Redesigning Encounters: White Wyrm Terrorists

The White Wyrm encounter, located on page 45 of The Scouring of Gate Pass, was a well thought out combat—as written. Unfortunately, I executed it horribly with my mismanagement of monster tactics.

First of all, I completely misread some of the powers just before the encounter. Thus, when it came time to use said powers, my plans went out the window. Rather than take a moment or two to regroup, I got antsy and simply attacked without thinking ahead—which is never a good thing. I also found myself unable to roll with the punches (no pun intended); I was reticent to alter my plan (when I did have one) as the characters moved around the battlefield.

For example, I was really set on using the pit traps, and so I had some monsters hang back in order to lure the silly characters to their doom. When the characters didn’t take the bait, the enemies just sat there, unsure of what to do—wasting valuable turns while being pelted with things that hurt.

The White Wyrm encounter consists of the following:

  • Human Storm Mage, Level 4 Artillery
  • Mountain Pseudodragon, Level 3 Lurker
  • 2 White Wyrm Guards, Level 3 Soldiers
  • 3 White Wyrm Bandits, Level 2 Skirmishers
  • 2 False-Floor Pits, Level 1 Lurkers

The Good, the Bad, and the Fluffed

Starting off with the pseudodragon—gone. I want to keep dragons low key; using them—or even their “pseudo” brethren—dilutes the effect that dragons have on the campaign.

For its replacement, I decided to try something different from what I normally do. Rather than pick a new monster from the Monster Vault and fluff all the powers to match the enemy in the adventure, I did a reversal; I used the pseudodragon’s stats from the MV and decided to fluff it into some other creature.

In order to figure out what monster to turn it into, I had a look at my miniature collection. Sitting right on top of a pile of flying creatures was a giant eagle and I thought to myself, “Why not?” The bite attack stayed just as it was; in fact, the ability to fly up to four squares before making an attack fit very well with my idea of a giant eagle. The sting attack got morphed into swooping strike; I changed the ongoing 5 poison damage into “dazed (save ends).” The invisibility power was a little harder to fluff. I wanted to keep the giant eagle non-magical, but I didn’t want to ditch the power or go looking for another monster to fluff, so I set it aside and worked on some of the other combatants. After a suitable amount of time had passed, inspiration struck.

The whole point of fluffing is to take a power’s mechanics and ignore its name, right? Take the run action, for example. All it does is give you a boost to speed. There are no restrictions to where you can use that boost: you can “run” while climbing, “run” while swimming, or “run” through difficult terrain. Run, in this instance, becomes a misnomer. And thus the invisibility power became camouflage—the giant eagle is a mass of claws, beak, and feathers, and in a flash he’s disappeared. That’s how quick and ferocious his attacks are.

I decided to rename the Human Storm Mage to White Wyrm Thundermage; I thought it had a better ring to it. For the Thundermage, I used the Orc Archer on page 226 of the MV. His handaxe changed into a mace to match the miniature. His longbow turned into magic bolt and I added the force descriptor. Lastly, his clustered volley power became thunderclap. Oh, and I kept the savage demise power exactly as it was. The Orc Archer turned into a perfect White Wyrm Thundermage!

Next on the lineup was the White Wyrm Guard, a Level 3 Soldier, which was converted nicely from the Battletested Orc, also a Level 3 Soldier. The Battletested Orc’s battleaxe and handaxe attacks changed into a longsword and crossbow respectively. Hacking frenzy became simply frenzy, but otherwise stayed the same. I left savage demise alone. In fact, I liked the idea that this was a “White Wyrm” ability; something taught to this terrorist group. The ability unifies them flavor-wise.

The White Wyrm Bandit rounded out the enemy’s forces. Unfortunately, there are no Level 2 Skirmisher orcs in the MV, which would have been nice. Instead, I chose the Common Bandit on page 170. I fluffed the mace into a warhammer to match the miniature and ditched the dagger. (In hindsight, I should have kept the dagger as a ranged attack.) Dazing strike remained exactly as it was. And then, as I was about to turn to the False-Floor Pit, I thought, “Why not give the Bandit savage demise to match the others?” And so I did.

The False-Floor Pit was easy; I ignored the mechanics listed in the adventure and used the False-Floor Pit on page 216 of the Essentials Dungeon Master’s Book.

Blamo!

Keeping Things Balanced

The encounter level for White Wyrms is listed as 5 (1,200 XP), though it is only 50 XP below a 6th-level encounter (1,250). After my adjustments, the encounter level remained the same—though for the above reason, I do consider this a 6th-level encounter.