Steal This Encounter

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I'm planning on using this thread to post encounters that I've used in the past and that I hope others will use in the future. I'll try to keep them fairly generic so that they can be plugged into any campaign at appropriate levels. Unless otherwise mentioned, all are built for use against five PCs, and use the default 4E Points of Light setting (which is pretty generic itself). Hope these prove to be some use, and your players enjoy them.

EDIT:  Adding a table of contents thing, per request.  Hope it helps, as this thread sprawls ever-larger.

Heroic Tier Encounters

Girls You Wouldn't Take Home To Mother Level 7
Fancy Meeting You Here Level 8
Enter the Dragon Level 9
On the Woad Level 9
Bully For You! Four linked encounters, ranging from levels 1 through 4, intended as a good day's work
Strange Appetites Four themed encounters, ranging from levels 6 through 9
A Hard Night's Work Four linked encounters, roughly level 3, connects well with Thin Ice and Where's My Dog?
Thin Ice Level 2, connects well with A Hard Night's Work and Where's My Dog?
Where's My Dog? and others Five connected low heroic encounters, tie in with A Hard Night's Work and Thin Ice
Can't Find My Keys Four linked encunters, levels 1 and 2, could work well as the day after Bully For You!
That's A Big Lizard Level 8, ties in with No, A Really Big Lizard! in the paragon encounters
Shell Game Level 6+
Down In the Mud Level 6 for a 3-man group, by request
Bodyguard Gig Level 5 for a 3-man group, by request
Dem Bones, Dem Bones Our first encounter by someone other than Rovin, Jurph has given us one suitable for level 2 or 3

Paragon Tier Encounters

Hole of the Problem Level 16
Mystery Spot Level 11
A Day At the Beach Level 18
Burning Skies Level 19+, includes suggestions for fixing the MM1 Phoenix
Doing Some Gardening Level 16
God of Carrion Level 14
Curtains for You Level 14
No, A Really Big Lizard! Level 11
Slaad Portal Level 19
Balancing Act Level 19
Summoning the Queen of Greed Level 18+ to 21-22, depending on ritual status
Danger!  Falling Rocks! Level 15, first of a series of four linked encounters 
More Rocks, Still Falling Level 15, part two of four
Spectral Legions Level 15, part three of four
Shardstorm Rune Level 15, part four of four
The Encounter Without A Snappy Title Level 20, indoor encounter with a slight Vecna/Kyuss theme

Epic Tier Encounters

Marut Persecutor Is More Like It Level 23
I Don't Think An Umbrella's Going To Help Level 23
Monsters Can Stack Save Penalties Too Level 31
You May Experience A Burning Sensation Level 29+ (up to 38 if things go badly)
Amoth Must Live Level 33-34, includes three demon lords and a deity
Deathmask Den Level 24
Legions of the Dead Level 22, per request, series of three wave attacks per DMG2 guidelines.  Very long, untested, several custom monsters.
Five Heads Are Better Than One  Level 28, features a solo and some friends, intended as an N+2 for a level 26 5-man party

This is the first in a series of three loosely connected combat encounters, designed to be scattered over the course of one or two levels. They make effective short breaks from ongoing campaign action, and could be used singly if desired or even tied into a larger story arc. Each encounter features a pair of Human Nobles (MM2) as recurring villains.

Girls You Wouldn't Take Home To Mother

The Hook:

The party is contacted by a wealthy patron (preferably an aristocrat) who is willing to pay them (cash, favors, whatever fits your campaign) to do a small job for them. He has two young relatives, twins, who have recently developed some very bad habits. Specifically, they've become romantically involved with two women who the patron describes as "tarts" and "tramps" and worse. While the lads (as he puts it) have always been a bit rakehelly, since acquiring the new girlfriends, they've become involved in all sorts of sordid and shameless affairs, and have even been seen associating with known criminals and other riff-raff. They refuse to listen to reason and have taken up residence in a rented pleasure villa nearby. Fortunately, the patron is their guardian, and can legally authorize the PCs to "recover" the wayward youths and return them to his home, seperating them from their hangers-on by force if need be. He stresses the fact that the boys aren't to be seriously injured, although a "good drubbing" would doubtless improve their character if it comes to a fight. If the PCs kill either of them (difficult to do accidentally in 4E) they better not come back.

Assuming the PCs accept, they should be able to locate the villa easily enough, whereupon they discover a few complications. Notably, the boys seem positively entranced by their girlfriends, who absolutely refuse to give them up. And the girls have a "minder" with a rather large ax and a bad attitude. A fight ensues, in which the young ladies' true colors are revealed.


As presented, any indoor terrain will do. Lay out a small building with several rooms and scatter suitable furniture about as obstacles. Alternately, you could have the PCs catch the group in the streets and run this as an outdoor urban encounter. Heck, you could even raid them while they're out on a picnic in the countryside, if your tile sets lean toward the great outdoors.


2 x Human Nobles (MM2, level 5 Controller) - these are the twins
2 x Succubus (MM1, level 9 Controller) - the girlfriends
1 x Half-Orc Scarthane (MM2, level 7 Brute) - the minder
Level 7 encounter, 1500 XP


The Succubi each have one Noble under the effects of Charming Kiss (and then some), and will remain adjacent to their beau at all times. They ignore potential OAs (which will likely hit the Nobles instead) and focus on dominating PCs at every opportunity, hissing arcane syllables as they do so. They maintain their human guise until one becomes bloodied, at which point they reveal themselves in an attempt to frighten the PCs off. Like most PCs are going to run from devil women in sexy underwear. They attempt to flee if they're the last ones standing.

The Nobles are apparently brainwashed dupes who do whatever the Succubi want, while maintaining a certain air of snobbish superiority that should make the players quite happy to thrash them. They use Inspirational Authority to let the Succubi use domination twice each for the first round, then use Appoint Champion to spur the Scarthane into making extra attacks. If the Scarthane drops, they might even draw their swords. If any monster becomes bloodied, they spend the next two rounds alternately using Urge Hesitation (aka whining like brats) to defend themselves. They don't even blink if the Succubi reveal themselves as devils, but they will surrender if they're the last ones standing.

The Scarthane hits things with his axe, concentrating on bloodied targets for healing. He knows the girls are devils, happily fights to the death, and has a diabolic cult tattoo that will be found if his body is searched.


Assuming the party wins, they can return the twins to their patron without further difficulty. Both of them claim to have known nothing about any diabolic connections, and they'll appear to have been mind-controlled since first meeting the girls. No evidence to the contrary can be found, and (unless you prefer otherwise) the Scarthane and Succubi appear to have been working alone. At any rate, the twins are happy to return home and promise to behave better in the future.
And here's the second encounter with the twins, which should be staged anywhere from a few days to a few months after the first.

Fancy Meeting You Here

The Hook:

Once again, the party's wealthy patron wants them to locate and retrieve his young relatives. They left his home only a day ago, taking a fair sum of money from the estate's coffers without bothering to ask permission. The patron doesn't know why they departed or why they "borrowed" (his term for it) the money without asking, but he would like them hauled back at once, preferably without involving the local authorities or further besmirching the family name. He offers the PCs the full sum of the money that was, ah, borrowed if they'll return the lads reasonably intact. Once again, a restrained beating is good for the soul, but maiming or killing them is right out.

The party should be able to track them down with some time and a skill check or three. If you want to get fancy (and hand out more XP) you could make up a proper skill challenge, but it's not strictly needed. After a day or two of hunting, they trace the twins to a seedy warehouse in the poor part of town. Entering the place, the PCs are surprised to find not just the lads and some scarred and sinister-looking criminal types, but the patron who hired the party as well.

The twins have, in fact, decided to kill the patron so as to inherit from him, and have just hired a Doppleganger Assassin from the local assassin's guild to do the job. The party has walked in on the end of the hiring negotiations, although they'll miss any truly incriminating conversation. The Doppleganger (who currently looks and sounds just like their patron) will undoubtedly trigger some confused conversation which leads to the assassins deciding that the PCs need to be disposed of before the main contract is executed.


Another indoor fight, this time in a large but run-down two-story warehouse. Break the space up with some crates and barrels and the like, and feel free to have catwalks, ladders, and piles of junk for the more 3D oriented characters to play around with. Alternately, you could run the fight in the streets, perhaps in a maze of winding alleys. There shouldn't be any bystanders hovering about, as the assassins really like their privacy.


2 x Half-Elf Bandit Captains (MM2, level 6 Skirmishers) - mid-ranking guild cutthroats
1 x Human Pirate Captain (MM2, level 10 Soldier) - a high-ranking assassin
1 x Doppleganger Assassin (MM1, level 8 Lurker) - shapechanged into the spitting image of the party patron
2 x Human Nobles (MM2, level 5 Controller) - these are the twins
Level 8 encounter, 1750 XP


The Doppleganger will maintain its disguise and try to Bluff the characters into letting it and its allies maneuver to flank them. Unfortunately, it doesn't know the PCs or why they're there, and its lies should fall apart pretty quickly, giving any Insight checks a +5 bonus. It definitely wants the PCs dead, now, before they can talk to anyone, and once the fight breaks out it will attempt to attack with CA wherever possible, preferably tag-teaming one PC with an ally or three. The Doppleganger is a bit of a fanatic and will grimly fight to the death.

The various Captains will be less talkative, although they'll try to support whatever line of guff the Doppleganger adopts. In a fight, they'll also concentrate on getting CA, mostly via flanking. None of them are particularly fond of being killed, and if two or more allies are taken out of the fight or surender, they'll try to run if they become bloodied. The Pirate Captain will reserve his climbing tricks for a surprise exit unless a really good opportunity to use it earlier comes up.

The Human Nobles will use Inspire Authority on the Half-Elves' recharge powers, and Appoint Champion to help the Doppleganger to move into flanking positions and get extra strikes. If either they or the Doppleganger become bloodied, they'll spend the next two turns alternating Urge Hesitation to disrupt the party's attacks. If the Doppleganger dies or is otherwise revealed as being a shapechanger, they'll immediately surrender with cries of shock and horror at having been so cruely deceived.


Assuming the party wins, the twins will claim that they were tricked by the Doppleganger and that everything they've done was at its behest. The shapechanger claimed, as the patron, that he needed the lads to accompany him to a meeting with one of his agents, and the money they took was actually removed by the Doppleganger itself. No doubt the next step would have been to kidnap the twins and hold them for ransom or something equally sinister. Evidence (including the missing money found on the shapechanger's corpse) will seem to support their story.

Players beating their Bluff with Insight will get the feeling that they aren't being wholly truthful, of course. If the PCs resort to magic to determne the real truth, they'll succeed, but may have trouble convincing their patron of the facts. Depending on how (or if) you want to run the third encounter in this series, the twins may end up disgraced or not, but either way their plans to dispose of their relative and inherit his wealth have been foiled by the PCs. They aren't going to take that well no matter how things work out in the short run.

Of course, really ruthless PCs who discover the truth may just kill them first and try to convince the patron later, or just claim they never found them. Either choice earns them some enmity. At that point you either scotch the third encounter altogether, or you can arrange for their patron to eventually have the twins raised somehow.
And the final part of the "twins" trilogy.

Enter the Dragon

The Hook:

Depending on how things went in their last appearance, the twins may or may not have been revealed as the greedy, murderous twits they really are. Even if they were outed by suspicious PCs, they almost certainly avoided actual jail time, as their relative, the party's patron, is more anxious to avoid further scandal than he is for justice, or even his own safety. This has left the twins free to recruit a new ally, who's agreed to commit a little wholesale mayhem in exchange for the promise of truly obscene amounts of wealth. Red dragons are like that, especially young, greedy ones who are being conned by two almost supernaturally persuasive weasels like the twins.

Whether they're planning on inheriting that wealth from a certain soon-to-be-dead relative or pillaging his estate with their ally running interference isn't terribly important, since the twins have decided that the party needs to be eliminated first this time around. Accordingly, they go hero-hunting, resulting in the following encounter.


This fight can happen nearly anywhere or anytime that fits your ongoing campaign, but it should probably take place within a few weeks or months of the Fancy Meeting You Here encounter. The dragon and his two companions attack the party as they're travelling, preferably in an isolated area where there won't be any witnesses. Mind you, they'd just kill any witnesses later anyway, but they'd rather save themselves the work. An outdoor on-the-road encounter is probably best, with suitable terrain for wherever the PCs are at the time. The nobles should reveal themselves at a distance first (give them a pair of non-combatant riding horses if need be) and exchange a few insults and threats. While they're distracting the party, the dragon will either swoop down from the clouds, fly up from behind a hill or wood, or otherwise position himself for an attack. Give the PCs some space, starting their enemies at least twenty squares out when initiative gets rolled. Good opportunity for a little archery practice.


2 x Human Nobles (MM2, level 5 controllers) - the twins
1 x Young Red Dragon (MM1, level 7 solo soldier) - the dragon
Level 9 encounter, 1900 XP


The Dragon is an overconfident and inexperienced example of the species, and will happily land to fight in melee. He charges and bites, then makes dual claw attacks over and over. Burn his APs early to get extra melee attacks. When he becomes bloodied, he'll finally consider taking to the air and using his reach to stay out of easy melee range. He's not willing to take multiple OAs to do so though, so he may well stay on the ground till he's hacked to bits. Regardless, he'll fight to the death, quite unconvinced of his own mortality.

The Nobles will try to stay within ten squares of the Dragon at all times while still avoiding melee if they can. They open the fight by using Inspirational Authority to let the Dragon use both Frightful Presence and his first Dragon Breath (on top of an AP and a standard action attack - downright frenetic). Then they'll concentrate on using Appoint Champion to spur bite attack after bite attack, as well as permitting shifts to avoid flanking. When attacked, they alternate using Urge Hesitation (eg promising great wealth to spare them) and then shout for the Dragon to help while fighting defensively or even (shudder) using their swords themselves. Their ally is totally unwilling to take OAs or ignore marks to aid them, so he'll probably continue with his current dance partner(s) when the twins start yelling. Neither one really cares if the other dies, but if the Dragon is killed first (talk about doing things the hard way) the Nobles will be stunned for a turn, then attempt to flee. Good luck on that, boys.


If they took the twins alive (again?) the PCs can turn the lads over to the local authorities, or to their old patron, who'll finally see to getting them executed by the law. Hiring assassins and consorting with devils is one thing, but dragons are apparently where he draws the line. If you want, you could arrange for them to escape and appear again in the future, but they're at the point where they'll need to be levelled up some (and probably have some powers changed) to remain interesting villains.

More likely, the twins are dead alongside their draconic ally, which settles the problem for good. Probably. Their patron is most likely to be willing to forgive the party if he even finds out about it, but they did have other relatives. Maybe some of their cousins will come looking for trouble in the future?
Marut Persecutor Is More Like It

The Hook:

The party has just finished the adventure that pushed them to 21st level, and they've attracted attention from some epic-tier power. This could be new enemy, and old one powered up, or even a potential ally who wants to see what the new guys are capable of - whatever fits your campaign best. Whoever it is, they've hired a dangerous cadre of marut mercenaries to attack the party. They might be under orders to kill the PCs, or just to bludgeon them senseless, perhaps to kidnap them or just as a test of their powers.


The marut are guided to the party's general location by their employer, so the attack can take place anytime and anywhere you want. Outside is probably best, although any large indoor space where flyers can stay out of melee will also work. The marut are contemptuous of the inhabitants of the natural world (assuming that's where the party is) so they might very well strike at the PCs in a city or village, or while they're travelling in a caravan or with a (mundane) army. Their AoE attacks are all "enemy only" so the amount of innocent bystander abuse in such an attack depends on how bloodthirsty the GM wants them to be.


Marut Concordant (MM1, level 22 elite controller)
Marut Prosecutor (MM2, level 21 controller)
4 x Marut Blademasters (MM1, level 21 soldiers)
Level 23 encounter, 24300 XP - N+2 encounter for level 21 PCs


The Concordant goes (or stays, if they approached from the air) airborne and stays 30-50 feet up throughout the fight, concentrating on using his burst attacks, or dictum if they aren't recharged. He tries to avoid moving so he can make an extra dictum attack each turn. If attacked by melee-oriented flyers, he teleports away and immobilizes them with dictum. He spends his AP to double attack whenever he first has both burst powers charged and suitable targets in range. If bloodied, he stays in the fight till four or more of his allies are beaten, then attempts to flee, probably by flying (slowly) straight up.

The Prosecutor uses similar tactics, remaining airborne and hammering targets with ranged attacks. He puts sigil on a target first turn and maintains it till that target drops, then selects a new victim. He trades move actions to use dictum whenever he can.

The Blademasters avoid melee until most of the PCs are immobilized by dictum, then close in on the sigil target and use teleports and sword pushes to shove the victim away from his allies. They do their best to avoid taking melee attacks from immobilized characters, usually by pushing them out of reach. Anyone carrying a reach weapon will be an early candidate for focussed attacks, and ranged combatants (especially immobilized ones) will get crowded to force them to draw OAs.


Depending on your campaign and the results of the battle, the PCs may or may not be able to discover who sent the marut, which may lead in turn to further adventures. If they took prisoners to interrogate, that might lead to other marut attempting to rescue or ransom them. If not, they might find clues (faked or real) on the bodies. They might even be contacted by the employer, either with threats or congratulations and an offer of assistance.
These encounters are great! i am so stealing them for my current campaign where i am always looking for something other than the generic goblin raiders...
keep up the great work! :D
These are well-written stories, with even more solidly-made encounters. I'd recommend these to my group, but then they'd know how these end when I use them! 10/10.
Well, thanks. Nice to know someone's reading these.

And here's another, which probably works best as a N+1 encounter for level 8 PCs:

On the Woad

The Hook:

The party is travelling through the woodlands, either in the Feywild itself or in a more natural wilderness with some fey influences. They're following a trail, and the chance of getting lost if they leave it should be played up enough that they won't want to casually do so. Unfortunately, there are a group of Wood Woads blocking the way, and they're looking for a fight with pretty much any party not wholly composed of fey-origin druids. They've been het up some by their malicious spriggan allies, but to be honest, Woad Woads don't need much encouragement to start hitting anyone who doesn't know how to photosynthesize.


The terrain is deep forest, with a narrow path five to ten feet wide that the party has been following. Scatter some nice large trees (10 diameter or more) around the map, which act as obstacles and can be climbed on moderate DCs, although there are no branches closer than 20' off the ground, so sniping perches will take a bit of time to set up. There should also be some areas of ground clutter in the form of shrubs and bushes, which are difficult terrain for medium and larger creatures, and provide concealment to creatures in their square. Some of those bushes cover the entrances of a network of burrows the spriggans live in, which can be as extensive as you like. The burrows are all sized for small creatures, and should have at least two or three entrances hidden (hard DC perception to notice) in shrub squares near large trees. The Wood Woads stand out in the open, blocking the trail. The Spriggans Powries lurk in their burrows, delaying to let their allies strike first.


3 x Wood Woads (MM2, level 8 soldiers)
3 x Spriggan Powries (MM2, level 7 skirmishers)
Level 9 encounter, 1950 XP - N+1 for level 8 PCs


Wood Woads adance into melee, using both Nature's Judgement and Nature's Mystery on the same target ASAP. They initially prefer to hit enemies who've already acted this round, and will each tackle a seperate foe if they can. If possible, avoid obvious "woodsy" PCs like shamans or druids - you want targets that aren't trained in Nature getting the Mystery debuff. After the first round, they use standard melee tactics, shifting to avoid being flanked and using Judgement whenever it recharges.

The Spriggan Powries wait until one or more characters are suffering from Judgement, and then rush out, Hamstring the target (preferably with CA from flanking), and then Punt their now-prone victims. This will rapidly increase both the ongoing damage and the healing effects of Judgement, and the Powries are perfectly willing to take OAs to get flanking CA or to boot a prone target. They can reasonably expect to see a fair amount of healing in the fight, after all.

Try to spread the effects around so you have several Judgement victims with 10-15 points of ongoing damage at once, rather than concentrating on a single victim and risking an accidental (and unheroic) kill by failed saves.

If the PCs have a point man out before the fight, he'll easily spot the Woads, and possibly the burrows. If he's seen himself, the Woads will warn him off, and attack if he comes within charge range. If not, he can either go warn the party, or he can skulk past and attack from the Woad's rear when the rest of the PCs come up.


The party can continue on the path. If the DM wants, there could be more fey-themed encounters ahead, or this could just be a random nuisance. The spriggans might have loot in their burrows, or hooks for future adventures, or they might just have dirt and rusty metal boots. Whatever fits your campaign best.
And here's a day or so worth of encounters for a first or second level party, forming a short story arc. Kind of an outdoor delve.

Bully For You!

The Hook:

A bullywug tribe has stumbled across an unstable portal to the Far Realms, and the tribe's shaman is has tamed a few of the lesser beings that have oozed through into reality. Emboldened by his success, he's stirring up trouble, attacking local fishermen and farmers and terrorizing travellers. There's a bounty out for flippers, and the party is decides to collect. If they're less mercenary types, they may be investigating reports of strange creature sightings and eerie lights seen in the depths of the swamp, or responding to a prophecy of doom or somesuch. Or they may just be travelling and run into the situation at random. Whatever works best for your (presumably new) campaign.


All of the encounters take place in the bullywug's home swamp. Terrain should be heavy on shallow water features and sucking mud (difficult terrain) with some firmer ground making trails throughout the encounter zones. Throw in deeper pools that actually require swimming to maneuver through, some banks of reeds and other vegetation to provide concealment, and a few half-dead trees as obstacles. You can also have the battlefield shrouded in mist, causing light or heavy obscurement.

Monsters and Tactics:

There are four seperate encounters as the PCs delve deeper into the swamp, culminating with a nasty fight at the Far Realm portal.

Group 1
4 x Bullywug Twitchers (MM2, level 2 skirmishers)
500 XP, level 1 encounter

Unless the party is being unusually stealthy, all four of the Twitchers will hide themselves by submerging themselves in shallow or deep water, with just their eyes showing. They attack with surprise if they all manage to beat the best passive perception in the party, otherwise the PCs spot at least some of them before they attack and initiative is rolled normally. They open with a javelin volley, and continue to make ranged attacks until they're either engaged in melee or down to their last javelin. At some point all four of them will use Spasmodic Hop to dogpile on a single target for a turn, preferably a striker or ranged combatant. Once two of them drop, the others will attempt to flee if bloodied.

Group 2
3 x Bullywug Muckers (MM2, level 1 brutes)
6 x Bullywug Croakers (MM2, level 3 minions)
1 x Fell Taint Pulsar (MM2, level 1 artillery)
628 XP, level 2 encounter

This group is encountered out in the open in a loose group. The bullywugs appear to be worshipping or kowtowing to the Pulsar, which hangs 20' overhead. When they spot the PCs the Croakers rush to the attack, the Muckers throw javelins and then charge, and the Pulsar circles overhead out of reach, zapping away at random targets. No real clever tactics here. None of the monsters are intelligent enough to withdraw, and all will fight to the death. If any bullywugs are interrogated after the battle, they'll state that the "ghost squirmers" have been summoned for the "squirmy pool" by their boss, who's going to send them to kill and eat all the "drylanders" as soon as he conjures up enough of the critters.

Group 3
4 x Fell Taint Lashers (MM2, level 1 soldier)
1 x Fell Taint Thought Eater (MM2, level 2 controller)
525 XP, level 1+ encounter

The fell taint swarm will descend from above the party, preferably from a nice thick fog. They'll attempt to approach with stealth, gaining surprise if they do so. Otherwise, their weird slithering noises are overheard and they're spotted at least 30' up. The Lashers focus on melee attacks from above, allowing them to avoid flanking and to shift up and out of reach to charge new targets if they get in trouble. The Thought Eater will open with its blast power to prevent escapes, then close to melee. If any fell taint is attacked at range, the Though Eater will fly up out of melee reach and return fire with its dazing ranged strike. All the monsters will fight to the death.

Group 4
1 x Beholder Gauth (MM2, level 5 elite artillery)
1 x Fell Taint Thought Eater (MM2, level 2 controller)
1 x Bullywug Mud Lord (MM2, level 3 artillery)
5 x Bullywug Croakers (MM2, level 3 minion)
865 XP, level 4 encounter

The final fight takes place at the Far Realm portal, which appears to be a small muddy pool whose surface writhes and churns constantly. The Croakers are scattered around it, with at least two of them hidden in other shallow or deep water as the Twitchers from Group 1 did. The Mud Lord stands at the edge of the portal, poking it with a stick and chanting. The Thought Eater bursts from the portal on its initiative in round one, and cooperates with the bullywugs to the best of its abilities (it's a "tamed" one). The Croakers close to melee, with the hidden ones trying to get at softer targets while the rest delay the front line. The Mud Lord happily bombs friend and foe alike, using his blast powers and getting the Neccessary Sacrifices bonus. He attempts to avoid melee, and the Thought Eater assists with that as best it can.

On its initiative in round two, the Beholder Gauth emerges from the portal and hovers 30' above it, which then collapses behind it, drying to hard, caked mud instantly. The Mud Lord will make worshipful gestures and attempt to placate the Gauth, which works rather badly since they don't share a language. Given a couple of rounds, the Mud Lord will eventually try to tame the Gauth by zapping it, at which point the Gauth will do its best to kill him. In the meantime it will attack anyone it can see, concentrating on sleep (to capture servants afterwards) and sliding PCs into water or mud. If bloodied it will do its level best to kill everyone in the area. The Mud Lord will only attempt to flee if bloodied and under attack by the Gauth. The other creatures will fight to the death.


The portal's sealed itself, at least for now. The bullywugs are mostly or entirely dead. And hopefully, all the aberrant nasties are gone. If you want, the Gauth could fly off into the clouds when bloodied, returning later as a minor continuing villain.
A nasty example of the weather in Elemental Chaos, including a homebrew hazard. Suitable for low-to-mid epic tier parties.

You'll probably want to look here

for the hazard writeup before you continue.

Or just read it here, I guess.

Shardstorm Flurry
Level 23 Blaster Hazard
5100 XP
Hazard: The battlefield is swept by a blizzard of razor sharp rock shards, forcing the combatants to seek shelter or be cut to ribbons.

Perception: A shardstorm flurry and its direction of approach can automatically be detected two rounds before it arrives on the battlefield.

Trigger: A shardstorm flurry is a timed hazard event which can be detected two rounds before it begins. It starts on its initiative on the round of arrival and lasts for a total of 1d4+2 rounds before subsiding. Only one shardstorm flurry can be in effect at a time, and if a new shardstorm flurry arrives before the current one ends, the older ones ends at once.

Initiative: +16

Attack: Automatic. Any creature exposed to the shardstorm flurry (see Countermeasures) at the start of its turn, or which moves so that its space is not entirely sheltered during its turn takes ongoing 5 damage (save ends). If it is already taking untyped ongoing damage, it increases its untyped ongoing damage by 5 instead. A creature that is exposed to the shardstorm flurry at the start of its turn cannot make saves against untyped ongoing damage at the end of its turn. Any conjuration that can be damaged by area burst attacks will take 15 damage at the start of each round that it is exposed to the shardstorm flurry.

Any square that is not shelterd is obscured for the duration of the shardstorm flurry. Shardstorm vortex creatures are immune to ongoing damage from a shardstorm flurry.

Countermeasures: When a shardstorm flurry arrives on the battlefield, pick a direction in which it is blowing. This can be directly toward any of the four map edges, or from above or below the plane of the map. This direction is downwind, the opposite direction is upwind. All squares adjacent to and directly downwind from an obstacle are sheltered. All squares with terrain that grants cover or total cover from the upwind direction is sheltered. Any square that cannot draw line of effect to the square directly upwind is sheltered. Any creature whose space is not entirely in sheltered squares is exposed to the shardstorm flurry.

I Don't Think An Umbrella's Going To Help

The Hook:

The party is travelling through Elemental Chaos and hit a shardstorm, complete with the inevitable hostile followers between gusts. Alternately, this sort of thing might happen in part of the natural world if there's an elemental planar breach or somesuch going on. Hate to be a peasant in that neighborhood, though.


The players are crossing a barren waste when they spot the approaching shardstorm, which is blowing from the north, making south the downwind direction. The field should have a few sizeable boulders or rock spires scattered widely, all of which count as obstacles. Don't place too many, the number of sheltered squares (see below) should be small enough and spread out enough that the PCs can't clump up too much while in shelter. Start the PCs in the middle of the map and roll initiative as the Earthwind Ravagers appear on from the north, just ahead of the storm. Announce that the flurry will arrive on round three as the storm moves in. The Shardstorm Vortex Whirlwinds arrive from the northern map edge on round three as well.

Monsters and Hazards:

2 x Earthwind Ravagers (MM1, level 23 controller)
4 x Shardstorm Vortex Whirlwinds (MM2, 23 minion)
1 x Shardstorm Flurry (homebrew, see link above, 23 blaster hazard)
25,600 XP, level 23 encounter


Much of the encounter revolves around the hazard, which make standing in the open painful in the extreme. The Shardstorm Flurry begins on round three, and could last till round eight.

The Earthwind Ravagers will attempt to immobilize PCs in non-sheltered spaces, accepting damage from the hazard if need be. Avoid melee unless you get the opportunity to bull rush a PC into the storm and block him out of shelter.

The Shardstorm Vortex Whirlwinds are immune to the hazard damage, and will attack the most isolated sheltered PCs. They may attempt a massed bull rush (using aid actions) against a weak-looking target, but mostly they'll just strike for damage.

All monsters fight to the death.


The party can continue on its way, probably cursing their travel agent as they do so. Just another day in Elemental Chaos.
Great as always! :D

Do you take requests? If yes that would be wonderful!

My players are entering a desert type region, they are level 5 now and i believe they will continue within this area until level 10 or so, Can you write up an encounter or 2 for the Harsh Desert regions?
Do you take requests? If yes that would be wonderful!

Apparently I sometimes do.

My players are entering a desert type region, they are level 5 now and i believe they will continue within this area until level 10 or so, Can you write up an encounter or 2 for the Harsh Desert regions?

Well, all my past desert encounters have been epic tier, but if you don't mind some untested stuff, I threw this lot together last night. Much like the stuff in posts 1-3, these are a set of thematically linked encounters. They should work best if run in sequence, about once per level from 5 to 8 as you find time in your own story arc. That would make them all N+1 fights, so nothing terribly dangerous and easily dropped in if the party is having a slow workday.

Strange Appetites

The Hook:

A young brown dragon has allied itself with a small band of human desert tribesmen led by a brutal orc and his half-orc offspring. The dragon's taste for tastes is reflected in the group's willingness to hunt and eat almost anything that moves, including the PCs. The party encounters (and hopefully defeats) several hunting parties, with the tribe's leader becoming increasingly angry as his sons are killed. They face the last of the tribe (and the orc) in the third battle. Finally the PCs are tracked down and attacked by the dragon and the orc's daughter, who want revenge.

Play up the cannibal cult creepiness of the group if you can. When searched, their bodies will always be toting weird, vaguely edible things (scorpions, snakes, fungi, etc) as well as identifiable humanoid body parts and half-rancid meat. The higher-status types (Marauders, Dancers and half-orcs) will be suspiciously well-fed for people living in a desert, while the orc is positively obese. When they finally encounter it, even the dragon is a bit chubby.

The family relationship between the half-orcs, orc, and Marauders should be worked in too if you can. At the very least Daddy should rant about the PCs killing the two sons, and the Death Mage should be a ranting, weeping maniac the whole time she's trying to kill the party.


All the encounters can take place in the open desert, either while the party is travelling or camped. Rolling sand dunes can block LOS, patches of unusually loose sand can act as difficult terrain, and you can scatter rocks, old ruins or cacti about. In an oasis even water features and trees and foliage will work. Mix things up a bit, but don't go overboard. Deserts tend to be empty. Encounters should start at long range (as much as your map can manage) and surprise is unlikely. The bad guys will generally be tracking the PCs, often from the air, and the party should see or hear them coming in plenty of time to prepare. You could try an ambush in camp (perhaps with the third encounter) but only an inept sentry is going to miss noticing the approach long enough to grant a surprise round.

Monsters and Tactics:

Four seperate groups, but each encounter setup is as described above.

Group 1
1 x Half-Orc Hunter (MM2, level 5 skirmisher) - Number One Son
1 x Hippogriff (MM1, level 5 skirmisher) - his mount
2 x Abyssal Marauders (level 6 skirmisher) - two crazed female hunters
2 x Rage Drakes (level 5 brutes) - their mounts
1300 XP, level 6+ encounter

The Hunter and Hippogriff spot the party and guide the drake riders to them, then circle overhead while sniping with arrows and making flyby attacks. If one of the Marauders is killed, the Hunter make a mounted dive and melee the PC who killed his girlfriend. The Hippogriff will flee if it's not mounted and becomes bloodied, otherwise it fights to the death as well. The Marauders and Rage Drakes are utterly crazed, and fight to the death no matter what, trying to remain mounted and launch as many charges as possible even if it draws OAs. They throw their hand axes as they close, and try to double-team a single PC when they can.

Group 2
1 x Half-Orc Scarthane (MM2, level 7 brute) - Number Two Son
1 x Hippogriff Dreadmount (MM1, level 5 brute) - his mount
2 x Abyssal Marauders (MM2, level 6 skirmisher) - more crazed female hunters
2 x Human Javelin Dancers (MM2, level 6 skirmishers) - male hunters
1500 XP, level 7 enounter

The Scarthane charges and lands as soon as possible, and then concentrates on hammering bloodied targets. He fights until the death, as does his mount. The Marauders use the same tactics above, and they and the Javelin Dancers focus on using their superior mobility to flank and avoid being flanked. Ranged combat is a secondary concern for these monsters. The Dancers may try to flee if they're the only ones left, and are the only creatures that might be interrogated successfully if captured. The others are ranting loons at best, and severly delusional. Bad diets, you know.

Group 3
1 x Orc Bloodrager (MM1, 7 elite brute) - Big Daddy
1 x Rage Drake (MM1, 5 brute) - his mount
2 x Abyssal Marauders (MM2, 6 skirmishers) - his wives
6 x Human Lackeys (MM1, 7 minion) - half-starved low-status tribesmen
1750 XP, level 8 encounter

The Bloodrager charges and hammers one PC after another until they drop. The Marauders stay near him and try to keep him from being flanked, while the Lackeys spread out and try to circle around the main melee to provide flank or attack ranged PCs. The Lackeys are the only creatures that won't fight to the death, fleeing if they're the last ones left. Unlikely, but it could happen I guess.

Group 4
1 x Half-Orc Death Mage (MM2, 6 controller) - Daddy's Little Girl
1 x Hippogriff (MM1, 5 skirmisher) - her little pony-bird
1 x Young Brown Dragon (DR, 3+4 solo lurker) - a hungry dragon
1950 XP, level 9 encounter

The Dragon has +4 levels, giving +4 attack, +2 damage, and +160 HP. It also swaps out its flight speed and Bloodied Breath power for Rising Bite and Bloodscaled Frenzy from the back of Draconomicon. Concentrate on using Sand Cloud and Rising Bite whenever you can. Avoid getting pinned down, and hit anything you can get CA on. The Dragon is too berserk to retreat when bloodied, and too overconfident to do so earlier. Demonic heritage at work.

The Death Mage should have her powers reflavored to a more deserty theme, eg Cursed Touch, Dessicating Bolt, and Killing Sands. She raises her zone at the start of the fight, then concentrates on making ranged attacks or moving the zone about while her mount makes flyby attacks and stays out of melee reach. If pinned down (after being dismounted, probably) she starts making touch attacks to maximize her last-gasp necrotic power's damage. She fights to the death, cursing the PCs for killing her family.


That's it, the party's killed them all, either in combat or by chasing them into the desert to die. Get back to your campaign arc, already.

No need to worry about there being other cultist groups out there, or angry older dragons, or anything like that. Unless the DM wants it that way, that is.
You are AWESOME! These are great my friend!
Glad to help. Let me know how they work out. As I said, they haven't actually been tested, so the tactics are somewhat more theoretical than usual.
Your work is not only clear and well-written, is also entertaining and motivational.
Kudos to you.
Thanks! Now if I could just find a way to make a living doing this stuff.

Anyway, here's another one, a simple paragon tier "travelling" encounter highlighting the generally nasty and otherworldly nature of Elemental Chaos. You could also use it in a dungeon crawl or as an Underdark chokepoint with minimal reflavoring.

The Hole of the Problem

The Hook:

The party is travelling through Elemental Chaos, following a pathway of floating stone that passes through a continent-sized thunderstorm. The path is surrounded by a tunnel of raging lightning, and roaring winds and booming thunder makes speech difficult. The path narrows ahead, and the winds grow stronger as they approach what appears to be a wavering hole in space.


The pathway should be about forty feet wide throughout the battlefield, bounded by arching walls of raw lightning. Anyone leaving the path takes 20 lightning damage and is knocked prone and pushed into the nearest square on the path. In the center of the encounter map is a Vacuum Rift hazard, and scattered about it in a four square radius should be four or more paragon tier Erratic Portal (MotP) terrain squares, which are visible as flickering distortions in the air. This lets a portal-jumper get just beyond the rift's zone with a successful save. The monsters should also be spread about within 8-10 squares of the rift, with two Blue Slaad on the party's side and the others some distance beyond it. The noise level in the area is appallingly high, and until the rift is closed all creatures are deafened. Weirdly, the Nothic's cackling will still be clearly audible over the winds and thunder.


1 x Vacuum Rift (MotP, level 14 obstacle)
1 x Nothic Cackler (MM2, level 15 artillery)
3 x Blue Slaad (MM1, level 17 brutes)
7000 XP, level 16 encounter


The Nothic Cackler scampers about, avoiding melee and alternating between using Rotting Gaze to debuff and injure multiple targets and Mind Rot to slide creatures into the rift zone or the lightning walls. It saves its Cackle to escape melee opponents, and uses the risky erratic portals to teleport more often than it probably should. It is far too insane to flee.

The Blue Slaad concentrate on using chained Fling attacks to throw creatures into the rift zone or the lightning walls. They use the erratic portals sparingly to teleport past the rift, and only if a move & charge won't suffice. When bloodied, they focus on their higher-damage attacks and try to drop opponents quickly. Their natural teleport speed should be used regularly to set up flanking CA and mob single targets. The slaad will flee only if they are bloodied and the rift has been sealed, otherwise they fight to the death.


The monsters are dead, the rift may or may not be sealed, and the party can continue on their path. The DM might have their route through the storm collapse behind them, as the rift (or lack thereof) destabilizes the trail. If the rift was sealed, the PCs might face the ongoing enmity of angry chaotics who thought it was the bestest thing ever.
A bit of Foulspawn-inspired oddness for high heroic tier PCs.

Mystery Spot

The Hook:

The party is dungeon crawling in ancient ruins, a city sewer system, or the underbelly of a fortress when they encounter a bit of Far Realm oddness, complete with tenants.


The encounter takes place in and around an old empty cistern, in a region where some of the laws of the universe have been damaged by Far Realm intrusions. The party enters the area through a crevasse opening into the bottom of the cistern, which is 15' in diameter and 40' deep. The cistern is fairly dry, but overhead (!) they can see what appears to be mass of still, brackish water about 10' above the top of the shaft. Observation will reveal that any liquid (water, wine, blood, etc) in the encounter area flows upward as though gravity had been reversed, creating an inverted pool in the vaulted dome of the cistern chamber. Liquids inside containers (including one's body) appear to be unaffected, but any opening will allow the liquids to spill up and out.

The cistern has a ladder made of iron rungs running up the south wall, and the north and west walls are covered in a dense mass of strange, gently-twitching vines. Hard DC dungeoneering checks will reveal the pale, fleshy-leaved growth to be an unknown species. Any creature touching the vines is immediately lifted to the nearest open square at the lip around the top of the cistern, and is immobilized and takes ongoing 5 damage (save ends both) as the vines grasp hold.

The cistern is centered in a circular 45' foot diameter room, with the inverted pool at a "ceiling height" of ten feet above floor level. There are a few fouled bedrolls and the remnants of unsavory meals (odd body parts, clumps of fungus, etc) up against the walls, but no other furnishings. The foulspawn start scattered about the edges of the room out of sight of PCs at the bottom of the cistern. The gibbering beast starts asleep and unseen at the top (or is that bottom?) of the inverted pool overhead, which is 30' high (or deep?). The water is murky and foul, counting as heavily obscured. A creature that climbs into the water finds itself able to make make swim checks as normal. You can lower yourself from the pool as though you were climbing down over a ledge.

The entire area is dimly lit by phosphorescent fungi. At least one door (hidden or otherwise) should lead out of the area, unless you want this encounter area to be a dead-end.


1 x Gibbering Mouther (MM1, level 10 controller)
1 x Foulspawn Seer (MM1, level 11 artillery)
5 x Foulspawn Manglers (MM1, level 8 skirmishers)
2850 XP, level 11 encounter


If they notice the party before they reach the top of the cistern, the foulspawn will use ranged attacks to slow their ascent, then gang up on those who reach the top first. If the PCs stealth to the top of the ladder successfully (ie they're quiet, and aren't carrying a bright light source) they can manage a surprise round, although exploiting it may be difficult unless they can fly or somesuch. Getting a free ride to the top via the vines is possible, but it's also noisy enough to allow the monsters to avoid being surprised.

The Manglers use Dagger Dance as soon as they've got a melee target, throwing daggers if they don't. Focus attacks on flanked, dazed, or climbing targets to get CA whenever possible. As they become bloodied, they use Dagger Dance again, then try to back off and throw daggers until they're down to their last one. If dazed themselves, the Manglers happily resort to thrown daggers against dazed PCs, even if it draws OAs in the process. Maximize your damage output at all times.

The Seer spends his first minor action poking his staff up into the inverted pool and chanting a call to the Mouther. then focuses on dazing as many PCs as possible while avoiding melee via movement or Bend Space. The Seer tries to avoid being caught by the Mouther's gibbering whenever it can, but won't risk OAs to do so. Don't forget his aura boosting power.

The Gibbering Mouther rolls initiative on the round after the seer wakes him, and spends that entire turn moving down to the surface of the pond. On the next round, it gibbers (probably dazing most of the room) and then lowers itself to the floor and starts making attacks. The creature is totally insane, and happily uses Gibbering Feast even when allies are in the burst.

All creatures are crazy as bedbugs, and happily fight to the death.


The monsters are dead, and the party can proceed with their explorations. With the monsters slain, the Far Realm taint will gradually disperse - unless the DM decides otherwise, in which case another nest of horrors may gather in the future. If any of the PCs went for a swim in the pool or (heaven knows why) drank the stuff, you can amuse yourself by subjecting them to a disease, or just losing a surge or so. Water taken out of the area is still foul, but shows no anti-gravitic properties.
High paragon Underdark encounter. Anyone else remember the old 2nd edition Night Below campaign box? Fond memories of that one.

A Day At the Beach

The Hook:

The PCs are deep in the Underdark, travelling along a fairly narrow strip of land between the wall of a vast cavern and the edge of an underground sea. There are things in the darkness. Terrible things.


Encounter area is a long, narrow strip of rocky beach, about 30' to 50' wide, gently sloping into the water and with a solid cavern wall on the opposite side. The ceiling overhead is 50' up, and rises as you move out from shore. Scatter a few rocky spires or stalagmites of varying size on shore and in the shallows as obstacles and cover. Also add some patches of slime as difficult terrain, requiring a moderate Acrobatics DC to avoid going prone when entered. No natural lights at all.

The monsters enter from the deep water edge of the map, at the edge of the PC's lights, or 15 squares out if everyone's running darvision or the like. The Abomination is flying 40' up, the aboleths are swimming in a line abreast formation.


1 x Gibbering Abomination (MM1, 18 controller)
1 x Aboleth Slime Mage (MM1, 17 artillery)
4 x Aboleth Lashers (MM1, 17 brute)
10000 XP, level 18 encounter


Assuming the PCs aren't crazy enough to go swimming, the Lashers close to melee on shore as fast as possible. They rely on their aura to inhibit movement and concentrate attacks on targets they have CA against, preferably while using reach. Note that they get two attacks with CA even when dazed, making the gibbering less of a problem for them than most creatures.

The Aboleth Slime Mage stays at range and snipes, preferably from the water. It dominates ranged PCs and forces them to charge or run into the melee with the Lashers. Use domination movement to draw OAs at every opportunity, the damage that results is probably better than anything you can manage by using an at-will.

The Abomination stays 30' up or higher until the Lashers have tied PCs down in melee, then it descends to 25' catch the whole scrum with its gibbering and attack debuffing aura. It uses its ranged attacks to immobilize key targets, especially mobile strikers and ranged attackers. Look for targets that are granting CA to maximize your damage output.

None of the monsters wish to fight to the death. Bloodied creatures will attempt to withdraw back into (or over) the sea, preferably without drawing OAs in the process. If escape is impossible, the aboleths will telepathically offer to ransom their lives.


If the monsters are all killed, the party can proceed on their journey, although their loss may be discovered and responded too if their are more aboleths in the region. Escaping aboleths will try to gather more allies and attack the party again in the future. If the party took one or more prisoners, the aboleths may have treasure hidden in the waters nearby that they offer as ransom, or they may offer knowledge or transportation that the party needs instead. How far the PCs are willing to trust an alien fish-monster is up to them, of course.
And a quick-and-nasty level 31 epic tier encounter. Just an N+1 for a 30th level party, so just a short step along their final journey. They should win this one easily, but it may sting a bit. Pretty much a fight in a box.

Monsters Can Stack Save Penalties Too

The Hook:

The party arrives at an interplanar portal nexus in a micro-dimension controlled by a Gibbering Orb. All the joys of a beholder, but noisier. The party may want to access one of the other exits from the nexus, they may just want to shut the place down, or they may have been tricked or diverted into the place by an enemy. Regardless of their reasons, they have to kill the fool thing to leave, since the portals are all keyed to its will.


The nexus is a cubical chamber 13 squares on a side, with the Orb hovering in the very center. All six surfaces of the place are "down" and can be walked on as though they were floors. Every surface has a dozen or so permanent one-square portals embedded in it, none of which can be passed through by the PCs while the Orb lives. Feel free to give them any traits you like, although the stock "opaquely glowing hole" is least distracting during the fight. The other monsters arrive through five seperate portals scattered around the room during the fight.


1 x Gibbering Orb (MM1, 27 solo controller)
4 x Deva Fallen Stars (MM2, 26 artillery)
1 x Rot Slinger w/Ascetic of Vecna template (MM1 & OG, 22+5 elite artillery)


The Gibbering Orb hangs in the center of the room and gibbers. Spend your APs as fast as you can to pour on the eye rays. Priority should be to hit every PC with Farsending Rays ASAP to debuff their saves for the encounter, followed by Souleating Rays to force save-or-die situations. Once those effects are in place, it uses the weakening and ongoing damage rays. Spread the effects around. If things go well (and they probably won't, with ultimate-level PCs) it toys with the PCs by coming closer and biting one of them repeatedly while its allies slaughter the others.

The Orb's allies (lackeys, really) are conveniently on-call in temporal stasis just beyond various portals. They'll be called to battle when the Orb fails a saving throw of any kind, rolling initiative on the round after. If they haven't shown up by round four, have them appear then anyway.

The Deva Fallen Stars rely heavily on Forgetting Rays to limit the PC's options, targeting strikers and melee types first. They try to avoid melee, but end their moves on the ground to avoid the clumsy flight penalties. If dazed (quite likely, once the gibbering starts up) they stay in place and make attacks even if they draw OAs in the process. Their most important role may be the ability to add 1d8 to one of the Orb's saves, breaking controller lockdowns with ease. They can also use the power to boost attack rolls or subtract from PC saves, although they need to be able to take free actions to do so. Use your transposition powers as soon as you can, since you'll be unable to do so once dazed.

The Rot Slinger Ascetic of Vecna is heavily augmented from the base MM1 version. The 5-level increase gives him +5 to attacks and defenses, +2 on damage. The Ascetic of Vecna template gives him several powers, an effective 2 AP, +2 fortitude, +4 will, and a total of 390 HP. His priority should be hitting save debuffed PCs with Orb of Decay to weaken them and worsen their saves by another two points (-7 with both Farsending Ray and Decay debuffs in effect). Spend its AP to do this twice per round, and only drop Creeping Rot once that job's done. The Slinger's will defense is high enough that he won't be dazed too often, so avoiding melee should be easier for him than for the somewhat weaker Devas. End any moves on the ground to avoid the clumsy flight penalty.

The Orb will fight to the death, since it's insane, can't communicate with the PCs, and won't fit through a portal. The Devas are too addled by the secrets they've learned from the Orb to surrender or flee either. The Rot Slinger will attempt to retreat through a portal if the Orb dies, but otherwise fights to the death as well.


Once the Orb dies, the nexus portals clear and unlock, but the micro-dimension destabilizes rapidly. Give the party 1d4+2 rounds (fighting suicidal devas in the process if need be) to locate whatever exit portal they want to use. Hard DC Arcana, Religion, or Perception checks are in order, or perhaps make a skill challenge out of it. Anything still in the nexus at the end of this time is shunted to a random (ie wherever the DM feels like) location in the multiverse.

If you prefer, the portals may just die with the Orb, in which case the PCs are going for a random jump no matter what.
Great encounters as always! I definately will try then as soon as my party gets to that level
Thanks! Now if I could just find a way to make a living doing this stuff.

I'm not sure if it'd be a full-time gig, but the quality of your work certainly seems like it could make you some money. You may want to try sending some of these in to Wizards.
Interesting. Perhaps I'll give that a shot. Never really thought about working for WotC themselves (wrong coast, you know) but I suppose that doesn't matter for e-mail submissions.

Anyway, here's another encounter series, this time for level 2-3 PCs in a wintery wilderness setting. Enjoy!

A Hard Night's Work

The Hook:

The party is travelling through a frozen wilderness, perferably in a hilly or mountainous forested region. The area has a problem with wolf packs, and the locals warn the PCs to be on guard at night. There are four encounters in this series, all of which are intended to happen over the course of one evening. There should be few or no daytime combat encounters when you use these, although if you think your party needs a fifth fight between extended rests you could throw something else at them.


All four encounters happen outdoors, in terrain that should emphasize the wintery conditions. Use banks of deep snow acting as difficult terrain, patches of ice or frozen streams that require moderate Acrobatics checks to avoid falling prone when entered, and a scattering of trees and rocks as obstacles. Evergreens could provide concealment and difficult terrain in the squares around their trunks, and a heavily-laden one might unexpectedly drop a mass of snow that knocks creatures beneath it prone. Frozen-over water could also have patches of thin ice, causing a fall into an icy stream or pond. Such a fall would knock the player prone in the water, might require swim checks, and should (at this level) do 3 ongoing cold damage that ends only when the creature makes a successful moderate DC Athletics check to pull themselves free of the water. Mix these features up for variety.

The last two encounters happen after the party has camped for the night, and the players should be allowed some leeway in setting up the map. Don't let them find a perfect place to fort up, but they can certainly find a sheltered clearing to start a campfire and pitch their tents in.

In all encounters, the monsters enter from a map edge, with the party near the center (in camp or marching, depending on the time). Sighting distances should be in the 15-20 square range, unless you decide the party's out on open tundra or somesuch. Flat, open terrain is pretty dull though, and I'd advise against it if your campaign geography allows.

Monsters and Tactics:

Four seperate groups. The first two encounters occur toward dusk, and should be nearly back-to-back, with just enough time for a short rest between the fights. The wolves have spotted the party already, and their howling prevents any chance of surprise.

Group 1
6x Gray Wolves (MM1, level 2 skirmisher)
750 XP, level 3 encounter

Group 2
4 x Gray Wolves (MM1, level 2 skirmisher)
1 x Dire Wolf (MM1, level 5 skirmisher)
700 XP, level 2-3 encounter

These are literal wolf pack encounters. Concentrate on getting flanks for CA to knock targets prone, then gang up on that target. Wolves fight only till bloodied, then make every effort to withdraw, drawing OAs if need be. Very simple fights, but they should teach the players what to watch out for when fighting wolves.

At some point after this battle, the party is forced to camp for the night, hopefully arranging watches and keeping a fire going. The moonlight on the snow is strong enough to provide dim light by itself. Near midnight, the PCs hear a tremendous outbreak of howling which cuts off abruptly, followed by sounds of a dog (or wolf) fight breaking out in the distance. An ominous silence then falls, followed shortly thereafter by a silent wave of zombie wolves sweeping toward their camp.

Group 3

4 x Grave Hounds (MM1, level 3 brutes) - zombie wolves
6 x Rot Hounds (OG, level 1 minion) - zombie wolf pups
750 XP, level 3 encounter

The Rot Hounds will attempt to crowd one or two players to trigger their aura debuf. The Grave Hounds split into pairs, which each attack a single PC. Try to avoid obvious heavy armor types in favor of softer-looking PCs. PCs may or may not be up and ready for a fight, depending on what their watch did when they heard the noises earlier.

Less than ten minutes after this attack, four Gray Wolves sprint out of the darkness, slamming to a halt just beyond the firelight. As the party rolls initiative, the other monsters arrive and attack.

Group 4
1 x Death Dog (OG, level 6 elite brute) - zombie wolf maker
5 x Grave Hounds (MM1, level 3 brutes) - zombie wolves
4 x Gray Wolves (MM1, level 2 skirmishers) - allied to the PCs, worth no XP
750 XP + 150 XP for each Grave Hound spawned during the fight
level 3+ encounter, could be as high as 1350 XP

The Gray Wolves are allied to the PCs, hence the low XP total above. Killing them is worth no XP to the PCs, although it may prevent spawns from happening. The Wolves act as full allies (providing flanking, etc) but will concentrate on fighting the Death Dog, carefully withdrawing when bloodied. They know its tactics well enough to crawl away from it rather than standing from prone while adjacent, which might clue in observant players.

The Death Dog's Unholy Animation works only on the Wolves, and produces a Grave Hound rather than the usual Corruption Corpse. The Dog will focus all its attacks on the Wolves till they're dead, then turn on the players. It will draw OAs to reach a wolf if need be, and the wolves may try to circle behind the PCs to arrange that. Spend the Dog's AP after it first hits a target, which might immediately produce a Grave Hound and warn the players of what could happen here.

The Grave Hounds attack the PCs, doing everything they can to keep them away from the Death Dog while it murders the Wolves.

Both the Dog and the Hounds fight to the death.


The party can finally get back to sleep, having done a good day's work. The can resume their travels the next day, and should have no further problems from wolves, undead or otherwise. If the DM wants, they might run into some down-leveled shadar-kai who've come looking for their lost dog.
One more low-level (2-3) wintery fight, featuring some reflavored elemental monsters.

Thin Ice

The Hook:

The PCs are travelling during the winter, and come to a frozen-over river they need to cross to get to their destination. As they attempt to do so, they're attacked by whirling clouds of razor-sharp ice.


The river should be at least 10 squares wide, with the PCs trying to get from one side of it to the other. Most of the river surface should be solid ice, which counts as difficult terrain and requires a moderate DC Acrobatics check each time a non-prone character takes a move action on the ice, with failure ending the move and knocking him prone. Several 2x2 and 3x3 patches of ice toward the center of the river should be thin ice, which have the effects of solid ice but also require a save when entered, or the ice patch breaks and the character falls through into the water. Spotting all thin ice within five squares is a standard action, difficult DC Nature check. Characters in the bitterly cold water are are -2 on Athletics checks to swim and take 3 ongoing damage until they leave the water. The current pushes any character in the water one square downstream at the start of each of their turn, forcing them under the ice if they're pushed into a solid ice square. PCs can climb out by making a moderate DC Athletics check. Breaking through thin ice from below is a moderate DC Athletics check as well, while solid ice is a hard DC. Ice can also be broken through by damage per the DMG guidelines, with solid ice being about six inches thick and thin ice less than three.

The monsters lurk high up in the clouds until the party has moved onto the ice, then attack from above, starting from 20 squares up.


4 x Dust Devils (MM2, level 3 skirmishers) - reflavor to "Ice Devils" made of whirling masses of ice and snow and "Stinging Ice" instead of sand.
600 XP, level 2 encounter


The Ice Devils dive from above as fast as they can. Some strike to blind targets with encounter powers, attacking from above to avoid catching allies in the blast. The others try to use melee attacks to push PCs into thin ice squares. They've been using this site as an ambush spot for days now, and know where the thinnest ice is. They'll make a fighting withdrawal when bloodied, shifting up out of reach and then flying away into the clouds on the next turn.


The party can cross the river and proceed on their way. If one or more of them went for a swim, they might find loot and the bodies of previous victims in the river. If you want to be mean, swimmers might also be "exposed" to a homebrew disease (eg pneumonia), especially if they continue travelling after the encounter rather than taking an extended rest to warm up and dry off. OTOH, hypothermia isn't terribly heroic, so that's purely optional.
A few more low-level winter encounters, making up a second day's travel following from the last two posts. If you run everything from all three, a second or third level party should level to third or fourth by the end of it.

Where's My Dog?

The Hook:

The day after the events in post 22, the Death Dog's owner comes looking for him, following the party's tracks from the scene of the fight and catching up in mid-morning. The Shadar-kai is an aloof, snobbish type who insists on being paid back for the death (or injury, if the party actually captured the fool thing and dragged it along) of his hound. He'd like the head of the one who struck the killing blow, but he's graciously willing to just take their hands instead. Assuming the party refuses, a fight breaks out.


Another "on the march" wilderness encounter. See post 22 for details. The monsters should start between 4 and 10 squares from the party's mouthpiece(s), or as close as the party allowed them to come during the preceeding negotiations, with the Shadar-kai out in front by a square or two.

Monsters and Tactics:

1 x Shadar-kia Chainfighter (MM1, level 6 skirmisher) - an aristocratic shadowman
4 x Dark Creepers (MM1, 4-2 skirmishers) - his nasty servants, all bundled up against the weather
750 XP, level 3 encounter

The Shadar-kai Chainfighter fights using the tactics from MM1, and tries to position himself to provide flanking CA for Creepers when he can. He mocks opponents whenever they miss him, and viciously attacks whoever damages him worst each round. His twisted honor demands that he fight to the death once blood is drawn.

The Dark Creepers do their best to get CA at every opportunity. They avoid defenders in favor of spellcasters or ranged combatants, and happily gang up on isolated targets even if it leaves the Chainfighter exposed. Keep them moving around, and when they get bloodied, they flee as fast as they can. If the Chainfighter is killed, they all withdraw at once, but refuse to surrender under any circumstances. Note that their level adjustment produces a -2 to their attacks and defenses, -1 to damage, and -16 to HP.


The Hook:

The party and a wandering mob of skeletons sight one another in a wooded valley. The undead attack mindlessly, forcing the party to flee or defend themselves. The numbers on the other side might actually encourage them to take the "flee" option, but odds are they'll fight.


See post 22 again. Be sure to include plenty of trees to provide cover, but go light on difficult terrain, as the valley's fairly sheltered. The monsters start in a loose formation, with at least two squares between each and two straggling ranks of skeletal minions. The Skeleton and his mount start in the front of the group, about 15 squares from the party.

Monsters and Tactics:

1 x Skeleton (MM1, level 3 soldier) - a long-dead captain
1 x Skeletal Steed (MM2, level 3 skirmisher) - his long-dead steed
13 x Decrepit Skeletons (MM1, level 1 minion) - his long-dead warriors
625 XP, level 2 encounter

The mounted Skeleton uses hit-and-run tactics, swiping at a PC and withdrawing time and again. The rider readies an action to strike the first creature who comes into range.

The Decrepit Skeletons focus on shooting, drawing their swords only once they're pinned in melee. They don't coordinate attacks well, firing almost at random. They do remain spread out, and will take cover behind tree trunks if they're taking counterfire.

All creatures fight till destroyed.

The Inevitable Dragon Encounter

The Hook:

The party is attacked by a pair of mounted dragonborn bandits who've found a very nasty ally to work with. They're easy enough to spot, no subtlety here.


See post 22 yet again. The monsters prefer to attack in a fairly open area, so avoid large amounts of difficult terrain and trees. The Wyrmling is flying 4 squares above the two dragonborn, who are mounted and closing from 20 squares out.

Monsters and Tactics:

1 x White Dragon Wyrmling (Draconomicon, level 1+2 elite brute) - an overgrown, overfed baby dragon
2 x Dragonborn Sellswords (Draconomicon, level 2 skirmisher) - change breath weapon damage to cold
2 x Riding Horses (MM1, level 1 brute) - their nervous mounts
750 XP, level 3 encounter

The Wyrmling swoops in on the largest group of PCs, breathes, and then lands to melee. It's utterly fearless but none too bright, and tends to concentrate on whichever target looks like it has the softest armor. Its level adjustment gives it +2 to attacks and defenses, +1 on damage, and a whopping total of 116 HP. The creature fights to the death.

The Dragonborn try to remain mounted and move around a lot to exploit Skirmish. They reserve their breath weapon till they're bloodied, then try to catch multiple PCs with it. They try to provide flanking CA for the Wyrmling if they can, although it may not be saavy enough to exploit it. They fight until either the dragon or the other Sellsword is killed, at which point they'll try to make a fighting withdrawal. They refuse to surrender, as they're wanted by the local authorities dead or alive, but preferably dead.

Their Horses are just horses, and seriously unhappy about being anywhere near a dragon. They fight normally until bloodied, after which their riders have to save at the start of each of their turns or be knocked prone. If they manage to shed their rider, they flee at top speed. They might come back to the party (or be tracked down) afterwards, which might count as bonus loot.

This Belong To Anyone?

The Hook:

The party sees a shiny magic item just laying there on tree stump. Three Clay Scouts watch from their hidden perches in nearby trees. They and their dug-in allies attack if the party disturbs the item. They've been guarding the fool thing for centuries, and have been here for years, ever since the last thief abandoned the item as he fled them.


Post 22 again. Include some trees for the homunculi to perch in. Climb DCs should be moderate, and evergreens should provide concealment against ranged attacks, at least until the AoE attacks denude them. The Clay Scouts start hiding (Stealth versus passive Perception) in three trees nearby, while the Stone Harriers start burrowed into the ground in squares beneath the item. The ground is earth, so they burrow at full speed. All the monsters treat the magic item as their Guarded Object.

Monsters and Tactics:

3 x Clay Scouts (MM1, level 2 lurker)
2 x Stone Harriers (Draconomicon, level 4 controller)

None of the monsters do a thing till the item is touched, or until they're spotted and attacked. They focus their attacks on whichever PC is carrying the item, or on the closest one if it's been dropped. Once they start fighting, they continue to do so until destroyed or the PCs flee without the item.

The Clay Scouts stick to ranged attacks unless forced into melee, and try to stay in cover when they can.

The Stone Harriers burrow up out of the ground and stab thieving PCs repeatedly, using ranged attacks only if they have no other option.

Come, Share Our Fire!

The Hook:

As night falls, the party spots a welcoming campfire ahead. Approaching, they see three attractive, gender-and-race-appropriate travellers who welcome them and ask them to share their small camp after a hard day's march. Pity it's all an undead trap.


See post 22. This is a camp encounter, but it's the bad guy's camp, and a trap to boot. Include some tents and other furnishings (stolen from previous victims) and a roaring campfire. There should also be a solid mass of fallen trees and branches backing the circle of the camp, beyond which the extra monsters lurk. Three of the Pale Reaper Creepers start in disguise around the campfire, the other four out of sight behind the fallen trees. The Specter starts airborne and invisible, 30' above the fire.

Monsters and Tactics:

1 x Specter (MM1, level 4 lurker)
7 x Pale Reaper Creepers (OG, level 6 minion)
616 XP, level 2 encounter

Unless the Specter fails to beat the party's passive Perception to remain unheard, or the Pale Reapers fail to beat their passive Insight with Bluff, the monsters will gain a surprise round. The Specter will move down to catch multiple PCs in its debuff aura, and the Reapers (including the hidden ones) will charge one or two PCs.

Once normal combat begins, the Specter will use Barrage, then attack the most isolated PC in melee while it waits for it to recharge. The Reapers will concentrate on keeping one or two PCs immobilized till every Reaper has used Blood Drain, then they'll close in and try to refresh the power by bloodying another PC. They then repeat the tactic. Any PCs using auto-hit powers (eg Flaming Sphere) will be either swamped under with reach attacks or avoided, depending on how many Reapers are left. Remember that you can stay spread out while attacking with reach, minimizing AoE problems.


The second day's travel is done, and the PCs have probably levelled. They should reach their destination the next day, as this sort of travelling encounter stuff can get old after a while. Back to dungeon crawling, folks.
For anyone who's planning on using the last three posts for their second or third level story arc, if your party synergies aren't fairly strong, you may want to split them over three days rather than two. This is especially true if you're at second level rather than third, as that extra encounter power makes a big difference. To split three ways while still maintaining some tension and the storyline (such as it is) I'd advise using the encounters in this order:

Day 1 - The Inevitable Dragon Encounter, Does This Belong To Anyone?, and groups 1 and 2 from A Hard Night's Work

Day 2 - Thin Ice, groups 3 and 4 from A Hard Night's Work

Day 3 - Where's My Dog?, Remnants, Come Share Our Fire!
Thanks for all the effort you've put into this, Rovin! I've bookmarked this page and plan on stealing these whenever the need arises :D
Thanks for all the effort you've put into this, Rovin! I've bookmarked this page and plan on stealing these whenever the need arises :D

That's what they're here for, hope your players enjoy them.

And by request, a batch of N and N+1 skeleton-themed encounters for a starting party, with a simple linking micro-story.

Can't Find My Keys

The Hook:

While exploring a long-abandoned necromancer's tower, the party stumbles across a treasure vault (or a magic gate, or whatever fits your campaign best) with four big, prominent keyholes. The lock is a mix of arcane and mechanical mechanisms beyond the ability of any 1st level thief to open, so retrieving the keys is going to be mandatory. Conveniently, they can be found in the ruined dungeon below, guarded by tireless homunculi and their undead aids. A unifying theme to the crawl is the necromancer's odd animation technique, which used magical gauntlets as a focus. Each undead creature encountered will be wearing one or two rune-scribed gauntlets, which become Crawling Gauntlets (OG, level 3 minions) when their host body is destroyed.


The dungeon can be as elaborate as you like, but the keys and encounters will occure in four seperate rooms, each of which is locked and dimly lit by fading magical light. The corridors outside are unlit, so the light should be a giveaway that there's something important within. Each room is an 8x8 square (handy for tile users) with a set of 10' wide double doors in the center of one wall. Scatter some decaying tables and rusted lab equipment about as obstacles and potential cover, and perhaps throw in an open 10' deep pit in one or two rooms. Have to keep the captives somewhere till you're ready to process them, right? Ceilings are 15' high, and each room has a magical light fixture (still dimly glowing, 20 HP to wreck) hanging 5' down at the center. The homunculi (who are each wearing one of the four keys, which is their Guarded Item) use the fixture as a perch, while the other monsters are spread throughout the room, with one or two of them right up by the doors as blockers. The Crawling Gauntlets don't begin in play, instead appearing in the space of a destroyed undead and dropping into the initiative order just after their host. All creatures fight to the death, and the homunculi will only leave their room if they've somehow lost the key they're guarding.

Monsters and Tactics:

Group 1
1 x Clay Scout (MM1, level 2 lurker) - carrying the key
2 x Skeletons (MM1, level 3 soldier) - blocking the door
2 x Crawling Gauntlets (OG, level 3 minion) - one per Skeleton
501 XP, level 1 encounter

The Clay Scout initially remains on its perch, where you'll need a reach weapon to hit it, and even then it gets cover. Try to daze ranged attackers to become invisible to them. It snipes until all the other monsters are destroyed, then plunges down to bite in melee and redirect attacks to other PCs.

The Skeletons stand blocking the doors, and try to attack and mark different players, especially ranged attackers. If attacked with AoE powers, they grudgingly spread out, which will allow PCs into the room. When a Skeleton is destroyed, one Crawling Gauntlet appears in its former space.

The Crawling Gauntlets are Tiny creatures, so be sure to read up on their rules. They use their shifting power to swarm onto controllers or strikers, and will try to double-team victims.

Group 2
1 x Clay Scout (MM1, level 2 lurker) - carrying the key
1 x Skinwalker Skeleton (OG, level 2 brute) - blocking the doors
2 x Decrepit Skeletons (MM1, level 1 minion) - back against far wall
4 x Crawling Gauntlets (OG, level 3 minion) - 2 on the brute, 1 per minion
515 XP, level 1 encounter

Clay Scout uses tactics above.

Skinwalker Skeleton blocks the doors as best it can, and concentrates on clubbing a single PC to death. When destroyed, two Crawling Gauntlets appear in its space. Be sure to mention that its wearing two gauntlets rather than one, the clue's important to the next encounter.

The Decrepit Skeletons keep their distance and snipe till forced into melee. Each produces a single Crawling Gauntlet when destroyed.

Gauntlets use the tactics above, and try to mob up into groups of three or more to immobilze PCs. Remember that up to four of them can occupy a PC's space.

Group 3
1 x Clay Scout (MM1, level 2 lurker) - carrying the key
2 x Decrepit Skeletons (MM1, level 1 minion) - blocking the doors
3 x Decrepit Skeletons (MM1, level 1 minion) - back against far wall
10 x Crawling Gauntlets (OG, level 3 minion) - 2 per minion
630 XP, level 2 encounter

Clay Scout as above. Two Decrepit Skeletons try to hold the doors, while the rest snipe. Each produces two Crawling Gauntlets when destroyed.

The Gauntlets act as above, but there are likely to be a lot more of them active at once this time. One careless AoE could swamp the PCs pretty badly.

Group 4
1 x Clay Scout (MM1, level 2 lurker) - carrying the key
1 x Skeleton (MM1, level 3 soldier) - blocking the doors
1 x Blazing Skeleton (MM1, level 5 artillery) - back aginst far wall
4 x Crawling Gauntlets (OG, level 3 minion) - 2 per skeleton
627 XP, level 2 encounter

Clay Scout and Gauntlets as above.

The Skeleton tries to block the entrance, and produces two Crawling Gauntlets when destroyed.

The Blazing Skeleton stays in a corner and burns things. It prefers to shoot, but melee doesn't bother it that much either. Its flames produce bright light in most of the room, and should be noticeable (light, sound, smell) even from outside the door. It produces two Crawling Gauntlets when destroyed, which smoke ominously but don't do any extra damage.


The party has recovered the keys, and can open the vault/gate/whatever. You could easily substitute other MacGuffins for the keys if you want, including the level's magic item parcels.
And from the epic end of the spectrum, a nasty level 29 fight that could climb as high as level 38 if things go badly awry. Intended for level 30 PCs, but workable at 29 or maybe 28 depending on how efficient your players are.

You May Experience A Burning Sensation

The Hook:

Evil fire creatures are attacking an eladrin city as it worldfalls from the feywild each fortnight. Their last attack destroyed one of the three sacred groves that allows the city to travel to and from the Feywild. Tonight they hope to destroy the second, which will trap the city in the world where their armies of archons, azer, efreet and fire demons can overwhelm the defenses and slaughter the inhabitants.

For whatever reason fits your game, the party decides to intervene. They are aided by the grove's mightiest guardians, a trio of Earthrage Battlebriars. Unfortunately, the enemy has enacted a ritual that will corrupt these guardians into Cindergrove Spirits when they are slain, so the PCs may have to spend some effort keeping their allies alive.


The battle takes place in a massive feywood grove, just outside the city walls. Get the biggest map you can lay your hands on, you're going to need it. The grove should be composed of series of huge (15-25' diameter trunks) trees growing a roughly circular ring pattern. The trees are climable (moderate DC) but the lowest branches overhead are over 200' up, and therefore of limited use as sniping platforms. The grove is enclosed by a 10' wall, which the bad guys will breach without effort. Other terrain should be restricted to patches of brush and undergrowth, granting concealment and acting as difficult terrain. The trees themselves (and the grove's magic) are indestructible as long as any of the Earthrage Battlebriars survive.

The party can start anywhere in the grove, in hiding if they like. The Battlebriars are dug in below ground near the center of the map. The monsters approach from the north in a loose formation, with the dragon and efreet flying overhead at an altitude of 25' and the Balor and Cindergrove Spirits (which are undead, burning husks of the other groves' Battlebriar guardians) approach on the ground, blasting a hole through the border wall as initiative is rolled. The party may well get a surprise round if they're hidden and beat the opposing passive perception with their stealth checks.


1 x Balor (MM1, level 27 elite brute)
3 x Cindergrove Spirits (OG, level 27 artillery) - burning undead battlebriars
2 x Efreet Karadjin Demonic Acolytes (MM1 & DMG, level 28 elite soldier)
1 x Ancient Red Dragon (MM1, level 30-4 solo soldier)
152,000 XP

3 x allied Earthrage Battlebriars (MM1, level 28 elite brute)
-78,000 XP

74,000 XP + 11,000 XP for each Cindergrove Spirit spawned during the fight, level 29 encounter


The Earthrage Battlebriars are allied to the party, but not under their direct control. They focus their efforts on reaching and destroying the Cindergrove Spirits, then any other monster they can reach. Use trample sparingly, and try to exploit your threatening reach and aura, especially against the Spirits. They fight to the death, and transform into hostile Cindergrove Spirits when destroyed, acting just after their original place in the initiative order. If all their remaining enemies are airborne, they burrow out of sight and hide. The PCs will probably need to heal these creatures to prevent this, being limited by the fact that they have only three healing surges each.

The Cindergrove Spirits are the reanimated, burning husks of the other groves' Battlebriars, and this should be emphasized to the PCs as a warning. The concentrate on attacking the living Battlebriars with ranged attacks, but place their huge at-will AoEs to catch as many targets as possible in the process. Their AoE ignores the other monsters, so feel free to fire into melee.

The Efreet Karadjin each have the Demonic Acolyte template (DMG) added, which gives them Resist 15 lightning, aura 5 shared rsistances, +1 AC, +2 fortitude and will, +6 damage, and a total of 520 HP. Also be sure to correct their (misprinted) attack to +35 versus AC. They concentrate on screening the Cindergrove Spirits against melee attackers, and try to kill Battlebriars rather than PCs if given the choice. Use their reaction attacks as often as possible, and remember to heal when allies are killed. Stay spread out to avoid AoEs and share resistances with as many allies as possible. If faced with airborne ranged attackers, they fly up to melee. When bloodied, they flee if both the Balor and Dragon are dead, otherwise they fight to the death.

The Balor stays on the ground and melees whatever he can reach. He attacks targets at random, and generally fights like an idiot. He fights to the death, and his allies will start to edge out of range of the resulting explosion as soon as he becomes bloodied.

The Ancient Red Dragon is heavily modified. He's been down-levelled by 4, reducing his attacks and defenses by 4, his damage by 2, and his HP by 160. He also swaps out Bloodied Breath for Bloodscaled Frenzy, Tail Strike for Snatch, and has the Blue Polychrome bloodline, giving him lovely blue eyes, Resist 15 lightning and a breath weapon that does fire and lightning damage. Until bloodied, he remains airborne at about 25' and uses his aura, breath weapon and immolate to attack. He tries to strip fire resistance from as many PCs as possible, leaving the Battlebriars to his allies. If none of his ranged powers are recharged, descend to make attacks with reach, but remain airborne. Expend one AP to use Frightful Presence in the same round as a breath attack. When bloodied, he goes utterly berserk, lands and melees until killed. He prefers to bite rather than double claw, and will snatch a target at every opportunity. Note that he can grab two targets at once, but can't make two claw attacks when he's got any grabs active.


If any of the Battlebriars survived, the city worldfalls on schedule, avoiding their enemies for long enough that the army disperses, especially since most of its leaders are dead at the PCs' hands. If the Battlebriars were all killed, the city's return to the feywild will be delayed. If all the monsters in this encounter were killed, their lesser troops will be cowed enough to postpone their assault until just too late. If not, the party needs to hold off waves of weaker but numerous creatures until the city worldfalls back to the Feywild.
A late-paragon one-shot encounter, most suitable for outdoor Elemental Chaos, desert, or volcanic terrain. Highlights a nasty synergy between two otherwise-lackluster monsters. If you want a more challenging fight, I strongly advise you modify the Phoenixes as I suggested on the thread here:

Burning Skies

The Hook:

The party is travelling across a barren plain, and attract attention from a manic azer hunter and his winged pets.


Pretty much a barren open plain. Could be sand, rock, whatevver. If you want to complicate things, throw in an oasis or grove of trees, but don't make it too hard for the flyers. The monsters wouldn't attack if the terrain hindered them much, after all. The PCs start in the middle of the map, while the monsters swoop down from 50 squares up, allowing some time for those greatbow archers to do their thing.


2 x Phoenix (MM1, level 19 elite brute) - one carrying the saddled azer
1 x Azer Beastlord Battle Champion (MM & DMG, level 17 elite soldier)
12,800 XP, level 19+ encounter


The Phoenixes descend at top speed. Once close enough, the riderless one makes a pass to use its burst power and spends an AP to charge and bite from 10' up. The next round, it lands and bites a dazed target while its partner dives, bursts (possibly dazing the first Phoenix), and then spends an AP to charge as well. In the third round, the second Phoenix lands in a flanking position with the first, and they spend the rest of the fight in melee on the ground. Draw OAs if you have to to establish flanking at every opportunity. If their bursts recharge they reserve them for a retreat, which they'll attempt only if the Beastmaster is killed and their Immolation power is uncharged.

The Azer Beastmaster has the Battle Champion (DMG) template added. He dismounts as soon as his Phoenix lands, and spends an AP to charge or attack the same round. Attempt to maneuver so that both Phoenixes can flank with him at once, providing a hefty +2d6 damage bonus on everyone's attacks. Be cautious about marking and drawing OAs, as you really don't want to die before the Phoenixes do. Use his encounter power as soon as you get the chance, and use Spur to recharge the Phoenixes' Immolation power whenever you can. Spur is a minor at-will action, so you have a fair chance of forcing the PCs to bloody-and-kill those Phoenixes two or even three times, with them exploding each time they drop. The Beastmaster is overconfident to a fault and fights to the death.


The monsters are dead, and the party can proceed on their journey. This is a good fight to use as a "plug-in" encounter when the party's having a slow day, but it can also be a precursor to other fire-themed encounters in the wasteland. If one or both of the Phoenix escape, they might easily return with other azer, fire giants, or archons who come looking for an explanation.
You still amaze me XD Man i'd love to be a player in your campaign... Do you have a wiki? if your encounter building is this good i'd love too see your actual campaign!
You still amaze me XD Man i'd love to be a player in your campaign... Do you have a wiki? if your encounter building is this good i'd love too see your actual campaign!

Nope, no wiki or blog or anything, or I wouldn't be posting my used encounters here. That said, my campaigns are probably a bit too combat-oriented to really be called good. My story arcs tend to be a bit grandiose and decidedly hackneyed, although the fights are usually distracting enough to conceal the flaws to a degree. Just have a hard time really emphasizing the RP aspects of the game with 4E rules, so my work tends to be borderline Descent-as-an-RPG at times.

Anyway, here's another mid-paragon encounter, most suitable for the Feywild or a natural wilderness or ruin, although it could be plugged in almost anywhere with some work. Highlights one of my favorite "synergy" monsters, the Eidolon, along with its new best friend from MM2.

Doing Some Gardening

The Hook:

The party comes across an ancient, overgrown shrine to a forgotten god. Neither the divine icon nor the greenery is as harmless as it first appears.


Broad, heavily overgrown flagstone courtyard with the scattered stumps of large 10' diameter pillars (varying heights, obstacles, climable with moderate DCs), fallen pillars (about 5' high and 10' wide as they're partly buried in the ground, varying lengths, easy climb DC to get on top of), and small patches of brush and undergrowth (concealment, difficult terrain). The center of the encounter area should have one intact large pillar, about 30' tall, with the Eidolon standing atop it. Two of the pillar stumps nearby have Ambush Vines wrapped around them. Make stealth rolls for all of the monsters to pretend to be harmless terrain, opposed by perception. If they actually beat everyone, they get a surprise round, otherwise roll initiative normally.


2 x Ambush Vines (MM2, level 16 Controller) - note corrected XP
1 x Eidolon (MM1, level 13+3 controller)
7000 XP, level 16 encounter


The Eidolon has been up-levelled by three, giving it +3 to attacks and defenses, +1 to damage, and +24 HP. It does its best to remain atop its pillar throughout the fight, maintaining its stance and using reaction powers to retaliate against the PCs. If forced off (falling in the process) it attempts to climb back into position if it thinks it can survive doing so, otherwise it adopts its stance on the ground. The eidolon is willing to talk, and will maintain a steady stream of chatter during the fight, calling on the PCs to lay down their arms and worship its glory. Feel free to have it claim to be any deity you like, or possibly several of them. Sadly, it has no control at all over the Vines, which are just hungry. It will fight to the death if need be, but has very little offensive capability once the Vines are all destroyed, and will grudgingly permit even heretics to depart if they wish. This does count as defeating the creature, and should be worth XP.

The Ambush Vines spread out and concentrate on catching multiple PCs with their burst attacks. They try not to move more than they have to in order to maximize their minor action attacks (which do get the radiant damage bonus from the Eidolon, unlike their bursts) and minion spawning powers. Generate minion vines to provide flanking and to restrain characters, boosting your burst attack damage. Use your excellent reach combined with the terrain when you can, climbing pillars and striking from above or striking from across a fallen column or patch of brush. Your minions will trigger the Eidolon's main reaction power, and benefit from its radiant damage boost, so try to keep at least a few of them in play at all times. The Vines and their shoots are aggressive to a fault and will fight to the death.

Note that spawned minions are worth zero XP, but the Ambush Vines themselves have had their XP changed from MM2 to that of a normal level 16 elite. If you're in the "spawns give XP" camp on this monster, you'll want to modify the basic XP of the Vines to compensate, but I'd advise against using more than two of them even if the encounter budget would allow for as many as four. Try it if you like, but four will quite possibly generate a TPK, and if it doesn't the flood of minion kills will leave the PCs earning far more XP than planned.


The party might find ancient loot in the rubble and weeds, or even recent offerings made to the Eidolon by its followers. If they let the Eidolon survive and convince it that they're willing to worship it, it might have information for them about the local area, or times of old when the shrine was still in service. OTOH, it's fairly delusional, and its knowledge might be dangerously inaccurate. If they destroy the Eidolon, they may have future encounters with angry cultists seeking to avenge the death of their god.
Okay, this one's untested and chock full of homebrews and mods, but it's an amusing concept (I think), theoretically balanced, and a heck of a lot more epic than bearding Orcus in his lair or fighting yet another ancient red dragon or terrasque.

Amoth Must Live!

The Hook:

Your 30th level party has decided, for one reason or another, to do something about the untimely death of the god Amoth. If you don't know who Amoth is, go read the fluff in Manual of the Planes (under Kalendurren), MM1 (under Orcus), and MM2 (under Demogorgon) and get back to me. The PCs could go mug Orcus and trade him to the Raven Queen for assistance in resurrecting a dead god, but that isn't enough of a challenge for a real endgame party. No, we're going to do it the hard way, and go back in time to prevent Amoth from being killed in the first place. Better rewards that way, and a great last adventure arc to make you names in the cosmos.

This leads to a variety of quests leading up to this encounter. Finding a way to time travel, recovering the Sword of Amoth from Rimmon's crypt, tracking down a few of Amoth's more immortal followers who can guide them to the right temporal location, and maybe repairing a Far Realm reality breach when their first time trip goes slightly awry - they're all just side jobs at epic, right? Eventually, they wind up at the right time and place.

Amoth's last battle. One deity, three demon princes, five player characters. Only one side's walking away from this fight.


You're going to want lots of room. Four gargantuan creatures need their space, and it would be good if the PCs could get out of melee reach now and then. OTOH, the bad guys are light on ranged capability, and none of the big boys fly well. Best place to stage the fight is probably in Amoth's main temple, which should be built to a suitably godlike scale. 80' ceilings, columns 20-30' in diameter, a throne built for a god, that sort of thing. Maybe add some human-scale furnishings to get in the way of PCs and be trampled under the warring titans. And bodies, lots of bodies. Both sides have taken heavy casualties, and the lesser combatants have either evacuated or been killed. Even balors don't want a piece of this action. Start Amoth toward the center of the map by his throne, surrounded by the three demon princes. The party pops in via time travel on their initiative, and should be scattered around the periphery of the fight that's starting.


You can find the stats (or stat modifications, for Orcus and Demogorgon) on my thread here

1 x Orcus (MM1 & thread, level 33 solo brute)
1 x Demogorgon (MM2 & thread, level 34 solo controller)
1 x Rimmon (thread, level 32 solo soldier)
485,000 XP

1 x allied Amoth (thread, level 37 solo controller)
-315,000 XP

170,000 XP for the party, midway between levels 33 and 34


All the big boys stay on the ground if they can. Orcus flies poorly at best, and Amoth prefers to keep his feet on the floor where they belong. They do teleport as needed, and try to exploit their reach edge against the PCs. Spend APs early and get them out of the way, piling damage on fast in the early stages before the player novas start going off. The demon princes focus on Amoth initially, but they'll respond to player attacks in porportion to the amount of damage they're doing. Amoth has no idea who the PCs are, but his situation's too desperate to turn down any help. He'll try to coordinate with telepathic communications where he can, but mostly fights his own fight. All the creatures involved here fight to the death.

Orcus uses Touch of Death on Amoth at every opportunity, and Grasping Claws when it isn't charged. If he can drain Amoth's healing surges the threesome will do a lot better in this fight. Unfortunately, his odds of hitting aren't great, and if he's under atack penalties from the PCs he concentrates on them instead. He rarely maintains the Grasping Claws grab, preferring to use Necrotic Burst and then release his target.

Demogorgon is likely to throw a Quick Lash attack at a PC every turn even if he's in range of Amoth. He'll use his Dread Gaze and other AoE attacks as often as he can, but only when he's not going to hit the other demon princes with it. If it looks like Amoth is on the ropes he may get sloppy and "accidentally" start tagging his allies as well. Use teleports to set up optimal blast positioning.

Rimmon uses Call of the Pack every chance he gets, while using Tongue Lash against Amoth or a particularly annoying PC. When it's not charged, he swings with his pick. His minions will try to skirmish with the PCs, concentrating on dazed targets and blocking charge lanes.

Amoth tries to position himself to maximize Rise to the Challenge, and spreads his attacks around to mark the princes. He's somewhat overprotective of the PCs, and will try to convince them to avoid melee and concentrate on ranged attacks and killing minions. He'll hold off on Scarificial Blow until a prince becomes bloodied, then hit him with it if he can. If it recharges, he does it again, hoping for an outright kill. He'll try to hold one surge for Resurgence, but not if he has a good Sacrificial Blow target.


If Amoth lives, the party has broken the fabric of time itself, and gets to retire in glory and write 5th edition.

If Amoth dies but the demon princes are all killed, the PCs have permanently altered the balance of power in the Abyss, and will be approached by planar entities from Ioun to Bahamut to Asmodeus about "doing some work" for them. While they're mulling over employment opportunities (or the prospect of conquering the multiverse, or whatever) the lingering energies of Amoth, the demon princes, and time itself combine to transform the characters into something more than the cosmos can contain, and they pass beyond to greater things. Like writing 5th edition.

If Amoth dies and the demon princes survive, the party's dead or fled. Some ED's may survive a TPK without effort, but their tampering with time has damaged their own temporal weave. Any surviving PCs find themselves twisted out of the multiverse and condemned to a horrible, timeless netherworld from which they can never escape. In other words, they're stuck writing 5th edition.
Sigh. Twenty minutes of typing, and gleemax eats my post. Well, I'll try again later.

EDIT: Oh sure, it took this one just fine. Bah!
Sigh. Twenty minutes of typing, and gleemax eats my post. Well, I'll try again later.

EDIT: Oh sure, it took this one just fine. Bah!

Aww! i've been waiting for another update
Dont you write them in a Wordprocessor first?
Aww! i've been waiting for another update
Dont you write them in a Wordprocessor first?

Probably ought to, eh? Sigh. First time I've lost a post. Well, one more try:

A level 14 indoor encounter that could be tucked into a dungeon delve, an underdark setting, your basic abandoned/ruined/evil temple, or just someplace with really strange taste in statuary and bad housekeeping standards. Yet another eidolon & minion encounter, in part because I like crazy statues that think they're gods.

The God of Carrion

The Hook:

The players are exploring, and come across a large room with some monsters in it who block the only way to proceed. A fight ensues.

What? They can't all be genius. ;)


The fight takes place in a large room, 75' x 75' is good, and larger won't hurt. Ceilings are 30' up, and the center 50' square of the room is screened off initially by curtains hanging from ceiling to floor. A dozen or so pillars (obstacles) suppport the roof. A 5' wide ledge runs around the wall of three sides of the room, 15' off the floor. There are no railings (code violation!) and the walls are slick and smooth, hard DCs to climb. The party enters through a door at one end of the ledge, and a set of stairs running down to floor level is at the far end. The only obvious exit (you can stick in all the secret doors you want) is a large trapdoor in the exact center of the room, beside which is a huge lever that raises or lowers the curtains (minor action to pull, opposed Strength checks if the eidolon's on the lever too). There is a definite odor of rotten meat in the air, and the floor inside the curtained area is blood-stained and littered with bones and scraps of rancid flesh. fat-bellied flies buzz in the air and crawl on the walls.

As the party enters and either moves along the ledge or climbs down to the floor, the curtains rise to within 10' of the ceiling and the eidolon releases the lever, crouches down upon the trapdoor and states in a buzzing voice that none but the faithful may pass the God of Carrion. Scattered widely around the trapdoor are the canoloths, and the chasme lurks out of sight on the ceiling, still concealed by hanging curtains. A fight ensues, as the demons aren't waiting for the PCs to consider religious conversion.


1 x Eidolon (MM1, level 13 controller) - a fly-headed pseudo-god
1 x Chasme (MotP, level 14 skirmisher) - needs a really big swatter
16 x Canoloth Harriers (MotP, level 13 minion) - going to the dogs
5000 XP, level 14 encounter - probably best as an N or N+1


The Eidolon does what eidolons do, it adopts its stance and uses reactionary attacks to harm people who attack it or kill its allies. It tries to stay on the platform, and will attempt to keep the curtains raised, which may lead to an wrasslin' match with a PC over the control lever. If all its allies are killed, it attempts to call a truce and offers to allow the PCs to pass if first agree to become its new disciples. If they actually agree to this, it conjures up an enormous pile of stinking, maggot-ridden rotting meat using an obscure utility power. It then instructs the PCs to carry its bounty back to civilization and establish a new church to the God of Carrion, after which they can escort it to its new congregation before proceeding with the dungeon crawl. This probably gets it killed. It refuses to let the PCs pass the trapdoor under any other circumstances, and fights to the death to prevent it.

The Chasme waits on the ceiling until attacked or until it sees a good chance to swoop down and catch multiple PCs with Drone. It then uses hit & run tactics while staying airborne, concentrating on dazed or better yet, sleeping targets. Like most demons it fights to the death.

The Canoloth Harriers charge toward the PCs and show them the fun you can have with reach 4 basic melee attacks, especially when your targets are 15' up on a ledge. They spread their attacks around until everyone's dazed, then concentrate on two or three PCs to maximize damage. Stay spread out as much as possible to minimize AoE minion-scrubbing tactics. They fight to the death, barking the whole time.


The party can sweep the shattered rubble of the former God of Carrion off the trapdoor and proceed. Alternately, they may be on their way back to town with several hundred pounds of rotten meat in an attempt to found a new religion. Never can tell with D&D players.

If you like themes, this could be one of several related locations with demented eidolons parked in them. Doing Some Gardening back in post 31 would work as a harder fight, for example.
Another mid-paragon encounter, this one set in the Underdark. A good example of why I usually don't try to do elaborate maps on this thread.

Curtains For You!

The Hook:

The party is travelling along an Underdark passage and come upon a tunnel intersection blocked off by an elaborate array of curtains concealing a mind flayer shrine. This is essentially a toll booth, taking donations from local merchants to allow them to pass without getting their brains eaten. Surface dwellers like the party don't get the option of paying their way through, so they'll have to fight.


Okay, here goes. Take a piece of graph paper, or a battlemat, or something with a square grid.

Draw a line 5 squares long, then turn 90 degrees to the right and draw another segment 6 squares long continuing from the endpoint. Turn again and continue with an 8 square segment, then one of that's 10 long, and finally one of 11.

Then take the paper, turn it 90 degrees to the left, and start another 5-long line segment running perpendicularly off of the other 5-long piece, running parallel to the six-long one so there's one square of space between the lines. Then repeat the first stage by rotating 90 to the right, drawing a 6, rotating, drawing an 8, rotating, drawing a 10, and rotating and drawing an 11.

Then repeat the whole second stage twice more.

If you've done everything right, you've got a spiral-pattern of lines with a 4x4 empty spot in the center, and four open ends that form the ends of one-square wide pathways that curve (squarely) in toward the center and dead-end.

Fun, huh?

The lines you've drawn represent heavy, elaborate brocade curtains hanging from the ceiling 30' overhead to the floor, with a bit to spare so the fabric pools on the ground. These curtains block line of sight but not line of effect. Moving through a curtain costs an extra two squares of movement, as they're quite heavy. One HP of any damage that affects objects will destroy one 5' length of curtain, or you can tear a 10' gap through them with a DC 20 Strength check. The curtains are have variously-toned chimes woven into them (Hard DC Perception to spot, +5 bonus if trained in Thievery), which the mind flayers can use to determine (via an easy DC Perception test as a minor action) which curtains are being disturbed if need be. At the end of each open entry point of the curtain spiral stands a small gong and striker, which are normally used to ask for safe passage.

In the center of the curtain spiral is a 2x2 altar (to Torog, some Far Realm nastiness, or whatever you prefer). Any telepathic creature adjacent to the altar can magically raise or lower any number of undamaged curtain squares as a minor action, which makes noise as normal. The altar has steel shackles ringing it at waist level, which are DC 26 to break, 30 HP, and DC 30 Thievery to open. The mind flayers all carry keys as well.

All the monsters begin adjacent to the altar. The encounter (but possibly not the combat) begins when they detect the party, probably through the grimlock's blindsight.


1 x Altar of Zealotry (DMG level 15 lurker trap) - evil scary altar
3 x Mind Flayer Infiltrator (MM1, level 14 lurker) - brain-eating acolytes
1 x Grimlock Berserker (MM1, level 13 brute) - a muscular thrall
5000 XP, level 14 encounter


The Altar of Zealotry dominates random PCs in line of sight and forces them to run adjacent to it on one turn, then shackle themselves the next. If the domination continues past that, they are forced to attack allies or made to lie prone (kneeling and presenting their heads for eating). Shackled creatures are restrained, which leaves them vulnerable to the mind flayers' Bore Into Brain power. Creatures wearing shackles (even broken ones) are not subject to further attacks from the Altar, so once they're out of the domination, they're free for good. All of the monsters wear symbols that prevent the Altar from attacking them, which can be looted or even snatched away if spotted (hard DC on the flayers, medium on the mostly-naked grimlock).

The Mind Flayers begin by addressing the party telepathically, asking their business and bluffing about their own nature while maneuvering through the curtains to set up for Mind Blast attacks. They use their thrall's blindsight to guide them (again, communicating telepathically) into an optimal position, and happily strike through the curtains. Might even get a surprise round if the PCs are unusually trusting and standing too close. One Mind Flayer remains adjacent to the Altar to manipulate the curtains, which he'll selectively raise and lower to let the trap establish line of sight. The flayers will not reveal themselves, and have no real intention of letting the party pass. Too many tasty brains, and all that magical loot! They fight to the death.

The Grimlock Berserker is a thrall, and immune to Mind Blasts. He circles through the curtains, trying to stay out of sight and come at the party from an unexpected angle. His blindsight (relayed telepathically) is important to the flayer's positioning, so they try to keep him alive, but once combat is joined he's a maniac. Concentrate attacks on bloodied targets to maximize damage, and fight to the death.


The party can proceed on its journey. They might find more mind flayers nearby, or run into other Underdark denizens, both peaceful and malign.
First of two linked encounters for a party of 7th or 8th level. Could take place back to back, or seperated by most of a level, but this one's supposed to set them up to be a little overconfident in the second.

That's A Big Lizard

The Hook:

Primal-spirit worshipping barbarians have been raiding settlements and harrassing trade caravans near their wooded homelands for the last few weeks. The local authorities have called in the party as monster hunters, as survivors have reported that the barbarians have a monstrous reptile in their service. Play up the threat level of the creature, and make your descriptions frustratingly unclear. Sympathizers in the enemy camp have revealed that the beast and its handlers are holed up in an abandoned logging camp, and the PCs are sent to deal with them.


Outdoor encounter, time of day determined by the PCs. The battlefield is a burnt-out logging camp destroyed in one of the first raids. Ground should be fairly level and clear, with heavy forest all around the perimeter. Scatter a large number of tree stumps (difficult terrain and cover) and some felled logs (hazardous terrain, easy DC acrobatics to balance on and move at half speed, fall if failed, cover if sheltered behind) around the area. The barabarians are camping in a half-dozen 2x2 tents throughout the area, and will have two-three watchfires going if attacked at night. If the party approaches stealthily, the behemoth is resting near a large pile of stacked logs initially, and the various barbarian tribesmen will be spread around the area, some in tents, some on watch. If alerted, they'll take up a loose formation with the behemoth in the lead and attack as soon as the PCs enter the clearing.


1 x Macetail Behemoth (MM1, level 7 soldier) - not such a big deal
1 x Human Hexer (MM2, level 2 controller) - a primal shaman
1 x Shrieking Cultist of Demogorgon (MM2, level 7 brute) - a primal berserker
1 x Human Dire Beast Hunter (MM2, level 9 artillery) - behemoth trainer
6 x Human Lackey (MM1, level 7 minion) - generic tribesmen
1750 XP, level 8 encounter


The Macetail Behemoth lumbers into the biggest group of PCs and uses its sweep attacks and marking abilities to keep them occupied. The creature isn't very bright, and fights to the death mostly by accident.

The Human Hexer uses her encounter AoE power to knock down and reposition the PCs, setting them up for her allies. Use her morphing ability on the most threatening striker, and try to keep the Behemoth between you and any threats, teleporting as needed. She seeks to escape if seven or more of her allies die, but refuses to surrender as she expects to be slaughtered by the PCs' employers if captured.

The Dire Beast Hunter finds a covered position behind a stump or log and snipes at ranged PCs. He attempts to flee if bloodied and engaged in melee, or if seven or more of his allies drop, but he refuses to surrender.

The "Shrieking Cultist of Demogorgon" closes to melee against prone characters and uses his blast and burst powers as soon as he has two or more targets. He's a raving berserk (although not actually a demon worshipper) and fights to the death.

The Human Lackeys mob prone characters, and try to stay close to get their defense bonuses. They flee if the Behemoth drops, or if any two of the other standard monsters die. Most likely they're dead by then, but they try.


The party should be feeling pretty cocky right now. The big lizard wasn't so tough after all, and they find that the barbarians they defeated were some of the high-ranking members of the tribe. Surely the raids will be stopped now?
Part two. The players are called in to deal with more barbarian attacks, again accompanied by a fearsome reptilian monster. This time it's the real thing, a young silver dragon who's made common cause with the tribesmen, who regard the party's civilized employers as invaders. You can run this right after the last encounter, or with some other "barbarian skirmish" fights in between, or you could even do another short arc and then come back to this theme as a reprise. Works best as a hard encounter for level 8 or perhaps level 9 PCs.

No, A Really Big Lizard!

The Hook:

The PCs are called in again by their employers from post 37. The forest barbarians have struck again, burning a small hamlet to the ground and putting its inhabitants to flight in a midnight raid. The survivors tell wild stories of a monstrous armor-scaled reptile who tore their homes apart, and savage barbarians who struck down any who couldn't flee fast enough. Once again, the party sets out to track down the beast, this time following tracks (a skill challenge, if you like, or just a Nature check or two) to a small camp atop a wooded hill, with a cave below. A fight ensues, but not as easy a one as they may have expected.


The encounter takes place atop a wooded hill with three steep sides and the players (still tracking) entering along the gentle slope. The cliff sides are 40' drops and medium DCs to climb. A shallow cave opens out of the far cliff, initially out of sight of the players and concealing the dragon. There are numerous evergreen trees irregularly spaced about the area, with their trunks acting as obstacles and the surrounding squares as difficult terrain that provides cover. Three 2x2 tents should be set up in a cluster, and a campfire if the party approaches at night (possibly because of bad skill rolls delaying their tracking). The tribesmen will be spread out near (and some inside of) the tents.


1 x Young Silver Dragon (MM2, level 8 solo brute) - don't call him a lizard!
1 x Berserker Prelate of Demogorgon (MM2, level 8 controller) - a tribal chieftain
2 x Abyssal Marauders (MM2, level 6 skirmishers) - his chief henchmen
5 x Human Lackeys (MM1, level 7 minion)
2975 XP, level 11 encounter


The Young Silver Dragon will spend the first round getting up and moving to the mouth of the cave, still out of sight of the Pcs and 20' down the cliff face. On the next round, it soars up to the hilltop and uses Frightful Presence, then APs to swoop over to the largest group of PCs. It follows this up with its breath on round three, and APs again to melee. From then on it melees or breathes as needed. Play the creature smart, and once you drop to 25% HP or so, make an effort withdraw carefully from the fight and fly off.

The "Berserker Prelate of Demogorgon" (actually a tribal chieftain) uses Bloodletter's Call as often as he can, boosting allies and harming Pcs. He melees while waiting to recharge, and goes berserk when bloodied, fighting to the death. Concentrate attacks on vulnerable PCs, especially those affected by the dragon's breath.

The "Abyssal Marauders" (actually the cheftain's henchmen) use Howling Charge on the same target, and then double-team a PC in melee as much as possible.

The Human Lackeys swarm one or two PCs, focusing on those made vulnerable by the dragon's breath. They flee if the dragon does so.


The PCs have broken the core of the barbarian resistance, but if the dragon escaped, it may return in the future. It might even be a friend rather than a foe the next time around, if it finds a more agreeable cause to champion.
A mid-heroic indoor encounter, featuring a bunch of unfortunate allies for the PCs to protect. May be the only time the players are ever glad to see a Human Noble. Works best for PC levels 6 or 7.

Shell Game

The Hook:

An aristocratic patron or ally of the party has made enemies with a cabal of necromancers, and fears an assassination attempt. The PCs are at his luxurious mansion consulting on security measures when the attack takes place.


The encounter takes place in the patron's home, so you'll want a floorplan of a two-story or larger mansion-ish kind of place. Lots of big, spacious rooms with multiple entry and exit points, large windows, hanging chandeliers and sweeping staircases for the swashbuckler types, and plenty of expensive furniture scattered about as difficult terrain or obstacles, depending on size and weight. Be as elaborate as you like but leave plenty of room to maneuver, as there are a lot of people in this fight. You'll probably get to reuse the maps at some point in the future, when the party gets in a fight inside a Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion or somesuch.

The encounter begins with the party and its allies spread through two or three large rooms on the second floor. Everyone's in "social encounter" mode, so other than the NPC guards with their halberds, no one has weapons ready at first. The undead assassins attempt to make a stealthy approach, achieving a surprise round if they do. Regardless, initiative gets rolled as they burst through the windows of several rooms and attack.


9 x Forsaken Shells (OG, level 6 skirmishers) - necromantic assassins
1750 XP +250 XP per new Shell spawned during the fight.

1 x allied Human Noble (MM2, level 5 controller) - the patron
1 x allied Dwarf Hammerer (MM1, level 5 soldier) - his bodyguard
4 x allied Human Guards (MM1, level 3 soldiers) - nervous watchmen
-1000 XP

750 XP for the party, a level 6 encounter. Could be as high as 2250 XP if every possible Shell spawns, but that's probably a TPK as well.


You may want to give the allied monsters to the players to control during the fight, perhaps with each one getting a Human Guard or the Dwarf Hammerer. If they're careless with them, they'll wind up spawning more Forsaken Shells in mid-fight, so callousness is its own punishment for once.

If you decide to control them yourself, the Dwarf stays adjacent to the Human Noble whenever possible, and uses Shield Bash at every opportunity. He fights cautiously as long as the Noble is still alive, then attempts to withdraw.

The Human Guards will use Powerful Blow and their reach to try to avoid attacks. If bloodied they may either try to run wildly away or back off and use their crossbows, depending on how the fight seems to be going to them. Support (or Diplomacy/Intimidate checks) from the PCs will help keep them in the battle.

The Human Noble stays next to at least one ally, and uses his powers intelligently to aid the PCs or the Dwarf. He knows there's no sure safety outside the mansion, and intends to fight to the death here in his ancestral home. In an emergency, a really good Diplomacy/Intimidate check could change his mind.

The Forsaken Shells target is supposed to be the Human Noble, but they're perfectly happy to massacre anyone who gets between them and him. They try to get CA whenever possible, using their climb speed and Envelop power to set up flanking as well as to get past defended choke points. Try not to get pinned down in melee in tight spaces, you want to be able to use your numbers to swarm individual targets. The Guards are fairly weak, and should provide a Spawn Shell opportunity or two during the fight. All the Forsaken Shells will fight to the death.


If the Human Noble is still alive, the PCs have won a clear victory, and will undoubtedly be paid by him to work against the necromancers who tried to have him killed. If he's dead, the party may face harrassment from his relatives and/or the authorities, especially if they were the only survivors.
Hmmm, haven't done one of these in a while, have I? Well, here's a low-epic dragon's lair encounter, designed as a hard N+3 fight for a 21st level team. Probably works all right within the 20-22 bracket as well. It can be rather deadly to high damage output characters, and should be used with caution if you've got a striker-heavy group.

Deathmask Den

The Hook:

The Pcs are tackling a demonic dragon in its lair. Maybe they just want loot and XP, maybe its got a McGuffin they need in its hoard, maybe it's ticked off the wrong group of adventurers. Its lair is a mountain-sized chunk of elemental stone, and could be found in Elemental Chaos, or in the natural world following a planar breach of some kind. I used it as a floating earthmote that showed up after they triggered a reality storm at 20th level, but you can plug it in most places easily enough.


The main entrance to the lair is a 15' wide tunnel leading to a large roughly circular domed chamber. This should be at least 75' in diameter, and going larger won't hurt. The ceiling is 30' high, and the only terrain is the centrally-located altar to Tharizdun, a pair of huge gongs next to it, a half-dozen Abyssal Wellsprings (per MotP) scattered around near it, and perhaps some stalagmites. Another wide tunnel exits the far side of the room, and winds in a gently-sloping spiral up to a second chamber of similar dimensions 50' above the first. The passage should be at least 500' long, and is a much slower route than (say) phasing through the ceiling, which is only 20' thick. The only terrain in the upper cavern is the dragon's hoard and a few peepholes looking down into the main room (hard Perception DCs to spot, large enough for a small creature to squeeze through if they really want). The entire complex is dimly lit by phosphorescent slime. The dragon begins combat in the upper chamber, the other monsters start near the altar. All the monsters have symbols of Tharizdun branded into their flesh, and are quite immune to the altar.


1 x Deathmask Dragon (Draconomicon, level 21 solo controller) - the boss
1 x Nothic Mindblight (MM2, level 19 controller) - his pet
2 x Goristros (MM1, level 19 elite brute) - his cringing flunkies
1 x Altar of Zealotry (DMG, level 15+3 lurker trap) - evil shrine to Tharizdun
30,000 XP, level 24 encounter


The Goristros try to sound their gongs at the first opportunity (a minor action within reach 3), and make enough noise to alert the dragon even if they can't. They concentrate on guarding the Altar and providinga screen for the Nothic to lurk behind. They'll happily use the Abyssal Wellsprings to enhance their attacks and damage at the cost of 10 HP per round. They probably set their variable resistance to necrotic early on, minimizing the damage from any unfortunate close blast accidents. Like most demons, they fight to the death.

The Nothic Mindblight tries to stay close to the action to use its aura on both friends and foes, but avoids melee if it can. Employ Mesmerizing Visage to debuff saves as often as possible, and Eye of Insanity to dominate targets, especially ones the Deathmask has hit with Mask of Dread or Wail of Death. Force domination victims to attack other PCs at every turn. The Nothic is insane, and likely to fight to the death, possibly freezing for a turn or randomly attacking the Goristros at times if it looks like the party needs a break.

The Altar of Zealotry also dominates targets, although it does so at random. The trap has been levelled up and gains a +3 bonus to both attacks and defenses. I'd advise leaving its HP where they are, it's already plenty tough enough.

The Deathmask Dragon is the heart of the encounter, but remains upstairs for the first round or two after being alerted by the sound of fighting (or gongs). After sizing up the party, it phases through the ceiling and uses spider climb to cling there while it uses Frightful Presence and then Mask of Dread on someone it misses. If the bulk of the party is stunned, it remains in the lower cavern, otherwise it spends an AP to move again, phasing back upward through the roof. The next round, it uses Wail of Death on the largest group of PCs (callously catching allies as well if need be) and then retreats via phasing again, possibly breathing before it departs if it doesn't need the AP to move. In later rounds, it stays on the ceiling and uses its recharge powers and Mask of Dread as often as possible. Use your reach to bite targets with save debuffs active when you have no other powers available. Mask minor action attacks should be focussed on strikers or other high-damage PCs, punishing them for hitting enemies. If all its allies are killed and the Altar destroyed, the dragon will retreat to the upper chamber if it can, or drop to the floor and use the Abyssal wellsprings if it can't. Retreating might give it a short rest if the party dawdles, which lets it burn surges to heal (it's got three) and refresh encounter and recharge powers. Unwilling to abandon any part of its hoard, the Deathmask will fight to the death.

Note that the rock wlls of the lair are too thick to allow the dragon to phase through them except between the two cavern chambers.


The party has disposed of an epic threat, and gained a dragon hoard in the bargain. They might attract the attention of other worshippers of Tharizdun or Abyssal allies of the Deathmask, but none of them are likely to well organized.

Rovin! Come back! post more encounters! lol

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