One of my favorite parts in any adventure movie is the part where the hero has to team up with his or her enemies to recover an artifact or save an ally. For example, in Indiana Jones and the Quest for the Holy Grail Indy helps the Nazis go through the trap filled mountain to recover the grail. In these movies, the hero gets into this situation because (a) he’s stupid. This is denoted by you shouting at the screen for him to not help them and keep the artifact hidden (he can always go back for it later), Or, (b) he is pressured because they are holding a loved one hostage. Sometimes the hero has half the map and the enemy the other half, but then it’s usually better for no one to have it than risk it fall into the bad guys’ hands.
There are fewer movies with this situation where a whole group teams up with the enemy (i.e. a party of autonomous characters). For this type of scene to work well it’s best if all the players are motivated to get along with the bad guys. Only holding one family member hostage works if the characters share a background where they would care about one person’s mom, or they have become such good friends that they would risk giving a powerful artifact to an evil warlord just to save her. Kidnapping everyone’s moms would be tough to do without being too contrived. A player can make this scene work with an open mind about your character’s background so it can be worked in. For instance, if the evil warlord has captured the ranger’s mother, maybe the same warlord also muscled your character’s family off his ancestral farm, or burned his village. Maybe there’s nothing about the villian other than you’d hate see the Diadem of Icarus fall into the hands of a dwarf; yet you’d hate to see the entire Dwarven civilization die out because you failed to help (you are a hero, after all). Having a strong motivation to dislike but also work with the villain allows you stay engaged without just rushing to kill him.
Once you get going, it’s your character’s duty to be on the lookout for ways out the situation. You are a prisoner to his evil plans. Try implementing a plan to rescue the mother so your opponent no longer has any leverage, or come up with a way to neutralize or disable artifact once you reach it. If you have important information for finding or using the artifact, withhold it as long as possible, even if that means bluffing that you have more. Once you no longer have any use, you and your mom are toast. You can try to get your own leverage by using your allies to capture his mom.
Once you reach the artifact, you need to have plan to rescue it from the villain. It helps to have a side meetings with the artifact’s ancient and Secret Order of Guardians. That way they can show up at the last possible moment and turn the tide in your favor through valiant sacrifice. Be prepared for an epic boss battle: have potions, scrolls, and daily power ready for use. Hopefully, you’ve had some time to get know you opponents and have discovered something to your advantage, like they are afraid of spiders or take 5 turns to recharge their breath weapon. If you’ve managed to work together in a combat before-hand, I hope you took good notes.
Once you’ve won the day, make sure all your party-mates are on the same page about being gracious about it. The best possible situation is to turn the villain around around as he sacrifices himself and the artifact to save all of humanity (and elvendom, dwarfdom, etc). If you’re not on the same page about the villain’s fate I’ll explore that in a future post, but make sure that if the artifact leaves its ancient temple it’s in one of your hand and not the enemies. Otherwise the DM has the next 10 adventures planned of you going after it and cleaning up your mess.