Your party is barreling through the Thunderspire Labyrinth module. The enemy is dropping like flies. It’s a bloodbath. The elusive acolyte mage, Paldemar, is near. You sense his evil…only the Tower of Mysteries stands in your way. Let’s see how Ben built the first level of defense.
A brief apologetic disclaimer: Ben’s jumping around a little bit as a previous post focused on the Shrine of Vecna (the third floor of the Tower). But rather than skip sharing this first level entirely, Ben felt you guys might still want to see how it was built out. Once again, he tailored the encounter to fit his own RPG accessories.
The module map called for 18 one-eyed pillars. Pfffffff – got any of those laying around?! Ben sure doesn’t. Worse yet, he broke a golden rule of producing lots of terrain with a limited, one-time use. Alas, he just couldn’t resist the challenge. Plus, he figured he would give each guy in the game group a going-away pillar as a battle memento.
So here’s how he made all those (damn) pillars:
- Assemble a column using three fieldstone blocks (Mold #701)
- Top it off with one crystal ball (Mold #85)
- Paint the crystal ball (Ice Blue basecoat, Regal Blue edge, Skull White dry brush)
- Apply the usual gray fieldstone color scheme for the bricks
- Dab on a little moss flock
- Place your pillar on the game board
- Now just do this 17 more times:)
For kicks, Ben dipped one in a wood varnish stain but alas, it came out too dark and shiny. The columns were a critical element of this encounter. Psychic attacks travel through them from a maniacal priest and an Aspect of Vecna. But let’s meet the whole cast of characters.
DM Ben gets peeved when the same monsters are used in each encounter – snooze city for the players, right? Battling a vast array of baddies is one of the best parts of Dungeons and Dragons. Editor’s note: Ben’s game group is a party of six so he has to up the ante a bit for an appropriate CR.
The original module called for 8 Norker Grunts (minions), 5 Norkers, and 2 Enigmas of Vecna. Sadly, Ben didn’t have two Enigma minis so he improvised and pulled out a MageKnight re-based priest (a real gem).
Here are all of Ben’s army upgrades and matching minis:
- Swapped out one Enigma for Mindscrambler Priest name Ooto
- Added two Minotaur Thugs for some muscle
- Stuck with five Norkers
- Used eight Norker Grunts (four each round)
Opening doors and walking up or down stairs in the midst of the encounter is an age old strategy stigma of D&D. Often, it invites more trouble to an already hairy situation. Other times, it can be a quicker solution to a larger problem. DM Ben decided to increase the encounter’s challenge rating by introducing more doors and stairs to this encounter map.
Ben kept the original closed-door barracks on each side of the main chamber but felt the party access to the source of the pillar mind attacks was too darn easy.
Remember, those columns protect the first floor of Paldemar’s tower. A character shouldn’t be able to kill the hosts in three moves. By adding another level and door to their command center, the encounter just got a whole lot more interesting.
Diabolical encounter, you say? Why yes…yes it is.
Questions to Ponder: Did you agree or disagree with Ben’s terrain alterations? How does your game group handle doors and stairs…willy-nilly or overly cautious? What’s your favorite module with a ton of doors and levels?