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Showdown at the Rumbling Cabin

14 Nov
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Lilian – Halfling Warrior

This encounter is intended for five characters of 2nd level

So – I have a confession. Sometimes it takes me while to get posts out not just because of the many hats I wear but because making tactical maps for even a brief and simple combat encounter takes a long time. I’s fun work when I’m in the mood, and I’m usually very happy with how they turn out (even using my off-the-cuff and amateurish photoshopping) but setting this weekly deadline for myself means I usually dread the task. But my laziness should not be an excuse to withhold good ideas!

I also have this terrible habit of obtaining great maps (overworld, encounter grid, or otherwise) and never making much use of them. So I’m deciding to alleviate both these flaws by incorporating more ready-made maps, or even building encounters around maps I’ve found that inspired me to build some story around them. Thus these aren’t original works, and I’ll be sure to link to their true authors or sources.

This week’s encounter is inspired by a slick map I found will perusing Chris Perkins’ “Dungeon Master Experience” over on the official D&D website a while ago. He posted a handful of his favorite maps (in varying sizes and image qualities) and the abandoned cabin stuck out to me for both being cool, and for being in sharp resolution that looked great on a retina screen!

You can find the map in question here.

Setup
In this scenario, a group of renegades has holed up in an abandoned woodsman’s cabin. Their status depends on the needs of your campaign: they might be simple bandits, fleeing criminal masterminds, spies from another nation or plane, Freedom fighters fleeing the wrath of a tyrant, religious heretics, etc. They might be plotting their next move, taking a break in a safe haven from the stresses of being on the run, or using the cabin as a “safe house” until their allies can lend aid.

Meanwhile, they are being tracked by a rival faction that has located the cabin, and is battening down outside for a tense standoff. The hunters might be legitimate or corrupt law enforcement, an armed religious inquisition, bounty hunters, agents of a crime lord, or a rival adventuring company. Whatever their origin, the hunters are seeking for a safe way to assault the cabin, with limited intelligence on what they face inside.

What neither faction realizes is why this cabin was abandoned in the first place: it sits at the epicenter of territory shared by a pair of Ahnkegs. Because the renegades have been trying to avoid suspicion, they have moved around little and stayed quiet, which helped them avoid the notice of the subterranean beasts. But as soon as hostilities break out, the giant carnivorous bugs will detect the movement of multiple potential meals above, and burrow up from below to strike when they are least expected – and least desired!

Cops and Robbers
The PCs represent one of the two factions. They might be The Hunted, using this abandoned logging cabin as a safe-house. Alternately, they might represent The Hunters, surrounding the renegades hiding in the cabin and entrenching themselves for an intense stand-off. Wether they were hired for the task, beholden to an organization, or mistaken for one group or the other is up to your campaign’s needs.

Who’s Side Are You On?!
On paper, this seems to be an incredibly difficult encounter. But bear in mind, the ankheg have only one agenda: eating. They will attack the most convenient target, regardless of their faction. The chaos of the attack can be used to help the PCs turn the tables on their foes advantage, or to allow you to challenge players with an encounter that might otherwise be a cakewalk. Though the ankhegs have a set of tactics they usually follow, feel free to use a little DM omniscience to guide them toward whatever target will make the encounter more interesting – and chalk it up to the random behavior of a thoughtless bug-monster. I’m not advocating meta-gaming here, merely pointing out that a wild animal can sometimes act in ways that are dramatically potent!

Tactics
Renegades: Those holed up in the cabin are unwilling to exit and will force a siege. They know that the thick underbrush and sturdy trees are likely to conceal more of the PC’s party, and aren’t willing to pick a fight without the advantage of their ramshackle fortification. They will station a sniper on the second floor to serve as lookout and to take potshots at any PCs who come too close to the cabin. The renegades stay near each exit; both to anticipate being attacked on all sides – and in case the stand-off takes a turn for the worse and a chance to escape presents itself (no honor among thieves, after all!)

    The Enforcers: The lawmen (or perhaps the more organized criminals) approach the cabin with caution if not stealth. They move from cover to cover and attempt to do so quietly. Their goal is to surround the cabin or, at the very least, be in sight (and crossbow range) of each of the major exits. Once they are in position, their leader will call out for the PC’s surrender. The enforcers are reluctant to enter the cabin – knowing that doing so puts them at an extreme disadvantage. That said, after a few hours, or if an opportunity to turn the tables (capturing a PC who has exited the cabin, sneaking onto the roof, starting a fire in the cabin, summoning a monster or area effect spell inside, etc.) they will spring into action. This is about when the ankhegs will strike as well.

     Ankhegs: The ankhegs can spring on their initiative, or in the round when it would be most dramatically valuable. Try to toss them in during the second or third round of combat to maximize their effectiveness and to keep this conflict a three-way fight. As a general rule, the ankheg will attack the nearest target granting Combat Advantage, regardless of whether or not that will provoke an opportunity attack. When bloodied, they will be more discerning in their targets. If an ankheg is at 10 HP or less, it will flee for its life, burrowing swiftly into the ground to retreat.

The ankheg’s goal is to snatch a target, drag it underground (Using Gnaw and Scuttle to shift 2 squares using its burrow speed in the squares directly under where it was just standing), and begin tearing into it with impunity on the following turn. The victim’s allies are welcome to climb down into the ankheg’s hole – if sliding into a dimly lit tunnel full of screams and giant, flailing, insectoid limbs sounds appealing.

Monsters
x2 Ankheg – (Monster Manual II pg. 11)

Renegades
x4 Common Bandit – (Monster Vault pg. 170)
x1 Cluff MacLire – [If this source isn’t available, substitute any Level 4 Soldier with the “Leader” keyword] – (Dungeon 181)
x1 Halfling Wilder/”Halfling Sniper” [Replace “Mind Thrust” with “Crossbow” which deals normal damage] – (Dark Sun Creature Catalogue pg. 60)

OR, if the stats for this creature are not available:
x1 Hobgoblin Archer/”Elf Sniper” [Replace “Hobgoblin Resilience” with “Elven Accuracy”] – (Monster Manual pg. 139)

Enforcers
x4 Town Guard – (Monster Vault pg. 171)
x1 Cluff MacLire – [If this source isn’t available, substitute any Level 4 Soldier with the “Leader” keyword] – (Dungeon 181)
x1 Halfling Wilder/”Halfling Sniper” [Replace “Mind Thrust” with “Crossbow” which deals normal damage] – (Dark Sun Creature Catalogue pg. 60)

Map

20121108-124800.jpg

The link to Wizard’s website above has a higher quality version

Features of the Area
  Shrubs and Brush – Grants concealment
  Felled Trees, Stumps, Rocks – Difficult terrain; Ankheg’s cannot surface in these squares
  Tree Trunk – Blocking terrain that grants cover; Ankheg’s cannot surface in these squares
  Fences – Passing over fences requires two squares of movement. Can be used as cover.
  Well – Grants cover. Drops down two squares before the water level.
  Cabin Floorboards – These flimsy, termite-eaten boards do not deter the Ankheg’s from surfacing.
  Tables and Chairs – This flimsy furniture does not deter the Ankheg’s from surfacing.
  Curtains – Grant total concealment. Passing through requires two squares of movement.
  Windows – though there is glass still in the panes, it is easily broken. Windows require two squares of movement to pass through.
  Stairs – These rickety stairs are difficult to ascend, requiring two squares of movement. All terrain on the ruined, partially collapsed second floor is rough terrain.

Rewards
Experience rewards on this one are a little tricky, especially given that some of the enemies are fighting one another. I’d argue for calculating the total, and giving the players half. Adjust for more or less, depending on how difficult the fight was. Ultimately, I feel that giving the players more EXP is never the wrong choice – they will feel accomplished and powerful, and let’s face it: how many campaigns have you run all the way from 1-30? Speeding things along won’t hurt.

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

 

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