Looking Over Book of Challenges: With a Little Help from My Friends


It's just cover art

Premise

A succubus and its charmed thralls present a nuisance to the party.


Good

Moral questions surrounding mind-controlling magic are a ripe topic for roleplay.


Allowing the PCs to gain allies by breaking the succubus’s control over its thralls is nice.


The advice on handling charm/compulsion-type effects being used against the PCs is broadly decent, though I think it’s still handled best by having a quick talk with everyone about how to play with them (ideally at least a session in advance of them potentially coming up, so that the GM can adjust their preparation, if necessary) if there are any reasons for concern.


Salvageable

I’m not sure why the boxed text turned “You see a man in full plate armor with a falchion, a second man with a longbow wearing studded leather armor, and a woman in [whatever is meant by ‘stylish yet functional adventurer’s garb’] standing behind them” into five sentences, but it was unnecessary.


While the succubus’s cover story of “exploring the grittier side of the area” and wanting to “accompany the characters for a short while” isn’t completely terrible, it does rely on the players not being paranoid about anyone who doesn’t want to fight them immediately. There are many metagame styles where this wouldn’t work.


Similarly, there are many metagame styles where having the succubus flirt with a PC and try to get a kiss wouldn’t work.


Bad

I’m probably reading too much into it, but describing the two thralls as “nice guys” bent to serve a feminine demon with weaponized beauty is a questionable choice of words, at best.


As usual, the thralls have just mathemagical items and healing potions. At least the succubus’s ring of mind shielding is potentially an interesting item.


Having the thralls not “offer much conversation” is a clear cop-out on developing their personalities.


It’s unclear why the succubus would stay to fight if combat begins when it’s described as “smart but not very patient” and can both teleport and turn ethereal at will. For that matter, it’s unclear why the succubus is wandering around looking for PCs to kiss when she could be using that on the thralls she has already.


The advice for scaling the challenge is just about changing levels/HD.


Overall

Honestly, there just isn’t much to this encounter, or rather most of it is left for the GM to fill in because the write-up provides only some scant sketches to work from. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it does mean that it’s incomplete. Who were the two thralls? What is the succubus’s goal with them? Why is it willing to (potentially) compromise that goal to accompany the PCs? How does it react if its flirting is turned down? Where does the encounter even happen, and how does that context affect it?


All in all, this is barely more than a starting point from making a roll on a random encounter table. It can be a fun encounter or even a fine climax for an adventure to find the enthralled people, but pretty much all of that has to be developed by the GM because the write-up doesn’t try doing anything, really.

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