by Mike Shea on 4 September 2012
With the latest Dungeons and Dragons miniatures game, Dungeon Command, Wizards of the Coast gave us a new set of inter-locking dungeon tiles we can use in our regular D&D games. These tiles give us easy-to-use and well detailed tiles for our 4e adventures. Today we're going to discuss some random terrain effects you can use with these tiles to build improvised encounters in your 4e D&D games. This article uses the tiles in the two Dungeon Command sets: Heart of Cormyr and Sting of Lolth.
Sometimes your group goes off the rails or you simply have no rails in the first place, but it's time to escalate the game a bit and include an encounter. While 4e battles typically run too long to include random encounters, we might want a smaller battle to fill in some of the narration of the story. Using the tiles in the Dungeon Command box, we have the right tools to build overland or underground chambers quickly. The lists below help fill in the crucial details of an interesting encounter.
To keep these battles short, consider using a single type of monster instead of a typical mixed group of creatures. To help keep them threatening, give each of these monsters a ranged attack based on their standard basic attack bonus and damage.
Use the standard rules for putting together the encounter area from the Dungeon Command instructions. The whole tile set should fit together correctly, with no blocked walls and no exposed open edges. The start and end points should be separated.
Once the map is laid out, choose where the PCs begin and determine where the monsters are positioned. Position monsters in places that make sense for the types of monsters chosen, not simply to make life difficult for the adventures. Brainless monsters might wander about while smarter monsters might be prepared for an ambush (roll a normal-difficulty DC perception check performed by the highest perceiving monster to determine if they are aware or the PCs or not).
When a creature ends its movement adjacent to one of these terrain features, roll 1d6 and consult the lists below to determine the effect of the feature. A creature cannot determine the effect by running past - it must end its turn adjacent to the feature to determine what it does (and potentially triggering the effect). As a minor action, a creature within three squares of the terrain feature can perform a hard DC arcana, nature, or insight check to determine the effect on the feature.
Once you have rolled on the effect, that effect remains in place on that piece of terrain until the end of the encounter.
When a PC invstigates one of the treasure piles on the board, roll 1d6. On a 1 to 2, roll 1d6 on the following list. On a 3-4, it contains no valuable treasure. On a 5-6, roll appropriately leveled treasure in the Dungeon Master's Kit book.
As we learned from Dave Chalker's Combat Outs, encounter needn't only end when one whole side of monsters lies defeated. Instead, each encounter might have a goal to accomplish. Use the table below to define a goal or as a guide to come up with your own goal. A minor action normal-difficulty DC insight check should give the PCs enough information to become aware of the solution to the encounter.
Using these lists and the tiles in the Dungeon Command sets, you can build your own improvised encounters to drop into your game when the time is right. If you enjoyed this article, please take a look at Sly Flourish's Dungeon Master Tips and Running Epic Tier D&D Games.
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