Is Your D&D Party Sneaking Into a Lair? Consequences Await.
Home Field Advantage
In almost every Dungeons and Dragons campaign, it is inevitable that the party will attempt to sneak into an enemy hideout. It’s practically a staple of the tabletop genre at this point, and players love the planning sessions that lead up to these big infiltrations. While it can be fun to reward your players by having everything go off without a hitch, sometimes it can be even more fun for the players if their plans to blow up in their faces.
When the party is breaking into an enemy’s stronghold, they may have the element of surprise, but the enemy has the benefit of being on their home turf. They could have any number of unpleasant surprises planned in addition to the benefits that will naturally come along with the fight taking place where they live.
Access to Supplies
As the ones sneaking in, your party will only have what they can carry with them for the fight, but the NPCs whose hideout they are infiltrating don’t have that restriction to worry about. They likely have a supplies shed or an entire armory that your party has no idea about.
That doesn’t just mean weapons -- it may include healing potions, heavy armor, and shields. Depending on the financial means of the NPCs, it may even include a variety of magic items to help defend their home.
Furry (and Fierce) Friends
Player characters often have pets or familiars, and sometimes they can aid the players in combat. But there are generally limits to how many critters the group can have with them at any time. It’s hard to keep pets fed and trained on the road, not to mention how difficult it is to bring them along on a sneaking mission.
Your NPCs don’t have those concerns -- this is their home! They could have a whole kennel full of dogs or wolves, or any other fierce, territorial creature you can conjure up. Depending on how much scouting the party can do ahead of time, this may come as quite a surprise and may even cause some moral dilemmas for characters who are opposed to fighting creatures that are only defending their home.
So what about weapons that aren’t made to be moved at all? Theoretically, those could be made heavy-duty enough to do quite a bit of damage. If the hideout your players are sneaking into has the layout for it, you might consider adding a few ballistas. These are capable of doing a LOT of damage if they hit, so they can up the stakes of a battle quickly.
Stationary defenses are also great because they reward the players for planning ahead -- if they scout out the location, they’ll be able to see them pretty quickly and be able to plan around their presence. However, if they sneak in without investigating what they’re up against, that ballista's 3d12+9 is going to hurt.
In the true sense of the term, lair actions are typically only applicable in situations where your NPCs are either high-level magic users or have access to said magic users. However, for lower-level NPCs, you can turn the entire hideout into a “lair” with traps set to spring at specified intervals as lair actions. If it fits in your campaign, tinkerers or artificers can also help design lairs!
Lair actions are generally used when a party is going to be fighting a single creature like a dragon. Because it’s one creature against many fighters, lair actions help balance the fight out a little more by distributing non-PC actions throughout the initiative. While this isn’t generally an issue in a stronghold or hideout where your players will likely be fighting a large number of NPCs, it can certainly bring an additional level of difficulty.
When deciding what sort of lair actions might be appropriate, keep in mind the types of things that your magic users, artificers, or tinkerers would be able to design. For example, a level three wizard simply isn’t going to be able to make anything that could do much damage. A higher level caster, however, could enchant the area to deal high amounts of damage when triggered by certain actions or intervals. Just remember that players are typically given a chance to make a save against these actions, whether it be dexterity, constitution, or whatever skill is most applicable for the trap.
The most significant benefit that NPCs who own a hideout have on their side is time -- the time to not only consider infiltrations but to decide how best to defend against them. Building up those defenses, and keeping them under wraps when possible, can lead to some fun and exciting encounters for your party.
Have your players ever had an infiltration go horribly wrong, or amazingly right? Tell us all about it below!