Posted by : David Guyll July 02, 2010

I'm a fan of doing the random encounter bit while players are going from plot-pertinent area A to plot-pertinent area B, or at least making my players think that its random. I'm not really a fan of actually random encounters because all too often they are not relevant to the plot at all, and when the players know that it seems like so much padding and pointless grindage. Since 4E isnt a fan of throwing out ludicrous amounts of treasure, in most cases you can't even throw them a +1 enchanted bone to tickle their fancy.


The first encounter in At The Mines Of Madness appears to be a random encounter, but is in actuality carefully planned. Well, its not "carefully" planned, but I at least but enough forethought into it to draw up a map and populate the encounter ahead of time.



The caravan that the party is on gets ambushed by bullywugs and their trained battle-frogs (Monster Manual 3). The caravan is being guarded by more than just them (since the party might not all be hired to protect the caravan), so I decided to make it pretty damned hard.

Swamp Ambush (858 XP)
  • 8 bullywug croakers (level 3 minion brute)
  • 3 bullywug muckers (level 1 brute)
  • 2 murklord frogs (level 2 skirmisher)
Treasure: crude gold bracelet (20 gp), crude gold necklace (15 gp), 3 gp, 20 sp. The jewelry is graven with an abstract fish motif (these were taken from the characters killed during the prologue).

The bullywugs will leg it if reduced to half their number or less. The frogs will also book it if they are bloodied and no bullywugs are within 3 squares of them. Depending on the player's character, I will have the players control some or all of the guards (minion soldiers) and just give them the stat blocks to make it easier on me (in particular characters with a history of making caravan runs, Shadow Marches guides, or leader-types).

Lets talk about terrain features.
  • Shallow Water: Difficult terrain for anyone without a swim speed. It also grants an attack bonus to creatures with the Aquatic keyword (ie, bullywugs and frogs). Characters taking ongoing fire damage can fall prone to immediately end the effect.
  • Deep Water: Characters in deep water need to make Athletics checks to swim, and it still grants the aforementioned attack bonus. Creatures in deep water gain resist 5 fire, and ongoing fire damage automatically ends at the end of their turn.
  • Trees: The large black dots are big trees that fill the entire square. Characters can climb them, and particularly devastating attacks might destroy them or knock them over. They also grant cover. The small dots are smaller trees that count as difficult terrain for everyone, and can also be destroyed.
  • Bridge: Its mostly level with the ground. Characters pushed off of it make a save to avoid falling prone, but dont take damage if they fall in the water. It could be lit on fire, I suppose.

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