This encounter is intended for 5 PCs of level 5
About a year ago I had a regular D&D group I was DMing for while also playing a great deal of Valve’s “Left4Dead” games. Somewhere between the process I got it in my mind to try and replicate the Infected vs. Survivors dynamic at the table-top (like you do). L4D has such a tight, exciting play experience and its elements seemed like they would translate well to 4th edition’s monster building mechanics. It was sort of a personal experiment in encounter design to see if I could translate something very structured, (albeit outside the confines of D&D’s rules), into the game. The experiment went well, with the encounter going just the way I anticipated when it hit the table. I’ve tweaked some of the stats and devised a more definite map (The original one was quickly scrawled onto a battlemat and promptly erased after) to share here.
The monsters in this encounter are all vulnerable to fire – that’s in keeping with the advantages granted by fire as they are depicted in Left 4 Dead, but it’s also a slight nod to the fact that PC’s with Fire keyword powers often get hosed by the plethora of resistant monsters. Time for your Infernal Warlock to shine!
The fact that the lumber camp is several miles outside of town meant that it wasn’t all that uncommon for there to be little contact between townsfolk and workers midweek. Indeed there was a barracks of sorts for those working the mills and forest. However its been more than a week and not a soul has been seen. Worse yet, a clinging fog has spread across the camps multifarious buildings, and strange ululations can be heard from the camp by night. All of the workers, who would normally have returned eagerly to their families, have failed to arrive. Something sinister has occurred among the creaking mills and warehouses.
As you walk up the well trod forest path you cannot help but feel that many eyes are on you. Despite the roads well worn wagon ruts the place seem to have been abandoned for years rather than days. There is a bright light coming from the main camp, brushing aside the damp fog clinging to the earth and trees around you. A bonfire, set very recently, burns bright through the night, illuminating four single story buildings. The remains of a wagon lies in shambles up the dirt path in between the single story buildings that make up the main logging camp. Surrounding the camp is a periphery of old stumps, and beyond that the foreboding woods.
Propped against the shattered wagon, in a state of ruin competing with his vehicle is the corpse of an old man. He wears military garb and a green tunic, a beret slanted on his white hair, his beard specked with blood, a longsword tumbled inches from his crushed fingers.
When at least one player moves near the cart, read the following:
As you approach to investigate, the first howl shatters the gloom. It is human and inhuman all at once. Amidst the cacophony of snarls, grunts, and shouts you can hear a few very distinct noises – a hacking cough, a persistent and measured growl, and a series of grotesque belches and moans. Drawing your weapons, the creatures appear from all sides, moving fast, their glassy eyes wide with rage.
When the Tank’s initiative round begins, read the following:
A great bellow breaks through the din of combat. Between the scramble of these infected loggers your eyes fall on a horrific sight: a mound of muscle and scar tissue that was once something akin to a man, now plodding it’s way between buildings in your direction. It bellows again, burning with an unquenchable fury. Those arms are thick enough to tear down a building – best not to think what will happen if it gets within reach of you.
Map and Monsters
Buildings – Athletics DC 15 to climb; each building is 3 squares in height. Each of the buildings has its doors locked (Thievery DC 15). The occupants attempted to seal themselves inside but to no avail. The long orange roofed building is the workman’s barracks and consists of a single open room with triple bunked beds and other living accouterments. The grey roofed building is a workshop where crafters make furniture and other woodwork sundries. The green roofed building is a storage house. The detailed building is the lumber camp foreman’s office. The actual mill building is some yards away, closer to the forest and not pictured on the map.
Ruined Cart – Squares that contain the ruined cart count as rough terrain
Shrubs – Shrubs do not impede movement but grant partial concealment to anyone occupying the same square
Fire – This bonfire was started by the unfortunate soul the PC’s find slumped against the ruined cart. It is still burning bright and assorted pieces of kindling nearby might serve as a torch if a PC was inclined. A torch made in such a fashion deal 1d6+Str modifier fire damage and the target takes ongoing 2 fire (Save ends). Anyone who begins their turn in or enters a fire square takes 1d8+4 fire damage.
When the encounter begins, the players face the following:
- x1 Hunter (H)
- x1 Boomer (B)
- x1 Smoker (S)
- x8 Common Infected (C)
During the second round, add the following:
- x4 Common Infected (C)
Once one of the infected creatures is dead and at least one other is bloodied, have the Tank (T) enter at the initiative immediately following the number at which this trigger occurred. On the next Common Infected initiative pass, add the following:
- x6 Common Infected (C)
Monster Placement and Common Infected Waves
The goal here is to simulate the kind of gameplay that makes Left 4 Dead shine: the players feel hard pressed to succeed and just short of overwhelmed. Being a tabletop game D&D permits the DM (A superior equivalent to the respectable “AI Director” of the L4D games) to control the tension much more closely. If players are having too hard or too easy of a time, adjust the entrance of the additional common infected accordingly – or have more or less common infected arrive as you see fit.
The monster placement indicated on the map shows where the creature(s) enter the map area, even if they are not on the map at the beginning of the encounter. In the case of common infected, clump creatures around the squares indicated as their “spawn point.” If players ask where they come from, the monsters are coming out of the woods, crawling out of buildings, or rising up from concealing reed where they lay inert.
At the beginning of the encounter the Hunter, and Smoker are assumed to be perched on the sides of the building adjacent to them, ready to climb up onto the roof but hidden from easy view by the PCs. The Boomer is behind a closed door.
Dividing the party is the best maneuver for this ambush. The attack begins as soon as at least one player makes their way near the ruined wagon.
Smoker: The smoker will likely be the first attacker. Keeping to the roofs is the safest bet. Keep the smoker hidden until a PC comes into range and then strike. This should draw the players closer into the middle of the ambush. If the smoker’s victim is freed, he will hide out of sight until his “Smoker Pull” ability refreshes.
Hunter: The hunter will hang back and not attack until a PC is isolated from his/her allies. The party’s ranged attacker or controller makes for a likely target. If the Hunter’s target escapes his grab attempt, it will leap away to safety.
Boomer: The Boomer will stay indoors until at least two players are within range of his “Bile Puke” power (If a PC opens the door the Boomer is hiding behind he will be forced to attack). Once this has been expended, the boomer will attempt make melee attacks in the midst of the party. Remember that the Boomer is something of a suicide bomber – don’t be afraid to have the Boomer move into melee even if he is outflanked and outmatched.
Common Infected: Like many minions, their goal is to swarm the players quickly. Keep them in clumps, but not all together. This will prevent the party’s controller from wiping them out too quickly, while still giving him/her a group of good targets for area attacks.
Tank: The Tank will pursue one target doggedly until pulled away. Should he become marked or subject to a defender aura he will immediately peel off and pummel the new attacker. The Tank’s multi-target attack power is very circumstantial and so his damage output will likely be lower than that of most elites – that’s ok. The nature of the tank is to get in and absorb damage so that the other infected can do the major damage. His “throw rock” power is intended to keep targets pinned down or separated so that his allies can pick off targets.
* – Don’t forget that a lot of infected abilities apply conditions that cause the targeted PC to grant Combat Advantage. This stacks with any specific attack bonuses stated in an infected creatures power.