This encounter is intended for five characters of 3rd level
The inspiration for this encounter came while trying to concoct ways to use a fancy “World of Warcraft Miniatures Game” elemental mini I picked up from the always wonderful Troll and Toad. I’ve always been a sucker for glitzy, unnecessary props (minis, dry erase mats, cloth maps, tokens, counters, etc.) and it’s just that kind of out of place priorities that sometimes leads to some solid ideas!
The premise is to provide the players with a powerful environmental effect that is readily available (assuming they look for it) then twisting that effect to cause a greater problem for both the players and their enemies. It skirts that fine line between shocking twist/gotchya moment, and if the perfect kind of encounter to keep them guessing and just a bit cautious while exploring a dungeon.
I’m considering this encounter as “playtested” though that’s only true in an unusual way. I ran a version of this encounter using the rules provided in the 5th Edition/D&D Next playtest packet. It worked out pretty well, though was a bit more sparsely decorated than the version you are getting in front of you. However I was happy to see that the challenge itself translated across editions, and letting this dungeon chamber face some living breathing players helped me to plan it with some more care and consideration. That said, this encounter won’t run nearly as fast as its 5th edition incarnation.
While exploring the dungeon, the players will pass a room where water is being heated by some means (magical fire, thermal vent, lava, slaves, golems, etc.) and irrigated into the adjacent chamber. Inspecting that chamber reveals that it is an old underground bathhouse – once beautifully decorated, and now showing signs of its unfortunate wear and tear over the ages. The scalding water pumped in from the heating room will fill the central pool if a lever is thrown (The water flows from a statue at the head of the bath). Normally it would sit for a long while until its temperature evened out, but straightaway it is searing.
The pool is dry, however, and has become the encampment for a group of kobolds that raids around the dungeon. To keep out of sight they are nesting down in the empty basin of the bath, using a crude later for getting in and out.They use the bathhouse’s smaller pools for drinking, washing clothes, urinating, water torturing prisoners, whatever comes to mind.
The kobolds aren’t the only tenants – a rather large water elemental is living in the pipes between the heating chamber and the bathhouse. Activating the pipes and filling the pool with hot water will awaken and anger the elemental – who is none too pleased to see either the adventurers, or the kobolds.
The kobolds are attending to their day to day affairs, ad though being raiders means they often live in their armor with weapons handy, they will likely be taken unawares by the PCs. The intent of this encounter is to give the PCs an initial advantage over the kobolds, whose numbers will likely be a bit much for even 3rd level characters. The pulling of the crank and flooding of the pool is the obvious and effective solution but players may not go for it. If so, give them the opportunity to flee if combat with the kobolds becomes to dire. If this fails, remember that the kobolds will be on the defensive having been attacked where they are most vulnerable, and will likely wish to take prisoners to gain an advantage.
The kobolds will otherwise behave normally, with Dragonshields approaching the toughest combatants, Quickblades dashing in and out of combat at targets of opportunity, and Tunnelers making ranged attacks from cover unless they see an opportunity to mob an isolated PC in melee or maneuver into position to provide combat advantage to a more robust ally.
During the first round in which the crank is pulled, roll for the Elemental’s initiative. On its turn, it appears in the middle of the pool, rising up from the water that is quickly flooding the once dry pit. Play up how intimidating the creature is in your description of his entrance. The elemental is a wildcard, and will likely attack any acceptable target, be it kobold or PC. Reward the PC’s clever tactics in trying to make the Elemental fight their battles for them, but do not let them off the hook. They are the ones who woke the creature from its slumber at it looks to them as the true threat. Likewise, the kobolds will defend themselves from the unwelcome intruder.
Note that if a clever player returns the crank to its resting position the flooded pool will drain. This effects the elemental if it is still in the pool when the PC uses their action to pull the crank. While this won’t suck the now angry elemental back into the pipes, it will leave the creature Restrained until the draining ceases.
If the going gets too tough, the kobolds will flee, leaving the PCs to “mop up” the elemental…so to speak.
It is worth noting that allies may make an “escape” attempt for allies grabbed by the elemental. This represents someone reaching in and pulling a friend free of the elemental’s body before it drowns them.
Features of the Area
Large Bathing Pool – This pool rests about 10 feet below the room’s floor level. When full of water, there is a deep end of 8 feet and a shallow end of 5 feet. A concealed system of grates and sluices allows water to be poured in from the nearby heating chamber and, if desired, back out and into the chamber to be reheated. At the moment, it is being used as the living space for a cadre of kobolds who patrol the dungeon for prey and treasure. The kobolds have been far too afraid to bother with the crank, and are unaware of the water that would come rushing into their home if it were to be pulled. The floor of the depression is littered with their bedding, food, clothing, and personal effects. The sides of the pool make for an Athletics Moderate check to climb and consume 5 squares of movement on account of the difficulty in traversing the missing and broken tiles lining the walls
Ladder – Leading out of the pool is a rickety ladder lashed together by the kobolds. Climbing it will require 4 squares of movement. This requires no check.
Small Bathing Pools – These pools are four feet deep and ringed with stone benches. They are filled with putrid, stagnant water that has become overwhelmed with algae and the occasional bone sticking out. Any creature submerging in the water could use the pools for Partial Cover
Changing Chambers – The rounded edged rooms were places where more modest bathhouse patrons could change into swimming garments. The kobolds use these areas to chain prisoners or relieve themselves…occasionally at the same time.
Crank – Age and rust have made the crank a bit resistant, and pulling it requires a Move Action. Doing so releases heated water into the main pool from the fountain and a number of hidden pipes all along the wall of the pool. The water fills at a rate of 5 feet per round (filling the pool to its maximum height in 2 rounds).
Any creature that does not posses the “aquatic” keyword, that begins its turn in or moves through any square of the water takes 5 Fire damage. Pulling the crank again will drain the pool just as fast. Aquatic creatures that are in the pool if it is drained are considered “Restrained” until the pool finishes draining
Fountain – This fountain is dry unless the crank nearby is pulled. If so it fills with heated water from the adjacent room that flows into the pool and begins to rapidly fill it. The fountain is a good 8 feet tall and sturdy though it is aged, chipped, and worn. It provides Partial Cover to creatures using it for such a purpose
Rubble – Scattered debris and crumbling stonework, broken pillars and fallen slabs of rock. Counts as rough terrain and provides Partial Cover to creatures occupying such squares.
Pillar – Creatures can occupy the same square as a pillar gain Partial Cover
x3 Kobold Dragonshield (D) (Monster Vault pg. 181)
x3 Kobold Quickblade (Q) (Monster Vault pg. 180)
x7 Kobold Tunnelers (T) (Monster Vault pg. 179)*
Tunnelers are armed with a javelin, as well as short bows and 10 arrows each. The bows deal their listed ranged attack damage and use the listed attack bonus
x1 Drowning Water Elemental / Gelatinous Cube (Monster Vault pg. 222)
-Make the following adjustments to the Gelatinous Cube:
- Type is Large Elemental Natural Beast (Aquatic, Water)
- Gains Speed 6, Swim 6
- Looses blind, blindsight, immunities and resistances
- Gains vulnerability Cold 5
- INT 7 and CHA 9
- Looses the trait “Translucent”
- “Slam” gains reach 2 and knocks the target prone, rather than immobilizing. Looses the “Acid” keyword
- “Engulf” deals untyped ongoing damage (the effects of forced drowning) and looses the “Acid” keyword. Engulf gains a +5 to hit against prone targets