Archive for the ‘ Weekly Encounters ’ Category

Matter Undermined

For every encounter I make, I try to have a strange and fun gameplay hook that your players will find interesting – something to draw them into the moment. Usually it’s something simple like climbing on giants, gaining a special movement or terrain power, or controlling a giant golem, but I have a few stranger ones lurking around that should really wow your players. This is one of those ideas; I won’t ruin it here, but I promise it’s worth the download.

If you only read through one of my little adventures, make it this one! At least check out the Special Features part of it and read about the Mind Warp ability – it’s something I thought of a long time ago but had been waiting to fit into an encounter. I guarantee it will be something your players will find exciting and memorable, so try it out if you’re looking for something new!

Matter Undermined is a standalone encounter designed for five 19th to 21st-level adventurers. An ancient temple has been unearthed, releasing the power and influence of Ythilus, the elder brain from a destroyed illithid empire, which has corrupted the minds of nearby humanoids in an attempt to regain power. The players must descend into the temple and fight off the mindless thralls and kill the elder brain, all while maintaining their sanity.

It has long been said that the mines of Letharas are cursed. Started for the search and excavation of mineral and gold deposits, the diggers soon unearthed the remains of an enormous temple buried within the hills. After a considerable effort to open one of its doors, the temple revealed strange but pristine architecture in excellent shape; shimmering halls of purple stone and crystal, preserved against elements and creatures. A search for life found nothing but crystal-laden, ornate artifacts, untouched, as if the temple—and everything inside—were abandoned and sealed long before its decent.

Those who stayed in the temple for an extended period of time began to develop splitting headaches and left; others, unwilling to leave in the face of exploration and treasure, stayed, and were driven mad—wandering into the deep black of the lower floors, disappearing into the darkness forever. Sensing a dark presence, the excavators agreed upon sealing the temple once more. Although most of the adventurers and explorers decided to leave the artifacts and treasures behind, some of the greediest excavators filled their satchels and arms with the strange crystal artifacts, carrying them to the surface as the doors were closed behind them.

Within days, the artifacts corrupted the minds of their owners, filling their thoughts with whispers and beckoning them back to the temple. One by one, the former explorers left their homes and lives behind, carrying the artifacts to the temple, which had been broken open once again. Inside, deep within its darkest corridors, an ancient elder brain waits, the sole-survivor of an ancient illithid empire. Now, waiting in the depths of the temple, it uses its expansive psionic power to call and command those within its reach, using its newly-created thralls and slaves to dig into the temple’s underbelly in search of artifacts powerful enough to create a portal between this world and the far realm. If successful, the elder brain will be able to summon in powerful illithid to defend it, growing in power until the empire’s former glory is restored.

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Liar, Lyre

Liar, Lyre is a standalone encounter designed for five 18th to 20th-level adventurers. An otherwise boring town has suddenly been invaded by a clan of hill giants, controlled by an eccentric bard looking to create a battle worthy of his talents. The PCs are forced into playing the part of the heroes, and will need to kill the giants and put an end to the bard’s creative process.

Heroes are found or lost within the pages of history. To transcend mortality, a hero’s feats must be brought to life in an engaging and timeless epic capable of captivating an audience. Behind each of these stories is a bard, wielding words and language in an intoxicating manner to hypnotize, inspire, and dazzle any listeners. Victories and defeats are recorded with the utmost attention to every detail—a momentary glint of sun on a falling sword, the last breath of a life coming to a quick end, or the changing color of the sky as the sun rises on a bloodstained morning—nothing is neglected. In a world where lives are short and names easily forgotten, a well-told tale can mean the difference between rising to legend and falling into obscurity—every story needs a narrator.

Eager to oblige, bards spend many of their days traveling the world, looking for a tale worth telling, for when a marvelous story is remembered, so is the storyteller—fame is one epic poem away. In search of this, they enter perilous caves and dungeons, exploring the unseen evils of worlds below; they accompany armies into battle, chronicling each flank, attack, and blow; each brush with death is a story waiting to be told—a song waiting to be sung. Sometimes, however, there is little worth singing about, and bards must turn to their own devices and embellish a mundane altercation: a skirmish becomes a battle, hundreds become thousands, and an unlikely victory becomes an impossible conquest.

One such narrator in need is Coro, an eccentric bard in search of a story worthy of fame and fortune. Unfortunately, Coro has seen little during his travels that would merit a song and, unsatisfied with the lack of action and heroism, has decided to take matters into his own hands. Using his lyre to enchant a nearby clan of hill giants, the bard leads them from town to town, enticing them to pillage, crush, and destroy everything in sight, hopefully provoking a passing band of heroes into a battle worth remembering.

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From Dawn Till Dusk

When it comes to vampires, you’re usually trying to last the night and wait for dawn. Not this time!

From Dawn Till Dusk is a standalone encounter designed for five 17th to 19th-level adventurers. A vampire named Brilus has taken up residence in an old manor, terrorizing a small village nearby. The players will enter the house with a limited amount of time to find the vampire’s coffin and weaken it before dark, when Brilus awakes to attack.

The village of Solisuan began as a shortcut over the marshy wetlands, and little has changed in the years since. Many of its buildings rest upon wooden terraces and raised platforms that once formed a long and crooked bridge across the swampy terrain. Some live on the swamp itself, in shacks and houses built on the occasional patches of dry and stable land. Together, the many scattered households and shops make up a small and close-knit community; last names are an uncommon and unnecessary formality. The villagers toil through the hot and humid days, skinning and tanning animal hides to make leather for trade, waiting until the cool dark of nightfall, when the village comes alive with music, games, and drinks. Dancing and laughing under the subtle blue glow of the swamp’s luminescent plants, Solisuan has always had a vibrant night life.

Lately, however, nights in Solisuan have been a little more lively—and deadly—than normal. Taking up residence in an old, dilapidated manor outside of the village, a powerful vampire lord name Brilus has come to the marsh in search of a reliable food supply. So far away from civilization and hosting a reliable amount of traffic from travelers and merchants, Solisuan has proved to be an ideal hunting ground for Brilus. With an ever-changing population of people passing through town by the bridge, and an unchecked population of giant swamp monsters, it’s almost impossible to tell if someone has gone missing—and if so, how or where they disappeared. Taking advantage of the situation, Brilus sets upon the village and bridge each night, choosing a victim from the groups of drunken, dancing wanderers.

Although Brilus normally attacks visitors passing through the village, he has, on occasion, taken residents of Solisuan. In such a small community, these abductions were noticed immediately, and it wasn’t long before Brilus was discovered and his house attacked—to no success. Enraged by this effrontery, Brilus has begun targeting the villagers, vowing to turn each and every one into a mindless servant. Under the cover of daylight, the villagers stormed the manor again and again in hopes of finding a weakened Brilus, but the coffin is never found, and each attempt provokes another onslaught of brutal attacks from the vampire.

Now, resigned to their fate, the villagers ward off travelers and spend the nights hiding indoors, huddled together while they wait for the first rays of sunlight to breach the horizon each dawn—giving them precious few hours to fight back before night darkness falls once again.

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Musings of the Chattering Skull

This week’s adventure is a nod to ChattyDM, who has always been a fantastically positive presence in the D&D community. If you haven’t already, check out his blog and follow him on twitter; he’s full of useful information, ideas (to steal!), and is always eager to discuss the fun and possibilities of DMing.

I based the idea of the skull and ice elementals from a post he had a while back, and in general the encounter is full of a bunch of poorly-written and poorly-hidden puns. I didn’t originally plan to make Chatty himself the villain, but it just all fit oh-so-perfectly with the theme, and if I’ve learned anything from reading his blog–he’d be thrilled to know players everywhere are teaming up to take him down and shut him up! :)

Note: this map is really big, so if you’re not planning on printing it out to use, I’d recommend loading the mapless pdf.

Musings of the Chattering Skull is a standalone encounter designed for five 16th to 18th-level adventurers. A wizard’s skull has taken up residence in a frozen citadel, protected by icy servitors as it torments a nearby town. The players need to enter the stronghold and shatter the skull, fighting elemental servitors and the icy power of the wizard.

Built into caverns behind the towering canyon walls of the frozen north, the town of Ibgoln is one of the few places along the northern passage where passersby can find shelter from the relentless weather. Carved into ornate storefronts, the outer wall of each cavern warms the hearts and minds of weary travelers, promising a soft bed, a hot meal, and a good night’s sleep. Adventurers from all across the icy tundra count the days until the canyons come into view, braving the elements in search of a night free from the howling winds, cracking ice, and pounding hail. To those navigating the frozen north, the town offers a much needed respite—Ibgoln is the calm and peaceful eye of a savage storm.

At least it used to be. For months now, the town has known few quiet nights—or days, for that matter. An ancient stronghold, buried long ago by an massive blizzard, has come back to life under the rule of a wizard named Menardo, a once-prominent elementalist. Though he died years ago in a devastating avalanche, a twisted version of Menardo’s soul has been resurrected within his skull, which lies frozen behind a wall of ice, deep within the citadel. Known to most as the Chattering Skull, Menardo has taken control of the citadel, sending forth icy elemental servitors to attack Ibgoln and the nearby passage.

As inconvenient as the elemental attacks are, the town is never in much danger—the buildings, after all, were designed to protect against the harshest weather imaginable. The problem comes with Menardo’s epithet; the chattering skull talks, endlessly, magically amplifying its voice to a deafening volume. The skull critiques, threatens, and brazenly mocks any and all residents of Ibgoln, its continuous stream of insults echoing in the canyons and caverns below. Night and day, Menardo prattles on, promising doom upon the town, the travelers, and the world itself.

Unable to find a moment of silence for rest or sleep, many adventurers have climbed the walls and attacked the citadel. Few return alive, and their failures are revisited often by the chattering skull, who excitedly retells the tales of their defeat. Now, after months of the incessant talk, travelers have begun to avoid the town altogether, preferring to sleep miles away in the midst of howling winds and icy rain—anything to escape the chattering skull and find the slightest bit of peace and quiet. Back in Ibgoln, a grand bounty waits for any adventurers able to shut the chattering skull up, proving what most travelers already knew—a little silence is worth a lot.

Download: PDF | PDF (no map)

Life Is a Lonely Business

I’m trying to introduce some new combat hooks to make your players put away their cell phones and lean in. In this encounter, there are two planes, right on top of each other, that the players can switch between. They can still see the other room as ghostly images, but they’ll need to touch an orb or be pulled into another plane by the monsters. There’s also an optional skill challenge for the players after the encounter has been resolved. Enjoy!

Life Is a Lonely Business is a standalone encounter designed for five 15th to 17th-level adventurers. In an attempt to solve the puzzle of life and death, a cleric named Alfrenk has breached the thin wall of the Shadowfell, inadvertently releasing ravenous wraiths and restless ghosts. The players must defeat the spirits in both the living realm and the Shadowfell, passing between the two planes during combat.

Formerly a crowded city of bustling markets and towering buildings, Vicene now lies quiet and forgotten, left behind by the masses as more profitable trading routes emerged. For those remaining in the city, relocation was never a choice; poverty, sickness, and fear of hunger deterred the weakest residents from travel, and the city turned into a ghost town. The boisterous laughter of crowds were replaced by the hollow echoes of wind and empty streets, the skittering and chattering of vermin, and an almost inescapable silence—for all purposes, the city was dead.

Although most avoided its ghostly streets, others were drawn to them. Arriving in surprising numbers were followers of the Raven Queen, who felt an instant connection with Vicene and those remaining in it; the cold and lifeless town seemed to emanate the inevitability of death and passing on. Temples were erected to the goddess of death, the streets were adorned with her symbols, and as far as the rest of the world was concerned, Vicene and the Raven Queen became inexorably linked.

Death in Vicene comes and goes without emotion, curiosity, or regret; each passing is considered natural and necessary. Those who would delay or fight their demise are scorned, mocked, and often removed from the city, for the Raven Queen would not approve their actions. Each and every life comes to an end how and when it should, the circumstances and timing each demise are unimportant—mere details of the inescapable embrace of death.

Lately, however, death has been embracing the residents of Vicene with startling frequency. Rejecting the Raven Queen in an attempt to conquer death, a masterful cleric named Alfrenk has discovered an entrance to the Shadowfell, and, hoping to release the souls within, has opened a gate between the two worlds. Unfortunately, the only spirits to pass through were ravenous wraiths, which quickly turned their insatiable hunger toward the souls within the city and growing more powerful with each spirit they devour. If something isn’t done soon, the ghost town of Vicene will change once again—this time into a town of ghosts.

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Maws Attack!

Maws Attack! is a standalone encounter designed for five 13th to 15th level adventurers. A coastal town, Sojanse, has inadvertently mutated a shark into a giant, many-headed monster called Maws. The PCs are tasked with descending the nearby cliffs and killing the shark, which fights as a solo monster.

There are shark attacks, and there are shark attacks. The coastal town or Sojanse has a problem with the latter. Built on a lifeless chain of craggy cliffs and held together by rope bridges, Sojanse relies heavily on the fishing trade for its economy and sustenance—a dependency that often proves troublesome. The ocean life is fickle, and weather, predators, and other unforeseeable events leave the inhabitants of Sojanse hungry.

Fortunately, those that live on the edge of the world are nothing if not flexible, and employed a passing alchemist to create a permanent solution to their predicament—a simple concoction of nutrients and plant life that would lure in a bountiful catch each and every day. The mixture worked perfectly, bringing in more fish than the nets could hold; the waters below the cliffs were teeming with fish of every species. Even better, as the fish ate the nutrients, they began to grow in size; Sojanse began to export record-breaking fish on a regular basis, displaying the monstrous catches in every city market able to trade. Each week the fish were larger and more plentiful, and the town thrived.

However, as large as they might become, prey is still prey, and larger prey eventually lures in larger predators. The waters of Sojanse had become overwhelmed with sharks looking to feed on the over-sized fish. At first, the sharks were dispatched without much trouble, though it was noted that some began to grow larger as they fed on the giant fish—it became priority to kill sharks as soon as possible, before they could grow larger and more dangerous to not only the fish, but anyone looking to enter the now dangerous waters.

To this end, the fisherman have been successful, with one exception. Though it bears many scars as proof of trying, one shark has consistently eluded death, growing to an enormous size and mutating into an abomination. The shark has grown several additional heads, and though it retains some semblance of its cartilaginous form in the body and tail, it resembles a deformed hydra at first glance. Appropriately called Maws for its many sets of jaws, the monster claims the life of any foolish enough to venture near the cove, and mentioning its name in Sojanse brings a chill to every spine and invites a warning from every mouth—don’t go in the water.

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How to Train Your Golem

I missed last week, so I’ll be working on putting two shorter encounters up next week to make up for it (blame the Detroit Red Wings, if they would win in fewer than 7 games it wouldn’t be an issue). These latest two have been three-encounter adventures and they’re quite time-consuming, but both ideas only seemed to work as a series of encounters.

Also, not that I’m not proud of my other adventures, but I am less proud of them than this one. I think I’ve finally started to get a feel for levels of complexity and detail needed to keep players entertained without overwhelming them – this week’s adventure has just the right amount of stuff-to-worry-about and stuff-that-doesn’t-matter, and I hope it’s more enjoyable for both the DM and players.

How to Train Your Golem is a collection of three short encounters designed for five adventurers of 12th to 14th level, taking place on the small and remote island of Brak. After arriving on Brak, the players will be tasked with training a golem with the skills necessary to defend the island’s inhabitants from dangerous dragonspawn. First, the players will train their golem to move against small and quick dragonspawn. Then the players must teach their golem to fight, practicing against a pack of larger, more volatile dragonspawn. Once the golem has been properly trained, the players will test it out in battle against a cunning group of lurking dragonspawn.

Isolated from higher society, the island of Brak sits alone, its erratic weather and currents deterring most passersby who would trade or visit. Some settle on the island for this very reason, seeking solitude and peace—an escape from the overcrowded cities and selfish wars found so often on the mainland. Here, the inhabitants find simple lives, enjoying the calming tranquility of Brak’s lush valleys and pristine shores.

Although free from the petty squabbles of kings and countries, Brak is not without its problems. Surviving on the island can be difficult; weather is harsh, monsters are large, and lives are short. Left alone for centuries, several species of dragonspawn have made Brak their home, breeding and thriving. The creatures have no fear of humanoids, seeing them as nothing more than a convenient food source. These dragonspawn—found in nearly every shape and size—frequent the settlements of Brak looking for an easy meal, hoping to find a full stomach.

To combat this threat, the island’s residents turned to an accomplished artificer named Cuciph, who, limited by Brak’s few resources, brought the terrain itself to life as stone golems. Controlled by magical amulets, these constructs are big, sturdy, and powerful, and should be more than enough to defend the settlements—once properly trained, of course.

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Deathdusk Passage

Sarah Darkmagic and NewbieDM have kicked off their downloadable delves, found right here. I wanted to contribute something that could work as a full dungeon delve instead of a single encounter, and here’s what I came up with.

Deathdusk Passage is a collection of three short encounters designed for five players of 1st to 3rd level, taking place in an ominous underground tunnel that connects any two locations of your campaign. After entering the tunnel, the adventurers will become trapped in a hallway where they must fight off oozes and attempt to escape. Next, they will discover a dangerously deep pit; while attempting to cross, monstrous bats will descend upon them and attack. Finally, as they near the exit, statues surrounding an ancient gate come to life, attacking the players as they try to make their escape.

Appearing at first glance to be the entrance to an ornate, stone crypt, the Deathdusk passage has existed for centuries as a shortcut for those willing to brave its darkness. Its craftsmanship is of dwarven origin—no other stonework would have endured so long—though the purpose of its construction remains a mystery.

Just inside, stairs descend into the darkness, masking the presence of hungry monsters, just waiting for a party of inexperienced adventurers. What lies beyond the entrance in uncertain; few have seen and survived the dangers of Deathdusk passage, and they refuse to speak of what lies below. But even without credibility, stories surrounding the passage are plentiful. Tales of endless pits, deadly traps, and forsaken travelers, now waiting in the deep to embrace new adventurers and pull them into the dark.

Whether from fear of such stories, or just simple superstitions, most people ignore the passage entirely, choosing instead to follow the slow and winding mountain trail to their destination. Such a choice is wise, and those who make it nearly always reach their destination unscathed; those that enter Deathdusk passage, on the other hand, are more likely to disappear than reach the other side. Most sneer at the few who dare to attempt the tunnel and lose their lives, but to some, those brave, adventurous few—the journey itself has always meant more than the destination.

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Burrowing Bounties

This encounter introduces the Forever Endeavor Trading Company (say it outloud, muhaha), a group of profit-seeking merchants with outposts all over the world, specializing in exotic goods and monsters–the kind of goods an adventurer like you might be hired to find.

Burrowing Bounties is a standalone encounter designed for five 2nd to 4th level adventurers.

A mine infested with kruthik has caught the eye of the industrious Forever Endeavor Trading Company, who is looking to hire any adventurers brave enough to sign a contract and exterminate the pests below. The PCs will face off against mutant kruthik, strange eggs, and the mysterious forces of cadbarium gems—all in the name of a little profit.

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Molten Mischief

Molten Mischief is a standalone encounter designed for five adventurers of 3rd to 5th level.

Settled on the edge of a forest with ties to the Feywild, the town of Yaviras has become accustomed to the harmless trickery of gnomes and faeries. But when a practical joke goes awry and a portal to the elemental chaos is created, fiery elementals begin to cross over, creating a living inferno that threatens to consume the forest, town, and anything else in its path.

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