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The Side Shot Adventure

Not the One Shot, but the Side Shot...

For several years now as part of my ongoing campaign I sometimes run what I call a Side Shot Adventure.

During a Side Shot, the players make up new characters and then I run an adventure that is happening simultaneously that their regular characters are doing other stuff (like resting). The adventure happens far enough away that the two parties never bump into each other.

Below are a few examples of how I have done this:

The Orc Marauders - One of the PCs got separated from the main party and captured by orcs. As a cleric his abilities were valuable, so the orcs kept him alive and protected him. Each player except the cleric made an orc character and then played them accordingly, following a mission given to them by an orc high priest. The cleric PC later saw his old friends on a ship on a large river and escaped by swimming out to the ship.

The Obliteration Stone - The PCs were all thieves or assassins with various different skills (trapper, boxman, pickpocket, conman, etc) and tasked with stealing an Obliteration Stone from a Xarsian Temple in the city of Iztark, taking it to the Ivory Tower in the same city - where the multiclass priest/thief would then sacrifice a virgin to the Obliteration Stone to activate it... what resulted was the equivalent of a nuclear bomb going off and destroying most of the city. The regular PCs then witnessed the explosion and destruction of the city from a distance out in the desert - and later helped out a group of refugees fleeing from the destroyed city.

The Council of High Mages - For this one I ran the opening quest from one of the Vecna modules. During the opening of the module, the PCs play famous wizards (Mordenkainen, Evard, Otiluke, etc) who awake from a nightmare about an old tomb, call a council meeting, and then decide to investigate the old tomb. After getting past a few monsters and traps, they all get party wiped by Vecna who has some insane chronomancy skills and uses Haste and Time Stop to kill the entire party. The purpose of the opening is to scare the players into realizing that Vecna is super powerful and needs to be treated with respect, because if a party of powerful wizards couldn't fight him, then what chance does a lower level party have? For my purposes I changed the names of all the wizards and Vecna to other names, and I really only needed the opening as the rest of the module I am planning to use millenia later when the archlich has become more established. (My campaign spans multiple time periods. That way when I reintroduce the archlich, the players will go: "Oh, that guy... the one who party wiped us and escaped!")

The Dragonslayers - At one point the regular characters ran into a dragon that was too powerful for them and ran away. Fortunately a group of powerful dragonslayers heard about the dragon attacking the fishing village and came to slay it. Each player made a higher level character with specific skills useful for killing a dragon.

Note - While I did not think of it at the time, future DMs could in theory use the Larry Elmore painting (shown on the right) for the basis of a side shot game. Make 5 characters that match those in the painting.

Conclusions

Side Shot Adventures are useful in my opinion because they fill out a narrative and make for an useful storytelling device. Major events can be accomplished by other characters, but the players are still involved in the action. Background stories of PCs being captured and what happens to them can also be fleshed out, and sometimes a Side Shot Adventure can even be used to hint at a future adventure that is much further away.

For those people who love Star Wars, the film Rogue One is effectively a Side Shot Adventure.

Thoughts on this? Have you ever used a Side Shot Adventure or something similar in your campaign? Leave your comments below.

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