Bestiary: The Isle of Dread

One of the all time favorite adventures is The Isle of Dread by David Cook and Tom Moldvay. Here are all the SimpleDnD Monster‘s you’ll need to run the classic adventure.

The harrowing ocean voyage was exhausting enough. Now you are faced with a dark island that could well be filled with cannibals! A tattered, old ship’s log is your only clue to the riches that may lie beyond the isle’s quiet shores. Rumors of great wealth brought you here, but the thrill of adventure sustains you as you work your way inland, slashing through dense jungles and murky swamps in search of a lost plateau and the great black pearl.

Link AC HD Appearing XP
Allosaurus 13 6 1d2 3,480 XP per monster
Ankylosaurus 18 8 1d8 1,260 XP per monster
Aranea 13 3 1d6 360 XP per monster
Baboon, Wild 12 3 10d4 2,040 XP per monster
Boar 13 3 1d12 600 XP per monster
Bugbear 11 3 2d8 570 XP per monster
Catfolk 16 2 1d12 210 XP per monster
Cave Bear 14 6 1d2 5,250 XP per monster
Crab, Giant 15 3 2d6 660 XP per monster
Crocodile 16 3 3d8 1,050 XP per monster
Dimetrodon 13 7 3d6 1,770 XP per monster
Dragon, Green 20 13 1 3,780 XP per monster
Fishmen 16 2 2d12 180 XP per monster
Gargoyle 16 4 1d2 1,170 XP per monster
Hippogriff 15 4 1d2 1,500 XP per monster
Human – Pirate 12 1 4d20 180 XP per monster
Human – Wizard 10 1 1d8 210 XP per monster
Hydra 15 8 1 7,680 XP per monster
Hydra, Sea 15 8 1 4,620 XP per monster
Mammoth 14 13 1d12 15,360 XP per monster
Neanderthal 17 2 2d8 180 XP per monster
Oyster, Giant 15 10 1 2,880 XP per monster
Phanaton 13 1 3d6 90 XP per monster
Phorusrhacos 11 3 1d10 2,460 XP per monster
Plesiosaurus 14 3 2d8 750 XP per monster
Pteranodon 16 6 3d8 1,140 XP per monster
Pterodactyl 13 3 1d6 930 XP per monster
Roc 22 16 1 2,640 XP per monster
Sabre-toothed Tiger 14 1 1d2 510 XP per monster
Snake, Giant Sea 15 10 1d8 3,510 XP per monster
Snake, Spitting Cobras 14 1 1d20 60 XP per monster
Snake, Viper 16 1 1d20 30 XP per monster
Termite, Giant 15 5 3d6 360 XP per monster
Trachodon 14 14 1d6 2,880 XP per monster
Triceratops 14 16 2d4 11,790 XP per monster
Troglodyte 15 2 10d10 330 XP per monster
Wolf, Dire 14 5 3d4 3,390 XP per monster

Rule: Weapon Proficiencies

I was reading some really OSR and the concept of Weapon Proficiencies came up. I think this is actually a great limited to add along with the new encumbrance and time limits. Like all rules in SimpleDnD this is an optional rule, but one I cannot recommend enough.

The Rule

If you ARE NOT proficient with the weapon you are using, you receive a -3 penalty to both hit and damage rolls. NOTE: A negative damage amount is damage applied to the player character. This illustrates that they have accidentally hurt themselves with an unfamiliar weapon.

Class Proficiencies

Each class get’s 1 weapon that they are proficient with.

Cavaliers get 3 and Barbarians 2, this is due to their life long combat interest.

 

Goblin Raiders

Adventure for SimpleDnD

goblin-raiders-mapMap by Daniel F. Walthall @Axebane

Introduction

This adventure is designed to teach dungeon exploration to a new group of players. While the story is cliche, it is a good starting point to introduce low level monsters and situations and really the adventure starts at the cellar doors. 

This adventure is designed for a group of 5 players and one Dungeon Master – at the end the party should have gained enough experience to advance to level 2 or 3. It should take about 1-2 hours to complete. If you are new to SimpleDnD check out Playing the Game for a quick overview.

If you are NOT the Dungeon Master, STOP READING NOW. There is information in the adventure that is secret and for the Dungeon Master’s eyes only. I strongly recommend the Dungeon Master read through the DM’ing basics found here.

I recommend you read through the entire adventure before running it. There are rules dispersed throughout the locations.  On the formatting, items inside boxes or italicized are to be read to players, bolded items are rules or checks, lines with a grey bar to the left are stat blocks for monsters – except for the read aloud text, everything else (including the map) is for the DM’s eyes only.

Much needed caravans between Cresthaven and Darkwood have suddenly been the target of vicious goblin raiders. Recent scouts have reported seeing goblins by the Ruins of Darramoka. Heroes are desperately needed to investigate the ruins and possibly eliminate the goblin threat. Can you be those heroes, or are you content to remain in obscurity?

Quick note on Heroic Points. Everyone gets 3, even the DM. Learn about them using them here.

The adventure begins as the party approach the ruins.

You follow the old path to the gates of what was once a large manor house. Now all that remains is a burned out shell and two stone doors that lead down into the cellar. The ruins still seem to smolder as if something is burning deep below the ground.

1. Cellar Doors

Heavy stone doors. The doors to the cellar are closed and extremely heavy. Lifting the doors requires an Ability check (DC 10 vs Strength) to open. 

Ability Check: Roll d20 and add your Strength Ability Score and, if you have one,  your Ability Focus for that Ability Score. If it is equal to or greater than the target DC you find something.

Team Check: If the whole party tries lifting the doors you can use the teamwork rule: Attempting an action collectively allows for one check (non-combat), using the highest player’s ability score (with ability focus) AND advantage (roll 2d20 take the highest). If the check fails no additional attempt may be made by anyone in the party until somebody in the party goes up a level.

Upon lifting the large stone doors, finely carved stone stairs lead down in the cellar of this once rich manor house. The chamber opens into a large space lit from above by a single oil lantern. At the far end of the room is a door that is barred with four heavy stone blocks.

This room is a puzzle and requires four of the PCs to compress pressure plates in the floor at the exact same time to unlock the door. A successful search DC10 will locate the pressure plates and through trial and error they should be able to figure out the sequence.

2. Goblin Lookout

Upon entering you are jumped by a swarm of short, ugly humanoids that stand just over 3 feet tall. Their scrawny bodies are topped with oversized and hairless heads with massive ears and beady red eyes. Goblins! With a high pitched screech they attack the party!

The goblins are open to negotiations and bribery…

Negotiate: Roll d20 and add the combined Charisma bonus of the party. Results: 

  • 1-3 Immediately Attack
  • 4-10 roll again and subtract 5
  • 11-16 roll again add 5
  • 17-20 Friendly / Receptive

Goblins (7): AC 13, HP 3, Damage 1d6 -1, Morale 5
Loot: 2d6 silver each. One of the goblins has an iron necklace with 5 holes in a star pattern.

Morale Check. When a creature drops below 50% of their hit points they must make a morale check (Target DC 20 vs d20 + monster morale) or become broken.  If the last attack was with a natural 20, then the check is made with Disadvantage.

Broken combatants have two options:

1. Flee the combat.  Move away from combat at double normal movement speed. If a player character (or monster) has a ranged weapon readied in hand, they can make one free attack against the fleeing monster.

2. Surrender the combat. Literally throw down their arms and plead for their lives.

Searching: Roll d20 and add your Wisdom bonus and, if you have one,  your search bonus. If it is equal to or greater than the search DC you find something.

Team Search: If the whole party searches you can use the teamwork rule: Attempting an action collectively allows for one check (non-combat), using the highest player’s ability bonus AND advantage (roll 2d20 take the highest). If the check fails no additional attempt may be made by anyone in the party until somebody in the party goes up a level.

A successful search (DC 15) will reveal a secret door in the eastern wall. The secret door leads to a cache of weapons (mostly rusted out and broken short swords) if the search roll is 20 or higher, then the party finds a Long Sword +1.

3. Dining Room

This 25′ x 15′ room has a large marble fireplace in the eastern wall. A long, bare, wooden table runs the length of the room with 8 wooden chairs, 3 on each side and one at each end. Sitting in the end chairs, and two chairs on each side, are human skeletons dressed in rags.   They are sitting upright, but do not move. In front of each chair sits a golden goblet and dusty flatware.

If any character touches a gold goblet will discover that the “gold” goblets are actually tin, covered with yellow mold!

Yellow Mold: These molds are smaller than normal. For each goblet touched, roll d20: if the result is 10 or less, the mold releases a small cloud of spores, catching only the character disturbing the goblet. The victim takes 1d4 points of damage and must make a Save DC 11 vs Constitution or start choking, unable to do anything else for d6 rounds.

4. Oh No!

This room has two doors one to the west and one east. On the walls by the doors are four small round holes burrowed into the stone. Upon the last party member passing through the door into this room the door immediately slams shut trapping the party. From the top of the room, water begins to fill the chamber. Already the water is starting to pool!

The holes in the walls are actually an elaborate trap placed by the original owner of this ruin. In each hole are 5 stones in a pattern. Each stone lines up with the holes on the necklace from the goblins in area 2. Each time the players chose a hole and place the necklace, roll d20. On a roll of 10 or less, the necklace doesn’t fit and the room begins to fill faster. Start a timer and if the party doesn’t sort out the trap in 5 minutes the room fills up and they all drown.

5. Beware!

This room has a barred and locked door leading into it. Upon it is a crudely carved sign with hard to read writing. 

The room is locked with a padlock (DC12 to pick) and the sign says, “Shh, the babies are sleeping!” in Goblin. The babies are actually two giant spiders (each about the size of a small car).

Reading Languages. If the character cannot read Goblin, a thief can make a Read Languages check (DC12) to understand the message.

Picking Locks. Locks may only be tried once per lock, and only if “Thieves Tools” are carried. The thief may not try again with that lock until gaining another Level of Experience.

UPON opening the door read:

This large chamber is covered in thick sticky strands of silk. There is a clear path to the center, but the corners are unreachable. 

ROLL FOR SURPRISE

Roll for surprise: DM roll d20 (+4 because Spiders get a bonus) vs the highest party notice. If the DM roll is equal to, or more than the notice, then the party is surprised and the monsters get a round to attack without the party attacking back.

If the party is successful read on, else the spiders attack with a free combat round.

Movement immediately catches your eye as two giant spiders descend from the ceiling and attack! Roll for initiative.

Giant Spider (2): AC 14, HP 10, Bite 1d8 (DC 10 vs Constitution or become poisoned).  Morale 5

Special attack: Web. Anyone attacked with web must make a DC10 vs Dexterity or become immobilized by the web. 

Immobilized – You cannot move on your own: your Speed is 0.

Poison – DC 10 vs Constitution or die in 1d6 rounds

Loot: There is a pouch in the spider’s web with 2d8 gold pieces as well as a silver necklace (worth 50 gold pieces)

6. Nest

Thick smoke fills the top of this room as a number of disgusting goblins lounge around on piles of straw and filth. Some sort of animal is roasting over a small campfire in the center of the room.

This is an EXCELLENT opportunity for the party to ambush the goblins. They’re too preoccupied with cooking to notice the party come in.

Ambush: Roll d20 and add the lowest Wisdom modifier in the party to establish the party’s hide DC. DM roll d20 – equal or greater than the party DC means the ambush fails. If successful the party gets one round of attacks without the DM taking any actions.

Goblins (7): AC 13, HP 3, Damage 1d6 -1, Morale 5

Loot: 2d6 silver each.

Goblin stash. 1 small silver key, and a locked metal box (DC15 to unlock and DC 10 vs Search to detect the poison needle trap). The box contains 4,000 copper pieces, 3,000 silver pieces, and 4 potions of healing (restores 1d8 Hit Points each)

The metal box is trapped with poison. Poison is DC 10 vs Constitution or die in 1d6 rounds.

7. Audience Chamber

This extremely large chamber is brightly lit by metal torches lining the walls. At the far end the floor is raised with a large stone throne in the middle. Just in front is a round table with five large, muscled humanoid creatures with  dull green skin, coarse dark hair, beady red eyes, and protruding, tusk-like teeth. As the door closes by itself behind the party, the creatures stop the dice game they’re playing and look up at the party. The biggest of the bunch, an all white monster, speaks out to the party, “Well well well… what do we have here?!?” 

These orcs are more intelligent than the monsters encountered thus far. They are willing to talk and negotiate with the party. 

Orc (4): AC 13, HP 7, Attack +2, Damage 1d8 +2, Morale 12

Orc individuals have 1d6 silver pieces on them.

Exit to the west and HIDDEN DOOR (DC15 Search) in the eastern wall. Hidden room contains 1,000 silver pieces, 4 gems (value 60 gp each), diamond necklace and matching earrings (100 gp), and 6 potions (unidentified keep their function secret) – 1 giant strength, 2 of water breathing, 2 of cure poison and 1 of invisibility. 

Unidentified Magic Items. Magic Items and Potions can be identified by a qualified magic user, typically in town at a cost of 1GP each. Potions have a single use and testing them will use them up.

The Ending

After packing all of your hard earned loot you return to town and the town elders greet you with a magnificent feast to celebrate. Looks like you were born to be an adventurer!

Now it’s time to distribute experience points and money. Each of the players should receive at least 2,000 experience points for clearing the dungeon plus 1 experience point for each gold piece of loot value collected. Don’t forget to reward exceptional roleplaying and good  thinking with bonus XP.

Designing Interesting Encounters

I recently came across a post on Reddit and it really got me thinking about how to make combat and encounters more interesting. To me, there is nothing more boring than combat: Roll dice, subtract, roll more dice. Over and over. Here’s some ideas that I will be using from now on to make it way more interesting.

Kezbomb says…

  1. Don’t make enemies big bags of hp, manage the hp of enemies so that fights don’t drag on for ages, or end too quickly– you’ll probably have to fudge some numbers here.

  2. The enemies aren’t just numbers. They have personalities. The big bandit will jeer and rile up the players while his sly friend sneaks to the side for a flank. The reasonable merc will try to convince the group to stop harassing his employer so he doesn’t have to kill them. The mad noble will try to recruit the players to his cause for exorbitant sums of gold even as his men try to defend him against the group.

  3. I like having an NPC who isn’t directly involved in the fight on the sidelines. A fight in a tavern breaks out? Describe the bystanders betting on whether the PCs will win. Maybe the evil dragon has a simpering kobold minion who’s cheering him on.

  4. Environment. A fight against a group of goblins plays very differently on a featureless grid then it does in the pouring rain in a forest clearing with archers placed up in the trees, the mainline retreating towards the goblin lair as ambush groups hit the PCs from behind.

  5. Where killing the enemy isn’t the objective. What if the bugbears are holding a child dead to rights, and threaten to finish him if the PCs come any closer? Or where they’re fighting a good friend who’s under a compulsion to fight to the death? Or if the wildlife is after the party’s food, not the party members themselves?

  6. Staging. If the PCs approach the fight from above (a balcony looking down, for example), they feel empowered. If you want them to feel powerless, have the enemies looking down on them. Lots of other subtle ways to do that.

  7. Mix it in with skill checks. An example of one fight I had: the PCs were fighting a gang leader in the sewers when the wall collapsed, filling the room with water. The rogue was trying to lockpick a trap door to get the party out before they drowned as the rest of the group struggled to hold off the kingpin and his minions.

  8. Some people are better at D&D than others. If the party find your fights too easy, use harder monsters. It’s that simple.

loialial added

  1. Combat should make sense within the narrative. Why is combat happening? Does it make sense for that monster to be here and in that way? Why are they aggressive? And so on.

  2. Combat is narrative. Your combat should further the narrative you’re trying to create, enhance the experience of the game you’ve designed, rather than be a roadblock or mini game where the party whacks XP pinatas.

  3. Make something change every round. Round 1, combat starts. Round 2, enemy reinforcements arrive. Round 3, a special ability is used that significantly alters the battlefield. Round 4, more reinforcements, etc. This keeps your players on their toes and constantly requires them to reevaluate the scenario each turn.

  4. Include additional goals on the battlefield. What if special spots on the field provide massive buffs to spell casters? You’ve got yourself king of the hill(s). What if the party has to fight a hoard of monsters off while another party member interacts with an object in the environment for X rounds without interruption? What if the party has to protect an NPC? Kill a specific NPC? Hold out for so many rounds?

  5. Not every fight should be a fight to the death–sometimes people need to surrender rather than die outright. And sometimes, those people can be the party.

Izzynighmare suggests using environmental effects.

To me, making the combat encounters more entertaining is to present some outside force that the PC’s don’t have time to deal with. Make it so the rain begins to fall, it’s overly hot and if they are in their armor then they begin to get exhausted from dodging blows or maybe they get ambushed in a hot or very humid environment without their armor on. This could make the combat more interesting because they don’t have their armor and they will have to use skills and finesse to get through the fight. Make sure to include environmental forces in each day, if it’s windy and a combat starts, maybe through in some air spirits that will cause mischief while they fight. Or a tornado spawns in. Combat isn’t always easy and mother nature doesn’t care if you’re fighting. She does as she will. Maybe while they are dungeon crawling the ground becomes more slick because it’s pouring rain above them and the water is moving through the tunnels in the dungeon.

The_Moth_ adds

Make the environment a challenge on its own! Set your fights on a swaying suspension bridge over a chasm, or on the slopes of an erupting vulcanoe so they have to dodge the flows of magma. Or maybe in the mountains, where loud enough sounds trigger an avalanche?

Think of ways that the environment can become a challenge. This creates suspense and action that the players must take into account besides combat and which can turn a ‘normal’ encounter with goblins into an encounter with goblins on ski’s, gliding out in front of an avalanche as it rumbles towards you. Or as I recently tried, animated sword+swaying ropebridge.

Another way to add challenge and fun is adding verticality. Who says your agile elven rangers cant leap from tree to tree? Adding a third dimension enables an extra layer of tactical thinking. Harpies remaining in flight instead of offering their behinds conveniently. Or Merrow dragging PC’s underwater, making use of the depth of the ocean and their swim speed instead of floating belly up before they are even hit.

revkaboose talks about unintended consequences

This is perhaps the hardest one to get the hang of. You’ve been quiet and stealthy up to this point, no one’s noticed you, you’ve avoided combat encounters so far, and now you are fighting.

It sounds like a wrestling match between pots and pans. Someone will hear. And that someone is going to tell one of their friends, who will tell one of their friends, who will tell one of their friends.

Alternatively, an enemy flees from the current fight when things are just starting to not look good for the enemy. There was 8 of them, you just killed one, now one of the remaining 7 is going to run away into the dungeon – and what you don’t say is he is warning his friends.

Now, all of this can result in one of three scenarios.

1 – Enemies come at the party in waves, taking 2 – 5 turns to arrive, make sure to continue acting as combat is still going on otherwise the passage of time is a bit wonky when it comes to movement and what the party can do. “Oh there’s more on the way? Well we heal up and set up traps before they get here”

2 – The enemies group up together and all at once assault the party. This will likely result in a TPK unless you have an overpowered party or they run.

3 – The enemies regroup and quickly plan a large ambush, like a pincer attack.

The Temple to Amaethon

temple_ath
Interior Detail of Temple

This small temple is found in the Village of Cresthaven. The exterior is is carved into a stone mountain. Inside, the sanctuary is a large circle and features a simple stone altar typically framed with seasonal flowers. Parts of it are half-finished, perhaps being repaired or never completed.

The Faith

The temple is dedicated to the deity Amaethon. The faithful here are expertly catechized and have an expansive knowledge of the faith. One particular relic is considered extremely lucky to touch, and the local priest has trouble keeping tourists from laying hands on the delicate holy items.

The Relic

The Icon of Amaethon

The icon appears as a rectangular plaque, crafted of the finest darkwood and alder, adorned with small opals, garnets, and aquamarines. The wood is laminated with crushed Martyr Beetle paste, and inlaid with a polished sheet of onyx. Etched into the onyx is the famous and often depicted scene of Amaethon slaying the Forty-Four Devils of Arawn on Mt. Serebus with his scythe. The upper part of the plaque features a life-like, elongated bearded face carved into the wood. This is Amaethon. It is rumored (but not confirmed) that Amaethon’s visage will open its wooden mouth and speak wisdoms into the ear of any devil-hunter, who carries the plaque into battle against those same infernal foes. Its whereabouts are currently unknown.

Note: If a strap is attached to the back of the plaque, it is possible to use it as a small shield in battle.

The Priest

Harder: Male Half-elf Cleric

Str 0, Dex +1, Con 0, Int -1, Wis +1, Cha +2.

Harder has short blonde hair and green eyes who seeks to free himself from an ancient curse. The opposite of the Troublemaker, this priest is the mouthpiece of the nobility. He decries peasant revolt as heretical and emphasizes the loving and godly nature of the king. He is paid handsomely by the royal court, though he hides it to not appear so much a marionette.

The Faithful

The congregation is large families and many rangers and outdoorsmen. They lack faith and respect, rolling their eyes at sermons and ignoring the commandments.

Temple Services

  • Cure wounds (1st level) – 10 gp
  • Divination – 210 gp
  • Greater Restoration – 450 gp
  • Holy Water – 10 gp
  • Identify – 20 gp
  • Lesser Restoration – 40 gp
  • Prayer of healing (2nd level) – 40 gp
  • Raise dead – 1,250 gp
  • Remove curse – 90 gp
  • Speak with dead – 90 gp