XDMC 27: Another Midnight Blackout Upon Solonavi House
Section I. Setup
Lady Elianna Solonavi is the owner of a very particular piece of jewelry known as the Kraken's Eye. Because several recent robbery attempts and the PCs fame on solving issues, she hires them to protect her during a social event she's hosting at her courtyard mansion. For they can enter without raising any suspicions, she asks them for their weapons and implements in advance; that way she can hide them in location and they can get them easily in case of need.
The encounter is set at level 9. With a budget of 2,000 xp for 5 PCs (for which it was originally intended), we start with four 300-xp and one 400-xp NPCs, leaving 400 xp to make for the additional difficulties that have been added, namely the Blinding Effect at the start and the need to get their weapons and implements from not-so-near as the PCs are used to. These 400 xp will be awarded to the PCs in case the secondary goals listed are accomplished.
Section II. Ambush
Optional Elements included
Nothing Personal (the thieves are hired by someone else, they just mess with PCs since they are protecting the object they're trying to get)
Party Crashers (the whole encounter is run during a social event)
Plain Sight (see "Hidden in Plain Sight", below in this section)
The great hall is the part of Solonavi House selected for the event (northern greatest room in the Building Map - full size here). Large windows at the northest far side allow to see the countryside landscape. Above, several lamps provide illumination hanging from high ceilings. The doors at the left head to the kitchen: the one near the windows is used for exiting the hall, the other, near the great doors is the one used to get in the hall. The great doors, widely opened, head to the entrance hall. The area at the center should be treated as difficult terrain due to the chairs and tables in it.
The entertainment for the party is provided by 5 performers, which use singing, dancing and playing musical instruments simultaneously to enthrall the guests with a performance of the “Pentacephalous Serpentis”. This exquisite show is actually a very subvert attack, manipulating the will of the attendants and positioning them in five somewhat exact spots (from where they think they can observe better the performance).What the performers really are is expert thieves hired to get "objets d'art" without anyone noticing. They are two Elven Con Artists (starting at F2 and I2), two Elven Cutpurses (starting at G3 and H3) and one Elven Thief (starting at E3) (customized versions of Half-elf Con Artist, Half-elf Bandit Captain and Human Assassin, respectively). All of them have their weapons concealed between flashy and vaporous clothing and sparkling gems and accessories. At exactly midnight, each one of them activate a Blinding Bomb (level 8) centered on one of the five spots where guests have accumulated themselves, trying to cover the whole area (namely, C5, E7, H6, L7 and K4).
Though not appearing in the stat block by mistake, Silver Deception is Recharge 5.
Hidden in Plain Sight
At arriving, PCs are received by lady Elianna herself, which indicates them that their weapons and implements are hidden as odd ornaments hanging of the walls (B9 and M9, over the bear rugs). Preventive players may want to keep guard from a spot near their items, which is fine. If not, remember that they don't gain their items' bonuses until they recover them. Ask the players to make several Perception and Insight check so they can keep watch at the guests. Optionally, they can use Bluff and/or Stealth checks to hide their intentions (but only if they think of it, don’t suggest this). The assailants can be recognized the same way the PCs have been: Insight checks against DC 28 make them notice the musicians are paying attention to them as they pay attention to everybody else. If Bluff/Stealth checks were used successfully, think of making the NPCs unaware of that particular character and thus awarding that player’s creativity.
Having detected PCs duty and intentions, the Elven Con Artists and Elven Cutpurses strike first to neutralize them as soon as they can, whilst the Elven Thief seeks lady Elianna Solonavi as swiftly as possible to take the Kraken's Eye and replace it for a replica she’s got for this purpose. If they get an opportunity to get between the PCs and their items, they seize it the best way they can. As elves, consider them having Elven Accuracy and Wild Step as available powers (though they’re not listed in the stat blocks for space reasons).
The PCs got two secondary goals during the encounter. First, they must prevent the Elven Thief of getting near lady Elianna and get the Kraken’s Eye from her (200 xp). Second, they should keep her guests alive (200 xp).This second goal should be accomplished easily enough if the PCs keep themselves from using area attacks. At the first noticeable attack from any side, the guests start to run away, effectively forming three non-aggressive large swarms heading to one of the three exits from the center of the room on initiative 0 with speed 2. Any hit a swarm gets is considered to be a guest killed in action, but not affecting the swarm as a whole. Moving through these swarms is possible but considered as difficult terrain.Another goal to keep in mind is to leave at least one NPC alive for interrogation. The ideal candidate would be the Elven Thief, since she looks like the leader. This would award the PCs no XP, but will play in favor of the party on a skill challenge in the aftermath of the encounter.
Section III. Aftermath
Optional Elements included
Skill Challenge (see “The Five-Headed Snake”, below)
Gala (lady Elianna decides to postpone her party for the next night, but since she doesn’t have any more entertainment available in such a short notice, she features the PCs as celebrities for their deeds in a celebration in their honor)
After finishing off the would-be thieves, the PCs are left with a somewhat bittersweet success. Yes, they avoided this time’s attempt, but what about the next parties lady Elianna gets invited to? Will she be forbidden to use her favorite piece of jewelry from now on? And why is that particular jewel so important to someone to have hired a whole bunch of professional thieves?
The Five-Headed Snake
Figuring out if lady Elianna is safe from any future theft attempts will require a skill challenge, for which having a captured NPC will help greatly, enabling the use of several interaction-based skills. Feel free to suggest to the players the use of the “Speak with Dead” ritual. If PCs do so, they enable the skills listed as “usable only if PCs kept at least one NPC alive”, just as if they would've done so in the first place, but at hard DCs instead of moderate. The only exception to this is the Heal skill as a secondary skill, which remains not available.
Complexity: 2 (requires 6 successes before 3 failures)
Arcana (hard, usable only once): You remember some vague detail about a group of ancient magical heirlooms, one of which was called the Kraken’s Eye.
Arcana (easy, usable only once if forged copy of the Kraken’s Eye has been found, see Perception, below): You can detect a magical aura in the forged copy as well. It won’t fool any trained in the arcane arts, but certainly will fool a dilettante noble lady like Elianna Solonavi.
Bluff (moderate, usable only if PCs kept at least one NPC alive): By posing as the “good cop”, you try to deceive the NPC into revealing some clue about her patron or motivations.
Diplomacy (moderate, usable only if PCs kept at least one NPC alive): You expose the NPC to all the consequences of her actions, offering some diplomatic help from lady Elianna in exchange of information.
History (hard, usable only once): You recognize the particular shape and color of the Kraken’s Eye as a personal heirloom of a half-elf pirate of old.
Intimidate (moderate, usable only if PCs kept at least one NPC alive): By posing as the “bad cop”, you try to scare the NPC into revealing some clue about her patron or motivations.
Perception (hard, usable only once if Elven Thief is the NPC being interrogated, or if her body is searched on, see Stealth in secondary skills for bonus information): You find the forged copy of the Kraken’s Eye hidden in the clothes of the Elven Thief. You enable the use of the second Arcana check above and the Streetwise check below.
Streetwise (easy, usable only if Perception check has been succesful): Now that you think of it, this explains how several jewels have been disappearing without leaving any clue about it.
Heal (easy, usable only if PCs kept at least one NPC alive): First aid can be applied carefully or carelessly, giving some relief or some pain. You can give a +2 bonus to the next Bluff or Intimidate check to be rolled.
Insight (easy, usable only if PCs kept at least one NPC alive): You can use this skill in two ways: By paying close attention to the gestures and intonations of the NPC, you can tell if she’s trying to lie; this use prevents the next failure that results from a Bluff, Diplomacy or Intimidate check. On the other hand, by empathizing with the NPC and determining her needs, you can give a +2 bonus to the next Bluff, Diplomacy or Intimidate check to be rolled. This use is not available to the PCs if they use the “Speak with Dead” ritual.
Stealth (moderate): You know how to hide things, so you can use this knowledge to find them too. You gain a +2 bonus to the Perception check listed in primary skills, above.
Thievery (easy, usable only if Streetwise check above failed): “And these called themselves thieves? What was his escape plan anyway?” You know, you would have one. You can retry the Streetwise check with a +2 bonus.
Success: If players haven’t deduced it yet, explain it to them slowly. They just ended a group of expert thieves responsible for several mysterious jewelry heists in which all of a sudden, the jewel in the owner’s hand was a fake, no one knowing when it had been replaced. Moreover, this jewel in particular seems to be very important for someone collecting a group of magical heirlooms ("sleeping" artifacts, maybe?) all disappeared long ago. Along with the Kraken’s Eye, players succeeding in Arcana or History checks with hard DCs can recall the Angel’s Feather, the Dragon’s Scale, the Wurm’s Coil and the Demon’s Horn. Who is looking for them and why are the questions that the next adventures will try to answer… If your players have been playing Magic for more than 5 years (or did during the original Mirrodin block), add the Golem’s Heart just to see their faces and award them some extra XP if they guessed the heirloom’s names before you mentioned them. Until they can solve the whole mystery, it would be a good idea to have lady Elianna borrow them the Kraken’s Eye for her own safety.
Failure: It seems that lady Elianna is still in danger, but PCs can’t figure out exactly why. They will have to accept lady Elianna’s request for help again in a near future, when a successful attempt at stealing the Kraken’s Eye may lead them to the mysterious mastermind behind curtains.
Notes on Rituals: The use of the “Object Reading” ritual (from Arcane Power) on the forged Kraken’s Eye is pointless: it just reveals it was created by Elven Thief not long ago.
Section IV. Notes
This encounter was created thinking in the Eberron Campaign Setting. For taking maximum advantage of that amazing setting features, you can make the bandits members of House Phiarlan (for which the Pentacephalous Serpentis has a special meaning), and place the event in an embassy at Skylight district in Sharn. Since lady Elianna should add the prefix "ir" to her last name, please consider renaming the encounter “Another Midnight Blackout Upon Sharn Heights” to preserve the anagram. The Kraken’s Eye is one of thirteen artifacts originally belonging to the first dragonmarked beings in the Dragon Between, which acquired artifact status when their owners developed their dragonmarks. This one in particular belonged to the first Lyrandar half-elf with the Mark of Storm, who used it as an ornament for his compass. Want to know more about the campaign storyline? You don't have to wait to some future XDMC, just drop a message on my profile: If I get a few, I'll post it in my blog.
This encounter was inspired twofold: First, by the first part of the first "Mission: Impossible" movie. I really enjoyed that embassy scene in which the whole party dies (hey guys, it's hardly a spoiler, the movie was released in 1996). Second, Agatha Christie’s short story “The Case of the Distressed Lady” (1934). Oh, how I love good-aligned con artists conning evil-aligned con artists. You can find it in "Parker Pyne investigates".
This, my first entry to XDMC, is dedicated to LordArchaon for having invited me to his Zendikar D&D group/project and becoming my "fratellino" no longer after that (by the way, thanks for your help in making the encounter tile).
The NPC stat blocks features original artwork by Scott M. Fischer (though I think the copyright is owned by Microsoft). The Kraken's Eye (originally Piracy Charm) is artwork by John Avon (copyrighted by Wizards of the Coast). All of them are being used without permission and with no copyright infringement intended of any sort.
"No curse we can't reverse; no spell we can't break; no demon we can't exterminate; no plane we can't reach"
- Motto of the Magnificent Order of the Planeswalkers, as said by the first time by Veritatis, its founder and the Grimmchester Brothers mentor
You have been sent on a mission to find a missing merchant last seen along a minor highway. The road winds through flat prarie-lands covered in waist-high (to a human) prarie grasses. You travel down the highway for a short while (2-3 miles) before hearing the loud buzzing of flies (and/or the smell of decay) from 50-60 feet off the road. When you investigate, you find the dead body of an adult ankheg laying in a heap at the entrance to its underground lair, with four dead broodlings around it. There's no sign of the merchant caravan.
As you investigate the body, you are ambushed by a horde of insects the size of small dogs, hidden in the tunnel and concealed in the surrounding grasses. The insects seem quite agitated and attack on sight!
Two factions are watching the PCs' actions carefully: a cult of Vecna and the local thieves' guild. The factions each have legitimate reasons for seeing the PCs eliminated and have decided to join forces to that end. Unknown to the PCs, the two faction leaders have a running bet going concerning who will actually succeed in killing the PCs. Each leader takes turns executing a plan to kill the party; if the plan fails, the leader doubles the pot. The winner gets the contents of the pot. Since this is the first (or second) attempt made against the party, the pot now stands at 1000gp.
A mixed band of Vecna cultists and thieves from the guild (avg level 5) were sent to ambush the merchant caravan and capture the merchant. Along the way, they were ambushed by the male ankheg when they attempted to camp for the night. They killed it and moved on before the brood or the female could arrive. That was over a day ago. The broodlings now anxiously mill about their dead father while the female has been scouting around for her mate's killers. When the PCs arrive, the ankhegs assume that they're the killers and attack.
The body found within the anhkeg lair (see skills challenge) is that of a cultist who was mortally wounded and drug down into the tunnels by broodlings. If the PCs have had previous dealings with the two factions, they may recognize the brooch.
The contest is designed to act as a plot hook generator, where the DM can throw various engagements at the PCs using various creatures and elements, so long as at least one hint is available which links the engagement back to the factions. Ultimately, the PCs should be allowed to find the leaders, deal with them and find the "pot", which they can claim for themselves.
Encounter #1 – Ankheg Lair (Level 1 Combat Encounter)
16 Ankheg Broodlings (MM2 pg 11)
Setup: The PCs approach the area from the northwestern corner of the map. The dead ankheg lies near the mouth of the tunnel leading to the nest. Split the broodlings into groups of 4 and make a separate stealth check for each group. Ideally, one group should attack a separate character.
Map: Use a generic outdoor grasslands map. Include a 10'x10' hole for the tunnel entrance and perhaps a 20'x20' area of matted-down grass where the original combat took place (no concealment). The rest of the map is waist-high grass which offers concealment to Small-sized or smaller creatures.
Perception Check: DC 8: There is a large hole in the ground to the east, roughly 20 feet from the body of a large dead insect. DC 13: You hear sounds of many large insects coming from the direction of the hole.
Heal Check: DC 12: You see that some of the wounds dealt to the ankheg were made with surgical precision. At least one of the attackers was highly skilled with a blade.
Nature Check: DC 10: Ankhegs dig mazelike networks of tunnels, which might contain other monsters that have claimed part of the tunnel network as their own. DC 15: Ankhegs are found in nesting pairs, their broodlings rarely emerging from the safety of their tunnels.
Development: When the PCs get within 3 squares of the dead ankheg, the broodlings attack.
Tactics: The broodlings attack the nearest character en masse. They fight until destroyed.
Features of the Area: Grass: Outside of the combat area around the ankheg, the grass is 3-4’ tall and provides concealment for Small-size creatures or smaller. Hole: The hole leads to the ankheg nest (Skills Challenge #1). It is roughly 10’ wide and can be traversed easily by medium-sized characters. Light: The area is brightly lit by morning sunlight.
Treasure: None outside the tunnels.
The Ankheg Lair (Complexity 2 Level 1 Skills Challenge)
The PCs have entered the ankheg tunnels searching for loot or clues. They wander aimlessly through the tunnels for 10-15 minutes before the challenge begins.
As you proceed through the maze of tunnels comprising the ankheg lair, you can still smell the stench of the dead ankhegs, even as far in as you’ve progressed. Apparently, another ankheg can smell the stench as well as you hear the scuttling of something large approaching through the tunnels not far from here.
Complexity 2 Skill Challenge: 6 successes before 3 failures.
Dungeoneering (DC 12): Success: You recall part of the paths you took to get into the nest. (1 success) Failure: The PCs get lost for a short time and the ankheg gets closer. (1 failure)
Nature (DC 12): Success: You remember enough of ankheg lore to vaguely recall how they generally structure their nests. Although maze-like, they do have a certain alien logic to them. (1 success) Failure: You believe that ankheg tunnels are usually fairly direct, but are proven wrong. You hear the ankheg very close now. (1 failure)
Perception (DC 12): Success: You recognize a set of tunnels as ones you came in through and make your way farther along. (1 success if no failures, or remove 1 failure) Failure: You thought you recognized the tunnels, but end up going farther into the lair. (1 failure)
Stealth (DC 12): Note: Half of the party must succeed at this skill to benefit. Success: You quietly move through the tunnels, trying not to alert the creature behind you. (1 success if no failures, or remove 1 failure) Failure: You try to move quietly, but the dust from the tunnels causes you to sneeze, drawing attention to your position. You hear the ankheg moving towards you even louder now! (1 failure)
Athletics (DC 19): Success: You manage to dig your way through the ceiling of the tunnel and make your way successfully to the surface. (Successfully end the skill challenge) Failure: You try digging through the ceiling of the tunnel, but only succeed in making the tunnel unstable and it collapses behind you. The creature hunting you gets even closer! (1 failure and -2 to next non-Athletics check)
Intuition (DC 8): Success: You get the feeling that if you go in this direction, you’ll find what you're looking for. (+2 to next non-Athletics check) Failure: You’ve got a good feeling about going this way…ooops...wrong way! (-2 to next non-Athletics check)
End Skill Challenge: After three successes, the PCs locate the main nest of the ankheg family. Inside the nest are several bodies including a gnoll, several small mammals and a freshly killed human adult. The human is wearing a backpack with two healing potions in it. He also has 50 gp and is wearing a holy symbol of Vecna as a brooch on the inside of his lapel.
Up to this point, the DM should be continually mentioning the approaching ankheg and how they're just barely keeping ahead of it. The players should be getting anxious.
After six successes (or 3 failures) OR the PCs succeed on an Athletics check to dig out, the skills challenge ends. Determine what happens next as follows:
Degrees of Success: 0 failures - The PCs escape well ahead of the ankheg and gain a surprise round, should they choose to engage it when it emerges. Otherwise, they have time to escape and get back onto the road without engaging the beast. 1 failure - The PCs escape a bit ahead of the ankheg and the ankheg automatically acts last in the initiative order. Immediately enter combat encounter #3. 2 failures - The PCs escape with the ankheg hot on their heels. Immediately enter combat encounter #3. 3 failures - The ankheg catches the PCs in the tunnels. Immediately enter combat encounter #3.
If the PCs fight the ankheg and win or discover the brooch and begin suspecting that the cult is messing with them, award 100 xp to each character for completion of a minor quest (eliminating the threat to the highway and/or identifying their assailents).
Encounter #3 (Level 1 Combat Encounter)
1 Ankheg (MM2 pg 11)
Development: If the PCs decide to fight within the tunnels, have them choose their positions as shown on the map before placing the ankheg. Place the ankheg in a position near the exit, but close to the PCs. If the PCs decide to fight outside the tunnels, the encounter takes place in the same locale as Encounter #1.
Map: If fought in the tunnels, use a maze of your choice, draw random tunnels, or use this map:
Tactics: The ankheg is enraged that its mate and brood have been destroyed (+2 to damage rolls). It fights tenaciously until killed. If the fight is going too easily, introduce 6-10 additional broodlings into the encounter.
Features of the Area: (Inside the tunnels) Light: The tunnels are completely dark. Tunnels: The tunnels are 10’ wide and tall and can be climbed with a DC 8 Athletics check.
Optionals: Budget-Buster - MINIONS!!!! Nothing Personal - The ankhegs mistake the PCs for their father's killer Skill Challenge - 'nuff said Unusual Informant? - The ankhegs sort of have info that the PCs could use (the brooch) in the lair. Wager - 'nuff said
Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding
Setup: A city is plagued by a zombie infestation. The party is sent to the wizards tower to get some help there or at least learn more about the nature of the plague. The tower is almost deserted, but they find the wizards apprentices, who are able to tell them that something evil is hidden in the dungeon beneath the tower. They suspect that all this was caused by the third apprentice, who went missing a short time ago. The wizard has locked himself in the observatory on the top of his tower and the apprentices do not dare to approach him currently.
One of the apprentices is willing to lead them through the labyrinth that they will have to cross. He also knows the password to open the iron portcullis leading to the dungeon.
Beneath the labyrinth is a summoning chamber. The wizard has summoned and bound a number of demons and devils there, hoping to learn some secret knowledge from them. The third apprentice broke the magic circle of one of the Small Grells to create an obstacle for any intruders. The Small Grell then freed the other Grells. They tried to find an exit and ventured the labyrinth - by now they have already a good understanding of the layout of the labyrinth and can use it to their advantage. However, they were unable to exit through the magically sealed portcullis, so they decided to ambush anyone who would first cross the labyrinth, and use this unfortunate creature to open the portcullis.
(The white areas in the east and west are behind a door and outside of the labyrinth the magical darkness. There is a spiral staircase upward to the tower in the east, and a spiral staircase downward to the summoning chambers and rest of the dungeon in the west.)
Features: Walls: The narrow passages seem to be hewn out of stone. They are rough and moist, but otherwise featureless. The ceiling is very low, mostly only 6 ft high. Illumination: None. The area is magically darkened, torches and sunrods will shed no light and even darksight will not work. The Grell's blindsight however works perfectly here.
Rooms: All rooms shown on the map are empty. S: spaces marked with "S" are narrow ducts near the floor. Small creatures can pass through easily, medium creatures would have to squeeze through. The ducts can be detected with a perception 15, but only when standing in the square adjacent to S. If a character can actually see in the magical darkness (see "Optional" below), the ducts are easily visible. Traps: T1, 2, 5, 6 are open holes in the ground, 10 ft deep (50xp each) T3 and 4 are dart traps, triggered by a plate in front of them; the trigger is easily recognizable when activated, so they get a reflex safe; +8 vs reflex; 1d6+3 dmg; auto reset after 1 min (175xp each) The Grells know about these traps - as they are hovering, they are no threat to them.
There is actually a trick for navigating through the labyrinth - always take the right turn. The apprentice leading them knows that trick, but is eager to get into some adventure, so he's not telling them. The party might find out though when their journey through the dark passages is described. The green path on the map shows the secure way the apprentice will (try to) lead them.
Optional: In the library of the wizard a Scroll of Blindsight can be found, granting Blindsight to one ally for one hour.
Encounter (900xp + 100xp for environment): 1x Grell (600xp) 6x Small Grell (50xp) See stats below.
Phase 1: The Grell and some 3 Small Grells rests in area 7 when the PCs enter the dungeon. The other Small Grells are patrolling through the labyrinth. When the party reaches area 2, a Small Grell spots them. Is the apprentice leading the party, the Small Grell will attack him (possibly kill him) and will then flee via the eastern passage through the duct to area 7. Is the apprentice not with the party, the Small Grell will try to find the easiest target and attack as well - as he will most likely not kill the target, he will retreat after one attack in the same way as above. If the apprentice is killed, he will utter some last words: "Take the right way..." (referring to how to navigate the labyrinth).
Phase 2: If the Small Grell survived and fled to 7, the Grells will gather their forces and all of them (1 Grell, 6 Small) will ambush the party in area 7 when they reach it. The Grell will send one Small Grell out to secretly follow the party, to make sure they don't find any shortcuts. If the Small Grell did not survive, there will only be 3 instead 6 Small Grells in area 7 - still the Grells will see the party coming in time and hastily set up an ambush. Also there are 2 more Small Grells out in the labyrinth - it's up to the DM's discretion whether they find the party and warn the others, or not.
When the actual ambush starts, the Grells will try to take out as many targets as possible, but will also try to leave one alive to speak the password for them to leave the dungeon. If the fight looks bad for them they will try to retreat deeper into the labyrinth and try another ambush later. If followed, they will try to separate the party and/or lure them into the available traps.
Aftermath: After defeating the Grells, the party ventures deeper into the dungeon. They encounter the third apprentice and will most likely battle him. If they manage not to kill him they gain further knowledge about the plot. The apprentice is magically enthralled. A skill challenge (6 successes before 3 failures, skills Arcana, Heal, Insight) can shake of the spell. The third apprentice is not behind the zombie plague - it's the wizard himself. There is a monstrous being in the lowest level of the dungeon that causes the plague. It enthralled the third apprentice when he sneaked into the dungeon to find out what secrets his master had hidden there. The party can now decide to either approach the dark being in the dungeon, or return to the top of the tower, confronting the wizard. Either of them will try to talk the party into killing the other one. Both will give more detailed information into the plot, though only from their point of view.
-------------------------------------------------------------- Grell Level 7 Elite Soldier Medium aberrant magical beast XP 600 Initiative +9 Senses Perception +9; blindsight HP 156; Bloodied 78 AC 22; Fortitude 19; Reflex 20; Will 17 Immune gaze Saving Throws +2 Speed 1 , Fly 6 (hover) Action Points 1 m Tentacle Rake (standard; at-will) • Poison Reach 2; +12 vs AC; 3d8 + 4 damage, and the target is slowed and takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls (save ends both) M Tentacle Grab (standard; at-will) Reach 2; +12 vs Fortitude; 2d8 + 4 damage, and the target is grabbed. The grell can grab only one creature at a time M Venomous Bite (minor 1/round; at-will) • Poison Grabbed target only; +12 vs AC; 1d8 + 4 damage, and the target is stunned (save ends) Alignment Evil Languages Deep Speech Skills Stealth +17 Str 12 (+4) Dex 19 (+7) Wis 12 (+4) Con 14 (+5) Int 10 (+3) Cha 9 (+2) Monster found in Monster Manual and Compendium -------------------------------------------------------------- Small Grell Level 5 Minion Lurker Small aberrant magical beast XP 50 Initiative +11 Senses Perception +6; blindsight HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minion. AC 18; Fortitude 17; Reflex 18; Will 15 Immune gaze Speed 1 , Fly 4 (hover) m Poisonous Tentacle (standard; at-will) • Poison +10 vs AC; 1d6 + 1 damage, and the target is grabbed (until escape) and takes ongoing 7 damage until it escapes. An attached Grell doesn’t make attack rolls while grabbing a target and gains a +5 bonus to its AC and Reflex defenses Alignment Evil Languages — Skills Stealth +17 Str 5 (–1) Dex 21 (+7) Wis 8 (+1) Con 13 (+3) Int 9 (+1) Cha 8 (+1) -------------------------------------------------------------- Apprentice: the apprentice uses the same stats as "Human Mage" from the MM, only that he's a minion (1hp).
Synopsis: The player characters, having decided to travel south, enter the Bowstring Pass. They follow a path to Doljak's Ford, the only crossing of the Silverchain Creek for miles. The creek is the traditional northern border of a small, paranoid dwarven clan. When the players cross the creek, the dwarves guarding the border assume they are part of a hostile miltary force, and retaliate.
The steep mountain path you are following opens up into a rocky meadow, dotted with enormous boulders and hardy alpine trees. A swift creek crosses your path, although it looks like it could be forded here.
Have the players place their characters at the north end of the path.
Perception DC 19: You spot some humanoids hiding in the trees on the far side of the creek.
History DC 12: You recall that this creek is the northern border of the traditional lands of a small clan of dwarves.
The dwarves hold their actions until one of the player characters starts to cross the river. Once that happens, the dwarf warriors open fire. Their preference for targets is: 1. Anyone in melee combat with the dwarves. 2. The closest target without cover. 3. The closest target with cover. 4. Dying or dead targets.
The dwarf clan guards generally ready their actions to charge anyone who enters melee combat with the dwarves. If that seems unlikely, they may use their ranged attack, targetting as above.
Features of the Area
Path: The path is indicated with 'X's on the map, running from north to south. It is clear terrain.
Trees: The trees are difficult, heavily obscured terrain.
Boulders: The boulders are blocking terrain, 20 feet high.
Ford: The river crossing is difficult terrain. The current isn't very strong on these squares; only prone creatures are subject to a strength-1 current that pushes them west.
Creek: The creek squares have a strength-1 current, in the direction depicted by their arrows. The water is 10 feet deep; most player characters will need to swim. For the purposes of swimming, the water is considered 'calm'.
Grate: A makeshift grate has been erected at the southwestern end of the river by the dwarves to catch any loose debris. The current cannot push a character past the grate. It costs one additional square of movement to move through the grate.
Before running this encounter, the DM may wish to review the following rules:
* Note that the dwarf warriors will normally be benefitting from their Dwarf Solidarity, and their ranged attacks will normally be dealing the increased damage against targets without cover.
Concluding the Encounter
If the heroes are successful, they discover one treasure parcel held by one of the dwarves. They also notice that all the dwarves appear to be wearing some sort of military uniform.
Several weeks or months after this encounter, word reaches the diplomats for these two nations about the battle. Eager to avoid a war, the northern nation denounces the heroes as rogue agents who will be dealt with as criminals. This may lead to arrest, trial, exile, or even execution for the player characters if they are ever captured by the authorities of either nation.
For the Ambush: 1. Budget-Buster: Over half the XP budget for the ambush, 300 of 500 xp, is spent on the dwarf warrior minions. 3. Nothing Personal: The ambushers attack the party because they are mistaken for a hostile invasion force (which may not be all that far from the truth.)
For the Aftermath: 2. Delay: The aftermath of the ambush does not begin immediately; it takes at least several weeks for word to get out and for the diplomatic channels to process it. 3. Framed: The local authorities believe the party intentionally tried to start a war with the dwarves. Whether they simply stumbled across the border or were placed on the path by some malevolent villain is left up to the DM.
This one was a lot of fun. I tried to interpret 'ambush' in a very literal and straightforward way. A group coming under fire while trying to cross a river is a classic ambush that can be found almost anywhere in the history of warfare. Is it unfair, or cruel, for a DM to have 12 minions all shoot, at +8 vs AC and 6 damage, at a single character out in the open? I personally think it's just fine, but I can appreciate that some DMs may want to tone it down a bit. The maps are my own work. They might not be pretty, but I like to think they get the job done.