Out of the Box introduction
Terrain, planning and paranoia can play havoc with a Dungeon Master’s plans. Introducing an encounter becomes an adversarial game of justifying how an encounter could occur while any number of spells, class or racial abilities or magic items render surprise all but impossible. However, there’s always a way.Many players, and people in general, tend to make broad assumptions about what can be seen or what directions an attack might come from. To be fair, this is based on our own lives as we move about in a more-or-less two dimensional manner. Trapped by gravity and born without wings, we interpret the world around us as a series of challenges to move around or climb over. This mindset tends to leave us with assumptions that lead us into danger. We may look downward to ensure we do not trip over objects or into holes, but we only look up if necessary or to judge weather. At night, though, when sunlight is no longer around to illuminate those things that we might see from above, we ted to focus even more on the ground.
This is the best time to launch an attack from above. It’s harder to see, and less likely to be predicted at all. This is the basis for this encounter. It combines two common monsters, goblins and ogres, but in a way that one might not predict. In essence, this encounter will provide a “delivery service” that will be handy for inserting smaller humanoids into an area protected by walls, fences, and other common vertical protections with open view to the sky.
Furthermore, we’ll use content from the Dungeon Master’s Guide that often gets overlooked – the objects section. Specifically, we’ll utilize the Object Armor Class and Object Hit Point charts, as well as referencing the Siege Equipment section to create a whole new device to use against the player characters — a goblin launcher. Launching them would not work without recovery, so that’s when the DM can use a little hocus pocus and turn a common 1st level spell, feather fall, into a device – specifically a parachute.
An ogre-powered goblin trebuchet, goblins with parachutes landing among the party at night…what more could you ask for?
Wilderness/forest or copse of trees
3 (Scalable by adding another ogre and team of goblins)
Frunk – ogre (1) – If you need another ogre, it’ll be Frak, his brother and rival. They are equipped as noted above.
Goblins (6 per full team)
None. It’s why they are attacking. Optionally, roll each goblin might have mundane trinkets on them. There’s also the goblin catapults, if the characters are so inclined.
It’s been a long day. Settling in for the night, despite the dangers of camping in the open wilderness, is a welcome change. The dust of the road and the problems along the way have been enough to make the bones weary. The light of the fire reflects an orange glow upon the ring of trees around the camp, even though they are probably 60 ft. away. As the characters set up their watches and tend the low fire, things seem quiet.
Things are never as quiet as they seem. The ring of trees around the characters would normally help to shield them from view and provide some protection from the wind. Whereas this is the case with regard to the weather, there is more than the elements afoot. A small troop of goblins has been tracking the characters and have been waiting for their chance to strike. Most goblins would have simply waited until the characters are either asleep (or mostly so) and then sneak in to kill them, but these goblins have found a new way to do things. They know that adventurers rarely look up, and have adapted through cunning and invention.On a random watch (DM’s discretion or random roll), Frunk One-Tooth (the ogre) will mount the goblin catapult onto his back and start launching goblins. In case anyone asks, he does so for his share of the treasure as well as the guarantee he can eat one of the victims, alive if possible. Frunk is currently 120 ft. away from the party and is outside the ring of trees.
The goblin catapult is a large wooden device that mounts on his back and is a third-class lever operated by the ogre’s massive strength and pulling power. It has a shoulder mount padded with sheep skins, and a 12 ft. long wooden arm extends down to the ground at an angle. At the end of the arm is a saddle-like seat with a wooden backrest that can fit one small humanoid. When Frunk pulls down hard on the two thick chains that dangle in front of him attached to a hinging device, the arm swings up quickly, propelling the goblin in the seat upward about 30-60 ft. (depending on a complicated peg setting the goblins handle) and forward between 100-200 ft. (1d100 + 100). It cannot launch a goblin closer to the device than 100 ft. The launcher, if it’s attacked, has Armor Class 15 and 75 hit points. It’s immune to poison and psychic damage. It becomes inoperative after taking 50 points of damage. If a character wants to use it, they will need a minimum Strength 18 and the Powerful Build racial feat. Only small humanoids can fit in the saddle. The goblin launcher has the heavy and loading properties.
The goblins will also have improvised parachutes made from blankets and ropes, and will have a single-use based on their shoddy construction. This will grant them a one-time feather fall effect so they can drop into the encampment unharmed. Without these parachutes, the goblins (or anyone else in the goblin launcher) would take 3d6 bludgeoning damage from the very rough landing. Goblins will land 3d10 feet way from the party in a random direction.
Spotting the goblins will require spotting them in the dim light at first, which will be at disadvantage even with darkvision. Only Devil’s Sight will spot them normally at a range of 120 ft. Goblins who drop closely to the party will first throw vials of alchemist’s fire into their midst or at sleeping characters. They are doing this for two reasons. First, it creates chaos and suffering. Secondly, it acts like a marker to make Frunk’s attempts to land goblins on the party easier. If the improvised firebombs work, the 3d10 ft. scatter distance will reduce to 3d6 feet.
Frunk has six goblins with him, and three more who are staying with him to slow down anyone attacking him. If the ogre is discovered and attacked, he will use his first action to discard/drop the device, and will then attack in melee afterward with his club.
Once there’s one or two characters on fire, the goblins that are supposed to stand guard over the launching ogre will break ranks and charge the party. Left to his own devices (quite literally), Frunk will also charge, hurling rocks as he approaches.
If the DM would like to use this encounter for a party level a little higher, feel free to add another entire team of goblins and another ogre goblin catapult.
This encounter is fun and oddball, and can be scaled to fit the DM’s needs. Please note the encounter is meant to be scaled and not necessarily lethal, although it can be. It should be an indicator that local humanoids are both cooperating and adapting. Expect there’s a good chance the characters will try to take the goblin catapult, especially if the party has at least one Powerful Build character and one small character. The device will be very large and difficult to carry. If you’re using the encumbrance rules, this device will easily weigh 200 pounds.
Remember, characters will try almost anything they think is cool or unusual. If the device is damaged and they want it to be repaired, they will need someone skilled in carpenter’s tools as well as an expert in siege weapons. Perhaps a soldier background or the equivalent will suffice.
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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.