One space for you, two for me...

In the last session of Rats in the Ranks, the PCs had to escape from a slowly collapsing dungeon before it crushed them alive. I’m not sure how I would have handled this in previous systems (never done it!) but the Warhammer 3 Progress Tracker gave me an excellent mechanism for doing it, not necessarily specific to the WFRP 3 rules, though the method I used is maybe enhanced by them. This is my description of that skill challenge.

The race against time in this case was the desperate race to get out of the dungeon. I constructed a 3 space tracker (that is, 3 spaces, and then the destination point, so a total length of 4 steps). I then put a token on the starting point for “the dungeon” and gave the PCs three choices:

  • Break and run separately for the entrance: everyone gets their own progress token, but they can’t help each other
  • Go with the fastest: the person with the best athletics skill determines their progress, but his/her skill checks are penalized for all those with lower skills, and any fatigue results are applied to the fastest PC
  • Go with the slowest: the person with the worst athletics skill determines their progress, but the skill checks are enhanced by all those with higher skills, and any fatigue results are applied to members of the party sequentially starting with the strongest

They PCs chose option 3, go with the slowest. The slowest was the mage, of course, with a Strength of 2 and no Athletics skill. I assigned an initial difficulty to the check of 1 challenge die (easy) that would increase by 1 misfortune die per round, and then become 2 challenge dice after a few rounds. Everyone with an equal or higher strength to Schultz could add one fortune die to the roll. I used the following outcomes:

  • x successes: advance that many spaces along the progress tracker
  • Fail: the token for the imminent collapse of the dungeon advances one space along the tracker
  • 2 boons: add 1 fortune die to the next roll
  • 2 banes: 1 fatigue

Schultz was initially successful, getting the party one pace along the tracker. Suzette cast a minor blessing to add one fortune die to the next roll, and Shultz used his once-per-session ability to add two fortune dice to a check, but it was a fail, which brought them back to equal with the dungeon’s inevitable collapse. They then got a bit desperate, with the difficulty now on 2 challenge dice, which is very hard to beat for someone with a strength of 2. So Shultz used his spell First Portent of Amul, and by a very lucky roll was able to neutralize the result of the next challenge die rolled in the skill check. Suzette cast another minor blessing and used her once-a-session bonus, and they rolled again for – a total of 3 successes, and 2 banes. This took their progress tracker to the end of the track, indicating they escaped from the dungeon, but I inflicted a single fatigue on Aruson and said that this was because he had to reach back into the crypt entrance and literally haul Suzette out as the stairs collapsed around her, and she landed on the snowy ground outside, still praying desperately.

I played a bit fast-and-loose with the rules here (allowing Suzette’s once-per-session ability to affect what was effectively Schultz’s roll) but it helped to add to the sense of desperation and hard scrabble built into the challenge. I find the progress tracker sometimes hard to use effectively but I think at times like this it works really well to give a sense of competition against time or the party’s own mistakes. And, it appears, it can be used to effectively construct save-or-die type situations, with the whole party at risk and the whole party working together to get through the challenge.

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