This encounter is intended for five players of 2nd Level
You may have noticed that in my business and negligence that I skipped a post. Well this weeks encounter is a double-header in order to rectify my ghastly offense: a skill challenge to support a follow-up combat encounter! While it isn’t unusual to see small skill challenges during combat (and indeed, tends to make those scenes memorable and engaging) I decided to try something a bit different here. In addition to having the usual experience reward, this skill challenge has a direct impact on the fight it precedes, providing the PCs with every necessary advantage (terrain control, artillery, extra swords beside them, and the confidence to win) that they can muster. And considering that the enemies come in waves, they’ll need every bit of help they can get.
These encounters are modified from an adventure I wrote for a friend a while back. They took a good bit of converting since his game was in (gasp!) the old AD&D 2nd edition. The plan stayed the same, but out came the THAC0 and in came the Healing Surges. I picked monsters that fit the spirit of the original when a one-to-one trade didn’t work (you yourself are a monster if you think throwing level 2 characters up against a 4th Edition owlbear is fair. And don’t even get me started on that swarm of deadly dire squirrels). In the original adventure, the PCs are investigating a rash of inexplicable animal attacks happening along an important trade road. Animals of all different kinds, including those not typically prone to violence, are attacking travelers unprovoked, and in a coordinated fashion. Local druids have determined that the cause is a corruption at the heart of the forest that has been driving animals, magical beasts, and even the plant life mad. The druids needed help to complete a ritual to cleanse the forest, and that is where the PCs come in.
You needn’t have such a complicated explanation for why your PCs are besieged by an army of normally uncooperative animals. An evil druid might be attempting to rub them out in order to curry favor with one of the party’s recurring villains. Or perhaps some powerful demon has been corrupting the wildlife to amuse itself. The attacks might be part of a plot by an enemy nation to disrupt trade (a similar overarching goal of the villain in the original adventure). Whatever the case may be, make it clear to the players that what they are experiencing is a sign that greater dangers are afoot.
The PCs arrive at the ‘Oak and Splinters Inn’ (so named for the prevalence of the tree, and the prevalence of the barbs that found their way into the original builder’s hands during construction), either coincidentally, or in response to reports of strange animal behavior. When they arrive the inn is sparsely occupied, unusual for an establishment on such a popular trade route. Before they can finish their meals, a man bursts into the inn, raving about an impending attack. He was traveling with a supply wagon to restock the establishment and rushed to arrive when he saw a pack of wolves, bears, stirges, and more, all bearing down on the lonely establishment. The attitude in the inn is one of impending doom and despair. Few of the patrons have any fighting prowess and are resigned to their fate. It is up to the PCs to prepare the building for an impending invasion.
This likely consists of rallying the patrons to fight, boarding up doors and windows, setting up makeshift traps, preparing medical supplies, and perhaps even raiding the bar to make a flaming alcohol grenade! Each check in this skill challenge determines if the PC succeeds in whatever element of the siege they are planning, but it also boosts the overall spirit of those defending the inn (including the other PCs). Success means a bonus going into the fight, failure means a disheartened atmosphere and advantage going to the attacking beasts. Following this skill challenge, the PCs will be battered by waves of animals, crazed for human blood by an unnatural calling. Each wave is progressively more difficult, and the PCs will not always have time for a short rest in between, and thus must conserve their resources wisely.
You can’t help but notice the feeling of unease present in the inn. Conversations are hushed and infrequent. A few inquiries is all it takes to put the pieces together: the quietness of the forest as you were on your way here, that feeling of being watched, the barely perceptible crackle of energy in the air. The animals of the forest have been – cursed or driven mad, bewitched – something. They are attacking travelers with cunning and coordination that is outside the bounds of reasonable behavior. These travelers are worried for their safety.
That’s when the door flings open, and a man hobbles in, bleeding from several wounds – bites and pecks and slashes – he shakes a clump of biting spiders from his shoulder. The innkeep approaches, here eyes wide, “Thom! What happened! Get inside, quickly!”
The young man takes some time to catch his breath, guzzling the strong ale that is brought to him in one quaff. “They’re coming…all…all of them the whole forest has gone mad! The animals are on their way, howling like crazy. I think…I think they’re going to attack us here!”
There’s little that can be gained from questioning poor Thom. The innkeep’s children take him up to a bed to rest and recover. The baying and screeching of animals arrives from outside – distant, but quickly moving in. He’s right. The animals of this forest will be attacking in force.
“We’re doomed.” sighs one of the three traders in the corner of the inn. “Our only chance is to hide somewhere. They’ll catch us and kill us all if we try to run.”
“The basement!” squawks the inkeep. We can lock ourselves into the room we use to store the ale and foodstuffs. The door is sturdy, and they can’t work a lock surely. It might be our only chance.”
You know better. There are enough creatures in this forest that can bust down even a sturdy wooden door, and there’s no chance that cowering in the dark would hide you from the keen nose of a wolf or bear. Hiding isn’t an option for you anyway. Your spells are powerful, your blades are strong.
By tomorrow, you’ll have a lot of new pelts to trade.
This map can be found in the old “City of Peril” map pack, but I’m hooking you up from the results of a Google image search for your convenience. There are thousands of “inn-and-tavern” maps out there but I’m fond of this one, and it works well for the encounter.
Features of the Area
Tables: Tables can provide partial or full cover
Stools and Chairs: Count as rough terrain
Windows: The inn does not have glass in its windows but instead shutters them to keep out the cold. Animals from outside could easily jump in. Moving through a window space requires 2 extra squares of movement
Hearths: There is ample firewood and kindling to light these. Flying animals might use them to enter the inn
Inn Patrons – There are more visitors to the inn than your PCs. Some can be convinced to stand alongside the PCs and hold the building against attack. The remainder take their chances hiding out in the storage room down in the basement, trusting (vainly) to the sturdiness of the door to keep the animal’s fury at bay. Each of the noteworthy patrons are detailed below. Seeing as how they are not accustomed to battle, the patrons all use the same stat block listed below (NOTE: damage values are listed for improvised weapons. Arming a patron will grant them the damage die of that weapon):
Kipra and Durgot: A distraught young halfling woman and a grizzled old dwarf in a wide brimmed leather hat, these two describe themselves as “miners.” Kipra is beside herself at the notion of being torn apart by wild animals, weeping uncontrollably – but Durgot is calm enough to converse with the PCs. He explains that the two were panning for gold along a nearby river, when an owlbear chased them away from their camp, all the way to the inn.
-Kipra +2 Bluff -Durgot +2 Diplomacy or Intimidate -An additional +5 on attempts if one of the two has already agreed to help the PCs
Winter: This white haired, wild eyed, half-elf druid is the only person in the inn managing some measure of calm. Winter despises cities and is a wanted outlaw, but cannot help but admit a fondness for this rather unobtrusive inn. All the same, she’s a survivor, and hopes to use her powers to simply flee when the attack begins.
-Intimidate -5, Bluff -2, Nature +2. If the PCs convince winter to help she forgoes her attack to instead use an at-will spell to channel her energies into a single creature, stunning it until the start of her next turn. She otherwise has the same stats as all NPCs in this encounter. (It may seem that Winter would not approve of killing animals, but once she sees the extent of the beast’s untreatable corruption she will heavy heartedly agree that putting he beasts down is a valid course of action.)
Solomon, Harker, and Wolter: Three traders from a neighboring nation, these men lost their small caravan and the guards they hired a few nights back. Now they can’t decide on the best course of action for survival. Wolter needs his confidence bolstered, while Solomon and Harker need to be convinced of the PC’s trustworthiness before they will lend their sword arms against whatever comes in. Solomon is a slight man with nervous eyes, and is easily cowed.
-Wolter +2 Bluff -Solomon +2 Intimidate -Harker +2 Diplomacy -An additional +5 on attempts if one of the men has already agreed to help the PCs
Miss Potts, Daisy Potts, and Thom Potts: The innkeeper and her children are still waiting for a husband who has been missing for almost a week now. Miss Potts has done a good job of holding down the fort, as it were, but animals and beasts keep creeping closer to the Inn. A firm or friendly word will get the Potts’ cooperation, but they are hardly fighting material. During the combat encounter they hide in the storage chamber of the basement, locking themselves in.
– If the PCs are kind to her, Miss Potts will send her children to assist with one task before heading below. +2 on the next Athletics, Arcana, or Thievery roll
Skill Challenge: Preparing the Inn
Complexity – Successes before 3 Failures – All checks are Moderate difficulty unless otherwise stated
Easy 8 Moderate 12 Hard 18
Goal: Prepare the Inn as best you can for the impending attack. Direct benefits for the successful application of each skill are detailed below, but as always, if your players have some other use for the skill, encourage it and extrapolate a result using the below suggestions as a guideline. The players should be thinking in terms of a reasonable plan of action, not staring down at their skill list
Suggested Primary Skills: Athletics, Arcana, Dungeoneering, Diplomacy, Bluff, Intimidate, Nature, Stealth, Thievery
- Athletics / Dungeoneering – Hammering boards over a door or window will deny the beasts an entry point. Boarded up portals are treated as having 50 HP and are hit automatically.
- Arcana – Using your knowledge of basic alchemy, you can mix together a combination of alcohol and some of the unguents the inn keeper has stashed away to make a potent explosive: Improvised Explosive •Weapon •Fire Power (Consumable) DEX, + 1 accuracy bonus – range 4 close burst 1, 1d8 + 4 fire damage. Each use of the skill creates 2 such grenades.
- Diplomacy / Bluff / Intimidate – These skills are used to convince the inn’s patrons to make their stand alongside the PCs, instead of cowering in the basement and hoping the beasts pass by. Each patron will respond more favorably to one approach or another, as detailed in their descriptions (see “Features of the Area” below). A successful check means the PC has convinced the patron to take up arms, and they will participate in the combat encounter. Though not especially brave, they will obey the PCs commands and trusting their judgement (within reason). Stats for the patrons are given below.
- Nature – Though these creatures are under the influence of dark magic, their fighting behavior will remain the same. Each successes also means that the PC has time to attend to one of the following precautions: •Lighting fires in each hearth to prevent flying creatures from entering •Covering any holes or niches in the basement to deter rats from creeping in •Patching weakened floorboards to confound burrowing creatures •A success at this skill may also grant a +2 on stealth checks by this or another PC (See also the NPC Inn patron, Winter)
- Stealth – The PC scouts out the horde’s approach, and discovers that the beasts are not approaching from every side of the inn. Randomly select a cardinal direction on the map. When the combat encounter begins, no creatures will ever enter from that side (but might move around to it.) The PC knows this. A failure indicates the PC was caught and chased, his hurried return to the inn will only add to the feeling of desperation.
- Thievery – A successful roll allows the PC to concoct a trap using the spare bits of wood and metal housed in the Inn’s basement or stables. This trap is largely left up to the imagination of the player. This will require a lot of adjudication on your part but be fair, and stick to the spirit of the player’s intentions. If the player wants to cover the floor in broken glass to serve as caltrops to slow his opponents down, then the trap will likely inflict little damage but add the “Slowed” condition. Traps attack with a +4 vs Defense and deal an appropriate amount of damage, and likely cause a condition.
Suggested Secondary Skills: Insight, Perception
- Insight – Reading the reactions of the patrons at the inn, the PC can determine how best to persuade them. Use one check for each NPC. A successful check reveals which social skill the NPC is most susceptible to; a failure imposes a -2 penalty on social rolls attempted for that NPC. Successes and Failures do not count toward the overall completion of the skill challenge.
- Perception – The PC keeps a close eye on the efforts to shore up the inn’s defenses, pointing out flaws, gathering needed supplies and spotting weaknesses in the building’s construction that were not readily apparent. Make one roll for a particular PC. A success grants that PC a +2 on the next Athletics, Arcana, or Thievery roll. A failure imposes a -2. Successes and Failures do not count toward the overall completion of the skill challenge.
–Success! The PCs have bolstered the spirits of the inn’s patrons…as well as their own. Until such a time as a character becomes bloodied, the PCs and all their allies have combat advantage.
–Failure! Despite their best efforts to prepare the inn’s defenses and embolden her patrons, the efforts were too little, too late, and took too long to prepare. The hopelessness in the air is infectious and the dark powers afflicting the attacking animals permit them to sense this fear, driving them to frenzy. Each animal has combat advantage on its first attack.
Combat Encounter: An Unnatural Siege
The cursed animals that attack the inn are being driven from near and far, and come in waves. The creatures in each wave are described below. Pick a random side of the map for each group of creatures to enter from. Though this encounter includes suggestions for how many rounds into combat each group should arrive, use your judgement. if the PCs are having too easy or hard of a time, adjust accordingly.
Monster tactics are as stated in their stat blocks. However some creatures might have a unique means of sneaking into the inn and past the PCs more obvious defenses (this will be noted next to their entry).
The idea behind this encounter is for it to be a grueling experience. That said, certain parties will handle this kind of battle better than others. You may wish to adjust when the players can take a short rest.
Ideally, they will have time for a short rest right after the second wave.
Wave 1 – Begins immediately
x3 Bloodhawks (Monster Manual 2 pg. 142) -Enter through any open windows on the second floor
x4 Stirges (Monster Vault pg. 259) -Enter through the chimneys
X1 Scurrying Rat Swarm (Monster Vault pg. 299) -Enter though the drain (grating) in the basement
Wave 2 – Begins 4 rounds into combat
x1 Spitting Drake (Monster Vault pg. 83) -Approaches from a randomly chosen cardinal direction. It uses its projectile attacks to melt barricades first, moving on to attack PCs second
x5 Wolves (Monster Vault pg. 304) -Approaches from a randomly chosen cardinal direction. The wolves either leap through windows, attack unbarricaded doors, or wait for the spitting drake to clear a path
x 2 Badger [Use stats for the Dire Rat from Monster Vault pg. 298 with the following modifications: •Replace the climb spree with Burrow Speed 4. •Ignore the filth fever capability. The Badger instead gains the ability to deal + 1d6 damage while bloodied) -Burrow up through the floorboards on the first floor
Wave 3 – Begins after a short rest
x3 Bears (Monster Vault pg. 296) -Each approaches from a different randomly determined cardinal direction
Possible rewards and EXP
In addition to the standard experience for both the skill challenge and combat encounter, consider awarding an additional 100 EXP to the group for the difficulty of the siege given the player’s inability to gain a short rest between waves. Any Inn patrons that are rescued might serve as contacts, or may even give the players rewards for saving their lives.