Dungeon Command Tiles for Improvised Encounters

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.

Dungeon Command Tiles

Improvising encounters

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.

Monster positioning

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).

Using random terrain effects

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.


  1. Exploding Flames: When a creature begins its turn adjacent to the firepot, it explodes for 2d6 + the encounter's level in fire damage in a burst 3.
  2. Demonic Flames: As a free action, when a creature begins its turn adjacent to the firepot, it moves its speed to its nearest ally and makes an at-will attack against that ally.
  3. Flames of Vengeance: On an attack roll, a creature adjacent to the firepot may roll 2d20 and take the better result. A creature that begins its turn adjacent to the firepot is vulnerable 5 to damage until the end of its next turn.
  4. Fireshield: When a creature begins its turn adjacent to the firepot, it takes 5 fire damage per tier. When a creature hits a target adjacent to the firepot the creature takes 2d6 + the encounter's level fire damage per tier.
  5. Arcane Flames: When a creature adjacent to the firepot makes a non-weapon ranged attack, it adds +5 fire damage per tier to the damage roll.
  6. Oily Flame: As a minor action, an adjacent creature can insert a melee or ranged weapon and gain +5 fire damage per tier to his or her next attack.

Arcane Circles

  1. Far Realm Portal: A creature that begins its turn within the circle is removed from play. At the beginning of its next turn, this creature returns to another circle of the DM's choice and takes 2d6 + the encounter's level psychic damage.
  2. Elemental Rift: A creature that begins within this circle takes twice the encounter level in fire, cold, and lightning damage.
  3. Dimension Door: A creature that begins in this circle may, as a minor action, teleport to any other arcane circle on the map
  4. Polarity Circle: A creature that begins in this circle takes 5 lightning damage per tier and gains +5 lightning damage per tier to damage rolls.
  5. Arcane Infusion: A creature that begins within this circle gains +5 radiant damage to any non-weapon attack.
  6. Weapon Infusion: A creature that begins within this circle gains +5 radiant damage to any weapon-based attack.


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.

  1. Oil of Clumsiness: -2 to attack rolls and damage until the end of the encounter.
  2. Scroll of Madness: -2 to AC and defenses until the end of the encounter.
  3. Phylactery of Chaos: This creature gains +2 to attack and +1d6 damage per tier. At the beginning of this creature's turn, the creature must make a normal DC endurance or arcana check. On a failure, it moves its speed and uses an at-will attack against its closest ally.
  4. Page of the Book of Vile Darkness: This creature gains +1d6 necrotic damage per tier to all damage rolls and is vulnerable 5 per tier to all damage until the end of the encounter.
  5. Healing Font: This creature or an ally within 5 squares may spend a healing surge as a free action.
  6. Oil of Giant Strength: This creature gains +1d6 damage per tier to all damage rolls until the end of the encounter.

Encounter goals

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.

  1. Monsters flee, explode or discorporate when PCs kill the boss.
  2. Boss surrenders when flunkies are destroyed.
  3. A powerful artifact contained in a random rubbish heap controls the monsters and must be destroyed.
  4. The monsters conduct a powerful ritual the PCs must stop. The monsters all immediately take their bloodied value in damage when the ritual is stopped.
  5. A cursed vessel hidden within the area must be destroyed or up to four of the creatures return as 1 hit point minions at the beginning of their turn.
  6. When half the creatures are bloodied or killed, they become vulnerable 5 per tier to damage but gain +1w damage per tier to attacks.

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.

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