Tag Archives: Random Dungeon

The Thing in The Pit

This encounter is intended for 3-5 characters of 2nd level and makes use of current playtest/5th Edition data as of July 6th 2014

This one is a quickie: a room I designed for a one-shot dungeon crawl that unfortunately got passed over. Some of the party will be forced to fend off the slapping appendages of an abhorrent otherworldly creature, while the rest of the team attempts to breach the entrance to the dungeon before the lot of them are crushed. Make certain to have a player character on hand who can pick locks – or else this encounter is far from being fair.



Features of the Area

    Terrain: Each large block of dungeon floor is 10 feet by 10 feet. Any 5 foot squares marked with a star are considered difficult terrain

   The Pit: This yawning chasm reaches far down into the Underdark, where a massive, amorphous beast from the Far Realm is trapped. The drop is 20 feet where tight cracks and crevices leech deeper into the ground. The elastic tentacles have wormed their way up through these openings. Because the uneven walls of the pit provide good handholds, no check is necessary to climb back up (the writhing tentacles may pose their own challenges, however)

   Treasures: The locations of the two treasure caches are indicated by gold sunbursts on the map (see “Rewards” below)

   Exit Door: This sturdy steel door is a half-foot thick and incredibly heavy. It is shut up tight by three identical locks. Passage to and through the door is blocked by a toppled over column (see below).

      •Each lock requires a DEX DC 10 check to open, and some appropriate lock-pick must be used (a set of Thief Tools would suffice, and Proficiency in such tools grants advantage as normal). 

   Broken Columns: One of these collapsed columns has fallen in front of the locked exit door. With the stone ruins blocking the way, it will be impossible to unlock the door.

      •The column is very heavy, and another party member will be needed to lift it, if not completely move it out of the way. A STR DC 10 check is sufficient to lift the column up, allowing access to the lock. This same character can keep the column elevated for several rounds without having to make another check, but must use their action on their turn to do so. A STR DC 15 check will allow the character to shove the column aside and out of the way for good.


The otherworldly abomination is far too massive and durable to be killed by a few paltry, low-level heroes. Fortunately for them, the beast cannot drag its squamous bulk through the caverns below to reach them. Instead, it has extended several of its slimy, mouth-covered tentacles to probe for prey. Though each individual tentacle can be destroyed with some ease, more will take their place, and the creature itself will take little damage. Is the monster regenerating these tentacles, or does it just have a near inexhaustible number on its body? That’s a question bets left unanswered.

•x(# of PCs) Tentacles (40 EXP each)


     Beast Tentacle (Medium Aberration – Limb)

AC 12 (Vulnerable: Slashing)

HP 8

   Available Actions:

Slam  (Within 15 feet of any part of the pit; one creature) +3 to hit (1d6+3 bludgeoning damage); automatic hit and +1d6 bludgeoning damage if target is already restrained

Trip  (Within 15 feet of any part of the pit; up to two creatures) DEX save DC 12 or target(s) are knocked prone

Ensnare (Within 15 feet of any part of the pit; one creature) +4 vs. STR or DEX (target’s choice); on hit target is restrained and may attempt the check again to escape as an action. A tentacle that has ensnared a target in this way may deal it 1d6+3 piercing damage as an action


•Each time a beast tentacle is destroyed, roll 1d4-1 (minimum of 1) – a new tentacle replaces it after that number of rounds has passed.



The tentacles have supernatural blindsight, and the best has enough intelligence to try and interrupt any character attempting to escape. Otherwise, they try to kill and eat every PC (like you do, when you are an amorphous beast)


In the nook in the north part of the room, the skeleton of an unfortunate explorer (wounded by the beast and unable to escape) is crumpled against the wall. Amid the ragged ruin of bones and torn clothes are x1 Healing Potion, a silver ring worth 10 gp, and three raw, uncut gems worth a total of 100 gp

One of the water basins in the eastern section of the dungeon is home to the formation of some uncut precious stones. A STR DC 10 check (advantage if a dagger, prybar, or other tool is used) will free the gems, which can be sold for 50 gp


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Sanctum of the Fiend of Possession

This encounter is intended for four 3rd level characters

     Concluding this series of encounters based on my old defunct Neverwinter game is the ultimate boss fight. Since the goal of the dungeon was investigating a cult’s plot to possess citizens with the spirits of evil outsiders, I figured the most fitting final encounter would be with a creature that is eager to possess the PCs. Originally, I paired this fight with a language substitution puzzle that could be uncovered using a series of scattered notes (your favorite “tell the story with journal entries” gimmick, from System/BioShock games). The recovered notes would reveal a key to the puzzle, allowing players to translate a magical glyph system that they would then apply to scribing a summoning circle in order to bind the Devil they were fighting. My notes were incomplete and relied on some specific circumstances so I eschewed them for the sake of this write-up.

     As before, I make references to people, places, and organizations in Neverwinter; swap these out for entities from your own campaign world where necessary.

Story Background

     Understanding the circumstances of this encounter requires a little setup. Any of these plot elements can be reworked or discarded as need be, but for brevity’s sake I’ll transcribe the situation as it was planned in my game. Beneath the House of Knowledge were a series of crypts and archives that housed ancient books, scrolls, records, manuscripts and relics. Alongside these were the bodies of priests and acolytes who served the temple in life – now comfortably resting between stacks of books in death.

     Loremaster Atlavast; the last Oghman priest to have survived the cataclysm makes his home in these crumbling archives, navigating through the sewers beneath the city when he needs to make trips above-ground. Eccentric, jealous, and more than a little snooty, Atlavast kept to himself, seeking only to preserve the knowledge that survived disaster beneath the temple’s crumbling façade. 

     But ever paranoid, Atlavast was quickly made aware of the Ashmadai cult’s infiltration into the refugees living in the temple above. He began a one-man guerrilla campaign against the cultists; using old spells and traps of his own devising to discourage them from exploring the lower levels of the House of Knowledge. He began to research devils and their other fiendish kin in order to better combat his enemy…and this was his undoing.

     In a moment of uncharacteristic boldness he read from a tome in the “Dangerous Books” wing of the archives. Lurking in the pages was a spectral possession devil named Xamzael that was freed from its prison between the covers when Atlavast read from a forbidden passage. The creature immediately possessed the priest but was denied access to the surface due to ancient wards placed on the the door to the archives, trapping it there. 

     Vaguely aware of the Ashmadai thanks to its limited ability to read Atlavast’s thoughts, the devil uses its host to find a means of escaping, and has even constructed a summoning circle to call more of its brethren into the mortal plane to help. Were it to escape, the devil would happily join the Ashmadai forces in conquering the city…with the expectation of becoming Neverwinter’s new infernal king, of course.


Much of the flow of this fight is dictated by this devil’s particular qualities, so read its stat-block carefully and get a feel for how it orchestrates the battle. Xamzael will do its best to avoid direct confrontation with the PCs at all costs. It’s first action is to attempt to possess the nearest and hardiest available target; using the host as both weapon and human shield.

The fiend begins combat with a random devil arleady summoned, and Invisibility cast on itself if it is aware of the PCs incursion. Xamzael will prioritize summoning more help when his follwers are killed. He can use the summoning circle even while possessing a foe. 

Summoning Chart


Features of the Area

  Illumination: Between the menacing red glow of the summoning circle and the flickering candles positioned about the room, the chamber is filled with dim light.

  Book Stacks: Each wall (Including those around the square columns in the center of the room) is covered in rickety shelves containing moldy old tomes. Some are ancient and forgotten spellbooks, some merely treatises on the magical arts, still others tertiarily related to the craft of wizards (such as accounts of a city’s “Mage Laws” or ledgers of the names of individuals burned for “witchcraft”).

There are eight and a half foot tall, free-standing bookshelves as well. A Moderate STR (Athletics) check could be used to topple the case over, dealing 1d6 bludgeoning damage and potentially trapping a target if they are not strong enough to remove the fallen shelf.

  Tables and Chairs: Worn out tables and chairs occupy the north side of the room. Once these were used for scholars studying the potentially dangerous tomes around them. Age has worn the furniture down, and the surfaces are caked with cobwebs and dust.

  Summoning Circle: This circle is a weak gateway to the outer planes. Xamzael has been using it to call forth lesser fiends to do his bidding. He need only spend an action to loudly incant in a foul language while adjacent to the circle in order to call forth a random devil (see the chart above). Once the circle has been used it will require an indeterminate time to recharge. 

Roll 1d6: on a 5-6 another devil is poised, ready to pass through into the material plane. This will be apparent to the PCs: the creature’s growls can be heard through the veil between worlds and the glyphs of the summoning circle itself glow with a pulsing red light.

Any spellcaster who expends a 3rd level spell slot and succeeds on a Hard Intelligence (Arcana) roll can disable the circle, closing the portal for good.At your discretion, appropriate spells like Protection From Evil might also close or disrupt the circle as appropriate. 


Imp (pg. 26)

Lemure (pg. 27)

Spinagon (pg. 29)

x1 Possession Fiend/Xamzael (See below)


Originally, the destruction of Xamzael was required to free Loremaster Atlavast, and the reward for this harrowing battle was acquiring a new ally. The needs of your campaign will dictate an appropriate compensation: the room is filled with scrolls, old spellbooks, and rarities. New spells, a tome sought after as part of a quest, treasure maps, or even some secreted away relic would all be suitable. 

New Monster



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The Abyss Gazes Back


This adventure is intended for five players of 5th level (using D&D 4th Edition) or 4th level (using D&D Next playtest rules June 2013 Release)

The trick with finding a large lode of a rare and valuable mineral (especially one as coveted as Mithril) is keeping it a secret while you mine it. This week’s encounter brings the heroes into a “lost” mithril mine in search of treasures and historical trinkets. The only (surface) entrance into the mine is through an encoded teleportation circle – a security measure that kept it safe for a very long time.

But while dwellers above never managed to find the mineral trove, those that lurk below have known about it for quite some time…

The PCs have come across the “code” for activating a linked portal found in a now defunct section of a dwarven mine. Perhaps this information was given as a reward, found in the library of an evil lich, or plucked from the skeletal hand of those lost in a failed expedition. Either way, the dwarves of this community lost access to their most valued treasure: a nearly untapped lode of raw mithril. Whether or not the players share this with the dwarves is up to them (perhaps they are being employed but the leaders of this clanhold or thaig to explore the mine and deem it “safe.”

Whatever the case, the only way in is by incanting the magic words and drawing the required symbols to activate the portal. Everything seems to go fine…but unbeknownst to the party, there were a few errors in the scribing of the instructions.

A Neverwinter Night
This adventure was originally written with the Neverwinter Campaign Setting in mind. As such, the 4th Edition rules incorporate monsters from that source, though subbing them out for any aggressive subterranean Lurker/Artillery combo will suffice.

If you are using this encounter in a Neverwinter/Forgotten Realms game, it likely takes place under the cavernous halls of lost Gauntlgrym, or in chambers adjacent to The Chasm. In this case, you will likely wish to add one of the Plaguechanged themes from page 95 of the campaign setting book to the nothics. Likely, these lower mines have themselves been warped by the Spellplague, and strange properties may effect the mithril found here.

Plot Text
Something is definitely wrong. The harmonic thrum of the teleportation circle is now growling dissonantly. Everything was done perfectly – the words were spoken, the hand motions made, the sigils drawn properly into the runes… there is the expected flash of light as the portal activates, and then you feel nothing below you.

You crash to the ground, having dropped a mere two feet, but losing your footing and orientation. Wherever you are, it’s dark…very dark. The air around you is cold and unmoving, dampness presses against your skin and off in the distance is a faint silver glow. The emanating light is coming from the rocky floor beneath you. As your eyes adjust, you can see its source, a vein of pure mithril.

What you don’t see are your friends. Did they teleport along with you? Were they left behind? Did something…worse happen?

Before you can investigate, a reptilian shriek shatters the grave quiet of the cavern. There’s something out there.


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

Features of the Area

    •Illumination:The faint glow from the pure mithril gives off dim light in any 10 feet (2 squares) from a mithril vein (visible on the map as silvery swaths on the ground). Otherwise there is no natural light in the mine. A pair of everburning candles sits on the desk in the foreman’s office.

    •Rubble: These sections discarded equipment, wrecked and abandoned barrels, overturned carts and debris count as rough terrain. A close inspection with Perception/Intelligence (Search) Moderate DC, reveals 1d100 gp worth of raw mithril among the wreckage of each debris pile (seven piles total).

    •Foreman’s Office: Still warm and inviting thanks to the everburning candles on the desk, this small room comprised the office of the mine’s work director. His ledger and logbook contains mostly the boring minutiae of running a mine: weights, measures, shift schedules, etc. if a PC is insistent on poking through the books, they will find that a large load of mithril was exported to a hidden location not far away for “safe keeping.” The logbook includes either a treasure map or a riddle that points to the cache’s location. Obtaining this trove of unprocessed mithril would give the party an additional treasure of no small value.
    Also in the office is a locked (Moderate DC) treasure chest containing a few changes of clothes (now moldered with age), and a magical armor of the appropriate level.
    At your discretion and for an increased challenge, the chest might also be trapped, with a dead nothic nearby as a hint to what kind of security measures the chest employs.

    •Teleportation Circle: This is where the PCs were supposed to arrive when entering the hidden mine. They can escape using the same encoded magical incantations, though they will suffer the same discombobulated arrival on their return trip (which will likely be more meddlesome than disastrous. An Arcana/Intelligence (only if trained in Magical Lore) Moderate DC check will fix the malfunction, allowing for normal use of the portal.

    •Exits: The southern corners press on to 10 foot wide corridors leading off into different directions and other passages in the cavern system. Where they lead is up to you.


D&D 4th:
x4 Nothic Mindwarp (Neverwinter Campaign Setting pg. 95)
x2 Nothic Plaguegazer (Neverwinter Campaign Setting pg. 94)

D&D Next:
x7 Nothics


The nothic make use of the shadowy environment and their predilection towards stealth to make quick strikes against the PCs, blasting them with their gaze attacks or swiping with their claws, then ducking away to hide around a corner. They will try to keep the PCs separated and uncoordinated, keeping two nothics on particularly weak targets, alternating which attacks and which hides. They will take their time to double back or circle around through the maze in order to strike unexpectedly.

Consider granting additional experience equivalent to a level 1 monster to account for the initial advantage the nothic’s have in attack their dispersed foes.

Most of the mithril in this mine is inaccessible (since it has yet to actually be mined) but clumps of ore can be found in the wrecked carts and barrels. Selling or trading these might grant the party the equivalent of a monetary treasure parcel (or us the guidelines for random value described in the “Rubble” entry above.)


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Guest Post – Hexual Intercourse: Art of the Hex-Crawl


A trusty mount – the hexcrawler’s best friend. Also, a delicious morsel for those 1d4 griffins following you!

A little while ago I sounded the horn for submissions, and they have started rolling in! Not every guest article will fit the usual MO for “Save Vs Weekend” but they’ll all be valuable for you to apply to your games in some direct way.

Our first post comes from a player and sometime DM from my own core group of gamers – guys I have been playing with since high school. He recently ran a short-term “hexcrawl” style game, and wanted to share some of the nuts and bolts of that style of play (A type of game I’m rather enamored of and intrigued by. It has a very “sandbox” world style. Your own little Skyrim at the table!). It was part of a phase we went through in which we tried going “back to basics” and exploring some tenets of the retro-cloned old-school…with mixed results.


So, this is my summary for my hexcrawl game. I’m sharing the format with TheYoungKing despite the fact that he played in the game, so he’ll have to feign ignorance if we start it back up again. [He’ll also take the luxury of inserting the occasional comment in these brackets.] The Hexcrawl was a common game type in the 80s; they fell out of fashion but they’re system agnostic, and a blast to run if you’re used to completely plot driven games. In essence, the GM has a map, and you wander around on it. The best example I can think to explain it is Baldur’s Gate. You wander from area to area; there’s an overall theme (in Baldur’s Gate, it’s the Iron Shortage), but the vast majority of your encounters are random, or mini-quests. Here’s the basic outline of how I set up my game.

  • I started with a concept; in this case, the players were explorers. Really any type of plot could be factored in, the hexcrawl is much more of a setting than it is anything else.
  • I then built a large map in a program called “Hexographer“, from Inkwell Ideas. Each hex is (naturally) 6 sided, with a terrain type; i.e. mountains, plains, ocean, etc.
  • Using general principles of geography (i.e. which side of mountains have vegetation, rivers run downhill, etc.), I filled out my map with a few continents.
  • Now that I had continents with forests, rivers, and hills, I placed towns appropriately (i.e. near coasts, intersections of major rivers, etc), then supporting villages for those towns (i.e. within a day or two of travel to their “parent” town).
  • Now that I had my towns and villages mapped out, I drew borders of countries, based on obvious geographic limitations (i.e., most borders were either on major rivers or mountain ranges).
  • So now I’ve got a continent, with countries, and cities. You’ll notice I haven’t named anything yet; this is important.
  • In my opinion, the #1 time-waster in world-building is spending time creating content that your players will never see. To that end; I spent 20 minutes brainstorming country names, and placed those randomly. I then zoomed in on 1 particular village in 1 particular country, and named it. This was the seed of my first adventure. I then started mapping (i.e., adding content) for the hexes around that village (i.e. the village was raided by orcs, so traveling in nearby hexes has a risk of… running into orcs!)
  • I went to the next closest village. I named it, gave it a few inns, a blacksmith, and a temple. I named the temple and blacksmith, gave a general overview of their services. The inns I populated with rumors. Some of the rumors were false, some were tied to monsters in locations (i.e., there’s a basilisk southwest of here!), some were tied to dungeons (The abandoned barrows are haunted!).
  • I then populated the appropriate hex with the basilisk encounter; then wrote a short (5 room) dungeon for the “Dungeon” rumor. From there, I started going to other (i.e. potential choices of my players) villages, and filling them out similarly. At the same time, I started filling out the other hexes in their anticipated route of travel. Were there any monsters they may encounter?
  • So, at this point, I’ve got something like 100 hexes mapped with content. Probably 5-10 are villages or towns (towns are basically the same as villages, except they have a few more inns, and maybe a marketplace). I’ve also go 5-10 full on “dungeons”, where I wrote room descriptions, gave them a theme, populated them with monsters, and treasure. Another 5-10 of the hexes are the “encounters” I described, which effectively are just 1 room dungeons, i.e. a location and a challenge.
  • So that means of my 100 hexes, 70 or so are just random monsters the player could run into. Since I am mapping these iteratively, I’m able to make it so that the monsters are in similar areas, i.e. if you go to any of the hexes north east of a particular village, there’s a chance you’ll run into some goblins in the area. I don’t really have “random encounter charts”, thus far I’ve only tied 1 type of monster to each hex (just to save myself the work). Odds are, the players either run into that monster or they don’t. The players didn’t complain, because they’d travel enough that they may run into 4-5 different types of monsters in the general area.[The players DID complain when those monsters were manticores…but enough of my sulking…]
  • Next steps are to continue filling out towns and villages, which then feed me having to create content based on the rumors I come up with, which leads to more encounters and dungeons.
  • To keep track of all of this, each hex has a numeric code, i.e. 71.22. I then have an excel [Or numbers, or GoogleDrive, pick your poison], which I tie to that particular hex information. Hexographer’s Pro version allows you to write notes directly on hexes, so for non-dungeon tiles, I just use that. For my dungeons, I just use excel (GoogleDrive née GoogleDocs would also work).
  • I would not have been able to run this game without Hexographer, or the great guide available on the Alexandrian blog.

This type of game can be a lot of work. You can and will create content that your players will never see; the advantage of a plot driven game is that all your great encounters are on the rails, so the players face them no matter what [It’s also not impossible to hold onto some of those good ones and slot them in later. It violates the ethos of the sandbox world a bit – but anything in the name of fun is the right choice]. That said, it can even more rewarding when a trap you set 5 weeks ago comes into play; I’ll give an example.

My players were following up on a rumor that if they caught a fairy to the west of the town they were visiting, it would be forced to grant them one wish. The players outfitted themselves with nets [Do you know how much a cold-iron net costs?! A lot!], jars, and other “fairy-catching” equipment. However, they did not know they were pursuing a *false* rumor; the area to the west was actually lousy with bandits, who had started the rumor in the first place.

It was a while ago that I ran this game, and looking back there are several things I would have changed that would have added more flavor to the game.

First and foremost, I would have come up with some overarching plot. Baldur’s Gate without the iron shortage is rudderless; it also would have allowed me to plan a bit better which direction the players would have headed; instead of having to map in a circle outward, I would have had a better chance of mapping a “path” of hexes the players were likely to go through.

Second, I would have been much more mysterious about what was out there. In my rumors, I named specific monsters the players were likely to encounter; instead, I wish I had said there was a “dark force” or “an unknown evil”, describing what it had done. Keeping the mystery of the unknown is a key portion of any exploration based game.

Finally, I wish I had had more time between sessions. As a result of trying to keep a fairly rapid pace, the quality of my encounters suffered. I am not a great encounter planner, so I am afraid several of my dungeons were rather mundane as a result of having to plan several of them at once in a few weeks time. Getting something right rather than finished I think would have added an extra layer to my campaign. [This is where resources like the One Page Dungeon contest or…ahem…Save Vs Weekend come into play – they can be used to fill in coherent “random” dungeons or encounters to populate a larger world.]


I’m of the opinion that 4th ed D&D is a perfectly feasible platform to run a hexcrawl. True, the resource management of 4th ed centering around encounters doesn’t particularly favor a model in which most conflicts occur only once a day, and night’s to rest in between run-ins are frequent. But that requires some slight modification tot he encounter format:

One method is to make travel encounters exclusively of the ‘Hard” and “Very Hard” variety. That way the players are almost always expending their dailies and relying on potions and other consumable resources, giving random encounters a significant impact, event hough the players will likely rest for 8 hours right after.

Another, (and perhaps the more favorable) implementation, is to always make overland travel a simple skill challenge: perhaps calling for rolls with every hex traveled. The particulars are up to the DM and various published adventures might have some insight, but generally calling for Endurance checks for each day travelled, and consuming healing surges when those checks fail (and allowing a small number of healing surges to be replenished while traveling overland) could easily create a resource tension in travel without requiring much tweaking of the original game. It stands to reason that resting on the hard ground in a chilly tent after 7 hours of forced march and resting in a soft, warm inn bed after strolling around town or slowly creeping through a dungeon would provide different levels of physical replenishment.

TL:DR – The hexcrawl…try it!


Posted by on January 30, 2013 in Guest Post, Playtested


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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.

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.


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.

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]

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.

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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The Ogre Zombie’s Tomb

This encounter is intended for five characters of 2nd level

It dawned on me that I had perhaps been getting too elaborate with many of my encounters. Mind you I didn’t want to just spit out a lot of “10 square by 10 square with 5 skirmishers of player’s level” snooze fests – but at the same time I might be getting a tad over dramatic with the set-piece encounters. Not everything needs to be a big, epic, hours long brawl, I know. So I’m going to attempt to offer some quicker and more easily planted encounters interspersed with the over-the-top cinematic fights I happen to love so much. My goal with this blog was to provide content that could easily be slapped into any night’s session. Set-pieces have a way of forcing you to work around their schedule.

I’ve also been neglecting the dungeon! Madness! To alleviate that I intend to produce more “drag and drop” dungeon chamber encounters. The place where most games can afford to have an on-the-fly addition is in the dungeon – so it stands to reason that you’ll likely get the most mileage out of some pre-generated dungeon encounters.

Set Up and Backstory
This encounter can be a series of rooms in any old dungeon of your choosing. Its presumed that some other creatures – kobolds or goblins or what have you – occupy the dungeon (to serve as a food source). This particular niche was carved by desperate townsfolk long ago; who buried an ogre that had been destroying crops, caravans, and people for years. They feared him so much that it was rumored even death would not slow the brute down, and so a few bold souls interred his corpse in the dungeon, and filled a pit with holy water to make certain he didn’t come lumbering out.

A few were superstitious enough to bury the monster with some valuables in the hopes that would appease it in the afterlife. Sadly, it wasn’t enough, and the rotting ogre’s corpse has been stomping impatiently in front of the holy water moat for a very long time.

Some of the dungeon’s denizens have been making forays into this area to try and recover the treasure from the ogre zombie’s side of the moat – but found themselves food for the cave fisher lurking nearby. The beetles are picking clean what the fisher doesn’t want.


Map Features
Rooms: Are roughly hewn stonework. Relatively smooth walls and floor, save for cracks and the occasional debris. The ceiling is in disrepair. The obvious light sources are the fire beetles (emanate light at half the distance of a normal torch) and some distant rays of sunshine beating down through the cracks in the ceiling of the zombie ogre’s chamber (bright enough to treat the room as normally lit).

The cave fisher is hidden in a shadowy corner of the antechamber where it has adjourned to digest its last meal. It gains a +5 bonus to it’s stealth check while concealed here. If need be it will creep forward along the ceiling to get in range of prey, keeping a +2 bonus from the relative camouflage of the broken and uneven ceiling.

Sitting at the foot of the pool are the remains of some unfortunate dungeon denizen is now a meal for the fire beetles – thus continuing the dungeon circle of life.

Pool: this stone moat dips drops to a depth of about four and a half feet and is filled with sanctified water. If submerged or splashed onto an evil creature it deals Ongoing 5 radiant damage. The zombified ogre is unwilling to step foot in or even chance crossing the pool due to his instinctive repulsion by consecrated places.

Loose Ceiling: The ceilings in these chambers are worn and buckled with age. Already stones and pieces of rubble are strewn about the dungeon floor and more sections seem at risk of collapsing. The ceiling height is 4 squares (20 feet) or in more practical terms, a 2d10 fall.

A section of ceiling directly above the pool is especially loose. If the players come within sight of the hulking zombie it very well might smash the walls in frustration, causing a section of rubble to fall into the pool. This would give the zombie stepping stones to cross over – escaping its prison and entering the fray. Allow this to happen when the players are finally gaining the advantage in the fight. If you are utilizing dungeon tiles, use a 2 by 2 square rubble tile to indicate the pathway across the holy water pool

x1 Hulking Zombie (Monster Vault pg. 294)
x1 Cave Fisher Angler – Marked “C” (Monster Manual 3 pg. 28)
x3 Fire Beetles (Monster Manual pg. 30)

Map Tiles
Making good on a previous intention – the map for this encounter was composed with individual tiles from the “Dungeon Tiles” master set “The Dungeon.”


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Chamber of Shifting Visions


This encounter I slotted into a one-shot adventure I ran a couple of times recently. The goal was to let the players have some fun by constructing the dungeon themselves; with an eye to crafting the terrain to their character’s preferred tactics. It was also a good excuse to use some of Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeon Tiles that I had lying around. When all was said and done I was pretty happy with the experiment, although I wasn’t in love with my monster choice for the encounter and have changed that up here. You’ll want to use monsters who will exploit the dangerous and advantageous terrain features – so look for a push/pull/sliders and shifters.

The idea is that the PCs enter a strange chamber that conforms to a person’s expectations of what is inside. The catch is, if more than one person enters, the room gets jumbled and combines their ideas into a random amalgamation. Hence why players get to choose room features of their own to add into the encounter space – but are limited to certain features (since there are already some minds inside the room messing with their brainwaves.) At least that’s what you’ll say to the player who states “I imagine the room is full of gold pieces.” And whatever you do, don’t neglect this opportunity to remind them NOT to imagine the “Stay-Puffed” Marshmallow Man.

There’s no strict map for this one, but some guidelines in how to hand out dungeon tiles for you players to place. I used D17 Fane of the Forgotten Gods for the encounter, but any of the more “dungeony” dungeon tile sets will work just fine. Barring dungeon tiles you could always tell players to draw out a (digit) x (digit) space on a battlemat. I started with a 4×4 tile in the middle as the “center” of the map. I then went clockwise around the table (going by initiative might also be a good variation) and handed the players a random dungeon tile. For the first phase of construction use plain tiles of differing sizes and shapes – but on the bigger side. You want to establish the general dungeon space here. I threw in a couple more unusual tiles in this phase, in particular a rope bridge. Generally six or seven tiles should be fine (You might even want to reserve a few tiles for yourself to place to mix things up and potentially foil some of their plans.)

After the first round of tiles are placed you’ll go through a second round of placing terrain features – hazards and benefits. For this I just grabbed a few odds and ends dungeon tiles and when the players placed them (again in clockwise order) I stated what their effect was. Make sure to be clear about a tiles purpose, lest the players avoid all your interesting terrain features completely in fear they are traps. Again hand out a tile for each player and reserve one or two for yourself.

Some suggested effects:

  • Granting concealment or cover
  • Using a minor action to gain 5 HP
  • Taking 5 elemental damage for entering starting a turn in the space
  • Gaining a +2 to all defenses while in the space
  • Gain a +2 to attack rolls while in the space

Lastly hand out three door tiles, while you place the fourth. Assign a number 1-4 to these doors. When the players enter the room they appear through a randomly determined door. Entering the room costs two squares of movement but they can exit and reenter if they pop out of a door that doesn’t suit them. If this room is at a choke point in the dungeon, don’t forget to include an “exit door” tile that the players cannot enter from as well.

Quest Text

This forty foot long chamber is lined with mirrors of all shapes and sizes. At the opposite wall are a pair of mis-matched double doors, both covered in a reflective gold sheen. As you pass by the many mirrors, you catch brief glimpses – not of this chamber – but the room beyond. Glistening treasures and deadly traps – pits, columns, fountains, in all manner of architectural style. As you swing open the double doors you see a blur of all the possible iterations of the room beyond. The only way to know for certain what lays inside is to step across the threshold.


  • x2 Dwarf Clan Guard (Monster Vault pg. 101)
  • x1 Spitting Drake (Monster Vault pg. 83)
  • x1 Lesser Water Elemental (Monster Vault pg. 109)
  • x4 Decrepit Skeletons (Monster Vault pg. 255)

Since I ran this with level 1 characters the monster set up is geared toward that level. Adjust accordingly.

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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Combat Encounter, Playtested


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