Expert DM Competition 34: Populate a Map -- Ruins of the Wild

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XDMC 34: Populate a Map: Ruins of the Wild!
Welcome to the thirty-fourth Expert Dungeon Master Competition! The primary purpose of the Expert Dungeon Master Competitions is threefold:

  • To create a resource for new Dungeon Masters drawing on the vast talent pool of the experienced Dungeon Masters of this forum.

  • To create a fun and vibrant competition that is sportsmanlike and friendly.

  • To showcase the creativity and talent of Dungeon Masters like you.


The best way to keep informed about the competition is to join the Expert Dungeon Master Competition group. There you can review the rules, archives, and future contest ideas, and get broadcasts telling you when new competitions begin and when results are released!
The topic for this competition is Ruins of the Wild.  Two maps have been created using the Ruins of the Wild set from the Dungeon Tile Mapper.  You must choose a map and create an exciting wilderness encounter to take place in that encounter space.

Required Elements


In order to enter this competition, your entry must fulfill the following required elements:

  • Moniker.  Name the entry.

  • Map. State which map your entry uses.

  • Mechanics. Describe all the mechanics needed for your entry.  If the mechanics for a creature, trap, terrain, or object are found in the Compendium or other official 4th edition release, you may instead cite its name and the title of the release in which it can be found.

  • Motivation. Explain why a party of heroes might arrive in this location.


If you fail to include a required element, you will receive a score of zero in Themes.

Optional Elements


Each entry must include three of the following optional elements:

  1. Borderland. The encounter area straddles a border between two or more hostile groups.

  2. City Slicker. One or more NPCs seem out of place in a non-urban setting.

  3. Extraplanar:  The encounter occurs on a plane other than the "World".

  4. Home Invasion:  At least one NPC lives in the encounter area as a primary residence.

  5. Irenic. The PCs are expected to resolve at least one objective that does not involve combat.

  6. Lure. One of the NPCs appears to be in distress in order to lure one or more PCs into a disadvantageous situation.

  7. Musical. PCs and/or NPCs can use nonmagical music to their advantage.

  8. Off-Road.  The PCs are not expected to enter the encounter area by road or stream.

  9. Quisling.  One or more hostile NPCs may ally with the PCs during and beyond the encounter.

  10. Reconnoiterable.  The PCs have the opportunity to gain tactical information about the encounter area  before they enter.

  11. Snaring:  At least one terrain element is not what it first appears.

  12. Tactful. The PCs can avoid combat through a Skill Challenge requiring at least one success on a Charisma-based Skill.

  13. Vehicular: All PCs, all NPCs or all characters start the encounter on vehicles, mounted, or are themselves mounts.

  14. Weather. The weather plays a significant factor in the encounter.

State what optional entries you intend to satisfy.  If you do not, you will only be credited with those optional elements the judges happen to notice.
Maps

Click on the Maps for larger Images



General Rules


Following are some general rules of the Expert DM Competition. The complete list of rules is in the Expert Dungeon Master Competition Group Wiki.

  • Code of Conduct. All entries must comply with the forum's Code of Conduct.

  • Contest Duration. Contests usually run for two weeks, beginning with the post announcing the competition. The Coordinator may extend the duration of the contest at his discretion after consulting the other judges for that competition. However, such extensions should be done very rarely.

  • Edits Made at Entrants' Own Risk. A judge may download your entry any time after it is submitted. So any edits you make might not be considered by a judge. For this reason, you should submit your entry in as complete a form as possible. Use the preview function liberally. Once winners have been announced, entrants may edit their entries.

  • Multiple Entries Prohibited. Each applicant may only submit one entry during the period in which entries may be submitted. Submitting multiple entries disqualifies all entries. Additional entries may be submitted after the competition closes, but they will not be judged.

  • Multi-Post Entries Prohibited. Each entry must be contained within a single post. The judges must ignore any subsequent posts.

  • Outside Materials Prohibited. Your entry may not include material hosted on a website other than wizards.com and community.wizards.com. Images from your profile gallery may be used. The judges must ignore material hosted on other websites.

  • Plagiarism and Peer Reviewing Prohibited. All entries must be the original, exclusive work of the applicant. Entries found to be copying the work of another, or that have been posted for review prior to the close of the competition, will be disqualified.


Judges and Schedule


The contest will run from today through Friday, February 3, 2012. All entries must be submitted no later than 12:00 midnight at the end of that day (Eastern Standard Time). The judges of this contest are geoffa, Koradzi and RogerC, and the coordinator of this contest is wrecan. Good luck and have fun!!
Questions and Answers

(questions posed by potential entrants and the coordinator's response)


Q. Can the entry have multiple encounters?

A. Yes.  However, one of those encounters must meet three optional elements.  You should also make it clear in your entry which encounter satisfies the optional elements.


Q.  How much leeway is there in interpreting the maps?

A.  As long as the tiles are a reasonable representation of the encounter(s) you describe in your entry, you should be fine.  The more your entry diverges from the images on the tiles, however, the more your Usability and Themes scores might suffer.

Medalists and Scores

We are pleased to announce the winners of Expert Dungeon Master Competition #34!


The bronze medal goes to...


Exultation
for
Giant's Gate


The silver medal goes to...


CALEBROBERTS
for
Corssing between the Winds


The gold medal goes to...


ClanBattlerage
for
Lost Treasure!

This means ClanBattlerage is our newest Paragon Dungeon Master!  No new judges this time around.  Congratulations to all the medalists and thanks to everyone who participated, especially our judges, Geoffa, Koradzi, and RogerC!


Stay tuned while we plan XDMC 35!  Also, please feel free to post productive and polite comments about one another's entries.  While we plan the next competition, enjoy the carefully tabulated scores below.





















































































No.CreativityUsabilityThemesClarityBonusTOTALEntrant’s Entry
110 1/311 2/37 2/3736 2/3Draidden's Stormy Night
21211 1/398 2/3142CALEBROBERTS' Crossing Between the Winds
31312 2/389143 2/3ClanBattlerage's Lost Treasure!
41110 2/36 1/37 1/335 1/3Seeker95's Witching Hour
512 1/311 1/38 1/37 1/3140 1/3Exultation's Giant's Gate
610 1/39 2/36 1/36 1/332 2/3Dulsi's Feeding Time
712 2/3116 1/3737Shaadow's Standing Room Only
Can we create a series of encounters that take place over time on the same map?  If so can we get credit for tactful if only one of them is avoidable with a skill challenge?  Can we get credit if weather effects only one of the encounters?

Mathius
Can we create a series of encounters that take place over time on the same map?  If so can we get credit for tactful if only one of them is avoidable with a skill challenge?  Can we get credit if weather effects only one of the encounters?

Mathius



The competition asks you to create one encounter.  You can create more, but one encounter has to meet three optional elements.  So you can't have three encounters in the encounter area, each of them meeting one area.

And you should probably make this all very clear to the judges in your entry. 
Does the encounter have to take place in a forest/grassland setting?  

Could I instead locate this in Dark Sun?  i.e. the grass becomes sand, the canal is dry, the trees are dead, etc?  Would I lose point going this route?
You must use the map tiles on the map you select.  You may dictate what those map tiles describe, but the more you diverge from the images on the tiles, the more your Usability and Themes scores might suffer.  However, you might make that up in Creativity, so, it's really your call.
. . . . .
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
Holy cow, this is still an ongoing tradition? This is Mythmere, I must have started this whole thing back in 2002 or thereabouts. According to the Wiki, Fixxxer handed it over after me -- is he still around on the boards?

Edit - I see on my profile that I didn't join until 2004, so it must have been then. I thought it was earlier, though.

Edit edit: they must have re-set the post counts and the dates joined. I certainly had more than 20 posts. Smile
Welcome back, Mythmere!  Yeah, this is an ongoing tradition!  Going strong and pretty much continuously since you started it way back when.  Sadly all of those original competitions got lost in one of the make server upgrades. 
Welcome back, Mythmere!  Yeah, this is an ongoing tradition!  Going strong and pretty much continuously since you started it way back when.  Sadly all of those original competitions got lost in one of the make server upgrades. 



That's a drag -- my copies also got lost in the computer crashes of years gone by. One of the crashes was a power surge that got through two surge protectors to fry the external drive that was supposed to be the backup.

It's good to be back - I play OD&D now, which is why I haven't visited here for a long time, but I'm keeping an eye on the 5th edition developments to see if it lives up to the advertising that it can be played "old school."

I hope it does.  If I make the switch to Next then I'd convert the comps to it too.  Would be great to have all the MDMC regulars join forces with the XDMC stalwarts in the next iteration of the competition (Champion DM Competition?  Immortal DM Competition?)!

Champion works because it follows the basic... expert... master... champion framework of old BEMCI D&D.

But I like "Immortal" because he can replace the heroic/paragon/epic titles with Demigod/Lesser Deity/Greater Deity and who wouldn't want to be a Greater God of DMing?
Well, it's been almost a week and no entries.  Are people interested in this or did Next kill the XDMCs?
I was planning on working on this over the weekend.
Wash: "Yeah well, if she doesn't give us some extra flow from the engine room to offset the burn through, this landing is gonna get pretty interesting." Mal: "Define interesting." Wash: "Oh god oh god we're all gonna die?" Mal: "This is the captain. We have a...little problem with our engine sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then...explode."
Yay!
Well, it's been almost a week and no entries.  Are people interested in this or did Next kill the XDMCs?




I think people are a bit...distracted. Still, I'll try to give you at least on entry, this weekend.

Been a while since I poted one of these, but here it is. Hope I remembered everything.

Stormy Night


Encounter Level 1 - 550 XP

Setup
4 Stormclaw Scorpions (100 XP each) (Monster Manual page 229)

It is dusk and the party has been traipsing cross country in an effort to reach a dry place to camp for the night. They have been walking through a light rain storm which has suddenly taken a turn for the worse. The rain is now coming down hard and making it difficult to see and there are flashes of lightning in the sky which are getting very close and seem to be hitting the ground every time and is getting closer. Through the flashes of lightning the party makes out what appears to be the ruins of a tower just ahead. If they hurry they can get out of this nasty storm.

Tactics
The party starts in the upper right hand corner where the green 1 - 5 icons are.

The scorpions were out playing in the storm when they spotted the party. They have each frozen and due to the heavy rain and distance from the party they appear to be small shrubs or piles of stones. They will remain motionless, holding their actions, until a party member gets within 3 squares of them. Then once one attacks, they will all move to attack. Any party member coming within 4 squares with a passive perception of 20 or higher or who makes a DC 20 perception check will notice that the scorpions are in fact scorpions.

Features of the Area
The Storm: This is a level three blaster hazard (150 XP). Every round on initiative 0, roll a d4 for each creature out in the storm. On a 4 a lightning bolt flashes down at that creature. Attack: +6 vs. Reflex, Hit: 1d10+3 lightning and target is knocked prone. Only the squares inside the tower are immune from these attacks.  The storm is a completely random happening caused by some other spellcasters magical experiments. It was not actually aimed at the group. It is just a case of the wrong place at the wrong time. An arcane check DC 20, as a free action before round 1 actions, will warn the group of this being a magical storm and give them 1 round of actions with no lightning strikes. In this case start the strikes at the end of round 2 instead of 1.

All terrain except for the road and the inside of the tower are considered difficult terrain.

The entire map has concealment due to the heavy rain. It is almost like a heavy fog.

The small river is very cold. Anyone who falls in loses 1 healing surge due to the shock. If they have no healing surge then they take 8 cold damage. The river can be crossed by either an acrobatics check DC 15 to cross the log or by an athletics check to jump the river as per the rules in the players handbook, but with a -2 penalty to the check due to the high winds and heavy rain. And of course a person could choose to just walk across. It is three feet deep due to the storm and of course is considered difficult terrain.

Optional Elements Used
Weather
Off Road
Snaring

Wash: "Yeah well, if she doesn't give us some extra flow from the engine room to offset the burn through, this landing is gonna get pretty interesting." Mal: "Define interesting." Wash: "Oh god oh god we're all gonna die?" Mal: "This is the captain. We have a...little problem with our engine sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then...explode."

Crossing Between the Winds - an encounter for 5 PCs of 5th to 8th level


Level 7 encounter – 1652 xp

[sblock Ruined Tower modified]IMAGE(http://i1127.photobucket.com/albums/l639/HobbesIris/tower-map.png)[/sblock]
[sblock Competition Criteria]Required Elements



  1. Moniker: Crossing Between the Winds

  2. Map: see spoiler above

  3. Mechanics: included throughout the entry

  4. Motivation: see "Encounter Background"

Optional Elements

  1. Extraplanar: the PCs are whisked away by the unstable nature of the crossing

  2. Home Invasion: the PCs unknowingly invade the Eladrin's closely guarded home plane and further more the actuall home of all the enemies involved.

  3. Snaring: the tall grasses are actually a dangerous hazard

[/sblock]

Encounter Background 


The party is most likely to come upon the ruined tower during a period of overland travel.  Further more, it is likely that they are at the point in their travel where they are furthest from any significant location of civilization.  They could stumble on the location while lost in the desert or they could be trying to take a shortcut to save some time.


Nights are cold in the deserts of Athas and any shelter is welcome.  An hour or so before dusk the weary travellers stumble upon the decaying ruins of an ancient circular stone building.  A silt filled channel runs south from some nearby rocky hills then takes a westerly bend around the tower.  Another silt-filled depression lurks just to the north of the tower.


If the party examines the silt they find that it is 4 feet deep at the most and that both the channel and depression are lined with stone at the bottom.

The graves on the map are just hard raised lumps with rocks marking the head.  There is no inscriptions or decoration and the PCs may not even realize they are graves.


The stairwell in the tower is completely filled with silt.  Anyone examining it with a pole or other similar object can tell that a stone staircase is buried under the silt with a DC 12 Perception check.  If they prod the stairwell for any significant amount of time they can tell that it leads to a silt filled room that takes up at least some space under the tower.  Examination of the floor around the tower reveals odd small holes in the stone near to the hole.  The holes are stained dark reddish brown, which most characters would likely know as a rust stain.  A DC 15 Insight check reveals that the holes seem to be consistent with the pattern that might be used to fix hinges in place for a door.


There are no threats and the tower ruins make for good shelter and a defensible campsite.  The party can get an excellent night’s sleep and will be undisturbed during the night.  Any watch posted will note that just before first light a stiff wind picks up blowing to the east.  A nature check of DC 15 or Insight of DC 19 makes the character performing the check aware that this is a very odd direction for the wind to blow in this area.


Any characters that are within 100 feet of the tower when the first light of the sun can be seen are immediately shifted to the Feywild.  All characters with training in arcana are aware that they have shifted to somewhere else but they cannot figure out where or when they have gone to.

If the party has an Eladrin with them, that character will know that they have crossed to the Feywild through a natural, unstable crossing. 



Encounter Setup:


The initial moments of the encounter will depend greatly on where the characters are when they are shifted to the Feywild however one constant will always be there.  The land that the sun finally lights up is as different from the burnt Athas the PCs know as cold night is from blazing day.  All around them the world is lush and green.  Water flows in the stone lined canal that was filled with silt before and the small depression is now a pond with a bank of cattails growing in it.  There are even palm like trees shading the grounds.  The tower is intact.  It has one story above ground and a basement.  Several windows pierce the wall allowing the Warriors to see the party immediately.  A palm frond roof caps it.  All the squares marked as Sword Grass should be described as tall, stiff grasses with broad leaves for a grass.  It would be paradise except for the inhabitants, the razor sharp grasses, and the large pile of dessicated corpses.



Enemies:

The Eladrin are stationed here permenantly to guard this particular crossing between the natural world and what is left of their plane.  The Adept and the warriors, like most other of their kind, are teetering on the verge of maddness while the Windwalkers have fully crossed the threshold into insanity.

1 Eladrin Mirage Adept – Level 7 – 300 xp – (Dark Sun Creature Catalog, pg 43)
2 Eladrin Veiled Warriors – Level 5 – 200 xp each – (Dark Sun Creature Catalog, pg 42)
1 Eladrin Windwalker – Level 8 – 350 xp – (Dark Sun Creature Catalog, pg 43)
4 Eladrin Windwalker Mirages – Level 8 – 88 xp each (see modified creature below, DSCC pg 43)
[sblock Modified Mirage]IMAGE(http://i1127.photobucket.com/albums/l639/HobbesIris/Eladrin-Windwalker-Mirage.png)[/sblock]

Encounter Features:

Lighting: Low or Bright light depending on the DM's needs

Sword Grass: Level 6 Hazard - 250 xp - Hazardous squares outlined in red.
[sblock Sword Grass]IMAGE(http://i1127.photobucket.com/albums/l639/HobbesIris/Sword-Grass-1.png)[/sblock]

Water channel, pond: 4 feet deep, difficult terrain

Corpse pile: difficult terrain, provides cover.  The corpses are mostly dry and brittle.  If stepped on the bones crunch and snap but nothing happens mechanically.  They are simply the remains of thos travellers and adventurers that have had the same misfortunte as the PCs to spend the night in the ruins.

Trees: provides cover, trunk square is blocking terrain

Rocks: difficult terrain, provides cover

Rotten Wagon: difficult terrain, no cover

Doors: unlocked, open outward

Stairs: coverd by a door, opens upward, locked (Theivery DC 15)


Combat:

One of two situations is likely to occur.  In any situation all the monsters fight to the death.

NOTE: If the party has an Eladrin with them, that PC will be preferentially attacked first by the Adept and the Windwalker because it will be seen as a traitor to is people that has brought invaders.

1) The PCs arrived in the Feywild outside of the tower.

If this is the case then the Veiled warriors inside the tower immediately move outside and attack.  Most likely they will use their Veiling Dart attack to incapacitate the most melee capable PCs.  Their second option would be to go for any arcane powered PCs.  On their next turn they charge any blinded PCs.  They generally attempt to keep a target one square away with the reach of their longspears unless they can provide flanking to one of the Mirages.

The Mirage Adept attempts to take cover behind the trees.  It uses Deluding Whispers to slide the PCs into compromised situations.  It also tries to clump up as many targets as possible for its Phantom Foes attack.  It uses this spell at the earliest opportunity in which it can catch 3 or more targets.

The Windwalker begins combat hidden behind trees, Perception DC 24 to spot.  If the Windwalker can attack an adjacent PC without moving it will, otherwise it uses its blowgun then Fey Steps to more cover to gain invisibility.  If the battle is taking many rounds the Windwalker will alternate between rounds of attacking and rounds becoming invisible.  Otherwise it will try its best to hide in order to gain its damage bonus.

The Mirages begin combat hidden among the corpses, Perception DC 24 to spot.  They immediatly attempt to swarm the closest PC, always manuvering for combat advantage with any ally.  They are unconcerened with opportunity attacks do to their damage resistance.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2) Some or All of the PCs arrived in the Feywild inside the tower.

The Veiled Warriors move to block/open the door.  If they have the opportunity to use their Veiling Dart attack they will.  Otherwise they move into melee, trying to use their polearm's reach.  They shout loudly for their allies outside.  Once their allies arrive the Warriors move just outside the door to try and contain the PC's while still giving space for their allies to fire in.

The Mirage adept heads for the tower as soon as it hears the shouts of its allies.  Once it opens the door it uses Phantom Foes.  It then stays as far away as it can while still being able to target PCs not in cover.  If any PCs get out of the tower it tries to slide them back in or near.

The Windwalker is content to find a nice hiding spot and fire its blowgun for large damage.

The Mirages quickly phase through the tower's walls and attack the PCs from the rear.  As in the other scenario they continually maneuver for combat advantage. 


Aftermath
:

The Eladrin all fight to the death, even going as far as to fall on their blade rather then be captured by non-fey.  Because they are insane or almost there interrogation will gain the PCs no useful information.  The DM should feel free to makeup random explatives or give missinformation of how to get back to the Natural World.

The crossing does not work the same in reverse though the PCs may try and spend the night here to return to their plane.  This location can however be used in conjunction with an appropriate planar travel ritual such as "Fey Passage" (Manual of the Planes, pg 150).

The basement door can be easily overcome by simply bashing in the lock or the door itself.  The basement holds a massive amount of food and water stores.  There is also a good deal of mundane gear as well.  The enemies have one parcel on them, most likely a magical item of some sort.

Additional Eladrin will not arrive for several days, if not weeks.  This location could become a short-term base for exploration if the PC's wish.
Yay!  We have entries!
Bump!
Two unexpected (but not at all unwelcomed) contracts have me a bit too buried to complete an entry.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
Well, it's been almost a week and no entries.  Are people interested in this or did Next kill the XDMCs?

Forgive me Wrecan, for I have sinned.  It has been 3 XDMCs since I've last participated and I'd actually forgotten that this was going on.

Rest assured that my somewhat questionable submission shall be posted in the near future. 

Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding
Quick questions about the map(s):

Map #1:
- Is that a door in the hillside @ Q12?
- Is there a general elevation change along column 12?  The "stairs" on the road (I12-13, J12-13) seem to indicate a rise or fall.

Map #2:
- Is that a statue @ G15 or just general rubble?
- Can you describe what was intended @ I6/J6?  It looks like a really big tombstone...?  In other words, was it intended to be blocking terrain?
Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding
Map #1:- Is that a door in the hillside @ Q12?
Yes.

Map #1: - Is there a general elevation change along column 12? 
That's entirely up to you.

Map #2: - Is that a statue @ G15 or just general rubble?
That is a statue

Map #2: - Can you describe what was intended @ I6/J6?  It looks like a really big tombstone...? 
I6-J6 is a puddle of mud.  I5-J5 is pebbles and sticks.  Whether either counts as hindering/blocking/difficult terrain is up to you.

Okay, last question.   



  • Reconnoiterable.  The PCs have the opportunity to gain tactical information about the encounter area  before they enter.


Is "encounter area" defined as the map itself, or a smaller area of the map where the action takes place?

Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding
Okay, last question.   



  • Reconnoiterable.  The PCs have the opportunity to gain tactical information about the encounter area  before they enter.


Is "encounter area" defined as the map itself, or a smaller area of the map where the action takes place?



The encouner area is the area described by the map.
Please note: There was an error in one of the optional elements.  I have deleted "are of a race that" from the City Slicker optional element.  It should not affect any previous entries, but makes the element easier to meet for any future entries.  We apologize for the error. 
FYI: There's one week left and we need at least four entries to have the contest!
At least this way, I would be guaranteed to at least get 2nd place. ;)
Wash: "Yeah well, if she doesn't give us some extra flow from the engine room to offset the burn through, this landing is gonna get pretty interesting." Mal: "Define interesting." Wash: "Oh god oh god we're all gonna die?" Mal: "This is the captain. We have a...little problem with our engine sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then...explode."
FYI: There's one week left and we need at least four entries to have the contest!

I met my deadline rush and have things under control. Now let's see if I can get my idea on paper/pixel.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.

Map #1: Lost Treasure! - Encounter for 5 PCs of Level 2-3:


Mechanics:


Reaper Blossom Cluster
Wraith Figment (x4)
Young Owlbear
Human Guard
Common Bandit (x4)


Motivation (Any of the following would work):



  • PCs are on their way from point A to point B and stumble across the encounter.

  • PCs received a tip from a local informant that a band of mercenaries was recently hired by a young noble under suspicious circumstances. They headed to the noble's land with haste.

  • The PCs learned about the location of the treasure vault via other research into the region's history (maybe as a treasure map from a previous encounter?).

  • A rival noble found out about the mercenaries' hiring by Toryn and is concerned about his motives. The noble hires the PCs to check on the young man's intentions.


Background:


Toryn Neril is a young minor noble whose father died recently and left him his family title and lands. Unfortunately, Toryn is in major financial straits. He has seriously depleted his family's treasury while trying to impress the other nobles and now finds himself desperately in need of money. While speaking with his treasurer about the problem, the treasurer makes a passing comment about a lost treasure vault located somewhere on the family's lands. Intrigued, Toryn spends a fair amount of time and money researching the family archives and discovers a letter written by his great-grandfather to his grandfather concerning this vault. It is reportedly well-guarded. Also, only the Neril family signet will grant the bearer passage through the magically sealed door. Thus armed, Toryn heads off with 4 trusted guards.

They spot the door to the vault embedded in the side of a small hill, shrouded in beautiful black, white, and grey roses. However, they had barely gotten within throwing distance of the vault when the roses disappeared into the ground, and erupted in the midst of the group! The tendrils thrashed about, knocking Toryn back and grasping some of the guards. Toryn shouted a warning and ducked behind a tree. The guards held their own against the vicious vines...until a screech pierced the air which heralded the arrival of an owlbear! The beast must have been nesting in the broken tower to the west and been awakened by the combat! Soon, the guards were beset on all sides and the vines were engaged not only with the humans, but the owlbear as well. Toryn decided that retreat was better than death, so he ran to his mount and headed back to his home.

He spent several days and nights pondering his situation and, as all good nobles do, came up with a devious, yet workable plan to retrieve his treasure. He covertly enlisted some mercenaries and told them that he needed their services to rid his land of two monstrous creatures. He told them about the roses and the owlbear. The mercenary leader demanded 500gp for their services, and Toryn agreed. However, Toryn did NOT tell the mercs about the treasure cache. Before they headed out that afternoon, Toryn sent a sealed letter to the local constable (he was boyhood friends with the man) with instructions NOT to open it until the following morning. The letter details what Toryn was doing and if he did not return by morning to retrieve the letter, the constable should search near the vault for his body and arrest the mercenaries for murder if they're still alive.

When the PCs stumble upon the scene, they enter the map along the north edge, to the west of the river (A1-9). They will find Toryn and the four mercenaries (Common Bandits) and their leader (Human Guard) camped to the northeast of the vault (anywhere within the area of A15 and F22). Around the vault door (area P11 to R22) roam 4 Wraith Figments (the dead guards). The roses (Reaper Blossom) grow at Q11/12, R11/12 on top of the door. The young owlbear (hidden for now) is in the cellar of the ruined tower to the west (L2). Do not place the owlbear until it appears.

Encounter Start:


The beginning of the encounter is a skill challenge (6 successes before 3 failures). There are 3 stages to the SC, each stage having either 2 successes or 1 failure before moving to the next.


DM's discretion: At any time during the skills challenge, if the actual dialog between the players becomes heated and/or loud, roll 1d20 to see if the commotion has awakened the owlbear. This would be especially effective in Stage 2, after the PCs have become aware of the situation. Whether you choose to play the owlbear at this point or not is up to you; the roll alone should be enough to amp up the tension of the encounter.


Stage 1: "BE QUIET!":


As soon as he spots the PCs, Toryn begins jumping up and down, waving his arms to get their attention. He then begins pantomiming that they should BE QUIET and approach him.


Skills required here are:



  • Insight (Mod DC): to determine if they can understand his meaning before they make too much noise (Success)

  • Acrobatics (Mod DC): to leap over the stream successfully and quietly (at least half of those attempting must succeed)

  • Athletics (Easy DC): to be able to ford the stream without making undo noise or falling in (at least half of those attempting must succeed)


2 successes here means the party has forded the stream and approached the noble quietly enough to not rouse the owlbear.

Failure indicates that the PCs don't understand and make a lot of noise. Roll 1d20. On 1-5, the owlbear awakens and arrives two turns later.


Stage 2: "Move along...nothing to see here"


Once they've joined the merc group and Toryn, he explains that they must be quiet or they'll rouse the sleeping owlbear in the tower. He sternly tells them that they are trespassing on his land and that they need to leave, to the north or east, promptly. If the PCs press him with questions, he begins to get agitated, which he attributes to not wanting the owlbear awoken. He doesn't want their help and just wants them to LEAVE. The mercs simply play the part of loyal guards and don't interact with the PCs at this stage.


Skills required here are:



  • Insight (Mod DC): To determine that there's something else going on (Success).

  • Diplomacy (Mod DC): To convince Toryn that the PCs can help him (Success).

  • Intimidation (Hard DC): To back Toryn down. "We'll go where we WANT to go, and you can't stop us." (Success).

  • Perception (Mod DC): To notice the unusual roses growing around the vault door to the south. (Opens up Nature/Arcana checks below)

  • Nature (Mod DC): To notice that the roses to the south are not natural (+2 to next Insight check).

  • Arcana (Mod DC): To identify the roses as a Reaper Blossom (+2 to next Insight check).


2 successes here indicates that the noble has failed at trying to bluff the PCs into thinking that his group is only there to deal with the owlbear, and that there's something else interesting going on.

Failure here indicates that the noble has actually tipped off the mercs that there's more going on than they've been told about. They get rather rowdy about it and make some serious noise. Roll 1d20. On 1-10, the owlbear awakens and arrives two turns later.


Stage 3: "Okay, we can work together"


Once this stage is reached, Toryn realizes that his game has turned for the worse and he has to decide how to handle it. He will reiterate that yes, the roses to the south are dangerous and that he needs them removed, in addition to the owlbear. If anyone asks about the vault door, he lies and says that it's a family crypt where his grandfather was interred and he wants to be able to visit the old man's bones. He proposes that both groups work together to eliminate the threat, and offers to split the 500gp between the groups. This will not go over well with the merc leader.


If the no one has pointed out how ridiculously dangerous owlbears and reaper blossoms are, then the mercs will take offense and threaten to rouse the owlbear and leave altogether. If the dangers ahead have been pointed out (by the PCs), the mercs will agree to still help, but will demand double their fee (1000gp) because of the danger. The PCs can attempt to negotiate as well.


Skills required here are:



  • Diplomacy vs. Merc leader (Hard DC): Convince the merc leader to stay and accept his normal fee. +2 to this roll if the danger posed by the two monsters is made clear to him. (Success)

  • Diplomacy vs. Merc leader (Mod DC): Convince the merc leader that they should leave quietly and take a token fee (50gp) for his trouble. The PCs will then handle the situation. (Success)

  • Diplomacy vs. Toryn (Hard DC): Convince Toryn to pay both the mercs and the PCs for their help. Toryn is resistant to this approach due to his lack of funds and the potential of there being nothing in the vault. (Success)

  • Insight vs. Merc leader (Mod DC): Determine that the merc leader thinks he's in over his head, but he doesn't want to lose face to the PCs or Toryn. (+2 next Diplomacy check vs. Merc leader)

  • Insight vs. Toryn (Mod DC): Determine that there's still more to what's going on beyond clearing monsters from the land. (Success)

  • Intimidate vs. Merc leader (auto fail): Trying to strongarm the merc leader causes him to immediately take up arms against the PCs. (Failure)

  • Intimidate vs. Toryn (Mod DC): Demand that Toryn compensate the PCs seperately for their assistance. (Success)

  • Nature/Arcana (Mod DC): Remember information regarding owlbears/reaper blossoms that implies that the two groups really should work together to succeed. (+2 next Diplomacy check to either side)


2 successes at stage 3 indicates that the mercs have been convinced that they should either leave peacefully and without incident, or help with the ensuing combat. In addition, the PCs may have figured out that there's more to what's going on than just removing monsters.

Failure at stage 3 indicates that the mercs are seriously miffed about being lied to and deduce that there's something behind the door that Toryn really wants. They immediately abduct him and then threaten to kill him unless the PCs deal with the owlbear and the reaper blossom in their stead.


If the SC is a failure, then the arguing has successfully roused the owlbear, which immediately makes an appearance and attacks.


If the SC succeeds, then Toryn will give in and tell everyone about the vault, its supposed contents, and his monetary situation. He will offer to split the find 50/25/25 with the groups if they help eliminate the threats. He is proud, but defeated. The mercs will take that offer, but if the PCs refuse or attempt to negotiate further, Toryn will call the entire endeavor off and return back to town to rouse the militia to deal with the owlbear, etc.


If the mercs or PCs threaten to kill Toryn, he will inform them of his ace-in-the-hole: the letter he sent to the constable. If he doesn't return (alone) by morning to retrieve it, he will be searched for and the mercs will be blamed for his death.


Combat tactics:


Toryn: Toryn will attempt to avoid the combat at all costs by hiding behind rocks and/or trees. If he is attacked by the reaper blossom, he will cry out for aid and try to save himself. If the owlbear attacks him, he will run away as fast as possible. If he is captured by a merc, he will not resist. Use the stats for a Human Bandit, but Toryn doesn't fight.


Mercs: The mercs will take up defensive positions against the owlbear's rush and attack it with flanking if possible. Otherwise, the mercs will attack the greatest threat. If bloodied, they will attempt to retreat if it is safe, or fight to the death if cornered. If 3/4 of the mercs are killed, or the leader, the rest run. If the reaper blossom and owlbear attack each other, the mercs will gang-attack whichever seems weakest. If the PCs failed at stage 3, the mercs will instead attack the PCs, using gang tactics to take down the strongest-looking members first.


Owlbear: The owlbear will appear at the top of the stairs in the tower and move at top speed to engage the closest enemy. The owlbear will attack the nearest creature, or the one which has most recently hurt it the most. The owlbear is aware of the reaper blossom and actively avoids it if possible. It will attack the blossom if the owlbear gets attacked by it first though. It fights until destroyed or until there are no enemies within range of a charge.


Reaper Blossom: The reaper blossom will sense the arrival of the owlbear and will burrow up near the road on its turn (Hidden Roots power). It will then have every creature in the combat within range of its attacks and will attack with abandon. It attacks the nearest creature, or group of creatures. It will attack groups first if there are 3 or more creatures in range. It fights until destroyed or until there are no enemies within range.


Wraith Figment: The wraith figments attack any creature currently attacking the reaper blossom. When the blossom moves, they follow it and attack any enemy nearby. Otherwise, they attack the closest creature.


The "treasure" inside the vault is left to the DM's discretion. If there's treasure, it should be a substantial amount (3-4 parcel's worth) of gold, jewelry, artwork, etc. and some magic items. Alternately, the DM could make it an empty tomb, making for some interesting roleplaying with the mercs and PCs (and the noble's future in the adventure). If there's a scant amount of treasure, the mercs would demand at least 500gp worth if available. Otherwise, they'll become hostile towards Toryn.


Roleplaying/Further Adventure Notes:



  • This encounter is deliberately built to be difficult for the PCs.  It is designed to encourage them to work with the mercenaries as allies if possible, though they could easily be used as cannon fodder for the monsters.  

  • Note that the PCs are not involved with the letter situation and could theoretically use it to play both sides against the middle.

  • If Toryn feels cheated or things otherwise don't go his way, he could run from the battle and "disappear" for a few days, prompting the constable to blame the mercs (and the PCs by extension) for the noble's disappearance. Toryn could then reappear at a convenient time and get the PCs off the hook (for the price of a favor, of course).

  • The mercenaries involved here are a smaller contingient of a larger group.  If the mercs survive the fight, they might develop harsh feelings for Toryn and cause trouble in the future for him and/or the region.

  • If the PCs fight the mercs and some mercs escape, the PCs could be branded as bandits and become wanted men and women in the region.

  • If the PCs win the fight, but attempt to extort Toryn for more treasure than was agreed upon, he may initially agree, but then go to the constable and report the PCs as thieves.


Optional Elements:


City Slicker: One or more NPCs seem out of place in a non-urban setting.
- Toryn is dressed like a dandy in his court finery.


Home Invasion: At least one NPC lives in the encounter area as a primary residence.
- The owlbear has taken up residence in the broken tower.


Quisling: One or more hostile NPCs may ally with the PCs during and beyond the encounter.
- The mercs are not happy about the PCs' presence and could turn hostile before the encounter starts (or possibly during it).


Reconnoiterable: The PCs have the opportunity to gain tactical information about the encounter area before they enter.
- Depending on how the PCs became aware of the situation, they could scout out the landscape, check local rumors, search maps of the area, etc.


Snaring: At least one terrain element is not what it first appears.
- The Reaper Blossom appears to be just wildly growing roses which have obscured the vault door.


Off-Road?: The PCs are not expected to enter the encounter area by road or stream.
- The PCs are assumed to arrive from the north, though I suppose this isn't "required".


Irenic?: The PCs are expected to resolve at least one objective that does not involve combat.
- Through the skill challenge, the PCs can learn that there is more to this situation than simply killing monsters. Failure at the challenge will prevent them from learning about the vault.


Tactful?: The PCs can avoid combat through a Skill Challenge requiring at least one success on a Charisma-based Skill.
- By succeeding in the skills challenge, the PCs can choose when and if they should engage the monsters in this encounter or not.  Failing at the skills challenge automatically initiates the combat.

Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding
The list is updated!
FYI: There's one week left and we need at least four entries to have the contest!



Keep 'em coming!  Just because I'm a teacher in real life doesn't mean I'm going to go all red pen crazy on your XDMC entry.  I'm really a pretty nice guy unless you sleep through 8am Calculus too many times.
I heard that they are making a new video game, where you control the Netherese flying citadel of Sakkors, raining death on your helpless enemies below. Working title: Mythal Command.
FYI: There's one week left and we need at least four entries to have the contest!



Keep 'em coming!  Just because I'm a teacher in real life doesn't mean I'm going to go all red pen crazy on your XDMC entry.  I'm really a pretty nice guy unless you sleep through 8am Calculus too many times.

I slept through my 7am Calc I class back in 1992.  Does that count?
Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding
Sigh... I don't actually know about the 4th edition (my group prefers does Pathfinder and 3.5; and we're actually eager to try Legend!) so I'll have to skip this one... oh the sadness!
I never understood why someone at the Paizo forums never started their own version of the DM Competitions, especially after the 3rd edition version died on these forums.
They've got their RPG Superstar thing.  Maybe they felt it was redundant?  
Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding
I guess.  But that's a four-month contest.  Once you're eliminated, that's the end of it.  And it's a once a year thing, isn't it?
Time is running out and we still don't have enough entries to have the contest!  Get those last minute entries in!
C'mon folks.  This contest really isn't that hard to do!  We DM's make encounters all the time!  What's one more to make?
Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding
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