Content of the article: "How do I balance an encounter with players on either side?"
If my username is familiar to you, stop reading. Severe spoilers ahead for your campaign. Also, important spoilers for certain Waterdeep: Dragon Heist plot points and characters.
I'm running WD:DH for four friends of mine, all first-timers. One of them, let's call him Pepper, started with Meloon Wardragon as his friendly face (who is currently possessed by a Xanathar Intellect Devourer), joined Force Gray and eventually got the mission to check if something's up with Meloon. After seeing Azuredge "disobey" Meloon right before he goes to an expedition to the Undermountain, he decides to tag along with him. In the previous session, I had made it pretty clear in previous sessions that going to the Undermountain at this point was suicidal, both OOC as the DM and IC as various Yawning Portal characters, including Meloon. In the most recent session I was pretty clear about Meloon acting slightly off as well.
Despite that, he decides to go down there. He says a few heartfelt goodbyes and ventures downward with Meloon and a few others. I describe the ambush, he decides to use a Sending scroll to request for help from the Blackstaff herself, and he gets knocked unconscious. Instead of killing him outright, I decided to have him wake up in a hospital, battered but alive. The twist is, he's possessed by an Intellect Devourer, in classic Xanathar fashion, since they knew he had information regarding the Stone of Golorr. I privately revealed that fact to Pepper and he was OK with it, but asked to control his character until he gets revealed, including the combat encounter when that happens.
As such, I have to balance at least one future encounter with Pepper's character (let's call him Salt for convenience) on the enemy side, and I don't know how to approach this task. Good thing is, Salt asked for help before going to the Undermountain, so a fourth character will be joining the players' side (Pepper's future character). Should I calculate Salt's CR and treat him as a monster? Can I just take Salt and an opposing character out of the calculation and just balance what's left? Since the Blackstaff is suspicious of both Meloon and Salt at this point, should I have her intervene or help the characters in another way, like with a magic item? Have I made a hell for myself with this decision?
I appreciate any kind of input, and thank you for reading this wall of text.
- Sending Spell vs Intellect Devourer?
- Is it ever a good idea to allow a party with both good and evil aligned characters?
- Suggestion for D&D modules in the future
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