This encounter was inspired by an odd bit of architecture I see every day. I just couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to get into a good ol’ medieval fantasy scrape along this weirdly arranged floor. You can plant this encounter in any castle, ruin, mansion, palace, or other sprawling building. Ideally the PCs need to traverse this walkway to get to another part of the complex, since more obvious routes are unavailable. They are then ambushed in this choke point by their foes.
–Hard Lines: denote a ledge with a drop-off of 4 squares (20 feet). The walls are uneven brick and have an Athletics DC 15 to climb.
–Pillars: These tall artfully sculpted pillars can be used to grant partial cover to any creature in their space. (If using dungeon tiles, you might want to forgo actual pillar tiles and instead tell the players there is a waist high railing along the edge that grants cover).
-Tree: Since your more industrious and acrobatic characters are likely to ask, the tree stands a little over 20 feet up and is a sturdy oak. It looks like it could support the weight of a climber. An Athletics DC 20 check must be made to make the 2 square jump from walkway to limb and vice versa. The intervening squares of tree count as rough terrain if they are being traversed by a climber. The limbs are sturdy but not full of foliage, and do not grant concealment, though the trunk would gran cover to anyone on the ground.
–Doors: The PCs enter from the Easternmost door, and need to get through the double doors to the west. None are locked.
- x2 Hobgoblin Battle Guards – G (Monster Vault pg. 157)
- x1 Hobgoblin Spear Soldier – S (Monster Vault pg. 157)
- x2 Hobgoblin Archers – A (Monster Manual pg. 139)
- x1 Hobgoblin Warcaster – W (Monster Manual pg. 140)
This one is pretty straight forward. The hobgoblin Battle Guards march up to the stairs leading to the side the PCs are on and block their path as best they can. Standing one square behind them is the Spear Soldier who can take advantage of his reach to attack, while staying safely behind his allies. Should both Battle Guards fall, he will retreat to defend the Archers and Warcaster. Meanwhile, the Archers and Warcaster all take cover in the pillars and rain ranged attack upon the PCs. A particularly devious DM might even have the Warcaster use his Force Lure to fling an unwitting PC off the ledge (Don’t forget to give such a rube a saving throw to fall prone before tumbling over, and a subsequent athletics roll to grasp the edge as they fall.) For the most part the Warcaster is providing a little physical support for the Archers, as most of his ranged attacks require a recharge. In the event that PCs manage to bypass Battle guards and attack the archers directly, the Spear Soldier will likely fall back and lend support.
On the PCs end, be aware that the 5 square distance between ledges will let PCs use a lot of close attacks against the Archers. Likewise, an Eladrin PC can easily teleport over the gap, thought hat might leave him exposed to the Warcaster and Spear Soldier without help.
*A note about map tiles: I composited this image using several map packs and cheated with a bit of Photoshoppery. You’d easily be able to approximate it with Master Set: The Dungeon and Master Set: The Wilderness, with just a bit of Arcane Towers mixed in. In the future I might design maps with an eye toward using a single dungeon tile set but for now I’m applying them liberally as a resource to properly visualize encounter areas.