Introduction: One trope in D&D that needs work is the concept of the encounter as a “one thing shows up and does one other thing.” There should be no reason why, unless otherwise specified, that multiple monsters of similar alignments and motivations would not work together.
Similarly, if these creatures work together more than once, they should have some sense of how each other works as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Grouping like-minded individuals might turn what would be a typical encounter into something a little less predictable.
The following is one such encounter where two monsters, tactically minded and ruthless in combat, work together to create a small fighting force that would be dangerous to deal with, especially in a confined setting where collateral damage is something to consider.
As an example of this, I am presenting two races that fit the bill – Fire Giants and Hobgoblins. Both love war, are tactically sound, and would likely work in concert to achieve a goal. Both share the Lawful Evil alignment, so you can expect them to behave in similar fashions and seek similar solutions to the same problems.
In the correct environment to add complications, and you have a problem that needs to be solved – quickly! The introduction of this encounter might well be used as a doorway to start an adventure, so this could be the start of something larger.
Environment: Urban/Small Town
Suggested level: 10
While stopped for the night in a small town or village or while normal life carries on around you…suddenly there’s a rumble…then a slight tremor.
A 20’ diameter sinkhole opens up in a crowded small street or alleyway, with the wooden structures to either side of it creaking and losing at least one outer wall to it. In the dust and the screams, what surprises you are the tops of ladders quickly appearing, with red-skinned Hobgoblins issuing forth.
They will immediately begin attacking any nearby villagers.
As bad as this is, what really worries you is the abrupt appearance of a massive black-metal-gauntleted hand, which grips the edge of the hole and pulls up an enormous 16’ tall figure. It’s black plate armor glints off the light of torches and lamps, and a long red beard appears from the bottom of a frightful black plate helmet. Upon the back of this figure seems a small structure not unlike a hunter’s blind or a small guard post. It’s framework is not easily seen, and it’s covered in either fired mud or ceramic plates. One wide horizontal slot below a capped roof spits arrows tipped with burning rags.
All around is chaos. Fires begin in several locations as flaming arrows stick into wooden structures. Guardsmen quick enough to act in response to the Giant before you can are cut down like kindling by it’s massive greatsword. Hobgoblin troopers quickly take advantage of the carnage and advance as a shield wall to protect the legs of the juggernaut.
The titanic figure roars in challenge, with only screams of the civilians in response. The Hobgoblins cheer and advance even more.
Who will save the town?
What you have is little guesswork on who or what the problem is and a few problems to deal with as a group. The Fire Giant will act as a siege machine, destroying structures and launching boulders into guardsmen. Anyone who gets close enough to him to be a threat will be dealt with by either his Hobgoblin troopers on the ground or the two Hobgoblin Captains in the archer hut on his back.
The Hobgoblin Captains in the hut protect the Giant’s back, and have Spears and Longbows. They have a stock of arrows in the structure that have rags on the ends soaked in pitch. They have a small covered lantern they use to light the arrows and start fires.
The fires they start present no problem for the Giant, so it can walk confidently through any created fires, using it’s great strength, heavy armor, and immunity to fire to great effect.
Holes created by this colossus will be taken advantage of by the Hobgoblin troopers to either attack guardsmen or effect carnage on the civilian populace.
The Captains on the Giants back are protected from outside flames by the structure on the Giant’s back, and have 75% cover from other outside attacks.
They also have a store of 10 Alchemist Fire grenades that they will throw at the feet of the Giant if attackers try to get below their arc of fire.
Note that these Hobgoblin Captains can assist their allies, including the Giant, with their Leadership ability. There are two Captains, so you have two shots at this ability.
If the players choose to attack the structure itself, it has an AC of 15, is Resistant to Piercing weapons, and is Vulnerable to Bludgeoning weapons. It has 100hp. It its destroyed, the Captains, if still alive, will fall to the ground (2d6 Bludgeoning damage), and all remaining Alchemist’s Fire will ignite.
The Hobgoblin troopers below will fight as a unit. Think “Roman Shield Wall”. They’ll protect each other and flank opponents if possible. Hobgoblins believe in martial supremacy, and will not take foolish chances. They will seek to protect their juggernaut as best they can, trying to keep annoying guardsmen or constabulary from getting too close.
They will avoid engaging foes that the Giant is swinging his massive blade at, as they are well aware of what happens when things go wrong. Given that there are eight of them, four will fight with Longsword and Shield, and the four behind them will attack with Partisans (use Glaive, but chance the damage type to Piercing) over the shoulders of their allies. This means any one Medium foe might face up to four opponents (two swordsmen, two polearmsmen) at once.
These troopers are not immune or protected from fire in any way, so if the Giant and Captains wander into a conflagration, they need to hustle around the fire to get to a place where they can assist again. Note that all monsters working in tandem with each other might well give each other Advantage on attack roles against common foes
The entire forces objective is to suppress this entire community, thinking all they would face is simple guards. They might seek to capture any powerful or political figures for ransom and control of the area. The Giant may not be a long term thinker, but the Hobgoblin Captains are.
Monsters:“Kurskaar” – Fire Giant – As per Monster Manual, page 154.
“Mergol” and “Hershekk” – Hobgoblin Captains (2), page 186 of the Monster Manual. However, alter their stats to account for the following: 75% cover in Archer Hut. +4 to AC (total 21) and Dexterity saving throws.
Replace weapons with Spear, Longbow, and alter Longbow damage as follows: 1d8+2 Piercing, +1d4 Fire, Ignites. Alchemist Fire (1d4 Fire, Improvised Ignites, +1d4 each round a target does not use it’s Action to douse the flames, Dexterity DC:10.
Hobgoblins (8) – As per Monster Manual, page 186. Except 4 have Partisans (as per Glaive, page 149 of Player’s Handbook, but change damage type to Piercing) and no Shield. Therefore four swordsmen have the standard AC of 18, and four polearmsmen have an AC of 16.
Treasure: A unit of this size must have SOMETHING in their pockets. The Hobgoblins have a total of 105 EP and 70GP. The Giant has a Heward’s Handy Haversack worn on his belt like a pouch, and contains a Spell Scroll (Blight) crunched up into a ball out of frustration, 1000 GP, a gold bracelet (250gp), an elf-sized lady’s silk robe with golf embroidery (250gp), and a coronet forged of bronze in the Dwarven style (250gp). He also has a large sack which holds two rolls on the “Items in a Giant’s Bag” table…or if you can’t find it, a rocking chair (medium sized), a large bag of salt, and a wagon wheel.
Complications: Okay, aside from dealing with an organized mob of monsters, the biggest complication is the threat of fire. The Hobgoblin Captains will be setting blazes about as often as they can. Consider all wooden structures to Ignite if they are shot with flaming arrows or hit with Alchemist’s fire.
The damage for entering these blazes should be determined by the length of time they have been burning. A recent blaze might be easily extinguished with a DC:10 Dexterity check and the right method (perhaps water). For each turn the blaze continues, add 1d6 to the damage on a failed check and raise the DC by 2. When the DC reached 20, nothing short of magical means like a Wall of Water or a Water Elemental will stop the conflagration. Use your judgment when dealing with this.
The sinkhole from which the enemies entered is your doorway to another adventure. How did the Hobgoblin sappers get here? How did they get a Giant underground? Where did they all come from? Why did they attack here? All of these (and more) are questions you can present to the players or choose to expand on yourself. This may be a part of a larger Giant/Hobgoblin offensive, or it might be a singular raid by a small but organized group. That’s your choice. Run with it!
“Fire for Effect” – Out of the Box D&D Encounters #30 Hobgoblins and Fire Giants
I fell into gaming in the oddest of ways. Coming out of a bad divorce, my mom tried a lot of different things to keep my brother and I busy and out of trouble. It didn't always work. One thing that I didn't really want to do, but did because my mom asked, was enroll in Venturers. As an older Scout-type movement, I wasn't really really for the whole camping-out thing. Canoe trips and clean language were not my forte. Drag racing, BMX and foul language were.
What surprised me though was one change of pace our Scout leader tried. He DMed a game of the original D&D that came out after Chainmail (and even preceedd the Red Box). All the weapons just did 1d6 damage, and the three main demi-humans (Elf, Dwarf and Halfling) were not only races, but classes. There were three alignments (Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic). It was very basic. I played all the way through high school and met a lot of new people through gaming. My expected awkwardness around the opposite sex disappeared when I had one game that was seven girls playing. They, too, never thought that they would do this, and it was a great experiement.
But it got me hooked. I loved gaming, and my passion for it became infectious. Despite hanging with a very rough crowd who typically spent Fridays scoring drugs, getting into fights, and whatnot, I got them all equally hooked on my polyhedral addiction. I DMed guys around my table that had been involved in the fast-living/die young street culture of the 80s, yet they took to D&D like it was second nature. They still talk to me about those days, even when one wore a rival patch on his back to the one I was wearing. We just talked D&D. It was our language.
Dungeons and Dragons opened up a whole new world too. I met lots off oddballs along with some great people. I played games like Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Car Wars, Battletech, lots of GURPS products, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Twilight 2000, Rolemaster, Champions, Marvel Superheroes, Earth Dawn...the list goes on. There was even a time while I was risiding with a patch on my back and I would show up for Mechwarrior (the clix kind) tournaments. I was the odd man out there.
Gaming lead to me attending a D&D tournament at a local convention, which lead to being introduced to my paintball team, called Black Company (named after the book), which lead to meeting my wife. She was the sister of my 2iC (Second in Command), and I fell in love at first sight.
Gaming lead to me meeting my best friend, who was my best man at my wedding and is the godfather of my youngest daughter.
Life being what it is, there was some drama with my paintball team/D&D group, and we parted ways for a number of years. In that time I tried out two LARP systems, which taught me a lot about public speaking, improvisation, and confidence. There was a silver lining. I didn't play D&D again for a very long time, though.
Then 5E came out.
I discovered the Adventurer's League, and made a whole new group of friends. I discovered Acquisitions Incorporated, Dwarven Tavern, and Nerdarchy. I was hooked again.
And now my daughter is playing. I introduced her to 5E and my style of DMing, and we talk in "gamer speak" a lot to each other (much to the shagrin of my wife/her mother...who still doesn't "get it"). It's my hope that one day she'll be behind the screen DMing her kids through an amazing adventure. Time will tell.
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