by Mike Shea on 18 May 2015
The 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons doesn't focus on building detailed set-piece encounters like 4th edition did but the same techniques work just as well with this new version of the game. While many battles in 5e will be quick-moving fights between a pile of monsters and our heroes, sometimes you want a big and dangerous fight with a lot of interesting things going on.
Today we're going to look at one specific set piece you can put into an encounter that will make an encounter more interesting than a standard combat.
Behold the unhallowed pillars!
The unhallowed pillars are the constructs of devils and their dark priests. They are pillars infused with unholy energy drawn from terrible sacrilegious rights. The results are pillars that radiate unholy energy in the chamber of a powerful devil or dark priest. They can even be used to inject unholy energy into the animated dead of a once holy place.
Each pillar has a particular effect tied to it. Destroying a pillar can be done with a number of potential actions. Here are the general mechanics:
You can choose a number of potential effects a pillar might have. Here are two examples.
The Unhallowed Pillar of Fear emanates an aura of fear and hopelessness. Each PC that enters or begins their turn within sight of the pillar must make a charisma saving throw of 10 + the CR of the pillar. On a failure, the PC has disadvantage on all attacks and checks. The PC may make this check at the end of each of its turns. Once it succeeds, it cannot be affected again for 24 hours.
The Unhallowed Pillar of Dark Resistance emanates an aura of protection for fiends, aberrations, and undead. Any fiend, aberration, or undead creature within sight of the pillar has resistance to all damage.
Each pillar can be attuned to one particular creature of great power. If that creature fails a saving throw, it can choose to draw the energy of the pillar to succeed on the saving throw instead. The attuned creature can likewise disrupt a spell or effect that targets the attuned creature. Doing either of these things destroys the pillar.
This ability opens up more options for a battle. PCs who cast powerful spells or effects won't feel their spell is wasted if it destroys one of these nasty pillars. We DMs won't feel screwed when our big bad devil is targeted with a Banishment and fails the saving throw.
These sorts of things are easily overused. Instead of dropping evil pillars into every one of your battles, save them for the battles where they make sense to the rest of the story. Put them in your DM's toolbox and take them out when they add more fun to the game.