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Tag Archives: Level 6

In Defense of the Refugees (AKA: “Save the Ladies!”)

This encounter is intended for five PCs of 3rd or 6th level using the most recent D&D 5th Edition statistics as of July 2

I was really fond of the Lord of the Rings console games that popped up in the mid 00’s. I mean sure, these weren’t the best beat-um-ups on the market, but they hit home by leveraging a franchise that I was obsessed with at the time. Given that one of my earliest memories is of playing Golden Axe with my father while propped up on a stool in front of an arcade cabinet – loving a co-op beat-um-up is never hard for me to do. 

A particular gem from those games was the “Minas Tirith Courtyard” level. In essence, it was a siege scenario in which you had to hold off endless hordes of increasingly difficult opponents, while making way for a flood of civilians to escape. The level ended once two-hundred villagers (all women, as I recall. Hence why this level became “save the ladies!” In common parlance) escaped to the safety of an inner wall. It was a grueling task, and a perfect complement for the scenes of devastation and warfare it was meant to invoke.

This encounter attempts to capture the feel of that scenario with a satisfying set-piece battle.

Setup

The PCs have agreed to help defend a community (castle, city, fortress, whatever is appropriate) from an invading army. While regular troops man the walls, the party is overseeing an evacuation. Civilian refugees may be fleeing the city out of a postern gate, falling back to an inner defensive ring, or breaking for the harbor to board boats that will take them out of the conflict. Regardless of the particulars, citizens have no choice but to rush through a warzone to reach safety. When the scenario begins, enemies have breached the defenses and the PCs will need to earn their keep covering the refugee’s flight.

At your discretion, some of the soldiers defending the walls may come down to lend the PCs a hand. Assign no more than one soldier per player, and bump the number of monsters in each wave up by one to compensate.

The party will face endless waves of opponents in this encounter. Their goal is to hold out until all refugees have made it through the exit gate in the southern corner of the map, before themselves pulling back to safety. Depending on the difficulty you intend, the number of total civilians can be adjusted up or down. As an alternate way of working the scenario, the parties goal might be to stand their ground until a prescribed number of refugees makes it through the gate (in this case, consider deducting the EXP value of slain refugees from the party’s total EXP).

   •Each round, 1d4 refugees arrives at the eastern edge of the map (Labelled “Refugee Entry” with eligible squares shaded in blue).

  •Every refugee that successfully escapes through the gate grants its EXP value to the party in the same way a defeated enemy would.

  •Number of refugees: Easy – 10; Moderate – 20; Difficult – 30

Map


When monsters enter the battle, roll 1d4: that monsters arrives in the corresponding entry point on the map (Labelled “Monster Entry”) and takes its turn. Monsters that arrive through entrance 4 will almost always make for the exit gate to cut off any refugees that get past their brethren.

Features of the Area

    Rubble: Walls broken by siege equipment, burning wagons, overturned market stalls, or even piles of corpses. Areas of rubble require 10 feet of movement to pass through.

     Barricade: These stacked barrells, crates, and debris grant half cover.

    Tower: This watchtower is positioned to overlook a great deal of the courtyard. The room is 25 feet up and features an arrow slit that grants Superior Cover, but does not allow the shooter to see anything east of the fountain. The advantage of being able to snipe from the safety of the tower are obvious, but not being on the ground to draw enemies away from the fleeing refugees is a serious disadvantage.

    Porch: This adjoined patio area has a sturdy stone railing all around it that can grant half cover if someone inside crouches. Leaping over the railing is easy enough to do, but requires 10 feet of movement.

    Fountain: The fountain in the middle of this battlefield grants half cover, or full cover if the attacker is on the other side of the large statue in the middle. Enterprising or vicious PCs will find it deep enough to drown orcs in.

   Stone Structures: The low stone buildings might compirse homes, gatehouses, customs offices, or storage. Though their slate roves aren’t especially steep, a 15 foot climb is still required to get to the top, where a PC could enjoy an elevated vantage point. Some of these building have missing walls, destroyed by siege weaponry, creating a path for the city’s invaders to stream into the courtyard.

Monsters

   —Level 3 encounter: One wave every other round

 Wave 1: 10 Goblins (Pg. 49)

Wave 2: 10 Hobgoblins (Pg. 55)

Wave 3: 1 Hobgoblin Leader (Pg. 55), 2 Hobgoblins

Wave 4: 1 Ogre (Pg. 69)

Continuous Waves: 1d4+1 Hobgoblins

—Level 6 encounter: One wave every other round

Wave 1: 10 Orcs (Pg. 70)

Wave 2: 7 Oorogs (Pg. 71)

Wave 3: 1 Orc Leader (Pg. 70), 2 Oorogs

Wave 4: 1 Hill Giant (Pg. 46)

Continuous Waves: 1d4+1 Oorogs


Allies

For the civilian refugees, use the stats for:  Human Commoner (Pg. 57) [And for the record, the civilians comprise both men, women, and children, not just ladies! All the same, don’t NOT save the ladies – that isn’t very feminist either.]

•For allied soldiers (if you choose to provide them), use the stats for:  Human Warrior (Pg. 58 – Replace armor with “Ringmail” and bump AC to 14)

Enemy/Ally Tactics

The attackers (be they orc or hobgoblin) are in the thick of city fighting now, and much of their discipline is fading in the chaos of battle. Use the following guidelines in determining an enemy’s targeting priorities:

1. If a PC is within 10 feet of an enemy, it will attempt to attack the PC

2. Enemies will otherwise attack the nearest opponent, whether they are a civilian, soldier, or PC

3. Enemies will switch targets to the last target that attacked them, thus allowing your players to “pull” the horde off of a civilian

4. Enemies who come out of entrance 4 will make for the exit gate, to block the passage of those fleeing

Though based on a video game, the best part of tabletop RPGs is their infinite mutability. These rules of engagement make for an interesting tactical encounter, but as always, use your judgement. Smart players will find ways to draw enemies away from the fleeing refugees. And likewise, a moment of dramatic ramping-up in which a foe purposefully ignores the players to slay the defenseless civilians might be just what the story needs.

Similarly you can follow a set of guidelines for the behavior of the fleeing refugees:

1. A refugee will always avoid provoking attacks of opportunity when possible (unless ordered by a PC)

2. Refugees always attempt to move toward the exit gate at best possible speed, allaying this only for reasons of safety

3. If within reach of an opponent, a refugee will use the Disengage action

4. If in reach of an opponent and unable to move closer to the gate, a refugee will use the Dodge action

5. Refugees consider PCs and soldier allies and can move through their space unhindered

If you opt to provide the players with back-up in the form of additional soldiers, consider letting the PCs give orders to the troops. They are in control of where the soldiers move to and how they form up, and can even order them to attack particular targets. If you wish to make this more complicated, perhaps an Easy Charisma roll is needed to clearly explain orders over the din and confusion of battle. In this case, PCs might only be able to give vague directions (“Stand left of the gate” or “form up on my right”) rather than letting the players choose which precise square for each soldier to stand in (the more tactical option).

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Fungal Lake Dead-Drop

This encounter is intended for use with either 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons or the July iteration of the D&D Next Playtest. 4th Edition: Five players of 6th level / D&D Next: Five players of 5th level

Every environment needs water for living creatures to survive – and even the warped beasts of the Underdark are no exception. The presence of a small but significant freshwater pond not far from a surface entrance into the depths of this subterranean nightmare world causes alarm to most. For adventurers, it means opportunity.

This encounter was originally written for my now defunct Neverwinter game, and as such, references an organization related to that campaign setting. None of that flavor is necessary to run the encounter, however. The situation has the players meeting shady, possibly hostile criminal elements for a trade or deal – in a location that is even more dangerous and alien. Unbeknownst to either party, they are stepping into the home of a colony of Myconids – one of the Underdark’s bizarre inhabitants. The fungal monsters attack both sides as interlopers; but whether or not this ruins the deal is up tot he players.

Setup
Agents of the Drow spy network, The Bregan D’aerthe, have approached the players through their surface contacts in Neverwinter regarding a bit of business. Perhaps the Drow have information the players desperately need and are willing to pay for, maybe they have acquired (or seem to have acquired) knowledge or an item the mercenary Drow are after. Whatever the case, a meet is scheduled near a large pond in a cavern not too far from the surface (A site used by Bregan D’aerthe agents to pass secret messages and materials). Strictly speaking, this will require the players to go into the uppermost reaches of the Underdark – a dangerous proposition. They will need to decide whether or not the benefit outweighs the risk (And in order to prod them into the deal, there should be a clear and significant reward).

Map

20130709-175659.jpg
A high-res poster of this map is included in theVaults of the Underdarkmap pack.

At the Start of Combat: Position the Myconids throughout the cavern near regular giant mushrooms. They have been lying in wait the whole time, camouflaged among the unanimated fungi.

The PCs and Drow begin (most likely) at the opposite shores of the pond.

Plot Text
The erie glow from the mushrooms and the shimmering of fluorescent algae off the water hasn’t stopped being unnerving to you even after waiting half an hour. In the Drow’s defense, if this were an ambush or a trick, they would have sprung it by now…unless of course the plan was to make you die of boredom. Finally you ear a singsong voice call out “Sorry we took so long, dangerous voyage, this one.”

A petite, female Drow woman rounds a corner in the caverns on the opposite side of the pond. You note how unnerving it was that you never heard her footsteps echoing in this enormous cavern. Slinking out of the shadows behind her are two male Drow, each clad in dark armor with sword at his side. “I know what you’re thinking but calm down, surface-dwellers. We’re here to deal. Think about it, if we wanted you dead would we bother with theatrics?” The Drow and her party approach the banks of the pond on their side and beckon for you to do similarly.

Negotiation
The specifics of the meet will depend on your campaign. Regardless, the players actions during the negotiation will determine how the drow act during the pending combat. If the players come off rude and uncooperative, or worse, if they are too cooperative int eh proceedings (not down bidding the drow, showing any sort of weakness, seeming indecisive or amateur) then the Bregan D’aerthe agents will use the battle as an excuse to slay the players and take what they were offering in trade.

However, if the players impress the drow, they will serve as an ally in the ensuing battle, hoping that the unexpected skirmish doesn’t sour their deal. Should the players successfully intimidate or wound the Drow before combat begins in earnest, they will cut their losses, and seek to flee if possible.

Regular roleplaying and your judgement of the drow’s response should be enough to adjudicate this encounter. However, if the players are eager to use their skills and social abilities, consider running this scene as a Complexity 1 or 2 Skill Challenge. Success means the drow serve as allies, failure will ensure that they turn on the PCs if able.

Primary Skills: Diplomacy, Bluff, Intimidate, Insight
Secondary Skills: Dungeoneering, Perception (If items are involved), Appropriate Knowledge skill (If secret information is being passed along)

Tactics
Drow
The Bregan D’aerthe mercenaries will vary their tactics depending on their relationship With the players.
• Indifferent: A “better part of valor” approach, keeping away from the myconids and allowing the PCs to take the brunt of the beating when possible, though likely not attacking them. In this case, if an opportunity to steal what (or whom!) the PCs are bringing to the offering table presents itself, the Drow will take it, even if this means killing a single PC.

•Cooperative: If negotiations went well, the Drow will regard the PCs as comrades in arms, knowing that the conflict can be resolved quickly with teamwork. They will set up flanking maneuvers, attack targets the PCs debilitate, and offer covering fire. Combat might be another opportunity for the PCs to prove their trustworthiness, healing or aiding their “allies” in this skirmish.
All that said, the Drow are selfish by nature and as a result of their occupation. Don’t go overboard in their assistance.

•Hostile: If things went south, then the Drow might see the myconid attack as a perfect opportunity to get what they want without breaking a sweat. They will take pot shots at the PCs first, hoping the monsters will wear them down enough to be easy targets and recover whatever valuables they have, or making the pending interrogation that much easier.
4e
The Myconid Guards move in immediately, using their Pacification Spores on the most physically imposing combatants (at least one of them will approach the Drow). The Sovereign and Rotpriest will move together, joined at the hip so that the leader can retain the benefits of the Rotpriest’s healing.

Next
The Myconids all focus on a single target (one of the Drow, if you are feeling forgiving towards your players) attacking it together as a colony. The goal is to make bodies as soon as possible for the Sovereign to re-animate. Meanwhile, the Adults choose to hamper any combatant that deals a great deal of damage, stunning them if possible.

Resolution
The battle is another opportunity to weigh the PCs competence. If they performed admirably, this might tip the scales in the PCs favor, proving to their perfidious business partners that they are not to be trifled with. Otherwise it might give the Drow an opportunity to strike or flee while the party is weakened or off balance.

Monsters
4th: x1 Myconid Sovereign (Monster Manual II, pg. 164)
x1 Myconid Rotpriest (Monster Mnaual II, pg. 164)
x3 Myconid Rotslammer (Underdark) -Or- Myconid Guards (Monster Manual II, pg. 164)

x2 Drow Swashbuckler (Neverwinter, pg. 122)
x1 Drow Informant (Neverwinter, pg. 122)

D&D Next: x1 Myconid Sovereign (Against the Slave Lords Bestiary pg.58)
x2 Myconid Adult (Against the Slave Lords Bestiary pg.57)
x6 Myconid Juveniles (Against the Slave Lords Bestiary pg.57)

x3 Drow pg. 40 (The Informant replaces a short sword for Dagger, and adds “Invisibility” to her spellcasting list)

 

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Hustle and Flow (Part 2)

This encounter is intended for five player characters of 6th level

Back again for Part 2 of this linked double encounter! Last time, the players explored a mostly-abandoned temple to the elemental lord of fire, Imix. Having found a forgotten artifact of power crafted in praise tot he vile Primordial, they triggered the being’s anger, and its servants began a catastrophic release of lava into the chambers of the temple. Now the PCs must grab up their loot and make tracks out of the dungeon before they are swallowed up in molten rock!

I’m writing this up as two linked encounters: Part 1 is the exploration of the space prior to the eruption of lava, and Part 2 the flight to escape. Clearing out the dungeon thoroughly on the way in won’t make much difference when lava monsters begin pouring (literally, due to their viscosity) out of the ceiling!

These encounters presume the machinations of Imix, the Prince of Elemental Fire depicted in Monster Manual 3 (pg. 112). If the Primordials have no place in your campaign, sub Imix out for another powerful entity or deity tied to fire and/or chaos.

Many of the creatures now occupying this space are potent foes that are very challenging for a party of this level. That’s on purpose: the PCs are heavily encouraged to flee, rather than stay and fight all the monsters that have seeped into the temple. Besides, there is always a chance that a few of the magma beasts will pursue them to other areas o the dungeon.

Setup
The PCs are exploring a section of dungeon dangerously close to a volcano, lava flow, planar nexus of fire, or any other place in which pyroclastic material can burst through the walls. This section of the dungeon is more difficult to navigate now due to falling debris as seismic activity is triggered by the agitated lava. Magma beasts and lava flows are seeping through the walls to impede the player’s progress as well. It is now a race against time over obstacles, rubble, and newly arrived foes, to get back to the more secure chambers of the dungeon.

Ideally with that awesome weapon in hand, too!

Background
This section of the dungeon was once the temple to a wrathful cult of Imix, a terrifying primordial consumed by ever-burning fire, endless rage and unbridled hatred. Despite being trapped outside the Material Plane by the Gods, Imix still carries out his deeds of wanton destruction through agents and cults in the world. This particular cult displeased him with repeated failures, and so he influenced a number of magma beasts to trigger a minor eruption, burning all the cultists to death.

What remained was their prized possession: a weapon that consumes with fire and sews chaos wherever it is wielded. Imix wants this weapon back in the hands of his servants but has failed to accomplish this thus far. His underlings slumber in the rock nearby, and if the object is disturbed, his wrath would be great indeed.

Map
Hustle and Flow Part 2

Features of the Area

•Chasm – This pit is 2 squares (10 feet) across and 8 squares (40 feet) deep (a 4d10 fall). Fortunately the sides of the pit are jagged, with frequent handholds, requiring only a DC 12 Athletics check to climb. Should lava begin to flow into the squares of this chasm, they fill both vertically and horizontally, meaning an unlucky adventurer might be climbing up out of the pit while molten rock licks his/her heels.

•Doors – These are all normal, wooden doors. Wear and tear has eaten away at the locks of all but one of the doors (indicated on the map)

•Secret Door (indicated by a red “S”) – This door swings easily on a rotating hinge if ample pressure is applied Hard Perception check to detect. Can be opened from either side.

•Rubble and Debris (Indicated by a square containing an “X”)- Rough Terrain

•Lava Flows – Origin squares for the lava that is seeping into the room are indicated on the map. For the lava’s behavior, see “Lava Flow” below.

•Statue of Imix – This statue stands almost as high as the dungeon’s ceiling and depicts Imix: the Primordial Lord of fire and rage. During the second phase of this linked encounter, a Magma Brute flows up through the ground and suffuses itself with the statue, giving the magma creature a solid form and appearing to animate this otherwise mundane if disturbing sculpture.

•Altar – This altar seems to be made of the petrified remains of several humanoids bound together and burned to death. Heat emanates from the altar. Upon it is an artifact weapon of great power (see the “Loot” section below). In addition to this, there are 200 gp worth of gems, coins, and valuables still littered around the altar. The PCs can swipe up 2d20 worth of valuables with a “move” action, and 2d10 with a “Minor.”

Lava Flow
Once the PCs have disturbed the altar, this entire section of the dungeon threatens to fill with piping hot lava.

Hazard – Lava Flow
Attack: Any creature that starts its turn in or enters each square covered in lava takes 1d6 fire damage.
Countermeasures: It is possible to use spells with the “Cold” keyword to negate squares of lava flow (DM discretion).
Aftereffects: Squares continue to burn for up to five minutes, after which they begin hardening into stone (treat as rough or blocking terrain, DM’s discretion)

Initiative 15: Each lava flow expands in Burst 1 from a square furthest from its origin (or at its origin if no other squares are available.) Squares already filled with lava or containing blocking terrain (walls, columns, etc.) are ignored.
Initiative 10: Each lava flow expands in Burst 1 from a square furthest from its origin. Squares already filled with lava or containing blocking terrain (walls, columns, etc.) are ignored.
Initiative 5: Rubble falls from the walls and ceilings as the chamber becomes unstable: Place three squares of rough terrain on the map adjacent to another square of rough terrain. If a PC occupies that square, make a +7 vs. REF (2d6+4 dmg) attack against them.
Initiative 1: Each lava flow expands in Burst 1d2 from a square furthest from its origin. Squares already filled with lava or containing blocking terrain (walls, columns, etc.) are ignored.

Tactics
These creatures are doing their best to stop the PCs and ensure they will drown in the endless flow of lava. They are more concerned with hampering the movement of the PCs as a group than doing damage or dropping any one PC. As such, feel free to have the creatures make trip attempts, close doors, block door, or destroy any makeshift bridges or other objects the characters may have aiding them in their escape.

While the Magma Claws and the towering Magma Brute simply pound their opponents, the Magma Strider will likely lie in wait for anyone passing through the secret door and charge back and forth through the party, daring a victim’s allies to attack it and risk burning. If the PCs opt for another route, the strider will wait to chase down any stragglers, hoping that dropping the last man/woman in the column will halt the group.

A few of the magma beasts are particularly potent against characters of this level (despite being “first generation” monsters). Remember that the goal here is to flee the crumbling temple, not to kill all the monsters as usual. Don’t be shy about giving full experience, even though the players might have never harmed a single beast. The challenge here is survival, and is best represented by just handing over the standard EXP for a not-so-standard encounter.

Monsters
x1 Magma Brute (Monster Manual pg. 183)
x1 Magma Strider (Monster Manual pg. 182)
x2 Magma Hurler H (Monster Manual pg. 182)
x3 Magma Claw C (Monster Manual pg. 182)
x? Any creatures not destroyed when the PCs entered the dungeon remain

 
 

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Hustle and Flow (Part 1)

This encounter is intended for five player characters of 6th level

Inspiration for this encounter came from a couple of sources, mixing together into a delicious magma stew. For one, working on a play that centers around a catastrophic volcanic explosion got me thinking about lava as an obstacle (and any kid has likely toyed with this notion before – if the game “Floor-Is-Hot-Lava” is as widely played as I assume). I was also taken with the rather simple but compelling notion of a trap/environmental obstacle having stages of threat that are keyed to the initiative track: a convention used to great effect in Dungeon Crawl Classic’s “Tomb of the Savage Kings.” (Though it certainly wasn’t invented in that adventure).

I’m writing this up as two linked encounters: Part 1 is the exploration of the space prior to the eruption of lava, and Part 2 the flight to escape. Clearing out the dungeon thoroughly on the way in won’t make much difference when lava monsters begin pouring (literally, due to their viscosity) out of the ceiling!

These encounters presume the machinations of Imix, the Prince of Elemental Fire depicted in Monster Manual 3 (pg. 112). If the Primordials have no place in your campaign, sub Imix out for another powerful entity or deity tied to fire and/or chaos.

Setup
The PCs are exploring a section of dungeon dangerously close to a volcano, lava flow, planar nexus of fire, or any other place in which pyroclastic material threatens to burst through the walls (spoiler alert: it will). This section of the dungeon is difficult to navigate though not heavily populated. But when exploring a room rife with treasure (or stumbling into the chamber next to it) they inadvertently trigger a lava flow to burst in and begin filling the chambers. This will mark the end of the first of these two linked encounters. At that point, it is a race against time over obstacles, rubble, and newly arrived foes, to get back to the more secure chambers of the dungeon.

“Secure” being the operative word…this is, after all, a dungeon.

Background
This section of the dungeon was once the temple to a wrathful cult of Imix, a terrifying primordial consumed by ever-burning fire, endless rage and unbridled hatred. Despite being trapped outside the Material Plane by the Gods, Imix still carries out his deeds of wanton destruction through agents and cults in the world. This particular cult displeased him with repeated failures, and so he influenced a number of magma beasts to trigger a minor eruption, burning all the cultists to death.

What remained was their prized possession: a weapon that consumes with fire and sews chaos wherever it is wielded. Imix wants this weapon back in the hands of his servants but has failed to accomplish this thus far. His underlings slumber in the rock nearby, and if the object is disturbed, his wrath would be great indeed.

Map

20130316-163916.jpg

Features of the Area

  • Chasm – This pit is 2 squares (10 feet) across and 8 squares (40 feet) deep (a 4d10 fall). Fortunately the sides of the pit are jagged, with frequent handholds, requiring only a DC 12 Athletics check to climb. Should lava begin to flow into the squares of this chasm, they fill both vertically and horizontally, meaning an unlucky adventurer might be climbing up out of the pit while molten rock licks his/her heels.
  • Doors – These are all normal, wooden doors. Wear and tear has eaten away at the locks of all but one of the doors (indicated on the map).
  • Secret Door (indicated by a red “S”) – This door swings easily on a rotating hinge if ample pressure is applied Hard Perception check to detect. Can be opened from either side.
  • Rubble and Debris (Indicated by a square containing an “X”) – Rough Terrain.
  • Statue of Imix – This statue stands almost as high as the dungeon’s ceiling and depicts Imix: the Primordial Lord of fire and rage. During the second phase of this linked encounter, a Magma Brute flows up through the ground and suffuses itself with the statue, giving the magma creature a solid form and appearing to animate this otherwise mundane if disturbing sculpture.
  • Altar – This altar seems to be made of the petrified remains of several humanoids bound together and burned to death. Heat emanates from the altar. Upon it is an artifact weapon of great power (see the “Loot” section below). In addition to this, there are 200 gp worth of gems, coins, and valuables still littered around the altar.

Treasure
The main loot found in this section of the dungeon is the holy artifact of Imix. Use any magic weapon with the “Fire” keyword that is particularly powerful for your player’s level/loot schedule to represent this (it is supposed to be a rare and coveted item, and thus, somewhat more unbalancing than other loot. Take this into consideration). Add the following additional ability (which is perhaps unknown to the PCs until it triggers):

Trigger: An attack roll is made and the d20 comes up “1”
Close Burst 3 (All creatures i burst, including the wielder) 2d10 Fire Damage (Any immunity/resistance the wielder possesses against Fire damage is ignored)

Recommended Item: Flame Tongue Weapon (Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium pg. 26)

Tactics
The Volcanic Dragons are brothers and sisters from the same clutch. Though dragons are typically solitary these three found a strength in numbers and a joy in threatening their foes using the strength of numbers. They will happily come to one another’s aid, but abandon their kin; seeking to hide and later ambush their opponents if seriously wounded. The dragons are inexplicably draw to this place – a vague calling on the part of Imix.

The zombies are the unfortunate cultists who displeased Imix and are now trapped here to hopefully serve with more distinction in death than they did in life. Their charred and now ash covered forms should call to mind the body casts made from cavities discovered in the volcanically brutalized ruins of Pompeii.

The zombies are used to working in tandem with one another, and do so instinctively. That said, they are not affiliated with the dragons, and any cooperation on their part is purely accidental. Indeed, each party might attack one another just as soon as they would attack the PCs.

Monsters
x3 Volcanic Dragon Wyrmling (Monster Manual 3 pg. 72)
x3 Grasping Zombie {G} (Monster Vault pg. 293)
x5 Zombie Shambler {S} (Monster Vault pg. 295)
x2 Magma Infused Zombie {M} [Use the stats for the “Chillborn Zombie” (Monster Manual pg. 275) but replace “Cold” damage with “Fire” damage. This zombie spatters its foes with hot, fast-hardening magma that weighs them down and pins them in place for further attacks from the creature’s burning arms.]

 
 

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Grave of the Black Jarl

This encounter is intended for five Player Characters of 6th level

     It’s been a while since I’ve visited my favorite opponents – the undead. And on top of that I wanted to give my (Ahem!) Dwarven Forge set pieces a go at representing the map. Thus we have the following small section of a dungeon (or even a self-contained, “random encounter” style locale) occupied by the unquiet spirit of a cruel northern lord and his nefarious henchmen – faithful unto death. Also I just REALLY love using the viking version of a title; a fact I was reminded of thanks to a revisit to Skyrim and a run at a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure.

Setup
Though his true name is lost to history, “The Black Jarl” earned his title through betrayal, aggression, cruelty, and the macabre scarring left on his body after a conflict with a wizard. Raids and dirty deals made him an affluent man who jealously guarded his treasures, and many of these items were to be buried with him, along with his bastard son (A promising warrior who succumbed to a plague at age 16), several of his closest Thanes, and an ornate statue built in an idealized likeness of the Jarl himself. Before his death the Jarl swore that he would crawl out of his tomb and strike down any who dared to abscond with his possessions. In this, the Jarl was not false.

The halls of his tomb are walked by the restless spirit of his bastard son, and guarded by the animated corpses of his men. Even the Jarl himself does not rest easy, waiting with sword clutched in hand, eager to strike down and consume the life force of the first intruder foolish enough to enter his resting place.

Map
20130123-232902.jpg

Features of the Area
Light: The statue chamber is in dim light due tot he glowing gems placed in the eyes of the Jarl’s statue. Otherwise, the tomb is utterly dark

     Hidden Niches: These small chambers beyond the wall are where some of the Jarl’s Thanes were buried. Their flesh rotted away, yet their arrogance, cruelty,and the Jarl’s will kept their spirits tied to their skeletons. The wall here is purposefully weak and thin – though this is not apparent at first glance. A skeleton can use a Standard Action to destroy a 1 square section of the wall. Spotting the weakness in the walls is a Moderate Perception (Be aware that a PC’s Passive Perception score may beat the DC) or Easy Dungeoneering check (The PC must specifically be looking at the walls).

     Sarcophagus: This heavy stone casket features a stylized bas relief cover depicting the young man laid to rest inside. Of the body; only a brittle and immobile skeleton remains. However a healthy treasure parcel has been placed within the sarcophagus – including a handsome scramasax (+1 Short-sword) that would easily sell for twice its normal value: due to the masterful craftsmanship, gilding, enameling, and other decorative elements.

     False Secret Door: This wall appears odd (Perception DC 8) at first glance. Most PCs will assume it is a hidden door, and attempt to jar it open – eager for the treasure inside. It is in fact, a trap. Heavy stones were very loosely lined up against bare dirt, and if jostled, they will cascade down, burying anyone in front of them. NOTE: Only the squares indicated in red on the map are targeted.

Trap – False Secret Door
Immediate Reaction
Trigger: The wall is jostled or pushed against with a little force
Target: 2×2 squares in front of the wall
Attack: +10 vs. REF DMG: 1d8+6 and the target is knocked prone and restrained until they succeed at a Hard Athletics or Acrobatics check (Move Action)
Countermeasures: A PC using a reach weapon or long pole can spring the trap with a Hard Thievery check.

     Statue: Towering above the PCs is this 25 foot tall stone edifice fashioned in the image of the Black Jarl himself. It’s purpose was likely to serve as both tomb marker, ward against nefarious spirits, and a demonstration of the Jarl’s wealth and pride.

Though made mostly of a well worked, dark stone, there are strategically placed gems embedded into the statue. Most notably the eyes, which are large, glowing, red gems. These treasures have a minor magic to them, as they were formed in the Elemental Chaos before finding their way in to the hands of a craftsman. Each is worth 1,200 GP, making this a significant treasure parcel if the PCs can pry the gems free. Additional baubles of hematite and jade can be chipped out, adding another 400 GP to the total.

Climbing the statue is an inconsistent endeavor – some sections afford natural handholds, or else decay has made the surface easier to grasp. Yet in some places the stone is still smooth and permits no good surface to grip. A Moderate Athletics roll is required to scale the structure.

PCs keeping a close eye out might find a secret compartment built in to the back of the statue. This niche contains an additional treasure parcel – a last-ditch hiding place for some of the paranoid Jarl’s prized possessions.

Monsters
x6 Skeletons (Monster Manual pg. 234) [T]
x1 Wraith/Bastard Son’s Spirit (Monster Vault pg. 284) [S]
x1 Battle Wight/The Black Jarl (Monster Manual pg. 262) [J]

Tactics
The first thing the PCs will see are two skeletons at the end of a long hallway. These two await their approach, and might move forward a few squares if attacked from range. The remaining skeletons will wait until the PCs pass by or stop nearby to ambush them. They can hear what is going on outside the walls perfectly, and though they do not share senses, the Jarl can subtlety control them from within his tomb, allowing you to time their entry to greatest dramatic effect.

This shadowy creature appears in the image of the Black Jarl’s bastard son, right down to the spectral scramasax that he swings as though it were a real weapon, instead of an extension of his dark essence. The Wraith moves through the walls of the complex, attack when convenient and ducking back into the nearest surface. His intention is to sew chaos, and he will likely attack the weakest target, any bloodied target, or even a different target each time. If a PC strikes the Black Jarl, that PC will then become the next target for the Wraith’s abuse.

The Black Jarl will make his Soul Reaping attack as soon as a PC is in range, but will then retreat tot h recesses of his tomb. He is not fleeing – but daring the PCs to enter his realm and face him in straightforward combat. If he is hit with a ranged attack he hisses that the PC is a coward, “unfit to walk in these halls of honor.” If the PCs start gaining the advantage over the skeletons, the Jarl changes tactics, rushing out and joining the fray while he still has allies to support him.

Treasure
Consider giving 2-3 treasure parcels for this chamber. It’s best used to help the party “catch up” on loot they might have missed out on because of encounters with creatures that typically would not have treasure on them, or to make up Skill Challenges that didn’t yield monetary rewards. You should at least account for 1,600 GP to account for the various gems that are embedded into the Jarl’s massive burial/warding statue.

Consider arming the Jarl with a worthy magic item that he has access to when fighting the PCs (this will in turn become their property if they can defeat the corrupted lord.)

 
 

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Hallway Gauntlet

20120910-125316.jpg

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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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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