Vicious Venues
The Hill of Ravening Beasts
By Skip and Penny Williams

The Hill of Ravening Beasts contains encounters of level 2-13
and is suitable for use with any D&D campaign.

A sprawling series of wooded slopes and sheer stone cliffs rises darkly over the surrounding country. Here and there caves open in the cliffs, and rivulets of sparkling water trace veins of silver through the trees and stony precipices. The scene is idyllic, but wild.

Background for the DM

The hill's wooded slopes and hollows have long housed predators of many kinds. The worst ones living on the hill today are Ghank and Ingrud, two half-orc hunters who don't much care what they kill.

About the Hunters

Ghank and Ingrud left their tribe years ago in search of greener pastures. They soon discovered, however, that they weren't cut out for much more than life in the wild. They now make their livings mainly as hunters, tracking down animals and selling the meat or hides (or both). When the opportunity presents itself, the pair is not above attacking travelers and homesteads. The two half-orcs have become much like the animals they hunt: They hunt when they're hungry, and they'll attack almost anything that seems like prey to them.

Statistics for Ghank and Ingrud at two different levels are presented below.

Ghank: Male half-orc barbarian 4; CR 4; Mediumhumanoid; HD 4d12+4; hp 30; Init +2; Spd 30 ft.; AC 20, touch 12, flat-footed 20; Base Atk +4; Grp +8; Atk or Full Atk +9 melee (1d10+4/x3, masterwork dwarven waraxe) or +8 ranged (1d8+3/x3, masterwork composite longbow [+2 Str bonus] with +1 arrows); SA rage 2/day; SQ darkvision 60 ft., fast movement, illiteracy, trap sense +1, uncanny dodge; AL CN; SVFort +5, Ref +3, Will +2; Str 18, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 6.

Skills and Feats: Handle Animal +5, Jump +7, Listen +8, Ride +4; Exotic Weapon Proficiency (dwarven waraxe), Power Attack.

Rage (Ex): Twice per day, Ghank can enter a state of fierce rage that lasts for 6 rounds. The following changes are in effect as long as he rages: hp 38; AC 18, touch 10, flat-footed 18; Grp +10; Atk or Full Atk +11 melee (1d10+6/x3, masterwork dwarven waraxe) or +8 ranged (1d8+3/x3, masterwork composite longbow [+2 Str bonus] with +1 arrows); SV Fort +7, Will +4; Str 22, Con 17; Jump +9. At the end of his rage, Ghank is fatigued for the duration of the encounter.

Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Ghank retains his Dexterity bonus to Armor Class even when flat-footed or targeted by an unseen foe (he still loses his Dexterity bonus if paralyzed or otherwise immobile).

Possessions:+1 breastplate, masterwork heavy wooden shield, masterwork dwarven waraxe, masterwork composite longbow (+2 Str bonus) with 8 +1 arrows and 12 arrows, silversheen, 2 potions ofcure light wounds,oil ofmagic weapon, silver armband (8 gp), 2 gp.

Ingrud: Female half-orc ranger 5; CR 5; Medium humanoid; HD 5d8+5; hp 27; Init +3; Spd 30 ft.; AC 20, touch 13, flat-footed 17; Base Atk +5; Grp +7; Atk or Full Atk +8 melee (1d8+2/19-20, masterwork longsword) or +10 ranged (1d8+3/x3, masterwork composite longbow [+2 Str bonus] with +1 arrows); SQ animal companion (wolf), animal companion benefits, darkvision 60 ft., favored enemy magical beasts +4, favored enemy animals +2, wild empathy +3; AL CN; SV Fort +5, Ref +7, Will +2; Str 14, Dex 16, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 12, Cha 6.

Skills and Feats: Climb +9, Heal +9, Hide +10, Listen +3, Move Silently +10, Search +9, Spot +11, Survival +9; Alertness, Dodge, Endurance[B], Rapid Shot[B], Track[B].

Animal Companion (Ex): Ingrud has a wolf named Ronk as an animal companion. Ronk's abilities and characteristics are summarized below.

Ronk: Male wolf companion; CR --; Medium animal; HD 2d8+4; hp 13; Init +2; Spd 50 ft.; AC 14, touch 12, flat-footed 12; Base Atk +1; Grp +2; Atk or Full Atk +3 melee (1d6+1, bite); SA trip; SQ low-light vision, scent, tricks (attack, come, defend, guard, heel, stay, track); AL N; SV Fort +5, Ref +5, Will +1; Str 13, Dex 15, Con 15, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 6.

Skills and Feats: Jump +9, Listen +3, Move Silently +3, Spot +3; Track[B], Weapon Focus (bite).

Trip (Ex): If Ronk hits with a bite attack, he can attempt to trip the opponent (+1 check modifier) as a free action without making a touch attack or provoking an attack of opportunity. If the attempt fails, the opponent cannot react to trip Ronk.

Animal Companion Benefits (Ex): Ingrud and Ronk enjoy the link and share spells special qualities.

Link (Ex): Ingrud can handle Ronk as a free action. She also gains a +4 circumstance bonus on all wild empathy checks and Handle Animal checks made regarding her wolf.

Share Spells (Ex): Ingrud may have any spell she casts on herself also affect Ronk if the latter is within 5 feet at the time. Ingrud may also cast a spell with a target of "You" on her animal companion.

Favored Enemy (Ex): Ingrud gains a +4 bonus on her Bluff, Listen, Sense Motive, Spot, and Survival checks when using these skills against magical beasts. She gains the same bonus on weapon damage.

Against animals, she gains a +2 bonus on these skill checks and on weapon damage rolls.

Ranger Spells Prepared: (caster level 2nd): 1st -- magic fang.

Possessions:+1 chain shirt, +1 buckler, masterwork longsword, masterwork composite longbow (+2 Str bonus) with 10 +1 arrows and 10 arrows, silversheen, 2 potions ofcure light wounds,potion ofmage armor, silver armband (8 gp), 7 gp.

Ghank: Male half-orc barbarian 8; CR 8; Medium humanoid; HD 8d12+8; hp 60; Init +2; Spd 30 ft.; AC 22, touch 13, flat-footed 22; Base Atk +8; Grp +12; Atk +13 melee (1d10+5/x3, +1 dwarven waraxe) or +13 ranged (1d8+4/x3, masterwork composite longbow [+2 Str bonus] with +2 arrows); Full Atk +13/+8 melee (1d10+5/x3, +1 dwarven waraxe) or +13/+8 ranged (1d8+4/x3, masterwork composite longbow [+2 Str bonus] with +2 arrows); SA rage 3/day; SQ damage reduction 1/--, darkvision 60 ft., fast movement, illiteracy, improved uncanny dodge, trap sense +2, uncanny dodge; AL CN; SV Fort +7, Ref +4, Will +3; Str 19, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 6.

Skills and Feats: Climb +8, Handle Animal +7, Jump +8, Listen +9, Ride +4; Dodge, Exotic Weapon Proficiency (dwarven waraxe), Power Attack.

Rage (Ex): Three times per day, Ghank can enter a state of fierce rage that lasts for 6 rounds. The following changes are in effect as long as he rages: hp 76; AC 20, touch 11, flat-footed 20; Grp +14; Atk +15 melee (1d10+7/x3, +1 dwarven waraxe) or +13 ranged (1d8+4/x3, masterwork composite longbow [+2 Str bonus] with +2 arrows); Full Atk +15/+10 melee (1d10+7/x3, +1 dwarven waraxe) or +13/+8 ranged (1d8+4/x3, masterwork composite longbow [+2 Str bonus] with +2 arrows); SV Fort +9, Will +5; Str 23, Con 17; Climb +10, Jump +10. At the end of his rage, Ghank is fatigued for the duration of the encounter.

Improved Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Cannot be flanked and can only be sneak attacked by a character who has at least 12 levels of rogue.

Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Ghank retains his Dexterity bonus to Armor Class even when flat-footed or targeted by an unseen foe (he still loses his Dexterity bonus if paralyzed or otherwise immobile).

Possessions:+1 breastplate, +1 heavy wooden shield, ring of protection +1, +1 dwarven waraxe, masterwork composite longbow (+2 Str bonus) with 5 +2 arrows and 15 arrows, silversheen, 2 potions of cure moderate wounds, potion of cat's grace, silver armband (8 gp), 2 gp.

Ingrud: Female half-orc ranger 9; CR 9; Medium humanoid; HD 9d8+9; hp 49; Init +3; Spd 30 ft.; AC 22, touch 14, flat-footed 19; Base Atk +9; Grp +11; Atk +12 melee (1d8+3/19-20, +1 longsword) or +14 ranged (1d8+3/x3, masterwork composite longbow [+2 Str bonus] with +1 arrows); Full Atk +12/+7 melee (1d8+3/19-20, +1 longsword) or +14/+9 ranged (1d8+3/x3, masterwork composite longbow [+2 Str bonus] with +1 arrows); SQ darkvision 60 ft., evasion, favored enemy magical beasts +4, favored enemy animals +2, swift tracker, wild empathy +7, woodland stride; AL CN; SV Fort +7, Ref +9, Will +4; Str 14, Dex 17, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 12, Cha 6.

Skills and Feats: Climb +10, Concentration +11, Heal +10, Hide +11, Listen +13, Move Silently +11, Search +10, Spot +13, Survival +10; Alertness, Dodge, Endurance[B], Manyshot[B], Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot[B], Track[B].

Animal Companion (Ex): Ingrud has a wolf named Ronk as an animal companion. Ronk's abilities and characteristics are summarized below.

Ronk: Male wolf companion; CR --; Medium animal; HD 4d8+8; hp 26; Init +3; Spd 50 ft.; AC 17, touch 13, flat-footed 14; Atk or Full Atk +6 melee (1d6+3, bite); SA trip; SQ evasion, low-light vision, scent, tricks (attack, come, defend, guard, heel, seek, stay, track); AL N; SV Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +2; Str 14, Dex 16, Con 15, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 6.

Skills and Feats: Hide +4, Jump +10, Listen +3, Move Silently +4, Spot +3, Survival +2; Dodge, Track[B], Weapon Focus (bite).

Trip (Ex): If Ronk hits with a bite attack, he can attempt to trip the opponent (+1 check modifier) as a free action without making a touch attack or provoking an attack of opportunity. If the attempt fails, the opponent cannot react to trip Ronk.

Evasion (Ex): If Ronk is subjected to an attack that normally allows a Reflex saving throw for half damage, he takes no damage if he makes a successful saving throw.

Animal Companion Benefits (Ex): Ingrud and Ronk enjoy the link and share spells special qualities.

Link (Ex): Ingrud can handle Ronk as a free action. She also gains a +4 circumstance bonus on all wild empathy checks and Handle Animal checks made regarding her wolf.

Share Spells (Ex): Ingrud may have any spell she casts on herself also affect Ronk if the latter is within 5 feet at the time. Ingrud may also cast a spell with a target of "You" on her animal companion.

Evasion (Ex): If Ingrud is exposed to any effect that normally allows her to attempt a Reflex saving throw for half damage, she takes no damage with a successful saving throw.

Favored Enemy (Ex): Ingrud gains a +4 bonus on her Bluff, Listen, Sense Motive, Spot, and Survival checks when using these skills against magical beasts. She gains the same bonus on weapon damage.

Against animals, she gains a +2 bonus on these skill checks and on weapon damage rolls.

Swift Tracker (Ex): Ingrud can track at normal speed without taking the usual -5 penalty, or at double speed at only a -10 penalty.

Woodland Stride (Ex): Ingrud may move through natural thorns, briars, overgrown areas, and similar terrain at her normal speed and without damage or other impairment. However, thorns, briars, and overgrown areas that are magically manipulated to impede motion still affect her.

Ranger Spells Prepared (caster level 4th): 1st -- longstrider, magic fang.

Possessions:+2 chain shirt, +1 buckler, ring of protection +1, +1 longsword, masterwork composite longbow (+2 Str bonus) with 10 +1 arrows and 10 arrows, silversheen, 2 potions of cure moderate wounds,potion of mage armor, potion of barkskin (+3), silver armband (8 gp), 7 gp.

The Setup

Any temperate or warm area could serve as the location of the hill. In fact, the hilly area could be the only rough country for miles around, or they could be part of a larger chain of hills or part of the foothills beneath a mountain range. The PCs could find themselves climbing this particular hill when they venture overland, or something about the hill might draw them there.

  • Rumor has it that the streams on the hill literally run with gold or silver. The rumor might be true or false, but plenty of folks believe it. Ghank and Ingrud most likely profit from the increased interest in the hill because it gives them an expanded market for their meat and furs. Eventually, however, they'll also prey on the newcomers. The PCs might have to confront the two half-orcs directly if they're part of the rush, or perhaps they're hired to look into the situation after several prospectors disappear.

  • The PCs uncover a legend of some malignant power that lurks on the hill. The legend says an unnamed entity might haunt the countryside, or guard an ancient treasure, or both. It's possible that the legend is true. Perhaps it refers to the vrocks that stalk prey on the hill (see Exploring the Hill), or perhaps the creature in the legend is long gone, but Ghank's and Ingrud's antics superficially resemble its tactics.

  • Local tales speak of unearthly wailing emanating from the hill on certain dark nights. These sounds might be attributed to the wolves or other predators living on the hill, to wind blowing through the hill's caves, or to the unearthly wailing of some horrible creature. Any or all of these possibilities could prove true.

Exploring the Hill

Most visitors to the hill find the place at least a little foreboding.

The rutted country road turns upward and winds through heavy oak trees and jagged rock outcroppings. The rugged slope forces the track to veer left and right in a series of long switchbacks that oblige a weary traveler to move a considerable distance sideways for each foot the road climbs.

The trees and rocks create pools of inky shadows everywhere, and unseen creatures scuffle and grunt in their depths. The wind makes a mournful sighing sound where it blows over the rocks and sets the trees groaning and creaking.

The hill has dozens (or perhaps hundreds) of caves. A few caves lie in exposed cliff faces, and the PCs can spot them from a considerable distance away. Most of these obvious caves have no tenants.

Many more caves lie hidden in the trees or under rock overhangs, and these are occupied. Likewise, all those shadowy nooks and crannies might conceal attackers.

Creatures: Many kinds of predatory creatures might occupy the caves. Possibilities include the following.

EL 2-4

Dire Weasels (1-2): hp 13 each; see Monster Manual page 65.

Tactics: The weasels most likely hide in undergrowth or rocks and attack the party's rear when the group ventures inside.

EL 3-7

Dire Wolves (CR 1-4): hp 45 each; see Monster Manual page 65.

Tactics: A single wolf most likely prowls the woods. In a fight, it tries to trip the more dangerous foes so it can push through the party's front line and attack weaker characters. Multiple wolves may send about half their number directly at the party while the remainder circle around for flank attacks. A wolf pack also might use a cave for a den. About half the wolves will be inside and the rest lie low outside. In a fight, the bulk of the pack rushes into the cave after the party.

EL 4-8

Displacer Beasts (1-4): hp 51 each; see Monster Manual page 66.

Tactics: These creatures most likely stalk the party until the group camps for the night, then move in for the kill.

EL 5-9

Shadow Mastiffs (1-4): hp 30 each; see Monster Manual page 222.

Tactics: These creatures follow the party and try to pick off a straggler.

EL 6-10

Lamias (1-4): hp 58 each; see Monster Manual page 165.

Tactics: The lamias dwell in a cave, but the PCs also could meet them while moving along the road. A lamia usually employs disguise self to appear as something less nasty, such as a centaur. As an alternative, it might use major image to conceal its lion body. It might appear as a youth taking an (interrupted) bath, a fisherman wading in a stream, or a woodsman working behind a tangle of brush.

Once a lamia draws in a victim, it uses charm monster on a fighter type. It continues using this ability until it has the physically formidable enemies neutralized, then it uses mirror image and moves in to use its Wisdom drain against the survivors.

EL 7-9

Dragonnes (1-2): hp 76 each; see Monster Manual page 89.

Tactics: These creatures lurk near the cliff tops. They tend to swoop down and roar at prey, then pounce after their initial pass.

EL 8-10

Dire Tigers (1-2): hp 120 each; see Monster Manual page 65.

Tactics: The tigers love to hide in the undergrowth near the road or a clearing, then pounce on prey that comes within reach.

EL 9-11

Yrthaks (1-2): hp 102 each; see Monster Manual page 262.

Tactics: These creatures hole up in caves during the day and venture forth to hunt at night. They've chosen a cave with two exits. If caught inside, they use their sonic lances to cause explosions, then exit the cave, returning after 2 rounds to press the attack. In the open, they use much the same tactics, making hit-and-run attacks.

Meeting the Hunters (EL 7-13)

The two half-orcs have a few favorite caves they use as bases for their hunting expeditions. They keep each one stocked with simple food, such as flour and dried peas, plus a few odds and ends, such as candles and firewood. Piles of animal bones lie in or near the caves. The PCs also could meet Ghank and Ingrud roaming the hill. Read or paraphrase the following if the party encounters the half-orcs in a relatively peaceful manner.

A sound very much like the howl of an animal rings out, though it has some almost-human quality about it. Evidently it was meant as a greeting of sorts, since it is shortly followed by the emergence of two half-orcs dressed in dirty hides. "Travelers, eh?" grunts the male, baring his tusks in what might pass for a smile on a less bestial creature. "Comin' to see us, or just want to be prey for the nastier critters what live around here?"

If the conversation continues, the half-orcs identify themselves and press the PCs about their business.

"This here's Ingrud, an' you can call me Ghank," says the male half-orc with another toothy smile. "Don't see too many tenderfoots like you out here. Too dangerous -- huge cats, wolves as big as houses, birds that'd snap yer head off -- an' us, of course. But if yer lookin' fer hides, you've come to the right place."

"Right," says the female. "Did you see the cat down in the holler there? Been trackin' that one fer days. Make a right nice skin when I catch it. Meat's a little tough, but yer get used to it. Not tender, like halfling an' human."

"Shush, Maw," says Ghank, poking his partner in the ribs. "They's gonna think we's unfriendly. We's jus' like anybody else -- tryin' to scratch out a livin'."

"Oh, sorry," says Ingrud. "We never eat customers. Well, almost never." She and Ghank throw back their heads and laugh, baring glistening tusks.

Tactics: In a fight, Ghank tends to fly into a rage and charge the toughest-looking foe while Ingrud hangs back and shoots arrows. Ingrud initially keeps her wolf near her in case someone closes to melee range, but she sends it to help Ghank if necessary. If they have time to prepare for a fight, Ingrud casts magic fang on her wolf and gives it a potion ofmage armor (and a potion of barkskin as well, if she has it available). Ghank uses his oil ofmagic weapon on his axe or drinks his potion of cat's grace.

About the Authors

Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies and was the Sage of Dragon Magazine for 18 years. Skip is a co-designer of the D&D 3rd Edition game and the chief architect of the Monster Manual. When not devising swift and cruel deaths for player characters, Skip putters in his kitchen or garden (rabbits and deer are not Skip's friends) or works on repairing and improving the century-old farmhouse that he shares with his wife, Penny, and a growing menagerie of pets.

Penny Williams joined the roleplaying game industry as Game Questions Expert for TSR, Inc. in the 1980s. Since then, she has served as RPGA Network Coordinator, Polyhedron Newszine editor, and Senior Editor and Coordinating Editor for the RPG R&D Department at Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Now a busy freelancer, Penny edits for several game companies and runs the online playtesting program for Wizards products. When not enhancing the cruelty of the deaths PCs will suffer at the hands of designers, Penny puts up jam, works jigsaw puzzles, and tutors students in math and science.


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