Predators: The Movie That Begs to Be a D&D Adventure

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 13, 2010

Movies are always inspiring my D&D games. It was about this time last year when my inner DM was inspired by the movie The Hangover and then in January it was Daybreakers. This time it’s Predators that has me thinking D&D. I’ll admit that Predators is already more closely aligned with a combat-oriented RPG then The Hangover, but as a source of influence on this impressionable DM it was no less intriguing.

Before reading any further be forewarned that if you haven’t seen Predators yet, this article contains spoilers. I’ve broken down most of the film into a series of D&D encounters. But given the kind of action adventure movie it is I don’t think these spoilers will ruin the movie for you.

Predators is a really good movie. If you liked the original Predator from 1987 then you’ll really like this new sequel. And it is a sequel, not a reboot. They actually make reference to the Schwarzenegger movie in this new version.

Below is a 6-encounter D&D adventure that follows the plot of the new Predators film. I’ve intentionally left the level of the adventure ambiguous. This should make it easier for a DM to use this outline regardless of the PCs current level.

Encounter 1 – Where are we? (Skill Challenge)

The PCs awaken in a strange jungle environment. They do not know each other and at first they cannot see each other. As the PCs start moving around and investigating their surroundings they can make Perception checks to detect the other PCs. In the movie the soldiers fight each other a little bit at the beginning, but it’s unlikely that the PCs will do that.

The DM may decide that it’s easier if the PCs already know each other. The skill challenge is about getting to know the surroundings more than each other. The PCs have never been here before and need to scout it out. A series of Dungeoneering, Nature and Perception checks will provide clues.

The most important information the PCs learn is that some of the plant life is deadly. If they move or are forced into squares occupied by these deadly plants they will be immobilized (save ends). If they do not save then they are stunned (save ends). The PCs will likely want to cover some ground to get a better idea of where they are. Athletics, Endurance and Heal checks are primary skills for this leg of the skill challenge.

Encounter 2 – Booby Traps

The PCs enter a trapped field. They, of course, don’t know it’s trapped. When they are within 10 squares of a hidden bunker, everyone can make an active Perception check. Success means they find the bunker before setting off any traps. Failure means that they are going to have to face the traps first.

If the PCs find the bunker first, they can try to get inside. It requires a Thievery check or a lot of brute force. The PCs may not want to make a lot of noise and attract unwanted attention. Inside the bunker the PCs find a dead adventurer. He possesses a magical ranged weapon and plenty of ammunition. Hidden in the bunker is a journal. The journal provides details about the hunters (Predators) and their combat tactics. The final passage in the journal indicates that the entire field is bobby trapped. The PCs get a +2 bonus to Perception check to find the traps.

If the PCs don’t immediately find the bunker then they face the traps unaware. The traps are a combination of spikes that shoot up from the ground, pits with spikes at the bottom, large objects suspended from trees that fall or swing down onto the PCs.

After the traps all go off the PCs have no trouble finding the bunker. Noise is no longer an issue since the traps were quite loud when they were activated.

Encounter 3 – Flushed Out

After dealing with the traps a group of wild animals come charging through the heavy growth towards them. The creatures work together as a pack trying to force the PCs to run in different directions. The creatures are fast and have a really high AC. This encounter should force the PCs to expend some of their strongest powers (daily powers and consumable items). The animals should grossly outnumber the PCs. The creatures only fight until half the party is bloodied or one PC falls unconscious. Then a high pitch whistle is heard in the distance and the animals retreat in that direction.

What really happened was that the animals were sent to test the PCs strengths and weaknesses. The whistle blower wanted to force the PCs to expend resources including healing surges.

Encounter 4 – Ambush at the Camp

The PCs have no trouble tracking the pack animals using Perception and Nature. They end up in a campsite. While investigating the campsite they find a Predator bound to a large rocky outcropping. He’s conscious but securely bound. The PCs can make a Perception check to avoid being ambushed by the lurking Predators. Combat ensues. Three Predators attack using ranged powers from different positions around the camp. The Predators won’t fight to the death. They use mobility and stealth to avoid direct confrontation. They press the attack until half of the PCs fall unconscious. They flee if any of Predators become bloodied.

Encounter 5 – Mysterious Benefactor (Skill Challenge)

A mysterious adventurer approaches the PCs after the ambush. He introduces himself as Noland and explains that he’s been avoiding the hunters for years. An Insight check reveals that he’s not completely sane having been alone in the jungle for so long.

Noland offers to share his camp with the PCs. It’s not far and it is safe from the hunters. The camp is located within a series of catacombs. He leads the party very quickly through the maze. Eventually they arrive at his camp. Once inside he slides a heavy boulder in place securing the door.

The PCs can try to get some information out of him. Bluff and Diplomacy work best. Intimidate earns his respect, but physical threats are met with resistance. His camp is very well equipped with weapons and food. The PCs can try and convince him to party with these treasures. If they succeed they each get a magic item from his stash. Noland has a Predator camouflage suit that he will party with if a suitable trade is offered. If they fail, he’s unwilling to part with anything.

If the PCs succeed in the skill challenge they also learn more about the Predators, including that they have an airship anchored nearby. If one PC makes three successful hard checks using Insights, Heal or a combination of these two skills you realize that he’s being too helpful.

Encounter 6 – Betrayal

While the PCs are resting, Noland betrays them. His sleeping nook contains a secret passage which he uses to slip away while the PCs are sleeping. He barricades it from the outside so none of them can use it to follow him. He then causes a fire outside of the doorway, and fans the thick smoke into the sleeping chamber. He plans to subdue the PCs and steal their equipment.

The PCs have not yet gained the benefits of an extended rest (but they would have the benefits of a short rest). They need to escape before the smoke suffocates them. During their scramble to escape and avoid suffocating, the PCs can each grab one item from the adventurers stash (assuming they didn’t already successfully negotiate for it earlier). Most of the gear is low level items. The real prize is a sword (light or heavy blade) that was designed to kill the Predators. It functions like a Dragonslayer Weapon, except it’s tuned to Predators.

The smoke obscures all visions in the room after three rounds. PCs must make an Endurance check every even round (round 2, round 4, round 6) while in the room. Failure means they loose a healing surge. If they have no surges remaining then they loose hit points equal to their healing surge value.

The door is barricaded and required eight successful melee attacks to break it down. A critical hit counts as one extra hit. Encounter powers count as two hits. Daily powers count as four hits.

When the PCs get out there is a Predator waiting for them in the passageway. Noland is dead at his feat. This Predator fights to the death. PCs that flee are forced to navigate the maze. The Predator knows the maze and can easily circle around the PCs and appear in front of them after only a round or two.

After killing the Predator, the PCs can rest safely, gaining the complete benefits of an extended rest. By this point in the movie many of the troops were dead. Obviously killing off PCs makes for a boring night if you’re the first to fall. In stead, the DM is encountered to just exhaust the party of as many resources as possible.

What’s Next?

As you can see the action-packed first half of the movie Predators makes for a deadly and equally action-packed D&D adventure. The second half of the movie has the remaining troops (the big stars) fight the remaining Predators one on one. Again, this is boring if you’re not the PC fighting.

Rather than spoil the ending of the movie I’m going to leave the rest of this adventure up to all the creative DMs out there. If you’ve seen the movie then you may just want to follow its path to completion. If you haven’t there are enough hooks in play to make for a great second chapter.

The PCs will likely look for the airship as a means to escape. If they free the captive Predator bound in the camp he is willing to reveal the airship’s location and pilot it for the PCs.

The PCs can certainly continue fighting the Predators directly. Be sure to use the creature’s vulnerability to fire and the toxic plant life to best effect during combat.

How powerful do you think the Predators should be? Do you think this works best as a heroic, paragon or epic adventure?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 A.L. July 13, 2010 at 9:50 am

If you are doing this as a short and canned adventure, why not just move PCs as they die over into playing Predators for those sequences? It gives them something to do, makes the bad guys more dangerous as the game goes on, and if anyone was betrayed it gives them a chance for revenge. :D
A.L.´s last blog post ..MA-CC – Beta Test – Session 4

2 Grendelwulf July 13, 2010 at 10:18 am

Now these guys are what githyanki should have been.

This is a great idea and it is an excellent breakdown. I’m not big on 4E enough for differentiating heroic to epic. I could see the PCs in this situation with some non-humanoids (hobgoblins, orcs) & the predators observing them facing each other. This could be the heroic part? Second phase with predators would be the paragon or epic.

Grendelwulf´s last blog post ..Gygax Legendarium- Dunkirk- The Battle of France 1971

3 Brian Engard July 13, 2010 at 10:28 am

I really like this framework as the PCs’ introduction to the Feywild. Use sparring nobles as the predators, maintaining their own hunting preserve in which they hunt mortals for sport. That way the PCs know the truth about faeries: they’re alien and scary.
Brian Engard´s last blog post ..Make Your Own Dungeon Tiles

4 Andrew Girdwood July 14, 2010 at 4:41 am

I like the idea of this as a heroic tier adventure. Why? That should maximise the players’ feeling of “We’re in big trouble here!” from the outset. They should be high in that tier and I like to think its something like this that pushes them up to paragon.
Andrew Girdwood´s last blog post ..Doctor Who writers to pen new Sherlock

5 Ameron July 14, 2010 at 7:54 am

Having the dead players work the Predators is brilliant! I’ve done something like this before when the party split up. The first group of PCs fought monsters run by the other players and vice versa. It actually worked really well and was one of the only positive experiences I’ve ever had splitting the party.

I’ve been trying to think of the best creatures to use as Predators. I was toying with making them from scratch, but I really like the idea of using githyanki as Predators.

A two-part, multi-tier adventure is also a great suggestion. After all, the Predators are smart and calculating hunters. Observing the PCs as they fight lesser creatures is absolutely something I see them doing.

@Brian Engard
Too many players assume that the Feywild is a kind and gentle place. Using this kind of framework will remind them that very deadly creatures inhabit the Feywild. Great suggestion.

@Andrew Girdwood
If the objective is to really challenge the PCs then I have no issue running this as heroic tier. I think if this was run as epic the stakes need to be much, much higher – especially since most epic destinies allow PCs to essentially come back from death at least once.

6 Chad February 8, 2012 at 8:25 pm

This saved my game last Sunday. I had no adventure planned, just a few encounters, and needed a way to work the party acquiring an airship into the story when I remembered this. Encounter 3 is really awesome with a pack of displacer beasts as the hunting pack and a flushed-out herd of bulettes to make the fight more chaotic. I ran this at paragon tier; the Predators were feral minotaurs living in a forested labyrinth where death row fugitives were sent to die, and my group had to go into the maze to liberate a fellow party member.

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