[RPG] How to get players to survive this particular battle


My NPCs are tougher than I thought. Luckily I'm finding this out before the game is starting (in 2 hours), so I still have a bit of time to adjust, but if anyone is willing to help, I'd be interested in advice.

3 dire rats (CR1/3 each), and 1 Ratling (CR2). Seemed fine to me until I looked up what a Ratling is, they have fear, dimension door, bleed, sneak attack… pretty mean stuff! – The players are currently 2 lvl 2 goblins (alchemist and ranger) and perhaps another player is coming (1st level goblin of some sort), but not the typical full party the module is expecting. Then again these two goblins have managed to beat the We Be Goblins final battle by themselves as well.

I feel like besides changing the enemy characters involved, if I come up with a good way of adjusting the behavior such that it leads to a long epic fight rather than character death, it could still work… Probably if they set his house on fire or something creative they could get him good, but there's still something in the house that I would like them to find.

What would be some good one use items that might help them make it through this battle?

Additional info: Fight happens here. The dire rats are in the smaller building, but will be called as soon as PC's are noticed.

Edit – AFTERMATH: I did include some suggestions made, I also recruited more players. The combination was a chaotic mess as more and more players joined. A rogue joined them before the battle, then a cleric got dropped off nearby – but the cleric had abandoned them before so they threw bombs at him and might have started killing one another, but they got the attention from the ratling which distracted them from that pursuit. But now there was a fair bit more of them and no one to flank with. He scared them a bit, but evaded them by burrowing under the walls. Then another player joined who got to be a ratfolk samurai who's sickly and psychologically tormented by the endboss. He got joined before he had stats (which he wouldn't need if not participating in combat due to being sickly) – then one of the goblins wandered off and I saw my chance for the ratling. He snuck up and took a good bite out of the wandering rogue, the rest of the party catches up quickly and what follows is a show down between the new player ratfolk and his master. With new courage from having company (even if goblinoid) and having gotten his weapon back in the chaos, and the master's house burning in the background, he challenges the master and they chop away at one another. Without sneak even with a limited HP pool from being sickly he kept up long enough for the rest of the party to join. The ratling was overly confident and suddenly there was so much flanking going on that he dropped from barely wounded to 1 hp! He then vanished in front of them and the ratlings last strike (to make sure he wasn't just invisible) goes through the air but at the end of the movement seems to cut something just before it vanished. – The master vanished leaving only his cut off tail behind, but fell below 0 just as teleporting, so he'll have to stabilize and then try to heal himself and swear revenge for the destruction of his home and killing of his slave dire rats. The tail made a good trophy. The Samurai might have his revenge eventually. The ranger collects heads, so he's pissed that this one got away (even with one of his arrows).

The object I wanted the players to find (a map) was almost missed but the visiting cleric found them. He almost wandered off with them too, so I encouraged the alchemist with a grudge against the cleric and with slight of hand to pickpocket the cleric as he was leaving. They got what they wanted but for stealing his food rations one rolled a 1 and got caught, so he knows they were "trying" to fiddle with his pack, so once he checks on his stuff he'll see what's missing and have a good idea for where that's at.

And everyone seemed to have fun. Goal accomplished. 🙂 Thanks guys!

Best Answer

Problem one is that the CR2 means it's meant for 4 2nd level characters (defined as "they should use 20% of their resources on it"). You're already going to be shorthanded by a fair bit. (Two level-2 characters are ECL 1 - the equivalent of four first-levels).

The ratling and the dire rats together are a CR 3 encounter, so let's split them up:

Send in the dire rats early. They're a CR1, so just right for your two guys. If it works out to be a fair fight, they can take a moment to rest before the ratling makes his appearance, which progresses to a CR2 "boss fight".

If they're doing really (read: too) well against the dire rats, you can always pull the ratling in early to push the challenge up a bit. But this way you have some options.

An alternative is to set up the ratling as a bit more of a "boss", letting the dire rats do the fighting, and then making a Dr. Claw style retreat ("I'll get you next time... NEXT TIME!") as the conclusion of the encounter. (And again, you can scale his participation to keep things interesting.)

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