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Seeking help with non-combat encounter ideas for robbing a creature’s nest

Content of the article: "Seeking help with non-combat encounter ideas for robbing a creature’s nest"

Obligatory Party Warning: Ceres, Oscar, Thaylen please kindly go away or risk major spoilers.

I'm currently planning my next session and was hoping some of you could provide some interesting ways to spice up the encounter. I'm particularly looking for non-combat encounter ideas and potential ways to reward my Warlock as she hasn't received any major loot lately.

The Party: Paladin, Warlock, Druid & 2 NPCs with sporadic powers (one relating to electricity & one to do with earth)

The Task: The party needs to steal an egg from the bottom of a canyon protected by a very powerful and protective Mother Hydra. There is also another NPC party trying to get an egg as well. The NPC party is not aware that they are there but they are aware that the NPCs have found the Hydra nest and are gathering a party to come for it.

The Scene: Basically I envision it as them either fighting or finding a clever way to get the egg and flee to the forest only to find the other party closing on them and they need to either sneak or fight their way out.

The setting: There is a large barren land with only a few trees growing out of it but otherwise it is wide open. There are unstable gases below them that explode from the ground 1d6 rounds or they have to make a dex save. This gas is flammable and can potentially be used to their advantage.

There is a small rope ladder leading down into the large canyon where at the end of the Canyon is a Hydra (the party is aware that this would be a deadly encounter for them). This Hydra mother is protecting her nest which has 1d4 + 1 eggs inside it (they need to steal one for their goal).

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They can also choose to approach the nest from above ground.

Above Ground: There are three small Hydras hunting little critters above the Canyon. The mother Hydra's three heads are each watching these (her body is too large to fly out of the canyon herself). The idea is that the characters can find a way to distract these three heads from utilizing these critters (or the druid/warlock may do something to distract).

Additional Information: There are 2 NPCs which I am sure the party will try to protect no matter what. Even in the case of failing this quest goal (which potentially could cause issues with their larger goal).

What I need help with: Can you think of any ways to spruce up this encounter? Ideally, non-combat related ways that give them more creative options to get to the nest and out, environmental things that they need to worry about, or difficult decisions to make.

Currently, the encounter has:

  1. The Gases above ground
  2. How to get down to the nest if they don't take the ladder
  3. Time constraints as another party are coming and they don't know when
  4. Creatures (Mother Hydra & teens)
  5. How to carry the eggs out themselves (I'm considering making them fairly light but large and awkward to carry)

Any help is greatly appreciated.

Source: reddit.com

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