Tag Archives: Winter

Adventure Site – Dhunraven, City on the Wildlands

As you know, I use this blog as a repository for my old, forgotten, unused, untested, or well loved DMing materials. I always thought it was a shame that most DMs let all their hard work vanish into obscurity – so I decided to share my notes publically.

On a whim, I figured I would compile the map and notes I had left over for a previous 4th ed. game I was running with friends who have long since moved to various corners of the world. An easy addition tot he blog – I’ll just compile and reformat some notes, touch up the grammar, add a few stat blocks and that will be that.

Oh, and I’ll provide stats for those using the D&D Next playtest too.

And, you know, a few more NPCs while I’m at it.

Turns out it became a major project that I just couldn’t relent on until it was in decent shape. Maybe a waste of time, maybe some good exercise in writing adventure sites. Maybe I’ll come back to it. Hopefully you’ll get some use out of it! The document covers Dhunraven as an adventure site (think of it as a mini campaign setting that can be slotted into a much larger overall game).

Dhunraven is inspired by one of my oft mentioned favorite low-level generic D&D adventures: The Dead of Winter. Since it was locked away on the Character Builder disc that came with the ORIGINAL 3rd edition PHB it isn’t easy to come by, but I just might have a little link to help you out, in case you are interested in the source material.

File Download —> Castle Dhunraven – City on the Wildlands


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Ashpeak Ascent

“The McGuffin sits atop this peak” – like you would have it any other way…

This encounter is intended for five players of 6th level

This week’s encounter (which I have been toying with in my head for a while and in bits and pieces since April) is brought to you by a stew of collaborative neuroses.

Every D&D nerd does it. Be it in film, video games or literature. You see something cool and say “What are the stats for it.” I distinctly remember watching Legolas fire arrows in quick succession on screen during Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” saying to myself – “Oh yeah, the ‘Rapid Shot’ feat!” So I do this just as bad and as often as anyone else.

Confession: I am an unabashed “Bioware” fanboy. I know that being a fanboy is wrong – but it feels so right! After all, these are the folks who made “Baldur’s Gate!” Who is going to fault me for loving that with zeal and fanaticism?

Let’s add to that the fact that I am one of those guys who gets way too excited about trailers and you are lead to today’s encounter.

So when I saw the opening cinematic for Dragon Age: Origins – that is to say, the “Sacred Ashes” trailer – I knew the day would come when I wrote it up as an encounter.

Today is that day.

Outside my self-gratifying desire to needlessly pin numbers onto story elements – I also wanted to take a crack at an encounter that lasted longer and came in small, distinct chunks with fewer monsters (or weaker monsters) in each. It’s a method I’ve seen used to recall the quick fights/many rooms feel of some old school dungeons (A feeling closer in step with the current 5th ed/D&D Next design ethos) and I felt like it would adequately represent the action of the video.

Our Hurlocks will be played by orcs today (surprise surprise!) Now if you’re looking for a Dragon Age RPG, then Green Ronin has you covered; my goal is to tool around with an encounter based on the video, not give you a full conversion for all the monsters and magic of Ferelden and her neighbors. That being said, if you’d like your orcs to feel a bit more like darkspawn, might I suggest adding the following monster power:

Darkspawn Blood (Poison)
No Action – Close burst 1
Trigger: The Darkspawn is first bloodied or drops to 0HP
Target: Attacking Creature

Effect: The target takes ongoing 5 poison damage (save ends)

This encounter works well as the “front door” to a dungeon you were already planning on running. Whether the darkspawn/orcs are simply camped in the ruins or actively looking for the McGuffin the players are after is up to you.

The players will have to fight their way up the mountain slope, through the outlying ruins, and finally be confronted by a lesser dragon at the entrance to the dungeon. A straight-forward running melee.

NOTE: Not all of the Darkspwan/Orcs are accounted for on the map to prevent clutter. Precise starting location can be a little fast and loose. Stick to the descriptions of each phase and use what works best for you.

Map Features
Flat Topped Pillars – These pillars (rectangular shaped pillars on the map) can be climbed with an Athletics Moderate check and require an entire move action to reach the top. They otherwise provide cover and are blocking terrain.

Broken Pillars – These pillars (represented by circles on the map) can be used as cover and count as blocking terrain, but are crumbling and unsteady.

Ruins – Squares containing ruins count as rough terrain and provide cover from ranged and area attacks

Cliff – Don’t fall off the cliff or it’s game over, man

Ice – The sheet of ice on the western side of the map is dangerously slick. For every square entered, make an attack +7 vs. REF. on hit, the creature takes 2 damage, is knocked prone, and their movement ends.

Encounter Phases
Phase 1: Ascent – 10 Orc Savages, 1 Battletested Orc
As the encounter begins, allow PCs to establish their marching order at the westernmost end of the incline. The front two PCs will use their passive perception to detect the orcs ambush in the mists up ahead (Perception DC 17). If they succeed then the orcs do not gain surprise when they attack, and initiative is rolled normally. The mist lingers for the first two rounds, granting the orcs light concealment. Make certain that the Battletested Orc is in the second row of attackers, letting the players cut down the first few orcs easily. This is a rough bottleneck, so you might consider letting push effects function like Sten’s charge in the video, knocking back an extra rank of orcs when their front row is shoved back. When the PCs clear this ramp, they’ll have a moment of calm until they round the corner and come in full view of the ruins.

Phase 2: Hit the Deck! – 10 Orc Savages, 1 Orc Shaman
Once the players come into view of the shaman the next phase begins. The PCs can now see the Savages as well, who are in mid jog forward to engage the interlopers. The Shaman makes sure to use fireball (see the entry for the shaman below) as soon as at least 2 PCs are in range, not worrying much about scorching a few of his own men (though he won’t endanger many or them lest he risk his own hide). The Shaman will flee from melee but won’t maneuver too far away.

Phase 3: Ruins – 15 Orc Savages, 2 Battletested Orcs Ideally the players will have their initiatives staggered with the orcs in order to draw them into the varied terrain of the ruins. Regardless the orcs will charge in at best possible speed. Let the Battletested orcs swarm the first opponent in (likely your defender) giving that character a hard fight. The minions can chase after softer targets. Two of the Savages will have short bows (same damage as hand axes, range of 20) and fire from relative safety behind the ice sheet.

Phase 4: The Dragon Arrives – 1 Young Earthquake Dragon The dragon will first attempt to keep the advantage of its reach and flight by hovering over any ranged attackers and biting them. Once its aura grows strong, it will land in the midst of its foes to subject them all to the earthquakes effects.

x35 Orc Savages/Hurlock Grunts (Pg. 226 Monster Vault)
x3 Battletested Orcs/Hurlock Alphas (Pg. 225 Monster Vault)
x1 Orc Shaman/Hurlock Emissary (Pg. 229 Monster Vault) – replace the Vengeful Whirlwind power with the Wizard’s Fireball spell (Player’s Handbook pg. 161) Use the Shaman’s attack bonus and damage from Vengeful Whirlwind. Add an “Effect: Target is knocked prone” line.
x1 Young Earthquake Dragon (Pg. 69 Monster Manual III)


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“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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Slog Across the Ice Fields


Man, I love me some skill challenges. As the logical extension of the “complex skill checks” introduced in Wizard’s “Alternity” and later adapted in “Unearthed Arcana” they make for exciting scenes where the players overcome adversity with detailed description, role-playing, a little knowledge of the ins and outs of “how stuff works”, and of course, a great deal of begging and pouting. I especially love them for representing grueling overland travel – a thing that is present in a lot of fantasy fiction but had little mechanical support in earlier editions of D&D

This Skill Challenge was originally adapted for a 4th ed conversion of a 3rd ed adventure (If you bought the Player’s Handbook for that edition you might remember this adventure being on the character builder CD that came with the book. CD’s in books!? The past was the future!) called The Dead of Winter. Though I never ran the conversion I always liked the idea of player characters hoofing it through a frozen wasteland.

Unlike other skill challenges, this one does not require a set amount of successes to overcome. Instead, successes help the PCs achieve an inevitable goal (navigating to their destination) more safely, incurring less injury and hardship along the way. It should be interspersed with a combat encounter in the middle and capped with another combat – when the players are their most tired, hungry, and worn down.


The journey is supposed to take 4 days overland. Snowfall has made the trade road all but indiscernible and there are no rest stops for miles. To make matters worse, a blizzard hits just past the halfway point, adding another two unanticipated days of travel to the challenge. Beginning either with initiative rolls or by going clockwise around the table (the order in which players go should matter little) the players will make Primary Skill rolls to contribute to the journey – using their wits and resources to do anything to increase their survivability, make the journey easier, or mitigate disasters. Succeeding at a Primary Skill roll grants a +2 bonus for the group on their endurance check. Failing a Primary Skill roll instead imposes a -2 penalty as the player wastes time, miscalculates, or aggravates conditions. Worse yet, if at least one player fails, roll randomly on the disaster table and that complication occurs. Only one disaster chart roll is made per day of travel. Once all the players have made a roll (essentially their efforts during one day of travel) they must all make a Hard Endurance check: losing 1 Healing Surge for failing.

Its important to note that players do not get healing surges back when resting during this skill challenge (thought they can regain daily powers). The rationale for this (other than having a resource to risk) is that sleeping under a quickly raised tent on the frozen tundra is anything but comfortable, and the characters aren’t getting good and proper rest out in the elements. Combine this with hours of grueling physical activity, brisk pace, and pounds of gear lashed to your back and you have some tired adventurers. Without a warm secure bed to sleep in and a few hours peace, the mortal body just can’t refresh itself adequately.

During day 2, the players face a combat encounter (of moderate difficulty). On the night of day 3, a terrible winter storm hits. Let the players know this will extend their remaining journey by a few days, but it’s hard to say exactly how long. When they are within a day of arriving, let them know. Just before completing the challenge they are beset by foes for a final combat encounter (of hard difficulty). I suggest two such encounters below but mix it up as fits your campaign and available monster guides.


Overall Skills
Endurance – Hard DC:
At the end of each round (representing a day of travel) each player must make this roll. Failure results in one lost healing surge. If at least one player fails, roll on the disaster table. Roll only once regardless of how many players fail. You may apply the results randomly to any failing player.

Primary Skills – Successes will repeatedly contribute a +2 bonus to the endurance check made each day by all players. Each skill only applies once per day; if two players wish to roll a single skill it is treated as the “aid another” action. The exception to this would be players using the same skill in a very different way (for an example” see the entry for ‘History’ below. Each skill lists its DC and a suggested means for it to be applied to the situation – however encourage the players to explain how they are applying their skill and reward them with bonuses for specificity.

Acrobatics (Moderate DC) – Your nimble feet let you scout ahead of the group and find safe routes through treacherous areas and rough terrain

Athletics (Moderate DC) – The character climbs over hills, down valleys, and through rough terrain and then aids the party along, letting them bypass cliffs and pits that they would otherwise waste time maneuvering around

Bluff/Diplomacy/Intimidate – (Moderate DC) The character keeps spirits high or cajoles his fellows into keeping pace and taking heart

Dungeoneering (Hard DC) – The Character’s knowledge of underground geography helps them locate the likely places where caves and overhangs will provide the party cover to rest and recuperate in safety

History – (Moderate DC) The Character has poured over maps and think they can discern a clear path with few landmarks
Has read accounts of other explorers in this area and their insights in regards to navigation and survival are invaluable

Insight (Moderate DC) – The Character keeps an ear to the grumbling and gauges everyone’s stress levels; suggesting times to rest, and giving an encouraging word or sharing a burden here and there to keep the party focused

Nature (Easy DC) – The character is a survivalist. Mastering the subtle tricks of living out in the wilds. Foraging, keeping dry and warm, avoiding hazards – this character has it covered
Whether it was disaster or poor planning you do not have adequate food and water. For every 4 + Level you get on a single Nature check, you find adequate food and water for 1 medium or small sized creature

Perception (Moderate DC) – Keeping an eye out for pitfalls and shortcuts the character helps his allies avoid danger and speeds the journey around obstacles

Stealth (Moderate DC) – Keeping away from the eyes of would-be predators, hobgoblin raiding bands, renegade orcs and worse threats is no small feat but the character covers the party’s tracks and conceals all signs of your encampment well

Disaster Table
If at least one player fails their Endurance roll during a day, roll on this chart and apply the calamity. If it is player specific, decide randomly among those that failed the roll. Roll 1d8

  1. Spoiled Supplies (Group): Poor storage, a dropped bag, freezing or scavenging animals – regardless, you have lost 2 days worth of rations (Players who failed a check mark these off first)
  2. Lost (Group): An outdated map, a wrong turn, perhaps you mistook some goat trail for the main road? Regardless , you waste time going the wrong way. Nature, History, and Dungeoneering checks for all player characters are made at a -2 during the next day
  3. Snow-Blind (Individual): Sunlight glinting off fresh fallen snow is hurting your eyes. You take a -2 penalty to perception checks and a -2 to initiative during the next day. This condition will not abate unless you spend a day doing something other than using perception checks to aid the group.
  4. Malaise (Group): Despite your relationship with your allies and your drive to succeed, the strain of travel and the constant cold have worn down your patience and caused irritability among your allies as well. All players take a -2 to any Aid Another attempts during the next day
  5. Fall Through The Ice (Individual): You are soaked in freezing water before being yanked out by your companions. Lose one Healing Surge. You do not gain the benefit of winter clothing for the day
  6. Twisted Ankle (Individual): All Primary Skill checks are made at a -2, with any Athletics, Acrobatics, or Stealth checks made at a -5 penalty until a Hard Heal check is made.
  7. Frostbite (Individual): Roll 1d4 – Odd: Your toes are freezing, and you are at -1 speed until you can spend an extended rest in a warm place. Even: Your off-hand is frozen and cannot be used until you can spend an extended rest in a warm place
  8. No Shelter (Group): Though sleep here is uneasy, a night in the open has left you even more worn than usual. All party members take a -2 to their Primary Skill checks during the next day.

Special Conditions
Cold Weather Clothing: Any character not adequately dressed for the cold takes a -2 penalty to their endurance check
Survivalist Tricks: Reward the players for bringing any of their own knowledge about arctic survival to the table, even if it may not directly apply to a skill. For example, if a player suggested using their 50 feet of hemp rope to tie the party together at the waists to prevent getting lost in storms or from falls, go ahead and reward Athletics rolls with a +2 bonus, or perhaps grant the player an automatic success for that day
Cold Resistance: Any player with a “resist cold” of 5 or more gains a +5 bonus to their endurance check.
Challenge Level: To make this journey even more grueling, consider setting the challenges level (And thus, the DCs) higher.

Skill Challenge Outline
One roll per player = 1 Day of travel
-Each player rolls a Primary Skill during their turn. Success – +2 to Endurance roll Failure: -2 Endurance roll and one roll on the disaster table
-Each player makes an endurance check at the end of the round (day) at the same time

Day 1 – No event
Day 2 – Combat
Day 3 – Storm
Day 4 – No event
Day 5 – No event
Day 6 – Final combat and arrival at destination

Combat Encounters
Day 2 Encounter

  • x4 Gray Wolves (Monster Manual pg. 264)
  • x1 Dire Wolf (Monster Manual pg. 264)

Day 6 Encounter

  • x1 Wraith (Monster Vault pg. 284)
  • x3 Ice Warrior Raiders (Dungeon Magazine 159)
  • x3 Ice Warrior Icicle Hurlers (Dungeon Magazine 159)

Quest Text
Day 2 – It is getting towards dark when you hear the first howls. They are close…too close. The wolves approach from all sides, encircling you and gazing down at you with intent eyes and snarling fangs. These creatures look gaunt and mangy. It has been a long while since they have eaten and the hunger has made them bold. Just then you hear the loud, menacing cry of the pack’s alpha. It’s not the hunger emboldening them. It’s their leader: a dire wolf.

Day 3 – The signs were there during the day and while you did what you could to prepare, short of arriving at your destination there was no adequate resolution. The storm starts off slowly with soft but intent snowfall. Then the winds pick up, getting hard and violent quickly before disgorging a torrent of snowfall. The cold bites hard into your body and every step is an ordeal. Your journey was arduous before but after this blizzard, you can expect to add a couple days to your journey given the hard going through such high snows.

Day 6 – Spirits are lifted as your destination comes into view. The road becomes even clearer through the snow, a further indication that you are on the right path. It will be miles yet before you are safe but the goal is near! Suddenly, shapes in the snow start to move. Clumps of ice begin to take on a humanoid shape, and three stocky figures swing what appear to be mauls made of solid ice and rock. As they approach you, you can hear a heart stopping shriek come from nowhere and everywhere. These ice warrior elementals aren’t the only thing attempting to ambush you.


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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Not Playtested, Skill Challenge


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