived, but we would have had to live with the consequences of our actions.

-----

For super heroics you have to give them things to be heroic about. You need to insert the "out of control bus full of nuns and school children." You need to have the villain do things like set off gas bombs in crowded shopping centers. You need to set up the players to do things other than punch a villain.

One of my favorites, from a villain called the Math-Magician was: (Yes, that is a pun on Mathematician.)

"Greetings heroes. Before we begin the obligatory throw down and round of fisticuffs I have a question for you... If a train carrying highly toxic chemicals and waste, that has had its accelerator tampered with, is traveling at 120 miles per hour and leaves grand central at 11:05 heading south and, due to some track switching shenanigans, has managed to get itself on the same track as a passenger train, that has similarly had tampering done, left the south check heading north at the same speed at the same time, and the total distance between Grand Central and South Check is approximately 40 miles, how bad will the destruction be? I'm not sure myself, but given that it is 11:12 right now we won't have long to wonder!"
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Re: How to deal with large Lairs

Postby saint_matthew » Sat Dec 28, 2013 8:11 pm

hypervirtue wrote:1. Don't try to go the D&D route. Not all villains have secret bases. In fact, in comics, most don't.


With all due respect, I disagree with that advice.... The question wasn't "should I make a villain with a large lair" it was "how do I deal with a large lair."

For that, depending on why the PC's are in the lair, you may very well D&D it up.

I was feeling sick last night, so I was on the couch watching Die Hard & this morning I started building a solo adventure for one of my players whose been begging me for some solo time. I am tentatively calling it by the working title "The Dredd of Diehard Asylum," since it combines elements from the recent Judge Dredd, Arkham Asylum/City & Diehard.

A supervillain takes over a tall multi-floor building complex & has turned it into a death trap for a specific hero (a batman-esque character), complete with goons with guns, dead falls, booby traps (with or without real boobs, I've not yet decided) & a final screw you at the very end that is deserving of the most warped comic book writers.

Of course, since he's got the sidekick advantage, I'll be sending his Red-Robin off on a side mission that relates to the main mission (special gas bombs have been placed in other buildings around the city, set to explode if the hero fails at particular events).

Its pure D&D style dungeon crawling, so as you can see sometimes the D&D route is exactly the one you want.
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Re: How to deal with large Lairs

Postby hypervirtue » Sat Dec 28, 2013 8:50 pm

saint_matthew wrote:
hypervirtue wrote:1. Don't try to go the D&D route. Not all villains have secret bases. In fact, in comics, most don't.


With all due respect, I disagree with that advice.... The question wasn't "should I make a villain with a large lair" it was "how do I deal with a large lair."

For that, depending on why the PC's are in the lair, you may very well D&D it up.

I was feeling sick last night, so I was on the couch watching Die Hard & this morning I started building a solo adventure for one of my players whose been begging me for some solo time. I am tentatively calling it by the working title "The Dredd of Diehard Asylum," since it combines elements from the recent Judge Dredd, Arkham Asylum/City & Diehard.

A supervillain takes over a tall multi-floor building complex & has turned it into a death trap for a specific hero (a batman-esque character), complete with goons with guns, dead falls, booby traps (with or without real boobs, I've not yet decided) & a final screw you at the very end that is deserving of the most warped comic book writers.

Of course, since he's got the sidekick advantage, I'll be sending his Red-Robin off on a side mission that relates to the main mission (special gas bombs have been placed in other buildings around the city, set to explode if the hero fails at particular events).

Its pure D&D style dungeon crawling, so as you can see sometimes the D&D route is exactly the one you want.


I was referring to his comments about the game not feeling super heroic. Dungeon Crawls don't feel super heroic, they feel like a dungeon crawl. You aren't going to get a super heroic feeling out of something that brings back way too many memories (in most players) of something more sword and sorcery.

If you want the game to feel super heroic the fastest way to not accomplish that is to remind them of something else. It is subtle and psychological but players will act like they are dungeon crawling adventurers as opposed to super heroes if they are placed into a situation where they are in the trappings of dungeon crawling adventurers.
One can lift a rock with pure power, but a pure heart can move mountains.

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Re: How to deal with large Lairs

Postby saint_matthew » Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:10 pm

hypervirtue wrote:I was referring to his comments about the game not feeling super heroic. Dungeon Crawls don't feel super heroic, they feel like a dungeon crawl. You aren't going to get a super heroic feeling out of something that brings back way too many memories (in most players) of something more sword and sorcery.


Only because one is doing it wrong. It stops feeling heroic when it becomes CSI: Dungeon, where its room to room fighting, with each new room having to be fought for, investigated, puzzled over. It doesn't feel heroic because it becomes monotonous & if it becomes monotonous, its because its devolved into D&D 4E style dungeon crawling in which a mathematically balanced group stand at an optimum location to catch a party of CR appropriate PC's in room to room fight.

If you do it like that its totally not going to feel heroic: That doesn't mean the dungeon crawl idea is a bad one, just that if you insist on every room being a fist fight & a forensic search its going to drag on (or dragon as the case may be).
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Re: How to deal with large Lairs

Postby SeasideGM » Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:42 am

The last game I ran (which I admit was in 2E) the last session involved the heroes infiltrating the secret lair of the villain who had been masterminding the entire campaign up until that point. It was really the only time I've had the "dungeon crawl" experience in M&M, but it actually worked pretty well. After reading this thread, I inadvertently had many of the same elements being suggested. Hopefully the experience will help you out

1) The ticking clock - The heroes couldn't afford to dilly dally, as all out war was about to break out between my world's version of SHIELD (armed with superhero "cure" guns ala X-Men 3) and the superpowered beings of the world

2) Character Specific challenges - The villain knew the heroes inside and out, having been studying them for the entire campaign. thus each character had a specific challenge tailored to the them that they had to overcome. It gave each player a moment in the sun and and overall more heroic feel

3) Consequences to decisions - The characters had more than one option to assault the lair. Ultimately all paths led to the central hub where the villain was, but the avenue they chose determined what they could explore. Maybe they didn't pass the room with the clones of themselves. Maybe they didn't see the room with the advanced robotic creations, thus allowing them to be unleashed in the future. I'm not saying set them up for failure, just make them realize that even superheroes can't do everything right all the time

4) Nullify - I use this power sparingly in my games because I think it can seriously limit player enjoyment, but in this case it made sense plot wise. A non=powered Lex Luthor type villain who wants to see all super powered beings destroyed would ABSOLUTELY develop power nullification devices. This made the payers have to think of more creative solutions to the problem

Good luck!

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Re: How to deal with large Lairs

Postby saint_matthew » Sun Dec 29, 2013 11:18 pm

@SeasideGM: Essentially everything that made the Arkham Asylum series of games work.
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Re: How to deal with large Lairs

Postby SeasideGM » Mon Dec 30, 2013 7:30 pm

I only played the first one but now that you mention it yes. Never thought abut it that way :D


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