Excerpts 02/02/2006

Red Hand of Doom Excerpt
By James Jacobs and Richard Baker

The Red Hand of Doom is an exciting super-adventure that pits heroes against an army bent on domination. Rampaging hobgoblins and their allies threaten to destroy the realm and all who stand before them. Characters who dare confront the horde soon discover that these particular hobgoblins worship Tiamat, the evil queen of dragons, and eventually come face-to-face with her draconic minions. The excerpts below include the introduction and adventure outline, two sample encounters, and statistics for the encounters. (Crafty DMs may find the encounters and their relevant statistics useful in other ways, too!)

Marauder Attack (EL 8)

Bloodthirsty marauders have circled around the town to watch the road leading into Drellin's Ferry. They've picked a good spot about 5 miles from the town and plan to ambush anyone who passes by.

Timeline: Day 1, start of the adventure.

Light: Bright (daylight).

Creatures: Eight hobgoblins, two hell hounds (first wave); six hobgoblins (second wave, arrives end of round 4).

Setup: This encounter can be played out on the battle grid that depicts the same area shown on the small map printed here. (The initial positions of the marauders are indicated on the map on the next page: R represents a hobgoblin regular warrior, H a hell hound, C the hobgoblin cleric, and B the bladebearer.) Place figures or tokens representing the PCs inside the shaded area indicated on the small map: Each one on a road square at least 4 squares away from the northwest corner. Place figures or tokens representing the marauders in squares that correspond to the rough placement of the symbols on the small map, making sure to put each hobgoblin regular in a square containing a tree (which provides cover to the creature).

The hobgoblins of the first wave are hiding at the eastern edge of a small stretch of woods, keeping an eye on the road. The hobgoblins in the second wave are about 100 yards farther up the road (off the southern edge of the map).

The marauders have the advantage of cover to hide in, so the characters must make Spot checks to detect their presence, opposed by the Hide checks of the hobgoblins (make one check for all six of them, using a Hide modifier of -4). If not all the PCs succeed on their Spot checks, the hobgoblins gain the advantage of surprise (PH 137) against the characters who fail.

When the PCs succeed in spotting the ambushers, or when the hobgoblins are about to spring their trap, begin the encounter with the following text.

The road crests a small rise and descends into a dusty grove in a large, shallow dell. An abandoned farmhouse, partially visible through the trees, stands on one side of the road. You've passed a dozen spots much like this one already today, but this one feels wrong. Then you glimpse the glint of mail through the brush by the side of the road. Fierce warriors -- tall, hairy humanoids with wide mouths and flat faces -- are lying in wait!

Terrain: Most of the forest squares are filled with light undergrowth (2 squares to enter, provides concealment) and trees (provide cover to creatures in the same square). The old fieldstone walls of the farmyard are low walls. The escarpment of the road cut is a steep slope covered by light undergrowth (4 squares to enter).

If the PCs are mounted at the beginning of the encounter, remember that characters untrained in the Ride skill might have trouble controlling their mounts -- refer to the Ride skill description (PH 80) for details.

Combat: The leaders of this band of marauders are the Doom Hand cleric Zarr and the bladebearer Uth-lar. The marauders attack the PCs as soon as the PCs reach the middle of the road cut, or as soon as they appear to spot the ambush, whichever comes first. The hobgoblins initially stay in the woods (they get concealment and cover there) and use their bows for as long as possible.

The second wave of hobgoblin regulars rush to join the fight at the first sounds of combat, arriving on the southeastern edge of the map at the end of the fourth round of the encounter.

First Wave Hobgoblin Regulars (6): hp 13 each (see page 119).

Hell Hounds (2): hp 22 each (MM 152).

Zarr: hp 25 (see Doom Hand Cleric, page 118).

Uth-lar: hp 39 (see Hobgoblin Bladebearer, page 119).

Second Wave Hobgoblin Regulars (6): hp 13 each (see page 119).

As long as Zarr or Uth-lar is alive, the regulars fight furiously. If the bladebearer and the priest are killed, any hobgoblins left attempt to make their escape, hoping to flee north to the edge of the Witchwood (about 3 miles distant) and lose any pursuers in the forest. If they are unable to escape, the hobgoblins make a stand and fight to the last warrior.

Designers' Notes

This encounter has a high EL because we expect that the party won't fight again before they reach the town and rest, but you should know that the EL is artificially high because of the large number of hobgoblin warriors. Low-level opponents don't really contribute a lot to the challenge; the bladebearer, cleric, and hell hounds are the true foes in this fight. We assume that the hobgoblin regulars will land a couple of lucky shots, only to be taken out by a f reball or two. If your party doesn't include an arcane spellcaster who can throw area-attack spells, you might need to cut down the number of hobgoblins to suit your player characters better.

-- James and Rich

Tactics: The marauders have no reason to suspect that they're dealing with a seasoned band of adventurers when the fight begins.

Zarr, Uth-lar, and the hell hounds hang back in the initial attack. However, once it becomes clear that they've ambushed a band of capable adventurers, Uth-lar moves to engage the nearest hero in melee, accompanied by the hell hounds. Zarr uses his invisibility spell to cover himself while he heals injured hobgoblins, blesses his followers, or uses his scroll of summon monster III (requiring a caster level check against DC 6), preferably summoning a third hell hound in the rear of the PCs' party to harass spellcasters.

Other Details: Zarr and his warband have already ambushed and killed five people so far today -- a traveling merchant and her three bodyguards who were riding west on the Dawn Way, and a local farmer who blundered across the raiders. The bodies of these unfortunates have been dumped out of sight in the ruined farmhouse. (If any PC enters the farmhouse, the bodies immediately become apparent in their locations along the west wall.)

The marauders have a crude campsite set up in the main room of the ruined farmhouse, with dirty bedrolls, cook fires (now banked), and other such necessities present, but nothing of interest or value.

Treasure: In addition to the gear they carry, the marauders found 355 gp on the merchant and her guards. The money pouch is currently sitting beside the bodies (Search DC 10 to find), since Zarr has not yet divided it out. The dead guards are dressed in studded leather armor and carried light crossbows and longswords, none remarkable.

Zarr carries a holy symbol of Tiamat, which can be identified with a DC 15 Knowledge (religion) check.

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