Last week we showcased part one of our first outdoor travel encounter for the D&D Pyramid of Shadows module. This elaborate, two-part, homebrew Dungeon Delve kicked off with a high energy horse chase. This week we’ll show you how the individual results of that extreme skill challenge set the table for an engaging melee combat encounter on a large, wide open game mat.
Ben had two goals here. First, he wanted to create a rather large combat area so that it felt like the group was truly outdoors. And second, he wanted to break the party up into smaller groups to create a bigger sense of chaos.
Since this is being treated like a single-day dungeon delve, the challenge rating for our 8th level party is going to be quite high. They are traveling extreme distances and will almost certainly rest at the conclusion of this encounter. So, to create a sense of urgency, this has to be more of a supersized, give-them-all-you-got-fight.
Also, our game table is only so big so to make it simple the travel distance to the edge of each unique melee map section is going to require two full rounds movement (regardless of the per character stats).
Some words of encouragement: Ben likes to add a home-brewed trait or power to a lot of his monsters. It’s a blast to do and WotC’s monster builder makes it a snap. We’ve got some fun custom power examples in this blog post to inspire you.
The encounter’s initial horse chase determined each person’s starting point on the melee map (broken into four distinct areas). Get the farthest in the chase and consequently, you drew the easier melee fight (as the enemy was not expecting you to reach them and thus has its guard down a bit more).
Area 1: Goblin War Party
Brugg, Thunderspire’s crooked sheriff, has hired a large goblin war party to ransack any travelers on the road to Winterbole forest. This marauding war band gets behind the unsuspecting group and then deliberately pushes them forward into more trouble – essentially trapping the party between several hostile forces.
Any character who fails their first riding skill check will fall into section one of the melee map and be forced to fight the goblins and their soon-to-be-unleashed war troll.
The goblins are all minions but what they lack in hit points, they make up for in sheer numbers. A mix of four goblins, 3 choppers and 1 archer, will come in at the top of each round for five rounds. Their big gun is an old cranky troll. We added a couple homebrewed encounter powers to the ugly bastard – Chain Hurl and Goblin Fling.
Strategy Tip: You don’t want to be here. A character’s best bet is to pray they don’t fall here alone but if they do – strongly consider running to the closest ally for more fighting power. The war band will pursue but at least you will have some help.
Area 2: Cave Creature
You manage to stay on your horse for a round but are suddenly thrown into the air. You land near an opening in some rocks. A solid yellow dot hover in the darkness. They suddenly blink and begin to barrel towards you at full speed!
The character has landed too close to the freakish beast’s personal lair. Momma is angry. The vile monster springs into protection-mode. This is a custom creature, known as a Gooly-wog, is a re-based Moon Beast miniature from Arkham Horror Wave 4. The monster is similar to D&D’s original Giant Toad in terms of its jumping and swallow abilities.
For an added twist, combat adrenaline forces the monster to discharge small pile of excrement each round to help clear its stomach for its next meal. That pile of pooh quickly summons a swarm of Rot Grub parasites looking for their own dinner. The DM rolls a yes/no die each round to decide if they attack the party or keep eating.
Strategy Tip: Best bet here is to kill “momma bear” as fast as you can. Hope the swarms miss.
Other cave monster ideas from the Twitter-verse included: Owl Bear, Xorn, Silt Horror, Kruthik and Vampiric Flumphs.
Area 3: Scouts and Snipers
You’ve gotten farther than Brugg anticipated but you’ll have to deal with his last line of defense – Hobgoblin scouts. They’re really meant for mop up duty. He only has a couple spear soldiers in the deep grass and four marksmen in the treetops. Don’t take them lightly, especially those pesky sharpshooters (with their dense foliage cover).
Strategy Tip: Best move is to run to the aid of your party or plow through towards Brugg. Staying put in this area is going to unnecessarily pin you down.
Area 4: The Big Boss
This is Brugg’s camp. He’s an arrogant, fat bastard who doesn’t expect anyone to get this far. And even if they do, he believes his superior fighting skills will crush the walking wounded. He’s celebrating his supposed victory with a hearty feast and is quite stunned to see a horse coming right towards him. He only has a couple of low level hobgoblin bodyguards nearby.
Questions to Ponder: What did you think of the combat opponents? Too easy or too hard? Got any monster swap suggestions? How would you handle movement on the map between sections?