Tag Archives: combat encounters

One Page Encounter Maps: The Wizard’s Study

This article is something of a test. I often see large maps online for free, and they’re awesome, but I don’t really want to pay to have them printed out – especially if they’re not flexible enough to be used in many different situations. Paying a bunch of money for one combat map isn’t my thing. But what if the combat map was small enough to be printed out on your home printer? On a single sheet of paper? Yeah, I’d be in for that. So that’s what I’m doing. If it’s well received, I will make more. Read on… Continue reading

Court of the Storm Lord: The Encounter and Dungeon Accessory

Last week, I posted the terrain I made for the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch at the Charm City Gameday. I had a blast playing the deathmatch, and I’m really happy with how the piece turned out. But I have this hangup with making terrain: I’m not a big fan of spending more time on making something than I’ll get to use it. Sure, there are exceptions, but for the most part, if something is only going to get used once, I do something quick and easy or not at all. In order to get more use out of it, I wanted to use this piece for an encounter in my home game. Of course, many of the features that are in place for the team deathmatch aren’t really compatible with a standard D&D encounter, so I needed to tweak things a bit. Continue reading

Interesting Encounters: The Shaman’s Unhallowed Grove

This post is part of the May of the Dead blogfest being run by Going Last. If you’d like more undead type goodness, head over here for lots more.

This particular encounter has been kicking around in my head for a while now, but it was too… unformed for me to feel comfortable publishing. Fortunately, the May of the Dead blogfest gave me a kickstart; by applying an undead theme to the encounter, it now had purpose and flavor.

I’m not going to dictate the specific background to the encounter in order to give you the opportunity to take it in your own direction. However, the very basic setup is this: a shaman is attempting to use lightning to animate or raise a body. He has converted a ring of standing stones into a primal conduit to channel a storm’s energy into the body, which lays in the center on a slab of stone. His motivations, backstory, and the plot leading up to the encounter, I leave up to you. Sounds very “Frankenstein’s Monster”? Yup, it’s supposed to. Except in this case, instead of using science, the Good Doctor is using primal power. Continue reading

Interesting Encounters: Disorienting Cataclysm

Taking items away from characters can be a fun exercise for the party – how do they deal with combat without certain items? Unfortunately, there is usually a lot of kicking a screaming from players when you take their toys away. I understand that, but I also wish there was more trust between players and DMs that would allow for removal of equipment. The solution, I believe, is the temporary removal of equipment, with the understanding that characters can retrieve their stuff in some way. I experimented a bit with this in Escape From The Badder Warren, but I wanted to explore the removal and retrieval of equipment all within the same combat. Continue reading

The Sea Dragon’s Maiden Voyage, Part III

Yes, that's one of my players on his cell phone in the background. I'm so ashamed...

In Part I of this fun little series, I outlined a skill challenge that took place aboard World Works Games’ “Maiden of the High Seas papercraft ship.  If you don’t remember the skill challenge, take a second to go back and read it over again.  Even though it’s been two weeks since you read about it, keep in mind that the following combat happens immediately after the PCs pass or fail the skill challenge.   

The Combat (Level 4)    

First, let me emphasize that this combat isn’t really “winnable” in the traditional sense.  It has been designed to keep replenishing monsters every round.  Instead of just killing everything in sight to end the encounter, the PCs have a goal (which should be made very clear to them) that has to be accomplished in a certain time frame.    

Second, the combat will be far more difficult if they did not successfully complete the prior skill challenge.  Before I dive into the actual combat, here is what the PCs face if they were unsuccessful at the skill challenge:    

  • All squares are difficult terrain
  • At the beginning of each round, everyone makes a moderate acrobatics check.  On a failure, you slide 2 square toward the port or starboard (random, by die roll) as a gust of wind catches one of the unfurled sails and tosses the boat violently.  This forced movement can push a PC overboard.
  • Both of these combat conditions can be ended by completing the skill challenge.
    Protip: Ranged strikers do their thing from the crow’s nest really well.


    One of the sailors bellows a war cry, drawing your attention to the side rails.  Swarming over the sides of the boat are dozens of sahuagin. Plus, with an adequate passive perception, players are given the following information before the combat starts. Otherwise, they receive it after the first round of combat: There seem to be two of the shark-men who are not involving themselves in the combat; one at the fore of the boat, and one at the aft.  Instead, they are performing some kind of ritual.  If you look closely, you can see a faint thread of energy running between them.  A moderate arcana or religion check will reveal that the ritualists are performing a summoning ritual.  A difficult check will reveal that they are summoning an elemental.   


  • Goal: Kill the two ritualists before 5-7 rounds have passed. (DM discretion, determine ahead of time based upon your party)
  • Enemies: 4 sahuagin raiders, 1 sahuagin priest, 6 sahuagin guards (pg. 224 of the Monster Manual) PLUS the two ritualists who are also sahuagin priests, but do not involve themselves in the combat in any way.
  • Special 1: At the beginning of every round, add 3-6 sahuagin guards to the combat, DM’s discretion. They start their turn next to one of the ship’s side rails.
  • Special 2: The Arcane Ballista from Part II is in play.
  • Tactics: The ritualists start the combat at either end of the boat, and the raiders are with them, as protection.  The guards (minions) should run interference, making it more difficult for PCs to get from one end of the boat to the other, and otherwise distracting them.  They should not all bunch up around the ritualists, making them impossible to reach.  The idea is to make it as much like a chaotic melee as possible.  Finally, the priest (the active one) should stand near one of the ritualists, taking advantage of the raiders’ protection, and attack the party from range with Spectral Jaws and then Water BoltAny sahuagin that is pushed overboard will “lose a turn” and reappear on deck on their following turn.  Therefore, pushing one of the ritualists overboard will extend the number of rounds allowed for success by 1.  In other words, it does not interrupt the ritual, but it does slow it down.   


There was a mini shortage that night, so I resorted to using odd minis and dice.

If you want to make the combat even more interesting, you could have some of the sahuagin start attacking the captain as he steers the boat, threatening to lose control of the boat if he is killed.  If that happens, revert to the “skill challenge failure” conditions unless a standard action is spent every round behind the wheel to keep the ship under control.  I would only recommend this if it seems like the PCs aren’t having too much trouble.    

Of course, the “why” of the combat is up to you.  Perhaps it’s a random attack, but perhaps the sahuagin are attacking that ship specifically for some reason.  Maybe there’s a certain cargo or passanger aboard that they want to get at.  Alternately, the attack could be a precursor to widespread attacks by sahuagin on sailing vessels.  So, if you want to just drop it in your campaign as a one-off, you can, and if you want to make the combat more meaningful, you can do that too.    

That’s pretty much it, in a nutshell.  What’s that? I missed something?  What happens if they don’t kill the ritualists in time, you ask?  Let me tell you:  a gargantuan water elemental shaped like a shark appears and smashes the boat to tinder in his monstrous jaws.  Seriously.  (By the way, if the PCs are successful, the same water elemental appears and smashes into the boat, but this time, only the sahuagin are washed off the deck, and once it’s gone, everything is mysteriously dry, the sun is out, and the storm is gone.  So either way, you get to describe the fearsome elemental.)    

Unfortunately for my players, they didn’t recognize the urgency of the situation, and decided to engage the minions, raiders, and priest for 7 rounds instead of really focusing their attacks on the ritualists.  I know they will probably argue with that assessment, but I think the results speak for themselves.  (Sorry guys)  They are now adrift in the middle of the ocean, one dead, and the rest struggling for survival on whatever pieces of wood they could cobble together from the remains of the Sea Dragon.  Will they survive?  We’ll all find out (myself included) tonight…    

One final note: I mentioned that one of the characters died.  Since January, I’ve been bringing the Going, Going, Gone! Dicie award from WeXogo.com to every session, and just letting it sit next to me.  So I was finally able to give that away.  Here is the lucky recipient, whose Shaman died as his ethereal celestial bear wept tears made of pure sunshine, or some sentimental crap like that: