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Tag Archives: Undead

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

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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
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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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In The Dead of The Night

This encounter is intended for five players of 6th-7th level

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“It’s time to make camp for the night…who has the first watch?”

I’m sure you still say it, but I feel like in our shiny 4th Edition world, this common phrase doesn’t mean the same thing that it used to. We used to dread taking those couple hours (four if you were the elf) to be the one awake, watching beyond the campfire, hearing the clatter of that 1d12 worth of Random Encounters and straining to hear whether it was just a few stirges or another F*#%ing manticore.

The random encounter hasn’t entirely evaporated from the game by any means, but the structured nature of 4th Ed’s experience/encounter planning has made the idea of random events a bit of a pariah.

But that was the appeal of being attacked in your camp at night. There was a real threat to it. The darkness which you usually held back with your party’s combined arms gained a little more terror when it was only you, huddled up in your orc-blind, waiting to see what would come poking around the dying embers of your campfire. The mystery and tension of camping in dangerous areas lead to a lot of cleverly planned and confidently executed bivouacs that were designed with defense in mind. Alarm spells, jingling pot and pan tripwire, salvaged beartraps, high canopy hammocks, they were all the sort of tactics paranoid parties employed so they could get a good night’s rest (and more importantly, your spells and hit points back).

I think that random encounters still have a place in the game – they just require a bit of preconception and purpose. When plotting out the encounters a party will face for a given level you might assume two or three easy encounters to be random ones – either occurring during travel or as a result of being attacked while camped. Since these usually aren’t major set-pieces or plot points they can be short and offer minimal threat (The advantage of surprise and already spent party resources will likely be in the monster’s favor anyway). Just because you choose a random time for his and hers owlbears to charge the camp, doesn’t mean those monsters weren’t in your experience budget. You trade a random monster chart for a pre-planned agenda, and let the timing and location of the fray stay unexpected.

So essentially, “random” encounters have become more purposeful (or perhaps more coherent to the campaign as a whole) while still maintaining their edge of being the unexpected. It isn’t a bad trade when all is said and done. And besides, if you come up with several possible encounters for the party’s level and locale, you can still roll on an exciting chart! Random still lives…it just takes some more work. (And trust me, utilizing the suggested encounters at the end of monster entries in any of the various Monster Manuals can be a big time saver). Besides, part of the reason for random encounters in the first place was to try out a fancy new monster! Like, maybe something from the often overlooked Open Grave….

Purpose
This encounter is meant to ambush the players when they are at their most vulnerable, camped out for the night in the middle of an unrelated journey. Mistakenly the PCs have camped over a mass grave left from a long forgotten war, where the spirits and bodies of warriors who have long since died still refuse to admit defeat, and will attack those who wittingly or unwittingly disturb their resting place.

Plot Text
Read (most likely paraphrase) this one to any players standing watch:

Boredom again…just like every night. It’s not that the trackless miles of traveling is any more interesting, but at least you are getting somewhere and challenging your body. All this sitting around, listening to the drone of insects and the mocking hoots of owls is fatiguing in a completely different way. Still, it isn’t that long to stay awake. Before long you’ll be tucked into your bedroll, nodding off under the sufficient cover of a tent. Not a care in the…
Was that a hand? It can’t be. Must be a squirrel moving around in the grass over there. A…nocturnal squirrel?
You are barely to your feet when an arm follows the writhing object out of the ground. Definitely a hand, the skin pulled taught and dirty, beaten and worn by age and worms. A moan goes up from nearby, and the slithering of chainmail to the staccato beat of unsteady legs approaching you.
Hopefully there is enough time to call out an alarm. They are coming from every side. Even below.

Map
Give your players the opportunity to map out their camp on their own – after all, they are the ones setting the camp and know how many tents/bedrolls they have between them. This might be hint alone to plan defensively when setting up their sleeping arrangements. If your players are vague or not that interested in the details, use the map below (I embellished very little on this one, so you can construct it very closely with the “Wilderness” set of Dungeon Tiles). The example details encounter No. 4, just to give you an idea on some possible layouts. Note that some of the undead should emerge from the ground already in the camp, and others might wander in from the fringes.

Features of the Area
Tents – Tent flaps are a bit unwieldy, and exiting a tent requires 2 squares of movement. Creatures inside a tent have full concealment though the tent is unlikely to be thick enough to provide cover

Campfire – Depending on how well the players have maintained their campfire (if they are using one at all) this may pose a danger to either the PCs or their undead opponents. Consider letting a lit campfire deal 5 Fire damage to any creature that moves through or begins it’s turn on the campfire’s square

Trees – Tall, sturdy deciduous trees provide an escape route, a lookout post, or convenient cover. Climbing one should be an Athletics Check Easy DC

Cliff – Setting the encounter near a drop adds some tension, limiting the player’s avenues of escape. This cliff drops steeply down a good 15 feet or so (1d10 damage fall)

Water – The stream drops quickly to about thigh height, and is treated as rough terrain. You might wish to constrain the undead’s movements to the pictured side of the river (where their grave is) in order to provide beleaguered PCs a means of escape.

Tactics
Tactics will vary depending on which undead end up popping out of the ground, but each iteration of this encounter has a few things in common. Where enemies will pop out of the ground, or approach from will vary depending on the map’s layout, but try to stagger the arrival of minions, skirmishers, and a few brutes or soldiers. This will drop that feeling of dread onto the players as they realize there are more opponents than what they see, and they could appear from any side (sorry warlock, no safe back row to hide out in without fear of retribution!)
The wraith will rise out of the ground near (or even through) the campfire, easily phasing through the stone burying it’s crushed former body. This will likely give it the drop on any lookouts or PCs who have gone without tents.
At least one soldier/brute emerges from the soil inside one of the tents, hopefully startling an unarmed (and possibly unarmored) PC.
Pre-plan which squares your undead will be emerging from. If a player chooses unwittingly to sleep over one of these squares, that will grant the creature a free grab attack with combat advantage during a surprise round.

Monsters
Wraith [Not pictured, lurks beneath the campfire square] (Monster Vault pg. 284)
Green Arcanian/ Skeletal Wizard (Monster Manual III pg. 16)
Ghast (Monster Manual III pg. 95)
Rot Grub Zombie [Z] – and Rot Grub Swarm (Monster Manual III pg. 166-167)
Wight (Monster Manual pg. 262) 5
Forsaken Shell (Open Grave pg. 148)
Dread Zombie [G] (Open Grave pg. 197)
Skeletal Archer [S] (Open Grave pg. 180)
Crawling Gauntlet [U] (Open Grave pg. 142)

To determine which encounter the players face, roll 1d4

Encounter 1
x6 Crawling Gauntlets
x1 Wraith
x2 Ghasts
x1 Wight
x1 Rot Grub Zombie

Encounter 2
x6 Crawling Gauntlets
x1 Wraith
x2 Dread Zombie
x1 Forsaken Shell
x1 Rot Grub Zombie

Encounter 3
x6 Crawling Gauntlets
x1 Wraith
x1 Green Arcanian
x2 Wights
x1 Rot Grub Zombie

Encounter 4
x6 Crawling Gauntlets
x1 Wraith
x3 Dread Zombie
x1 Skeletal Archer
x1 Rot Grub Zombie

Special Considerations
An encounter like this can wind up being particularly unfair to fighters, paladins, and other heavy armor wearing characters. Much of their class balance revolves around their easy access to heavy armor as an inherent advantage, and denying that (since they cannot sleep in heavy armor, and will not have time to properly dress) can put them at an unfair disadvantage – especially if one of the player’s more potent magic items was his or her suit of shining fieldplate.

To offset this, you might wish to allow them to dress partially (throwing on an arming coat, tightening on their helm, slipping into the ol’ greaves). Doing so would grants +1 AC per move action spent, up to a total of half (rounded down in this case) of the armor’s normal value. This also adds a layer of resource management to the fight – is it better to take the time to armor up, or get out there and fight in your underwear (it isn’t entirely unheard of).

The site of an ancient battlefield, and all of these undead were (or were at least the hands of) soldiers left to rot. If the players seem like they are in a hopeless situation, a History Hard DC check might reveal something about what happened to these creatures back when they were men. Showing some signal of allegiance to their former army or recognizing their sacrifice, or offering a proper burial might sway the wraith, skeleton, wights or ghasts, getting them to give up pursuit of the players. Other undead (especially the crawling gauntlets) are too far gone to be reasoned with.

Asleep and Awake
It might help to review the rules for resting, sleep, and waking up (Player’s Handbook pg. 263). A particularly cruel DM might rule that a player is groggy for the first round of combat (dazed) unless they make an Endurance Easy DC Check but you didn’t hear that from me.

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Incidents – The Lake-maiden’s Lament

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Cuircumstances
While passing a lake

Event
The party spots a blonde half-elven girl, gorgeous and naked, standing thing deep in the frigid waters and looked dazed. Her skin is pale, her lips blue, and her long hair is snaked with pond-weeds and algae. She mumbles something about a tipped boat, and repeatedly states how cold she is, her striking eyes beseeching the nearest male (or receptive female) character for comfort. This sad, lost soul is a Rusalka – a reanimated young woman who was the victim of drowning, and is now cursed to drag her would-be rescuers down to a similar fate.

Any who approach within arm’s length she will reach out to and hug for warmth, crying into their shoulder and apologizing as she drags them under the water with a vise-like grip.

The Rusalka
Though a monster, and very dangerous, the Rusalka poses little threat in open combat, and as such does not require a full stat block, but a few rules to keep in mind in case they come up:

  • AC 10 + player level, FORT 10 + player level, REF 10 + player level + 2, WILL 10 + player level +3
  • The Rusalka is treated as a minion, having only one Hit Point. If she is destroyed, but her soul has not been properly laid to rest, she will reappear in 1d10 weeks, ready to claim another sympathetic passerby.
  • If threatened, the Rusalka sinks into the water and vanishes, refusing to reappear to any of the PCs who were present again.
  • The Rusalka will not chase down a target, but any victim who comes near arms reach will be caught by her (she lashes out lightning quick, no attack roll necessary). The PC caught by the Rusalka is considered grabbed and restrained. At this point, the Rusalka has supernatural strength, and no amount of pulling or aid will detach her as she drags the victim below the water to drown them. The Rusalka will let go if she is destroyed by violence. Clever players who attempt to use some means of escape (tying a rope around their waist) will find that the rope snaps, or if an appendage is bound, that extremity might even be pulled off!
  • When adjudicating this creature, keep in mind the Rusalka is bound to drown her victim, and is given inexorable strength by the curse that keeps her inn this world. There is no malicious intent.
  • Rules for suffocation are on page 159 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Finishing the Unfinished Business
The players have the opportunity to set the Rusalka’s cursed spirit free and letting her move on to a natural death. Let the player’s creativity win out here, even if their resolution is simple and requires little work – if it rings true, it is the right answer. They are doing an act of kindness for a pitiful girl who had no intentions of becoming a monster. Some suggested resolutions to the curse are listed below:

  • Using a skill challenge to convince the Rusalka she has passed and must move on of her own accord. Keep the complexity on the lower end, ideally 1 or 2. Suggested skills: Diplomacy, Insight, Nature, History, Religion, Arcana, Bluff.
  • A divine character could use their Channel Divinity power, in conjunction with a Religion, Hard check to purify the girl’s spirit and end the curse.
  • Swimming to the bottom of the lake, a PC would find a few pieces of the Rusalka’s jewelry from when she was alive, still mostly intact. These might jolt her into the realization that she has not passed on properly, or provide a bonus in any skill challenge made to do the same.
  • The Rusalka appears in many forms in various culture’s folklore, and interpreting her as a spirit rather than a corporeal undead is also a valid approach. In this case, showing the sad creature her own remains would convince her that she is dead, and allow her to pass on.
  • Finding any of the girls still-living relatives and bringing them here would also help the Rusalka to move on. A mother, sister, or perhaps even a husband or fiance. The girl may have drowned a few years ago, or her last kin might be long grey and wrinkled and still troubled by their lost loved one. It might be particularly poignant to have a family member offer themselves up as a sacrifice, embracing the Rusalka and giving her the warmth and comfort she needs as they both vanish beneath the rippling lake forever.
  • Though undead, the tragic nature of the Rusalka and her attachment to a body of water is much in affinity with the hearts of many fey creatures. If the PCs could convince a dryad, nymph, woodland spirit or other potent fey to take pity on her, they might release the girl of her curse.

Possible Rewards and Experience
It is possible that as the PCs turn to leave, they hear a tiny metal clinking, and find a piece of jewelry the Rusalka owned in life, now enchanted – a sign of gratitude for lifting the curse.

This Incident should be worth EXP equivalent to a single monster of the player’s level +1.

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Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Incidents, Not Playtested

 

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“Summer’s Set” Full Adventure Posted

Yikes. It’s been a while.

I mentioned ages ago that I was working on a full adventure that would be eating up my usual encounter writing time. Likewise I promised to post it here to make up for my brief hiatus. Well now is the time! I’ve finally finished the editing and preparation process and am proud to present you with “Summer’s Set“! You can find it on the new “Full Adventures” page. I figured the temptation to write longer content would strike me again, and it would be best to have a place to keep them all organized.

I didn’t end up getting to run the whole adventure due to time constraints, but the group I was running with seemed to enjoy the early half of the story well enough. The combat moved almost as quickly as I wanted it to, which is good. Fights tended to be a bit on the easy side, not taxing the player’s resources as much as I wished, but that’s in part because I was running with a group of 6 – whereas the adventure is – as per standard – built with 5 in mind. Ah well, fun is the most important thing and this adventure was built to be speedy – and an easy fight ends quick, so mission accomplished I suppose. It was partially an exercise in using some fancy game aids I had lying around as well, and those did not fail to impress.

So take a little time and check it out, even if you aren’t planning on running it (but if you think you might be a player, DON’T LOOK!!!!) I’ve included pre-generated characters and abbreviated character sheets along with the adventure to make running it quick and easy.

And to repeat the bit of Errata; in my haste to post I neglected to add stats for the unique creature featured in the adventure. I knew I would forget something! For convenience those stats are repeated here:

 

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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

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

Monsters
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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Defiled Graveyard

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The Deathknight really wants you to know who he marked

This encounter is intended for five PCs of 7th level

The inspiration for this one came from a handful of sources. Firstly, I feel like I’ve been doing a bit too much monster design and not focusing on encounter circumstances and environment nearly enough. So…I split the difference a bit on this one – taking the monster cues from existing monsters and tacking on two of my favorite templates – The Necromancer and Death-knight, rather than concocting something from scratch. Secondly I was noticing a lot of battlemats and maptiles making the rounds that depicted graveyards – but infrequently have I ever played in an adventure that wound our way into one. And third of course is my not-so-secret love for undead themed bad guys (they are right up there vying hard with orcs for “favorite villain horde” in my heart). So pull out that graveyard map you got when you picked up “Keep on the Shadowfell” – you’ll finally get some more use out of it!

Set-Up
This combat has the PC’s facing down a pair of complimentary elites (a Deathknight and Death Master) with a scattering of minions (zombies, of course). To up the tension, the Death Master has the option of creating MORE minions – some as a product of her template, and others as an environmental function. Graves on the map can be used by her to spring forth additional zombie minions. But this encounter also gives a little love to player necromancers – letting them even the odds by summoning their own minions out of the unquiet grave dirt!

This one would work well as the first step in a crypt dungeon. Odd to have a “mini-boss fight” at the beginning of the dungeon – but a tough first encounter might give otherwise bold PCs a moment of pause. Otherwise it could be the culmination of a side-quest related to necromancy and mysterious undead related goings on.

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Lin-Wen has found non-combat uses for her undead horde as well

Plot Text

The evidence my not be present yet, but your guy tells you that the rumors about mounting numbers of undead stalking about the graveyard have to be true. There was no sign of activity during the day, which means, – naturally – you’ll have to investigate at night. Fortunately or not, the moon is full and you can see clearly as you approach the gates. Inside the graveyard, shadows cling like a mantle off every object and seem to teem with malevolence. A churning and chill mist roils around your feet. Two figures step out of one of the mausoleums to meet you. One is tall, nearly six and a half feet, clad in platemail. His, or maybe “its” eyes glow, as does the axe it wields. The woman accompanying him laughs. “So you finally found our lair? A good thing. I was hoping for some more capable corpses to join our ranks. Kill them!” At her command, four reanimated bodies pry themselves up from the ground, hidden by the mist that clings thick around the headstones. Their rotting skin reeks of the grave, and their moans fill the heavy night air.
Just as well. You weren’t expecting a negotiation anyway.

Nothing good ever happened in a graveyard


Map And Features

In the interest of letting you flex out the muscles of any graveyard maps you have already lying around (and to buy me time to work on a more complicated map for a coming post!) I decided not to provide one for this encounter. Use your best judgement in positioning the enemies in this encounter. The Deathknight and zombies should be firmly between the Death Master and the PCs, with plenty of graves littered about to be exploited. Mausoleums, pillars, and large gravestones make a great addition to provide some cover from ranged attacks. That said, a nice view of the map I used can be found here.

Arcane Glyph: (NOTE this feature appears on the example map I use but is not necessary for this encounter – though it adds a nice twist) Living creatures that begin their turn in these squares take 5 necrotic damage. Undead creatures that start their turn in these squares gain 5 HP.

Fence: The fence around the graveyard can be climbed with a Moderate Athletics roll as a move action.

-Gravestones: Squares containing gravestones can be used as partial cover.

-Graves: Any creature adjacent to or in a grave square (A square containing a gravestone or grave dirt) that possesses at least one encounter or daily power with the “necrotic” keyword (or is trained in the necromancy specialty school) may use the following environmental power:

“Arise, and Do My Bidding!”                                          Environmental
At-Will * Arcane, Necromancy
Move Action
Target:
An adjacent grave
Effect:
The caster manipulates the defiling necrotic energies of the graveyard to reanimate the corpse in this grave. At the end of the caster’s turn, an Zombie Shambler appears in a square of the grave (or adjacent to it). The Shambler acts on the caster’s initiative and moves to attack the caster’s nearest enemy. It can be directed to attack a particular target with a minor action but is incapable of doing anything more complex than moving and attacking.
Restriction: This power only functions once per grave. (Consider marking off any graves whose contents are now empty)

New Monsters

Monster List
I was a little torn here, when it came to which minion to choose for this encounter. The Shamblers were perfect with their “chance to survive” special ability – but they were a bit lower level than I would have liked. On the other hand, the Skeletal Legionaries were much closer to level and I could see their marking capabilities as wreaking havoc on a lot of parties – but all those marked conditions makes for a much more difficult encounter to manage. In the end I decided to present both options. Consider the version of this encounter with the skeletons to be “Nightmare Mode.”

x1 Deathknight [Thaedric]
x1 Death Master [Lin-Wen] (Modified from the “Tiefling Occultist”, Pg. 263 Monster Vault)
x4+ Zombie Shambler (Pg. 295 Monster Vault) OR x4+ Skeletal Legionary (Pg. 257 Monster Vault)

Special Considerations
Circle of Buffs: Keep in mind the following buffs that opponents on the field share with one another. Many of these go away when one of the elites drops:

  • Undead within 10 of the Death Knight gain a +2 to hit
  • Unholy Flames adds a temporary weapon buff to allies in burst 2
  • Undead within 5 of the Death Master do not have radiant damage vulnerabilities

Living Dead Girl: While our necromancer is, strictly speaking, still alive; her cavorting with dark powers has cursed her as a being of unspeakable darkness and evil, and she counts as undead for the purpose of powers and effects

Bonus DLC!:
So, you Diablo II fans might find this all very familiar: a battle in a graveyard against a boss who continually raises zombie minions? Sounds a lot like a particularly vexing first boss, right? It wasn’t a conscious choice, but when I made the connection, I decided I’d ignore my admonishment about being too eager to create new monsters…just this once:

Blood Raven would be a good stand-in for one of the other elites mentioned above. If you want to use her on her own, consider adding some undead muscle that can slow, grab, or immobilize, to compliment her evasive tactics. And don’t forget to take advantage of the cover provided by spaces featuring gravestones.

 

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