As Ben’s game group embarks on a long journey to the mysterious Winterbole forest, there’s no better time than the present to do a new three-part miniseries on the great outdoors. When those dungeon walls come down, suddenly all sorts of fun can be had with homebrewed, open air encounters. Ben has three such events in mind for his Pyramid of Shadows module travel transition and kicks it off with Beggar’s Run – a caravan escort gone horribly wrong. Saddle up!
Editor’s Note: One of Ben’s all-time favorite D&D books is Dungeon Delve. It contains dozens of self-contained, easy-to-run mini-dungeons, or “delves,” that only require a few hours of game-play. Our 8th level encounter here might fit that bill on a particular game night.
Fresh off a heroic victory inside Thunderspire Labyrinth, the group comes in contact with the town’s local blacksmith – Crikey Shoeheart. He explains how getting anything in or out of the city has become incredibly difficult. Well, he heard that you’re heading towards Winterbole and it just so happens he has a valuable crate of goods that needs to be delivered to a distant cohort along your travel route.
One small problem – Crikey can’t afford the local magistrate’s protection money. Soooo, since you’re traveling in that direction anyway, this is clearly a win-win. The blacksmith offers to forge a magic item (no higher than 8th level) of your choice as payment.
One small catch – the item will be placed in a magically-sealed chest and can only be opened by his pal on the receiving end of the package. Thus, there’s plenty of incentive to get the box there safely.
Sadly, the players are doomed to fail. It turns out the town’s crooked sheriff, Brugg, is behind all the travel treachery. The constant threat allows him to charge more money for security. If people don’t pay his exorbitant fees, he simply kills them along the route for their cargo. If they do pay, he lets them skate by with their lives. This encounter will conclude with a climatic Brugg showdown.
This encounter has two distinct parts: a high adrenaline horse chase and a subsequent open-field melee combat. The per character results of the horse chase will determine each person’s starting point on the melee map (broken into four distinct areas). Get the farthest in the chase and consequently, you get the easier melee fight. Stay on your horse for all four parts of the high speed pursuit skill challenge and you can even keep your mount for the hand-to-hand fight.
Due to article length, we’ll cover the horse chase this week and the melee battle next week.
Ben wants to keep the rules rather simple and avoid getting too bogged down in any lawyer-ing. Still, he did his research and gleamed some worthy notes. Be sure to read the following:
Our favorite notes from the sources above included: mounts don’t get move spell bonuses (like teleport). The rider and mount both occupy the horse’s 2×2 space but these same occupants are targeted separately. Push, pull and slide effects go to both the rider and the mount. Dismounting is a move action.
- Luck (DC 10): to see if you draw a bad seed from the horse pool.
- Nature (DC 16): to determine the animal’s temperament towards you.
- Diplomacy (DC 18): to try and sway the beast in your favor.
You receive a +1 or -1 to each successful check determine your final ride skill bonus. DM Note: this is an important skill check as the worst horse is going to be the chase encounter trigger. So, be sure to roll off any ties.
“The area around you suddenly becomes eerily quiet. Several of the horses lift their heads and sniff the air. The mounts are becoming agitated and beginning to stomp the ground. Around the last bend, an outlined group of creatures suddenly comes into view. The surliest horse in the party and the wagon horse both suddenly bolt! The trailing monster pack realizes it’s been spotted and a group of wolf-like riders sprints towards you!”
DM Notes: A pack of goblins and a chained battle troll have caught up with the party. The horses sensed the Goblin riders’ foul beasts and panicked. The other horses in the party must choose who they will follow…the precious loot or their ally. This hard choice determines party proximity in the melee combat (more to come on that).
P1: The Chase Obstacle Table
This portion of the encounter will involve four separate adrenaline-pumping riding tests. Your goal is simple: stay on the horse. The combination of uneven terrain, tall grass and frantic horses are going to place dastardly field obstacles in front of you with very little time to react.
Failing that round’s check means the horse chase portion of the encounter immediately stops for your character (after some painful falling damage: 3d6+10). The encounter continues until each person has failed in a given round or four rounds are successfully completed. Roll a d12 to determine each event for each character in the given round.
- Rock Outcropping (DC 8): on a roll of 1 – 3
- Tree Duck (DC 10): on a roll of 4 – 5
- Debris Pile (DC 12): on a roll of 6
- Goblin Rider (DC 14): on a roll of 7 – 9
- Hobgoblin Spearman (DC 16): on a roll of 10 – 11
- No Threat (continue riding): on a roll of 12
Now let’s do an example of how you resolve the chase scene event:
- Step 1: Determine the obstacle (player rolled an 8…Goblin Rider)
- Step 2: Pull your horse quality number (ornery horse: -1)
- Step 3: Role play for an additional +/- bonus of 1-2 (well done, get +2)
- Step 4: Get your athletics skill bonus (player has +6)
- Step 5: Roll the actual check (player rolls a 10 on a d20)
- Step 6: Add ‘em up. -1 + 2 + 6 + 10 = 17 result
- Step 7: Resolve. 17 total roll on a DC of 14. Continue riding to next round.
It would probably sound something like this: The DM says, “Your horse is in full stride. A goblin rider is hot on your heels. Your horse is jittery and swerving.” The Player replies, “I scowl at the goblin. I reach for my trusty dagger and then rise out of my saddle to fling it at the foul rider.”
Rolling and calculating ensues. The DM concludes, “The dagger sticks into the goblin’s arm and tumbles to the ground. You gallop on.”
If the player fails its event, he/she has consequently set its spot on the upcoming hand-to-hand combat map. There are four areas. So….if you crash on event 2 for example, your character is placed in section 2. If you succeed on all four events, you end on section four (the easiest).
DM Note 1: The DM can roll the wagon results or let the game group share in the rolling. The cart’s heavy horse is no pro and has quality score of -2. The hired driver has an Athletics skill of just 3.
DM Note 2: Ideally, you want to establish some distance between the loot cart and the first bolting horse. Hence, the first player only makes 3 event checks and can do no worse than quadrant two.
DM Note 3: A player can decide to just fall off but be sure to explain the danger of such a move (meaning heavy damage, broken bones, etc). Describe the threat like trying to leap from a speeding train. Also, anyone who rolls a critical miss on any check is going to take epic crashing damage (5d10,+10, broken bone, temp -2 penaltys to all rolls until the DM says the limb has healed).
Next Week: Part 2 – the Melee Battle
This was a rather long article so Ben will wait until next week to show you what happens after the horse chase ends and the melee combat begins.
Questions to Ponder: What did you think of this dungeon delve encounter? Have you ever done a horse chase scene in any D&D edition? How was it the same or different? Do you have any mount house rules of your own? Got any recos on stuff to change (damage, DCs, checks, etc)? Did Ben miss something?