Ambush

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Description

The ambush is a classic design pattern which can be found in most western RPGs. The player characters (PCs) are suddenly confronted with opponents and are forced to fight without warning. Retreat from the fight is often prohibited or restricted. There is a great deal of variety in how this pattern can be implemented, as there are many events and level structures which facilitate an ambush. For example:

  • Invisible Enemies: The enemies, through magic or stealth, are invisible to the characters until they reach a certain location or an event occurs.
  • Summoned/Teleported Enemies: Often associated with mages in Bioware games, enemies are instantly brought to the players location from somewhere else.
  • Teleported Players: The PCs are suddenly and unexpectedly brought to the enemies's location where the enemies are prepared for them.
  • Flanking the Players: While the PCs are forced to deal with an expected foe in front of them, often in a dialogue sequence, enemies come up from behind.
  • Out of Sight: The enemies are hidden behind some sort of object, such as boulders or buildings, and step out to ambush the PCs.
  • Chokepoint: The PCs are forced to move through some narrow area which opens into a wider area where the enemies have set up their ambush. Note that a chokepoint alone does not facilitate an ambush.
  • Portals: Any number of portals, such as doors, suddenly open and enemies come spilling out.
  • Above and/or Below: The enemies jump down from higher elevation, fly down from the sky, or dig up from below.
  • Fast Enemies: The enemies are faster than the PCs and simply overtake them. The enemies may have been hunting the PCs.
  • World Travel Random Encounter: As the PCs travel along the world map, suddenly a mini-map loads where they are surrounded by opponents.
  • Sleeping Random Encounter: PCs awake from rest to find themselves surrounded, or have a random encounter during a dream sequence.
  • Reinforcements: While the players are already dealing with an enemy, reinforcements appear out of nowhere behind the players.

A combination of two or more of these events or structures may be combined in a single ambush.

Variables and Affordances

  • Ambush trigger: the action that causes the ambush to occur, which may or may not include activating a physical trigger in the level
  • Ambush manifestation: see above
  • Intensity: the strength and number of enemies

Examples

  • Baldur's Gate. “You have been waylaid by enemies and must defend yourself.” This often occurs throughout the game, where the party will be world-traveling or resting and is suddenly ambushed by enemies.
  • Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn. Attacking the Shadow Thieves Guild. When working for Bodhi and fighting against the Shadow Thieves, the PCs are forced through a chokepoint where they run into an ambush. Not only that, but many of the thieves lay in wait invisibly and attempt to backstab the PCs.
  • Dragon Age II. “Bait and Switch” quest, Lowtown Elven Alienage. The player characters exit a building to find themselves surrounded by soldiers with more dropping in behind them as reinforcements. They learn that they were set up, which leads into the next part of the quest.

Quest-Level Relationships

Ambushes can be used as motivation behind quests after the player characters have fallen into a plot-significant ambush.

  • Contextualizing Quests. An ambush will often be used within a contextualizing quest to throw a player into the midst of battle, on order to force them to become acquainted with the battle mechanics quickly.
  • Defend. What better way to make a Defend quest objective more challenging than to throw an ambush at the unsuspecting player?
  • Moxie Action. Oftentimes, if the player says the wrong thing to an NPC, it will trigger an ambush.

Acknowledgments

Ambush is a meta quest pattern in Scriptease; our pattern description expands on Scriptease's by specifically focusing on qualities of the level design as well as its relationship to quests.

patterns/ambush.txt · Last modified: 2011/06/15 18:36 by Gillian Smith
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