27 February 2021

Volcano Adventure - Super Hot Dungeon Adventure (for Level 4-6 Adventurers)

After making the Lava Rivers Battlemap a few weeks back, I realised how fun volcanic scenes were to create, as well as how many ideas I started to develop after posting (that I seriously regret not being able to include in the post). This adventure is my way of incorporating a whole bunch of these ideas and monsters, whilst also sharing a brand new adventure for this month! 

When designing dungeons/adventures, there are a number of different styles that I’ve really wanted to work on, but find difficult with the sheer variety of playstyles available in 5e. You will notice that the majority of the adventures on the blog follow a linear path (begin in one place, follow a path, fight enemies, reach the end of the dungeon). This is the easiest type of dungeon to create for 5e, as it limits the players options for creative thinking, and leads to an adventure that can easily be run for any group.

The next type of dungeon design is multi-path dungeons; adventures where the party has to make a decision once (or multiple times), taking them down a different path. These usually lead to the same destination, and simply provide the players with a choice of the perils they will face on their journey (see my Cave of Two Paths adventure). These, again, are relatively simple to drop into any group, as the overall outcome of the adventure is the same, and the party simply have to make a few extra choices.

Finally, there are Central Room dungeons. These are the adventures where the party keeps on returning to a single room, for multiple different reasons. This can either because the paths they take away from the room lead them to trigger something that unlocks the next path, or because they find another way in, to allow themselves to progress down an otherwise inaccessible path. These can be difficult to integrate into 5e, as the characters can have such varied abilities, some of which may completely negate certain obstacles. A locked door is child's play to a rogue, or a caster with Knock prepared. A collapsed/missing bridge is great for stopping melee characters, but casters with Fly or Levitate can treat it as absolutely nothing. Because of these issues, creating a dungeon/adventure that relies on a central room mechanic is tough.

The Temple of the Elements was a simple example of how this can be integrated, through the four separate paths leading to the opening of a final doorway leading into the boss chamber, and hopefully, you will see this style represented in full for this new adventure.

24 February 2021

Monster Spotlight - Qualliuk

  In the deepest parts of the ice covered lands of the north, tales are told of the Qualliuk; evil fey spirits that inhabit frozen bodies of water, and lure children to their deaths. One could easily mistake the tales as simple warnings for young children; "don't play on the frozen lake, or the Qualliuk will pull you under". Even the description of the knocking sound they produce could be easily attributed to the sound of ice cracking. Were it not for my own experience with them, I would simply think it a clever tale told to keep children safely away from danger.

  As I ventured into the woods, I came to a large lake, frozen solid in the sub-zero temperatures. As I passed, I found myself distracted by a faint sound coming from below the surface. It sounded like a faint tapping, or a knocking perhaps, coming from the far side of the lake. As I looked up to see if I could figure out the source of the sound, that I noticed a young child, she couldn't have been more than 8 years old, walking towards the ice, with a blank expression on her face.

  I nearly continued on, thinking it nothing to worry about, but couldn't shake off the worry that something could be wrong. My fears were quickly realised, of course, when seconds later a scaled arm, ending in sharp claws, burst from beneath the ice, swiftly pulling the young child under. She barely had a chance to scream before she was gone from my sight. Obviously, not wanting to let her perish, I ran to the spot I last saw her in, across the ice itself, and dived in after.

  The water was so cold it nearly knocked the air straight from my lungs, but I pressed on, swimming down, following the faint sight of her blond hair as it sank deeper. Finally, I saw it with my own eyes, a horrible creature covered in pale white scales, with dark black hair framing its inhuman face. It stared at me with eyes as black as the void, and it bared its teeth, each pointed like a wild beasts, as I tried to wrestle the girls unconscious body from its grip. After receiving a number of scratches along my arms, I was able to free her from its claws, and I quickly swam us both to the surface...

22 February 2021

Monster Spotlight - Ijat'Ria

I have decided to try a new approach to the Monster Spotlight posts on this blog, opting for a more story-telling approach, with first-hand accounts of the creatures. To test this new format, here is my introduction to the Fey creature from my latest battlemap post, the Ijat'Ria.

  In my years of travelling across the world, there are few creatures that I have encountered that have stuck with me quite like the Ijat'Ria. My encounter with these creatures does not stick with me for what I remember, however, but for what I don't. It seems that these creatures have some kind of amnestic effect on those unfortunate enough to encounter them, and the information I share with you now is only in part from my own experience, and mostly comes from the local folklore from the frigid lands these creatures inhabit.

  The Ijat'Ria appear to be some form of shape-changer. Able to shift their form to one of many indigenous species. Local legends tell of their glowing red eyes; the only way that a traveller can tell one of these creatures apart from the animals they imitate. The local elders warned me, during my stay in their village, of these creatures. Telling me stories of travellers lured from the roads and paths, into the woods to be never seen again. I did not, of course, believe the stories at first, but listened intently as they may have proved good inspiration for a story I could tell in the future. 

20 February 2021

Ice River Crossing Battlemap + 8 Encounters

From the fiery insides of a volcano for my last battlemap, to the icy tundra this time. Now, I know it wasn’t all that long ago that I released another snowy themed battlemap, but the recent weather has had me wanting to design something like this again. The arctic theme has so much potential in DnD, and I definitely feel like I didn’t maximise on it in the last snowy map.

This week, I am focussing more on unique/brand new monsters again, instead of arctic variants of existing creatures, or simply re-using statblocks from the basic rules. I wanted to create something a little more fun this time around, to maximise on the environment. In total, I have included six brand new monsters, each built to fit the environment.

The Map Itself

The Map

The map is relatively simple this time around, with a simple dirt road/path crossing a bridge in the middle of a frozen forest/river scene. There are, however, a number of fun mechanics you could play around with using the environment alone in this map. For starters, any creature (medium or larger) attempting to cross the ice itself, must make a dexterity (acrobatics) check, DC 14, to see if they can do so safely (and at the start of any turns they spend on the ice) to see if the ice beneath them cracks. If it does, the creature takes a number of d4 of cold damage (scaled to the party level).

13 February 2021

Art Resource Week: 15 free maps for random encounters/ambushes

Is it that time already? Week two of the month is Art Resource week, and this month we have a great selection of pre-made maps for you to use in your games! 15 maps, available both with and without grids, in a number of different styles, so you can simply pop them into your VTT (or print them for actual tabletops), and they're ready to go. Eight of the maps are on a 25x25 grid square, and the other seven are 32x24, and each one has been made to fit a wide variety of settings.

Some of the maps are 100% suited to ambush encounters, whilst others are great for randomly rolled battles wherever the party are. Whichever you need, this pack has it. You can download the pack (for free) here.

10 February 2021

Monster Spotlight: Elemental Guardian

 "Standing in the centre of the room, you see a 10 ft. tall stone statue. Each of its four arms seems to bear the symbol of one of the base elements; Air, Earth, Water and Fire. The Stone arm, covered in rough hewn rocks, is raised as if to strike downwards at a smaller creature. The Water and Fire arms are each outstretched, each bearing an arcane rune on their palms for their respective elements, seemingly carved into the stone itself. Finally, the arm bearing the symbol for Air hangs towards its side, a bladeless handle for a scimitar gripped in its massive stone palm.

As you begin to approach the figure, you see dust begin to fall from its body. as it slowly begins to move. Each arm flexes in turn, the symbols on them beginning to glow faintly, as its eyes snap open, solid black gems, as dark as the void itself, and it's attention turns to you. Flames crackling, water gushing, earth shaking, and the blade of air whistling through the scimitar, it begins to approach."

The Elemental Guardian is the final encounter of my recent Temple of the Elements adventure, and is undoubtedly one of my favourite elements of the dungeon (pun very much intended). The initial idea for the Temple adventure was to actually run it as a much lower level adventure, with Motes and Mephits as the main enemies in each path, and a final fight against a combined type of elemental creature as a final battle. The adventure actually went through about 4 'final' bosses, before we actually decided to finalise the Guardian.

Another idea we played with was a sorcerer as the final battle, fighting using a combination of magic and Motes, with the paths only being made up of a puzzle and an elemental, without any motes until the final chamber.

Suffice to say, we are very happy with our final product.

06 February 2021

Desert Ruins Battlemap + Encounters (+4 New Monster Statblocks)

 Desert Ruins Battlemap

This week's free resource is another Battlemap + Encounter selection! This week, with a desert theme. I’ve had this map made since before october 2020, and just never put together the encounter list for it. It was partly due to the fact that I couldn’t think of enough encounters that I wanted to include, and otherwise down to the fact that I started something else, and totally forgot about this one… You will notice (hopefully) that this one includes a good number of new/unique monsters; I was feeling creative this week, and wanted to give something to you all for reading my work!

The Map

The map this time is another 25x25 square creation. Unlike a good number of my encounters (mostly being woodland/plains settings), this one is set in the middle of a desert area, at the site of an old/abandoned settlement built on the edge of an oasis. Hopefully, even if you don’t choose to use any of my suggested encounters, the setting of this map might spark some interesting ideas for you to use in your games!

The Map - An Oasis in the Middle of a Desert