Welcome to another installment of Use This Book Tonight, wherein you'll find suggestions for introducing recently released Dungeons & Dragons books (and other material) to your players. This article features an encounter built around several creatures detailed in Monster Manual 2.
Monster Manual 2 features dozens of new monsters. Some are old favorites translated into 4th Edition rules. Some are expansions of monsters from Monster Manual. Yet others are brand-spanking new monsters created specifically for 4th Edition. For the following, you need to have Monster Manual 2 available for the creature stats (since we are not reprinting them in their entirety), but page references are provided. This encounter is written for 9th-level adventurers, and it includes suggestions for modifying it up or down by three levels. It should be easy to modify the encounter further if your group is much outside this range.
Short side treks are a part of many games. Some are prepared in advance, while others are spur of the moment improvisational exercises orchestrated by crafty DMs. In this side trek, the adventurers stumble across something unexpected: a sacrificial rite already underway. This encounter might stand alone as a mini-story of its own, or be integrated into an ongoing adventure using the aftermath of the encounter to provide information or aid to the adventurers' larger quest.
The following encounter can be used any time the PCs rest for the night. Ideally, the adventurers should be traveling through hilly or mountainous terrain or at least near a large hill. The encounter could also be integrated into a trek through the Underdark, since it takes place in an old underground temple site.
Alternatively, the adventurers might have heard of unusual activity in the area and then decided to investigate on their own or they could have been dispatched specifically to rescue the victim of the sacrifice.
The PCs have just ended a long day's travel and are preparing to set up camp as the sun sets. Just as they begin making preparations, they experience something unexpected. Read:
As night falls, your senses are drawn to something in the distance. The flickering of fire rolls past a hilltop and a deep rumble of voices drifts through the darkness. It seems that several voices are chanting loudly in unison.
If the PCs ignore the event at first, you might prompt them into action by describing a long, piercing scream that is abruptly cut off mid-shriek. Shortly thereafter, the fiery glow disappears, but the chanting continues for another minute or so, growing fainter and fainter until it can't be heard anymore. Regardless of when the PCs leave to investigate, they arrive at the encounter site after the creatures responsible have gone underground and begun their fell rite.
Heading in the direction of the fire and chanting, the PCs discover an ornately carved stone archway set into a hillside. Two great wooden doors stand slightly ajar in the frame. From the doorway, the PCs could possibly hear chanting (DC 10 Perception).
Beyond the doors, a sloping 80-foot corridor leads to an ancient duergar temple site, a remnant of the time before the duergar fell to infernal forces. In the temple, several duergar have begun an ancient rite of sacrifice while guarded by their monstrous servitors.
Encounter Level 6 (1,325 XP)
- 2 duergar guards (level 4 soldier; Monster Manual 2 p.92)
- 1 duergar scout (level 4 lurker; Monster Manual 2 p.92)
- 1 duergar theurge (level 5 controller; Monster Manual 2 p.93)
- 1 phase spider (level 8 skirmisher; Monster Manual 2 p.190)
- 1 rust monster (level 6 skirmisher; Monster Manual 2 p.178)
Encounter Level 9 (2,250 XP)
- 1 duergar fleshtearer (level 11 lurker; Monster Manual 2 p.93)
- 2 duergar shock troopers (level 6 brute; Monster Manual 2 p.93)
- 1 duergar theurge (level 5 controller; Monster Manual 2 p.93)
- 1 dweomer eater (level 11 skirmisher; Monster Manual 2 p.179)
- 1 phase spider (level 8 skirmisher; Monster Manual 2 p.190)
Encounter Level 12 (3,800 XP)
- 2 duergar shock troopers advanced to 11th level (level 6 brute; Monster Manual p.93; add +5 to all attack rolls and all defenses; +2 to all damage; +50 hp)
- 2 duergar hellcallers (level 12 artillery; Monster Manual 2 p.94)
- 2 dweomer eaters (level 11 skirmisher; Monster Manual 2 p.179)
The encounter map can be assembled using tiles from Halls of the Giant Kings.
When the encounter begins, place a duergar with a high Strength score adjacent to the statue. Place the remaining duergar around the flame glyph in the center of the chamber, one of them adjacent to the flaming brazier. Place a prone miniature representing the sacrifice victim in the flame glyph. Position the other monsters around the room (note that spider servitors might start on a wall). Don't put any of these monsters adjacent to the door from which the PCs enter (on the bottom edge of the map).
If the adventurers listen at the door, they can hear the duergar chants as well as the pained cries of their sacrificial victim. The duergar are fully involved in their ritual chanting and don't hear the PCs coming. Their servitor creatures, however, might hear the PCs approach. Have the PCs make Stealth checks against the servitors' passive Perception to determine if the PCs surprise the monsters.
Any PC that understands Deep Speech realizes that the chanters are offering up a living sacrifice to summon one or more devils.
When the adventurers enter the chamber, read:
A large chamber opens up before you, its floor, ceiling, and walls well-crafted but suffering the decay of age. A large, red, glowing rune pulses in the middle of the chamber, and the unmoving form of a person is sprawled within it. Several short, stocky figures stand around the rune, chanting loudly, and another one of them stands near a flaming brazier. An ancient statue of a dwarf is against one wall.
When combat begins, duergar guards and shock troopers use infernal quills before advancing into melee, targeting the foes that appear strongest. Once bloodied, duergar shock troopers use their increased size (granted by expand) to prevent enemies from getting to controllers and artillery too easily. Duergar theurges use brimstone hail to slow the advance of melee-oriented foes and vile fumes to blind enemy ranged combatants. If cornered by melee combatants, duergar theurges use wave of despair to slow enemies before retreating to more advantageous ground. Duergar scouts and fleshtearers attempt to get behind the altar's remains (where light is dim) to use Underdark sneak to become invisible and then use shadow attack (or shadow scourge, in the case of fleshtearers) in conjunction with ranged attacks to deal greater damage. Duergar hellcallers use Asmodeus's ruby curse on as many enemies as possible, seeking to slide opponents in such a way as to provide allies with as many opportunity attacks as possible. If at all possible, they save quill storm until they have multiple enemies within the burst area. Regardless of role, duergar attempt to combine their minor and standard attack types in one turn, dealing as much damage as possible.
The duergar communicate with each other in Deep Speech (they assume none of the PCs speak their language) to coordinate their attacks. They focus on the greatest immediate threats presented by the PCs. For example, if a PC wizard attacks with area attacks, they spread out to avoid being attacked as a group. If a particular PC starts cutting a swath of destruction through them in melee, they gang up on that PC to negate that threat as quickly as possible. Keep in mind that duergar are intelligent and work very well together. They realize that it is more advantageous to surround and quickly put down individual enemies one at a time than to spread their attacks over all their foes for an extended time. If not in imminent danger, they don't hesitate to coup de grace a helpless enemy.
The duergars' monstrous servitors, while ferocious, aren't as organized and rely upon their own combat methods.
Rust monsters and dweomer eaters move immediately to enemies wearing metal armor or brandishing metal weapons (dweomer eaters favor those with particularly powerful magic arms and armor). They bite to rust their opponents' metal armor. They use dissolve metal (or dissolve item, in the case of dweomer eaters) to destroy rusting metal items as soon as the opportunity presents itself, and they forgo bite attacks to consume such items.
Phase spiders favor hit-and-run tactics. They use ethereal bite to teleport to a foe and attack (getting into a flanking position with an ally whenever possible). They then use their teleport speed to move away, favoring ending their move high up on a nearby wall to prevent enemies from getting to them easily. They use ethereal repulsion to teleport threatening enemies away from them.
While these servitors don't understand languages, they are very well trained, seeking to destroy the enemies of their duergar masters so that they are rewarded after the fight.
Features of the Area
Illumination: The flaming brazier and glowing floor rune provide sufficient illumination for the entire chamber.
Ceiling: The stone ceiling of the chamber is 20 feet above the floor.
Ancient Statue: This statue (on the west side of the chamber) is very old and unstable. Any creature can tip it over with a DC 15 Strength check as a standard action. The falling statue attacks one target in an adjacent square. This attack uses the unarmed melee basic attack bonus of the creature who tipped it over, and it deals 2d8 + 5 damage, and the target is immobilized (save ends) and knocked prone. When tipped over, the statue breaks into pieces, covering a 2-by-2 area adjacent to the statue's spaces with rubble that is considered difficult terrain.
Flaming Brazier: The duergar have darkvision, but they are using a flaming brazier as part of their sacrificial rite. Any creature can tip the brazier over with a DC 5 Strength check, as a minor action, covering 1 adjacent square in flaming coals. Any creature that starts its turn within this square takes 1d6 + 4 fire damage.
Glowing Floor Rune: This 2-by-2 rune contains no flames, but is very hot. Any creature that begins its turn on the glowing floor rune takes 2d6 + 5 fire damage. If the PCs can pull the sacrifice victim from the rune before 2 full combat rounds have passed, she survives, but is unconscious and unable to aid them.
Statue Rubble: A 2-by-2 area directly across the chamber from the ancient statue (the crumbled remains of another statue) is covered in rubble. Treat this area as difficult terrain.
Altar Rubble: A 2-by-4 area next to the flaming brazier (the crumbled remains of an ancient altar) is covered in rubble. Treat this area as difficult terrain. The 8 squares directly north of the crumbled altar are in dim light, due to the size of the crumbled altar remains.
Pit: This 2-by-2 area of the floor crumbled ages ago, leaving behind a pit. This pit is 20-feet deep.
Sometimes the PCs are very well-equipped for a particular encounter. Sometimes they just get lucky with their die rolls. If the PCs are having too easy of a time with this encounter (or if you simply want to expand the encounter), you can decide that the devils the duergar were attempting to summon are sufficiently satisfied with the carnage this combat has provided (even if the duergars' sacrificial victim has been saved). Any time after two of the duergar have been slain, read:
The great glowing fire-rune on the floor of the chamber pulses with infernal light. This red light grows quickly, encompassing the entire chamber and blinding you for a short moment. As the fiery glow subsides and your eyes re-adjust, you see the bipedal forms of two horrible, human-sized creatures dredged from a world beyond the one you call home. They nod slightly to the duergar in the room and then look to you with eyes filled with hate.
These devils arrive on the glowing floor rune and immediately join the fray.
Encounter Level 9 (2,000 XP)
- 1 erinyes (level 13 soldier; Monster Manual 2 p.64)
- 1 misfortune devil (level 15 artillery; Monster Manual 2 p.66)
The erinyes immediately enters melee combat. It attempts to engage as many enemies as possible so that it can use compelling strike and bloody spiral to grant temporary hit points to allies. It calls allies to aid it so that they can benefit from its blade shield aura. The misfortune devil moves into melee, attacks with lucky maneuver, and then teleports up to the ceiling and hovers there. It then uses ray of distortion before flying back down into melee and repeating its teleport to the ceiling. It saves roll the bones for a particularly damaging or hampering attack.
Once the duergar and their allies have been dispatched, the PCs are free to search the chamber. If the PCs investigate the crumbled remains of the ancient altar, they discover ancient dwarven glyphs from the long-forgotten time when the duergar and dwarves were a single race. If they assemble the pieces of the crumbled statue near the east wall, they discover that it was the statue of a dwarflike being similar to the statue on the west wall, but wearing a dour grimace on its face. Searching the bodies of the fallen duergar reveals a treasure parcel appropriate to the encounter level.
But, why did the duergar come to an ancient temple so far above their underground homeland? The PCs might wish to investigate this further. Perhaps these duergar were intent upon learning more about their shared history with the dwarves. Dwarven PCs might be intrigued by this possibility. Perhaps the duergar came to this site to summon something truly vile and destructive -- something more evil than a devil. PCs interested in the history of the world might be drawn to this hook. Finally, this encounter might be the beginning of an "upper-world" invasion that the duergar are secretly planning. They chose this site to summon devils to aid them in an onslaught on the people of the sunlit world.
Of course, if the PCs have saved the victim, this is an excellent opportunity to introduce a new NPC, one who may also have information on the duergar and their goals. You can use this encounter as a jumping-off point for many future adventure ideas, as the PCs investigate the specifics of what happened here. Many stories could be told based on this simple side-trek encounter.