03 April 2021

Desert Path Battlemap + 8 Encounters (6 New Creatures)

This week, we decided to revisit the desert setting, and make another sandy battlemap. Instead of focussing on manmade structures or an oasis, however, we wanted to keep the attention firmly on the sandy dunes themselves. As usual, we have included eight unique encounters, using a mix of both brand new, and pre-existing monsters, and hope you will find something interesting or fun for your games!

The main features of this map are the two raised cliff faces, and the worn path through the desert. The cliff faces should represent areas that the party either cannot reach, or have to work hard to get to (DC 14+ strength (athletics) check to climb, maybe taking 1+ rounds to do so). The path should represent the only safe way through the map. Leaving the path would be a mistake for the party, as the sand becomes softer/deeper where travellers avoid walking. Any area over 5 ft. away from the path (the slightly darker area on the map) would count as difficult terrain, reducing a creature's speed by half.


The Map:

The Map

Dashing Through the Dunes (Level 1-3) Average/Hard


When asking about work in the town, the party learns that the local farmers have been struggling more than normal recently. Not only is it near impossible to grow anything in the arid desert anyway, but in recent weeks, the farmers have been finding their crops decimated by a local population of Dune Dashers, large flightless birds, capable of running at high speeds. Unless someone can do something about the problem, perhaps by thinning the flock, then the people of the town may starve.


Should the party agree to the job, they will be guided to an area just outside the village, where they will see a large cloud of dust and sand over the dunes. The dust cloud will quickly approach the party, heading towards the village. As it gets close, the party will be able to tell it is a flock of 3d3+1 Dune Dashers (statblock below), Each bird stands about 3 ft. tall from the ground, and they don’t seem to want to stop. The flock will leave after half of them have been killed by the party.


A Whole New World (Of Pain) (Level 1-3) Hard/Very Hard


Following the road, the party find themselves at the site of a wrecked wagon. In the back, they see the light from the desert sun glinting off of something metal. Should they investigate, they will find a run, wrapped around two swords, seemingly untouched by whatever attacked the occupant of the wagon. If they attempt to touch either the run or the swords, they will find themselves attacked. If they choose to cast detect magic, they will detect a faint magical aura coming from both of the swords, as well as the carpet. An intelligence (arcana) check of DC 17 or lower will reveal that certain carpets are enchanted, especially in desert environments, for travel. Whilst a check higher than 18 will reveal that there is something off about the enchantment on this rug.


The Rug of Smothering (basic rules - p264) will immediately attack whichever party member is closest, and the two Flying Swords (basic rules - p128) will begin to hover, and attempt to take out further afield members of the party. Incidentally, as soon as the rug unfurls, the party can easily see what happened to the last occupant of the wagon, as his desiccated corpse rolls onto the ground. Perhaps the wagon, at least, contains some actual treasure for them to claim, after dealing with the threat... Surely, whoever this corpse was, wasn't just transporting dangerous materials?


Slimy Sand (Level 4-6) Average/Hard


As they trek through the desert, one of the party members will notice that the sand feels weird underfoot. Taking a step further, they will notice that the sand feels spongy, and almost slimy. Before they get a chance to react, however, the Sand Slime will emerge from the ground, and attempt to engulf the character. In total 1d2+1 Sand Slimes (statblock below) will attack the party, attempting to engulf a character each, and then killing the rest. With their pseudopod attacks.


A Reptile Dysfunction (Level 4-6) Average/Hard


It isn’t quite what they were expecting whilst travelling across the desert, but it definitely took them by surprise when a 15 ft. long tongue shot out of the ground in front of them, attacking the head of the party. Thankfully, at least, the creature attached to the tongue quickly followed it up, surfacing and blocking the parties path. 1d3+1 Nama’Ka (statblock below) ambush the party, hoping for an easy meal. These overgrown, chameleon-like, creatures popping up from around the party, and attacking with their strong tongues.


Gila Monstrosities (Level 7-9) Hard/Very Hard


Before heading off into the desert, the party were warned about the creatures living in the area. Not only were they warned about the usual threats, but they were also told tales of the Gila. Monsters with a lizard-like form, whose bite is poisonous, and causes agonising, and lasting, pain to any who are unfortunate enough to become their prey.


Unfortunately for the party, that is exactly what they find themselves face to face with. 1d3+1 Gila (statblock below) crawl towards the party, fangs bared. The hot desert sun glaring off of the yellow markings on their otherwise black scaled backs.


Jurassic Times Call For Jurassic Measures (Level 7-9) Average/Hard


As they walk through the desert, the party begins to hear a thunderous rumble coming their way. The sight that greets them as they look up causes a few double takes and a lot of squinting to make sure they really are seeing the creatures heading their way, but sure enough, a group of three Triceratops (basic rules - p156) are charging across the desert, and heading straight towards them. They have to think quickly, as the ancient creatures do not seem friendly, and they are moving awfully fast.


Having a Whale of a Time (Level 10-12) Hard/Very Hard


Whilst the creature means no harm, if left unchallenged, the Sand Whale (statblock below) will collide with the village. A creature of that size, regardless of its intentions, could easily cause incredible damage to the buildings and their inhabitants. Unless a group of brave souls would be willing to head out into its path, and try to stop it, then it means a very definite end to the local population.


If the party agrees to help tackle the creature, they will find themselves standing just outside of the village, between the cliffside entrances to the settlement, waiting for the creature to make it to them. It doesn’t take long. The creature will not even take notice of the party until it has taken at least 50 damage, though it will slam into any creature in its way before this. As soon as it takes notice, however, it will jump out of the sand, and into the largest group of creatures it can reach. If it is reduced to below 50 hit points, it will attempt to flee, heading back away from the village.


For this encounter, I recommend using the un-gridded map, and setting the scale to be larger. Preferably 30x30 or bigger.


Bleached Bones (Level 10-12) Very Hard/Deadly


Buried under the dunes of the desert, lie the bones of many creatures. Occasionally, these bones are imbued with some dark power, and on rare occasions these long dead creatures rise from their places under the sand to once again walk the lands of the living. Sometimes these undead are small and easy to fight off, but on this occasion, the party are in for some trouble, as an Ancient Skeletal Dragon (statblock below) has become the latest creature to rise. Whether this happens in front of the party as they travel, or they are tasked with fighting it by an authority nearby, as it has been terrorising the local population, I shall leave to you.

Again, maybe up the scale. Bigger battlemaps for these gargantuan creatures seem fair.

Map With Grid
Dune Dasher Statblock
Sand Slime Statblock
Nama'Ka Statblock
Gila Statblock
Desert Whale Statblock
Ancient Skeletal Dragon Statblock

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