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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Incidents – The Main Attraction

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Circumstances
The PCs are in a city

Event
The PCs hear about a zoo in the city that everyone is raving about. Those who have been there claim the newest addition is the most wonderful thing they have ever seen. If the PCs visit they find the zoo itself unimpressive – the animals are not treated poorly but are either mundane and common creatures or poor specimens of their variety. The PCs will find that the newest and last attraction which has stirred up so much gossip is a beautiful nymph. During their visit, she uses her charms on another zoo patron, dominating him (the nymph can forgo any damage listed in her attack powers to calmly charm a target) and instigating him into attempting to set her free. Though the man fails to accomplish her liberation, the nymph claims she is being held against her will and beseeches the PCs for their aid. This is her second unsuccessful escape attempt, but she states boldly that she will keep trying. With their help, however, her flight could be easy, and nobody would be hurt in the process…

In truth, the zoo’s owner – a sad sack named Kotter Vann – was searching for new animals to add to his collection when he came across the nymph; mortally wounded and unconscious from a run in with a wandering monster. Meaning only to nurse the poor creature back to health, he brought her back to the zoo and set to treating her wounds. But Vann’s zoo was losing money, and he saw no other way to support his wife and eight children, nor was he willing to part with the zoo that had been both his life’s passion, and a costly investment. So he put the nymph in a carefully crafted enclosure and sent his eldest daughter to attend to her needs, lest he become bewitched into setting her free. Vann feels guilty for what he did but sees to the creatures every need and whim, and treats the nymph very well – if living as a caged exhibit can be considered “well.”

Possible EXP and Rewards
The PCs have a myriad of options when it comes to resolving the problem. The obvious choices are freeing the nymph, or convincing it that a life inside this gilded cage is better than one out in the trackless and deadly wilderness. It is possible to find some kind of split between the two parties – maybe the PCs offer to replace the nymph with a more pliable or exotic exhibit. Maybe a deal can be arranged where the nymph agrees to stay “on loan” with Vann for part of the year. Consider giving the PCs EXP equal to that of a Spring Nymph (Monster Manual 3 pg. 151)

If the PCs do not step in, they will hear about a terrible incident in the zoo in which the nymph has bewitched a violent soldier into freeing her. In doing so, the man has cut down a handful of innocent and dumbstruck patrons – thinking their inaction as an attempt to interfere with the jailbreak. The soldier is caught and put before trial, the nymph is fled back home, and Vann’s zoo is likely to go bankrupt.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2012 in Incidents, Not Playtested

 

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Commedia of Death

This adventure is intended for five players of 3rd level

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DM cat dares you to eat the magic cheese…

This week’s encounter is modified from one I ran way back in the day – during my first ongoing 4th edition game. That said, I’ve made some significant tweaks to keep it up to speed with the shape of the game today.

The inspiration for this encounter was twofold. Primarily, I wanted to get some use out of a set of the Paizo “Game Mastery” map packs I had picked up that featured an amphitheater. Though I’m a big fan of the Game Mastery line, their Map Packs line sets are very hit-or-miss and sadly “Ruins” is a big miss. The artwork isn’t up to their usual par, and the editing makes it very unclear as to where the delineated squares are in relation to the structures depicted (is that a window? Is it in my square? Does it give me cover? Is this rough terrain? What is going on with this map!) That said, the amphitheater tiles were precise enough, and I had already bought the tiles so – may as well make some use out of them.

My other inspiration was to use the theater location to depict a theatrically related combat encounter. You may recall that my background is in theatre, and that included more that a few theatre history courses. So I hit on the idea of linking the stock characters in Commedia Dell’arte to some of the various monster roles. What you get is a skirmish that’s a bit off the wall, out of the ordinary, and very memorable (And I’m not just blowing smoke! My players have brought this one up several times!)

As a quick note, the Commedia archetypes are sometimes referred to as “masks” (since most of the characters are represented by a mask – the traits of which are universal and recognizable across different theatre troupes.

Encounter Background
Adjust the encounter’s background to fit your setting. For convenience I’ll relay the backstory assumed for the original campaign setting:

Nearly 100 years ago this amphitheater, now in ruins, was a popular destination for talented performers. All were welcome, and often the elite both locally and abroad would sit beside peasants to see all manner of theatrical spectacles. Its reputation eventually drew the attention of a famous female bard named Achio and her on-again-off-again adventuring companion/rival/lover Tolivar, a talented illusionist.

The two of them sought to put on a performance the likes of which had never been seen – from now until the end of time. Seeking obscure knowledge and through much experimentation, they sought to create spectral constructs that could retain an actors performance and repeat their part over and over. With the bards lore and creativity and the wizard’s raw intelligence, they seemed to have succeeded – enchanting several actor’s masks with the ersatz personas.

They dubbed these concoctions of illusion and elemental magic “Figments.” Appearing as ghostly apparitions when they manifested despite being quite physical, the creatures they concocted were more akin to golems more than anything; though their only material substance was the mask which acted as the magic’s focal point. They were capable of discorporating, leaving only the mask behind until showtime, when the shimmering actor would reform in an instant. The creatures seemed to serve their purpose, reciting lines and following prescribed stage blocking; though Tolivar noted with some trepidation that they occasionally displayed a measure of independence – a quality most crafters of constructs would consider a critical error.

The night of their first performance was a hit, up until Act 4. All at once, something in the creatures snapped, and they began to attack the audience. Not wanting to waste all their hard work (and hard spent coin) Achio and Tolivar evacuated and rescued the patrons of the theatre, but chose not to destroy their magical actors. Neither ever succeeded in finding a way to capture or correct the deranged Figments.

To this day the illusive monsters lie dormant, the enchanted masks laying haphazardly on the stones of the abandoned theatre – few brave enough to chance getting near. Local legend says that if a living being takes a seat in the theatre, the creatures manifest and begin the play they set out to perform so many years ago.

None who have stayed until Act 4 ever live to tell about it.

Setup
Ideally, the PCs will walk into the amphitheater. The Figment’s masks are laying haphazardly on the stage section, and an Easy Arcana check would reveal that they are enchanted. When the PCs get within 20 squares of the masks, they corporate, and begin going through the play they were programmed to perform. A Hard Insight check reveals that something is “off” about the spectral actors – they break character staring threateningly into the audience, or silently mouth threats to PCs.

If the PCs make a threatening move, the Figments attack. Otherwise, they break their cover at the beginning of Act 4 and leap into the audience, taking a surprise round to attack any PC who fails a Moderate Insight check.

The content of the play the Figments are performing is at your discretion. It should, however be meaningful. Bits of historical information, cryptic foreshadowing or paralleling of events occurring in the campaign world or hints of future adventure are all marvelous bits of information that can give the scene even more weight.

Tactics
The principal Figments begin this encounter on stage, with the chorus possibly surrounding the top level behind the theatre’s seating or below or to the side of the stage.

Il Capitano seeks to engage the PC’s strongest melee combatant, fleeing to attack any ranged attackers once he is bloodied. The lovers will pick whatever target is most convenient for the both of them to attack in unison. Arlecchino dances throughout the battle striking targets of opportunity, ideally seeking a position with which to gain combat advantage, or else striking and then dancing away using his “Acrobatic” trait. The chorus will simply mob the PCs, doing their best to clog up the battlefield while making room for their own allies to zip in and out of advantageous positions.

Being illusionary creatures, they have no real sense of self preservation, and will fight on until destroyed.

Map
It’s a vexing proposition! I want to encourage you to support Paizo’s GameMastery line as it is typically great – but the “Ruins” Map Pack is absolute crap! My recommendation is to use their sample of the actual tile as a guideline for your own battlemat, and instead invest in one of their awesome Flip-mats

Features of the Area
Marble Wall: The wall behind the stage is blocking terrain
Marble Pillars: Both pillars are blocking terrain
Stairs: These worn, crumbling steps are rough terrain
Seating: Squares that contain rounded benches are easy enough to move through with care, however they slope and dip in places. PCs may not shift into these squares, but can otherwise move normally. Adept at navigating the amphitheater, the Figments have no such troubles.

Monsters
To represent the monsters as “Figments” you’ll need to make some alterations – though this will mostly be a matter of “re-skinning” the creatures. To make each one fit the characteristics of its associated mask a few power swap-outs are detailed in each monster’s entry.

•Each monster becomes a Medium Humanoid Construct (Keyword •Illusion) and gains Resist 5 Fire and Cold damage, Vulnerability 5 Force damage
•Each is capable of discorporeating when there is no audience present. When doing so, the Figment can neither effect nor be effected by the world. They can corporeate or discorporeate At-Will.
•Destroying a Figment’s mask (1HP 12 All Defenses) destroys the Figment itself. This can only be accomplished if the Figment is discorporeated. If a figment drops to 0 HP while corporeated, its mask shatters automatically.

x1 Arlecchino – Gremlin Deceiver (Monster Manual 3 pg. 106) – Arlecchino, or harlequin, is a trickster and acrobat, wearing a dark mask and a colorful patchwork costume
Replace “Sabotaging Presence” with the following traits:

Acrobat: Arlecchino may shift up to three squares before and/or after making a basic attack. Describe this as a series of cartwheels, tumbles, and tricks.
Lazzi of Flashing Blades: As a standard action, Arlecchino grants all non-minion Figments a single standard action that they use immediately. This is an encounter power.

x1 Il Capitano – Elf Noble Guard (Monster Vault pg. 113) – Il Captiano is a boisterous and rude braggart and foreigner. His mask is flesh toned with a big nose and bristly mustache.
Replace “Elven Accuracy” and “Wild Step” with the following:

Bravado: When not bloodied, Il Capitano deals an additional 1d10 damage with melee attacks
Better Part of Valor: When Il Capitano takes damage, as an Immediate Reaction he knocks the attacking creature prone and Capitano is pushed 2 squares.

x2 The Lovers – Dread Marauder (Monster Manual 3 pg. 75) – Always unmasked, the innamorati are the young lovers who play the principal roles in many Commedia plays. They wish to fall in love and be married; a goal that is opposed by master characters like Il Capitano and facilitated (and/or complicated) by comedic servants, Zanni like Arlecchino. They are young, beautiful, and prone to extremes of emotion.
Replace “Eyes of Undeath” and “In the Master’s Defense” with the following:

True Love: A lover gains combat advantage against enemy adjacent to the other lover.
Miserable Without You: When not within 4 squares of the other lover, they are considered Weakened.

x8 Chorus – Human Goon (Monster Vault pg. 170) – Though not a part of Commedia, the tradition of the chorus is both long and varied in theatre, having its roots in greek drama. Fantasy settings tend to have anachronistic elements, so the presence of a chorus in this Commedia play isn’t completely off base. The chorus all wear uniform masks, but each with a different color. Otherwise each wears a bland costume so as not to upstage the actors.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Combat Encounter, Playtested

 

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Incidents – Prisoner Exchange

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Circumstances
While traveling along a road

Event
The PCs come across two armed bands – one of elves, the other dwarves – screaming at one another and on the verge of violence. It seems the elves are hunters searching the wilds for dangerous monsters and more common game. The dwarves are a rag-tag local (and unsanctioned) militia who insist that the hunters are instead spies for the nearest elven community (this is actually true, though the dwarves came to this conclusion by suspicion rather than evidence. Besides which the elves would claim to be on a “fact finding mission” rather than admit to conducting any actual espionage).

Hostilities broke out between the two groups a few days ago and while nobody was killed, some on both sides were wounded, and hostages were taken. Tentatively, messengers on both sides approached to make arrangements for a prisoner exchange. The Pcs have stumbled into the middle of this negotiation, which has rapidly deteriorated. This might be the last straw, and if the PCs do not intervene – either to end negotiations amicably or to choose one side over the other – then the confrontation will likely end in mortal combat.

When roleplaying this encounter, be a real jerk. Both sides are hot tempered, angered at previous offenses both real and perceived, and behaving very childishly in an effort to squeeze out the better deal – out of pride if for no other reason. Take reasonable arguments and twist them around, throw out will accusations, set up straw man arguments, make ad homonym attacks – behave in a way that would make any Speech and Debate class professor twitch.

Have combat stats for both sides ready, and balance them so that either party would be a moderate challenge to the party. There is the possibility that the PCs could screw things up so catastrophically that both parties turn on them – making this combat a real challenge indeed. Otherwise they will be aiding either the elves or dwarves in a rather one sided engagement – which will hopefully be an appropriately hollow victory. After all, neither side has evil intentions; they’re just idiots.

Possible EXP and Rewards
Grant the party experience equal to a monster of their level. Treasure would be an unlikely outcome of this negotiation (though if it ends in combat, the loot might be significant). However, the PCs could easily earn some favorable opinions on one or both sides of the conflict; potentially leading to access to a community that is usually chilly to outsiders. Members of a satisfied party might serve as contacts in the future or provide information and leads to the PCs current or future quests.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in Incidents, Not Playtested

 

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Hallway Gauntlet

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This encounter is intended for five characters of 6th level

It dawned on me that my encounters often neglect traps as a n element of their danger – a fact I’d like to alleviate. This encounter ended up looking somewhat “old school” to me – a notion that I rather liked, even if it’s just my interpretation. While I’m not positive that this one will make it’s way into my Neverwinter game – I built it with that campaign in mind.

Though the setup expects this ambush to occur in a dungeon, it could also happen in a wide alley in a city – though the traps and secret doors would necessitate your location being in some kind of gang territory, where unseemly persons would have the freedom to modify nearby buildings in such a way. It might also necessitate you describing the traps somewhat differently, even if their game function remains the same (those pendulum blades couldn’t really swing from the ceiling in an alley, could they?)

Setup
While passing down an otherwise standard dungeon hallway (exactly 10 feet wide, of course!) they trigger several traps, meant to keep them pinned between fleeing and moving forward. In their indecision, they are attacked by fleet-footed assailants using a series of secret doors and a network of hidden side tunnels to pop out, strike, and return to hiding.

Plot Text
At the end of this dark hallway is an open room from which warm, inviting light is spilling out. It’s only a few feet ahead. Go on, what’s the worst that could happen?

Map

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Features of the Area

Lighting – Thanks to torches or candles emanating from a room on the opposite end of the hallway, this corridor is shrouded in dim light (enemies gain concealment and all Perception checks made at a -2 for PCs who lack low-light or Darkvision)

Pendulum Scythe – Squares that are highlighted in yellow indicate the path of one of the three swinging pendulum scythes (see the DMG for stats and description)

Flame Jet – Squares containing the four flaming jets (visible on the map) constitute the area of the trap’s attack. The jets are not readily visible until they are firing, and a Perception check is required to notice the tell-tale nozzles (see the trap’s description in the DMG)

Trap Triggering Pressure Plate – This plate (a single mechanism that stretches across both squares, in spite of being represented on the map as two separate plates) activates all three pendulum traps. It also activates the jets which were timed with a delay (to represent this trap triggering as an immediate reaction when a PC enters its space). For information regarding spotting the plate and disabling the traps, see each trap’s entry in the DMG (the entry for the scythe pendulum has information regarding the Perception check needed to notice the plate).

Secret Door Triggering Pressure Plate – Each of the pressure plates adjacent to a secret door controls that door. The door’s slide from side to side when activated, and do not shut until the floor plate is depressed again. Doing so requires either 1 square of movement while in the plate’s square, or a minor action while in the plate’s square

Secret Door – These doors require a Hard Perception check to detect. They are not particularly thick and allow sound to pass through quite easily – thus the drow on the other side can hear the PCs as they traverse the hallway. The door slides from side to side when the pressure plate to open it is triggered. There is just enough space between the door and jamb that a PC could fit their fingers in and force it open with a Hard Athletics check. They would gain a +2 to this roll if they had the foresight to shove a foot in the door before it closes.

Side Passages – These vanishing passages go off into another section of the dungeon (likely a barracks or guard room from whence these drow came).

Trap Control Box – Each of these two boxes controls all of the traps in the hallway. They can be used to activate the traps – but once activated they are difficult to disable (though intended to automatically reset after 2 minutes of activity). If the PCs manage to bypass the pressure plate trigger and the drow notice them, the dark elves will most likely activate the traps from these boxes.

Tactics
The plan is for the PCs to miss the warning signs of the traps, and end up having to pass through the gauntlet of spewing fire and whirring blades. However, if a perceptive group notices the danger, the lurking drow ambushers will trigger the traps on their own. They then emerge from the secret doors, strike, and return, sealing back the door if they can.

The drow stand near to a secret door in the round before attacking. On their turn, they will typically activate a door and step adjacent to an enemy with a move action. Their standard action is spent making a Nimble Slash attack, and then utilizing the power’s 3 square shift to return to the other side of an open secret door. With their minor action they seal the door. Each drow tries to stick to this plan as best as possible, allowing him to strike without repercussion until the PCs realize they are being ambushed, and ready actions to anticipate their foes.

The drow may switch doors to keep the PCs guessing, and to slow the party down with the activated traps in the corridor. If the PCs do manage to gain an advantage, they will use their Cloud of Darkness ability to deter pursuit and attempt to vanish down one of the other secret corridors.

The secret doors themselves are slightly porous, and sound travels through them very easily. The drow can hear the PCs if they aren’t stealthy in their approach, and can make a reasonable guess as to how far along the corridor their enemies have come. Should the PCs avoid the traps trigger, the drow can activate both blades and flame jets from the control boxes in either corridor.

Monsters
x 3 Drow Swashbuckler (Neverwinter Campaign Setting pg. 122)

-The drow’s role in the overall Neverwinter arc isn’t typically a major one, but Netheril is one of the significant factions in the city. You could represent a Shadovar ambush using the monsters listed below:

x 1 Shadar-Kai Gloomblade (Monster Manual pg. 240)
x 2 Shadar-Kai Chainfighter (Monster Manual pg. 240)

-In case you don’t have access to the Neverwinter Campaign Setting, and aren’t too fond of the Shadar-kai, here are a few other good options to represent this encounter’s devious ambushers:

Bugbear Backstabber (Monster Vault pg. 159)
Gnome Spy (Monster Vault pg. 148)
Wraith (Monster Vault pg. 284)

Traps
x1 Pendulum Scythes (Dungeon Masters Guide pg. 88) – make this an elite trap, but instead have 3 rows of trap, and all of them are activated on the trap’s initiative.grant an additional 100 exp for the added danger.

X1 Flame jet (Dungeon Master’s Guide pg. 90) – This trap affects a wider area than specified; use the map as a guide for what squares are effected. Grant an additional 100 exp for the added danger.

Special Considerations
This encounter can be a meat grinder for unprepared PCs, or a breeze for the wise and lucky. The drow are in a perfect position to attack the PCs without being attacked for at least one round. Some players might object to this sort of play as unfair – but after all, that is the point of traps and ambushes. The trick is to encourage your players after the initial shock of their predicament. Push them to describe their character’s actions, and not to think of the turn-based combat as a straight-jacket that let’s the drow have game mechanic immunity. There is plenty that the players can do to counter their foes – though they will likely not see this until getting their noses bloodied.

If you’re still uncomfortable being so cruel to your trusting (the fools!) players, give them non-specific hints of the ambush ahead. As I said above, this encounter is imbued with a lot of “old school” cruelty, but don’t let that get in the way of the fun – coax it into being a challenge!

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in Combat Encounter, Not Playtested

 

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Incidents – High Stakes Negotiation

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Circumstances
The PCs notice a commotion in the town square or city center of a village, or perhaps even a good sized city.

Event
In the middle of town, an elf woman is tied to a stake, an angry crowd ready to put her to the torch. A scruffy looking man explains that this “witch” cast a mind control spell on him; causing him to attack a bystander in the street and begin damaging nearby shops and vendor stalls. The man has the crowd convinced that this dangerous wizard will cause greater harm if not put down.

Truth be told the woman is a wizard. The townsfolk claimed her personal effects (including some potentially magical and potentially very valuable items) and are eager to divvy them up to the crowd’s after she burns. However her spell-book and testimony clearly demonstrate she’s barely more than an apprentice – not yet able to cast any spell as as the man describes.

Her accuser is a noted town drunk – angry that she jilted his grog-sodden advances, he took out his frustrations by attacking the bystander (whom he had inebriated arguments with in the past) and wrecked the shops as further expression of his impotent rage.

While the townsfolk know of the accuser’s despicable reputation, there is also an undercurrent of mistrust towards wizards and other arcane and primal practitioners in the village. To exacerbate the matter, the young mage, in a desperate attempt to evade capture, made several threats and cast a few impressive orisions (Ghost Sound and Mage Hand) to deter her captors. Aside from their anger and close mindedness, greed at the thought of keeping this “criminal’s” personal effects has deadened the people’s normally rational senses.

The PC’s will have to make a hard sell to keep the townsfolk from killing the poor elf. Though the crowd is substantial, most have been whipped up into a furor of mob mentality and would back down from any real threat – though this might make them an unwelcome sight in the village henceforth; or earning them a negative reputation in some parts of a city.

Possible EXP and Rewards
Grant the PCs experience equal to one monster of their level. In addition, the thankful mage might reward the PCs with a magic item that “has been way more trouble than it is worth.” Alternately, if the PCs side with the mob and are forceful or convincing when the dead mage’s belongings are being shared, they could acquire a magic item for their fortunate timing.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Incidents, Not Playtested

 

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Ashpeak Ascent

“The McGuffin sits atop this peak” – like you would have it any other way…

This encounter is intended for five players of 6th level

This week’s encounter (which I have been toying with in my head for a while and in bits and pieces since April) is brought to you by a stew of collaborative neuroses.

Every D&D nerd does it. Be it in film, video games or literature. You see something cool and say “What are the stats for it.” I distinctly remember watching Legolas fire arrows in quick succession on screen during Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” saying to myself – “Oh yeah, the ‘Rapid Shot’ feat!” So I do this just as bad and as often as anyone else.

Confession: I am an unabashed “Bioware” fanboy. I know that being a fanboy is wrong – but it feels so right! After all, these are the folks who made “Baldur’s Gate!” Who is going to fault me for loving that with zeal and fanaticism?

Let’s add to that the fact that I am one of those guys who gets way too excited about trailers and you are lead to today’s encounter.

So when I saw the opening cinematic for Dragon Age: Origins – that is to say, the “Sacred Ashes” trailer – I knew the day would come when I wrote it up as an encounter.

Today is that day.

Purpose
Outside my self-gratifying desire to needlessly pin numbers onto story elements – I also wanted to take a crack at an encounter that lasted longer and came in small, distinct chunks with fewer monsters (or weaker monsters) in each. It’s a method I’ve seen used to recall the quick fights/many rooms feel of some old school dungeons (A feeling closer in step with the current 5th ed/D&D Next design ethos) and I felt like it would adequately represent the action of the video.

Our Hurlocks will be played by orcs today (surprise surprise!) Now if you’re looking for a Dragon Age RPG, then Green Ronin has you covered; my goal is to tool around with an encounter based on the video, not give you a full conversion for all the monsters and magic of Ferelden and her neighbors. That being said, if you’d like your orcs to feel a bit more like darkspawn, might I suggest adding the following monster power:

Darkspawn Blood (Poison)
No Action – Close burst 1
Trigger: The Darkspawn is first bloodied or drops to 0HP
Target: Attacking Creature

Effect: The target takes ongoing 5 poison damage (save ends)

Set-Up
This encounter works well as the “front door” to a dungeon you were already planning on running. Whether the darkspawn/orcs are simply camped in the ruins or actively looking for the McGuffin the players are after is up to you.

The players will have to fight their way up the mountain slope, through the outlying ruins, and finally be confronted by a lesser dragon at the entrance to the dungeon. A straight-forward running melee.

Map
NOTE: Not all of the Darkspwan/Orcs are accounted for on the map to prevent clutter. Precise starting location can be a little fast and loose. Stick to the descriptions of each phase and use what works best for you.

Map Features
Flat Topped Pillars – These pillars (rectangular shaped pillars on the map) can be climbed with an Athletics Moderate check and require an entire move action to reach the top. They otherwise provide cover and are blocking terrain.

Broken Pillars – These pillars (represented by circles on the map) can be used as cover and count as blocking terrain, but are crumbling and unsteady.

Ruins – Squares containing ruins count as rough terrain and provide cover from ranged and area attacks

Cliff – Don’t fall off the cliff or it’s game over, man

Ice – The sheet of ice on the western side of the map is dangerously slick. For every square entered, make an attack +7 vs. REF. on hit, the creature takes 2 damage, is knocked prone, and their movement ends.

Encounter Phases
Phase 1: Ascent – 10 Orc Savages, 1 Battletested Orc
As the encounter begins, allow PCs to establish their marching order at the westernmost end of the incline. The front two PCs will use their passive perception to detect the orcs ambush in the mists up ahead (Perception DC 17). If they succeed then the orcs do not gain surprise when they attack, and initiative is rolled normally. The mist lingers for the first two rounds, granting the orcs light concealment. Make certain that the Battletested Orc is in the second row of attackers, letting the players cut down the first few orcs easily. This is a rough bottleneck, so you might consider letting push effects function like Sten’s charge in the video, knocking back an extra rank of orcs when their front row is shoved back. When the PCs clear this ramp, they’ll have a moment of calm until they round the corner and come in full view of the ruins.

Phase 2: Hit the Deck! – 10 Orc Savages, 1 Orc Shaman
Once the players come into view of the shaman the next phase begins. The PCs can now see the Savages as well, who are in mid jog forward to engage the interlopers. The Shaman makes sure to use fireball (see the entry for the shaman below) as soon as at least 2 PCs are in range, not worrying much about scorching a few of his own men (though he won’t endanger many or them lest he risk his own hide). The Shaman will flee from melee but won’t maneuver too far away.

Phase 3: Ruins – 15 Orc Savages, 2 Battletested Orcs Ideally the players will have their initiatives staggered with the orcs in order to draw them into the varied terrain of the ruins. Regardless the orcs will charge in at best possible speed. Let the Battletested orcs swarm the first opponent in (likely your defender) giving that character a hard fight. The minions can chase after softer targets. Two of the Savages will have short bows (same damage as hand axes, range of 20) and fire from relative safety behind the ice sheet.

Phase 4: The Dragon Arrives – 1 Young Earthquake Dragon The dragon will first attempt to keep the advantage of its reach and flight by hovering over any ranged attackers and biting them. Once its aura grows strong, it will land in the midst of its foes to subject them all to the earthquakes effects.

Monsters
x35 Orc Savages/Hurlock Grunts (Pg. 226 Monster Vault)
x3 Battletested Orcs/Hurlock Alphas (Pg. 225 Monster Vault)
x1 Orc Shaman/Hurlock Emissary (Pg. 229 Monster Vault) – replace the Vengeful Whirlwind power with the Wizard’s Fireball spell (Player’s Handbook pg. 161) Use the Shaman’s attack bonus and damage from Vengeful Whirlwind. Add an “Effect: Target is knocked prone” line.
x1 Young Earthquake Dragon (Pg. 69 Monster Manual III)

 

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Incidents – Captive Audience

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Circumstances
While traveling overland in a region where hobgoblins are plentiful and a nation or other military authority has interests. The tension in this encounter will be greater if you establish that the local authority is so dedicated to the eradication of the hobgoblin threat that it has a bounty on hobgoblin scalps.

Event
A platoon of soldiers sworn to a well regarded local power (a lord, a temple, etc.) are guarding the remains of a hobgoblin war-camp. Though very few soldiers are among the prisoners, there are many women, children, and all the weaklings who served in support roles for the goblinoid brigade.

In her command tent waits the human unit’s leader – Ser Ashlee: promoted and knighted in the field when the man she was squired to died in battle. Unfortunately for her, all other senior officers also fell during the thickest of the fighting, and Ashlee (consider her equivalent to a level 1 paladin if stats are necessary) has been thrust into a position above her training.

When she hears adventurers have approached, she seeks their help. She doesn’t know what to do with the civilian captives. Putting them to the sword – as her men suggest – sounds cruel, but if the hobgoblins are spared they might rise up and slay honest citizens of a civilized community. Despite being non-combatants, the camp of hobgoblin captives is unruly, and tensions are rising with each passing day. Seeing as how adventurers have more experience with goblinoids, she asks their advice.

In the hobgoblin’s society, might makes right, and many of the civilians will serve the humans – as they are the victors, they are the new masters. Others among the defeated might see this as a chance to escape a caste system that has held them down: feigning obedience until they can escape the humans as well – perhaps requiring bloodshed to do so.

What about enslaving the civilians? Surely they are accustomed to hard work, and toil at the behest of more kind masters might even seem a gift. That said, the forcing of sentient beings into slavery is still reprehensible to many moral codes.

You might further complicate matters by including insurgents and assassins in amongst the throng of children,wives, cooks and smiths. How do the PCs decide who lives and who dies when their opponents act the same as innocent bystanders (if this is indeed the case at all). Even further, some of the hobgoblin youths may grow up to learn the truth, and swear vengeance for fathers they never knew.

On the other side of the issue; Ser Ashlee’s soldiers are eager to be done with the savages. They desire revenge for their fallen friends and commanders, and not a few of them feel that Ashlee isn’t fit to lead. Many of the men are familiar with a local authority’s (perhaps their own military’s leader’s) offer of gold as a bounty for hobgoblin scalps. They see the wholesale slaughter of the civilians as more than simple justice – but also a lucrative exchange.
Mistrust of the adventurer’s motivations, faithlessness in Ashlee, and anger at their lost friends threatens to turn the soldiers on one another. Perhaps PCs eager to make what seems to be a morally obvious choice will have to deal with the unexpected consequence of the soldier’s outrage, and even a possible mutiny.

And what of the practical concerns? Ashlee’s army has other campaigns to participate in – who will stay behind to guard all these captives? Furthermore, so many civilians means many mouths to feed – mouths that politically valuable or dangerous persons may be unwilling to provide for.

Uncertain of herself, and eager to be a wise and cautious leader, Ashlee admits her lack of expertise, and will take whatever course of action the PCs suggest.

This incident is meant to introduce a popular old moral dilemma to players who (hopefully) have yet to run across it. This scenario has pit adventurers against one another and threatened to make a 2nd rate fighter out of many a paladin. Savage humanoids tend to be violent and dangerous – though unlike demons or the undead, they are rational, thinking beings whose morality is subject to their own choices. That said, there is an undeniable tendency in the goblinoids – especially considering they are already indoctrinated by a culture and society of violence – to return to barbarism. Beyond their capacity for redemption, the alternative is participation in genocide. Having characters bound to ethical codes (like a paladin or cleric) can complicate this matter further.

Possible EXP and Rewards
This one is short, so grant experience equal to a monster of the average party member’s level. While this Incident wont grant the PCs any loot, keeping the civilians alive might result in them gaining a hobgoblin follower. Whether he is a loyal if pathetic servant, or a cunning assassin in disguise is up to the needs of your game.

As for what to name him…I’d recommend “Morrick.” Seems like a trustworthy name.

Assuming the players encourage the slaughter of the hobgoblin civilians, grant them the possibility of a significant amount of gold from bountied hobgoblin scalps (two or even three treasure parcels in gold.) However the soldiers in the army who did the difficult work of putting down the hobgoblin forces in the first place will likely object to PCs stepping in and taking a reward they consider theirs.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Incidents, Not Playtested

 

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