Give me a little more data and I'll take a stab at it when I get some free time at home. What race(s) are the death knight and vamps, what difficulty do you want the fight to be, what's the likely setting (indor, out, at the city walls of one side or another, etc?), and what's the party composed of (number of PCs, classes, PP, EDs)?
Death knight was Human, Vampires can be humans or fey (elf/eladrin/half-elf).
Minotaur Barbarian/Frenzied Berserke/Punisher of the Gods Human Fighter/Kensei/eternal defender Shifter Shaman/Disciple of the World Sepent/Demigod Changeling Sorcerer/Arcane Wellspring/Deadly Trickster Revenant Rogue|Ranger/Daggermaster/Punisher of the Gods
I'd like the encounter to be quite difficult, even thinking to have it encompass multiple encounters (like, encounter 1, they fight an undead army, encounter 2, they fight the twons, encounter 3, they fight the death knight) or something like that.
Since they will be fighting an army, the setting will be outdoor. Can be alongside walls, or on the open field. The PCs may have an army of their own, but this will be "background" fighting, they will focus on the big baddies.
All right, here's a stab at it. I'm not 100% sure about balance, and I wouldn't use this as-is in a party with a good AoE controller or lockdown controller, but for your party it should be a positive menace. I'd recommend try a playtest (either solo, or with someone other than the PCs running the PCs as crash test dummies) beforehand just to check on the TPK risk.
Legions of the Dead
After a short siege, the undead army is making a surprise daytime (!) assault on the city under a shroud of ritual-induced cloud cover. While the big push comes at the city's main gates, divination has revealed that an opportunity to end the real threat (ie the death knight and his dracolich mount/ally) will come at a smaller sally port built into a fairly isolated stretch of wall on the opposite side of the city. The PCs are stationed there along with a dozen of the militia's finest archers. As the noise of battle near the gates rises in the background, a sentry cries out that there's a skeletal dragon emerging from the woodline nearby. Logic (and the archer captain) says the PCs should sally forth and fight before the walls with the archers providing covering fire, but they can do as they wish.
You'll want a biggish map for this (20 x 40 would be ideal) but there's not a lot of terrain on it. One edge marks the city wall, which is 30' high and DC 25 to climb. Creatures on the wall have cover against attacks coming from outside the city. The sally port is guarded by a portcullis with 180 HP. Scattered on the field should be a few areas of difficult terrain (mud, livestock bodies, half-built trenches) and an onstacle or three (wrecked carts, large boulders). Most of the field should be clear to a distance of ~40 squares from the wall, after which there are dense woods from which the monsters emerge. Illumination is dim light from the unnatural clouds. The archers are deployed on the wall, with two standing by (and firing through) the portcullis waiting to operate it. They'll close it as soon as the PCs go through, assuming they bother. 30' city walls don't mean much to most epic PCs. The characters start by the sally port, rolling initiative as the monsters of phase 1 appear at the woodline, 40 squares away.
This battle is a series three attack waves with no short rests between them. Because of this, there are several objectives that the PCs can achieve, receiving benefits when they do so. These are as follows -
1. Destroy the siegewyrm 2. Destroy all the bodak reavers 3. Destroy a vampire (can happen twice) 4. Destroy the master enigma of Vecna 5. Destroy or rout the dracolich 6. Destroy the deathrider
After each objective is scored, all players gain the following benefits -
1. Regain one use of an encounter power, including Channel Divinity or a "word" power 2. Regain their second wind, or spend a healing surge even if unconscious
After every second objective, all players -
1. Count as having reached a milestone 2. Gain one AP, and the ability to spend it even if they've already used an AP in the fight
A note about minions, DMG2 says six minions are the equivalent of one standard monster at epic tier. I've based the XP awards and numbers on that, which makes them a far more credible threat. If you find your party getting swamped, you can reduce the numbers by 1/3 and go back to the DMG1 standard. You lose a lot of the "mass battle" feel that way, though.
Phase 1 1 x Siegewyrm (Dr, 21 Elite Controller) - a skeletal dragon and minion-killer 6 x Bodak Reavers (MM1, 18+2 Soldier) - uplevelled, +2 attack/defense, +1 damage, +16 HP 12 x Swordcursed Dead (custom, 21 Minion Skirmisher) - link community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758... 29,608 XP 12 x allied Valiant Archers (custom, 21 Minion Artillery) - link community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758... -6408 XP = 23,200 XP in first wave
Phase 2 2 x Eladrin Coure of Strife & Mischief + Vampire Lord template (MM2 & DMG1, 17+5 Elite Lurker) - uplevelled and templated, +5 attack/defense, +2 damage, 364 HP each 16 x Swordcursed Dead (custom, 21 Minion Skirmisher) - more grunts 25,144 XP in second wave
Phase 3 1 x Deathrider (custom, 23 Elite Soldier) - link community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758... 1 x Dracolich (MM1, 18 Solo Controller) - the deathrider's mount 1 x Master Enigma of Vecna (OG, 22 Controller) - captaining the grunts 20 x Swordcursed Dead (custom, 21 Minion) - and still more grunts 35,020 XP in third wave
Tactics & Timing:
Phase one begins when the bodak reavers and swordcursed undead take a move action out of the woodline, starting the battle spread out in a broad front 36 squares from the wall while the siegewyrm starts 41 squares out. Unless the players force them to slow down, they all spend the first turn double-moving toward the wall (26 squares out for the bodaks, 24 for the minions, 25 for the siegewyrm, which keeps its aura off initially). Second turn, they repeat, leaving the bodaks at 16, minions at 14, and siegewyrm 9 squares out. Third turn, the siegewyrm moves in next to the wall and catches a 9-square wide swath with its newly-activated aura while sluicing archers or PCs off the wall. All that assumes the PCs stand there doing nothing, which will get the archers killed to a man pretty quickly, after which the portcullis gets hacked down by the bodaks and the city invaded. When the PCs interfere, the siegewyrm will still do its best to get next to wall with an active aura, but it may slow down to sluice or bite on the way. The bodaks will gang up on one or two of the nearest PCs, swinging one at a time to weaken, then having others use death gaze till they drop a target. In future rounds, the ones that spent gaze will melee while the others switch off. The minions will skirmish, staying in a fairly loose formation and either flanking to aid the bodaks or trading shots with the archers and ranged PCs. All the lesser monsters will try to keep PCs from blocking the siegewyrm. The archers will volley into the siegewyrm till it drops unless ordered to do otherwise by PCs, after which they'll snipe at whatever's closest or scariest to them.
Phase two begins 3 full rounds after the siegewyrm is destroyed, but no later than round 8 regardless of how the PCs are doing. The mass of swordcursed dead rushing from the woodline will be obvious, but (unless the scrum is taking place far away from the wall) won't be in range to do much for a round or three. Unless the PCs have a way to see invisible creatures, the vampire twins won't be spotted and shouldn't be mentioned until they start messing with PCs. They do their best to remain invisible while using spark of strife on melee PCs, or on any PC to draw OAs by forcing an unwise charge. Save their APs to become invisible if they are revealed, use dominating gaze as often as possible, and use blood drain when hurt and asoft target presents itself. Don't neglect to use their teleport speed, and don't be afraid to miss turns attacking if invisibility would be a safer standard action choice. These two are most of the threat in this wave, but they need to be used carefully to be a real menace. If they actually seem to be overperforming, you can have the cloud cover break (counter-rituals from the city priests, perhaps?), exposing the field to sunlight and cancelling their regeneration.
Phase three begins whenever both vampires are destroyed. Another large group of minions led by the master enigma emerge from the wood to kill the PCs, while the dracolich and deathrider swoop overhead at 50' altitude. The deathrider/dracolich pair double move the first turn, then double move and land, spending an AP to either rake the wall (and surviving archers) with a breath weapon attack or to do frightful presence. From round three onward, they fight on the ground, with the deathrider trying to remain mounted and using unholy flames as often as possible. The dracolich will attempt to flee the battle by air if its is bloodied and the deathrider is dismounted. Everything else will fight to the death, desperate to crush the PCs before they can get around to shredding the rest of the (battered) undead army.
The PCs have faced and (hopefully) beaten the best of the undead force. Between the loss of their leaders and the casualties from the assault at the main gate the remianing army should be easily mopped up with a little help from the PCs.
Awesome! Thank you SO much! This is exactly how I wanted it to be.
And in my campaign, the world is covered by a dark cloud that allows undead and drow to walk freely on the land, so your idea of having the battlefield magically obscured was spot on!
Once this has been played out, I'll certainly let you know how it went.
Again, a caution, I haven't even playtested this myself, not even with the usual crew of volunteers running crash test dummies. If you run it blind, be wary of things getting out of hand, and be prepared to adjust things on the fly if an (unjustified) TPK looks like it's brewing. The vampire twins in particular may need to be played a little dumb unless the PCs have more AoE or anti-invibility tricks than I think they do. They're phenomenally annoying even without the vampire lord template, and their best trick uses the PCs huge damage adds against each other, especially for charger builds. You can also do emergency patch jobs by granting an extra objective refresh or two, justifying it as "time passing" or "killed X minions" or somesuch.
thx again... and be prepared to receive more requests!
May be a while. I've got job and housing problems looming in the immediate future, and this is likely to be my last effort for a bit. Sadly, there's no money in D&D, at least for me.
PS: is it possible to add a Template in the Adventure Tools (Monster builder)?. I can level up the monsters, but I don't know how to apply a template... cheers!
Probably is, but I'm not familiar with it firsthand.
I used the Neldrazu / Bullywug Down in the Mud encounter last week. i have to say that was a complete success! My players felt challenged and really enjoied the encounter as a whole. I enjoy having encounters that properly used terrain and traps to the enemies advantage where they are not too difficult for the players to win in the end.
You win Rovin! You rolled a Nat20 on creating these Encounters!
1050xp with plenty of room to flex - bad rolls can make this a TPK for a full-sized party of level 2s, but good rolls (esp. early crits) can swing it the other direction.
HOOK: the party is heading deeper into the catacombs, or perhaps they've found the stairwell that doubles as a garbage chute. They know that whatever they're looking for down here, it's across the underground river, and this stairwell leads right down to the banks. It is likely that the party have already fought some other undead in this area, perhaps in the area through the south door.
SETUP: the players start in their marching order and enter the stairwell from the south archway, or from higher up the ramps. The stairwell is illuminated dimly by whatever the most appropriate semi-permanent local light source is (in my campaign, globes of luminescent fungus that are periodically replaced by the priests who tend to the catacombs). At the bottom of the stairwell, the light sources are not present. The stairwell is a fairly large (I used 9x9 tiles) room with a single-tile-wide ramp along the walls that drops 10 feet of elevation along each side of the spiral. At the midpoint of any ramp that crosses the north or south wall, a 3x2 balcony juts out and a 15-foot-wide doorway leads into another section of your dungeon. On the north wall at ground level, the wall is broken by a 10-foot-wide doorway leading to the banks of the underground river. The floor of the stairwell is sloped towards the middle, and a 5x5 area is filled with stagnant water (AND ZOMBIES... ssssssh!) and slopes steeply downward to a clogged drain. The center 3x3 area is deep enough to force a swim check; the outermost tiles are simply difficult terrain. Bones litter the floor at the edges of the cesspool, and a fairly large pile of bones sits in the northeast corner of the room. When the players get to the bottom they discover that the bones are not resting at all.
4x Skullborn Zombies (Seekers of the Ashen Crown) hiding under the cesspool, 500xp
2x Grasping Dead (H2 Thunderspire Labyrinth) arrayed around the pit, 300xp
1x Bonepile Skeleton (RPGA Gibbous Moon) in the corner, 300xp
1x Floodgate (DMG2 with heavy modification) rusted in place in the doorway, 50xp
As many Giant Rats or Drowned Ones (minions) as you'd like, in the underground river
I home-brewed the floodgate down to the point where it wouldn't kill my (level 2) players, and reworked the Religion check required to defeat the Grasping Dead. I down-leveled the Bonepile to level 5 and set the recharge to 6-only instead of 5-or-6.
TACTICS & TIMING: The Skullborn Zombies wait until a player is immobilized by the Grasping Dead to come out of the water, at which point the first one to get up close uses Bite (which dazes). Perhaps they can bull-rush on a charge! The next one makes a Grab attack. The zombies will continue to gang up on and harass the first player who comes down the chute -- likely a defender -- and attempt to push/pull/slide/drag that PC through the floodgate to the river, where they will alternate holding the player underwater and biting/clawing at him until he's drowned. Then they'll come back for more.
The Bonepile rises up out of the corner and shapes itself into a tornado, a scorpion's stinger, a forearm holding a knife... a different shape against each character, perhaps reflecting the character's fears back at it. The idea is that it is a cloud of bones that continues reforming itself. Its shift-six-and-knock-prone attack is great for making a run up the ramp and leaving everyone up there prone in its wake for the big recharge power.
Meanwhile: the portcullis -- sorry, floodgate! -- drops at the DM's discretion whenever a good solid hit is scored while fighting in the doorway to the river ("you bump against the wall and a section of slack rusty chain springs taut! Metal rattles and a floodgate drops down from above."). Players should be pinned under it on a hit, or pushed clear towards the river on a miss. If nobody is pinned, the floodgate slams shut, trapping anyone on the far side with zombies in total darkness. As it rattles down the rails, players in the stairwell room can see a grille of ornate metalwork on the back wall that kicks up a bunch of rust and dust. It's the controls for the gate!
The scariest part of this fight should come when you use the floodgate to split the party... Heavies will get stuck outside the door fighting marginally dangerous meat bags in the dark, and maneuver/ranged units will be stuck inside with hostile terrain and a mobile enemy that can pack a nasty punch every few turns. Make the healer choose whether to heal or try to negate the terrain advantage. Make the most maneuverable PCs debate the merits of climbing or jumping down into the stairwell vs. sprinting past the grasping dead. Gang up on the heavies with the skullborn zombies' grab-bite-daze-drag combo and try to force them into fighting you underwater where your monsters don't need to breathe.
The zombies are great for color commentary because they die instantly on a crit -- my party's wizard one-shotteda pair early on. I had a reserve of giant rats in the sewer (river) ready to surge against anyone trapped on the far side of the door, but my party managed to not get too hung up in it.
POSSIBLE PITFALLS: Dwarves are extraordinarily resilient to forced movement, and zombies hate radiant damage. A dwarven paladin at the head of the pack, especially if he gets lucky early, can gum up the works pretty badly. Thieves and very-high-perception types might notice the floodgate or controls early and try to employ the gate to crush zombies - I say good for them! The Bonepile has high AC and NADs for a skirmisher (esp. if the players are several levels below it), and the fight can turn into a painful whiff-fest quickly if your team dispatches the zombies. Be ready to shorten the fight at the end if it's clear they've won but can't manage to land a hit.
For anyone interested, here's the map I used; if you match it to the above descriptions, north is to the right. Yes, that's crayon on 1" graph paper... sue me!
Glad you liked it! If Rovin is okay with me continuing to mingle my encounters with his I've got a few others from this campaign that are geared towards very low-level parties (my party just hit level 2) that could round out the balance of encounters some more.