Dungeon Master's Guide

User Manual:

Open the PDF directly: View PDF PDF.
Page Count: 226

DownloadDungeon Master's Guide
Open PDF In BrowserView PDF
Dungeon Master’s Guide


James Wyatt

4E_DMG_Ch0FM.indd 1

3/12/08 4:04:04 PM

D&D® 4th Edition Design Team
Rob Heinsoo, Andy Collins, James Wyatt
D&D 4th Edition Final Development Strike Team
Bill Slavicsek, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt
Dungeon Master’s Guide Design
James Wyatt
Dungeon Master’s Guide Development
Andy Collins, Mike Mearls, Stephen Radney-MacFarland,
Peter Schaefer, Stephen Schubert
Dungeon Master’s Guide Editing
Michele Carter, Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, Julia Martin
Dungeon Master’s Guide Managing Editing
Kim Mohan
Additional Design and Development
Richard Baker, Greg Bilsland, Logan Bonner, Bart Carroll,
Michele Carter, Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, Bruce R. Cordell,
Jeremy Crawford, Jesse Decker, Michael Donais, Robert
Gutschera, Gwendolyn F. M. Kestrel, Peter Lee, Julia Martin,
Kim Mohan, David Noonan, Christopher Perkins,
Matthew Sernett, Chris Sims, Ed Stark, Rodney Thompson,
Rob Watkins, Steve Winter, Chris Youngs
Director of R&D, Roleplaying Games/Book Publishing
Bill Slavicsek
D&D Story Design and Development Manager
Christopher Perkins
D&D System Design and Development Manager
Andy Collins
D&D Senior Art Director
Stacy Longstreet
Cover Illustration
Wayne Reynolds (front), Brian Hagan (back)

Graphic Designers
Keven Smith, Leon Cortez, Emi Tanji
Additional Graphic Design
Karin Powell, Mari Kolkowski, Shauna Wolf Narciso,
Ryan Sansaver
Concept Artists
Rob Alexander, Dave Allsop, Christopher Burdett,
Adam Gillespie, Lars Grant-West, David Griffith, Lee Moyer,
William O’Connor
Interior Illustrations
Rob Alexander, Steve Argyle, Wayne England, Jason
Engle, David Griffith, Espen Grundetjern, Brian Hagan,
Ralph Horsley, Howard Lyon, Lee Moyer, William O’Connor,
Wayne Reynolds, Dan Scott, Ron Spears, Chris Stevens,
Anne Stokes, Eva Widermann
Mike Schley
D&D Brand Team
Liz Schuh, Scott Rouse, Sara Girard, Kierin Chase,
Martin Durham, Linae Foster
Publishing Production Specialists
Angelika Lokotz, Erin Dorries, Moriah Scholz,
Christopher Tardiff
Prepress Manager
Jefferson Dunlap
Imaging Technicians
Travis Adams, Bob Jordan, Sven Bolen
Production Manager
Cynda Callaway
Building on the Design of Previous Editions by
E. Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson (1st Edition and earlier);
David “Zeb” Cook (2nd Edition); Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook,
Skip Williams, Richard Baker, Peter Adkison (3rd Edition)

Special Thanks to Brandon Daggerhart, keeper of Shadowfell
Dedicated to the memory of E. Gary Gygax

620-21750720-001 EN
First Printing: June 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7869-4880-2

Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
P.O. Box 707
Renton WA 98057-0707

Hasbro UK Ltd
Caswell Way
Newport, Gwent NP9 0YH
Please keep this address for your records

’t Hofveld 6D
1702 Groot-Bijgaarden
+32 2 467 3360

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, D&D, d20, d20 System, WIZARDS OF THE COAST, Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual, D&D Insider, all other Wizards of the
Coast product names, and their respective logos are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast in the U.S.A. and other countries. All Wizards characters, character names, and the
distinctive likenesses thereof are property of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. This material is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or
unauthorized use of the material or artwork contained herein is prohibited without the express written permission of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Any similarity to actual people,
organizations, places, or events included herein is purely coincidental. Printed in the U.S.A. ©2008 Wizards of the Coast, Inc.


4E_DMG_Ch0FM.indd 2

3/12/08 4:04:05 PM

1: HOW TO BE A DM . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

The Gaming Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
The Players . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
The Dungeon Master . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Table Rules . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
2: RUNNING THE GAME . . . . . . . . 16

Preparing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Getting Started . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Chronicling a Game . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Modes of the Game . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Narration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Pacing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Props . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Dispensing Information. . . . . . . . . . . 26
Passive Skill Checks . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Informing Players . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Rituals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Improvising . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Ending . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Troubleshooting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Teaching the Game. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
3: COMBAT ENCOUNTERS . . . . . 34

Combat Fundamentals . . . . . . . . . . . 36
Monster Readiness . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
Surprise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
Roll Initiative! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
Running Combat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
When Is an Encounter Over? . . . . 41
After an Encounter . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Additional Rules . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
Actions the Rules Don’t Cover . . 42
Cover . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Forced Movement and Terrain . . 44
Aquatic Combat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
Mounted Combat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
Flying . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
Disease . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
Poison . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50

Monster Roles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
Encounter Components . . . . . . . . . . 56
Encounter Level . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Target XP Reward . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
Encounter Templates . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Battlefield Control . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Commander and Troops . . . . . . . . 58
Dragon’s Den . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Double Line . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Wolf Pack . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
Encounter Settings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
Terrain Features . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
Terrain and Roles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
Sample Mundane Terrain . . . . . . . 64

4E_DMG_Ch0FM.indd 3

Outdoor Terrain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
Light Sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
Vision and Special Senses . . . . . . 67
Sample Fantastic Terrain . . . . . . . 67

Skill Challenges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
Running a Skill Challenge . . . . . . . 74
Opposed Checks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
Interrupting a Skill Challenge . . . 75
Sample Skill Challenges . . . . . . . . 76
Puzzles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
Using Puzzles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
Designing Puzzles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
Traps and Hazards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
Using Traps and Hazards . . . . . . . 87
Sample Traps and Hazards . . . . . . 87
6: ADVENTURES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94

Published Adventures . . . . . . . . . . . . 96
Fixing Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98
Building an Adventure . . . . . . . . . . . 100
Quests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102
Encounter Mix . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104
Adventure Setting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106
Setting Personality . . . . . . . . . . . . 108
Setting Details . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110
Furnishings and Features . . . . . . 111
Mapping the Site . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112
Outdoor Settings . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114
Event-Based Adventures . . . . . . . 115
Cast of Characters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
Allies as Extra Characters . . . . . . 116
7: REWARDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118

Experience Points . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120
Quests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122
Milestones . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123
Treasure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124
Monetary Treasure . . . . . . . . . . . . 124
Gems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124
Art Objects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124
Magic Items . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125
Awarding Treasure . . . . . . . . . . . . 125
Treasure Parcels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126
8: CAMPAIGNS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130

Published Campaigns . . . . . . . . . . . 132
Campaign Theme . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134
Super Adventures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138
Campaign Story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140
Beginning a Campaign. . . . . . . . . . . 142
Starting at Higher Level . . . . . . . 143
Running a Campaign . . . . . . . . . . . . 144
Tiers of Play . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146
Ending a Campaign . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147

9: THE WORLD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148

The D&D World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150
Civilization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152
Mapping a Settlement . . . . . . . . . 154
Teleportation Circles . . . . . . . . . . 156
The Wild. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158
Weather . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158
Environmental Dangers . . . . . . . 158
Starvation, Thirst,
and Suffocation . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159
The Planes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160
The Gods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162
Artifacts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164
The Axe of the
Dwarvish Lords . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165
The Eye of Vecna . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167
The Hand of Vecna . . . . . . . . . . . . 168
The Invulnerable
Coat of Arnd . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170
Languages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171
10: THE DM’S TOOLBOX . . . . . . . 172

Customizing Monsters . . . . . . . . . . . 174
Increasing or
Decreasing Level . . . . . . . . . . . . 174
Adding Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . . 174
Templates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175
Functional Templates . . . . . . . . . 176
Class Templates. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182
Creating Monsters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184
Monster Design Steps . . . . . . . . . 184
Elite and Solo Monsters. . . . . . . . 184
Creating NPCs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186
NPC Design Steps . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187
Level Bonus and
Magic Threshold . . . . . . . . . . . . 187
Creating House Rules. . . . . . . . . . . . 189
Rules Design 101 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189
Example House Rules . . . . . . . . . 189
Fumble . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189
Critical Success and Failure . . 189
Random Dungeons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190
Random Encounters . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193
11: FALLCREST. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 196

The Town of Fallcrest . . . . . . . . . . . . 198
The Nentir Vale . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206
Involving the Players . . . . . . . . . . . . 209
Kobold Hall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 210
COMBAT CARDS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220
INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221
BATTLE GRIDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 222

3/21/08 10:14:17 AM


How to Be a DM


Most games

have a winner and a loser, but
the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Roleplaying Game is
fundamentally a cooperative game. The Dungeon
Master (DM) plays the roles of the antagonists in the
adventure, but the DM isn’t playing against the player
characters (PCs). Although the DM represents all the
PCs’ opponents and adversaries—monsters, nonplayer
characters (NPCs), traps, and the like—he or she
doesn’t want the player characters to fail any more
than the other players do. The players all cooperate
to achieve success for their characters. The DM’s goal
is to make success taste its sweetest by presenting
challenges that are just hard enough that the other
players have to work to overcome them, but not so
hard that they leave all the characters dead.
At the table, having fun is the most important
goal—more important than the characters’ success
in an adventure. It’s just as vital for everyone at the
table to cooperate toward making the game fun for
everyone as it is for the player characters to cooperate
within the adventure.
This chapter includes the following sections.
✦ The Gaming Group: Here you learn what
components you need to play the D&D game.
✦ The Players: Understand your players, help
them to assemble as a successful party of player
characters, and run a game they want to play.
✦ The Dungeon Master: Understand the role of a
DM in the game and what kind of game you want
to make.


✦ Table Rules: Consider table rules you should
agree on—guidelines for you and the players’
behavior during the game.

CH A P T ER 1 | How to Be a DM


4E_DMG_Ch01.indd 4

3/12/08 4:05:52 PM

4E_DMG_Ch01.indd 5

3/12/08 4:05:58 PM

What do you need to play the D&D game? The heart of
a gaming group is the players, who roleplay their characters in adventures set forth by the Dungeon Master.
Every player contributes to the fun of the game and
helps bring the fantasy world to life. Beyond players, to
play the D&D game you need space to play, rulebooks,
and supplies such as dice, paper, pencils, a battle grid,
and miniatures. Your game can be as simple as that,
or you can add items for your convenience (character
sheets, snacks) or to enhance the game with digital
components (check out www.dndinsider.com).

D&D players fill two distinct roles in a D&D game:
characters and Dungeon Master. These roles aren’t
mutually exclusive, and a player can roleplay a character today and run an adventure for the characters
tomorrow. Although everyone who plays the game
is technically a player, we usually refer to players as
those who run the player characters.
D&D is a game of the imagination, all about fantastic worlds and creatures, magic, and adventure. You
find a comfortable place where you can spread out
your books and maps and dice, and you get together
with your friends to experience a group story. It’s like
a fantastic action movie, and your characters are the
stars. The story unfolds as your characters make decisions and take actions—what happens next is up to you!
Six People in a Group: The rules of the game
assume that you’re playing in a group of six people: the
DM and five other players.
More or Fewer than Six: Playing with four or six
other players is easy with minor adjustments. Groups
that are smaller or larger require you to alter some of
the rules in this book to account for the difference.
With only two or three characters in a party, you
don’t have the different roles covered (see “Covering the Character Roles” on page 10, and “Character
Role” on page 15 of the Player’s Handbook), and it’s

In my years of playing D&D, I’ve played in college classrooms, in a school and a public library, in my parents’
basement and in their dining room, sprawled out on
couches and crammed in at too-small tables, at my house
and at many different friends’ houses, and in company
meeting rooms. White boards (and the blackboard in that
classroom) are quite useful. In general, I prefer a more private spot where we can celebrate an important critical hit
with appropriate volume.
—James Wyatt

harder to get through combat encounters even if the
encounter is scaled down for your smaller group.
With more than six characters, the group gets
unwieldy and tends to split into subgroups. We give
you some tips and tricks for managing a large group
in “Group Size” in Chapter 2 (page 31), but if your
group gets too large, you might want to split into two
or more groups that play at different times.

The Dungeon Master
One player has a special role in a D&D game. The
Dungeon Master controls the pace of the story and referees the action along the way. You can’t play a game
of D&D without a DM.
What Does the DM Do?: The Dungeon Master
has many hats to wear in the course of a game session.
The DM is the rules moderator, the narrator, a player
of many different characters, and the primary creator
of the game’s world, the campaign, and the adventure.
Who Should Be the DM?: Who should be the
Dungeon Master for your gaming group? Whoever
wants to be! The person who has the most drive to pull
a group together and start up a game often ends up
being the DM by default, but that doesn’t have to be
the case.
Dungeon Masters Can Partner, Trade Off, or
Change: The role of Dungeon Master doesn’t have to
be a singular, ongoing, campaign-long appointment.
Many successful gaming groups switch DMs from time
to time. Either they take turns running campaigns,
switching DM duty every few months, or they take
turns running adventures and switch every few weeks.

What do you need to play D&D?

✦ A place to play
✦ Rulebooks
✦ Dice
✦ Paper and pencils
✦ Battle grid or D&D Dungeon Tiles
✦ Dungeon Master’s Screen
✦ D&D Miniatures
✦ Character sheets
✦ Snacks
✦ Laptop computer, PDA, smart phone, or digital camera
✦ D&D Insider

CH A P T ER 1 | How to Be a DM


4E_DMG_Ch01.indd 6

3/12/08 4:06:00 PM

Character Sheets: All the players need some way
to record important information about their characters.
You can use plain paper, but a character sheet photocopied from the one printed in the back of the Player’s
Handbook is more helpful—or use the D&D Character
Sheets product. Some players put their powers on index
cards instead of their character sheets to make it easier
to keep track of which ones they’ve used.
Snacks: Snacks are not a necessary component of
a D&D game, but they can be an important one. Food
and beverages at the table help keep everyone’s energy
up. If you start your game sessions in the evening after
work or school, you might want to eat dinner before
you play. You can get all the socializing out of the way
while you eat, and hunker down for some serious dierolling once everyone is finished.
Computers, PDAs, Smart Phones, and Digital
Cameras: If you own a laptop computer, a personal
digital assistant (PDA), or a smart phone, you can use
it to keep notes and track items instead of paper and
pencils. Players can use their computers to store and
update copies of their character sheet in a number of
file formats, and you can keep notes about your campaign and encounters you’ve built. You can also use a
digital camera as an easy way to keep track of a fight
that you have to stop in the middle of. You just look at
the picture to replicate the positions of the player characters and monsters to resume the battle. You could
also snap pictures of the game in progress to post in
your blog or website to share with members of the
group or their friends.
D&D Insider: Finally, you can enhance your game
with a subscription to D&D Insider (D&DI)—www.
dndinsider.com—an online supplement to the penand-paper game. D&DI gives you a ready source of
adventures, new rules options to try out, and an array
of online tools to make your game go more smoothly.
You can use D&DI to play D&D over the Internet,
bringing friends scattered across the country or the
world back together around a virtual gaming table.


A Place to Play: The bare minimum of space you
need to play D&D is room for everyone in your group
to sit. Most likely, you also want a table for everyone to
sit around. A table holds your battle grid and miniature figures, gives you a place to roll dice and write on
character sheets, and holds piles of books and papers.
You can pull chairs around a dining table or sit in
recliners and easy chairs around a coffee table within
reach. It’s possible to run a game without a table for
the battle grid, but combat runs more easily if everyone can see where everything is.
Rulebooks: As DM, you need a copy of all the rulebooks you’re going to use to play. At a minimum, that
should be a copy of the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon
Master’s Guide, and the Monster Manual. Your players
each need the Player’s Handbook, since every character’s broad assortment of powers, feats, and items
means the game runs more smoothly if all the players
bring their own copies of the Player’s Handbook to the
Dice: You need a full assortment of dice. It’s helpful
to have at least three of each kind. (That might seem
to be a lot, but when you have to roll 4d12 + 10 fire
damage for the ancient red dragon’s breath weapon,
you’ll be glad you have more than one d12.) A lot of
powers use multiple d6s, d8s, and d10s. Each player
at the table should also have a set of polyhedral dice,
since most players get very attached to their dice.
Paper and Pencils: Everyone should have easy
access to a pencil and paper. During every round of
combat, you need to keep track of hit points, attack
penalties and defense bonuses, use of powers, spent
action points, the consequences of conditions, and
other information. You and your players need to take
notes about what has happened in the adventure, and
players need to make note of experience points (XP)
and treasure their characters acquire.
Battle Grid: A battle grid is very important for running combat encounters, for reasons outlined in the
Player’s Handbook. D&D Dungeon Tiles, a vinyl wet-erase
mat with a printed grid, a gridded whiteboard, a cutting mat, or large sheets of gridded paper—any of these
can serve as a battle grid. The grid should be marked
in 1-inch squares. Ideally, it should measure at least 8
inches by 10 inches, and preferably 11 inches by 17
inches or larger.
Dungeon Master’s Screen: This accessory puts
a lot of important information in one place—right in
front of you—and also provides you with a way to keep
players from seeing the dice rolls you make and the
notes you refer to during play.
Miniatures: You need something to place on the
battle grid to mark the position of each character
and creature in an encounter. D&D Miniatures are
ideal. These prepainted plastic figures are threedimensional representations of the actual people and
monsters involved in the battle.

The last essential component of a D&D game is fun.
It’s not the DM’s job to entertain the players and
make sure they have fun. Every person playing the game
is responsible for the fun of the game. Everyone speeds
the game along, heightens the drama, helps set how
much roleplaying the group is comfortable with, and
brings the game world to life with their imaginations.
Everyone should treat each other with respect and
consideration, too—personal squabbles and fights
among the characters get in the way of the fun.
Different people have different ideas of what’s fun
about D&D. Remember that the “right way” to play
D&D is the way that you and your players agree on
and enjoy. If everyone comes to the table prepared to
contribute to the game, everyone has fun.
CH A P T ER 1 | How to Be a DM


4E_DMG_Ch01.indd 7

3/12/08 4:06:01 PM

Everybody plays D&D to have fun, but different people
get their enjoyment from different aspects of the game.
If you’re preparing and running a game for a group of
players, understanding player motivations—what they
enjoy about the game and what makes them happiest
when they play—helps you build a harmonious group
of players and a fun game for all.

Player Motivations
Most players enjoy many aspects of the game at different times. For convenience, we define the primary
player motivations as types of players: actors, explorers, instigators, power gamers, slayers, storytellers,
thinkers, and watchers.

The explorer wants to experience the wonders the
game world has to offer. He also wants to know that
there’s more out there to find. He presses for details:
proper names of characters and places, descriptions
of the environment, and some idea of what’s over the
next hill. He’s sometimes interested in the adventure
plot and his character’s motivations. (The explorer is
close kin to both the actor and the storyteller.) The
wonder of new discoveries is what is key to keeping the
explorer happy.

✦ Seeks out new experiences in the game’s setting.
✦ Likes learning hidden facts and locating lost items and

✦ Enjoys atmosphere as much as combat and story.
✦ Advances the plot by being willing to move ever on.

The actor likes to pretend to be her character. She
emphasizes character development that has nothing to
do with numbers and powers, trying to make her character seem to be a real person in the fantasy world. She
enjoys interacting with the rest of the group, with characters and monsters in the game world, and with the
fantasy world in general by speaking “in character” and
describing her character’s actions in the first person.
The actor values narrative game elements over
mechanical ones. Unlike the storyteller, she values
her character’s personality and motivations over other
story elements.

✦ Including encounter elements that call for exploration.
✦ Rewarding curiosity and willingness to explore.
✦ Providing rich descriptions, and using cool maps and props.
✦ Recruiting him to map for the party.
✦ Use knowledge of the game world to his own advantage.
✦ Bore the other players or exhaust you with his thirst for

AN ACTOR . . .
✦ Provides PC background, emphasizing personality.
✦ Plays according to her character’s motivations.
✦ Prefers scenes where she can portray her character.
✦ Often prefers social encounters to fights.
✦ Facilitating her PC’s personality and background

✦ Providing roleplaying encounters.
✦ Emphasizing her character’s personality at times.
✦ Recruiting her to help create narrative campaign elements.

✦ Bore the other players by talking to everyone and

✦ Justify disruptive actions as being “in character.”

An explorer loves to see new places in the fantasy
world and to meet the residents of such places, fair and
foul. All the explorer needs is the promise of an interesting locale or different culture, and off he goes to see
that place.

An instigator enjoys making things happen. She has
no patience for careful planning or deliberation. She’ll
open an obviously trapped chest “ just to see what
happens.” She provokes authority figures and opens
dungeon doors to bring more monsters into an already
difficult fight. The instigator loves the vicarious thrill
of taking enormous risks and sometimes just making
bad choices.
The instigator can be disruptive, but she can also be
a lot of fun for the other players. Things rarely grind to
a halt with an instigator in the group, and the stories
that get retold after the game session often revolve
around whatever crazy thing the instigator did this

✦ Likes to make things happen.
✦ Takes crazy risks and makes deliberately bad choices.
✦ Thrives in combat and dislikes having nothing to do.
✦ Takes decisive action when things grind to a halt.
✦ Including objects and encounters that invite

CH A P T ER 1 | How to Be a DM


4E_DMG_Ch01.indd 8

3/12/08 4:06:02 PM

kill them all.
✦ Including encounters with nonplayer characters who are as
feisty as she is.

✦ Get the rest of the group killed.
✦ Attack the other PCs or their allies.

Power Gamer
A power gamer thrives on gaining levels and loves the
cool abilities that come with those levels. He defeats
monsters to take their stuff and use that stuff against
future enemies. The story and roleplaying are secondary to action and awesome abilities and magic items.
Most players have a little power gamer in them. A
couple of the core elements of fun in the D&D game
are the accumulation of power and the use of that
power to accomplish astonishing deeds. Nothing is
wrong with enjoying that in the game.

✦ Optimizes character attributes for combat performance.
✦ Pores over supplements for better character options.
✦ Spends less time on story and roleplaying elements.
✦ Prefers combat to other kinds of encounters.
✦ Stressing story element rewards, such as quest XP.
✦ Using a desired magic item as an adventure hook.
✦ Facilitating access to new options and powers.
✦ Including encounters that emphasize his PC’s attributes.
✦ Become a lot more powerful than the other characters.
✦ Try to take more than his share of treasure.
✦ Treat the other characters as his lackeys.

The slayer is like the power gamer, but she is even
easier to please. She emphasizes kicking the tar out of
monsters. Maybe she does so to let off a little steam in
a safe way, or she likes the joy of feeling superior. Perhaps it’s the pleasure of having the power to mete out
punishment to villains.
D&D combat is thrilling. Few other aspects of
the game put a character in such apparent jeopardy.
Beating the bad guys is a clear success. Most players
enjoy these D&D elements, but the slayer seeks them

A SLAYER . . .
✦ Optimizes like a power gamer.
✦ Might pick simple options to get into the action quicker.
✦ Spends less time on story and roleplaying elements.
✦ Wants to fight monsters and take bold action all the time.

✦ Springing an unexpected battle when the slayer looks

✦ Making some battles simple and others more complex.
✦ Vividly describing the havoc the slayer wreaks with powers.
✦ Recruiting her to track initiative during combat.


✦ Letting her actions put the characters in a tight spot but not

✦ Ruin adventures by killing monsters the characters should
talk to.

✦ Rush past social and skill challenge encounters to the next

The storyteller is a player who prefers the narrative
of the game to individual character motivations and
personality. This player sees the game as an ongoing
chronicle of events in the fantasy world, and he wants
to see where the tale goes.
For the storyteller, the rules are there to support the
game’s ongoing story. He believes that when the rules
get in the way, the narrative should win. Compromise
for the sake of the story is more important than individual character motivations.

✦ Often provides an extensive background for his PC.
✦ Works hard to make sure his character fits the story.
✦ Likes dramatic scenes and recurring characters.
✦ Prefers adventures that include at least some plot.
✦ Facilitating his PCs background development.
✦ Using his background to help define adventures and
nonplayer characters.

✦ Including at least a little plot in every adventure.
✦ Recruiting him to record important events and encounters.

✦ Insist on making his character the center of the story.
✦ Dictate other characters’ actions to fit his idea of the story.

A thinker likes to make careful choices, reflecting on
challenges and the best way to overcome them. She
also enjoys herself most when her planning results in
success with minimal risk and use of resources.
Solving a challenge in a creative way is more important to the thinker than character power or roleplaying
issues. In fact, the thinker might prefer sound tactics
to acting in character or straightforward, brute force

✦ Engages any challenge as a puzzle to be solved.
✦ Chooses her actions carefully for the best possible result.
✦ Is happy to win without action, drama, or tension.
✦ Prefers time to consider options over bold action.
CH A P T ER 1 | How to Be a DM


4E_DMG_Ch01.indd 9

3/12/08 4:06:03 PM

✦ Including encounters that require problem-solving skills.
✦ Rewarding planning and tactics with in-game benefits.
✦ Occasionally allowing a smart plan to cause a one-sided

✦ Recruiting her to help come up with quests.

✦ Constantly tell the other players what to do.
✦ Grind the game to a halt when considering tactical options.

A watcher is a casual player who comes to the game
because he wants to be part of the social event. A
watcher might be shy or just really laid back. He wants
to participate, but he doesn’t really care if he’s deeply
immersed, and he doesn’t want to be assertive or too
involved in the details of the game, rules, or story. He
enjoys the game by being part of a social circle.

✦ Shows up to be a part of the group.
✦ Helps calm disputes by not being as attached to the game.
✦ Often fills a hole in the PC group, facilitating the fun.
✦ Never forcing him to be more involved than he wants.
✦ Accepting that he’s fine with his watcher status.
✦ Prompting him when he needs it.
✦ Distract the other players with TV, a video game, or surfing
the Internet.

✦ Disappear from the table at crucial moments.

Building a Party
Assembling an adventuring party is more than bringing together a bunch of players and the characters they
create. Building a party lets the players to be involved
in the creation of the campaign’s story and in details
about the world. It’s also the first time when players
learn the importance of cooperation.

Covering the Character Roles
The Player’s Handbook discusses the four character
roles: controller, defender, leader, and striker (see page
16 of the Player’s Handbook). When players are making
new characters, they should discuss their preferences
in roles, and agree on how to cover all the roles in the
characters they create to allow for a good balance of
abilities in the party. Otherwise, you might end up
with a party of five strikers.
What happens if the party doesn’t cover all the roles?
No Defender: Without a defender, the party’s controller is particularly vulnerable, and the strikers might
have to sacrifice some mobility. The leader can take on
some of the defender’s role. Enemy soldiers are more

successful at controlling the battlefield, and enemy
brutes become particularly dangerous to the characters.
No Leader: When a party doesn’t have a leader,
it’s less effective overall, and healing during combat is
both more difficult and less effective. A paladin can
help cover the leader’s absence, providing both limited
healing and boosts to the rest of the party. Healing
potions can give the characters more access to their
healing surges during combat. Enemy controllers and
leaders have more influence on the battle.
No Striker: The absence of a striker is perhaps the
easiest to cover. The defender and controller might
need to find ways to increase their damage output to
bring monsters down faster. Enemy brutes, with their
high hit points, and artillery positioned in hard-toreach places, become a greater threat to the characters.
No Controller: Not having a controller can free
the defender up to move around more, since at that
point the defender lacks a soft ally to protect. However, as with a striker, a missing controller means that
monsters last longer. Large groups of monsters, and
minions in particular, survive much longer in the
absence of a controller who can damage multiple creatures with a single attack.

Party Background
At the start of a new campaign, work with the players
to fit them into the world and the story you have in
mind. Set some parameters for them. You might tell
them you’re starting the game in the town of Fallcrest,
for example, and you want them all to have grown up
in that town. Or you could ask each player to give you a
reason his character has come to Fallcrest from somewhere else. Then ask the players to talk about how their
characters know each other, to establish some relationships among them at the beginning of the game.
Those starting relationships can take any form the
players desire. Perhaps two characters are siblings,
or they’ve been friendly rivals since childhood. One
character might have saved another’s life. Two characters might have served in the town militia before
or worked as caravan guards together. Perhaps all
the characters were born in a different town that was
destroyed when they were young children, forcing
their families to flee to another town.

The story in the Player’s Handbook about the dragonborn
paladin Donaar, who carries a piece of the shell he hatched
from as a reminder of his heritage, came from exactly this
sort of player background creation. The player, reading
the then-current description of dragonborn, exclaimed, “I
hatched? Can I carry a piece of my eggshell with me?” Thus
was born an interesting cultural detail about dragonborn
in that game world.
—James Wyatt

CH A P T ER 1 | How to Be a DM


4E_DMG_Ch01.indd 10

3/12/08 4:06:04 PM

Campaign Details

W I L L I A M O ’ CO N N O R

When you work with the players to create connections
between their characters, you’re also inviting them to
share in the process of building the campaign world.
If players come up with the idea that their characters
worked as mercenaries together, for example, they can
help you create details about the missions they undertook and what led them to pursue an adventuring
career instead.
Each player can also help you fill in details about
the different races of the game, their place in your
world, and their cultural traits. If the player with a
dragonborn paladin of Erathis (god of civilization)
wants to be an exile from a distant city-state where
dragonborn still appear in great numbers, you can run
with that idea. Visiting the city of the dragonborn can
be an exciting part of a future adventure. What’s the
role of Erathis’s church in the city? Is Erathis a prominent deity there, or was the character’s devotion to
Erathis the reason for her exile?
Of course, you probably have some ideas of your
own about the world of your campaign. Shaping those
details is a job you can share with your players, but

you can also take as much control over it as you want
to. You might decide that tieflings in your world are
both extremely rare and severely mistrusted. If you do,
though, make sure to let the players know that before
anyone makes up a tiefling character. If you know that
the forest near your campaign’s starting area burned
to the ground ten years ago, driving the elves who lived
there into the human lands, tell your players.
If some details of the story are still vague in your
mind, though, your players can help fill them in. Who
destroyed the elf forest? If it’s not important to your
plans for the campaign, let the player with an elf character help you think of ideas. If a player does make
a tiefling character, maybe he can help you explain
why tieflings are so feared, or create a clan of tiefling
merchants who have earned the grudging respect of
their human neighbors, or create an underground
network of tieflings who help each other in the face of
hatred and prejudice.


Relationships between characters can also mirror
real-life relationships between players. If two players
are related, for example, they might decide that their
characters are related as well, or that their characters
are childhood friends.
Encourage each player to forge connections to at
least two other characters. These connections create
a network of relationships that gives the characters a
good reason (in the game world) to work together as an
adventuring party. These relationships also give them
plenty of material to work with in roleplaying and give
you hooks for future adventures.

Using Character Backgrounds
If your players create detailed backgrounds for their
characters and their group, reward their efforts. Use
their backgrounds to craft quests and adventures. Invent
situations where their backgrounds are useful. Let the
character who was raised by a blacksmith charm some
important information out of the baroness’s blacksmith—
or notice an important fact how a metal lock was forged.
Give the characters important information they know
because of their past history, such as the location of a
particular shrine or magical location that appears in the
lore of their original homeland.
One small warning: Make sure you make every
character’s background useful or important from time
to time. Don’t let a whole campaign revolve around
one character’s story.

CH A P T ER 1 | How to Be a DM


4E_DMG_Ch01.indd 11

3/12/08 4:06:04 PM

A competitive sport has referees. It needs them. Someone impartial involved in the game needs to make sure
everyone’s playing by the rules.
The role of the Dungeon Master has a little in
common with that of a referee. If you imagined that all
the monsters in an encounter were controlled by one
player and all the adventurers by another player, they
might need a referee to make sure that both sides were
playing by the rules and to resolve disputes. D&D isn’t
a head-to-head competition in that way, but the DM
does act simultaneously as the player controlling all
the monsters and as the referee.
Being a referee means that the DM stands as
a mediator between the rules and the players. A
player tells the DM what he wants to do, and the DM
responds by telling the character what kind of check
to make and mentally setting the target number. If a
player tells the DM he wants his character to swing his
greataxe at an orc, the DM says, “Make an attack roll,”
while looking up the orc’s Armor Class.
That’s such a simple example that most players take
it for granted and don’t wait for the DM to ask for the
attack roll. But if the player tells you that he wants his
character to knock over a brazier full of hot coals into
the orc’s face, you (as the DM) have to make some snap
judgments. How hard is it to knock over the heavy,
solid metal brazier? “Make a Strength check,” you
might respond, while mentally setting the DC at 15. If
the Strength check is successful, you have to figure out
how a face full of hot coals affects the orc, and might
decide it deals 1d6 points of fire damage and gives the
orc a –2 penalty to attack rolls for a round.
Sometimes this role mediating the rules means
that a DM has to enforce the rules on the players. If a
player tells you, “I want to charge up here and attack
the orc,” you might have to say, “No, you can’t charge to
there, it’s too far.” Then the player takes this new information and comes up with a different plan.

When I started working at Wizards of the Coast, it took a
long time before I felt comfortable running a game for any
of my coworkers, even though I used to always DM for my
friends back home. They all knew the rules better than I
did, and I didn’t want to get caught in a stupid mistake.
Eventually, I got over that. When I’m not sure of a rule, I ask
my players what they think. If I make a mistake, my players point it out respectfully, and I reconsider my decision.
From my perspective, the DM is the person who prepares
adventures, plans a campaign, and runs the monsters and
NPCs. I don’t want to be a referee or judge, and my players
don’t expect me to.
—James Wyatt

Remember, though: Being the DM doesn’t mean you
have to know all the rules. If a player tries something
you don’t know how to adjudicate, ask the opinion of the
players as a group. It might take a few minutes, but it’s
usually possible to hash out an answer that seems fair.
Some DMs fear that asking their players’ opinions
will undermine their authority and give rise to claims
that they are being unfair. On the contrary, most
players like it when the DM asks their opinions, and
they’re more likely to feel that the results are fair when
they can give their opinions.

DM Style
What’s the right way to DM? That depends on your
DMing style and the motivations of your players. Consider your players’ tastes, your style, table rules (see
page 14), the type of game you want to run, and your
campaign. Then take a little time to describe to the
players how you want the game to go. Let them give
you input. It’s their game, too. Lay that groundwork
early, so your players can make informed choices and
help you maintain the type of game you want to run.
DM Style Considerations
. . . or . . .
Medieval fantasy
. . . or . . .
. . . or . . .
. . . or . . .
. . . or . . .
. . . or . . .
. . . or . . .
Morally ambiguous . . . or . . .


The considerations listed above are a set of extremes.
Are you big on realism and gritty consequences, or
are you more focused on making the game seem like
an action movie? Do you want the game to maintain
a sense of medieval fantasy, or can you tolerate some
incursions of the modern world and modern thinking (anachronism)? Do you want to maintain a serious
tone, or is humor your goal? Even if you are serious, is
the action lighthearted or intense? Is bold action key,
or do the players need to be thoughtful and be cautious? Do you have a hard time improvising, or are you
great at winging it? Is the game full of varied D&D
elements, or does it center on a specific theme such
as horror? Is it for all ages, or does it involve mature
themes? Are you comfortable with a moral ambiguity,
such as allowing the characters to explore if the end
justifies the means, or are you happier with straightforward heroic principles, such as justice, sacrifice,
and helping the downtrodden?
Many D&D games lean more toward the right-hand
side of the above list, but most find a balance between
the extremes. However, since the right-hand side qualities are what D&D players expect in a game, so it’s up
to you to set a different tone if that’s what you’re after.

CH A P T ER 1 | How to Be a DM


4E_DMG_Ch01.indd 12

3/12/08 4:06:07 PM

Several key decisions define the kind of game that
you and your players have. Many D&D games are
single-DM, ongoing campaigns, in which the DM
orchestrates a series of adventures that link together to
form an epic story arc. But successful D&D games can
have multiple DMs, be episodic rather than having
a campaign arc, and can even be one-shot games or
convention events. These game models have different
strengths and weaknesses.
Single DM: One player serves as DM for every
session. That person is the mastermind behind every
adventure. The DM plans the campaign’s overarching
plots and maintains continuity.

✦ Everyone arrives at the game knowing who’s doing what.
✦ One person does a lot of work.
✦ If the DM can’t play, no one can.
Multiple DMs: Different players take the DM
role for different sessions. Two or three players might
pass the job around, everyone in the group might take
a turn, or two people might collaborate to DM. In a
campaign, the DMs work together to maintain some
continuity from session to session and make sure that
adventures advance the larger story. Every player has
a character, but when it’s your turn to DM, your character sits out for that adventure. Your character still
gains levels along with the other characters, though.

✦ Adventure preparation gets spread around.
✦ You all feel like part of a group together.
✦ Other DMs can cover absences or burnout.
✦ The DMs also get to play characters of their own.
✦ Continuity sometimes gets shaky.
✦ Characters move in and out of the group, and sometimes
their absence is hard to explain in the story.

✦ Adventures might feel disconnected.
Campaign: A campaign is a connected series of
adventures. These connected adventures share a sense
of a larger purpose or a recurring theme (or themes).
The adventures might feature returning villains,
grand conspiracies, or a single mastermind who’s ultimately behind every adventure of the campaign.

✦ The campaign feels like a great fantasy epic.
✦ The things you do in one adventure matter in the next.
✦ If the DM burns out, the story doesn’t have a conclusion.

Episodic: An episodic game is like a television
show where each week’s episode is its own self-contained story. The game might be built on a premise
that explains its nature: the player characters are
adventurers-for-hire, perhaps, or explorers venturing
into the unknown and facing a string of unrelated
dangers. They might even be archeologists, venturing
into one ancient ruin after another in search of ancient
artifacts. An episodic game can still have story, even if
it has no overarching plot.

✦ Adventures don’t need to fit in to a larger story.
✦ It can be easier to use published adventures.


Kinds of Games

✦ Disconnected adventures can start to feel purposeless.
Ongoing Games: An ongoing game is simply one
where you get together with the same group of people
at a recurring time period. Whether you play weekly,
monthly, or once a year when your old gaming buddies
converge from across the country, an ongoing group
has a sense of continuity about it, even if it’s an episodic game.

✦ You know the people you’re gaming with.
✦ Familiarity breeds cooperation.
✦ You find a play style you like and can stick with it.
✦ You’re not exposed to new ideas or different play styles.
One-Shot Games and Convention Events: Any
situation where you sit down to play with people
you don’t normally game with falls in this category,
whether it is an event at your local gaming store, or a
local or nationwide gaming convention. Usually, the
DM provides characters or tells the players to bring
characters of a specific level. The group plays for a
single session, or all the way through an adventure,
and then the game’s over.
Established groups can do one-shots as well. A short
adventure, perhaps one with a different tone than the
usual style of the group, can clear the palate between
two longer campaigns or provide a fun game when the
regular DM can’t play.

✦ You get to try something different.
✦ You might meet new players.
✦ You’ll get new ideas for your regular game.
✦ You might not know the people you’re gaming with.
✦ The game or the people in it might not be to your taste.

CH A P T ER 1 | How to Be a DM


4E_DMG_Ch01.indd 13

3/12/08 4:06:08 PM

While setting up a D&D game, every gaming group
needs to set some table rules—rules that outline everyone’s responsibilities to keep the game fun. Some table
rules deal with the conflict between the needs of the
game and the realities of life, such as when players are
gone and can’t play their characters. Others are about
coming to agreement on special situations, such as
how cocked die results are treated.
Respect: Be there, and be on time. Don’t let disagreements escalate into loud arguments. Don’t bring
personal conflicts to the gaming table. Don’t hurl
insults across the table. Don’t touch other players’ dice,
if they’re sensitive about it. Don’t petulantly hurl dice
across the table.
Distractions: If you run a casual, light-hearted
game, it might be fine to have players wandering away
from the table and back. Most groups, though, have
come together to play D&D—so play D&D. Turn off
the television, ban the portable video games, and get a
babysitter if you have to. By reducing distractions you
have an easier time getting in character, enjoying the
story, and focusing on playing the game.
Food: Come to a consensus about food for your session. Should players eat before arriving, or do you eat
together? Does one player want to play host? Do you all
chip in for pizza or take-out? Who brings snacks and
Character Names: Agree on some ground rules
for naming characters. In a group consisting of Sithis,
Travok, Anastrianna, and Kairon, the human fighter
named Bob II sticks out. Especially when he’s identical to Bob I, who was killed by kobolds. If everyone
takes a light-hearted approach to names, that’s fine. If
the group would rather take the characters and their
names a little more seriously, urge Bob’s player to
come up with a better name.
Player character names should match each other
in flavor or concept, but they should also match the
flavor of your campaign world. So should the names
you make up—nonplayer characters’ names and place
names. Travok and Kairon don’t want to visit Gumdrop Island or talk to the enchanter Tim.
Missing Players: How are you going to deal with the
characters of missing players? Consider these options:
✦ Have another player run the missing player’s character.
Don’t do this without the permission of the missing player. The player running the extra character
should make an effort to keep the character alive
and use resources wisely.
✦ Run the character yourself. Having the DM run the
missing character is extra workload for you, but it
can work. You need to play the character reasonably, as the missing player would.

✦ Decide the character’s not there. You might be able to
provide a good reason for the character to miss the
adventure, perhaps by having her linger in town.
Make sure you leave a way for the character to
rejoin the party when the player returns, though.
✦ Have the character fade into the background. This solution requires everyone to step out of the game world
a bit and suspend disbelief, but it’s the easiest solution. It amounts to hand-waving. You act as if the
character’s not there, but don’t try to come up with
any in-game explanation for his absence. Monsters
don’t attack him, and he returns the favor. When
the player returns, he picks up where the party left
off as if he was never gone.
Multiple Characters: Most of the time, one player
runs one character in the D&D game. The game plays
best that way. Each player has enough mental bandwidth to keep track of the things his character can
do and play effectively. But if your group is small, you
might want one or more players to take on the roles of
two characters.
Don’t force a reluctant player to take on two characters, and don’t show favoritism by allowing only
one player to do it. You might make one character
the mentor or employer of the other, so the player has
a good reason to focus on primarily on roleplaying
just one character. Otherwise, a player can end up
awkwardly talking to himself in character (in conversations between the two characters he plays) or
avoiding roleplaying altogether.
Another situation in which multiple characters can
be a good idea is in a game with a high rate of character death. If your group is willing to play such a game,
you might have each player keep one or two additional
characters on hand, ready to jump in whenever the
current character dies. Each time the main character
gains a level, the backup characters do as well. Just
make sure your players understand the nature of the
game and your guidelines for these backup characters.
Table Talk: It’s a good idea to set some expectations about how players talk at the table.
✦ Make it clear who’s speaking—the character, or the
player (out of character).
✦ Can players offer advice if their characters aren’t
present or are unconscious?
✦ Can players give other players information such as
how many hit points they have left?
✦ Can players take back what they’ve just said their
character does?
Being Ready: Every round of combat is an exercise
in patience. The players all want to take their turns. If

CH A P T ER 1 | How to Be a DM


4E_DMG_Ch01.indd 14

3/12/08 4:06:09 PM

✦ If you roll where players can see, they know that you’re
playing fair. You’re not going to fudge the dice either
in their favor or against them.
✦ Rolling behind a screen keeps the players guessing about
the strength of the opposition. When the monster is
hitting all the time, is it of much higher level than
the players, or is the DM just rolling a string of high
✦ Rolling behind the screen lets you fudge if you want to.
If two critical hits in a row would kill a character,
you might want to change the second critical hit to
a normal hit, or even a miss. Don’t do it too often,
though, and don’t let on that you’re doing it, or the
other players feel as though they don’t face any real
risk—or worse, that you’re playing favorites.
✦ You need to make some rolls behind the screen no matter
what. If a player thinks there might be something
invisible in the room and rolls a Perception check,
roll a die behind the screen. If you didn’t roll a die
at all, the player would know there’s nothing hiding.
If you rolled in front of your screen, the player
would have some idea how hidden the opponent
was, and be able to make an educated guess about
whether something is there. Rolling behind the
screen preserves the mystery.
Sometimes you need to make a roll for a player
character, because the player shouldn’t know how
good the check result is. If the character suspects
the baroness might be charmed and wants to
make an Insight check, you should make the roll
behind the screen. If the player rolled it herself
and got a high roll, but she didn’t sense anything
amiss, she’d be confident that the baroness wasn’t
charmed. If she made a low roll, a negative answer
wouldn’t mean much. A hidden die roll allows some

Rolling Attacks and Damage: Players are often
used to rolling first their attack roll and then their
damage roll. If players make attack rolls and damage
rolls at the same time, things move a little faster
around the table than if they wait to roll damage after
you’ve told them that the attack hits.
You might find it helpful if your players tell you
how much damage an attack did, wait until you’ve
recorded the damage, and then tell you any additional
conditions and effects of the attack—like stunning or
knocking prone.
When making area or close attacks, which use a
single damage roll but a separate attack roll for each
creature in the area (see page 271 of the Player’s
Handbook), it’s helpful to roll damage first. Once you’ve
established how much damage the effect deals on a
hit (and on a miss), you can run through attack rolls
against the creatures one at a time.
Rules Discussions: Set a policy on rules discussions at the table. Some groups don’t mind putting the
game on hold while they hash out different interpretations of the rules. Others prefer to let the DM make a
call and get on with things. If you do gloss over a rules
issue in play, make a note of it (a good task to delegate
to a player) and get back to it later at a more natural
stopping point.
Metagame Thinking: Players get the best enjoyment when they preserve the willing suspension of
disbelief. A roleplaying game’s premise is that it is an
experience of fictional people in a fictional world.
Metagame thinking means thinking about the
game as a game. It’s like a character in a movie knowing he’s in a movie and acting accordingly. “This
dragon must be a few levels higher than we are,” a
player might say. “The DM wouldn’t throw such a
tough monster at us!” Or you might hear, “The read
aloud text spent a lot of time on that door—let’s search
it again!”
Discourage this by giving players a gentle verbal
reminder: “But what do your characters think?” Or, you
could curb metagame thinking by asking for Perception checks when there’s nothing to see, or setting up
an encounter that is much higher level than the characters are. Just make sure to give them a way to avoid it
or retreat.


a player isn’t ready when his turn comes up, the others
can get impatient. Encourage your players to consider
their actions before their turn, and let them know that
if they take too long to make a decision, you’ll assume
that the character delays. (Be more forgiving to newer
players, and urge the other players to do the same.)
Rolling Dice: Establish some basic expectations
about how players roll dice. Rolling “in full view of
everyone” is a good starting point. If you see players roll their attacks or damage and scoop the dice
up before anyone else can see, you might nudge that
player to be a little less cagey.
What about strange die rolls? When a die falls on
the floor, do you count it or reroll it? When it lands
cocked against a book, do you pull the book away and
see where it lands, or reroll it?
What about you, the DM? Do you make your die
rolls where the players can see, or hide them behind
your Dungeon Master’s Screen with your adventure
notes? It’s up to you, but consider:

CH A P T ER 1 | How to Be a DM


4E_DMG_Ch01.indd 15

3/12/08 4:06:10 PM


Running the Game

What a

Dungeon Master does is commonly
called “running the game.” That’s a bit of a loaded
phrase, since it suggests that the DM is in charge, an
absolute authority, and responsible for the rest of the
players. This chapter is not about just the DM’s job,
but everyone’s responsibility for keeping the game
moving smoothly.
This chapter includes the following sections.
✦ Preparing and Getting Started: Learn how
much time you need to invest to prepare and how
to prepare effectively, and how to kick off your
game session.

✦ Modes of the Game: The D&D game unfolds in
different modes—setup, exploration, conversation,
encounter, and passing time. Understand what you
need to run the game in each mode.
✦ Narration: A big part of the DM’s job is letting the
players know what’s going on. Give the players the
information they need and keep it lively.
✦ Pacing: Keep the rhythm of action and
anticipation going in your game.
✦ Props: Bring your game to life with props and
✦ Dispensing Information: Give the characters the
information they need to make smart choices.
✦ Improvising: Learn to wing it—and have fun!
✦ Ending a Session: What’s the best time to end a
game session?
✦ Troubleshooting: How to deal with some of the
most common problems that come up in the game.


✦ Teaching the Game: How to introduce new
players to the D&D game.

CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 16

3/12/08 4:07:54 PM

4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 17

3/12/08 4:07:59 PM

The more you prepare before your game, the more
smoothly the game will go—to a certain point. To avoid
being either under- or overprepared, keep in mind
the one-hour rule of thumb and prioritize the tasks of
preparation within the time you have available.

The One-Hour
Rule of Thumb
Any game session has 15 to 30 minutes of easing into
the game and 15 to 30 minutes of wrapup time. Most
groups get through about one encounter in an hour
of play. So if you play one encounter, it usually takes
about two hours for a game session. If you play two
encounters, it takes about three hours.

Preparation Time
These guidelines assume that you’re running a
straightforward, dungeon-based adventure. Many of
the same principles apply when you run more interaction-focused or investigation-heavy adventures.

One-Hour Preparation
If you spend one hour each week preparing for your
✦ Select a published adventure to run.
✦ Flip through the adventure. Keeping in mind the
length of time you’re going to play in a game session, figure out how likely it is that your players will
play each encounter. Prioritize them as: definite,
possible, or unlikely.
✦ Carefully read each encounter you marked as
“definite.” Review the monsters in the encounter,
including their special abilities and tactical information. Create some tactical notes if you have to.
Note any special rules that apply to the terrain in
the encounter.
✦ Consider how each of these definite encounters
relates to the particular motivations of your players. If you have one or more players who are left
in the lurch by the encounters you have planned,
think about elements you can add to the encounter
to hook those players in. For example, if the night’s
encounters don’t give your actor player a chance to
roleplay, find a way to inject some negotiation into
the start of an encounter.
✦ For an encounter that focuses more on interaction,
make notes about the relevant NPCs in the encounter—their motivations and goals. Pick a quirk for
each important NPC to help the character stand out
in the players’ minds, focusing on something that’s
easy to play.

Two-Hour Preparation
✦ Carefully review each “possible” encounter and any
monsters used in them. If you’re creating an adventure of your own, prepare a few more encounters
and build some more options into the map, creating
more possible encounters.
✦ Devote any time you have left to creating improvisational aids (see page 28).

Three-Hour Preparation
✦ Skim each of the “unlikely” encounters.
✦ Create a new encounter designed to appeal specifically to one particular player, or alter an existing
encounter to relate specifically to his or her character’s goals and hooks. Over the course of several
sessions, make sure you spread that attention out
over all your players.
✦ Instead of or as well as additional encounters,
create one or two minor quests (see page 102) that
tie into the adventure, including either existing
encounters or the new encounters you create.

Four-Hour Preparation
With four hours to spend, you can take the time to
craft an adventure of your own that’s not quite so
rushed. Build in elements designed to appeal to each
player. Design a major quest to lead the characters
on the adventure, a handful of minor quests to spice
things up, and at least two or three definite encounters
and a like number of possible encounters. Make notes
about the encounters you’ll design next week.

No Time to Prepare!
Sometimes you have no time to get ready for your
game. Check out the sections on “Improvising” (page
28), “Random Dungeons” (page 190), and “Random
Encounters” (page 193) for ideas on what to do.

If you don’t want to use a published adventure, it’s possible to create an adventure with no more than one hour
of preparation. Choose a dungeon map. Section off an
area that contains a limited number of potential encounters. (That railroads your players somewhat, but they’ll
forgive you if it means the difference between playing this
week or not.) Use the sample encounter groups in the
Monster Manual, as well as the sample traps and hazards
in this book.

CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 18

3/12/08 4:08:02 PM

Don’t expect to show up at the appointed time and
start rolling dice at the top of the hour.
Settle In: D&D is a social activity, and taking a
while to get settled and socialize is a time-honored
ritual. Don’t try to fight it. A game group works better
together when the people in it have had time to talk,
joke, and catch up before jumping into the dungeon. If
that time coincides with a meal, so much the better—
neither conversation nor dinner plates will get in the
way of the game once you get in gear.
Over time, many game groups develop a signal to
indicate when it’s time to begin play in earnest. One
player might say, “Game on!”, everyone might put their
dice on the table, or the DM might set up the Dungeon
Master’s screen.
Recap: Just as many television series do, it’s a great
idea to start each game session with a recap of what
happened the week before. This time helps players
get back into the story and the mindset of the game. It
also helps any players who missed the previous session
catch up with what’s been going on.
You can give this recap, but the recap is a great task
to delegate. When a player (or the group) summarizes
the events of the last adventure, you get a glimpse into
the players’ minds. Actor or storyteller players shine
here. They might even decide to talk in or write the
recap in character. Listening to a player’s recap lets you

see what the players remember and what they think is
important, shows you their understanding of the story,
and can even give you ideas for future plot twists.
Listen: The recap is one of the most important
opportunities you have to listen to your players and
get a sense of their experience of the game. Be sure to
pay attention to each player’s contribution to the recap.
Even a snide comment or joke can tell you a lot about
what your players are getting out of the game.



You shouldn’t be afraid to delegate some of the job of
running the game to your players. If there are parts of
the game you find burdensome, assign them to players
who enjoy them. If you don’t want to break your narrative stride by looking up a rule, designate another
player to be the rulebook reference expert. If you don’t
like tracking initiative, have another player do it for
you. Players can make the DM’s life easier in a lot of
little ways, from never making you pay for pizza to
helping to flesh out the background of the campaign
world. You have enough to do—delegate what you can.
When a group of players shares the responsibilities
of running the game, everyone has more fun. Best of all,
the players feel as though it’s their game, not just yours.

W I L L I A M O ’ CO N N O R

Game groups often enjoy saving their recaps and forming them into a chronicle of the ongoing sessions or
Low Tech: You can write the recap on sheets of paper,
noting the date of each recap. Some chroniclers like to pick
out a special notebook or buy a nice blank book in which
to write the game recaps.
High Tech: Chroniclers who have computers sometimes
type the recap into a text processing program and keep it
in an ongoing file, emailing it to others in the group. Other
creative and technically savvy folks create Web sites for
their game groups, set up blogs to post each recap on,
or set up message boards for the game group and post
on them.
D&D Insider allows you to chronicle your campaign
through the Web, too.
Outtakes: The story of your game sessions is the driving plot of a chronicle. However, funny things that players
say during a game session often spark the memory of the
events—the emotional context—as much as describing the
encounters. Include a few fun things that the players and
their characters said in the recap at the end. They can often
provide hooks in the players’ minds when the neutral facts
have faded from their memories.
CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 19

3/12/08 4:08:03 PM

Over the course of a session of D&D, the game shifts
in and out of five basic modes—setup, exploration, conversation, encounter, and passing time. The five modes
are also five different kinds of tasks or activities the
characters engage in during their adventures.
Part of the job of running the game as DM is figuring out what mode the game is in based on what the
player characters are doing. The shifts are generally
smooth and organic, and you might not even notice
the change from one to another unless you’re paying
Your role as DM is different depending on which
mode the game is in. You interact with the players
according to the mode the game is in. You provide the
scene, describe and play the NPCs and monsters, and
dispense any information the PCs need or gain. You
ultimately determine the group’s success or failure
based on the players’ choices, the difficulty of the situation, and the luck of the dice.

The game is in setup mode when you’re telling the
players what they need to know about the adventure
and they’re gearing up for the first encounter of the
gaming session. The characters might be buying supplies or working out plans. You might be reading a
short introductory paragraph about the adventure,
perhaps summarizing events that have brought them
to where they stand at the start of the adventure.
Setup can evolve into conversation, particularly
if the players have questions about the quest they’re
beginning. For example, they want to ask more about
the bandits that have been raiding merchant caravans.
These questions could even evolve directly into a skill
challenge if they believe that whoever is sending their
characters on this adventure is deceiving them or
withholding information, or if they try to negotiate the
reward they’ve been offered.
Setup also naturally evolves into exploration. If you
give the players a summary of events that have brought
them to the entrance of a dungeon, your next words
might be “What do you do?” That question is a hallmark of the beginning of exploration mode.

In exploration mode, the characters move through the
adventure setting, making decisions about their course
and perhaps searching for traps, treasure, or clues. The
game spends a lot of game time in exploration mode.
It’s what usually fills the space between encounters. It
usually ends when an encounter begins.
Follow these steps to run the game in exploration

1. Describe the environment. Outline the options
available to the characters by telling them where
they are and what’s around them. When you detail
the dungeon room the PCs are in, mention all
the doors, chests, shafts, and other things the PCs
might want to interact with. Don’t explicitly outline
options. (Don’t say: “You can either go through the
door, search the chest, or look down the shaft.”)
That’s putting unnecessary limitations on the PCs’
actions. Your job is to describe the environment and
to let the PCs decide what they want to do with it.
2. Listen. Once you’re done describing the area, the
players tell you what their characters want to do.
Some groups might need prompting. Ask them,
“What do you do?” Your job here is to listen to what
the players want to do and identify how to resolve
their actions. You can and should ask for more
information if you need it.
Sometimes the players give you a group answer:
“We go through the door.” Other times, individual
players want to do specific things, such as searching a chest. The players don’t need to take turns, but
you need to make sure to listen to every player and
resolve everyone’s actions.
Some tasks involve a skill check or an ability
check, such as a Thievery check to pick the lock on
a chest, a Strength check to force open a door, or a
Perception check to find hidden clues. Characters
can perform other tasks without any check at all:
move a lever, take up a position near the entrance
to watch for danger, or walk down the left fork of a
3. Narrate the results of the characters’ actions.
Describing the results often leads to another
decision point immediately or after time passes.
“Behind the door is a passage stretching off to the
left and right” gives the characters an immediate
decision point. “The sloping hall leads you hundreds of feet down into the earth before finally
ending in a door” sets up a decision point after some
time. Whenever you reach another decision point,
you’re back to step 1.
A character’s actions can also lead right into an
encounter. “When you look down the well, a gigantic tentacle snakes up from its depths and starts
coiling around you!” leads straight to a combat
encounter. “When you move the lever, a block of
stone slams down across the entrance, stirring up a
cloud of dust. With a horrible grinding sound, the
walls begin to move slowly inward.” That description leads to a skill challenge.

CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 20

3/12/08 4:08:05 PM


In conversation, the PCs are exploring the information inside an NPC’s head, rather than exploring a
dungeon room. It’s not a social skill challenge, with
specific goals and a real chance of failure. The PCs
just ask questions, and the NPC responds. Sometimes
a check is involved—usually Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Insight, or Perception. Often the characters and
NPCs trade questions and answers until the PCs have
the information they need to make a decision and
carry it out.
Conversation mode ends in one of two ways: The
conversation ends and the PCs move on their way,
lapsing back into exploration mode. Or, the conversation escalates into a social skill challenge or a combat

Encounters are the exciting part of the D&D game.
They have tension and urgency about them and a
chance of failure. They involve lots of die-rolling (often
in the form of attack rolls) and strategic thinking. They
give almost every kind of player something to enjoy.
The rules of the game are most important in
encounters. The rules are all about determining
whether you succeed or fail at the tasks you attempt—
and thus whether you successfully complete the

Passing Time

W I L L I A M O ’ CO N N O R

The game has a rhythm and flow, and the action in
the game is interspersed with lulls. These lulls are like
the places where a movie fades to black and comes
up again with the understanding that some time has
passed. Don’t give these situations any more time than
the movies do. When a rest period passes uneventfully,
tell the players that and move on. Don’t make the players spend time discussing which character cooks what
for dinner (unless the kind of group you are playing
with finds this useful for building characters). Gloss
over the mundane, unexciting details and get back to
the heroic action as quickly as possible.
At times, the players discuss the events of the game
or spend time laying their plans. You don’t need to be
involved in those discussions at all unless they have
questions you need to answer. Learn to recognize the
times when it’s fine to sit down, rest your voice, or
replenish your snacks. Give yourself a breather, and
then get back into the action as soon as everyone’s

CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 21

3/21/08 10:14:41 AM

Just like the narrator of a novel, a play, or a movie, you
serve the essential function of telling the players what
is going on in the game world. The game relies on your
descriptions and players’ imaginations to set the scene.
Using a few time-honored techniques of effective narration helps paint a vivid picture in each player’s mind
and bring the game to life.

Lead by Example
When you roleplay and narrate with enthusiasm, you
add energy to the game and draw the players out.
Encourage them to follow your lead and to describe
their actions in the same vivid way. Then incorporate
their narration into your accounts of their successes
and failures.

Don’t describe everything. Most players’ eyes start to
glaze over after about two sentences of descriptive text.
Give just enough information to excite and inform the
players, then let them react or ask for specific details.
✦ Don’t overdescribe. Anything you describe in
intricate detail sounds important, and players sometimes waste a lot of time trying to figure out why
insignificant things matter.
✦ Don’t omit important details. Make sure the
players know about important terrain features
before the fighting starts—if their characters can see
or perceive them.
✦ Don’t give only the most important information all the time. If you do that, you encourage
metagame thinking. The players quickly realize
that anything you take the time to describe must be
important. Remain brief, but add touches of atmosphere and enticement in your narration.

Describe a setting’s features and sensory impressions:
emotional overtones, lighting, temperature, texture,
and odor. A rich environment has plenty of innocuous but interesting sensations that alert explorers
pick up on. Little details are important, such as a
lingering smell of ash or tiny beetles scurrying along
the dungeon floor. Small anomalies—a tiny flower
blossoming in the otherwise desolate and gloomy
graveyard—help establish the overall atmosphere of a

Cinematic Style
It’s a cliché, but it’s also an important rule of narration: “Show, don’t tell.” Imagine how the environment
would look and sound in a good movie, do your best
to describe it that way, then add details of smells and
texture that a movie can’t communicate. Don’t tell
the players that there’s a pool of bubbling acid nearby,
show it to them with a vivid description. Think about
how acid might smell, talk about a cloud of noxious
vapor hovering above the pool, and describe what the
pool bubbling sounds like.
Your Only Limit Is Your Imagination: Your
imagination is the only boundary in your description.
You aren’t limited by a special effects budget. Describe
amazing vistas, terrifying monsters, dastardly villains,
and bone-crunching fight scenes. Your enthusiasm
and liveliness are contagious, and they energize the
whole game.
Portraying Rules Situations: It’s easy to fall
into the rut of describing events merely in terms of
the applicable rules. Although it’s important that the
players understand what’s going on in such terms,
the D&D game can be at its dullest if everyone talks
in “gamespeak.” You know you’ve fallen into this trap
when the table chatter is: “That’s 26 against AC,” “You
hit, now roll damage,” “31 points,” and “Now we’re to
initiative count 13.”
Instead, use such statistics, along with your knowledge of the scene, to help your narration. If 26 is barely
a hit, but the 31 points of damage is a bad wound for
the enemy, say: “You swing wildly, and the dragonborn
brings his shield up just a second too late. Arrgh! Your
blade catches him along the jaw, drawing a deep gash.
He staggers!”

Your narration helps players find the fun, enticing
them to explore details of the environment that lead
to encounters or important information. Anything
you describe with extra, subtle details draws the players’ attention. Give them just enough to invite further
exploration, but don’t describe the equivalent of a
flashing neon sign reading, “This way to adventure!”
If the players come to a decision point where the
options seem indistinguishable, you can use little
sensory details to distinguish the options. Should the
characters take the left fork or the right? Perhaps the
left fork smells of ash, while the faint sound of lapping
water emerges from the right. Unless the players know
they’re specifically looking for fire or water, these
details don’t steer them, but they make the choice of
one option over the other seem less arbitrary.

CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 22

3/12/08 4:08:08 PM


Your narration of the fantastic world of the game
needs to seem real—not as a simulation of the real
world, but as if the game world were a real place with
coherent, logical rules. Actions should have logical
consequences, and the things the PCs do should have
an impact on the world. The people and creatures of
the world should behave with consistency in ways that
players can understand.
Sometimes realism is a matter of very small details.
If two wooden doors appear to be exactly the same, but
one requires a DC 16 Strength check to break through
and the other one requires a DC 20 check, the world
feels arbitrary and inconsistent. It’s fine for one door to
be harder to break down, but your description should
give cues about why one door is so much sturdier than
the other, whether it has adamantine reinforcements
or a noticeable aura of magic sealing it shut. That
makes the game world seem realistic.

Part of the reason players keep coming back to the
table is that they want to see what happens next. Will
their characters succeed? How will they accomplish
the great task set before them, and at what cost? That’s
Suspense exists in the game when the players can
see how they want things to turn out, but they don’t
know for sure how to make it happen. It’s excitement
mixed with a little bit of worry. When you use narration to create such dramatic tension, you keep players
focused and excited about the game. Then they drive
the game forward to see what’s going to happen next.
Small Doses: During an encounter or a series of
encounters, add small elements of uncertainty in your
descriptions that lead to a payoff within a reasonable
amount of time.
For example, the PCs could notice a sickly sweet
smell in the ancient tomb. When they encounter
guardian mummies, the smell becomes overpowering—it’s the odor of the spices and oils used to embalm
the mummies.
When they smell the odor next, it sets them on
edge, but here you throw them a curveball: They find
embalmed but inanimate corpses in the next room,
spicing up a scene of pure exploration. Just before the
climactic encounter, the smell rises up again—wafting
from under the door where the mummy lord awaits
them. The players are rewarded if they remain cautious and prepare for a fight with a mummy.
Use a controlled hand about throwing too many
curveballs like the harmless corpses. If you use such
narrative tricks too often, you dilute the impact of the
suspense you’re trying to create. Also, make sure that
your narrative details point to something useful within
a reasonable amount of time. If the characters spend
hours wondering what the smell is, they end up bewildered, not in a state of suspense.
Big Picture: Suspense builds as the players learn
more about the adventure situation and what they
have to do to accomplish their goals. With each bit
of new information, the original situation takes on
new facets. It might change entirely when the players
uncover a dramatic twist. The players and the characters have to adapt, maybe even change their goals as
the truth unfolds. The unfolding of layered events and
information builds suspense within an adventure or
even within the whole story arc of a campaign.

You don’t just set the scene for adventure, you also take
on the roles of villains, monsters, and other people and
creatures that the heroes encounter in their travels.
Putting a little effort into portraying these people and
creatures has a big payoff in fun.
Portraying Monsters: When a monster is
involved, it’s usually easy for the players to imagine
its actions, especially when you’re using representative miniatures and the creature is a simple beast.
Appropriate sounds and vocalizations are entertaining, as are descriptions of how a monster reacts to the
environment and the PC actions. For example, a wolf
snarls at its enemy, savages a downed foe, and whimpers when wounded. If your wolves (even your dire
wolves) do that, your game comes alive.
Portraying NPCs: Nonplayer characters, including humanoids and magical beasts, are people of
some sort. They have abilities and quirks that make
them unique and memorable to the players. Use these
to help you roleplay. Consider how the NPC’s intelligence, goals, and quirks play into the scene at hand.
Don’t be afraid to act in character and even use a
unique voice for the NPC. Keep track of the way you
have important NPCs act so you can maintain consistency if the same character appears again. The “Cast of
Characters” section (page 116) of Chapter 6 helps you
determine some aspects of important NPCs.
Even when an NPC isn’t very detailed, use the racial
or monster description to help you along. For instance,
orcs that shout fearsome battle cries and that roar and
hurl insults in battle are more fun to fight than those
who act like silent axe-wielding bags of hit points.



CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 23

3/12/08 4:08:09 PM

break, take one at this natural point of pause. Use the
restroom, eat or get fresh drinks, let the players (and
yourself ) catch their breath. Then start building the
tension again toward the next encounter.
Wrap-Ups and Cliff hangers: As you progress
through a session, keep an eye on the clock. You
should have an idea of when the session’s going to end,
and you should make sure that the game comes to a
good stopping point around that time.
You can’t end every session with a cliffhanger, and
you probably shouldn’t. Let a session end when an
adventure comes to a natural end or resting spot. But
try to leave the players with something to look forward
to, some clear idea of what they’re going to be doing
next, to keep some dramatic tension lingering from
session to session.
The best place to stop the game is when the players want more—a cliffhanger moment. The characters
throw open a door and see the villain they’ve been
pursuing, but they don’t get to roll initiative until next
week. They open a treasure chest and find a tome that
holds a startling revelation, but the session ends before
they can do anything in response.
Think about the times a television show has faded
to black with “To be continued” on the screen, making
you yell back at the screen in protest. That’s how you
want your game session to end—with the players eager
to find out what happens next.

Example of a handout


Pacing is all about ebb and flow—a rhythm of action
and anticipation, of building tension and climactic
excitement. Just like in a movie or play, a book, or a
video game, pacing is what keeps the game exciting,
interesting, and fun. Glossing over mundane details
is an important element of good pacing as you run
the game, but respect the need to punctuate running
excitement with natural breaks, and set up your game
sessions for good stopping points—including judiciously setting up cliffhangers for optimal suspense.
Building Anticipation: When the game is in
exploration mode, the pacing is relaxed. That doesn’t
mean exploration mode should be boring. It should
be a period of building tension. Exploring a dungeon
shouldn’t be a matter of walking casually down
hallways and throwing open doors, but an experience of brooding menace building to the action of an
In exploration mode, build tension. Use a lower
tone of voice, avoid dramatic action, and stay in your
seat. Take your time with your narration, indulge in
a little extra description, and create the sense that
danger could erupt suddenly from around the next
corner or behind the next door. See if you can get the
players leaning forward in their seats to see what happens next. If you’ve got them hooked, it’s even more
startling when you jump to your feet and describe the
sudden attack of a horrible monster.
Finding the Fun: Don’t make players search for
the fun in exploration mode. When the players can’t
find an option that leads to action, the dramatic tension dissipates, and the game becomes a slog or a
stalemate. Make sure that you give the players enough
clues (or ways to find clues) to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles.
Climactic Action: When exploration turns to
encounter, shift from building anticipation to pulsepounding action. Communicate the excitement and
danger of the encounter with your voice and body language. Get to your feet, talk faster and a little louder,
gesture broadly, and pour as much energy as you can
muster into your narration.
In the middle of an encounter, don’t let the action
grind to a halt. Be prepared: Know the rules that
are likely to come up during the session, or flag the
relevant pages in your books. Don’t let the game get
bogged down in rules discussions. Put questions on
hold until the end of the encounter. Speed through
the initiative order, spurring your players to take their
turns as quickly as they can. Be ready when your turn
comes up as well!
Taking Breaks: At the end of an encounter, the
tension you’ve been building dissipates until you start
building it up again. If you or your players need a
CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 24

3/12/08 4:08:10 PM

Some players can get deeply immersed in the game
purely by listening to your evocative description and
imagining the scene in their heads. For the rest of us,
there are props. Props are concrete. They give players something they can see, read, and handle, helping
them to engage and participate in the game. Use every
prop you can to enhance immersion and fun, but keep
the narration lively just the same.

✦ Battle maps
✦ Miniatures
✦ Illustrations
✦ Maps
✦ Notes
✦ Objects
✦ Music
✦ Other atmospheric elements
Items to Depict Combat Encounters: Battle
maps and miniatures are perhaps the most fundamental props. They confirm that everyone around the table
imagines the same number of combatants arrayed
around the encounter area in the same locations. They
also help players imagine the monsters they’re fighting—including the size of those monsters. (When you
put a Gargantuan dragon down on the table, encourage your players to look at it from the level of their
characters’ eyes. It’s a very different perspective from
what even a scale drawing gives.)
A battle map drawn with colored markers on a weterase vinyl mat isn’t the most evocative prop in the
world, but it does help the players understand what’s
in the room and where. Printed maps (such as in D&D
adventures and D&D Miniatures products) and D&D
Dungeon Tiles are even better. They show professional
artistic representations of common and fantastic
dungeon features.
D&D Miniatures portray the monsters of the D&D
game as no other miniatures can, and they include a
helpful prop for your own use—a card that summarizes
the monster’s statistics and abilities for easy reference.
You can also use other miniatures or plastic toys at
an appropriate scale. Unusual figures can even spark
ideas for new monsters. (Some of the classic monsters
of the D&D game were born in exactly that way.)
Handouts: Props can be just as important and
evocative outside combat. Handouts often depict some
element of the game world. Well-done illustrations are
worth a thousand words of narration, and they’re easy


for players to refer back to. Published D&D adventures
include illustrations you can use as handouts to give
your players. For adventures of your own creation, look
for fantasy art that sparks your imagination. Check
the Wizards of the Coast Web sites (www.wizards.
com and www.dndinsider.com), fantasy calendars
and book covers, photographs of incredible real-world
landscapes, or screen shots from computer games.
Maps are great reference during an adventure, and
can spark adventures all on their own. It’s a time-honored ritual of the game for players to draw their own
maps of dungeons as they explore them. You can also
let the players find a map in the course of the adventure. Such a map might be a classic treasure map with
the location of buried gold marked on it—but without
any mention of the horrible monsters that guard it. It
could be the record of a past explorer who made it into
the depths of a dungeon but didn’t quite make it back
Any time the characters find something written
down—a coded message in the dead assassin’s pouch,
an incriminating letter from the baroness to the
hobgoblin warchief, or a riddle carved into a stone
door—think about giving it to the players as a handout.
You can use a special computer font and print it out
on parchment paper, or scrawl it on notebook paper if
you’re in a hurry. If the players will want to refer back
to the text again, having a handout available saves
everyone a lot of trouble.
Don’t stop at printed handouts such as art, maps,
and letters. Try coins (foreign currency or plastic coins
work well), unusual dice or playing cards, statuettes
or figurines, or any strange knickknacks you find.
Antique and secondhand stores are great places to find
this sort of thing. Look for anything that sparks your
Atmosphere: Finally, don’t neglect the impact of
background music. The right music works with your
narration to create an atmosphere. Try playing orchestral music, world music, and movie soundtracks.
Depending on your game, you can create atmosphere by lighting candles, burning incense, draping
gauzy fabric over lamps, or using spooky sound effects.
Whatever works for you and your players is great. Just
remember to use sensible safety precautions, and keep
in mind that players need to be able to see their character sheets and their dice and hear the conversation.

CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 25

3/12/08 4:08:11 PM

As Dungeon Master, one of your important tasks is
figuring out exactly how much information to give to
the players and when. Sometimes you just describe the
scene, giving the players all the information. At other
times, you tell the players only what their characters
can detect using their skills, their knowledge, and
the use of divination rituals. When you’re creating an
adventure, be sure to note the appropriate DCs for
skill checks.

The Information
If there’s information the PCs absolutely must have in
order to continue the adventure, give it to them. Don’t
make them have a chance to miss the information by
failing a skill check or not talking to the right person
or just not looking in the right place. The players
should be able to uncover important information by
using skills and investigation, but for crucial information, you need a foolproof method to get it into the
players’ hands. Tell them.

Passive Skill Checks
Passive skill checks are a great tool to help you know
how much to tell the players about an object, situation, or scene right away. Without bringing the game
to a halt by asking for skill checks, you can keep the
momentum and suspense building. It’s a great idea
to use passive checks regularly, saving active checks
(the checks that players request when they want to use
skills actively) for when the PCs want to learn more
based on the cues you give them.
Make a List: To make using passive skill checks
easy, keep a note of each character’s passive skill check
modifiers (10 + skill check bonus) for Perception,
Insight, Arcana, Dungeoneering, History, Nature, and
Perception: Passive Perception checks help you
set the scene. They tell you right away how much of
the details of a room or encounter area the characters
notice. Very alert characters can instantly pick up on
significant details and hidden creatures or objects that
would go unnoticed by others without a more thorough search.
✦ Make sure you give enough cues at lower Perception DCs to encourage PCs to make a more rigorous
search of important features.
✦ Don’t rely too heavily on passive Perception checks.
Make sure you give the PCs information they need
to find the fun in your adventure, regardless of their
Perception modifiers.

Insight: Passive Insight checks provide information
from social and emotional intuition and awareness
that can serve a character in social encounters. You
often use the result of a passive Insight check in
social interactions as the DC for the Bluff check of a
nonplayer character. (In other words, as an opposed
check, Insight vs. Bluff.) If the NPC’s Bluff check result
is lower than any character’s passive Insight check
result, that character should get a sense that the NPC
isn’t being straightforward.
When you give the player this information, make
sure to mention that the Insight skill is the reason
behind the knowledge. This lets the player feel good
about the choice to take training in Insight (if he has
done so) and suggests that the player might want to
make an active Insight check to learn more.
Knowledge: You can use passive knowledge
checks to let characters gain some basic information about their surroundings and the creatures they
encounter, based on past experience and education.
Use passive checks for characters in the situations
noted here.
✦ Arcana: Magic, the elements, the Elemental
Chaos, the Feywild, the Shadowfell, the Far Realm,
elemental, fey, or shadow monsters
✦ Dungeoneering: Underground environments and
terrain, navigating underground, stonework, fungi,
subterranean animals, and aberrant creatures
✦ History: The history of a region, the chronological
record, arts, literature, geography, warfare, nations,
historical figures, laws, royalty and other leaders,
legends, customs, traditions
✦ Nature: Natural environments, navigating through
wilderness, the outdoors, terrain, climate, weather,
plants, seasons, natural creatures, handling a natural beast, foraging
✦ Religion: Gods, holy symbols, religious ceremonies, clergy, divine effects, theology, the Astral
Sea and divine dominions, immortal and undead

Informing Players
All the information the players need to make their
choices comes from you. Therefore, within the rules
of the game and the limits of PC knowledge, Insight,
and Perception, tell players everything they need to
know. You don’t have to reveal all aspects of a situation
or hazard in one go. You should, however, give enough
information that the players know what’s up and have
an idea what to do—and what not to do.
“Gotcha!” Abilities: Pay attention to monster abilities that change the basic rules and tactics of combat,

CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 26

3/12/08 4:08:12 PM

Magic Items: Speaking of magic items, when the
characters get over their fear of the lightning-charged
magic sword and pick it up, tell them what it is and
what it does after they’ve examined it over the course
of a short rest (see page 263 of the Player’s Handbook).
It’s not fun to make characters guess what a magic
item is or try to use a magic item without knowing
its capabilities. You can make an exception for really
special items, including artifacts. Even then, tell the
player at least any numerical bonus the item gives. You
don’t want to hear, “I hit AC 31 . . . plus whatever this
sword’s bonus is,” for hours or weeks on end.

Paying Attention


and give players the cues they need to recognize them.
Describe the ability as it might appear in the game
world, and then describe it in game terms to make it
For example, if the characters are fighting a pit
fiend, whose aura of fire deals fire damage to creatures
within 5 squares, you might tell the players (before
their characters come in range), “The heat emanating from the devil is intense even at this distance. You
know that getting within five squares of it is going to
burn you.”
Game States, Conditions, and Effects: Since PC
abilities can sometimes hinge on a game state, condition, or effect that affects their opponent, make it clear
to the players how their enemies are doing. Be descriptive, considering the source of the condition, but also
be explicit.
The most important combat state is bloodied, which
is a gauge for the players on how the fight is going as
well as a cue to use certain powers. Tell them when an
enemy is under any condition, is bloodied, or under
an effect and tell them when it ends. Further, if an
adversary heals, the PCs should notice, and the players
should be told—especially if the monster is no longer
For example, when a monster gets bloodied by lightning damage, you might say, “Lightning courses over
its body, forcing it to stagger backward, opening small
wounds and burning its skin. It’s bloodied.” When the
characters’ troll opponent regenerates, say, “Recent
cuts knit together before your eyes. It’s regenerating!”
If a creature is dazed due to a fear-inducing power, you
could say, “Its eyes bulge wide, and it starts to shake.
It’s dazed.”
Hazards, Traps, and Obstacles: Be sure to
include any important setting details the players need
to know. If the PCs can sense a hazard or obstacle,
you should emphasize that element. It’s better for the
game if the PCs sense hints of impending danger. Tell
the players how dangerous something looks, or tell
them the PCs aren’t sure how dangerous something
is, and more investigation might be required. A little
prompting can go a long way. Further, knowing that
something might be dangerous actually builds tension
and fun. A hazard that springs out of nowhere has
none of that appeal.
For example, if a weak floor might collapse under
the PCs, you might describe the floor as cracked or
sagging slightly. A trap could leave behind signs from
its past victims or the times it was tripped and missed.
Rubble from a cave-in might let air through, hinting
that the PCs might be able to get through, whereas
rubble that slowly lets water through lets the players
know that removing the debris is a bad idea. Crackling
lightning on an unattended weapon might mean the
weapon is dangerous (some sort of trap), but it could
just mean the item is magical.

Make sure you look around the table occasionally
to see if the game is going well. If everyone seems to
be having fun, relax and just keep going. If the fun
is waning, ask the players what they want or need to
bring it back, and take their opinions seriously. Refer
to “Player Motivations” (page 8) and “Troubleshooting”
(page 30)—especially “Balancing Player Tastes” (page
32)—if you run into problems.

While you’re disseminating information, think about
how rituals might give some advantage to the PCs.
Divination and scrying rituals can allow characters,
especially epic-level characters, to bypass obstacles
to information as easily as they can bypass physical obstacles at those levels. Design your adventures
accordingly, paying careful attention to the ritual
descriptions in the Player’s Handbook. Don’t give the
characters less than they’re entitled to, but don’t let
them short-circuit your whole adventure by using rituals, either. For instance, the Observe Creature ritual
requires the caster to be extremely specific when
describing the ritual’s intended target. If allowing
the ritual to succeed would throw a monkey wrench
into your plans for the adventure, you’d be within
your rights to rule that the ritual failed to locate
the intended target because the caster’s description
wasn’t specific enough. Also, remember that highlevel villains have access to the same rituals that the
characters do, including wards they can use to protect
themselves from scrying attempts.

CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 27

3/12/08 4:08:13 PM

No matter how carefully you prepare for a gaming session, eventually the players do something unexpected,
and you have to wing it. Relax. A lot of DMs feel a lot of
anxiety about being caught unprepared, and they overprepare as a result, creating tons of material they never
have a chance to use.
With a little bit of focused preparation, some familiarity with basic improvisation techniques, and a lot of
flexibility, you can handle any curve ball your players
throw at you. You might even be surprised to realize
that the game is better than it would have been if it
had stuck to your original script.

Improvisational Aids
When you have some extra time in your game preparation, spend it preparing some tools you can use to
help you improvise when the need arises. Assemble
lists of names for use in the future, design a variety
of modular encounters, collect a packet of mini-dungeons, and keep your campaign lists up to date.
Lists of Names: The names in Chapter 3 of the
Player’s Handbook are a good starting point of lists of
names. Time you spend putting together such lists
(organized by at least gender and race) pays off when
you have to create an NPC on the spur of the moment.
You can use baby-naming books or search the Internet
for multiple resources for fantasy-flavored names.
Encounters for Every Taste: Keeping the particular tastes and motivations of your players in mind,
design modular encounters crafted to appeal to their
interests. Put together groups of monsters or thugs who
could kick in the door and attack at a moment’s notice,

Something amazing happened one time I was playing D&D
with my 9-year-old son. When we finished an encounter,
my son took over. He decided that he was going to search
around one of the statues in the room, that he was going to
get hit by a trap (an arrow would shoot out at the statue),
and that he’d find a treasure there.
Hey, wait a minute. I thought I was the DM!
That was my first reaction. But I bit my tongue. I rolled
damage for the trap, and I let him have his treasure. (I determined what it was—I wasn’t about to relinquish that
much control.)
He never enjoyed the game more.
I learned the most important lesson about D&D that
day. I remembered that this is a game about imagination,
about coming together to tell a story as a group. I learned
that the players have a right to participate in telling that
story—after all, they’re playing the protagonists!
—James Wyatt

and the slayers in your group are happy. For straightforward combat encounters, use the encounter groups
in the Monster Manual as a starting point. The sample
skill challenges in Chapter 5: Noncombat Encounters
can also provide a foundation for similar encounters
that are more customized to your campaign. Once
you’ve designed them, you can use these encounters to
keep things moving when the players make an unexpected decision or pick a surprising route, or to make
sure that all your players are staying interested in the
Mini-Dungeons: Keep a small supply of encounter area maps on hand—not just little dungeons (a
ruined mill house with its cellars, a jailhouse, or a
cave behind a waterfall), but also unusual wilderness
and urban areas. Combined with the encounters you
design, these maps can provide a whole session of
adventure if things go awry or you just run out of time
to prepare one week.
Don’t forget that you can carve up larger published
adventures into their component encounters and loot
them. Or rotate an older encounter map to a different
orientation and change the names in a pinch. D&D
Insider provides many short dungeons and encounters
you can also use in short notice.
Campaign Lists: Keep track of what’s going on in
your campaign. Keep the story of the adventure and
the whole campaign in mind, and keep a list of things
that can happen to drive the story forward. If the PCs
decide to wander off to an unexpected place and you
end up using one of your prepared maps and some
random encounters, pull something off your campaign
list to tie the whole excursion into the broader story.
This one element tied to the ongoing story makes
the players think you had the whole thing planned
from the start, no matter how random the encounters

Saying Yes
One of the cornerstones of improvisational theater
technique is called “Yes, and . . .” It’s based on the idea
that an actor takes whatever the other actor gives and
builds on that.
That’s your job as well. As often as possible, take
what the players give you and build on it. If they do
something unexpected, run with it. Take it and weave
it back into your story without railroading them into a
fixed plotline.
For example, your characters are searching for a
lich who has been sending wave after wave of minions
at them. One of the players asks if the town they are
in has a guild of wizards or some other place where
wizards might gather. The reasoning goes that such
a place would have records or histories that mention

CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 28

3/12/08 4:08:14 PM

W I L L I A M O ’ CO N N O R

As we discussed under Pacing (page 24), two great
times to end a game session are at a natural rest point
after a climactic encounter or at a cliffhanger. Whichever ending you choose, make sure you leave a little
time at the end of the session to wrap things up.
The end of a session is a casual time, a return to
the social energy of the session’s start. Listen to your
players during this time, even if you have other things
occupying your attention, like handing out experience
points or treasure. The things the players say or do at
the end of the session are the best feedback you receive
from your players, as well as a great source of ideas for
your preparation.
At the end of a session, players will tell you what
they most enjoyed, whether the challenges and
rewards felt appropriate, what they think the villain
is up to, and where they plan to go next. They won’t
usually tell you all this directly, but they’ll reveal it as
they talk about the night’s adventuring at the end of
the session.
Use this information to say yes to your players, as
we just discussed under Improvising. Prepare for the
players to do what they discussed they would do at
the end of the session. Maybe their thoughts about
the villain’s plans are better than your ideas were, or
their notions can add an extra dimension to what you
already have sketched out. Listen, and make your next
plans accordingly, and your players will feel as though
they are a part of the story.


this lich’s activities in the past, when the lich was still
a living wizard. That wasn’t a possibility you’d anticipated, and you don’t have anything prepared for it.
Many DMs, at this point, would say, “No, there’s no
wizards’ guild here.”
What a loss! The players end up frustrated, trying to
come up with some other course of action. Even worse,
you’ve set limits to your own campaign. You’ve decided
that this particular town has no association of wizards,
which could serve as a great adventure hook later in
your campaign.
When you say yes, you open more possibilities.
Imagine you say there is a wizards’ guild. You can
select wizards’ names from your prepared lists. You
could pull together a skill challenge encounter you
have half-prepared and set it up as the encounter that
the PCs need to overcome in order to gain access to
the wizards’ records. You could use a mini-dungeon
map to depict the wizards’ library if the PCs decide
to sneak in, and then scrape together an encounter
with a golem or some other guardian. Take a look at
your campaign lists, think about what would help the
PCs find the lich, and tell the players they find that
information after much digging through the wizards’
Instead of cutting off possibilities, you’ve made your
campaign richer, and instead of frustrating your players, you’ve rewarded them for thinking in creative and
unexpected ways. Make a note of the things you just
invented about this wizards’ cabal (adding them to
your campaign lists), and use the cabal again later in
your campaign. Everyone’s happy!

CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 29

3/12/08 4:08:15 PM

Sometimes your game group, your adventure, or your
campaign runs into problems. Remember that gamers
play to have fun, and the people are human beings
before they are gamers. They have real-life needs and
motivations that can affect the game. The best things
you can do are remain calm, be fair, and listen and
respond to what the players have to say when there are

Character Death
Adventures involve risk by definition. With every
encounter, the characters can fail. In the case of a
combat encounter, one cost of failure is the chance of
death—of a single character or an entire group.
Players get attached to their characters. That’s
natural. A character represents an investment of a lot
of time at the table, and a big emotional investment
as well. The biggest problem resulting from character
death is hard feelings.
The best way to avoid hard feelings connected to
character death is to be fair and to make sure the
players know you’re being fair. Rolling dice in front
of them helps that perception. The players know that
you’re not cheating in the monsters’ favor, or singling
out a single character for punishment. (See “Rolling
Dice,” page 15, for the benefits and pitfalls of rolling
dice in the open.)
Don’t ever punish a character for a player’s behavior
or some personal grudge. That’s probably the quickest way to undermine your players’ trust in you as DM
and as a fair arbiter of the rules. Let characters face
the consequences of their stupid actions, but make
sure you give enough cues for the players to recognize
stupid actions and to give the players every opportunity to take back rash decisions.
Your players also have to know that you’re fair in
designing encounters and are not stacking the odds
against them from the beginning. It’s fine to throw
tough encounters at them and sometimes to let them
face monsters they can’t beat. But it’s not fair if the
players have no way to know they can’t win the fight
or have no way to escape. Scare them, but don’t trap
When a character does die, it’s usually up to the
players as a group to decide what happens. Some players are perfectly happy to roll up a new character,
especially when they’re eager to try out new options.
Don’t penalize a new character in the group. The new
member should start at the same level as the rest of
the party and have similar gear.
You might want to discourage players from bringing a clone of the dead character in as a “new”
character, adding “II” to the character’s name or

altering it slightly, but otherwise leaving the character
unchanged. It’s obviously artificial and interferes with
the players’ sense of the fantasy world as a believable
and coherent place. On the other hand, copying a
character might be fine depending on the style and
seriousness of your game, and it does keep the game
moving forward with no delay.
If the characters have gained at least a few levels,
the death of a character is the loss of a significant
investment of time and energy. Fortunately, dead characters can be brought back to life. The most common
way is through the Raise Dead ritual described in the
Player’s Handbook (page 311). Usually, a dead character
means that the party has to take at least 8 hours to use
the Raise Dead ritual and rest afterward.
By epic level, many characters can return from
death in the middle of combat by a variety of means
(epic destiny abilities, potions, and so on). At that
point, death can be little more than a speed bump, but
the consequences of failure can be much worse than

Fixing Your Mistakes
It’s going to happen sometimes: You make mistakes.
That doesn’t make you a bad Dungeon Master. It
means you’re human. What matters most is how you
deal with those mistakes.

Bad Rules Call
You do not have to have a perfect mastery of the rules,
and you should be open to at least some discussion of
the right way to apply a rule in any situation. But you
also want to keep the game moving, which means that
at some point you have to cut off discussion. When you
do, tell one of the players to make a note of the issue
and how you resolved it, and reopen the discussion at
the end of the encounter or the end of the session.
If you realize you made a mistake, admit it. If you
don’t admit it, you’ll start to lose your players’ trust.
Then, if you need to, make it up to the players. If your
mistake had a significant effect on the outcome of the
encounter, do what it takes to correct for your mistake.
You can give the characters a little more experience
or a little more treasure, or you can resolve the issue
within the context of the adventure. Maybe that goblin
didn’t escape to warn the ogres after all.

Encounter Too Hard
It can be hard to judge ahead of time just how tough
an encounter is. Throwing a 13th-level monster at
a 9th-level party is often fine, but if the creature
has regeneration that negates all the damage the

CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 30

3/12/08 4:08:17 PM

✦ give the characters an escape route;
✦ make intentionally bad choices for the monsters;
✦ “forget” to roll to see if monsters recharge their
✦ come up with a story reason for the monsters to
leave the fight; or
✦ let the monsters win, but leave the characters alive
for some reason.
If you let the characters beat an encounter that was
too hard for them, don’t give them full experience for
that encounter because it wasn’t as challenging as its
level indicates. Reduce the XP award by about a level’s

Hard Encounter Too Easy
Usually, this isn’t a problem. If the adventure assumes
that the encounter is hard (for example, you need the
villain to escape but the players figure out a way to
prevent that), you can step up the difficulty as you go.
Bring in reinforcements. Give the villain a new capability the players didn’t know about.

Characters Get Too Powerful
Characters can become too powerful if you give out
too much treasure, or if you create special effects that
are more powerful than you intended. For example,
the characters might vanquish a villain they weren’t
intended to defeat and acquire his magic sword, which
is six levels above their level. Or, you could place a
magic fountain in your adventure and decide that
drinking from it gives a character an extra encounter
power that deals way too much damage for the characters’ level.
✦ In-Game Fix: Figure out ways to remove items
from the players’ possession. Perhaps the villain’s
sword has a mind of its own and the means to
travel by flight or teleportation. Retrieving it could
become a quest that occupies the characters until
they’re high enough level to wield it without unbalancing the game. The power granted by the magic
fountain could turn out to have a limited number of
total uses. Once they’re spent, the magic fades.
✦ Out-of-Game Fix: Talk to your players, explain
that you made a mistake, and ask them to voluntarily relinquish the overpowered items or powers.
Mature players recognize that the game is more fun
when challenges are meaningful, and they help you
deal with the problem.

Group Size
This book provides rules and guidelines for running
a group of four to six player characters. If your group
varies from that size, you have some specific issues to
deal with.

The general encounter-building rules scale easily
to larger or smaller parties. If you have only three
player characters, use three monsters of their level as
the baseline encounter. If you have seven, use seven
monsters. You should still try for a balance among the
different monster roles (see page 54).


characters do to it, they will be hard pressed to survive
that fight.
If you see the characters obviously overwhelmed in
an encounter, you can:

Smaller Than Four
Small groups can’t cover the four basic character roles.
If you have only three player characters, you can do
without a controller or a striker at the cost of a little
damage output. It’s hard to play an effective game with
only two player characters, but you can do it. A striker
with a leader is probably the best. It pairs high damage
output with a tough character who can keep the pair
alive. If you’re running a game for only a single player
character, a defender or leader is best—staying alive
is the most important consideration. See “Building a
Party,” page 10, for more information on character
roles and how to adjust for missing roles.

Larger Than Six
The biggest problems with large groups are maintaining order at the table and keeping combat moving.
Outside of combat, have the players designate a party
leader, who is then the only person who tells you what
the group is doing. It’s too difficult to listen to six
people who are all trying to tell you what they do at
the same time. In combat, keep the players on their
toes. Make sure you have a solid way of tracking initiative (see page 38), and force characters to delay if their
players take too long to decide on their actions.
With a particularly large group, make sure that
your encounters take place in areas big enough to hold
all the characters and all the monsters while leaving
room for movement and tactical positioning. An area
about 10 squares by 16 squares is a good minimum for
parties of seven or more characters.

Design Adventures for Size
Adventure design is also important. Don’t send a large
group on quests that require infiltration, scouting, or
negotiation. Large groups do better in military-style situations and straightforward fights against similarly large
groups of monsters. Small groups, on the other hand,
are ideal for quests that require stealth or subtlety,
especially if the players build their characters with that
in mind. Adventures focused on espionage, intrigue, or
interaction can be very effective with a small group.
CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 31

3/12/08 4:08:18 PM

Problem Players
Sometimes the problem at your game table is not your
game, but your players. We can’t tell you how to deal
with every kind of problem between friends. A few situations are unique to the game environment, though,
and we do have some advice on handling those.
Because these issues are really problems with players,
to solve the solutions you need to address most of these
issues outside the game.

Setting Expectations
Most player problems occur because you and your
players have different expectations for the game. You
want different things out of it or enjoy different aspects
of it. Often, you can keep the game going smoothly by
being clear about your expectations before problems
arise and by making sure you understand your players’
expectations. Take their opinions and desires seriously,
and make sure they take yours just as seriously. Ideally, you’ll find a style of play that everyone enjoys.

Out-of-Control Players
People often play D&D because it lets them, through
their characters, do things they can’t do in real life—
fight monsters, cast spells, defeat evil so that good can
triumph. Some people play because D&D lets them
run wild, wreaking havoc in towns and going on what
amounts to crime sprees or betraying their allies.
What they want in the game has nothing to do with
heroic adventure, but with using the game rules to act
out antisocial fantasies.

If I’m running a demo game of D&D, and I don’t know the
people around the table that well, I rely on an easy way of
handling initiative order. It’s quick and dirty, and isn’t good
for nonbeginner players, but it is useful when you want to
clear brain space for other DMing tasks.
I have all the players roll initiative at the beginning of
combat. Whoever rolls highest goes first, of course. However, after that, I assign initiative sequentially from that
player’s left, which is clockwise. Monsters all go when I
come up in seating order around the table. This works
like a charm in demonstration games, but when more
advanced players begin to delay or hold their actions, this
little trick runs off the tracks.
Keep it in your back pocket for when you want to run
a game for your younger relatives, your chums at school,
or other friends who are interested in how D&D works.
Otherwise, use the rules.
—Bruce Cordell

Talk to your players, reopening the conversation
about the kind of game you want to play. If it’s just one
player causing the trouble, it’s perfectly appropriate to
issue an ultimatum: If an out-of-control player wants to
continue playing with the group, he has to stop being
disruptive and play as part of a team.

Prima Donna Players
Some players feel that the game should center on
them, even if they’d never say it in those words.
They hog the spotlight, tell other players what their
characters should do, claim the best magic items for
themselves, and verbally bully the other players. Away
from the game, point out that the player’s behavior is
spoiling the fun for everyone else and ask him to tone
it down, or if necessary, ask the player to leave the

Rules Lawyers
You don’t have to be a rules expert to be the DM, but
that doesn’t mean one other player should assume
that role. A rules lawyer is a player who argues
against the DM’s decisions by referencing the rules.
You should welcome players who know the rules.
They help when you’re stuck or you make mistakes.
But even helpful rules lawyers become a problem if
they correct you continually or give you rules advice
that’s just wrong. Much worse are players who can’t
stand negative results, and who comb the rules for
loopholes and misinterpretations that their characters can exploit.
A table rule about holding rules discussions until
the end of the game is enough to dissuade some rules
lawyers. Stay open to minor corrections, though, as
long as they’re not too frequent.
If the game grinds to a halt while a rules lawyer
tries to find a specific rule or reference, invite the
player to take as long as he wants to search for it while
you and the rest of the players continue the game. The
rules lawyer’s character essentially steps out of the
game for as long as it takes. Monsters don’t attack him,
and he delays indefinitely. This solution makes the
other players happy, because they get to keep playing
D&D instead of letting one player stop the game.

Balancing Player Tastes
Plenty of gaming groups share very similar tastes and
motivations. Whole groups made up of actors or slayers aren’t uncommon. It’s easy to run these groups,
as long as your tastes are similar. It’s more difficult
to please players in the same group who have very
different tastes.

CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 32

3/12/08 4:08:18 PM

When siblings, spouses, new friends, or children of
existing players join the game, you face the happy task
of teaching a new player how to play D&D. Teaching
new players isn’t just your job. It’s something the group
can share.
What Is D&D?: The first, most important, and
possibly hardest part of teaching a new player the
game is explaining what the game is. A lot of people
are familiar with the concept of a roleplaying game
from past experience or computer gaming, but people
also have some weird misconceptions about how you
play the D&D game. Chapter 1 of the Player’s Handbook covers the basics.
The Core Mechanic: Explain the core mechanic
of the game: Make a check and compare it to a defense.
Make sure the new player can recognize a d20, and then
explain that a check means rolling the d20 and adding
some number. That’s the core mechanic in a nutshell.
What You Can Do in the Game: Explain that
the character can try anything the player can imagine, and it’s up to you to determine whether it works.
Explain the three main types of actions in combat:
standard (the important thing), move (getting around),
and minor (the things you do so you can do other
things). Make sure the player understands trading
down (using a move action instead of a standard
action, for example).
Reading a Character Sheet: Highlight the key
information on the character sheet. (You might want
to use a highlighter to mark these spots.) Explain these


You can avoid problems by first identifying the
motivations of each player in the group, and then
varying the encounter mix in your adventures. The
discussion of player motivations on page 8 suggests
ways to please every player. Don’t try to put a group of
actors through a run-of-the-mill dungeon crawl, and
don’t expect a group of slayers to negotiate their way
through the intricacies of royal politics. If you spend
some of your preparation time reviewing the adventures you’re planning to run with player motivations
in mind, and then designing additional encounters or
encounter elements to make sure something has something they fun among the encounter mix, you avoid
most problems stemming from differing player taste.
Other problems arise when players assume that
their particular style of play is superior to others, and
they lose patience with encounters aimed at other
players. This attitude surfaces most often with actors
who look down their noses at slayers and power
gamers. Deal with this issue by reminding the offending player (away from the table) that you have a group
to please, not just one player, and that the slayers are
patiently enduring the roleplaying-intensive encounters. The actors should extend the same courtesy to the
slayers in the group.
In game, though, you can also design single
encounters that appeal to multiple player motivations.
Imagine a fight pitting the player characters against a
small army of orcs, making the slayers happy. A young
dragon wanders into the middle of the fight. Suddenly the fight can swing one of two ways: The dragon
could help the orcs against the party or help the party
against the orcs. It’s up to the actor in the group, set off
in his own small roleplaying encounter, to persuade
the dragon to help the party. Everyone’s happy!

✦ Class and level describe your role in the group
and how powerful you are.
✦ Hit points are how much damage you can take.
Healing surges are how many times you can be
healed in a day, and how much you heal at a time.
✦ Defenses (AC, Fortitude, Ref lex, Will) are the
target numbers that the monsters try to hit when
they roll an attack against you.
✦ Speed is how many squares you can move with one
✦ Initiative is what you use to determine who goes
first in combat.


✦ Powers are the attacks and other special things you
can do in and out of combat.
Mentoring: Finally, make sure one more experienced player at the table has the job of helping the new
player, particularly in combat.
Then start playing! The best way to learn is by

CH A P T ER 2 | Running the Game


4E_DMG_Ch02.indd 33

3/12/08 4:08:19 PM


Combat Encounters


Stripped to the very basics, the D&D game
is a series of encounters. Encounters are where
the game happens—where the capabilities of the
characters are put to the test and success or failure
hang in the balance. An encounter is a single scene
in an ongoing drama, when the player characters
come up against something that impedes their
progress. This chapter talks you through running
combat encounters, whether they’re encounters from
a published adventure or encounters you’ve designed
This chapter includes the following sections.
✦ Combat Fundamentals: How to run a combat as
the DM: preparation, monster readiness, surprise,
rolling and tracking initiative, tips on running the
combat (including tracking individual monsters,
conditions, and effects), and how to wrap up an


✦ Additional Rules: Rules for actions not covered
by the rules, cover, forced movement, aquatic
combat, mounted combat, flying, disease, and

CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 34

3/12/08 4:09:54 PM

4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 35

3/12/08 4:10:00 PM

Whether you’re running a pitched battle, a tense negotiation, a pulse-pounding attempt to scale a cliff, or a
dangerous run down a trap-filled passage, don’t forget
everything you learned in the last chapter. It’s never
just a combat encounter—it’s a life-or-death struggle
between heroic adventurers and horrific monsters.
It’s not just the exchange of numbers and the strategy
of moving pieces around on a board—it’s a test of the
adventurers’ skill and mettle against terrible odds.
Keep the pace fast, the narration vivid, and the players
Below is a quick summary of how to run a combat
encounter. The rest of this section gives you the tools
you need to follow these steps.
✦ Come prepared with all the information you need
✦ Determine monster readiness and surprise
✦ Set up the encounter
✦ Roll initiative!
✦ Run combat
✦ Wrap things up

Come Prepared
Before a combat encounter begins, you should have
some information at hand. If you’re running a published adventure, most of this information is provided
for you. Otherwise, figure it out as you’re creating the
✦ The player characters’ passive Perception checks
(see the description of the Perception skill in the
Player’s Handbook).
✦ A map and a description of the area where the
encounter takes place. This description might take
the form of a brief bit of narration you can read to
your players to set the scene. It should also include
details they might notice, depending on the group’s
passive Perception.
✦ Statistics for the opponents in the encounter. The
statistics should include passive Perception checks
for the opponents.

Monster Readiness
Monsters and NPCs aren’t always ready for trouble at
a moment’s notice. The dragon might be sleeping, and
the goblins might be playing cards when they should
be watching the entrance for intruders. As the player
characters approach an encounter, decide how ready
the monsters are for the encounter. Choose one of
these states: asleep, distracted, ready, or alert.
Asleep: The monster (or group of monsters) isn’t
awake and is only marginally aware of its surround-

ings. Asleep monsters take a –5 penalty to their Perception checks.
A monster that’s asleep doesn’t have any prepared
defenses and is surprised when it wakes up. At the
start of its next turn, it’s ready if there’s an obvious
danger present or distracted if there’s no obvious
threat nearby.
Distracted: The monsters are doing something
that occupies their attention or simply daydreaming.
Distracted monsters take a –2 penalty to their Perception checks.
Ready: Monsters have their weapons with them,
but they are not necessarily in hand. They’re idly
waiting—not poised to engage a specific danger, but
prepared in general terms to face danger. Most of the
monsters the PCs meet are in the ready state unless
the PCs are particularly sneaky. Ready monsters get
no bonus or penalty to their Perception checks.
Alert: The monsters have perceived a possible
threat and made themselves ready to face it. They
have weapons at the ready, and they’ve moved to the
best positions to engage a straightforward attack from
a likely source. They prepare any available defenses,
possibly including powers that enhance their combat
abilities. They roll active Perception checks each
round. If no threat materializes after 10 minutes, most
monsters revert back to the ready state.

Determining surprise is usually pretty straightforward: If one side notices the other side without being
noticed in return, it has the advantage of surprise.
In many situations, surprise is extremely unlikely.
Two groups traveling an open road or blundering
through a forest notice each other, with no need for
Perception checks of any kind. Neither group surprises
the other.
Surprise can happen when characters or creatures
are actively hiding: Characters try to sneak past the
giants guarding the outskirts of the enemy encampment. Kobolds hide along a well-traveled road, hoping
to ambush travelers. A fey panther stalks through the
forest, looking for prey. If one group is actively trying
to avoid detection, it might achieve surprise.
In this case, the group member with the lowest
Stealth check modifier rolls a check. (Use this as
a simplification to save time, rather than having
each character or monster roll a check.) Any group
member that’s at least 10 squares away from the rest
of the group can roll a separate check. Compare the
check result to the passive Perception checks of the
creatures that might notice the hiding group, or the
active checks from alert creatures. Creatures that fail

CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 36

3/12/08 4:10:03 PM

W I L L I A M O ’ CO N N O R

If the monsters hear them, the monsters can’t be
✦ Do the PCs give their presence away? If the characters
set off a trap on the door, trigger an alarm in place
outside the room, or have to try more than once to
break the door down, the monsters know they’re
coming and can’t be surprised.

Perception DC*
Monsters’ Stealth
check + 5

Sounds the PCs Hear
Monsters moving quietly
around the room
Battle in progress, or agitated
or dramatic conversation**
Normal conversation
or ritual casting**
Doors opening or closing
(and similar sounds)
Quiet conversation, whispers*
Battle preparations (weapons
being drawn, and so on)
* Add 2 to the DC if the characters are more than 10
squares away.
** If you succeed by 5 or more, and you know the language
being spoken, you can understand what the creatures are


to notice the sneaking characters are surprised if the
group members attack.
Blocked Vision: Objects or circumstances that
block vision can contribute to an attempt to achieve
surprise. The characters approach a dungeon door.
Thick fog swirls around the moors, eerily lit by a full
moon overhead. The PCs, shrouded in invisibility, try
to get the drop on the ancient dragon.
Blocked vision provides some degree of concealment, which is one way that characters or creatures
can attempt to actively hide. Characters wandering
through fog or making their way down a dungeon
corridor toward an open archway are also effectively
invisible to other creatures, but they might not be
actively hiding.
Beyond the lowest character levels, surprise is rare
without some attempt at stealth. Creatures that want
to achieve surprise in heavy fog or similar conditions
must make an effort to be quiet and stay out of sight,
making Stealth checks.
A dungeon door not only blocks sight but also muffles sound, making it easier for characters to get close
to their opponents without being detected. The characters can move right up to the door without being
noticed, assuming they’re at least reasonably quiet.
They can listen at the door, making an active Perception check to hear what’s beyond, and barge in ready
for a fight.
The PCs can’t be surprised when they open a
dungeon door prepared for a fight. They can listen at
the door to get some idea of what they’ll be facing, but
the monsters won’t get the jump on them. It’s a different matter if the monsters in the room are actively
hiding, so the characters burst in and don’t see a threat
until the monsters spring their ambush.
Refer to the Listening
Through a Door table, below,
for Perception DCs if the characters actively listen at the
door. Then answer these two
questions to determine if the
PCs can gain surprise over the
✦ Do the monsters hear the PCs
approach? If the PCs are
moving at normal speed
through the dungeon and
making no attempt at stealth,
monsters in a room behind
a door hear them with a DC
25 Perception check (active
or passive). If the PCs are
quiet, the PCs make a Stealth
check with a +5 bonus (to
account for the muffling
effect of the door) to set the
monsters’ Perception DC.

CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 37

3/12/08 4:10:04 PM

Roll Initiative!
Whether it’s the moment negotiations with the duke
break down or the instant the goblins spring their
ambush, rolling initiative marks the real start of a
combat encounter.
Initiative is usually a simple Dexterity check (onehalf level + Dexterity modifier + other modifiers).
Every monster statistics block in the Monster Manual or
a published adventure includes the creature’s initiative
check modifier, but it’s easy enough to figure it out for
a character on the fly.
Each player character rolls initiative separately, of
course, but don’t give the monsters the same attention. Roll once for each distinct kind of monster in the
encounter. For example, in an encounter with one orc
Eye of Gruumsh, two orc berserkers, two orc raiders,
and three orc warriors, make one initiative roll for
each of the four kinds of orcs. So as you run through
the initiative order, all the orc warriors act at once, all
the orc raiders go together, and so on.
Individual monsters can delay and ready actions
just like other monsters, so it’s possible you’ll end
up with the two orc raiders acting at different times
by the time the encounter is over. Monsters can also
ready within their turn without shifting their place
in the initiative order. For example, the orc raiders
can both move into a flanking position and then both
attack with combat advantage. Technically, the first

one to move would have to ready its attack until the
other one moved into position, but it all works out the
same in the end.

Tracking Initiative
Different DMs use different methods to track initiative
order in combat. Use the one that works best for you
and your players. The two key factors about tracking
combat order are how you handle readying and delaying, and if the players can see the initiative order.
Combat Cards: One effective method of tracking
initiative and other details of combat is with index
cards. Each character gets a card, and each group of
identical monsters gets a card. When the players tell
you their initiative check results, write the numbers on
their PC combat cards and arrange them in order with
the highest result on top, then insert the monsters’
cards. Then move through the stack, starting at the
top. After each character acts, move his or her card to
the back of the stack.
If a character readies an action, it’s a good idea to
shift the position of the card—turn it so it sticks out
from the stack, for example. Then when the character
takes the readied action, pull the card and insert it
into the stack in the correct new place (either before or
after the creature that triggered the action). If a character delays, you can do the same thing. Alternatively
(particularly if you have a large group), you can hand

CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 38

3/12/08 4:10:07 PM


As a further improvement, use magnets that you
can attach to the white board with characters’ and
monsters’ names written on them. Moving these
elements around is even easier than erasing and
A visible list lets everyone see the order of play as
you go. Players know when their turns are coming up,
and they can start planning their actions in advance.
On the down side, a visible list involves erasing and
rewriting, which can slow down the action in complicated battles.
A variation on the visible list is having one of the
players keep track of initiative, either on a white board
or on a piece of paper the other players can see. This
method reduces your mental processing load, freeing
you up to think about the rest of what’s going on at
the table. On the other hand, it can be hard for you to
remember when the monsters’ turns are coming up!
List Behind the Screen: You can also keep track
of initiative on a list the players can’t see: either your
own private white board or a piece of scratch paper.
Some argue that this combines the worst features of
the other two methods: Players have no visibility into
the order, and it involves erasing and rewriting. However, some DMs feel that it keeps control of the battle
where it belongs—solidly in the DM’s hands.

W I L L I A M O ’ CO N N O R

the combat card to the player and give him or her the
responsibility of telling you when he or she is jumping
back into the action.
The players don’t have much knowledge of the
order of play when you use combat cards. They don’t
know where the monsters fall into the order until they
act, which some DMs enjoy. On the other hand, they
often forget when their turn is coming up. It can be
helpful, when you call out the name of the character
whose turn it is, to also mention who’s next so that
player can start thinking ahead.
Example combat cards, one for PCs and one for
monsters, can be found on page 220.
Visible List: You can use a white board to track
initiative. As the players tell you their initiative check
results, write them on the white board in order (highest results on top), leaving room between each name.
You can either write the monster results on the list at
the same time or add them to the list on each monster’s first turn.
When a character readies an action, make a mark
next to that character’s name in the order. When the
character takes the readied action, erase the character
from his or her old position on the list and add him or
her back in at the new position. If a character delays,
you can do the same thing, or you can erase the character from the list and let the player tell you when he
or she is jumping back in.

CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 39

3/12/08 4:10:10 PM

Running Combat
Chapter 9 of the Player’s Handbook tells you everything
you need to know about the mechanics of combat.
Here are some tips to help you keep things moving

Describing the Circumstances
“Dispensing Information” (page 26) discusses the
information you should give your players that is most
important in combat encounters: Avoid unfairly hitting
them with “Gotcha!” abilities, be sure to communicate
conditions and states, and alert them to possible dangers and hazards in their environment.

Monsters and Fallen Characters
Don’t hit people when they’re down. When a character falls unconscious, monsters turn their attention to
enemies who are still up and fighting. Monsters don’t
usually intentionally deal damage to fallen foes.
Some monsters are interested only in eating, and
might drag a fallen character away from the combat
to enjoy a peaceful meal. Usually these creatures are
lurker monsters that are attached to other encounters,
such as a lone cavern choker. Dragging a character
away is slow going (unless the monster is very strong),
so the other characters should always have a chance to
rescue their fallen allies.

Legitimate Targets
When a power has an effect that occurs upon hitting a
target—or reducing a target to 0 hit points—the power
functions only when the target in question is a meaningful threat. Characters can gain no benefit from
carrying a sack of rats in hopes of healing their allies
by hitting the rats.
When a power’s effect involves a character’s allies,
use common sense when determining how many allies
can be affected. D&D is a game about adventuring parties fighting groups of monsters, not the clash of armies.
A warlord’s power might, read strictly, be able to give
a hundred “allies” a free basic attack, but that doesn’t
mean that warlord characters should assemble armies to
march before them into the dungeon. In general, a power’s effect should be limited to a squad-sized group—the
size of your player character group plus perhaps one or
two friendly NPCs—not hired soldiers or lantern-bearers.

Tracking Individual Monsters
Tracking individual, identical monsters once they start
taking damage or using rechargeable powers strains
your brain’s processing power. One way to help differentiate monsters of the same kind is to use different
miniatures for each individual. On a piece of scratch
paper, you can track hit points and power use for each
monster next to a brief description of the miniature
you’re using for it. You can also tag the miniatures with

small stickers of different shapes or colors.
You can also just note which character each monster
is currently attacking. If you know that the worg attacking Rieta has 14 hit points left, then if Rieta attacks—or
the wizard attacks “the one that’s on Rieta”—you know
where to mark off the resulting damage.
One way to keep rechargeable powers simple is to
initially have all the monsters use the same rechargeable power for the first time in the same round. For
example, in the second round of combat, when they’re
all in good positions, all the hell hounds use their breath
weapons. Then each time an individual hell hound acts,
roll to see if its breath weapon recharges, and use it if
it does. When a hell hound is taking an action other
than using its breath weapon, you know that its breath
weapon is not charged. All you need think about is the
recharge roll at the start of each creature’s turn.
The simplest way doesn’t always work, of course.
Smart monsters don’t always use rechargeable powers
as soon as they recharge, for example, and monsters
with more than one rechargeable power complicate
things. In these cases, track limited powers the same
way you track hit points.

Tracking Conditions and Effects
Keeping track of conditions can get tricky. For monsters, use the same techniques discussed above. Note
conditions and effects on combat cards or wherever
you track initiative.
The players should remember any conditions in
place on their characters. However, they could forget,
since they have little incentive to remember hampering conditions, though they might honestly try. Mark
character conditions on combat cards or a white
board. You might also try keeping a supply of index
cards marked with conditions (and the effects of those
conditions) and handing the cards to players as the
conditions come up. Having a bright pink index card
on top of his or her character sheet helps even the
most absent-minded player remember a condition, and
remember to roll a save to get rid of it.
Players should also remember which monsters
they’ve marked as special targets (such as with a paladin’s divine challenge or a fighter’s reign of terror). Place
cardboard or magnetic counters by the miniatures of
designated targets to help everyone remember what
effects are in place. Similar tokens can also remind the
players which monsters are bloodied—and help you
remember the same thing about characters.

What the Bad Guys Do
Monsters and even nonplayer characters don’t have
the same breadth of options in combat that player
characters do. Often one power builds on the effect
of another. Don’t hold onto monsters or NPCs’ best
powers. If you do, often they die before getting a
chance to use them. Start with the big guns.

CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 40

3/12/08 4:10:12 PM

After an Encounter
When an encounter is over, you need to address
lasting consequences, scouring the room, rest, and
encounter rewards.
Encounter Consequences: Encounters don’t occur
in a vacuum. What happens in one encounter impacts
future encounters—and the adventure.
Did any of the PCs’ opponents escape? If so, you
need to determine what the fleeing foes do. Most intelligent creatures look for safe refuge or reinforcements.
The same monsters, healed and ready for more action,
might be waiting in another room, along with more
powerful allies.
Did the PCs kill an NPC that’s important to the
adventure’s plot? Make note of how that character’s
death affects the ongoing plot.
Searching the Room: PCs use Perception checks
to find anything of interest in the room, such as treasure chests, secret doors, or a holy symbol of Zehir
hidden on the body of the supposedly good priest of
Pelor they just captured. The PCs scour the room,
rolling a lot of Perception checks. Unless the characters are under a time constraint, assume that they’re
going to roll a 20 eventually, and use the best possible
Perception check result for the party. (Effectively, this
result equals the best passive Perception check +10.)
Assume the characters spend a minute or two searching, and move on to tell them what they find.
A published adventure tells you what there is to be
found in a room and how hard it is to find. For your
own adventures, use the Difficulty Class and Damage
by Level table on page 42, with these guidelines:

Perception DC

What the PCs Might Find
Anything valuable in a chest full of junk
A valuable item tucked away in an
unlikely place
A secret latch or compartment
An average secret door

Resting Up: When combat has ended, PCs can
quickly restore their strength with a short rest, or take
an extended rest to get back to full health, fully refresh
their powers, and reset their action points (see “Rest
and Recovery” on page 263 in the Player’s Handbook).
Encounter Rewards: Typical encounter rewards
are experience points (XP), action points tied to milestones, and treasure. Chapter 7 discusses each kind of
reward in detail.
Experience Points: You can give characters XP at
the end of every encounter, or wait until they take an
extended rest, or wait until the end of the game session. Simply divide the XP total for the encounter by
the number of characters present.
Action Points: If the characters have reached a milestone, give them 1 action point.
Quest Rewards: If the players have completed a
major quest or minor quest, tell them so, and give
them XP for completing it after their next extended
rest, or at the end of the game session.
Treasure: The PCs might also find treasure, either in
the form of wealth or as magic items they can use. The
players can decide among themselves how to divide
the treasure they find.


Basic Tactics: The Monster Manual suggests basic
tactics for the monsters in its pages. Your first guide
to a monster’s behavior in combat, though, is its role.
Artillery monsters avoid melee and favor their ranged
attacks. Skirmishers move a lot and avoid the front
line. Soldiers and brutes engage the party’s defenders
and leaders. Controllers position themselves to make
best use of their abilities.
Smart Monsters: Smart monsters act differently
in combat than dumb ones do. Look at the monster’s
Intelligence score to help you decide what it does. Smart
creatures plan their actions and choose the best course
of action. A vampire might focus its attacks on the cleric
who keeps hitting it with radiant damage. Less intelligent creatures don’t plan, they react. A wolf turns to bite
the last opponent that hurt it or the nearest enemy.

Typically, encounters are separated by a short rest and
some amount of travel time, even if it’s as little as crossing
the room to open the next door. An encounter ends when
the monsters are dead or have fled and the characters take
a short rest to regain hit points and encounter powers. The
next encounter begins when the characters engage new
Effects that last “until the end of the encounter” actually last about 5 minutes. That means they never carry over
from one encounter to another, as long as those encounters
are separated by a short rest. If characters use them outside
combat, or plow through multiple encounters without taking
a short rest, they enjoy the effect for a full 5 minutes.
What if characters don’t take a short rest? Sometimes
they feel as though they can’t—they have to get to the high
priest’s chamber before the assassin strikes! Sometimes
they just choose not to, perhaps because they hope to
enjoy the benefit of an effect that lasts until the encounter
ends. In any event, starting a new encounter without the
benefit of a short rest after the last one makes the new
encounter more challenging.
If you’re designing encounters in which you expect characters to move from one to the next without a rest, treat the
two events as a single encounter. If the characters surprise
you by running on to a new encounter without resting, it
might be worth scaling back the new encounter a bit.

CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 41

3/12/08 4:10:13 PM

A few combat situations come up rarely enough that
the rules for them intentionally aren’t covered in the
Player’s Handbook—in particular, mounted combat and
combat underwater.

Actions the Rules
Don’t Cover
Your presence as the Dungeon Master is what makes
D&D such a great game. You make it possible for the
players to try anything they can imagine. That means
it’s your job to resolve unusual actions when the players try them.
Use the “DM’s Best Friend”: This simple guideline
helps you adjudicate any unusual situation: An especially favorable circumstance gives a +2 bonus to a check
or an attack roll (or it gives combat advantage). A particularly unfavorable circumstance gives a –2 penalty.
Cast the Action as a Check: If a character tries
an action that might fail, use a check to resolve it. To
do that, you need to know what kind of check it is and
what the DC is.
Attacks: If the action is essentially an attack, use an
attack roll. It might involve a weapon and target AC, or
it might just be a Strength or Dexterity check against
any defense. For an attack, use the appropriate defense
of the target. Use an opposed check for anything that
involves a contest between two creatures.
Other Checks: If the action is related to a skill (Acrobatics and Athletics cover a lot of the stunts characters
try in combat), use that check. If it is not an obvious
skill or attack roll, use an ability check. Consult the
Difficulty Class and Damage by Level table below,
and set the DC according to whether you think the
task should be easy, hard, or somewhere in between. A
quick rule of thumb is to start with a DC of 10 (easy),
15 (moderate), or 20 (hard) and add one-half the character’s level.

Setting Improvised Damage: Sometimes you
need to set damage for something not covered in the
rules—a character stumbles into the campfire or falls
into a vat of acid, for example. Choose a column on
the Difficulty Class and Damage table based on the
severity of the effect. Use a normal damage expression for something that might make an attack round
after round, or something that’s relatively minor.
These numbers are comparable to a monster’s at-will
attack. Use a limited damage expression, comparable
to a monster’s special powers, for one-time damaging
effects or massive damage.
Example: Shiera the 8th-level rogue wants to try
the classic swashbuckling move of swinging on a
chandelier and kicking an ogre in the chest on her
way down to the ground, hoping to push the ogre into
the brazier of burning coals behind it. An Acrobatics
check seems reasonable.
This sort of action is exactly the kind of thinking
you want to encourage, so you pick an easy DC: The
table says DC 15, but it’s a skill check, so make it DC
20. If she makes that check, she gets a hold on the
chandelier and swings to the ogre.
Then comes the kicking. She’s more interested in
the push than in dealing any damage with the kick
itself, so have her make a Strength attack against the
ogre’s Fortitude. If she pulls it off, let her push the ogre
1 square and into the brazier, and find an appropriate
damage number.
Use a normal damage expression from the table,
because once the characters see this trick work they’ll
try anything they can to keep pushing the ogres into
the brazier. You can safely use the high value, though—
2d8 + 5 fire damage. If Shiera had used a 7th-level
encounter power and Sneak Attack, she might have
dealt 4d6 (plus her Dexterity modifier), so you’re not
giving away too much with this damage.

Difficulty Class (DC) Values
Normal Damage Expressions
Easy Moderate Hard
1d6 + 3 1d10 + 3
2d6 + 3
1d6 + 4 1d10 + 4
2d8 + 4
1d8 + 5
2d6 + 5
2d8 + 5
1d8 + 5
2d6 + 5
3d6 + 5
1d10 + 6
2d8 + 6
3d6 + 6
1d10 + 7
2d8 + 7
3d8 + 7
2d6 + 7
3d6 + 8
3d8 + 7
22nd–24th 23
2d6 + 8
3d6 + 8
4d6 + 8
2d8 + 9
3d8 + 9
4d6 + 9
2d8 + 10 3d8 + 10 4d8 + 10
For skill checks: Increase DCs by 5
For attacks with weapons or against AC: Increase DCs by 2

Limited Damage Expressions
3d6 + 3 2d10 + 3
3d8 + 3
3d6 + 4
3d8 + 4 3d10 + 4
3d8 + 5 3d10 + 5
4d8 + 5
3d8 + 5
4d8 + 5 4d10 + 5
3d10 + 6
4d8 + 6 4d10 + 6
3d10 + 6 4d10 + 7 4d12 + 7
4d8 + 7 4d10 + 7 4d12 + 7
4d8 + 8 4d12 + 8 5d10 + 8
4d10 + 9 5d10 + 9 5d12 + 9
4d10 + 9 5d10 + 9 5d12 + 9

CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 42

3/12/08 4:10:14 PM

The rules in the Player’s Handbook for determining
cover are straightforward. A creature that’s around a
corner from the attacker, or protected by terrain, has
cover. A significant terrain advantage gives superior
cover. Most of the time, those rules are the only rules
you need.
As the referee, you decide based on common sense
whether a creature has cover against an attack. If you
want rules that can let you determine cover more precisely, you can use these. They’re the same rules that
appear in the D&D Miniatures game. In D&D, though,
we recommend that you make a quick decision about
cover and move on to the fun.

Melee Attacks
Cover in melee comes up most often when the target
is in a square at the corner of the attacker’s space and
a wall or other solid obstacle fills one of the squares
between them. If the target of the attack occupies the
same square as a pillar or tree, that terrain also grants
cover. If the attacker is trying to jab the target between
the bars of a portcullis, the target has superior cover.

✦ Attacker’s Burden: For ranged attacks, the attacker
has to prove that he has a clear shot. That proof consists of one corner in his space that has clear lines to
every corner of the target’s space.
✦ Choose a Corner: The attacker chooses one corner
of a square he occupies, and draws imaginary lines
from that corner to every corner of any one square the
defender occupies. If none of those lines are blocked
by a solid object or an enemy creature, the attacker
has a clear shot. The defender doesn’t have cover. (A
line that runs parallel right along a wall isn’t blocked.)



✦ Cover: If you can’t find a clear shot, the target has
cover. No matter which corner in your space you
choose, one or two lines from that corner to every
corner in the defender’s space are blocked.
✦ Superior Cover: The defender has superior cover
if no matter which corner in your space you choose
and no matter which square of the target’s space you
choose, three or four lines are blocked. If four lines
are blocked from every corner, you can’t target the

Close and Area Attacks
✦ Defender’s Burden: The target of a melee attack
has to prove that it has cover. That proof consists of
a line between the attacker and the defender that is
blocked by a solid object.
✦ Corner to Corner: The defender has cover if an
imaginary line from a corner of the attacker’s space
to a corner of the defender’s space is blocked.
✦ Getting Technical: If you need to be extremely
precise, choose a square the attacker occupies and
a square the defender occupies. Draw an imaginary
line from every corner of the attacker’s space to every
corner of the defender’s space. If even one line is
obstructed, the defender has cover. (A line that runs
parallel right along a wall isn’t blocked.)
✦ Superior Cover: Only specific terrain features (such
as grates and arrow slits) grant superior cover from
melee attacks.

Ranged Attacks

Close and area attacks work very much like ranged
attacks except that you care about the origin square
of the effect, not the creature that creates it. A tree
between a creature and the center of a fireball helps
protect that creature from the blast, not a tree between
the creature and the wizard casting the spell.
Also unlike ranged attacks, creatures don’t provide
cover. An orc in a fireball doesn’t get any protection
from the other orc standing between it and the center
of the fireball.
✦ Like Ranged Attacks: You determine cover for
these attacks in the same way as for ranged attacks,
with two exceptions:
✦ Origin, Not Attacker: Treat the origin square of the
effect as the attacker’s square.
✦ Creatures Aren’t Cover: Creatures don’t provide cover
against close and area attacks.

Cover comes up a lot more often for ranged attacks,
simply because it’s harder for the attacker to move
into a position with a clear shot. In melee, a character
can usually shift 1 square to avoid attacking around a
corner and negate most cover. A ranged attacker might
have to move halfway across the battlefield to get a
clear shot at a target taking cover around a corner. In
addition to shooting a creature partially protected by a
corner, an important situation to remember for ranged
cover is the presence of other enemies (potential targets) between the attacker and the target.
CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 43

3/12/08 4:10:14 PM

Forced Movement
and Terrain
Many creatures have ways to move others around on
the field of battle. “Pull, Push, and Slide” on page 285
of the Player’s Handbook discusses the general rules for
forced movement. One extra wrinkle that might come
up in your game is how forced movement interacts
with various kinds of terrain.
✦ Difficult Terrain: Forced movement isn’t hindered
by difficult terrain.
✦ Blocking Terrain: Forced movement can’t move a
creature through blocking terrain (page 61). Every
square along the path must be a space the creature
could normally occupy.
✦ Challenging Terrain: Forced movement can
make some powers more effective or hinder them,
depending on the specific challenging terrain
(page 61). The DM can require the target of forced
movement to make a check as if it were moving
voluntarily across the terrain, with the same consequence for failure.
✦ Hindering Terrain: Forced movement can force
targets into hindering terrain (page 61). Targets
forced into hindering terrain receive a saving throw
immediately before entering the unsafe square they
are forced into. Success leaves the target prone at
the edge of the square before entering the unsafe
If the power that forced the target to move allows
the creature that used the power to follow the target
into the square that the target would have left, the
creature can’t enter the square where the target has
fallen prone.
If forced movement pushes a Large or larger creature over an edge, the creature doesn’t fall until its
entire space is over the edge. On the creature’s next
turn, it must either move to a space it can occupy or
use a move action to squeeze into the smaller space
at the edge of the precipice.
A DM can allow a power that pushes a target
more than 1 square to carry the target completely
over hindering terrain.

Using forced movement to pull, push, or slide a creature onto ice, or into a pit, or into a cloud of daggers is
a clever tactic.
Challenging terrain can make forced movement
powers more effective, but it can also hinder them,
depending on the specific terrain. For example, if a
white dragon pushes a character over slick ice, you
could tell the character to make an Acrobatics check

or fall prone. On the flip side, if a shambling mound
pushes a character through thick mud, which might
require an Athletics check to move through at the cost
of paying an extra square of movement, you might let
the character use the mud to slow his or her movement,
reducing the distance he or she is pushed by 1 square.
Targets of forced movement in hindering terrain
(pits, precipices, fire) can avoid plunging into a pit or
over the edge of a cliff or being pushed into a raging
fire. The creature makes a saving throw rolled immediately before entering the unsafe square, with success
leaving the creature prone at the edge of the precipice.
If the power used to move the creature would allow
the character using the power to follow the target
into the square it leaves, the character can’t enter
the square where the creature has fallen prone. For
example, a fighter who bull rushes an orc off a cliff
can’t move into the square of the prone orc when the
orc catches itself at the edge.
At your option, you can allow a power that pushes
the target more than 1 square to carry the target over
hindering terrain in the way. You might imagine a
titan with push 3 knocking a character clear over a pit
to land in a heap on the other side.
Some powers specifically have this effect, and it’s
probably not a good idea to extend it to others. Rely on
how you imagine the power working in the world. If
you see the blow lifting a creature off the ground, particularly if it leaves him or her prone at the end of the
push, you can decide that the power throws the target
over hindering terrain along the way.

Precipitous Terrain
When you design an encounter area, don’t put 1st-level
characters in a fight at the edge of an 80-foot cliff. The
8d10 points of damage from falling off that cliff would
be lethal even to the group’s fighter.
The table below classifies the distances of falls
according to their severity by character level. A painful
fall does significant damage to characters of the indicated levels, but shouldn’t kill a character who’s not yet
bloodied. A perilous fall might kill a bloodied character, and could leave even a character at full health
bloodied. A deadly fall could kill a fragile character,
will probably make a character bloodied, and threatens significant harm even to a character who has more
hit points than any of his companions.


20 ft.
30 ft.
40 ft.
60 ft.
80 ft.
90 ft.

30 ft.
50 ft.
70 ft.
90 ft.
110 ft.
130 ft.

40 ft.
70 ft.
110 ft.
140 ft.
170 ft.
200 ft.

CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 44

3/12/08 4:10:15 PM

Fighting underwater is tricky business for landdwelling adventurers and creatures. Water provides
resistance against movement, swirling currents grab
and drag a swimmer along, and tempestuous waters
immobilize all but expert swimmers.
When fighting underwater, the following modifiers
✦ Creatures using powers that have the fire keyword
take a –2 penalty to attack rolls.
✦ Characters using weapons from the spear and
crossbow weapon groups take no penalties to attack
rolls with those weapons while fighting underwater.
Characters using any other weapon take a –2 penalty
to attack rolls.
✦ Creatures move using their swim speed. A creature
without a swim speed must use the Athletics skill to
swim, as described in the Player’s Handbook.
✦ Aquatic: Creatures native to watery environments
have the aquatic ability. They gain a +2 bonus to
attack rolls against opponents that do not have
this ability. Aquatic monsters, such as sahuagin, are
noted as such.

Underwater Terrain
The most important underwater terrain is the water
itself—especially when the water is moving.
✦ Current: A current drags creatures along its path.
When you swim into a current, you move a distance
and direction according to the current’s strength and
in the direction where it flows. This is a slide effect,
with the distance and direction determined by the
current. If you wish to fight against a current, you can
spend squares of movement to reduce the distance
the current slides you. You can reduce the distance
partially, or decrease it down to zero, provided that
you have enough movement to do so.
If a current slides you into another square with a
current, you ignore that square’s current. This applies
to all squares the current moves you into, including
the destination.
Current terrain on maps indicates the direction
the current slides you and the distance in squares
that the current moves you.

✦ Other Terrain: Difficult terrain, cover, and concealment all exist in watery realms. The ruins of a
sunken ship provide cover, while dirt kicked up by
powerful currents grants concealment. Choppy,
storm-churned seas act as difficult terrain. Best of all,
underwater battles allow for up-and-down movement. Creatures can attack the characters from all
directions, not just along the ground.

Movement in Three Dimensions


Aquatic Combat

Aquatic and aerial encounters force you to think in
three dimensions. Any DM who has had a monster
directly below a PC knows how annoying it is to stack
several miniatures in one square.
Define an arbitrary elevation, preferably the one
where most of the encounter takes place, as “ground”
level. Creatures are all positioned above or below the
action relative to that altitude.
Placing a small d6 or d4 next to a figure is a good
way to measure its distance above or below this level.
The number on the die shows how many squares
the creature is above or below the baseline. Use dice
of one color to mark creatures below the fight and
another color for those above.
When a monster is directly above or below a PC,
you can squeeze its miniature into the same place.
Although crowded, placing the two miniatures in the
same square still works well enough. If you are worried about figures being knocked over or accidentally
pushed into the wrong square, pull the miniatures off
the table and use smaller proxies, such as the dice that
measure elevation, in their place.
Determining range against creatures above or
below you is straightforward. Look at the distance
between the two creatures as if they were at the same
elevation, counting squares as normal. Then count the
difference between their elevations. Use the higher of
these two numbers.
Since D&D counts diagonal movement the same
as movement across the edges of squares, this method
works out well. If a creature is far away from another,
you can trace a path that shifts upward via diagonals
for free. The opposite is true for a creature that is
almost directly above another: As you trace its range
up to it, you can choose a path that shifts sideways
diagonally and up.

CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 45

3/12/08 4:10:16 PM

Mounted Combat
A valiant knight and his fearless warhorse charge a
blue dragon. The dwarf cavalry of the Barrier Peaks
takes to its hippogriffs to repel a flight of rampaging
harpies. A drow scout patrol rides monstrous spiders
across a cavern’s ceiling, watching for surface dwellers foolish enough to blunder into its territory. From a
mundane horse to a snarling wyvern, mounted D&D
warriors have many options.
Mounts offer three basic advantages to riders. They
are faster than most humanoids, they can offer movement modes such as flight and swimming, and the
more ferocious of them combine their fighting abilities
with their riders’ attacks.
The mounted combat rules define the relationship
between a rider and a mount. The rules combine the
actions and options of the two creatures, as though
mount and rider were a single creature.

Encounters with PC Mounts
These rules exist to let the PCs use mounts in the easiest, most balanced way. When you decide that the evil
wizard rides a wyvern, you add the NPC and the monster to the encounter as normal and let them take their
full actions separately. The evil wizard moves along
with the wyvern, but both monsters get to attack. The
encounter is balanced because you accounted for both
of their XP values.
You can allow the PCs and the creatures they ride to
get their own sets of actions, especially if a character rides
a powerful, intelligent monster such as a dragon. However, at that point you have effectively added an additional
member to the party. If you do this, add an additional XP
value of monsters to the encounter equal to the mounts’
XP value. When granting the PCs experience, subtract
these “bonus” monsters from the XP total.
You should use this rule if the mount’s level is at the
party’s level or higher, or if its level is no more than
two below the characters’ level. Lower-level mounts
are too weak to have a big effect on the encounter. As
usual, use your common sense. If a lower-level mount
manages to prove a big help to the party, add extra
creatures and hold back XP as above.
✦ Size: Your mount must be larger than you, and no
smaller than Large size.
✦ Adjacent: You must be adjacent to a creature to
mount it.
✦ Willing: You can use a creature as a mount only if it
is willing.
✦ Saddles: The rules assume that you ride a creature
with a saddle. If you lack a saddle, you take a –2
penalty to attack rolls, AC, and Reflex defense while

✦ Mounted Combat: Anyone can simply ride along
with a beast of burden without using the Mounted
Combat feat. The Mounted Combat feat allows
you to make the most of a mount’s abilities. When
you have the Mounted Combat feat and you ride a
creature, you gain access to any special mount abilities it confers to its rider. (Not every creature has
these abilities.) While you are riding a creature with
Mounted Combat, the creature can make any Athletics, Acrobatics, Endurance, or Stealth checks using
your base skill check bonus rather than its own if
yours is better.
✦ Space: You and your mount occupy the mount’s
space. If it is ever important to determine the precise
location within the mount’s space that you occupy,
you choose.
✦ Targeting: Targeted attacks can target you or your
mount, as the attacker chooses. A close attack or an
area attack affects both you and your mount if its
area includes either of you.
✦ Mount Benefits: Many mounts offer special attacks
or benefits they can use or grant to their riders.
These abilities range from flat bonuses, such as an
AC bonus to the rider, to special attacks that the
mount can use. The Monster Manual details the
benefits that many creatures grant if you meet a minimum level and have the Mounted Combat feat. If
you don’t meet a mount’s prerequisites, you can ride
it, but you don’t gain the mount’s special benefits.
✦ Opportunity Attacks: If your mount’s movement provokes an opportunity attack, the attacker
chooses to target either you or your mount. If you
provoke an opportunity attack by making a ranged
attack, the attacker must target you.
✦ Forced Movement: If an attack that forces movement targets you but not your mount, you can
choose for your mount to also be affected, so that
you and your mount continue to move together. If
you don’t want your mount to be affected, you can
be pushed off your mount if the forced movement
carries you out of the mount’s space.
✦ Mounting and Dismounting: Mounting or dismounting a creature is a standard action.
✦ Initiative: You and your mount both act on your
initiative count. If you and your mount separate, you
both continue acting on the same initiative count.
✦ Actions: On your turn, you and your mount combined can take a normal set of actions—a standard
action, a move action, and a minor action. You
divide these actions as you wish. Most commonly,
your mount takes a move action to walk or fly, and

CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 46

3/12/08 4:10:17 PM

✦ Attacking Mounts: Your mount can use a standard
action to attack instead of you. If you don’t have the
Mounted Combat feat, your mount takes a –2 penalty to all its attack rolls.
✦ Charge: If you charge, you can move your mount’s
speed and either make a melee basic attack yourself
or let your mount make a melee basic attack.
✦ Squeezing: If your mount squeezes, it and you both
take the associated penalties.
✦ Mounts in Enclosed Spaces: Mounts native to
outdoor areas don’t like being cramped into tight
dungeon rooms and corridors, and take a –2 penalty
to attacks and defenses if forced into a confined
space. Mounts native to subterranean regions (such
as blade spiders and carrion crawlers) don’t take this
penalty, and the penalty doesn’t apply in an underground area large enough to seem like it’s outdoors
(at least 50 feet in every direction).
✦ Knocked Prone: An attack that knocks your mount
prone also forces you to dismount. You move into
a space of your choice adjacent to the now-prone
If an attack knocks you prone, you immediately
attempt a saving throw to avoid being dismounted.
This saving throw works just like a normal saving
throw, except you make it as soon as you are
knocked prone, not at the end of your turn.
Lower than 10: Failure. You are dismounted and
fall prone in an open space of your choice adjacent
to the mount.
10 or higher: Success. You remain in the saddle
and are not knocked prone.

Mounts in the Game
Mounts are the most fun when used as part of wilderness adventures, mass battles, and other situations
where the characters have open spaces to fight in and
long distances to cover. In such situations, you can give
the PCs’ enemies mounts of their own.
Keep an eye out for traps, narrow corridors that
require squeezing, and other effects that make mounts
less than useful in dungeons. In addition, wild animals such as griffons typically dislike enclosed spaces.
Apply a –2 penalty to such a creature’s attacks and
defenses if it is forced inside. Be sure to make such
penalties clear to the players so that their characters
can plan and react appropriately.
If you have any doubts about the effect that mounts
have on the campaign, keep them on the sidelines
or create story reasons to limit them. For example,
the PCs might gain the use of a flight of griffons, but
only when they undertake specific missions on the elf

king’s behalf. Be forthright with the players. Let them
know that they can have cool mounts within the limits
you set before they get a chance to use them. Open
communication and honesty are the best answers to
any problems that arise in the game.

The rules for fighting in the air stress abstraction and
simplicity over simulation. In real life, a flying creature’s ability to turn, the speed it must maintain to stay
aloft, and other factors put a strict limit on flight. In
D&D, flying creatures face far fewer limitations.


you take a standard action to attack. You and your
mount also share a single immediate action. If you
and your mount separate, you still share one set of
actions on that turn.

The Fly Action
Unless otherwise noted below, a flying creature moves
like a creature that walks on the ground. It can turn as
often as it wants, move backward, and so on. Unless a
special ability or a portion of the fly action says otherwise, it moves like it does for any other mode.
✦ Movement: Fly a number of squares up to your fly
✦ Moving Up and Down: While flying, you can fly
straight up, straight down, or diagonally up or down.
There is no additional cost for moving up or down.
✦ Remaining in the Air: If you fail to fly at least 2
squares during your turn, whether due to not moving
far enough or simply not using the fly action, you
crash at the end of your turn.
✦ Landing and Crashing: If a creature flies to a
surface it can hold onto or rest upon, it can land. A
creature that accidentally flies into an object, such as
an invisible wall, immediately crashes.
✦ Double Fly: If you fly twice in a row on the same
turn, you can fly a total number of squares equal
to double your speed. Normally, you cannot end a
move in an ally’s space. If you double fly, you can
pass through an ally’s space even if your first fly
action would otherwise leave you in its space.
✦ Provokes Opportunity Attacks: If you leave a
square that is adjacent to an enemy, that enemy can
make an opportunity attack.
✦ No Opportunity Attacks: A flying creature cannot
make opportunity attacks.
✦ Knocked Prone: A flying creature that is knocked
prone crashes.

Flight is a fast form of movement that allows a traveler to avoid obstacles and swoop over enemies, but it
comes with a major drawback. Tumbling from the sky
and crashing to the earth is risk enough to keep many
adventurers safe on the ground.
CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 47

3/12/08 4:10:17 PM

Crashing: Most of the time, a creature that falls from
the air slams into the ground and takes falling damage
as normal (see page 284 of the Player’s Handbook).
However, sometimes a creature is high enough in the
air or is a skilled enough flier that it can avoid a crash

on the ground to fight. A creature using overland flight
loses its minor, immediate, and standard actions while
it flies, and can use its move action only to fly. The
number associated with overland flight is the number
of squares the monster moves with a single move
action. If it takes actions to do anything else, it crashes.

✦ Safe Distance: A flying creature that crashes immediately drops a distance equal to its fly speed. If it
reaches the ground, it lands safely.

Aerial Terrain

✦ Falling: If the flier has not yet reached the ground, it
✦ Crashes: A creature that crashes falls all the way to
the ground and takes falling damage.
High-Altitude Crashes: Some encounters take place
high above the ground. You need only the following
two rules if a flying creature crashes thousands of feet
above the ground.
✦ Extreme Altitudes: It is possible that a creature far
above the ground can spend more than a round falling to the ground. As a rule of thumb, a creature that
crashes falls 100 squares after checking for its safe
distance. If it is still in the air, it can attempt to stop
its descent by flying again.
✦ Halting a Descent: Halting a descent is a special
Athletics check made as a standard action. It is a DC
30 check, with a bonus to the check equal to the
creature’s fly speed. On a success, the creature pulls
out of its fall and stops falling. It must still use a move
action to fly.

Special Flying Rules
Many flying creatures have additional abilities related
to flight. Here are the common abilities that modify
Altitude Limit: A monster that has an altitude
limit can’t fly more than the indicated number of
squares off the ground. If it flies higher than this limit,
it crashes at the end of its turn even if it drops back
below the limit.
Clumsy Flying: A clumsy flier takes a –4 penalty
to attack rolls and defenses while flying. These creatures are ill suited to fighting in the air.
Clumsy Grounded: A creature that is clumsy when
grounded takes a –4 penalty to attack rolls and defenses
when on the ground, not flying. Such creatures are at
home while flying, and due to their anatomy or training
fare poorly on the ground. For example, a bat is agile in
the air but clumsy on the ground.
Hover: A monster that can hover can shift and
make opportunity attacks while flying. It remains
flying even if it does not move the minimum distance
normally needed to remain aloft. It stays in the air
even if it takes no move actions to fly.
Overland Flight: Overland flight applies to creatures that fly to move from place to place but remain

Difficult terrain for a flying creature includes flying
debris, swirling air currents, and other factors that
interfere with flight. Clouds provide concealment,
while towers, floating castles, and other structures
provide cover. In addition, use the rules for current
under “Aquatic Combat” (see page 45) to model strong
gusts of wind.

Fight in the Skies
It’s fun to knock someone from the skies, but it can be
a real drag when fights take place far, far above the
surface. The distance a creature falls when crashing is
great enough that it likely must spend several rounds
doing nothing but moving to return to the melee.
You don’t need to invent reasons why a combatant
that crashes but manages to recover quickly returns
to the fight. If anything, a monster that rises back to
the melee just as the characters think they have won
makes for a nasty surprise.
Keep in mind the possibility of a crash when building encounters in the air. Creatures that knock their
foes prone are the biggest cause of crashes.
On the other hand, the threat of a crash adds a lot of
tension to the game. Use it in moderation, or plan your
adventures to account for splitting the party between
characters who stay in the air and those who crash.

Aerial Combat Complexities
When you are running a battle in the air, groundbased elements allow you to add in terrain and a lot
more complexity than you might find in a clear sky.
Grounded monsters using ranged weapons are the easiest element to add, while soaring rock spires, towers,
and other tall terrain details give the characters and
their enemies stuff to swoop around.
In an enclosed environment, such as an Underdark
cavern or an enormous building, ledges can hang
above the fliers, mounted on the chamber’s roof or
high on its walls. Add in these platforms to attack
fliers from two directions or give walking creatures a
chance to jump down upon fliers who draw too close.
A readied action to jump on a passing flier makes for
an interesting complication or a truly heroic action.

Using a Reference Point
The dwarf crew of an airship works furiously to coax as
much speed from its arcane engines as possible. Meanwhile, a flight of marauding gnolls on winged demons

CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 48

3/12/08 4:10:18 PM

When creatures are exposed to a disease—from the
bite of a disease-carrying monster, immersion in filthy
swamp water, or infected food—they risk contracting
the disease.
✦ Infection: When you are exposed to a disease, you
risk becoming infected. If you are infected, you suffer
the initial effect of the disease and begin to move on
the disease track.

Monster Attacks: Make a saving throw at the end
of the encounter. If the saving throw fails, you are
Other Exposure: For other kinds of exposure (environmental or food), the disease makes an attack roll.
If the disease’s attack hits, you are infected.
Prolonged Exposure: If a character spends a long
time exposed to disease, the disease makes one
attack roll per day of exposure.
✦ Disease Track: Every disease has at least three
states, arrayed on a a row of effects called the disease’s track: cured (the target is no longer affected),
the disease’s initial effect, and the disease’s final state.
Initial Effect: When you become infected, you
suffer the disease’s initial effect.
Moving on the Disease Track: As the disease progresses, you might get worse, moving on the track
toward the final state, or you might improve until
you are cured. Some effects continue until you are
cured, persisting regardless of where you are on the
disease’s track, until you improve to the cured state.
Other effects end when you move to a better or
worse state on the track.


draws ever closer to the ship. The characters take to the
upper deck, ready to repel the approaching boarders.
During the battle, the ship continues to roar forward,
the gnolls pushing their mounts to match the pace.
When running this sort of battle at your table, with
the ship in the center of the activity, designate the ship
as a reference point. On the ship’s initiative count, it
“moves” forward—but instead of moving the ship, reposition all the creatures flying around it. If the ship flies
10 squares to the east, you can reproduce this event by
relocating all the gnolls and their mounts 10 squares
to the west. The ship and the gnolls are in the same
relative positions as if you had actually moved the ship,
but by keeping the ship stationary, you avoid having to
reposition the centerpiece of the battle grid.

✦ Disease Progression: Once you’re infected, make
an Endurance check after each extended rest to see
if you improve, worsen, or maintain your current condition. A disease specifies two target Endurance DCs:
a lower DC to maintain and a higher DC to improve.

Example Diseases
Blinding Sickness

Level 9 Disease
Attack: +12 vs. Fortitude
Endurance improve DC 26, maintain DC 22, worsen DC 21 or lower

Often spread in tainted water, blinding sickness
leaves its victims sightless.
The target ! Initial Effect The target loses one
is cured.
healing surge that it cannot regain
until cured.

!" The target’s vision is blurred. Creatures

beyond 10 squares of it have concealment.

" Final State The target
is blinded.

Mummy Rot

Level 11+ Disease

This disease, delivered by the attack of a mummy,
fills the lungs of its victims with dust, making it
progressively harder for them to breathe

Attack: See mummy lord and mummy champion templates, page 179.
Endurance improve DC 20 + one-half mummy’s level, maintain DC
16 + one-half mummy’s level, worsen DC 15 + one-half mummy’s
level or lower

! Initial Effect The target regains
only half the normal number of
target is
hit points from healing effects.

!" The target regains only half the normal number of " Final State The target

Cackle Fever
The symptoms of cackle fever include high fever,
disorientation, and frequent bouts of hideous laughter.

hit points from healing effects. In addition, it takes
10 necrotic damage, which cannot be healed until
the target is cured of the disease.


Level 12 Disease
Attack: +16 vs. Fortitude
Endurance improve DC 28, maintain DC 25, worsen DC 24 or lower

The target ! Initial Effect The target begins each day with no action
!" The target cannot
is cured.
points. Each time the target becomes bloodied, it laughs
gain or use action
uncontrollably and is dazed (save ends). Both of these effects
apply until the target is cured.

" Final State The target is
catatonic and unable to
take any actions.

CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 49

3/12/08 4:10:19 PM


Level 14 Disease
Attack: +18 vs. Fortitude
Endurance improve DC 29, maintain DC 27, worsen DC 26 or lower

This disease causes involuntary twitches and tremors
that grow progressively worse.
The target ! Initial Effect The target’s speed is
is cured.
reduced by 1 until cured.

!" The target is slowed.

" Final State The target is


Level 16 Disease

In the initial stages, victims of mindfire complain of
burning pain in the head. Later, they sink into stupor.

Attack: +18 vs. Will
Endurance improve DC 31, maintain DC 26, worsen DC 25 or lower

The target ! Initial Effect The target gains
is cured.
vulnerable 10 psychic until

!" Each time the target becomes bloodied, it

becomes dazed and takes ongoing 10 psychic
damage (save ends both).

Those who suffer from hellfever complain of alternating
sensations of searing fire and freezing cold.

Abyssal parasites devour the internal organs of the victims,
turning them into quivering slime.
target is

! The target regains

one of its lost
healing surges.
The target loses
this healing
surge again if its
condition worsens.

!" The target is

" Final State The target
is dazed.

Level 23 Disease
Attack: +26 vs. Fortitude
Endurance improve DC 33, maintain DC 30, worsen DC 29 or lower

!" Initial Effect

The target
loses two
healing surges
until cured.

Maintain: If the check result beats the lower DC
but doesn’t beat the higher one, your condition
remains the same.
Improve: If the check result beats the higher DC,
your condition improves—move one step to the left
on the disease track.
Worsen: If the check result doesn’t beat either
DC, your condition worsens—move one step to the
right on the disease track.
Cure: When you reach the left edge of the track,
you are cured and stop making Endurance checks.
Final State: When you reach the right edge of the
track, the final state of the disease takes effect. Once
the disease is in its final state, you no longer make
Endurance checks to improve. Often, the only way
to recover from the final state is through the Cure
Disease ritual.
✦ Heal Skill: An ally can use a Heal check in place of
your Endurance check to help you recover from a
disease, as described in the Player’s Handbook.

is dazed.

Level 21 Disease
Attack: +24 vs. Fortitude
Endurance improve DC 34, maintain DC 29, worsen DC 28 or lower

The target ! The initial effect’s
!" Initial Effect The target takes
is cured.
penalty becomes –1.
a –2 penalty to attacks and
checks until cured.

Slimy Doom

" Final State The target


Each time the target "
becomes bloodied,
it gains ongoing 10
necrotic damage
(save ends). If this
damage reduces
the target to 0 hit
points, it turns into
infectious slime
from the inside out,
dying horribly.

Final State At the moment of the
failed Endurance check and each
time the target takes damage,
the character gains ongoing 30
necrotic damage (save ends).
If this damage reduces the
character to 0 hit points, it turns
into infectious slime from the
inside out, dying horribly.

A scorpion’s sting or serpent’s fang is a painful attack,
but the sting or bite becomes deadly with the addition
of the creature’s natural venom. Poison can be harvested from creatures or created through magical and
alchemical mixtures. If poison is applied to a weapon,
such weapon attacks become more deadly.
✦ Poison Vector: Poison can be applied with a
weapon, to a trap, to darts or needles, smeared in
such a way as to seep in through the skin, or dispersed in a powder or gas so it’s inhaled. Poison in
food or drink takes effect when it’s ingested unless
otherwise noted. The poison attacks the victim
when it makes contact through any of these means.
Some poisons, as noted in their descriptions, can
be administered only by specific means, such as in
food or by a weapon that has been coated with the

CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 50

3/12/08 4:10:19 PM

Distilled from demonic ichor in the temples of Lolth, this poison
is the drow race’s favorite means of acquiring new slaves.

✦ Poisoned Weapon Attacks: You must apply a
poison to a weapon. The poison takes effect the
next time the weapon hits and deals damage. The
poison’s effect is a secondary attack against the
same target. If a poisoned weapon hits multiple targets, the poison attacks only the first target hit.
Apply a Poison: Apply poison to a weapon. This is
a standard action. Poison applied to a weapon loses
its potency at the end of the encounter or after 5
minutes have passed.

Hellstinger Scorpion Venom

Stormclaw Scorpion Venom

Level 5 Poison

This purple-black venom attacks the nerves.
250 gp
Attack: +5 vs. Fortitude; ongoing 5 poison damage and
immobilized (save ends both).
Aftereffect: The target is immobilized (save ends).

Deathjump Spider Venom

Level 5 Poison

Looking like nothing so much as black mud, this poison is a favorite weapon of lizardfolk darters.
250 gp
Attack: +8 vs. Fortitude; ongoing 5 poison damage and
slowed (save ends both).

Carrion Crawler Brain Juice

Level 5 Poison

This venom is a clear, green liquid with a vile odor.
250 gp
Attack: +8 vs. Fortitude; ongoing 5 poison damage and
slowed (save ends both).
First Failed Save: The target is immobilized instead of slowed
(save ends).
Second Failed Save: The target is stunned instead of
immobilized (save ends).

Ground Thassil Root

Level 5 Poison

This poison is a flavorless, blue powder.
250 gp
Attack: +8 vs. Fortitude; slowed (save ends).
First Failed Save: The target is immobilized instead of slowed
(save ends).
Second Failed Save: Target unconscious for 1d4 hours.
Special: Thassil root can be delivered only by way of food or
drink. It makes its first attack 2d6 minutes after its victim
consumes it. All saving throws against this poison are made
with a –2 penalty.

Dark Toxin

Level 10 Poison

This poison, used by dark stalkers, looks like liquid shadow and
smells like mushrooms.
1,250 gp
Attack: +13 vs. Fortitude; ongoing 5 poison damage (save

Drow Poison

Level 10 Poison

1,250 gp
Attack: +13 vs. Fortitude; the target takes a –2 penalty to
attack rolls (save ends).
First Failed Save: The target is also weakened (save ends).
Second Failed Save: The target falls unconscious until the end
of the encounter.


✦ Poison Characteristics: Poisons are consumable
items (similar to magic items). They affect you
with an attack power. Some poisons have aftereffects, which apply after you save against the initial

Level 15 Poison

A vibrant blue color makes this pasty toxin look harmless.
6,250 gp
Attack: +18 vs. Fortitude; ongoing 10 poison damage and
weakened (save ends both).
Aftereffect: The target is weakened (save ends).

Blood of Zehir

Level 15 Poison

This deadly red venom is said to come from the veins of the
6,250 gp
Attack: +18 vs. Fortitude; ongoing 10 poison damage and
dazed (save ends both).

Demonweb Terror Venom

Level 15 Poison

This deadly poison, also called deathblade, is highly prized by
6,250 gp
Attack: +18 vs. Fortitude; ongoing 10 poison damage,
slowed, and –2 penalty to defenses (save ends all).

Black Lotus

Level 15 Poison

When prepared as a poison, black lotus is ground into a fine,
black powder that causes terrifying hallucinations.
6,250 gp
Attack: +20 vs. Fortitude; while bloodied, the target uses its
standard action each round to make a basic attack against
the nearest creature, whether enemy or ally (save ends). The
effect applies again each time the target is bloodied until it
completes an extended rest.
Special: The target takes a –5 penalty to Perception checks
until it completes an extended rest. Black lotus can be
delivered only by way of food or drink. It makes its first attack
1d6 rounds after its victim consumes it.

Insanity Mist

Level 20 Poison

This fine mist smells cloyingly sweet and attacks the mind.
31,250 gp
Attack: +23 vs. Will; stunned (save ends).
Aftereffect: The target is dazed (save ends).
Special: This poison works only when it is inhaled in mist

Pit Toxin

Level 25 Poison

The fiery red venom from the fangs of a pit fiend sizzles when
exposed to air.
156,250 gp
Attack: +28 vs. Fortitude; ongoing 15 poison damage and
weakened (save ends both).
CH A P T ER 3 | Combat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch03.indd 51

3/12/08 4:10:20 PM


Building Encounters


This chapter

gives you the building blocks
you need to build your own combat encounters.
Noncombat encounters are discussed in Chapter 5.
Dynamic monster groups combined with interesting
terrain and other features make for lively combat
This chapter includes the following sections.
✦ Monster Roles: Combat encounters involve
groups of monsters occupying different roles.
A varied group of monsters presents a more
interesting and challenging encounter than a
group of identical foes.
✦ Encounter Components: Here’s the simple
step-by-step process of how to build an encounter
to challenge your players. Start with an experience
point target, then choose monsters and other
threats to create an exciting encounter.
✦ Encounter Templates: You can create a whole
range of encounters to challenge your characters
using five simple procedures.

W I L L I A M O ’ CO N N O R

✦ Encounter Settings: Where an encounter takes
place is sometimes as important as the monsters
in the encounter. This section discusses physical
features and terrain of both the mundane and
fantastic varieties.

CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 52

3/12/08 4:11:39 PM

4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 53

3/12/08 4:11:45 PM

The key to designing interesting and varied groups of
monsters for an encounter lies in the monster roles:
artillery, brute, controller, lurker, minion, skirmisher,
and soldier. Each role has its own place in a typical
encounter. The role of every monster is given in a monster entry at the top right of the creature’s statistics
block in the Monster Manual. Most combat encounters
involve groups of monsters occupying different roles. A
group of varied monsters makes for a more interesting
and challenging encounter than a group of identical
In the context of monster roles (here and elsewhere in the game rules), the terms “controller” and
“leader” have meanings and applications that are different from the class roles of controller and leader, as
described in Chapter 4 of the Player’s Handbook.

Artillery monsters excel at ranged combat. These
creatures rain arrows, explosive fireballs, and similar
attacks on the party from a distance. They’re well protected against ranged attacks, but more vulnerable in
melee. They often spread damage out over multiple
characters in an area.
Use artillery monsters in an encounter to hang
behind soldiers and brutes and rain damage down
on the characters from protected positions. Because
they’re more fragile than average monsters, they count
on being protected by a line of brutes or soldiers, or
skirmishers that help them to draw off attacks.

Brute monsters specialize in dealing damage in melee.
Brutes have relatively low defenses but high hit points.
They don’t hit as often as other monsters, but they deal
a lot of damage when they hit. They don’t move around
a lot, and they’re often big.

Some encounters make it easy to single out targets for particularly deadly attacks. They have identifiable leaders or
significant threats that make great targets for daily powers
or concentrated damage from the party’s strikers. Others
consist of similar creatures, with no obvious leader. Include
a mix of both kinds of encounters in your adventures.
The two kinds of encounters appeal to different kinds of
classes—strikers like clear-target encounters, while controllers love mobs—and encourage different tactics.
—James Wyatt

Use brutes in an encounter to threaten the party
while shielding other monsters with their great size
and imminent threat. Brutes are easy to run, so put
multiple brutes of the same kind in an encounter to
provide the baseline muscle for the monsters.

Controller monsters manipulate their enemies or the
battlefield to their advantage. They restrict enemy
options or inflict lasting conditions, alter terrain or
weather, or bend the minds of their adversaries.
Position controller monsters just behind a front line
of melee-focused monsters, and use them to attack
the PCs at short range with their control powers. Most
controllers can stand their ground in melee, so they
often wade right in beside the brutes and soldiers.
Controller monsters can be complex to run in numbers, so limiting an encounter to one or two controllers
of the same type is usually a good idea.

Lurker monsters have some ability that lets them avoid
attacks, whether by striking from hiding or by turning
into an invulnerable statue while regaining strength.
They usually deliver one devastating attack every few
rounds, while concentrating on defense in between.
Use lurkers as surprise additions to encounters
with other monsters or as sneaky assassins that circle
around the main action of a fight, darting in from time
to time with a well-timed strike. Lurkers study the
party while the player characters are busy handling
brutes and soldiers, gauging the PCs’ weaknesses.

Sometimes you want monsters to come in droves
and go down just as fast. A fight against thirty orcs
is a grand cinematic battle. The players get to enjoy
carving through the mob like a knife through butter,
feeling confident and powerful. Unfortunately, the
mechanics of standard monsters make that difficult. If
you use a large number of monsters of a level similar
to the PCs, you overwhelm them. If you use a large
number of monsters of much lower level, you bore
them with creatures that have little chance of hurting
the PCs but take a lot of time to take down. On top of
that, keeping track of the actions of so many monsters
is a headache.
Minions are designed to serve as shock troops and
cannon fodder for other monsters (standard, elite, or
solo). Four minions are considered to be about the

CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 54

3/12/08 4:11:48 PM

Skirmisher monsters use mobility to threaten the
player characters. Their combat statistics define the
baseline for monsters, but their mobility is their defining feature.
Use skirmishers as the mobile strikers in an
encounter, the creatures that move to attack vulnerable PCs from the sides and rear. They often have
powers that let them dart in, attack, and retreat in
one action. Skirmishers like to fight alongside soldiers
and brutes because those monsters tend to stay in one
place and draw a lot of the party’s attention, giving the
skirmishers room to maneuver around this front line.

Soldier monsters specialize in drawing the characters’
attacks and defending other monsters. They have high
defenses and average hit points. Their attacks are
accurate, but they don’t do exceptional damage. They
tend not to move around, and they often have powers
that hinder other creatures from moving around them.
Use soldiers in an encounter to keep the party in
place, preventing its members from attacking the
artillery or controller monsters behind the soldiers or
chasing after the skirmishers. Soldiers often have abilities that allow them to work well together, so a group
of identical soldiers works well in an encounter with
other monsters.

Solo Monsters
Solo monsters are specifically designed to appear as
single opponents against a group of PCs of the same
level. They function, in effect, as a group of monsters.
They have more hit points in order to absorb the
damage output of multiple PCs, and they deal more
damage in order to approximate the damage output of
a group of monsters.
A solo monster is worth the same amount of XP as
five monsters of its level. It provides the same level of
challenge as five monsters.
A solo monster might have tendencies that flavor it
toward the brute, soldier, skirmisher, lurker, artillery,
or controller role. Each type of chromatic dragon, for
example, leans toward a different role. Red dragons
have soldier tendencies, while blue dragons behave
much like artillery monsters. However, a solo monster
can never completely take on a different role, because
the roles are largely defined by how monsters interact
with other monsters in an encounter. Every solo monster has to be able to stand and fight on its own.


same as a standard monster of their level. Minions
are designed to help fill out an encounter, but they go
down quickly.
A minion is destroyed when it takes any amount of
damage. Damage from an attack or from a source that
doesn’t require an attack roll (such as the paladin’s
divine challenge or the fighter’s cleave) destroys a minion.
If a minion is missed by an attack that normally deals
damage on a miss, however, it takes no damage.
Use minions as melee combatants placed between
the PCs and back-rank artillery or controller monsters.

“Leader” is not a stand-alone role. It is an additional
quality or subrole of some brutes, soldiers, skirmishers,
lurkers, artillery, and controllers.
Leaders are defined by their relationship to the
monsters under their command. A leader monster, like
a leader PC, grants bonuses and special abilities to its
followers, improving their attacks or defenses, providing some healing, or enhancing their normal abilities.
Aside from one special ability to enhance its allies, a
leader functions as its primary role indicates.
Add a leader to an encounter with monsters that
gain the greatest benefit from the leader’s abilities. For
example, a leader that gives a defense bonus to nearby
creatures is a great leader for brutes, who have weak
defenses otherwise.

Elite Monsters
Elite monsters are tougher than standard monsters
and constitute more of a threat than standard monsters of their main role and level. An elite monster
counts as two monsters of its level. Elite monsters are
worth twice as many XP and are twice as dangerous.
Elite monsters make great “mini-bosses,” allowing you
to add a tougher opponent to a mix of monsters without creating an entirely new monster. A group of ogres
led by an elite ogre reduces the number of ogre figures
on the table without diminishing the encounter’s level.

CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 55

3/12/08 4:11:49 PM

Building an encounter is a matter of choosing threats
appropriate to the characters and combining them
in interesting and challenging ways. The threats at
your disposal include all the monsters in the Monster
Manual, monsters and nonplayer characters of your
own design, traps and hazards, and skill challenge
elements. Encounter-building is a mixture of art and
science as you combine these threats together.
Just as individual threats have a level that measures
their danger, an encounter as a whole has a level. Build
an encounter by choosing a level for the encounter.
The level you choose determines the total XP reward
you’re aiming for. You then select threats (monsters,
traps, or NPCs) until you reach the target number,
which is the minimum number of XP that an encounter of a given level can contain.
Think of it as spending XP against a budget. The
encounter level gives you an XP budget, and you “buy”
individual monsters, traps, or other threats to build the
encounter until you’ve exhausted your budget.
1. Choose an encounter level. Encounter level is relative to the number of characters in the party.
An easy encounter is one or two levels lower
than the party’s level.
A standard encounter is of the party’s level, or
one level higher.
A hard encounter is two to four levels higher
than the party’s level.
2. Determine your XP budget. Multiply the number
of characters in the party by the XP value of a monster of the encounter’s level.
3. Spend your XP budget. You don’t have to spend
the exact amount. But if you go too high, the
encounter level might increase, and if you don’t
spend the exact amount, you’ll end up with a lowerlevel encounter.
✦ Levels of Individual Threats: Choose threats
within two or three levels of the characters’ level.
Threats in an easy encounter can be as many as
four levels below the party’s level.
Threats in a hard encounter can be as many as
three to five levels above the party’s level.
✦ Mix Roles: Use two or three brute or soldier monsters, then spice up the group with other roles and
different kinds of threats.

Encounter Level
A standard encounter should challenge a typical group
of characters but not overwhelm them. The characters should prevail if they haven’t depleted their daily
resources or had a streak of bad luck. An encounter
that’s the same level as the party, or one level higher,
falls in this standard range of difficulty.
You can offer your players a greater challenge or
an easier time by setting your encounter level two or

Monster Standard




CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 56

3/12/08 4:11:49 PM

Target XP Reward
To find your total XP budget, multiply the number of
characters in the party by the XP value of a monster
whose level is equal to the encounter level you chose.
Target XP = (XP value for a monster of the encounter’s level) × (number of characters in the party)
The Target Encounter XP Totals table shows XP targets
for parties of four, five, or six characters. For larger
or smaller groups, find the XP value for a standard
monster of the encounter’s level on the Experience
Rewards table and multiply it by the number of characters in the party.

Spending Your XP Budget
The simplest way to spend your XP budget on an
encounter is to use a number of monsters equal to the
number of characters, with each monster’s level equal
to the encounter level. If you’re building a 7th-level
encounter for five characters, five 7th-level monsters
fit the bill perfectly. A solo monster of that level is also
an ideal encounter all by itself.
You don’t have to hit your XP target exactly. If you
don’t, just keep an eye on the XP targets for encounters
a level above or below the level you chose. If you set
out to build a 10th-level encounter for five characters
(target XP 2,500), but you spend only 2,200 XP, you’ve
created a 9th-level encounter.
Once you’ve picked the monsters and traps you
want to use in your encounter, make a note of the total
XP reward for that encounter. Keep it for the end of
the encounter when you award XP to the players.
Level: As you select individual threats to make
up your encounter, keep the level of those threats in
mind. Monsters or traps more than four levels below
the party’s level or seven levels above the party’s level
don’t make good challenges. They’re either too easy
or too hard, even if the encounter’s level seems right.
When you want to use a single monster to challenge
the PCs—or a large mob of monsters, for that matter—
try using minions, elites, and solo monsters instead.

Examples: A 14th-level monster fits within the XP
budget for a 5th-level encounter for five characters, but
its attacks usually hit the PCs, while its defenses are
out of their reach. Similarly, an encounter made up of
fifty 1st-level monsters uses the XP budget for a 14thlevel encounter for five characters, but the monsters
don’t provide any challenge to 14th-level characters.
Roles: An encounter with a group of monsters
that all have the same role is less interesting than one
with a mix of roles. On the other hand, a group of five
monsters with five different roles is too interesting—or,
more to the point, too complex. A good rule of thumb
is to pick a brute or soldier monster and use two or
three of them. Pick one or two monsters of other roles
to round out the encounter.
Brutes and soldiers create the front line of the
combat and give skirmishers, lurkers, artillery, and
controllers the room they need to succeed. When you
start making encounters, this general rule makes for
interesting combats. You can still create a great deal of
variety by slightly adjusting encounters to take advantage of the strengths of the latter four roles.


three levels higher or one or two levels lower than
the party’s level. It’s a good idea to vary the difficulty
of your encounters over the course of an adventure,
just as you vary other elements of encounters to keep
things interesting (see “Encounter Mix,” page 104).
Encounter level is relative to the number of characters in the party. The Monster Manual and published
adventures show levels for encounters based on an
assumed party size of five characters. However, notice
that a 9th-level encounter for five characters (2,000
XP) is a 7th-level encounter for six characters or a
10th-level encounter for four.


4 PCs

Target Encounter XP
5 PCs
6 PCs

CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 57

3/12/08 4:11:50 PM

Here are templates you can fill in with monsters of
your own choosing that combine different roles and
levels into dynamic encounters.
Encounter Template Format: In each of these
templates, the letter n represents the level of the
encounter you want to build. The templates assume a
party of five PCs. For such a group, the easy encounters are about level n – 2, the standard encounters
are level n or level n + 1, and the hard encounters are
between level n + 2 and n + 4.
If you have three or four players, you can also use
the easy encounters as standard encounters and the
standard encounters as hard encounters. Likewise, if
you have six or seven players, use the standard encounters as easy encounters and the hard encounters as
standard ones.
The example encounters given in this section serve
to illustrate the sorts of adversaries you can produce
from the creatures in the Monster Manual.

Battlefield Control
One controller monster with several skirmishers of
similar level can limit the movement of its enemies
without hampering its allies. The controller’s ability to
hinder enemies heightens the skirmishers’ movement
advantage. Challenging terrain or hindering terrain
(see page 61) in which the monsters can move more
easily than the PCs can replace the controller.

Controller of level n – 2
6 skirmishers of level n – 4
Standard: Controller of level n + 1
6 skirmishers of level n – 2
Controller of level n + 5
5 skirmishers of level n + 1

Easy Example for 5th-level PCs: 1 goblin hexer
(level 3 controller) and 6 goblin warriors (level 1 skirmisher). Level 3 encounter, 750 XP.
Standard Example for 5th-level PCs: 1 harpy
(level 6 controller) and 6 orc raiders (level 3 skirmisher). Level 5 encounter, 1,150 XP.
Hard Example for 5th-level PCs: 1 gibbering
mouther (level 10 controller) and 5 gnoll claw fighters
(level 6 skirmisher). Level 8 encounter, 1,750 XP.

Commander and Troops
One commander monster in charge (a controller or
soldier, but a lurker or skirmisher could also serve)
leads a number of troops. The troops are usually melee
focused (brutes and soldiers), but more challenging
Commander and Troops encounters can feature some
strategic artillery support.


Commander of level n
4 troops of level n – 3
Standard: Commander of level n + 3
5 troops of level n – 2
Commander of level n + 6
3 troops of level n + 1
2 artillery of level n + 1

Easy Example for 8th-level PCs: 1 troglodyte
curse chanter (level 8 controller) and 4 rage drakes
(level 5 brute). Level 5 encounter, 1,150 XP.
Standard Example for 8th-level PCs: 1 mezzodemon (level 11 soldier) and 5 evistro demons (level 6
brute). Level 8 encounter, 1,850 XP.
Hard Example for 8th-level PCs: 1 war troll
(level 14 soldier), 3 trolls (level 9 brute), and 2 destrachans (level 9 artillery). Level 11 encounter, 3,000 XP.

Dragon’s Den
Some monsters are so powerful that they pose a threat
to a whole adventuring party just by themselves.
Dragons, of course, are the most famous example, but
other creatures such as beholders, purple worms, and
hydras also fit the bill. Dragon’s Den encounters pit the
heroes against a single solo monster. Often the fight
is in the monster’s chosen den or lair, but sometimes
it might be a chance encounter somewhere else—for
example, when a hunting dragon spies the party traveling on a road far below and decides to drop in for a

Solo monster of level n – 2
Solo monster of level n or n + 1
Solo monster of level n + 3
Solo monster of level n + 1
Elite monster of level n

Double Line
A front line of brutes or soldiers protects a rear line of
artillery or controller monsters. The front-line monsters keep their opponents from breaking through to
attack the others behind them. The artillery and controllers in the back line use ranged attacks and try to
avoid contact with the enemy.
You can modify the template by using a skirmisher
or lurker to replace one of the rear-line foes. The frontline monsters protect the artillery or controller, while
the lurker or skirmisher circles around behind the
opponents or otherwise seeks advantageous positions.

3 front line (brute/soldier) of level n – 4
2 rear line (artillery/controller) of level n – 2
Standard: 3 front line (brute/soldier) of level n
2 rear line (artillery/controller) of level n
Standard: 3 front line (brute/soldier) of level n – 2
2 rear line (artillery/controller) of level n + 3

CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 58

3/12/08 4:11:51 PM


3 front line (brute/soldier) of level n + 2
1 controller of level n + 4
1 artillery/lurker of level n + 4
3 front line (brute/soldier) of level n
2 artillery of level n + 1
1 controller of level n + 2
1 lurker of level n + 2

Easy Example for 12th-level PCs: 3 snaketongue
warriors (level 8 soldier) and 2 venom-eye basilisks
(level 10 artillery). Level 9 encounter, 2,050 XP.
Standard Example for 12th-level PCs: 3 blade
spiders (level 10 brute) and 2 drow priestesses (level
15 controller). Level 12 encounter, 3,900 XP.
Hard Example for 12th-level PCs: 3 kuo-toa
harpooners (level 14 soldier), 1 kuo-toa whip (level 16
controller), and 1 bodak skulk (level 16 lurker). Level
14 encounter, 5,800 XP.

Wolf Pack
Some creatures hunt in packs of their own kind. These
creatures are often skirmishers, and they sometimes
adopt special tactics meant to distract opponents and
make best use of combat advantage. One or more
members of the pack act as soldiers, forming a front
line; the others remain mobile, flanking opponents
and ducking out of harm’s way when possible. When
the front line gets worn down, those creatures revert to
their skirmisher role as fresh ones take their place.

7 skirmishers of level n – 4
7 skirmishers of level n – 2
5 skirmishers of level n
3 skirmishers of level n + 7
4 skirmishers of level n + 5
6 skirmishers of level n + 2

Easy Example for 15th-level PCs: 7 grimlock
ambushers (level 11 skirmisher). Level 13 encounter,
4,200 XP.
Standard Example for 15th-level PCs: 5 angels
of battle (level 15 skirmisher). Level 15 encounter,
6,000 XP.
Hard Example for 15th-level PCs: 4 black slaads
(level 20 skirmisher). Level 18 encounter, 11,200 XP.

Simple Substitutions
You can create endless variations from these encounter templates without making the encounters any more
Elite, minion, and solo monsters are designed to
be interesting challenges for PCs of their level, but
they’re tougher or weaker than one standard monster
of the same level. For that reason, they don’t count
as individual monsters when you use them to build
an encounter. Elite monsters count as two standard
monsters and solo monsters count as five. It takes four
minions to fill the place of one standard monster.


✦ Minion Monsters: Replace one standard monster with
several minion monsters of the same level.
✦ Elite Monsters: Replace two standard monsters with one
elite monster of the same level.
✦ Solo Monster: Replace five standard monsters with one solo
monster of the same level.
✦ Traps and Hazards: Replace one standard monster with a
trap or hazard of the same level.

Minion Monsters: To incorporate minions into
an encounter, replace one standard monster with four
minions of the same level. A Commander and Troops
encounter takes on a different feel when you replace
standard brutes or soldiers with several times their
number of minions—a vampire lord surrounded by his
brood of vampire spawn, for example, or a war devil
with a regiment of legion devils.
Elite Monsters: To incorporate an elite monster
into an encounter, replace two standard monsters with
an elite monster of the same role and level. You can
also replace a single monster with an elite monster of
the same role and level and increase the encounter’s
level by one.
You could modify the Commander and Troops template to use an elite monster as the commander. You
then increase the encounter level—or you can remove
one or two troops to keep the encounter level about the
same. An elite commander can reduce the number of
minion troops you use to fill out the encounter.
A Wolf Pack made up of elites can be smaller and
more manageable. A group of three bulettes (9th-level
elite skirmishers) is a bit easier to manage than a pack
of six displacer beasts (9th-level skirmishers), but it’s
the same encounter level. You’ll have fewer monsters
to keep track of, and a little more room for them to
maneuver on the battle grid.
Solo Monsters: A solo monster is usually an encounter all by itself, but you can also use solo monsters as part
of larger groups. Any encounter template that includes
at least five standard monsters of the same level can feature a solo monster instead of those standard monsters,
though the solo monster might change the feel of the
encounter significantly. A standard Commander and
Troops encounter could include a commander of level
n + 3 and a solo monster of level n – 2, leaving open the
question of who’s really in command.
If you have a party that’s larger or smaller than five
characters, it works reasonably well to increase a solo
monster’s level by one for each additional character
above five, or decrease it by one for each character
below five. So, use a 10th-level solo monster for a
group of six 9th-level characters, or an 11th-level solo
monster for a group of seven.
Traps and Hazards: A well-placed trap or hazard
can contribute just as much to an encounter as a monster, but the encounter feels quite different. Replace a
monster with a trap or hazard of the same level.



CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 59

3/12/08 4:11:52 PM

An encounter that occurs in a small, bare dungeon
room is hard to make memorable, no matter what
the monsters in it are doing. To maximize the fun for
everyone around the table, follow these guidelines
when crafting the chambers, caverns, or battlefields
for your encounters.

Interesting Areas
Your first consideration in crafting interesting
encounter spaces is the size and shape of the room or
encounter area and the placement of the monsters and
players characters.
Room to Move: Make sure everyone has enough
room to move around. For most encounters, the
minimum is an area roughly 8 to 10 squares on a
side (which happens to be the size of the largest D&D
Dungeon Tiles). For an important encounter, consider
a space as large as 16 or 20 squares on a side (two of
those 8-square-by-10-square dungeon tiles). A postersize map like those included in DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
Miniatures starter sets and in D&D adventures covers
an area roughly 20 by 30 squares and makes a great
area for a climactic battle. Folded in half (at about 15
by 20 squares), it also works well for other important
Bigger Creatures Need More Space: Large and
Huge creatures need more space. An encounter that
includes Large monsters needs at least 16 squares by
10 squares. With Huge monsters, the encounter area
should be at least 20 squares by 20 squares (or about
three large D&D Dungeon Tiles). Gargantuan monsters
work best on poster maps.
Avoid Symmetry: Symmetry is boring. Fighting in
one square or rectangular room after another is dull
and doesn’t allow for much tactical variety. Let rooms
branch out into corridors, alcoves, and antechambers,
and find ways to draw some of the fighting into these
areas. Also, build rooms using all three dimensions.
Large platforms and raised areas, depressions and pits,
along with galleries and overlooks, are interesting and
can produce fun tactical situations.
Fantasy It Up: Your goal is not to create a realistic
area for your encounter. Sprinkle fantastic features
liberally throughout your encounters, and every once
in a while put in fantastic features of cinematic scope.
A room where the PCs have to jump between floating
platforms as they fight a wing of gargoyles, or avoid
gouts of magma while fighting for their lives against
a red dragon—those are encounter areas that take on
a life of their own. They reinforce in everyone’s mind
that D&D is a fantasy game.
Encounter Distance: For outdoor encounters, start
the characters 10 squares away from the monsters. If
terrain or visibility suggests a short-range encounter

(dense forest or thick fog, for example), use 5 squares
instead. In wide-open areas, such as rolling hills or
farmland, use 20 squares. In open terrain, characters
might see monsters at even greater distances, which
gives them a chance to try to avoid an encounter
entirely (especially if the monsters don’t see them).
Don’t start an outdoor encounter with either the
characters or the monsters at the edge of the map.
Leave room for everyone to move around, which for
some characters often means getting away to a safer
distance from the monsters.

Terrain Features
It’s easy to overlook the effects of terrain when building adventures and encounters. After all, the party’s
enemies are the monsters, not the dungeon stairs, the
low rock wall, or the crumbled statues in the dungeon
room. Yet, terrain provides the context for an encounter. A mob of goblin archers is easy to defeat when
only empty terrain lies between it and the party. Take
the same goblins, put them on the opposite side of a
wide chasm, and the characters face a much tougher
✦ Difficult Terrain: It costs 1 extra square of movement to enter a square of difficult terrain.
✦ Blocking Terrain: Blocking terrain prevents movement, blocks line of sight and line of effect, and
provides cover.
✦ Challenging Terrain: Challenging terrain requires a
skill check or ability check to successfully cross it.
✦ Hindering Terrain: Hindering terrain prevents
movement or damages creatures that enter it.
✦ Obscured Terrain: Obscured terrain provides
concealment and blocks line of sight if a target is far
enough away from you. However, it has no effect on
✦ Cover Terrain: Cover terrain provides cover (see
page 43), making ranged attacks more difficult.

Difficult Terrain
Difficult terrain slows down characters without blocking line of sight. In encounter design, difficult terrain
is a useful tool to make a path less appealing without
removing it as an option. It gives you some of the
benefits of walls and other terrain that blocks movement without the drawback of constricting the party’s
options. It costs 1 extra square of movement to enter a
square of difficult terrain.
Too much difficult terrain proves frustrating, since
shifting and attacking becomes impossible. Use dif-

CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 60

3/12/08 4:11:53 PM

Blocking Terrain
Blocking terrain prevents movement and blocks line of
sight. The characters might be able to use the Athletics
skill to climb over such obstacles, but otherwise this
type of terrain prevents movement.
Blocking terrain channels the encounter’s flow and
cuts down on the range at which the PCs can attack
the monsters (and vice versa). Using blocking terrain, you can present two or three distinct paths in an
encounter area and different challenges down each
one. For example, the characters come under attack
when they enter an intersection. Orc warriors charge
down two corridors, while an orc shaman casts spells
from a third. If the PCs charge the shaman, they risk
attack from two sides. If they fall back, they can meet
the warriors along one front, but the shaman is safely
away from the melee.
Don’t use too much blocking terrain. Fights in endless narrow corridors are boring. While the fighter
beats on the monster, the rest of the party must rely on
ranged attacks.
Examples: Walls, doors, impassable rubble.

Too much challenging terrain wears down the
party or slows the action if the characters have a few
unlucky skill checks. If the terrain has a high DC or if
the characters are cautious, they can treat it as hindering terrain (see below) instead.
Examples: Ice, deep water, deep mud, thin beam
across a chasm.

Party Level





ficult terrain in small quantities. The ideal patch of
difficult terrain is just big enough to force the characters to spend an extra round moving down a particular
path or taking a position in an encounter area.
Avoid using much, if any, difficult terrain in areas
where you expect the PCs and monsters to fight in
melee. Difficult terrain prevents shifting, which can
turn a melee into a static slugfest. That might make for
an occasional change of pace, but it makes the game
boring if it happens too often.
Examples: Rubble, uneven ground, shallow water,
fallen trees, a steep slope.

Hindering Terrain
Hindering terrain prevents movement (or severely
punishes it) or damages creatures that enter it, but
allows line of sight.
Hindering terrain can be interesting because it
encourages ranged attacks. You can shoot an arrow
over hindering terrain, while it is impossible or risky
to run through it to attack in melee.
Too much hindering terrain makes melee characters and monsters worthless. It is best used to protect
a monster or two, or as a favorable defensive position
that the PCs can exploit.
Examples: Pits, deep water, lava, fire.

Obscured Terrain
Challenging Terrain
Challenging terrain requires a skill check or ability
check to cross. Fail the check, and something bad happens to you. Challenging terrain makes skills more
important. It adds an active element of risk to the
Athletics checks and Acrobatics checks are often
required for challenging terrain. Moving across slick
ice requires Acrobatics. Slogging through deep mud
requires Athletics. Running over a thin beam requires
Acrobatics. Use the Skill Check Difficulty Class table
below to select a relevant DC for the party’s level.
A successful check allows a character to move at his
speed across the terrain. Some challenging terrain is
also difficult terrain.
The type of terrain determines what happens when
characters fail their checks. Climbing characters
might fall. Characters wading through mud must pay
1 extra square of movement to enter the square. Characters moving across ice fall prone in the first square
of ice they enter.

Obscured terrain provides concealment and blocks
line of sight if a target is far enough away from you.
However, it has no effect on movement.
The following rules expand on the material found
in Chapter 9 of the Player’s Handbook.
✦ Lightly Obscured: Squares of dim light, fog, smoke,
heavy snow, or rain are lightly obscured.
Concealment: A creature has total concealment
against you if 5 or more lightly obscured squares
stand between you and it (including the nearest
square of the creature’s space). Closer creatures have
concealment, but not total concealment.
Vision: You can see through lightly obscured
squares, but you take a –5 penalty to Perception
checks to see or spot things.
✦ Heavily Obscured: Squares of heavy fog or heavy
smoke are heavily obscured.
CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 61

3/21/08 10:15:33 AM

Concealment: Adjacent targets have concealment
against you.
Out of Sight: You can’t see creatures that are not
adjacent to you.
Vision: You can see 1 square away, but you take
a –5 penalty to Perception checks to see or spot
things. You can’t see squares farther away.
✦ Totally Obscured: You can’t see at all. You can’t see
any creature, not even those adjacent to you.
Obscured terrain lends a sense of mystery to an
encounter. The characters can’t see what lurks ahead,
but their enemies have open space they can move
through to attack. It restricts ranged attacks similar to
blocking terrain does, but it allows more movement.
Encounters are a little more tense and unpredictable.
Obscured terrain becomes a problem when it
shuts down the fight. The characters likely stick close
together, and if the monsters can ignore the concealing
terrain due to some magical effect, the fight might be
unfair rather than tense.
Examples: Fog, mist, zones of magical darkness.

Cover Terrain
Cover terrain provides cover, making ranged attacks
more difficult. See “Cover” in Chapter 3 on page 43.
Cover terrain forces ranged attackers to move if
they want to shoot around it. It also helps creatures
avoid ranged attacks.
Too much cover makes the encounter too difficult
for ranged attackers.
Examples: Low walls, piles of rubble.

Terrain and Roles
Monster roles provide the best pointer for how to use
terrain. Each role has different preferences for the terrain it thrives in. When you build an encounter, think
about the monsters you want to use and how terrain
can help them.
The Natural Method: It makes logical sense that
creatures seek out favorable terrain. If you create an area
map first, think about how your villain would exploit the
terrain by intelligently deploying his followers. Even wild
animals are clever enough to utilize terrain. For example, a lion hides in wait by a spring. The spring draws
thirsty prey, and it blocks many routes of escape.
The Staged Method: If you build encounters
purely with an eye toward the game experience, start
by picking out monsters, and create terrain to maximize their advantages.

These monsters thrive on wide, open spaces and difficult terrain. An open space allows them to rain attacks
on the party at a distance, while difficult terrain forces
melee characters to waste precious time moving to

engage the artillery. Any terrain that blocks movement or slows it down without affecting line of sight is
an artillery monster’s best friend. Artillery also likes
having some cover nearby where it can gain some protection from the party’s ranged attacks.

Brutes and Soldiers
Brutes and soldiers both like to get into melee while
avoiding the party’s ranged attacks. They favor twisty,
dense terrain that has enough room for melee, but
makes it difficult for ranged attackers to get in shots
from a distance. Brutes and soldiers also like choke
points that make it difficult for rogues and other strikers to get behind them.

Controllers like the same sort of terrain as brutes and
soldiers, but with one key difference: A controller likes
slightly larger spaces where its allies can take advantage of its attacks. If an area is too narrow, a controller
and his soldier buddies can’t both attack the party.
Controllers like wide spaces, but not necessarily long
ones. Long spaces allow ranged attackers to pick off
the controllers and their allies at a distance. Wide ones
allow the monsters to all attack at once while keeping
the action at relatively close range.

Lurkers love obscured terrain and areas thick with
blocking terrain. They usually need cover to hide from
the PCs or to escape out of the party’s reach. However,
lurkers also like wide corridors and areas that give
them lots of approaches to the characters. A lurker
wants to slip past the party’s defender, making narrow
passages and easily controlled chokepoints bad for
such a monster.

Skirmishers are a little like lurkers in that they want
open spaces to attack the party from multiple directions. On the other hand, if the terrain is too open,
skirmishers can’t easily evade the party’s attacks.
The ideal skirmisher terrain is a mix of blocking or
obscured terrain and open terrain, such as a series of
linked dungeon rooms. A skirmisher can attack in one
room, then slip around the corner to a nearby room to
prepare its next strike.

Building an
Encounter Script
Terrain and monsters never combine in a vacuum.
The characters’ abilities and tactics, the encounter’s
purpose in the overall adventure, and the goal of the
encounter all play a role in determining the right terrain for an encounter. An encounter script in your

CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 62

3/12/08 4:11:54 PM


✦ The wizard has trouble using area attacks against
PCs who are in melee with the ogres. He can blast
the PCs, but he might also catch his minions in the
✦ The ogres need enough room to crowd around the
party, but if the room is too spacious, the PCs can
run around the ogres and attack the wizard.
✦ The wizard needs cover for protection against
ranged attacks, or the ogres need some way to
threaten such PCs.


mind, a simple walk-through of the encounter, is a
great tool for figuring out how to add and use terrain.
Building an encounter script is a simple process.
Start with the basics of the encounter area. You might
have the monsters picked out or the area mapped,
depending on how you have designed the area. With
either of those factors in mind, walk through the likely
outcome of the encounter.
Suppose that the main villain in your adventure is a
wizard and his four ogre bodyguards. Looking over the
wizard’s spells, you see that he has lots of area of effect
attacks. The four ogre bodyguards are brutes.
Assume that the party fights these monsters in a
huge, featureless room. It might help to break out a
grid and miniatures, so you can better visualize what
The characters who excel in melee run forward to
attack, while the ogres move to intercept them. The
ranged characters hang back and try to take out the
wizard. Meanwhile, the wizard uses his area attacks.
Run the fight in your head, looking at it from the
characters’ and the monsters’ points of view. Consider
likely tactics and goals the PCs have, and then do the
same for the monsters. What kinds of actions can
you expect both sides to take? How does each side
respond to the other? Answer these questions with an
eye toward making things easier for the monsters and
harder for the PCs. A few points become clear:

Run down your list of concerns, and think of how you
can use terrain to respond to each of them. Here are
some potential complications you can add:
✦ The ogres need to spread out, so be sure to add lots
of open space for them to maneuver.
✦ Alternatively, you could give them a path that lets
them maneuver around the party. For instance,
the passage leading into the encounter area loops
around to the east and west. The ogres wait where
the two entrances meet, and two of them rush down
whichever passage the PCs don’t use.
✦ In contrast, the wizard wants only a narrow path
to her position. Hindering terrain, such as a short
bridge over a pit, restricts access to the wizard. Best
of all, one of the ogres can take up position here
and force the PCs to fight through it. One spot of
hindering terrain should be enough.

CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 63

3/12/08 4:11:55 PM

Creating a script is an iterative process. Keep walking through the scenario, thinking of how the PCs
and monsters might act in response to the terrain that
solves the problems you foresee, until you have just
the right balance of challenge and complication. In
the example above, walk through the encounter again,
injecting the terrain elements mentioned above. Does
the encounter feel fun? What other elements do you
want to add?

Getting Terrain Mix
Dressing up an encounter with terrain is an art, not a
science. Only during and after an encounter, when you
can see if it worked the way you wanted, can you judge
if your decisions were good ones. Experience is your
best guide. Keep the following points in mind to try to
use terrain well.
1. Terrain has a purpose. Some terrain is just supposed to look cool. Some terrain serves to slow down
the party. Look at each section of the encounter area
and make sure it fulfills some purpose.
2. Terrain encourages choices. Do the PCs fight
the goblins coming down the corridor, or do they focus
on the bugbear torturer? If every fight has the PCs on
one side of the room and the monsters on the other,
things get boring fast. Build areas where the PCs and
monsters can take a lot of different paths to attack
each other.
3. Terrain encourages movement. A crumbling
wall provides cover against a beholder’s attacks. An
ogre runs to close a portcullis, trapping the PCs in the
dungeon unless they can intercept it. Terrain should
give characters and monsters a reason to move toward
it or away from it. An easily defended position, such
as a narrow doorway, is a magnet for the PCs if they
are outnumbered. On the other hand, if the PCs outnumber the monsters, they want to push the fight to
an open space. If both sides are standing around trading blows round after round, your terrain isn’t doing
its job.
4. Terrain makes fights more interesting. After
an encounter, the players should remember the terrain
as well as the monsters that occupied it. Part of this
memorability comes from the terrain’s tactical aspects,
but your description also plays a big role. Search for
reasons to add memorable terrain to the battlefield.
Using generic rubble as terrain is useful, but you can
add to the experience by describing the rubble in a
temple to Torog as heaps of ancient, broken skulls.
That terrain has the same mechanical effect as ordinary rubble but injects an element of creepiness into
the atmosphere.

Sample Mundane Terrain
Difficult terrain might take the form of a steep staircase in a dungeon or shifting sands on a stormy beach.
This section offers help in applying the basic terrain
categories to the features that characters commonly
find in their adventures.
Terrain and Skill Checks or Ability Checks:
When terrain requires a skill check or ability check,
use the Difficulty Class by Level table (page 42) to
set a DC that’s appropriate to the characters’ level.
Some of the examples below show DCs for breaking
down doors or opening locks, and also show the level
at which a character should be able to break down
the door with a Strength check of moderate difficulty.
Thus, that level is a good rule of thumb for dungeon
design. Don’t put an iron door in a dungeon designed
for 10th-level characters unless you intend it to be difficult for them to break through.

Dungeon Dressing
Dungeon dressing is a category of mundane terrain
that covers everything you expect to find in a dungeon.
Walls: Most dungeon walls are masonry or carved
out of solid rock. Characters can use Athletics checks
to climb a wall and break right through a wall with an
incredible Strength check.

Masonry wall (1 ft. thick)
Hewn stone wall (3 ft. thick)
Natural stone wall (3 ft. thick)
Wooden wall (6 in. thick)

Climb DC

Break DC

Doors: Opening a door takes a minor action, or
a standard action if the door is stuck and requires a
Strength check. A door might be locked, or it could
have a window in it that provides superior cover to
anyone firing through it.

Strength Check to
Break down wooden door
Break down barred door
Break down stone or iron door
Break down adamantine door
Break through force portal



Characters can open locked doors by using Thievery to
pick the lock instead of breaking down the door. This
is a standard action as part of a skill challenge. See
“Open Lock” on page 189 of the Player’s Handbook.
Portcullises: A portcullis is a metal gate that
swings shut or drops down from the ceiling. It provides
cover, and a Strength check allows a character to lift it
or pull it open.

CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 64

3/24/08 9:29:11 AM

Strength Check to
Force open wooden portcullis
Force open iron portcullis
Force open adamantine portcullis



Secret Doors and Trapdoors: In the confines of a
dungeon, some doors are disguised as part of the wall,
floor, or ceiling. A successful hard difficulty Perception check allows a PC to spot an average version of
one of these portals. They make great ambush points
for monsters or hiding places for treasure.
Small Statues and Pillars: These terrain features
are difficult terrain that provides cover. You can move
through their spaces because they are small enough to
squeeze past.
Big Statues and Pillars: These are blocking
terrain. As a rule of thumb, a big statue or pillar completely fills one or more squares.
Tapestries and Curtains: It costs 1 square of
movement to move through a tapestry or curtain hung
to partition a room or hallway. Tapestries and curtains
block line of sight.
Stairs: Stairs are difficult terrain, unless the steps
are sufficiently broad or the slope of their ascent is
Pools: Shallow pools, those waist-deep or less to a
character, are difficult terrain. Characters must use
Athletics checks to swim through deeper pools.
Ladders: Characters can climb ladders without
making Athletics checks. A PC moves at one-half
speed when going up or down a ladder.
Ledges and Platforms: Low ledges or platforms
(below waist-high) are difficult terrain. Higher ones
require Athletics checks to jump or climb onto.

To determine an object’s hit points, first find its size
on the Object Properties table below. Then apply any
appropriate multipliers based on its material or composition. If more than one multiplier is appropriate, it
doesn’t matter what order you apply them in. A Large
iron clockwork contraption, for instance, should have
around 60 hit points (40 for Large, × 3 for iron, × 0.5
for intricate construction).
An object reduced to 0 hit points is destroyed or
otherwise rendered useless. At your judgment, the
object might even still be more or less whole, but its
functionality is ruined—a door knocked from its hinges
or a clockwork mechanism broken internally, for



Reflex Fortitude HP
Bottle, book
10 Treasure chest, manacles
Door, statue
Wagon, vault door
Big statue
Gargantuan 2
Even bigger statue
Material or Composition
Very fragile
Paper or cloth
Glass or ice
Leather or hide
Iron or steel

Hit Point Multiplier
× 0.25
× 0.5
× 1.5
× 0.1
× 0.25
× 0.5

Damaging Objects
Like characters, objects have hit points and defense
scores (except for Will defense; see Object Immunities
and Vulnerabilities, below).
An object’s AC, Fortitude, and Reflex defense
depend entirely on its size. (As you can tell from the
following table, it’s pretty easy to hit an object; so easy,
in fact, that many DMs just skip the attack roll unless
the situation is particularly dramatic.)
An object’s hit point total generally depends on
two factors: its size and its material. As a rule, larger
or thicker objects have more hit points than smaller
or thinner ones. Objects made of stone or metal have
more hit points than those made of wood or glass.
Exceptions to this general rule abound. An object
that’s big but full of delicate moving parts might have
fewer hit points than a smaller, more solid object,
because it doesn’t take as much damage to render that
object functionally useless.

The D&D game would become a bloated mess if we tried
to cover every possible obstacle or terrain. If you want to
use something not covered in this chapter, refer to the
examples here as a guideline. Don’t be afraid to make
something up based on a logical interpretation of what
you think should happen.
Find a Match: Look at the sample terrain, find the closest match, and use those rules.
Charge Extra Movement: If a feature is difficult to move
into or through, increase the squares of movement needed
to cross it by 1, 2, or 3.
Skill and Ability Checks: Is there a chance that a character could try to enter a space and fail? If so, ask for an
appropriate check. Athletics is good for obstacles that can
be overcome by leaping or climbing, while Acrobatics fits
those that demand finesse and agility. Use the Difficulty
Class by Level table (page 42) to aid you.

CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 65

3/12/08 4:11:58 PM

Object Immunities and
Usually, it doesn’t matter what kind of attack you make
against an object: Damage is damage. However, there
are a few exceptions.
All objects are immune to poison damage, psychic
damage, and necrotic damage.
Objects don’t have a Will defense and are immune
to attacks that target Will defense.
Some unusual materials might be particularly
resistant to some or all kinds of damage. In addition,
you might rule that some kinds of damage are particularly effective against certain objects and grant the
object vulnerability to that damage type. For example,
a gauzy curtain or a pile of dry papers might have
vulnerability 5 to fire because any spark is likely to
destroy it.

Outdoor Terrain
From a dense forest to a scorched desert, the characters face a wide variety of outdoor terrain.
Trees: Trees are difficult terrain that provides
cover. Big trees are blocking terrain.
Undergrowth: Low, thick trees, small plants, and
other undergrowth are difficult terrain.

Foliage, Leaves, and Vines: Screening foliage,
leaves, and vines are all concealing terrain if the plant
material hangs down low enough or projects outward
enough to block sight. Such plant matter might also be
difficult terrain if the branches are thick or difficult to
move through.
Sand and Dirt: Soft, shifting sand or dirt is difficult terrain. Hard-packed sand and dirt is normal
Hills: A slope is difficult terrain, though shallow or
gentle slopes are normal terrain.
Ice: Slick ice patches are difficult terrain. You might
also require an Acrobatics check for a character to
avoid falling. See the relevant DCs under “Balance” in
the Acrobatics skill in the Player’s Handbook (page 180).
Swamp: Swamp is a combination of shallow pools
and mud. It is difficult terrain.

Constructed Terrain
Fortifications are built to repel attacks, giving you a lot
of interesting terrain options.
Streets: The best maintained streets are normal
terrain, but potholes and poor maintenance in the
rough parts of town can make them difficult terrain.
Windows: Windows provide line of sight and
grant cover. Opening a window is a minor action, and
moving through one large enough for a creature to fit
itself through costs 1 extra square of movement.
Arrow Slits: Arrow slits are small holes designed
to provide archers with maximum protection while
they fire. An arrow slit grants a ranged attacker superior cover while granting him or her a clear view of the
battlefield. The firer determines the target’s cover from
the square just outside the slit.
Murder Holes: Murder holes use the same rules
as arrow slits, except that they are placed in the ceilings of chambers to allow archers above to rain fire on
attackers below.
Catwalks: Narrow catwalks are difficult terrain.
You might also require an Acrobatics check to avoid
falling. See the relevant DCs under “Balance” in the
Acrobatics skill in the Player’s Handbook (page 180).
Furniture: It costs 1 extra square of movement to
move on top of a table or chair, but no extra movement
to move off. A character can also crawl beneath a table,
gaining cover against standing foes.

Many dungeons and caverns are illuminated to some
degree, since only a few monsters are truly at home in
pitch blackness. The Example Light Sources table lists
light sources, both mundane and magical. (It expands
on the table in the Player’s Handbook, page 262.) The
table describes the radius (in squares) of the light, the
brightness, and the duration of the light effect. You can
alter these numbers as you see fit in the context of a
specific terrain you make.


Light Sources

CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 66

3/21/08 10:15:52 AM

Torch in wall sconce
Phosphorescent fungi
Sacrificial brazier
Tiny fire creature
Small fire creature
Medium fire creature
Large fire creature
Huge or Gargantuan
fire creature





1 hour
1 hour
8 hours/pint
8 hours
4 hours
8 hours
8 hours/load
of fuel
8 hours/load
of fuel





Sample Fantastic Terrain
The D&D world is rife with magic, and this power
spawns wondrous terrain. Massive spiderwebs choke
ancient passages. Elemental energy surges through a
cavern, granting strength to fire-based spells.
Tier and Skill Checks and Ability Checks:
Throughout these examples, the term “per tier” is used
to show how an effect should scale. Multiply the per
tier value by one for heroic tier, two for paragon, and
three for epic. If a terrain feature grants a +1 bonus to
attack rolls per tier, the bonus is +1 at heroic tier, +2 at
paragon tier, and +3 at epic tier.
Terrain scales in order to keep it relevant as PCs
and monsters gain higher attack bonuses and hit
points. It is an element of game balance and a reflection of the greater magical power present in paragon
or epic locations.


The last entries on the table show the light emitted by fire creatures—fire elementals, hell hounds, or
immoliths, for example. Only creatures made of fire
(which includes most creatures that have the fire keyword) shed this much light.

Blood Rock
The site of ceremonial sacrifices, a great slaughter, or
some other calamity, the spirit of death hovers over
blood rock. A creature standing in a square of blood
rock can score a critical hit on a natural die roll of 19
or 20.

Cave Slime

Vision and Special Senses
Many creatures see in the dark much better than
humans do. Some creatures even see in complete lightlessness. Other creatures get along in the dark by using
other senses—uncanny hearing, sensitivity to vibrations and air movement, or an acute sense of smell.
Normal Vision: Creatures that have normal vision
see normally in areas of bright light. Areas of dim light
are lightly obscured. Areas of darkness are totally
Low-Light Vision: Creatures that have low-light
vision see normally in areas of bright and dim light.
Areas of darkness are totally obscured.
Darkvision: Darkvision lets creatures see normally
regardless of light.
Blindsight and Tremorsense: Creatures that have
blindsight or tremorsense ignore obscured squares
or invisibility within range. They can see creatures
in range regardless of these conditions. Beyond that
range, they rely on vision (unless they’re blind).

This thin, blue slime is harmless but extremely slick.
A creature that enters a square filled with cave slime
must succeed at an Acrobatics check or fall prone. Use
the Difficulty Class by Level table (page 42) to set a
DC that’s appropriate to the character’s level.

Choke Frost
Choke frost is found in the deepest caves of the distant
north or in the lairs of creatures of elemental ice. This
light, white mist congeals into thick ice as creatures
or other sources of heat move through it. Each time
a creature enters a square of choke frost, it takes a –1
penalty to speed. As a move action, a creature can
negate this penalty. Creatures that have the cold keyword are immune to this effect.

These strange, Underdark mushrooms are normal terrain, but as soon as a creature enters a square of these
mushrooms, the mushrooms create a thick cloud of
spores. The square provides concealment (see page
281 of the Player’s Handbook) for 5 minutes. Once a
square has discharged a cloud, it cannot do so again
for 24 hours.

Ember Moss
This strange Underdark moss is a useful ingredient in
creating everburning torches and sunrods. It is highly
flammable and burns bright. A character in a square
with ember moss takes an extra 5 damage from all fire
CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 67

3/21/08 10:16:12 AM

attacks and takes a –4 penalty to saving throws to end
ongoing fire damage.

Illusory Wall

Due to planar energy, the presence of a powerful artifact, or some other factor, this terrain boosts certain
kinds of attacks. Pick one power keyword, such as fire,
charm, or arcane. Attacks that have that keyword gain
a +5 bonus per tier to damage.

An illusory wall blocks line of sight. Creatures can
walk through it without penalty, though obviously creatures that believe the illusion aren’t likely to try doing
so. Some illusory walls are similar to one-way mirrors
in that they are transparent from one side (allowing a
viewer to see creatures on the other side) while from
the other side they appear to be normal walls (blocking
line of sight, and looking like normal wall terrain).

Grab Grass


This thick, tough grass grows in deep forests of the
Feywild or in areas where the Feywild’s magic filters
into the material world. A creature that falls prone in
a square of grab grass must make a Strength check to
stand up. Use the Difficulty Class by Level table (page
42) to set a DC appropriate to the character’s level.

This strange rock dramatically increases the weight
of all objects. It is difficult terrain, and ranged attacks
that trace line of sight through it take a –2 penalty to
attack rolls.

Font of Power

Grasping Slime
This black, viscous goo feeds on Underdark insects
and vermin by trapping them in place and slowly
digesting them. It poses no threat to larger creatures,
but its clinging substance can cause a creature to
become stuck. Grasping slime is difficult terrain. Use
the Difficulty Class by Level table (page 42) to set an
Athletics DC appropriate to the character’s level to
pass through the slime. On a failed check, the creature
enters the slime, but its move ends immediately.

Mirror Crystal
Mirror crystal causes strange twists and turns in space.
A creature standing on mirror crystal can look down
and see all the other mirror crystal spaces within 20
squares. Creatures can make ranged attacks through
mirror crystal, targeting any creature on or adjacent to
another square of mirror crystal. The range to a creature attacked through mirror crystal is 1 square.

Pillar of Life
This tall stone pillar is infused with life energy. Any
creature that begins its turn adjacent to it regains 5 hit
points per tier.

Illusions can mimic any terrain. Creatures that realize that an object is an illusion ignore its effects, while
those that do not realize the truth behind the illusion react to it as appropriate. Use characters’ passive
Insight checks to determine if they notice something
“not right,” but don’t allow them to make active checks
without good reason. Once a character has reason
to be suspicious, he can make an Insight check as a
minor action to attempt to disbelieve an illusion. Use
the Difficulty Class by Level table (page 42) to set a DC
appropriate to the character’s level and the relative difficulty you wish to assign to disbelieving the illusion.
Illusions don’t do any actual damage, and interacting with them might reveal their true nature. For
example, a character who walks into an illusory pit
doesn’t fall to the ground. At that point, the character
realizes the pit is fake.

Sacred Circle
A sacred circle is dedicated to a specific deity and
infused with divine energy. A creature that shares that
deity’s alignment gains a +2 bonus to attack rolls while
standing in the circle. A sacred circle typically fills an
area 3 squares by 3 squares.

A slide is coated with a slick substance and designed
to send characters tumbling, offering quick transport
at a price. A slide is difficult terrain. A character who
enters a slide square must make an Acrobatics check.
Use the Difficulty Class by Level table (page 42) to set
an Acrobatics DC appropriate to the character’s level.
A creature that fails immediately moves to the end of
the slide, falls prone, and ends its move.

CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 68

3/12/08 4:12:01 PM




The webs of giant spiders are difficult terrain. A character who enters a spiderweb must make an Athletics
check or Acrobatics check or become immobilized.
Trapped creatures can use the escape action to free
themselves from the web. Use the Difficulty Class
by Level table (page 42) to set an appropriate DC
for the characters’ levels. Spiderwebs also provide

Whirlwinds form in areas infused with elemental
energy (often in water or air). A whirlwind’s current
pulls creatures along its path. This is a slide effect.
A creature that enters a whirlwind moves a distance
and direction determined by the strength of the
whirlwind. An affected creature can fight against the
wind by spending squares of movement to reduce the
distance the wind slides it. Only one whirlwind square
can affect a creature at a time. If the wind slides the
creature through or into another whirlwind square,
that square has no effect. A whirlwind can also move
creatures upward. A creature that ends its turn outside
of a whirlwind square and aloft falls to the ground (if it
is not flying—see “Flying,” page 47).



Teleporters are magical gates that whisk characters
from one spot to another. A creature that enters a
teleporter’s space immediately moves to the teleporter’s destination square. The square can be another
teleporter to allow for two-way travel. In that case, the
creature automatically moves adjacent to the destination teleporter.

CH A P T ER 4 | Building Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch04_.indd 69

3/12/08 4:12:02 PM


Noncombat Encounters


No D&D game consists of endless combat.
You need other challenges to spice up and add variety to adventures. Sometimes these challenges are
combined with combat encounters, making for really
interesting and strategic situations. Other times, an
encounter completely revolves around character skills
and social interactions. This chapter is your guide to
running and creating encounters that feature skill
challenges, puzzles, traps, and hazards.
This chapter includes the following sections.
✦ Skill Challenges: When characters make
skill checks in response to a series of changing
conditions, with success or failure being uncertain,
they’re in a skill challenge. Scouring the jungle for
a hidden temple or persuading the duke to send
aid to defend the pass might both be skill challenge
encounters, relying heavily on very different skills.
Learn to run skill challenges, creating your own
according to the guidelines presented here, and
see how to combine skill challenges with combat
encounters to create truly memorable situations.

✦ Puzzles: Some D&D adventures feature puzzles.
Some DMs believe puzzles should test the
characters, and see puzzles as a form of skill
challenge. Others see puzzles as a challenge for
the players, and welcome the variety and hands-on
nature of puzzles that they can solve personally or
as a group. Use puzzles as either sort of challenge
in your game.


✦ Traps and Hazards: Traps and hazards are
inanimate threats to life, limb, mind, or spirit. They
fill roles similar to monsters in encounters or stand
as encounters on their own. Learn how to use traps
and hazards, and select from numerous examples
to use or modify for your adventures.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 70

3/12/08 4:13:28 PM

4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 71

3/12/08 4:13:35 PM

An audience with the duke, a mysterious set of sigils
in a hidden chamber, finding your way through the
Forest of Neverlight—all of these present challenges
that test both the characters and the people who play
them. The difference between a combat challenge and
a skill challenge isn’t the presence or absence of physical risk, nor the presence or absence of attack rolls and
damage rolls and power use. The difference is in how
the encounter treats PC actions.
Skill challenges can account for all the action in
a particular encounter, or they can be used as part
of a combat encounter to add variety and a sense of
urgency to the proceedings.

Give as much attention to the setting of the skill
challenge as you do to the setting of the rest of the
adventure. You might not need a detailed map full of
interesting terrain for a skill challenge, but an interesting setting helps set the tone for the encounter.
If the challenge involves any kind of interaction
with nonplayer characters or monsters, detail those
characters as well. In a complex social encounter, have
a clear picture of the motivations, goals, and interests
of the NPCs involved so you can tie them to character
skill checks.
A skill challenge can serve as an encounter in and
of itself, or it can be combined with monsters as part of
a combat encounter.

The Basics
To deal with a skill challenge, the player characters
make skill checks to accumulate a number of successful skill uses before they rack up too many failures and
end the encounter.
Example: The PCs seek a temple in dense jungle.
Achieving six successes means they find their way.
Accruing three failures before achieving the successes,
however, indicates that they get themselves hopelessly
lost in the wilderness.

Skill Challenges
More so than perhaps any other kind of encounter, a
skill challenge is defined by its context in an adventure. Adventurers can fight a group of five foulspawn
in just about any 8th- to 10th-level adventure, but a
skill challenge that requires the PCs to unmask the
doppelganger in the baron’s court is directly related to
the particular adventure and campaign it’s set in.
Follow these steps to design skill challenges for your

Step 1: Goal and Context
What’s the goal of the challenge? Where does the
challenge take place? Who is involved in this challenge? Is it a stand-alone skill challenge or a skill
challenge as part of a combat encounter?
Define the goal of the challenge and what obstacles
the characters face to accomplish that goal. The goal
has everything to do with the overall story of the
adventure. Success at the challenge should be important to the adventure, but not essential. You don’t want
a series of bad skill checks to bring the adventure to a
grinding halt. At worst, failure at the challenge should
send the characters on a long detour, thereby creating
a new and interesting part of the adventure.

Step 2: Level and Complexity
What level is the challenge? What is the challenge’s
Choose a grade of complexity, from 1 to 5 (1 being
simple, 5 being complex).




Level and complexity determine how hard the challenge is for your characters to overcome. The skill
challenge’s level determines the DC of the skill checks
involved, while the grade of complexity determines
how many successes the characters need to overcome
the challenge, and how many failures end the challenge. The more complex a challenge, the more skill
checks are required, and the greater number of successes needed to overcome it.
Set the complexity based on how significant you
want the challenge to be. If you expect it to carry
the same weight as a combat encounter, a complexity of 5 makes sense. A challenge of that complexity
takes somewhere between 12 and 18 total checks to
complete, and the characters should earn as much

It’s not a skill challenge every time you call for a skill check.
When an obstacle takes only one roll to resolve, it’s not a
challenge. One Diplomacy check to haggle with the merchant, one Athletics check to climb out of the pit trap, one
Religion check to figure out whose sacred tome contains
the parable—none of these constitutes a skill challenge.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 72

3/12/08 4:13:39 PM


experience for succeeding as they would for a combat
encounter of the same level (it’s the same as taking on
five monsters of the challenge’s level). For quicker, less
significant challenges, or for challenges that work as
part of a combat encounter, set the complexity lower.
(Figure that each complexity is the equivalent of that
number of monsters of the challenge’s level.)
Set a level for the challenge and DCs for the checks
involved. As a starting point, set the level of the challenge to the level of the party, and use moderate
DCs for the skill checks (see the Difficulty Class and
Damage by Level table on page 42).
If you use easy DCs, reduce the level of the challenge by one. If you use hard DCs, increase the level
of the challenge by two. You can also adjust the level
of the challenge by reducing the number of failures
needed to end the challenge. Cut the number of
failures needed in half, and increase the level of the
challenge by two. (You can also mix DCs in the same
challenge, as described on page 74.)
Example: A complexity 3 challenge using hard
DCs and cutting the number of failures needed in half
increases this skill challenge’s level by four.

Step 3: Skills
What skills naturally contribute to the solution of the
challenge? How do characters use these skills in the
Certain skills lead to the natural solutions to the
problem the challenge presents. These should serve as
the primary skills in the challenge. Give some thought
to which skills you select here, keeping in mind the
goal of involving all the players in the action. You
know what skills your player characters are good at, so
make sure to include some chances for every character
to shine. In general, it’s a good idea to include a mix of
interaction skills (Bluff, Diplomacy), knowledge-based
skills (Arcana, Nature), and physical skills (Athletics,
Acrobatics) in the challenge, either as primary or as
secondary skills. These general sorts of skills play to
the strengths of most characters.
Start with a list of the challenge’s primary skills,
then give some thought to what a character might
do when using that skill. You don’t need to make an


You can also add a skill challenge to a combat encounter,
using it as you would a monster to determine the correct
challenge level. For example, combine three standard
7th-level monsters with a 7th-level trap with a complexity of 2 and you have a 7th-level combat encounter. While
some of the party deals with the monsters, the rest try to
overcome the trap with skill checks before the walls crash
together and kill everyone in the chamber.

exhaustive list, but try to define categories of actions
the characters might take. Sometimes characters
might decide to do exactly what you anticipate, but
often you need to take what a player wants to do and
find the closest match to the actions you’ve outlined.
When a player’s turn comes up in a skill challenge,
let that player’s character use any skill the player
wants. As long as the player or you can come up with
a way to let this secondary skill play a part in the challenge, go for it. If a player wants to use a skill you didn’t
identify as a primary skill in the challenge, however,
then the DC for using that secondary skill is hard. The
use of the skill might win the day in unexpected ways,
but the risk is greater as well. In addition, a secondary
skill can never be used by a single character more than
once in a challenge.
Always keep in mind that players can and will
come up with ways to use skills you do not expect. Stay
on your toes, and let whatever improvised skill uses
they come up with guide the rewards and penalties
you apply afterward. Remember that not everything
has to be directly tied to the challenge. Tangential or
unrelated benefits, such as making unexpected allies
from among the duke’s court or finding a small, forgotten treasure, can also be fun.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 73

3/12/08 4:13:40 PM

Step 4: Other Conditions
What other conditions might apply to the challenge?
Do the ogre mercenaries demand payment every
10 minutes they allow you to talk to them? Or is there
an energy-draining field in the Labyrinth of Shadows
that applies increasing penalties over the length of
the characters’ intrusion? These other conditions can
impose a sense of urgency on a skill challenge or comprise part of the penalty for failing at the challenge.
If you put a monetary cost on the challenge (as in the
example of the ogre mercenaries), try to make up that
cost in treasure if the characters succeed at the challenge. If they fail, the cost is part of the penalty they pay.
It’s also a good idea to think about other options
the characters might exercise and how these might
influence the course of the challenge. Characters
might have access to utility powers or rituals that can
help them. These might allow special uses of skills,
perhaps with a bonus. Rituals in particular might
grant an automatic success or remove failures from
the running total.

Step 5: Consequences
What happens if the characters successfully complete
the challenge? What happens if they fail?
When the skill challenge ends, reward the characters for their success (with challenge-specific rewards,
as well as experience points) or assess penalties for
their failure.
A skill challenge’s complexity, combined with
its level, defines its value in experience points. A
skill challenge is worth the same XP as a number of
monsters of its level equal to its complexity. Thus, a
7th-level challenge with a complexity of 1 is worth
300 XP (the same as one 7th-level monster), while a
7th-level challenge with a complexity of 5 is worth
1,500 XP—the same as a 7th-level combat encounter.
You can also decide to allocate some of the adventure’s treasure to the challenge.
Beyond those fundamental rewards, the characters’
success should have a significant impact on the story
of the adventure. Additional rewards might include
information, clues, and favors, as well as simply
moving the adventure forward.
If the characters fail the challenge, the story still
has to move forward, but in a different direction and
possibly by a longer, more dangerous route. You can
think of it like a room in a dungeon. If the characters
can’t defeat the dragon in that room, they don’t get the
experience for killing it or the treasure it guards, and
they can’t go through the door on the opposite side of
the room. They might still be able to get to the chamber behind the door, but by taking a different and
more arduous path. In the same way, failure in a skill
challenge should send the characters down a different
route in the adventure, but not derail them entirely.

In addition, failing a skill challenge might make
some future encounters more difficult. The angry
baron might throw more obstacles in the characters’
path or, alerted to their plans, increase his defenses.

Running a Skill
Begin by describing the situation and defining the
challenge. Running the challenge itself is not all that
different from running a combat encounter (see Chapter 3). You describe the environment, listen to the
players’ responses, let them make their skill checks,
and narrate the results. The skill challenge description
outlines the skills that are useful for the challenge and
the results of using them.
Roll initiative to establish an order of play for the
skill challenge. If the skill challenge is part of a combat
encounter, work the challenge into the order just as
you do the monsters.
In a skill challenge encounter, every player character must make skill checks to contribute to the success
or failure of the encounter. Characters must make a
check on their turn using one of the identified primary
skills (usually with a moderate DC) or they must use
a different skill, if they can come up with a way to
use it to contribute to the challenge (with a hard DC).
A secondary skill can be used only once by a single
character in any given skill challenge. They can also
decide, if appropriate, to cooperate with another character (see “Group Skill Checks,” below).
Sometimes, a player tells you, “I want to make a
Diplomacy check to convince the duke that helping us
is in his best interest.” That’s great—the player has told
you what she’s doing and what skill she’s using to do it.
Other times, a player will say, “I want to make a Diplomacy check.” In such a case, prompt the player to give
more information about how the character is using
that skill. Sometimes, characters do the opposite: “I
want to scare the duke into helping us.” It’s up to you,
then, to decide which skill the character is using and
call for the appropriate check.
You can also make use of the “DM’s best friend”
rule to reward particularly creative uses of skills (or
penalize the opposite) by giving a character a +2 bonus
or –2 penalty to the check. Then, depending on the

For speed and simplicity, skill challenges use only flat
DCs to oppose the PCs’ skill checks. Opposing them with
skill check results builds too much randomness into the
If you want to include opponents’ checks in your skill
challenges, use their passive checks (10 + base skill check
bonus). Insight and Perception are the skills most often
used in this way.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 74

3/12/08 4:13:42 PM

Group Skill Checks
Sometimes a skill challenge calls for a group skill
check. When the party is climbing a cliff, everyone
needs to roll an Athletics check to climb. In this
case, allow one character to be the lead climber. This
character makes the actual check to gain a success or
failure. The others make checks to help the lead character, in effect aiding that character, but their checks
provide neither a success nor a failure toward resolving the challenge. Each ally that gets a result of 10
or higher provides a +2 bonus to the lead character’s
check (to a maximum bonus of +8).

Informing the Players
In a combat encounter, the players already know a
great deal about how to overcome the challenge. They
know that the monsters possess defenses and hit
points, and that everyone acts in initiative order. Furthermore, they know exactly what happens when their
own attacks hit—and after a few rounds, they have a
good sense of the likelihood of their attacks hitting.
But a skill challenge is a different story. When the
PCs are delving through the Underdark in search
of the ruined dwarven fortress of Gozar-Duun, they
don’t necessarily know how the game adjudicates that
search. They don’t know what earns successes, to put it
in game terms, until you tell them.
You can’t start a skill challenge until the PCs know
their role in it, and that means giving them a couple
of skills to start with. It might be as simple as saying,
“You’ll use Athletics checks to scale the cliffs, but be
aware that a failed check might dislodge some rocks
on those climbing below you.” If the PCs are trying to
sneak into the wizard’s college, tell the players, “Your
magical disguises, the Bluff skill, and knowledge of the
academic aspects of magic—Arcana, in other words—
will be key in this challenge.”

Most of the time, skill challenges are completed in relatively short order. For skill challenges on a long time scale,
however, break the action as necessary. Just keep track
of successes and failures. For example, a skill challenge
could be set up that calls for checks once per hour, once
per day, or once per week or longer. Sometimes success
or failure in the encounters between checks can earn one
or more successes and failures in the larger skill challenge.
When assassins strike in the middle of a negotiation, for
example, fighting them off might impress the duke and
earn a success or two that counts toward completing the
skill challenge.

Multiple Skills Engage
Multiple Players
Engage multiple PCs by making a spread of skills relevant. It makes some sense for one character trained
in Diplomacy to do all the talking, but it’s no more fun
than one character doing all the fighting. Instead, multiple skills are relevant in every skill challenge, just as
a wizard and a rogue are both important in combat. In
a skill challenge, every character has something to do,
so no player is bored. Whether it’s the use of a primary
or secondary skill, or whether a character is cooperating to help another character make a check, every
character participates in a skill challenge.
As always, give the players the information they
need to make smart choices. Make it clear what skills
are useful in a challenge. The players don’t have to
know every skill that can earn them successes at the
start, but they must know some. And make sure to
tell them when a check result provides a success or
a failure—if the players don’t know if they’re doing
well or not, they don’t know how to proceed. You can’t
engage players if they don’t know how to interact with
the challenge.


success or failure of the check, describe the consequences, and go on to the next action.

Reward Clever Ideas
Thinking players are engaged players. In skill challenges, players will come up with uses for skills that
you didn’t expect to play a role. Try not to say no.
Instead, let them make a roll using the skill but at a
hard DC, or make the skill good for only one success.
This encourages players to think about the challenge
in more depth and engages more players by making
more skills useful.
However, it’s particularly important to make sure
these checks are grounded in actions that make sense
in the adventure and the situation. If a player asks,
“Can I use Diplomacy?” you should ask what exactly
the character might be doing to help the party survive
in the uninhabited sandy wastes by using that skill.
Don’t say no too often, but don’t say yes if it doesn’t
make sense in the context of the challenge.
Example: The cleric wants to know if his Religion
skill can give him some idea where the cultists would
build their temple. If he beats a hard DC, he’s sure
that the cultists would build their temple near a river.
The fighter wants to climb a tree with Athletics to get
a good vantage point on the surrounding forest, thinking that gaps in the trees might indicate the presence
of a river. That’s an easy DC check. Once these characters use the skills in that way, though, they can’t use
them again—Religion and Athletics, in this case, are
good for only one success in this particular challenge.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 75

3/12/08 4:13:42 PM

Skill Checks

Sample Skill Challenges

Skill challenges require the players to make rolls at
specific times. Call for these checks according to the
pace of the narrative and the nature of the challenge.
This might be each round on their turns, during each
short or extended rest, or some other time frame as
determined by the challenge in question.
Skill checks usually count as successes or failures
for the challenge, but sometimes a specific use of a certain skill in a challenge just provides a minor benefit
or penalty.
Examples: When forging a trail through the jungle,
every character has to make an Endurance check after
each extended rest to stay healthy. Characters who fail
lose one healing surge until the challenge ends, but
the party doesn’t accrue any failures for these checks.
In the middle of tense negotiations with the duke,
the castellan might interrupt to challenge the PCs on
a point of etiquette. Success on a Diplomacy check
doesn’t count as a success toward the challenge total,
but it could provide a bonus to the next check in interacting with the duke, or win a small favor from the

Use the following skill challenge templates as the basis
for skill challenges you design for your adventures. The
level and complexity values are suggestions only; adjust
as necessary to meet the needs of your adventure.

Encounters Have Consequences
Skill challenges have consequences, positive and
negative, just as combat encounters do. When the
characters overcome a skill challenge, they earn the
same rewards as when they slay monsters in combat—
experience and perhaps treasure. The consequences of
total defeat are often obvious: no XP and no treasure.
Success or failure in a skill challenge also influences the course of the adventure—the characters
locate the temple and begin infiltrating it, or they get
lost and must seek help. In either case, however, the
adventure continues. With success, this is no problem,
but don’t fall into the trap of making progress dependent on success in a skill challenge. Failure introduces
complications rather than ending the adventure. If the
characters get lost in the jungle, that leads to further
challenges, not the end of the adventure.

Sometimes the penalty for failing a skill check is the cost of
a healing surge. That can mean that a grueling trek across
hostile terrain is sapping the characters’ overall vitality, in
which case the healing surges don’t return until the group
gets back to a more hospitable environment. Other times,
the cost of a healing surge is just a shorthand method for
taking damage. A character injures himself, but he’s not
in combat, so he can spend a healing surge to restore the
lost hit points. If the encounter shifts quickly into combat
with no time for a short rest in between, you can give out
actual hit point damage instead.

The Negotiation
The duke sits at the head of his banquet table. Gesturing
with a wine glass, he bids you to sit. “I’m told you have news
from the borderlands.”
This skill challenge covers attempts to gain a favor or
assistance from a local leader or other authority figure.
The challenge might take only as long as a normal
conversation, or it could stretch on for days as the characters perform tasks to earn the NPC’s favor.
Setup: For the NPC to provide assistance, the PCs
need to convince him or her of their trustworthiness
and that their cause helps the NPC in some way.
Level: Equal to the level of the party.
Complexity: 3 (requires 8 successes before 4
Primary Skills: Bluff, Diplomacy, Insight.
Bluff (moderate DCs): You try to encourage the NPC
to aid your quest using false pretenses. Characters can
cooperate to aid a lead character using this skill.
Diplomacy (moderate DCs): You entreat the NPC for
aid in your quest. First success with this skill opens
up the use of the History skill (the NPC mentions an
event from the past that has significance to him).
Insight (moderate DCs): You empathize with the
NPC and use that knowledge to encourage assistance.
First success with this skill reveals that any use of the
Intimidate skill earns a failure.
History (easy DC): You make an insightful remark
about the significant event from the NPC’s past. This
is available only after one character has gained a success using the Diplomacy skill, and it can be used only
once in this way during the challenge.
Intimidate: The NPC refuses to be intimidated by
the PCs. Each use of this skill earns a failure.
Success: The NPC agrees to provide reasonable assistance to the characters. This could include
Failure: The characters are forced to act without
the NPC’s assistance. They encounter more trouble,
which may be sent by the NPC out of anger or

Example in Play
The initiative order for this skill challenge is as follows:
Jarret (20), Kathra (17), Elias (12), Baredd (8), and
Uldar (3). The Duke (played by the DM) doesn’t make
skill checks, but does respond appropriately to each
character’s check in a round.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 76

3/12/08 4:13:43 PM



Round 1
Jarret: I’m going to try to handle this with diplomacy. My good Duke, if you grant our petition for aid,
it will not only help us complete our quest, but it will
also secure your duchy from the ravages of the goblin
horde for a season or more. Surely you can see the
sense of that. (Makes a Diplomacy skill check and gets a
Duke: Hmm, well said. I do remember the Battle
of Cantle Hill. Nasty business. (The DM informs the
players that the History skill can now be used to aid in this
Kathra: I’m trained in History! I make a History
check to see what I know about that battle. (Makes a
History check and gets a success.)
DM: You know that the Duke fought in the Battle of
Cantle Hill before he rose to his current station. It was
a terrible battle between the people of the duchy and
a horde of goblins from the nearby mountains. The
duchy barely won the day, thanks in large part to the
actions of the Duke.
Kathra: Well, then I tell the Duke that I remember
the tale of that battle well, and how he bravely fought
off the goblins to save the duchy. Help us today, and
such a battle won’t have to be repeated!
Duke: I’m listening. Continue. (The DM says that
Kathra’s response is worth a +2 bonus to Elias’s check.)
Elias: I get a +2 bonus? Great! I’m going to use it to
help our cause with a well-placed bluff. Duke, I know
for a fact that the goblin leader is raising an army
even as we speak. If we don’t enter the mountain and
disrupt that army, the goblins will overrun the duchy
before the next moon rises! (Makes a Bluff check with a
+2 bonus and gets a success.)
Duke: An army? I won’t sit by and let history repeat
itself. Still, you are asking for a lot. . . .
Baredd: Enough of this talking! It’s time for action!
I try to intimidate the Duke into helping us. Look,
Duke, the goblins are the least of your worries. Agree
to our demands, or we might have to take what we
want. (Makes an Intimidate check, unaware that such an
action is an automatic failure.)
Duke: How dare you! I will not be threatened by
the likes of you!
Uldar: Okay, calm down, everyone. We’re all
friends here. I empathize with your desire to protect
your people, Duke, and I assure you that we want to
accomplish the same thing. But to do that, we really
need your assistance. (Makes an Insight check and gets a
Duke: Yes, well, I do not respond well to threats
and intimidation. (The DM explains as an aside that such
attempts always gain a failure.) Still, as long as we understand each other, let’s continue.
At the end of the round, the PCs have achieved 4 successes and 1 failure. The skill challenge continues.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 77

3/12/08 4:13:44 PM

The Dead Witness

Urban Chase

Bones creak as the corpse shudders and inhales. In a breathy
whisper, it asks, “Who disturbs my eternal slumber and
risks my wrath? Leave me be or suffer the consequences.”

Merchants scream and shoppers yell as your quarry shoves
her way through the market. You’re not exactly sure what’s
at stake yet, but you know you have to move faster than she
is and catch up to her before she gets away.

After invoking the Speak with Dead ritual, the characters must convince a reluctant corpse to give up its
knowledge. It refuses to be compelled by the power of
the ritual—at least not without a little persuasion. This
takes the form of a conversation that typically lasts 10
minutes or so. If the PCs are successful, the corpse
answers the questions placed before it as usual, even
going so far as to answer an extra question. If the PCs
fail in this challenge, the corpse remains silent and its
anger lingers to make the next encounter with undead
more challenging than it would have otherwise have
With appropriate changes, you could also use this
challenge for other rituals used to gain knowledge or
Setup: To learn what the corpse knows, the PCs
must give it a reason to help.
Level: Equal to the level of the party.
Complexity: 2 (requires 6 successes before 3
Primary Skills: Bluff, Diplomacy, History, Insight.
Bluff (moderate DCs): You falsely suggest that you
share a connection with the corpse, whether it be
family, religion, purpose, or the like. If the corpse
catches the PC in a lie (the check fails), you can allow
it to tell a lie as one of its answers.
Diplomacy (moderate DCs): You explain why you
need the information, truthfully detailing the needs of
your quest.
History (moderate DCs): You bring up events that
relate to the corpse’s past life, or you disclose what
happened after its death to make it feel more at ease
talking to you.
Insight (moderate DCs): You try to connect with the
corpse on an emotional level to make it more open to
answering your questions. First success with this skill
opens up the use of the Religion skill (the corpse mentions that it never received last rites before it died).
Religion (easy DC): You perform the death rites
appropriate to the corpse’s faith. This is available only
after one character has gained a success using the
Insight skill, and it can be used only once in this way
during the challenge.
Success: The corpse answers one additional question (in addition to the number of questions provided
by the ritual) before time runs out.
Failure: The corpse answers no questions. Further,
the ill will generated by the reluctant corpse makes
the next encounter the PCs have with undead monsters more difficult (increase the level of the monsters
by one or two).

The PCs are hot on the heels of the only woman who
can tell them what they need to know. Or the PCs try
to escape as their enemies chase after them. A typical
chase plays out in rounds, but it could take from minutes to hours in the game world.
Setup: To catch up with or to escape from the
NPCs, you have to navigate the cityscape faster and
smarter than your opponent.
Level: Equal to the level of the party.
Complexity: 5 (requires 12 successes before 6
Primary Skills: Acrobatics, Athletics, Perception,
Acrobatics (moderate DCs): You dodge past an obstacle, vault over a crowd, or cross a narrow passage to
close or lengthen the distance between you and your
opponent. A failed check indicates that you take a spill
and lose one healing surge, in addition to counting as a
failure for the challenge.
Athletics (moderate DCs): You run fast, scale a wall,
leap a fence, or swim across a canal to gain an advantage in the chase. A failed check indicates that you get
banged up and lose one healing surge, in addition to
counting as a failure for the challenge.
Perception (easy DCs): You spot a shortcut, notice a
hiding space, or otherwise aid your cause. Using this
skill doesn’t count as a success or failure for the challenge, but instead provides a +2 bonus or a –2 penalty
to the next character’s skill check.
Streetwise (hard DCs): You know enough about the
layout of urban settlements to use the environment to
your best advantage during a chase.
Success: If the PCs are chasing a quarry, they catch
up to their quarry (who might be carrying a monetary
reward); this could lead directly to a combat encounter. If the PCs are being chased, they evade pursuit
or lead their pursuers into an ambush (which leads
directly to a combat encounter).
Failure: The PCs lose sight of their quarry and
have to work harder to find her later. She might take
refuge in a den of thieves before they catch her, forcing them to deal with cutthroats or a crime boss to get
back on the track of the adventure. If the PCs were
being chased, their pursuers catch up with them, and
a combat encounter starts immediately.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 78

3/12/08 4:13:46 PM

Lost in the Wilderness

The orc captive snarls at you, hatred gleaming in his eyes.

After running for two hours, you are finally able to lose the
pursuing orcs. Unfortunately, you now have no idea where
you are.

In this skill challenge, the PCs try to extract information from a prisoner. An interrogation can take
minutes or hours, sometimes even days.
Setup: To convince an NPC to give you the information you want, you need to strike a deal or break the
NPC’s will to resist your persistent questions.
Level: Equal to the level of the party.
Complexity: 1 (requires 4 successes before 2
Primary Skills: Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate.
Bluff (moderate DCs): You try to trick the NPC into
revealing a vital piece of information. A failure closes
off this approach and increases the DCs of other
checks to hard for the duration of the challenge.
Diplomacy (moderate DCs): You try to reason with
or bargain with the NPC, offering something in good
faith for the information you require. At the end of the
challenge, if three or more successes came from this
approach, you must do everything in your power to
hold up your end of the bargain.
Intimidate (moderate DCs): You threaten the NPC.
A failure closes off this approach and increases the
DCs of other checks to hard for the duration of the
Success: The PCs learn valuable information from
the NPC, and he might agree to spy for them or otherwise give more information in the future.
Failure: The NPC refuses to give any useful
information, or gives information that is incorrect or
dangerously inaccurate. The PCs might walk into an
ambush, or give the wrong code phrase, or otherwise
run into trouble due to the false information they


The Interrogation

The PCs try to survive long enough to find their way
out of an unfamiliar wilderness. Checks in this challenge might occur once per hour or once per day of
travel through the strange region.
Setup: You must use your knowledge of the wilderness to survive long enough to find your way back to a
familiar area or to a settlement of some sort.
Level: Equal to the level of the party.
Complexity: 2 (requires 6 successes before 3
Primary Skills: Endurance, Nature, Perception.
Endurance (moderate DCs): At least two characters
in the party must make Endurance checks each turn
to resist the debilitating effects of wandering in the
wilderness and dealing with exposure to the elements.
A failed check indicates that all members of the party
lose one healing surge, in addition to counting as a failure for the challenge.
Nature (moderate DCs): At least one character in the
party must make a Nature check each turn to help the
group find its way through the wilderness, avoid natural hazards, and forage sufficient food and water for
the period in question. A failed check indicates that all
members of the party lose one healing surge, in addition to counting as a failure for the challenge. If the
party is traveling through the Underdark, replace
Nature checks with Dungeoneering checks.
Perception (easy DCs): You notice something that
helps you better survive the trek. Using this skill
doesn’t count as a success or failure for the challenge,
but instead provides a +2 bonus or –2 penalty to the
next character’s Endurance or Nature check.
Success: The PCs emerge from the wilderness
near a friendly settlement, onto a familiar road, or are
otherwise back on track and out of imminent danger.
Failure: The PCs stumble into a monster’s lair. This
leads to a combat encounter at their level + 2. After
dealing with the monster lair, they must complete
another “Lost in the Wilderness” skill challenge to
find their way back to familiar environments or otherwise get back on track for the adventure.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 79

3/12/08 4:13:46 PM

Discovering Secret Lore

Combat Encounter

Your knowledge has failed you. Time to research the answer
to the mystery before you.

As the monsters attack, you notice that the chamber is also
filling with a deadly green gas.

In this skill challenge, PCs try to learn more about
a clue they’ve discovered during their adventures. It
involves research in local libraries and attempts to
gather information from sages and other scholars. The
challenge might take a matter of minutes, hours, or
even days for particularly complex or obscure clues.

This is an example of a combat encounter that includes
a skill challenge. While some of the PCs deal with the
attacking monsters, others work to disable or destroy
the trap before it can overcome the adventurers.
Skill uses in combat are usually standard actions, as
described in the Player’s Handbook.

Setup: To find the information they need, the PCs
must search libraries and consult with loremasters.
Level: Equal to the level of the party.
Complexity: 3 (requires 8 successes before 4
Primary Skills: Arcana, Diplomacy, Religion.
Arcana (moderate DCs): You visit libraries and sift
through vast stacks of lore in search of a useful clue.
Success brings the research one step closer to fruition.
Failure indicates that this particular line of research
ran into a dead end.
Diplomacy (moderate DCs): You visit a sage or scholar,
hoping to curry favor and learn a useful bit of information that will bring you one step closer to discovering
the secret lore. This approach requires a character to
spend gold pieces equal to the level of the challenge
× 100. You pay the cost, whether the check results in
a success or a failure. A success provides a +2 bonus
to the next Arcana check or Religion check, as well as
counting as a success for completing the challenge. A
failure likewise provides a –2 penalty, as well as counting toward the completion of the challenge.
Religion (moderate DCs): You delve into religious lore
or seek omens and the counsel of priests to further
your research. Success brings the research one step
closer to fruition. Failure indicates that this particular
line of research ran into a dead end.
Success: The PCs solve the riddle or otherwise gain
the information they need.
Failure: The PCs uncover flawed or incomplete
information. As they proceed forward, they operate at
a disadvantage. Perhaps they find the wrong answer
to a riddle, causing a trap to detonate or cutting off the
aid they could have gotten from a magic item or ritual.
Or they might translate the lore incorrectly, leading to
all kinds of mistakes and misadventures as they otherwise work to complete their quest.

Setup: To successfully complete this encounter, the
PCs must defeat the monsters and overcome the challenge of the trap.
Level: Equal to the level of the party.
Complexity: 2 (requires 6 successes before 3 failures). Includes three monsters of the same level as the
Primary Skills: Arcana, Endurance, Perception,
Arcana (hard DCs): You call upon your knowledge of
magical effects to study the trap and determine some
method to help defeat it.
Endurance (moderate DCs): Every character in the
party must make an Endurance check each turn as a
free action to resist the debilitating effects of the trap.
Using this skill doesn’t count as a success or failure for
the challenge, but a success provides a +2 bonus to the
character’s defenses for the next attack the trap makes,
and a failed check indicates that the character takes a
–2 penalty for the next attack the trap makes.
Perception (easy DCs): You try to notice something to
help overcome the trap. Using this skill doesn’t count
as a success or failure for the challenge, but instead
provides a +2 bonus or –2 penalty to the next character’s Thievery check.
Thievery (moderate DCs): (A character must first
make a successful Perception check to find the mechanism to disable the trap.) You work to disable the trap.
Success: If a PC gains 6 successes before attaining
3 failures, he or she disables the trap. It no longer damages the party.
Failure: If a PC attains 3 failures before gaining
6 successes, the trap completes its cycle. This could
mean that it explodes and does considerably more
damage, or that it reaches its fully functional state and
becomes more deadly (increasing its attack bonus and
damage) for the rest of the encounter.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 80

3/12/08 4:13:47 PM

Puzzles in a D&D game present a unique form of challenge, one that tests the capabilities of the players at
the table instead of their characters. Combat is a tactical challenge for the players, and many traps and skill
challenges present puzzlelike elements, but they also
involve plenty of die rolling to represent the characters’ abilities. A puzzle, generally speaking, does not.
Furthermore, puzzles present a challenge to players
that’s usually independent of their experience with the
game. Experienced players have an edge in combat or
skill challenges because of their familiarity with the
rules and situations of the game. Unless a puzzle relies
on game knowledge, it’s just as accessible to someone
who has never played D&D before as it is to the hardened veteran. That makes a puzzle a great challenge
to throw in front of a group that includes both experienced and new players—as long as you know that the
new players have some interest in and facility with
puzzles. It gives the new players a chance to join in the
game on an equal footing.
The basic nature of puzzles—that they rely on player
ability—is the reason that some people love puzzles in
the game and some people dislike them. Players who
enjoy puzzles and are reasonably good at solving them
generally like running into them in the course of an
adventure. Players who don’t like puzzles, or who balk
at the idea that a 25th-level wizard with a 26 Intelligence can’t solve a simple number square, find puzzles
an intrusion into the game. Looking at the motivations
of your players (see Chapter 1), you’ll find that puzzles
engage some explorers and many thinkers, and they
can grab a surprising number of watchers, but instigators, power gamers, and slayers quickly get impatient
with them. If your group consists mostly of the latter
types of players, it’s best to steer away from puzzles.
As with all types of challenges, don’t overuse puzzles. A dungeon that is nothing but one puzzle after
another can be fun for a little while, but before long
the players will start wondering whether they’re playing D&D or just working through a book of puzzles.
Watch your players for signs of boredom or frustration, and head them off with hints or even a combat
encounter sprung on the characters to interrupt their
work on the puzzle.

Is a Puzzle an Encounter?
Although this discussion of puzzles appears in a chapter about noncombat encounters, a puzzle isn’t always
an encounter. An encounter, by definition, involves a
meaningful risk of failure. It’s possible for a puzzle to
fit that definition, particularly if it’s paired with a trap
or if it involves an encounter with a monster such as a
sphinx. Other puzzles, though, aren’t encounters. They



might be obstacles in the characters’ path, but ones
they can find other ways around. As a rule of thumb,
you can treat a puzzle as an encounter if there’s a
definite time limit to solving it, particularly if there’s
physical or other serious risk to failing to solve the
puzzle in that time. Otherwise, it’s not an encounter.

Using Puzzles
A puzzle can be an intriguing way to start an adventure: The earl is kidnapped, and a cryptogram is found
in his bedchamber. A cryptic prophecy leads the
characters to seek—or prevent—its fulfillment. A map
makes no sense until the characters read it in a mirror,
and then it leads them to the dungeon. A sphinx has
taken up residence in a mountain pass and won’t let
anyone through unless they can answer a riddle—and
so far, no one has.
More commonly, puzzles can serve exactly the
same role as other obstacles and challenges in the
game, including monsters, hazards, and physical barriers—they stand between the characters and their
goal, forcing the characters to solve them or find a
way around them. The treasure chest won’t open until
the characters place the colored stones in the correct
spaces on the grid, following a simple rule: Each row,
each column, and each subsection of the grid must
contain exactly one of each color of stone. The door
to the ancient shrine can be opened only by saying
nine prayers to the god the shrine was dedicated to,
whose name is concealed in a puzzle. The minotaurs
have trapped their captives in the heart of a sprawling
Some puzzles conceal a message that’s important
for the characters to learn, anything from “The baron
is a mind flayer” to “The third door holds no trap.”
Word puzzles work well for concealed messages,
particularly cryptograms, word searches (the leftover
letters spell the message), and quotation puzzles.
Other puzzles are a matter of the players figuring
something out in the context of the adventure. Given
a limited set of facts about the three sons of Emperor
Darvan the Mad and the three crypts beneath the
ruined imperial palace, the characters need to
determine which son is buried in the Crypt of the
Disgraced—a complex logic puzzle.

One way to appease the frustrated player who thinks his
high-Intelligence character should be able to solve puzzles
he can’t is to allow the player to roll Intelligence checks
or various skill checks to help solve the puzzle. With a
successful check (use the Difficulty Class and Damage by
Level table, page 42, leaning toward the hard DCs), give the
player a hint—a small part of the puzzle, one right move, or
a clue toward a new way of thinking about the puzzle.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 81

3/12/08 4:13:48 PM

Types of Puzzles
Riddles are a form of puzzle with an illustrious
history going back to the Greek legends of the sphinx,
not to mention The Hobbit. That classic form of the
“What am I?” riddle basically consists of a series of
clues couched in intentionally obscure language. Solving such a riddle is a matter of understanding the less
obvious meaning of the riddle’s words. For example:
In daytime I lie pooled about,
At night I cloak like mist.
I creep inside shut boxes and
Inside your tightened fist.
You see me best when you can’t see,
For I do not exist.
Apparent paradoxes, plays on words, and metaphor
conceal the riddle’s answer: darkness.
Cryptograms are written word puzzles in which
the letters are replaced with other letters or symbols.
An easy cryptogram uses a pattern of substitution,
such as using the next letter of the alphabet (use B for
A, C for B, and so on). Harder ones use no pattern,
matching letters more or less at random. Instead of letters, you can use runes or other symbols to spell out a
Word searches are grids of letters that conceal
words written horizontally, vertically, or diagonally
across the grid, forward or backward. You can give the
players a list of words to find, or use tightly themed
words (the names of gemstones, for example) and force
the players to find all the words themselves. Word
searches can conceal a message either by reading the
letters left behind when all the words have been found,
or by arranging the words themselves into sentences.
Quotation puzzles are perfect for concealing messages. In a quotation box, a message is laid out in a
grid, then the letters in each column are arranged in
alphabetical order instead of their natural order. The
players have to rearrange the letters to spell out the
message. An acrostic is similar, but the letters of the
message are scrambled and divided up among different words. Players decipher clues to identify the words,
then match the letters of those words to letters in the
message using a numbered key. Many newspapers run
acrostic puzzles on a regular basis.
Crossword puzzles include crisscross puzzles,
where the goal is to fit all the words from a list into
a provided grid of crossing lines, and fully crossed
puzzles like you find in most newspapers. A crisscross
can hide a message spelled out by shaded squares in
the grid, while a fully crossed puzzle is better as an
obstacle the characters must solve to get past.
Another common newspaper puzzle is easy to adapt
as an obstacle puzzle: a number grid. In place of
numbers, you can use any set of distinct symbols, col-

ored gems, coins, or other items. Given a few numbers
or symbols already placed, the object is straightforward: fill in the grid so that each number or symbol
occurs exactly once in each row, once in each column,
and once in each subsection of the grid. (A typical
number grid is 9 × 9, with nine 3 × 3 subsections.)
In a logic puzzle, the players figure out an answer
by using clues to winnow all the possibilities down to a
single answer. For example:
Emperor Darvan the Mad had three sons. The oldest,
Fieran, was killed by his brother’s hand. Madrash knew no
fury. Delvan was the youngest.
The three sons wielded three legendary swords, which
were buried with them. Fury’s Heart was never touched by
a righteous hand. Night’s Embrace was untainted by royal
blood. Death’s Chill slew the orc chieftain Ghash Aruk.
Having learned that much, the adventurers now stand in
the antechamber before the crypts of the three brothers and
read the inscriptions on their doors. The Crypt of the Disgraced holds the son who murdered his brother. The Crypt
of the Innocent holds the blameless son who died of old age.
The Crypt of the Righteous, undimmed by night, holds the
paladin son.
The characters need to determine which son and which
sword lie in the Crypt of the Disgraced.
A careful reading of the clues and application of
logic reveal that the Crypt of the Disgraced holds
Delvan, who used Fury’s Heart to murder his brother.
Mazes are classic puzzles often associated with
minotaurs (thanks to Greek legend), but you should
use them with caution in a dungeon adventure. Exploration that consists purely of a description of turns and
dead ends is not exactly riveting, and usually involves
only the DM and the player who is trying to make a
map. Used with caution—and spiced with traps and
monsters—a maze can be an effective puzzle. Typically, dungeon builders design mazes to keep someone
from leaving (as Daedalus did to imprison the original
minotaur), to keep something safe from intruders, or
as a trap, to prevent those who wander in from ever
getting out. (As a trap, a maze works best if a wall or
rubble falls behind the characters when they enter,
preventing them from simply retracing their steps.)

Designing Puzzles
Unless you have a particular fondness or facility for
creating puzzles, the best way to design puzzles for
your D&D game is to steal shamelessly. You can find
shelves full of puzzle books and magazines in any
bookstore, and the Internet has an abundant supply.
Sometimes you can use puzzles exactly as you find
them, but other times a puzzle works best if you tweak
and customize it to the game’s setting and the context
of the adventure.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 82

3/12/08 4:13:49 PM

Word Searches and Crosswords

A lot of published riddles are very culture-specific or
aimed at young children, or else so well known that
they don’t offer your players any challenge. However,
it’s not too hard to change the details of a riddle and
give it a new face that makes it harder to figure it out.
For example, consider the classic riddle of the sphinx:
“What goes on four legs in the morning, two legs in the
afternoon, and three legs in the evening?”
That riddle is well known enough that you probably
can’t use it in an adventure as it is. But if you change
its fundamental metaphor (the time of day) and couch
the idea of going about on varying numbers of legs in a
new metaphor, you can disguise the riddle:

You might have a hard time finding word searches
that are at all relevant to the world that D&D characters know, but word searches are also pretty easy
to construct. Start with a blank grid (such as a piece
of graph paper), then make a list of words that share
some common theme. One approach is to use the
words of the message you want the players to piece
together. Or you might use the names of gemstones,
aberrant monsters, or rulers from the ancient dynasties of Bael Turath for a really difficult challenge
(difficult because unfamiliar words are harder to spot
than familiar ones). Then place those words into the
grid in every direction (don’t forget backward, including diagonals). Start with the longest words, and work
down to the shortest. If you want the players to piece
together a message from the letters that aren’t used to
make words, make sure you leave room for those letters. Once you have all your words placed, fill in the
empty squares, either with the letters of your hidden
message or with random letters.
Making a crossword puzzle is a very similar task. In
both kinds of puzzles you’re arranging words from a
list in intersecting patterns.

In spring four pillars hold me up,
a shining dome above the earth.
In summer two pillars support me,
a doorway into mystery.
In autumn three pillars stand beneath me,
a temple of the Bright City.
In winter my pillars are crumbled to dust,
a ruin of ancient glory.
The answer to the riddle is the same—a person, who
crawls on hands and knees as an infant, walks on two
legs in the prime of life, and uses a cane for support in
old age. Using the seasons instead of the time of day
as a metaphor for the stages of life is a simple change,
and it adds a natural fourth couplet to further disguise
the riddle. Instead of the fairly literal mention of legs
in the original riddle, we switch to the metaphor of
pillars and add different metaphors for the person in
each stage of life.
When you’re making a riddle of your own, synonyms and metaphors are your friends. Start with an
idea of the riddle’s answer, which ideally is a clue to
the plot of your adventure. Then brainstorm a list of
the qualities that thing possesses. Once you have that
list, you can couch each quality in metaphorical or
intentionally obscure language, and you have a basic

Cryptograms are the easiest puzzles to create. You
can make a simple one by choosing a pattern, such as
replacing each letter with another one some number
of letters later in the alphabet (wrapping around to the
beginning when you reach Z, of course). Or just make
yourself a key, taking care not to use the same letter
twice (unless you want a fiendishly difficult puzzle). If
you find published cryptograms that use symbols you
like, you can adopt those symbols for your own puzzle.
Once you have your key, run the letters of your message through it and give the result to your players.



Quotation Puzzles
A quotation box is easy to design. First, write out the
short message you want to deliver, then count the
number of letters in the message. (A message longer
than 120 letters gets pretty unwieldy.) Don’t count
spaces or punctuation, but do include hyphens and
apostrophes. Divide the number of letters by 3 for
an easy puzzle, 6 for a really hard puzzle, or some
number in between.
Then take a piece of graph paper and count out
squares across equal to your new number, rounding
up. Count squares down equal to the number you used
to divide the total. Then write out the message, putting

When you include a puzzle in an adventure, it’s a great
opportunity to use a prop (see page 25). Even if the prop
is nothing more than a riddle written out on paper, it gives
the players something to hold, to look at, and to pass
around the table as they try to solve it. Sometimes you
can use actual puzzles as props—puzzle boxes, tangrams,
and other manipulative puzzles are a good place to start.
You can buy a blank jigsaw puzzle and draw a map or write
a riddle on it before taking it apart—and scattering the
pieces in different parts of a dungeon (or even different
dungeons!). Stores that sell books and educational games
for children typically have a good selection of puzzle toys
that can be reasonably challenging for adults.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 83

3/12/08 4:13:49 PM

one letter in each square and drawing lines between
squares at the ends of words. When you reach the end
of a line, continue in the leftmost square of the next
line. When you’re done, if you have any blank squares
at the end, fill them in with black squares.
Below your message, write down the letters in each
column, rearranging them into alphabetical order.
Those are the letters you’ll then copy onto a new piece
of paper for the players to solve.
An acrostic is harder to create, but if you understand how to solve them it’s a fairly obvious process.
The real challenge is in finding clued words that use
all of the letters in the original message, without using
any letters twice or leaving any out.

Number Grids
There’s no reason to create your own number grid
when there’s an abundance of puzzles you can steal.
The puzzle will feel more esoteric to your players if
you replace the numbers with symbols, colored gemstones in a grid carved into stone doors, or letters that
spell out a nine-letter word. (Remember that your
nine-letter word can’t use the same letter twice!) As
with a cryptogram, make yourself a key—you might
replace every occurrence of the number 1 with a C, for
example. If your puzzle spells out a word in one row
or column, you might want to give the players a clue to
the word to help them solve the puzzle.

Logic Puzzles
Logic puzzles are also pretty easy to steal and adapt.
If you come across a puzzle in which you need to correctly match each of three children with the color of
his shirt and his favorite fruit, you can translate each
child into one of Emperor Darvan’s three sons, each
color into one of the three legendary swords, and each
fruit into a crypt. The trick is in translating the clues.
Fundamentally, each clue in a logic puzzle amounts
to a fact such as, “Object A isn’t connected to object
2,” whether A is a crypt or a fruit and 2 is a sword or
a color. Sometimes a puzzle uses a positive assertion
instead (“Object A is connected to object 2”), but that
makes the puzzle simpler. If you boil the clues from
your example puzzle down into that form, it gets easier
to translate them.
The real fun of a logic puzzle is presenting it in your
adventure. Unlike a puzzle you find in a magazine, the
clues don’t have to be presented neatly arranged in one
place—the entire adventure can consist of assembling
clues that are scattered through ancient libraries and
crumbling ruins. You can also use a logic puzzle as
the structure of a mystery adventure, as the characters
piece together clues that ultimately reveal a killer, a
motive, and a an accomplice.

Puzzle as Skill Challenge
The voice flowed out of the statue, a cold, distant sound.
“What are the four virtues of Keblor Kest? Answer now,
before time runs out!”
You can also set up a puzzle as a skill challenge. In
this example, the PCs make appropriate skill checks
to simulate their characters solving the clues of the
puzzle. If they achieve the listed number of successes
before failures, they solve the puzzle and earn the
reward. If they achieve the listed number of failures
first, however, they fail to solve the puzzle and must
suffer the consequences.
Setup: To open the door to the secret chamber,
the PCs must solve the riddle of the statue. After each
success, the voice says, “Good, you remember Keblor’s
greatness.” After each failure, the voice says, “You
know nothing of Keblor’s greatness and time is running out!”
Level: Equal to the level of the party.
Complexity: 1 (requires 4 successes before 2
Primary Skills: Arcana, History, Insight, Religion.
Arcana (moderate DCs): You call upon your knowledge of magical lore to remember one of the four
History (hard DCs): You call upon your knowledge of
history to remember some forgotten bit of information
pertaining to the four virtues of Keblor Kest.
Insight (moderate DCs): You try to discern something
to help support the rest of your party. Using this skill
doesn’t count as a success or failure for the challenge,
but instead provides a +2 bonus or –2 penalty to the
next character’s Arcana, History, or Religion skill
Religion (easy DCs): As a religious figure of some
renown, this skill provides the best route to solving the
puzzle of the statue. You call upon your knowledge of
religious lore to remember one of the four virtues.
Success: If the PCs gain 4 successes before attaining 2 failures, the party solves the riddle, and the
statue slides open to reveal the entrance to the secret
Failure: If the PCs attain 2 failures before gaining
4 successes, the party fails to solve the riddle before
time runs out. The statue animates and attacks the
party. Start a combat encounter.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 84

3/12/08 4:13:50 PM

One wrong step in an ancient tomb triggers a series of
scything blades that cleave through armor and bone.
The seemingly innocuous vines that hang over a cave
entrance grasp and choke at anyone foolish enough to
push through them. A narrow stone bridge leads over
a pit filled with hissing, sputtering acid. In the D&D
game, monsters are only one of many challenges that
adventurers face.
If it can hurt the party, but it isn’t a monster, it’s
either a trap or a hazard.

Trap or Hazard?
What’s the difference between a trap and a hazard?
Traps are constructed with the intent to damage,
harry, or impede intruders. Hazards are natural or
supernatural in origin, but typically lack the malicious
intent of a trap. Though both feature similar risks, a pit
covered with a goblin-constructed false floor is a trap,
while a deep chasm between two sections of a troglodyte cave constitutes a hazard.
Traps tend to be hidden, and their danger is apparent only when they are discovered with keen senses
or a misplaced step. The danger of a hazard is usually
out in the open, and its challenge determined by the
senses (sometimes far too late) or deduced by those
knowledgeable of the hazard’s environs.
The common link between traps and hazards
revolves around peril—both to adventurers and monsters. Because of this similarity, traps and hazards
feature similar rules, conventions, and presentations.

Perceiving Traps and
When the party is within line of sight of a trap, compare each character’s passive Perception check with
the DCs of the traps in the room. A PC whose passive
Perception is equal to or higher than the DCs notices
the trap or the relevant aspect of the trap. Other skills
might also play a role in allowing PCs to notice traps or
identify hazards, such as Dungeoneering and Nature.
Of course, PCs can always try an active Perception
check as a minor action to find any traps they missed
with their passive check. PCs most often decide to roll
an active Perception check when some aspect of the
trap becomes apparent.

Triggering Traps and
Traps and hazards act without a hint of intelligence,
so their behavior is predictable, even if it’s sometimes
random. A trap is constructed to go off when certain
conditions are met—from a character stepping on a

pressure-sensitive flagstone in the floor to intruders
entering the evil temple without wearing the symbol
of the deity it’s dedicated to. When triggered, traps
and hazards either attack or activate and roll initiative,
acting every round in initiative order.

Attacks and Effects
A trap’s attack is limited only by the imagination of its
creator. A blade cuts across the corridor, making melee
attacks. Flames shoot out in close blasts. Rubble drops
from the ceiling in an area burst. Arrows shoot out
from the wall, making ranged attacks. Trap attacks use
the same rules as creature attacks, but a trap’s ranged
attacks and area attacks do not provoke opportunity



Countering Traps and
While the best way to counter a trap or hazard is to
avoid it, sometimes that’s not possible. That leaves
characters with three approaches to countering the
obstacle: break it, disable it, or outsmart it.
Destroying a trap or hazard with a weapon or
attacks is often difficult, if not impossible—arrow traps
are typically protected by walls or shielding, magic
traps have a habit of blowing up when attacked, and
very few attacks can counter that huge boulder rumbling down the corridor. But attacking and destroying
a trap may be the best way to defeat it in a pinch.
Most traps can be disabled or delayed with the
Thievery skill. Sometimes other skills and abilities can
supplement the Thievery check. When a character
delays a trap, the trap stops functioning for a period of
time (until the end of the character’s next turn, with a
50% chance each round that it reactivates after that).
Disabling a trap takes the trap out of commission until
someone makes the effort to repair or reset it. While
it’s delayed or disabled, the trap effectively isn’t there.
You can outsmart a trap or hazard. Figuring out
a trap’s location and avoiding the pressure plates is a
sure way of doing this, but more subtle and interesting
methods sometimes apply. Many traps have interesting countermeasures other than destroying, delaying,
or disabling them that make it possible for a variety of
characters to foil or even defeat them.

Placing Traps and
Traps and hazards fit into an encounter much like an
additional monster. Every trap or hazard has a level
(and an appropriate XP value for that level), so you
can figure it in as part of an encounter that includes
monsters to determine the appropriate reward for
defeating it. For example, an encounter for five 10thlevel PCs might include four 10th-level monsters and
CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 85

3/12/08 4:13:51 PM

one 10th-level trap. Defeating the trap, just like defeating the monster, earns the party 500 XP.

Trap and Hazard Roles
Although traps and hazards can take the place of
a monster in your encounter design, they aren’t
monsters. They attack differently, their effects can
debilitate, and they can be difficult to spot at first.
What traps and hazards usually don’t do is choose
from a variety of attacks, move into advantageous position, or even choose their target. And they typically
don’t take actions that aren’t strictly defined by their
construction or nature. That is the fundamental difference between a trap or hazard and a monster.
Because of these differences, traps and hazards
have their own roles that loosely correspond to monster roles. Like monster roles, they give you an idea of
how a trap or hazard is supposed to fit into an encounter, how it tends to act, and how it might interact with
the monsters and terrain in the encounter. There are
four trap roles: blaster, lurker, obstacle, and warder.

If a trap or hazard creates damaging areas of effect or
attacks multiple targets from a distance in a regular
and programmed way, it’s a blaster. Traps that propel
missile weapons, create exploding blasts each round,
or hurl magical effects from a spell turret all represent
blaster traps.
Blaster traps often serve a role similar to that of
artillery monsters, but can also work as a buffer for
monsters of other roles. Since many traps are harder
to damage than monsters, blaster traps are a first or
second line of defense that artillery or controller monsters hide behind.

Lurker traps attack and then disappear or dissipate,
making them harder to attack or counter. A pendulum
trap that strikes only to retract back into the wall each
round, and strange motes of energy from the Shadowfell that attack the life force of those nearby before
flickering out of existence for a few moments, are
examples of lurker traps.
Lurker traps fulfill the same role as lurker monsters. They attack and move away, and can be hard
to counter without organized effort on the part of the

As the name implies, an obstacle trap or hazard
impedes movement, and it might stun or daze creatures to further slow them down. Obstacles are
barriers and perils that characters can get past, but
they have to spend some effort or take some damage,
or both, to do so. Electrified squares on a f loor that

demand puzzle-solving to get around, magical glyphs
that require Arcana to decipher and avoid, or falling portcullises that channel movement through a
maze of corridors are a few examples of interesting
obstacle traps.
Obstacles complement brutes and skirmishers.
Carefully placed obstacles offer the brute an amount
of battlefield control and allow the skirmisher’s
expanded movement options to shine. These perils
can be extremely powerful when used in concert with
soldiers and controllers, since their very presence can
bolster the battlefield control that marks those two

A warder trap or hazard functions as an alarm,
alerting nearby guards or monsters while also doing
damage to the characters who triggered it. A warder
attacks to begin the encounter, dealing its damage or
other effect and raising its alarm. Thereafter, some
warders continue to attack and sound the alarm,
while others do their thing initially and then become
A warder can complement a variety of monster
roles, but typically works best with groups of soldiers,
controllers, and lurkers. It gives these monsters time to
prepare an organized defense against intruders who
have already been weakened by the trap.

Elite and Solo Traps
Much like monsters, traps can also be designated as
elite or solo threats. It’s relatively easy to convert any
trap or hazard to an elite version with quick adjustments to its DCs and attacks. Many of the traps
and hazards presented in this section include ways
that you can upgrade them to elite as part of their

There is always more than one way to approach a trap
or hazard. Even the best designed traps feature potential
design holes that a player might exploit to counter a trap.
Sometimes the best or the most fun ideas for countering a
trap or hazard come as a flash of inspiration during play.
Remember the first rule of improvisation: Try not to say
no. When a player suggests a plausible countermeasure for
a trap, even if that possibility isn’t included in the trap’s
presentation, figure out the best way to resolve that using
the rules: a skill check or ability check against an appropriate DC, an attack, or the use of a power. You can always
use the DCs that are included in the trap’s description as
example DCs for using other skills and abilities.
In short, always find ways to reward quick thinking and
fun when it comes to traps and hazards. Outsmarting traps,
hazards, and villains (and even the DM) is fun for players,
and first and foremost, your game should be fun.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 86

3/12/08 4:13:52 PM

Using Traps and Hazards
More so than monsters, traps and hazards take finesse
to run and place in an adventure. Some traps and
hazards behave just like monsters in an encounter,
attacking on their turn in the initiative order. Others
attack once, usually when the characters blunder into
them. Some even behave as skill challenges, requiring multiple successes to defeat before something
dramatic occurs.

Sample Traps and Hazards
False-Floor Pit

Level 1 Warder
XP 100

A covered pit is hidden near the center of the room. Timber covered with flagstones is rigged to fall when a creature walks on it,
dropping the creature into a 10-foot-deep pit.
Trap: A 2-by-2 section of the floor hides a 10-foot-deep pit.
✦ DC 20: The character notices the false stonework.
The trap attacks when a creature enters one of the trap’s
four squares.
Immediate Reaction
Target: The creature that triggered the trap.
Attack: +4 vs. Reflex
Hit: Target falls into pit, takes 1d10 damage, and falls prone.
Miss: Target returns to the last square it occupied and its
move action ends immediately.
Effect: The false floor opens and the pit is no longer hidden.
✦ An adjacent character can trigger the trap with a DC 10
Thievery check (standard action). The floor falls into the pit.
✦ An adjacent character can disable the trap with a DC 25
Thievery check (standard action). The floor becomes safe.
✦ A character who makes an Athletics check (DC 11, or DC
21 without a running start) can jump over the pit.
✦ A character can climb out with a DC 15 Athletics check.
Upgrade to Elite (200 XP)
Increase the Perception and Thievery DCs by 2. The pit is
20 feet deep and filled with poisoned spikes. A character
who falls into the pit takes 3d10 damage + ongoing 5
poison damage (save ends).


Level 1 Lurker
XP 100

Rocks fall from above.
Hazard: Rocks tumble down to a target square and make a
burst 3 attack.
Characters can’t use Perception to detect this hazard.
Additional Skills: Nature or Dungeoneering
A DC 20 Nature or Dungeoneering check notices a rock
formation is unstable.
Initiative +3

The trigger for a rockslide can be random, caused by the
actions of others, or timed. When triggered, the rockslide
rolls initiative. Between the trigger and the rockslide’s
attack, characters in the area know that a rockslide is
beginning and the area it will affect.
Standard Reaction
Close burst 3
Targets: Creatures in burst
Attack: +4 vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d6 + 2 damage
Miss: Half damage
Sustain Standard: The rockslide continues for 1d4 rounds.
The burst area is difficult terrain during and after the
✦ A character in the area can take advantage of natural
openings in the slide to avoid damage by making a DC 25
Nature or Dungeoneering check. With a successful check,
a character takes half damage (no damage if it misses).

Spear Gauntlet


On the other hand, solo traps and hazards are rare
and complex things that usually occur only as a skill

Level 2 Obstacle
XP 125

Hidden spears thrust upward from the floor in response to
pressure. The individual trigger plates and spear-thrusting
devices are connected to a key-operated control panel on the
wall nearby.
Trap: Five squares in the room contain hidden spears that
thrust up to attack when triggered.
✦ DC 20: The character notices the trigger plates.
✦ DC 25: The character notices the hidden control panel.
The trap, five squares placed randomly in the room,
attacks when a creature enters one of the trigger squares
or starts its turn on a trigger square. When the trap is
triggered, all five spears thrust up at the same time,
attacking anyone standing on a trigger square.
Opportunity Action
Target: All creatures on trigger squares when the trap
Attack: +7 vs. AC
Hit: 1d8 + 3 damage
✦ A character who makes a successful Athletics check (DC 6
or DC 11 without a running start) can jump over a single
pressure plate square.
✦ An adjacent character can disable a trigger plate with a
DC 25 Thievery check.
✦ A creature adjacent to the control panel can disable the
entire trap with a DC 20 Thievery check.
✦ A DC 20 Dungeoneering check grants the party a +2
bonus to Thievery checks to delay or disable the trap.
✦ A character can ready an action to attack the spears (AC
13, other defenses 10; hp 10). When the spears in one
square are destroyed, that trigger plate becomes useless.
✦ A character can attack a trigger plate or the control panel
(AC 12, other defenses 10; hp 30; resist 5 all). Destroying
a trigger plate renders it useless, and destroying the
control panel disables the entire trap.
Upgrade to Elite (250 XP)
Increase the number of trapped squares to 10 and
increase the DCs for Perception and Thievery checks by 2.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 87

3/12/08 4:13:52 PM

Magic Crossbow Turret

Level 3 Blaster
XP 150

A pair of armored crossbow turrets drops down from the ceiling
on the far edge of the room, peppering creatures with quarrels.
Trap: Two crossbows attack each round on their initiative
after they are triggered.
✦ DC 20: The character notices the trigger plates.
✦ DC 25: The character notices the location of the hidden
turret emplacements.
✦ DC 25: The character notices the location of the hidden
control panel.
Initiative +3
The trap activates and rolls initiative when a character
enters one of the four trigger squares in the room.
Standard Action
Ranged 10
Targets: Each crossbow attacks one intruder. It magically
distinguishes intruders from natives of the dungeon.
Attack: +8 vs. AC
Hit: 2d8 + 3 damage
✦ A character who makes a successful Athletics check (DC 6
or DC 11 without a running start) can jump over a single
trigger plate square.
✦ An adjacent character can disable a trigger plate with a
DC 25 Thievery check.
✦ Attacking a trigger plate (AC 12, other defenses 10) only
triggers the trap.
✦ A character can attack a turret (AC 16, other defenses 13;
hp 38). Destroying a turret stops its attacks.
✦ A character can engage in a skill challenge to deactivate
the control panel. DC 20 Thievery. Complexity 2 (6
successes before 3 failures). Success disables the trap.
Failure causes the control panel to explode (close blast
3, 2d6 + 3 damage to all creatures in blast) and the trap
remains active.
Upgrade to Elite (300 XP)
Increase the Perception and Thievery DCs by 2. Increase
the number of turrets to four.


Level 3 Obstacle
XP 350

Usually found in large, natural caverns, or in areas tainted by
the Shadowfell, these patches of large, toadstool-shaped fungus
can grow to be about 3 feet tall. When disturbed, a doomspore
unleashes a cloud of deadly spores.
Hazard: A doomspore fills a square (the square is difficult
terrain). When triggered, it releases a cloud of spores.
No check is necessary to notice the fungus.
Additional Skill: Dungeoneering
✦ DC 20: The character identifies the fungus as doomspore.
When a creature enters a square of doomspore, or kicks
or pokes at it from an adjacent square, or attacks it in any
way, the fungus releases a cloud of spores. A bloodied
character in the initial burst or that begins its turn in a
doomspore cloud is attacked by the poison.
Standard Action
Close burst 1
Target: Bloodied creature in burst
Attack: +6 vs. Fortitude

Hit: 1d10 poison damage and ongoing 5 poison damage
(save ends).
Effect: The cloud provides concealment for creatures inside
it. The cloud persists until the end of the encounter or for
5 minutes. Once a patch of doomspore creates a cloud, it
can’t create another one for 24 hours.
✦ A character can move into a square of doomspore without
triggering the cloud by making a DC 25 Dungeoneering
check. The character’s move must end in the doomspore’s
Upgrade to Elite (700 XP)
✦ Increase the Dungeoneering DCs by 2.
✦ Increase the damage to 3d10 poison damage and ongoing
5 poison damage (save ends).

Pendulum Scythes

Level 4 Lurker
XP 175

Scything blades sweep across the room in a seemingly random
pattern, cutting swaths at 5-foot intervals.
Trap: Each row of squares in the chamber features a scything
blade. On its turn, a blade sweeps through one row of
squares at random, attacking all creatures in the row.
✦ DC 17: The character notices thin, shallow cuts running
across the dungeon floor at 5-foot intervals.
✦ DC 22: The character notices thin slots across the ceiling
of the room, corresponding with the cuts across the floor.
A character who makes a DC 15 Dungeoneering check
recognizes these as signs of a scything blades trap.
✦ DC 22: The character spots the pressure plates at the
room’s entrance.
✦ DC 27: The character notices the hidden control panel if it
is within line of sight.
Initiative +6
The trap rolls initiative when a creature enters one of the
six squares of pressure plates at the room’s entrance. As a
standard action, a creature can trigger the trap using the
control panel at the far end of the room, if it has the key.
Standard Action
Targets: All creatures in a row of squares. Roll randomly each
round to determine the row the trap attacks.
Attack: +9 vs. AC
Hit: 2d8 + 4 damage and secondary attack
Secondary Attack: +7 vs. Fortitude
Hit: Push 1 (in the direction of the blade’s movement),
knock target prone, and ongoing 5 damage (save ends).
✦ A character who makes a DC 22 Dungeoneering check as
a minor action can determine the row of squares the trap
will attack on its next turn.
✦ A character can ready an action to attack a pendulum
blade (AC 15, other defenses 12; hp 48). Destroying a
blade renders that row of squares safe from attack.
✦ A character can engage in a skill challenge to deactivate
the control panel. DC 22 Thievery. Complexity 1 (4
successes before 2 failures). Success disables the trap.
Failure causes 1d4 + 1 blades to attack each round.
Upgrade to Elite (350 XP)
Two blades attack each round on separate initiative
counts. The characters’ enemies know the logic of the
blades’ attacks and avoid the rows the blades attack.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 88

3/12/08 4:13:53 PM

Level 5 Obstacle
XP 200

Blades rise out of hidden compartments and spin wildly across
the chamber.
Trap: A whirling blades contraption emerges and spins like a
top, moving its speed in a random direction and attacking
each round.
✦ DC 22: The character notices trigger plates around the
✦ DC 27: The character notices the hidden control panel.
Initiative +7
Speed 4
When a character moves into a trigger square, the
whirling blades contraption emerges and attacks.
Standard Action
Close burst 1
Targets: All creatures in burst
Attack: +10 vs. AC
Hit: 3d8+3 damage
✦ A character can engage in a skill challenge to deactivate
the control panel. DC 22 Thievery. Complexity 2 (6
successes before 3 failures). Success disables the trap.
Failure causes the whirling blades to act twice in the
round (roll a second initiative for the trap).
✦ A character can attack the whirling blades contraption
(AC 16, other defenses 13; hp 55; resist 5 all) or the
control panel (AC 14, other defenses 11; hp 35; resist 5
all). Destroying either disables the entire trap.

Treacherous Ice Sheet

Poisoned Dart Wall

Level 6 Blaster
XP 250

Darts fire from the wall, filling the chamber with danger.
Trap: Each round on its initiative, the trap fires a barrage of
poison darts that randomly attack 2d4 targets in range.
✦ DC 22: The character notices the small holes in the walls.
✦ DC 27: The character notices the tripwire trigger.
Initiative +7
When a character moves across the tripwire at the
entrance of the chamber, the trap rolls initiative.
Standard Action
Ranged 20
Targets: 2d4 targets in range
Attack: +11 vs. AC
Hit: 1d8+2 damage and ongoing 5 poison damage (save
✦ An adjacent character can disable the tripwire with a DC
30 Thievery check.
✦ A character who moves no more than 1 square on a turn
gains a +5 bonus to AC against the dart attacks.
Upgrade to Elite (500 XP)
✦ Increase the DCs for Perception and Thievery checks by 2.
✦ The trap fires 4d4 darts that deal 1d8+2 damage and
ongoing 10 poison damage (save ends).


Whirling Blades

Level 5 Obstacle
XP 200

A slick sheet of ice creates a hazardous obstacle.

W I L L I A M O ’ CO N N O R

Hazard: This sheet of ice fills 10 contiguous squares, turning
them into difficult terrain.
No check is necessary to notice the ice.
Additional Skill: Nature
✦ DC 22: The character identifies the squares of treacherous
The ice attacks when a creature enters or begins its turn in
a square of treacherous ice. It also attacks when a creature
stands up from prone in a square of treacherous ice.
Opportunity Action
Target: Creature on the ice
Attack: +8 vs. Reflex
Hit: 1d6+2 damage and fall prone. If the creature is already
prone, no damage but its turn ends immediately.
✦ With a DC 27 Acrobatic check and a move action, a
character can move into a square of treacherous ice
without risk of falling. If the check fails or the character
move more than 1 square, the ice attacks.
Upgrade to Elite (400XP)
✦ Increase the Nature checks and the attack modifiers by 2.
✦ Increase the size of the sheet to 20 squares.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 89

3/12/08 4:13:54 PM

Glyph of Warding

Level 7 Warder
XP 300

A hidden glyph around the door suddenly glows and explodes as
you try to open it.
Trap: A magical glyph wards a portal, ready to explode with
arcane fury when the trap is triggered.
✦ DC 28: The character notices the glyph.
Additional Skill: Arcana
✦ DC 24: The character spots the glyph and provides a +2
bonus to Thievery checks made to disable it.
When a creature tries to open the guarded portal or pass
through it, the glyph explodes.
Immediate Reaction
Close burst 3
Targets: All creatures in burst
Attack: +10 vs. Reflex
Hit: The glyph is designed with one of the following effects:
✦ 4d6+4 fire damage and ongoing 5 fire damage (save ends)
✦ 4d6+4 cold damage and immobilize (save ends)
✦ 4d6+4 thunder damage and dazed (save ends)
✦ 4d6+4 lightning damage and dazed (save ends)
✦ 4d6+4 acid damage and ongoing 5 acid damage (save
✦ 4d6+4 necrotic damage and –2 attack penalty (save ends)
✦ 4d6+4 radiant damage and blinded (save ends)
✦ An adjacent character can disable the glyph with a DC 28
Thievery check.
Upgrade to Elite (600 XP)
✦ Increase the DCs of Perception, Thievery, and Arcana
checks by 4.
✦ Add to the glyph’s attack:
Aftereffect: 4d6+4 damage of the same type as the glyph’s
original damage.

Daggerthorn Briar

Level 7 Obstacle
XP 300

Found in deep woods and in the Feywild, daggerthorn briar is a
bloodthirsty plant that some hard-hearted nobles use to guard the
grounds of their villas.
Hazard: A single briar patch of daggerthorn fills 10
contiguous squares, turning them into difficult terrain.
No check is necessary to notice the briars.
Additional Skill: Nature
✦ DC 24: The character identifies the patch as daggerthorn
The briars attack when a creature enters or begins its turn
in or adjacent to a square of daggerthorn briar.
Opportunity Action
Target: Creature in or adjacent to briar
Attack: +12 vs. AC
Hit: 2d10 + 5 damage and immobilized until escape. The
attack deals 3d10 + 5 damage if the target is bloodied.

✦ Immobilized characters can use the Acrobatics or Athletics
(DC 20) to free themselves.
✦ A character can attack a square of daggerthorn briar (AC
18, other defenses 15; hp 70; vulnerable 10 fire). Once
a square is destroyed, it cannot attack and is no longer
difficult terrain.
Upgrade to Elite (600 XP)
✦ Increase Nature DCs and attack rolls by 2.
✦ Increase size to 15 squares.
✦ Elite daggerthorn is not vulnerable to fire.

Flame Jet

Level 8 Blaster
XP 350

Two hidden nozzles let loose a blast of flame.
Trap: When the trap is triggered, two hidden nozzles in the
walls attack each round on their initiative.
✦ DC 24: The character notices the nozzles.
✦ DC 28: The character notices the control panel on the far
side of the room.
Initiative +5
When a character enters the blast area of one of the flame
jets, it makes its first attack as an immediate reaction. It
then rolls initiative, attacking each round.
Immediate Reaction or Standard Action
Close blast 3
Targets: All creatures in blast
Attack: +11 vs. Reflex
Hit: 3d8+4 fire damage and ongoing 5 fire damage (save
Miss: Half damage, no ongoing damage.
✦ An adjacent character can disable one flame jet with a DC
24 Thievery check.
✦ A character can engage in a skill challenge to deactivate
the control panel. DC 28 Thievery. Complexity 1 (4
successes before 2 failures). Success disables the trap.
Failure causes the control panel to explode (close blast
3, 3d8 + 4 damage to all creatures in blast) and the trap
remains active.
Upgrade to Elite (700 XP)
✦ Increase the Perception and Thievery checks by 2.
✦ Increase the number of nozzles to 6, or to 3 with a larger
area of close blast 5.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 90

3/12/08 4:13:57 PM

Level 9 Blaster
XP 400

Spectral Tendrils

Level 13 Obstacle
XP 800

A geyser of acidic liquid explodes from the ground.

Ghostly tendrils whip from the ground to lash at you.

Hazard: The geyser becomes active when triggered.
Thereafter, it attacks every round on its initiative.
✦ DC 28: The character detects the geyser before moving
within 6 squares of it.
Additional Skill: Nature or Dungeoneering
✦ DC 24: The character recognizes the danger of the geyser
before moving within 6 squares of it.
Initiative +3
The geyser rolls initiative when one or more characters move
within 6 squares of it.
Standard Action
Close burst 3
Targets: Creatures in burst
Attack: +12 vs. Reflex
Hit: 3d8+4 acid damage and followup.
Followup: +10 vs. Fortitude.
Hit: Ongoing 5 acid damage and blinded (save ends).
Miss: Half damage.
✦ A character in the burst can minimize the damage of
the geyser with a DC 28 Acrobatics check made as an
immediate interrupt before the geyser’s attack. With a
successful check, the character takes half damage if the
geyser hits and no damage if it misses.

Trap: This trap consists of a continuous field of 10 squares.
When a creature steps into the area of this attack, spectral
tendrils lash out and attack the creature.
✦ DC 27: The character notices something strange about the
area ahead, as though a ghostly mist hangs just above the
Additional Skill: Arcana
✦ DC 23: The character recognizes some terrain feature,
usually a fresco or other art, that serves as the trap’s focus.
✦ DC 31: The character’s knowledge provides a +2 bonus to
Thievery checks to disable the trap.
When a creature enters or begins its turn in a trapped
square, the trap attacks.
Opportunity Action
Target: Creature in trapped square
Attack: +18 vs. AC
Hit: 2d10 + 6 necrotic damage and dazed until the end of the
target’s next turn.
Aftereffect: Dazed until the end of the target’s next turn.
✦ A character who makes a DC 27 Acrobatics check can
move through a trigger square without provoking the
attack. The squares count as difficult terrain.
✦ An adjacent character can disable a trigger plate with a
DC 31 Thievery check.

Electrified Floor

Level 10 Obstacle
XP 500

A stretch of hallway contains glowing blue floor tiles. When the
wrong tile is stepped upon, an electrifying shock is triggered.


Trap: This trap consists of 10 randomly positioned squares
that contain electrified tiles. When the trap is triggered, it
✦ DC 26: The character can discern if any adjacent squares
contain electrified tiles.
Additional Skill: Arcana
✦ DC 22: The character’s knowledge provides a +2 bonus to
Thievery checks to disable a tile.
When a creature enters or begins its turn in an electrified
square, the trap attacks that creature.
Opportunity Action
Melee 1
Target: Creature in a trapped square
Attack: +13 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 2d10 + 6 lightning damage. On a critical hit, the target is
stunned (save ends).
Miss: Half damage.
✦ A character who makes a successful Athletics check (DC 6
or DC 11 without a running start) can jump over a single
trapped square.
✦ An adjacent character can disable a tile with a DC 26
Thievery check.
Upgrade to Elite (1,000 XP)
✦ Increase the DCs for Perception and Thievery checks by 2.
✦ The trap’s attacks deal 3d10 + 6 lightning damage and
target is stunned (save ends).

A disruption of some sort sets off a chain reaction that doesn’t
end until all the room is covered in rubble.


Caustic Geyser

Level 13 Lurker
XP 800

Hazard: When triggered, rocks and debris fall from above to
fill the area with attacks. It attacks a different part of the
area each turn, on its initiative.
✦ DC 31: The character sees that the ceiling appears unstable.
Additional Skill: Dungeoneering
✦ DC 26: Same as for Perception, above.
Initiative +6
The trigger for a cave-in can be random, caused by the
actions of others, or timed. When triggered, the cavein rolls initiative. Between the trigger and the cave-in’s
attack, characters in the area know that a cave-in is
beginning. On its turn, the cave-in attacks a random
square within the encounter area.
Standard Action
Close burst 1
Targets: All creatures in burst
Attack: +16 vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d12 + 8 damage
Miss: Half damage.
Effect: The burst area becomes difficult terrain.
Sustain Standard: The cave-in attacks each round, targeting a
different square.
✦ A character who makes a DC 31 Dungeoneering check
as a minor action can determine the square the trap will
attack on its next turn.
CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 91

3/12/08 4:13:57 PM

Altar of Zealotry

Level 15 Lurker
XP 1,200

Kinetic Wave

Level 19 Blaster
XP 2,400

The altar ahead appears twisted and evil, and it radiates a disturbing feeling of maliciousness and dread.

The object ahead suddenly glows with power, and a wave of kinetic energy rushes forth, smashing into you like an ocean wave.

Trap: Taking the form of a large altar devoted to a dread god,
this shrine attempts to dominate those who approach it.
The trigger area is the entire shrine. It draws its energy
from living creatures not devoted to its deity, and functions
only as long as such creatures are within the shrine.
No check is required to see the altar.
Additional Skill: Religion
✦ DC 27: The character recognizes the nature of the altar.
Initiative +6
When characters enter the area, the trap activates and
rolls initiative. The trap continues its attacks until no living
unbelievers remain in the area.
Standard Action
Ranged sight
Target: A random creature not wearing the holy symbol of the
deity it is dedicated to
Attack: +19 vs. Will
Hit: Target is dominated (save ends).
Aftereffect: Target is dazed (save ends).
✦ A character can attack the altar (AC 26, other defenses
24; hp 125; resist 10 all). Destroying the altar disables the
Upgrade to Elite (2,400 XP)
✦ The altar can attack twice each round.

Trap: When a creature steps within 5 squares of a particular
object, often an altar, portal, or other obvious item of
power, the object starts to exude kinetic energy that
pushes living creatures away.
Characters can’t use Perception to detect this trap.
Additional Skill: Arcana
✦ DC 31: The character recognizes the object as the focus of
a kinetic trap.
Initiative +8
When a creature comes within 5 squares of the focus
object, the trap activates and rolls initiative.
Standard Action
Close burst 5
Target: All creatures in burst
Attack: +22 vs. Reflex
Hit: 3d12 + 5 damage and push 3 squares and knock prone.
✦ An adjacent character can disable the trap with a DC 31
Thievery check.
✦ A character can attack the focus object (AC 30, other
defenses 27; hp 69). Destroying the focus disables the

Field of Everflame

Level 18 Blaster
XP 2,000

As you move forward, the shimmering haze of heat around you
erupts into a field of blazing fire.
Hazard: When a gate or portal to a fiery region of the
Elemental Chaos remains open for several centuries, a
small area around it can become imbued with the magic
of everflame. While the place appears normal to all but
the most knowledgeable observer, it’s a place dangerous
to creatures not accustomed to the flaming heart of
the Elemental Chaos. A field of everflame is usually 20
contiguous squares.
✦ DC 33: The faintest shimmer in the air marks the area as a
hazard of some sort.
Additional Skill: Arcana
✦ DC 29: The character recognizes the area as a field of
When a living creature enters or begins its turn within
the area, the hazard is triggered and attacks, bursting into
visible flame around the creature. (The rest of the area
remains difficult to see.)
Opportunity Action
Target: Living creature within the field
Attack: +21 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 2d10 + 5 fire damage and ongoing 10 fire (save ends).
Miss: Half damage.
Upgrade to Elite (4,000 XP)
✦ Increase the attack bonus by 2.
✦ The field is so powerful that it ignores fire resistance.

Entropic Collapse

Level 23 Warder
XP 5,100

The chamber swirls with dust, as though no one has disturbed the
place in a long, long time.
Hazard: When a creature casts a spell or carries a magic
item into an ancient, dusty room, it triggers a temporary
unweaving of the strands of time. Although reality
reasserts itself a few moments later, the damage to the
psyches of those who have glimpsed beyond time takes
longer to heal. The dust typically covers 10 contiguous
squares in a room.
✦ DC 36: The character notices that the swirling dust
appears to glow with a faint luminescence.
Additional Skill: Arcana
✦ DC 32: The character notices and identifies the telltale
dust glow that often presages entropic collapses.
When a character carrying a magic item enters a square
that contains the dust, or when a character in a square
that contains the dust casts a spell, the hazard attacks.
Opportunity Action
Close burst 5
Targets: All creatures in burst
Attack: +29 vs. Will
Hit: 5d6 + 8 psychic damage and dazed (save ends)
Miss: Half damage and dazed (save ends).
Special: Immortals, animates, and undead are immune to the
effects of an entropic collapse.

CH A P T ER 5 | Noncombat Encounters


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 92

3/12/08 4:13:58 PM

Level 24 Warder
XP 6,050

A glowing symbol wards the area ahead.
Trap: Anyone familiar with magic recognizes the symbol as a
powerful ward against approach. But its exact nature isn’t
known until a creature steps close enough to comprehend
it. Once triggered, the symbol inflicts excruciating pain.
✦ DC 28: The character notices the glowing symbol.
Additional Skill: Religion
✦ DC 32: The character recognizes the nature of the symbol.
When a creature approaches within 5 squares of the
symbol, the trap attacks. Once a creature has entered the
area, it can remain in the area without suffering further
attacks. The trap attacks again when another creature
enters the area, or if a creature leaves and reenters the area.
Opportunity Action
Close burst 5
Attack: +27 vs. Will
Hit: 3d6 + 9 psychic damage and slowed until the beginning
of the target’s next turn.
Aftereffect: Ongoing 15 psychic damage and immobilized
(save ends both).
✦ An adjacent character can disable the trap with a DC 36
Thievery check or a DC 32 Arcana check.

Soul Gem

Level 26 Solo Blaster
XP 45,000

A strange, many-faceted gem in the center of the chamber suddenly emits blasts of blinding light.

Sphere of Annihilation

Level 29 Lurker
XP 15,000

A strange sphere of impenetrable blackness hovers before you.
Hazard: A sphere of pure blackness fills one square or,
alternatively, is set into the wall of one square. It doesn’t
provide cover or block movement.
No check is required to see the sphere.
Additional Skill: Arcana
✦ DC 34: The character recognizes the sphere’s nature.
When a creature enters the sphere’s square or the sphere
enters a creature’s square, the sphere attacks.
Special: A character holding a special talisman attuned to the
sphere’s can control it. With a move action and a DC 25
Arcana check, he can move the sphere up to 6 squares.
The sphere hovers in the air. A special ritual is required to
create and attune the talisman, which is a level 29 magic
Opportunity Action
Melee 0
Target: One creature
Attack: +32 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 6d6 + 10 damage and ongoing 15 damage (save ends). A
creature reduced to 0 hit points by the sphere’s damage is
destroyed, reduced to a pile of fine gray dust.
✦ Destroying or disenchanting the talisman is the only way
to destroy the sphere. The talisman has AC 38, other
defenses 35, hp 200; resist 15 all.


Trap: This fist-sized cut crystal is often embedded in a statue
or placed on a pedestal in the center of a room. When a
creature steps within 5 squares of the soul gem, it starts
emitting blasts of radiant power from its many facets.
✦ DC 29: The character spots the strange gem.
Additional Skill: Arcana
✦ DC 33: The character recognizes the soul gem.
Initiative +8
When a creature moves within 5 squares of the soul gem,
it rolls initiative and attacks.
Standard Action
Close blast 5
Target: All creatures in blast
Attack: +29 vs. Fortitude

Hit: 4d10 + 5 radiant damage and ongoing 5 radiant damage
and stunned (save ends).
Aftereffect of stun: Dazed (save ends).
Special: Each round, roll 1d8 to determine the direction
of the blast. The blast is centered on one square of the
gem’s space, starting with the north square and moving
clockwise around the gem’s space.
✦ A character can engage in a skill challenge to detach the
soul gem from its socket and thereby disable it. DC 37
Thievery. Complexity 1 (4 successes before 2 failures).
Success detaches the gem and disables the trap. Failure
causes the gem to explode (close burst 8, 4d10 + 5 radiant
damage and stunned (save ends) to all creatures in burst) .
✦ A character can attack the gem (AC 33, other defenses 29;
hp 100; resist 15 all). When reduced to 0 hit points, the
gem explodes in a close burst 8, as above. Destroying the
gem disables the trap.


Symbol of Suffering


4E_DMG_Ch05.indd 93

3/12/08 4:13:59 PM




This chapter

teaches you how to build
and modify adventures. An adventure is just a series
of encounters. How and why these encounters fit
together—from the simplest to the most complex—is
the framework for any adventure.
An adventure revolves around a particular
expedition, mission, or series of tasks in which the
PCs are the heroes. Think of it as a distinct story
in which all the elements are tied together. An
adventure might stem from a previous one and lead to
yet another, but a single adventure also stands on its
Several sessions might be required for your group
to complete an adventure, or it might be over in one
session. If you’re using a published adventure, the
adventure is probably going to take you many sessions
to complete. An adventure from D&D Insider’s
DUNGEON Magazine might take as long, or you might be
able to finish it in one night of play.
This chapter includes the following sections.
✦ Published Adventures: Running a purchased
adventure is straightforward. Look here for tips on
modifying the adventure to suit your world, your
players, and your overall vision for the campaign.
✦ Fixing Problems: Whether you’re using a
published adventure or one you wrote yourself,
problems come up. Here is advice on how to
address some common ones.
✦ Building an Adventure: When you’re building
your own adventures, think about the beginning,
the middle, and the ending of the adventure, and
try to make sure they all feel satisfying and fit

✦ Quests: Quests are the hooks that lead characters
into dangerous adventure.

✦ Adventure Setting: Flesh out your setting’s
personality, from broad concept to small details,
mapping, outdoor settings, and event-based
adventures that don’t rely on maps.
✦ Cast of Characters: Monsters and nonplayer
characters bring an adventure to life.

W I L L I A M O ’ CO N N O R

✦ Encounter Mix: A good adventure presents a
variety of challenges.

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 94

3/12/08 4:15:17 PM

4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 95

3/12/08 4:15:23 PM

Published adventures are readily available on D&D
Insider, in Wizards of the Coast products such as campaign guides, and as stand-alone products. If your
campaign is episodic in nature (a series of adventures
that are only loosely connected), you can easily run
your whole campaign using published adventures.
That’s a great solution if you don’t have a lot of time
for preparation. Even if your campaign is more
story-driven, you can make good use of published
adventures with a little bit of preparation.

Hook Them In
The first thing to consider is how to stitch the published adventure into your campaign. In order for it to
feel like a seamless part of your campaign’s story, you
need to weave threads out from it in both directions:
backward into the previous adventures and forward
into the following ones.

Plan Forward
As you’re planning your game sessions, always be
thinking about the adventure you’re going to run next.
Look for ways to plant story hooks that lead characters
from their current adventure to the next one. Two or
three sessions before you’re going to start the next
adventure, look through it and find an NPC, location, or plot point that you can work into the current

to give recurring characters distinctive features or
mannerisms, so the players remember them from one
adventure to the next.
Look for ways to connect characters in different
adventures to each other. If one adventure involves a
cultist of Zehir and another one pits the PCs against
the cult of Asmodeus, change one or the other (or
both!) so these two cults are devoted to the same
deity. If the next adventure you want to run pits the
characters against a hidden cult of Bane, alter a character or a group of bandits in the current adventure
so they’re Bane worshipers (carrying his symbol in
their gear).

Plant Location Hooks or Maps
Locations are also good linking tools, from the classic
treasure map depicting the site of the next adventure
to nervous locals talking about the haunted tower in
the mountains while the characters are exploring the
ruins in the forest. Consider planting a partial map
from your next adventure somewhere in the current
adventure—on the body of the main villain is a particularly strong choice.

Simple Fixes
Even if you don’t have time to weave threads between
adventures, you can use a few simple techniques to put
a unique stamp on a published adventure to make it fit
better in your campaign.

Use Adventure Hooks
Most published adventures provide adventure hooks
designed to draw characters into the plot of the adventure. Look for ways to incorporate those hooks into
your current adventure, rather than abruptly throwing them in front of the players at the start of the
next one. Plot is a strong linking tool, and the more
you can weave an adventure hook into the course of
another adventure, the better. For example, one of the
adventure hooks for The Keep on the Shadowfell has the
characters learn of a ruined fortress that might contain
treasures from a fallen empire. You could just tell the
characters at the start of the adventure that they’ve
learned of this place, but the adventure starts to feel
like part of your campaign if they find a history of this
ruined fortress while on another adventure.

Tie in NPCs and Groups
A nonplayer character or group can be another strong
connection between adventures. If a helpful merchant gives the characters useful information in one
adventure, the PCs are more likely to listen to him
when he comes asking for help in the next one. Try

Change Names
If your campaign is based in Golden Huzuz, the City
of Delights, ruled by the Grand Caliph Khalil al-Assad,
it might be a little jarring for the PCs to travel to the
nearby village of Brindinford and speak to Baron
Euphemes. Fortunately, names are easy to change.
Brindinford becomes Halwa, the baron turns into
Amir Ghalid al-Fahad, and the architectural details
of the city change to match the rest of your campaign.
You’re ready to go!

Alter the Setting
It rarely snows anywhere within a thousand miles
of Golden Huzuz, but you just found an adventure
involving a trek across a frozen tundra to an ancient,
monumental ruin. You might be tempted to pass over
that adventure as useless to your campaign, but an
adventure’s setting is easy to alter.
Altering a setting can be as simple as scanning the
descriptive text for details of the setting and changing
those details to match what you have in mind. Rather
than frigid wind blowing sharp ice crystals through

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 96

3/12/08 4:15:26 PM

Adjust Monsters
If you’ve changed an adventure’s setting, you might
feel like you need to change some monsters as well.
Maybe a white dragon feels out of place in the desert
outside Golden Huzuz (although its presence could
add a strange mystery to the adventure, which you
could follow up on in a later one). A quick glance at the
Monster Manual’s list of monsters organized by level
makes these changes easy. If the adult white dragon
is out of place, maybe an oni night haunter combined
with some ogre savages fits better with what you have
in mind.

Scale Levels
What do you do if the adventure you want to run is
written for a group of a different level from your player’s characters? First, bear in mind that an encounter
two or three levels above the PCs isn’t a killer encounter. It might be more challenging, but it shouldn’t wipe
them out. Likewise, an encounter two or three levels
below them can still provide an appropriate challenge.
If you still want to adjust the levels of encounters
in a published adventure, you can do it three ways:
change the numbers of monsters in the encounters,
change the monsters’ levels, or change the monsters
Chapter 4 tells you how to adjust the level of an
encounter by adding or removing monsters. You can
easily increase or decrease an encounter’s level by
up to three or four. For example, if you want to use a
published 10th-level encounter against a 14th-level
party, you’re looking to add 2,500 XP. (See the Experience Rewards table and the Target Encounter XP
Totals table on pages 56 and 57.) You could double the
monsters in the encounter, or just throw a 15th-level
elite monster into the encounter. Taking two 14th-level
monsters out of a 14th-level encounter makes it a fine
encounter for 10th-level characters.
Chapter 10 provides some ways to adjust the levels
of monsters or turn normal monsters into elite or solo
monsters. Adjusting a monster’s level by two to four
is as simple as adjusting its attacks and defenses by 1
or 2 points. Turning a single monster in an encounter
into an elite monster raises the encounter level by one,
and turning one monster into a solo monster raises the
level by four.
Finally, you can use the Monster Manual’s list of
monsters by level to swap out monsters for similar
monsters of a different level. Many monsters have
versions or variations at a range of levels, so you can
replace a 7th-level carrion crawler with a 17th-level
enormous carrion crawler, or vice versa. (But watch
out for the sizes of encounter areas.)

Bring Them Out
Transitioning characters out of a published adventure,
whether you’re bringing them back into the main
storyline of your campaign with an adventure you’ve
written yourself or moving them on to the next published adventure you want to run, is just another way
of looking at the issue of bringing characters into the
adventure in the first place.

Weave in More Threads
Use the same techniques described in “Hook Them In”
to plant seeds for the next adventure you want to run
into the published adventure. If you have established
villains in your own campaign, insert one of those villains (or a member of a villainous organization) into
the closing encounters of the published adventure (or
throughout the course of the adventure) to remind the
players of the larger story that encompasses the current adventure.


the air, describe gusts of arid wind driving stinging
sand into the characters’ faces.

Twist the Ending
Another interesting technique is a jarring exit, in
which the players suddenly learn that the adventure
they’ve just completed was a diversion from the main
story of the campaign. Perhaps it was just an interesting side trek, or perhaps the villains intentionally
misled them in order to get them out of the way for
a time: “You return triumphantly from your latest
adventure, only to find that while you were away in the
western hinterlands, the Knights of Zehir deposed the
baron and took control of Starhold Keep!”
Don’t overuse this technique, though. Players who
feel as though they’re constantly being duped and
dragged down the wrong path quickly grow frustrated.

Use Unresolved Questions
If you haven’t designed your own adventures before,
a great way to start is by looking at the situation at the
end of a published adventure. The adventure might
pose unresolved questions for the characters, villains
might have escaped, or the characters might have
left sections of the dungeon unexplored. Your players will thank you for an opportunity to tie up those
loose ends instead of hurtling on into an unrelated
adventure. The rest of this chapter provides plenty of
advice about how to create adventures, and if you use a
published adventure as a starting point, you are off to
a great start.

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 97

3/12/08 4:15:27 PM

Published adventures, for better or worse, can’t
account for every character action. Occasionally, the
characters decide to go exactly the wrong way, pursuing a path not covered in the adventure at all. They
discover a shortcut that the adventure designer didn’t
anticipate and skip right to the climactic battle of
the adventure. They traipse through encounter after
encounter without breaking a sweat or unleashing any
daily powers.
What do you do?
You can ask your players to show mercy and do
what the adventure expects them to do. Understanding players will agree, but it leaves a sour taste in their
mouth. Instead, remember the first rule of improvising: Say yes, and go from there. (See page 28 for more
advice about improvising.)

Wandering Off Course
You can often steer wandering characters back to the
main plot line of the adventure, but be careful not to
be too heavy-handed about it. Entice them back to
where you want them to be, don’t pick them up and
drop them there. Don’t bore them back to the adventure, either. Making the characters wander through
the wilderness for weeks on end without a single
encounter communicates your displeasure clearly, but
it’s a painful way of steering the characters.
Use Extra Encounters: Use extra encounters you
prepared ahead of time to fill in the gaps in the adventure, and make sure those encounters are just as fun
and pulse-pounding as the rest of the encounters in
the adventure. Then plant hooks in those encounters
to lead the players back to prepared material.
Generate Random Encounters: If you don’t have
prepared encounters, make something up. Chapter
10 provides ways to generate random dungeons and
random encounters. At worst, you need a way to fill a
few encounters from these improvisational tools until
the end of the session. You can spend your preparation
time before the next session figuring out how to get the
adventure back on track.
Let It Go and Move On: Sometimes the adventure you’re running isn’t worth steering the characters
back to. The characters might have strayed off course
on purpose because they found the adventure unsatisfying. Don’t keep leading the players back to an
adventure that has failed to capture their interest
unless you’re sure you can resurrect their interest in
the next encounter. If the characters wander away
from an adventure, it might be time to bring out the
next adventure.

Skipping to the End
Sometimes adventure designers fail to account for the
capabilities of high-level characters or the resourcefulness of clever players, and the players find a way to
skip over most of the adventure and get right to the
climactic fight. Again, it’s better to say yes and go from
there, rather than coming up with an arbitrary reason
why their plan doesn’t work. Let the players feel clever,
and reward their ingenuity.
Promote a Lesser Villain: Just because the climactic battle is over, the adventure need not end.
If the PCs defeat the scheming villain early on,
one of his lieutenants or subordinates—a character
the players left alive in their rush to the end of the
adventure—might step up and continue the master’s
plans, and the adventure can continue on very much
as written.
Introduce More Plot Twists: Another way characters might skip to the end of an adventure is by
jumping to a conclusion that the adventure assumes
they won’t reach until they’ve accumulated a lot
more information. Perhaps they immediately guess
or figure out that the baron is a rakshasa in disguise,
or deduce that the murdered noblewoman isn’t dead,
but faked her own death for some reason. The fact
that the characters intuited the plot isn’t necessarily
an indication of bad adventure design. Giving the
players too much information is better than giving
them too little and leaving them searching for the
fun (see below). You can keep things moving by
introducing plot twists. For instance, the baron is a
rakshasa, but he’s working against the real villain of
the adventure.
Move On, and Scavenge for Future Improvisation: Once again, if the players skip a whole lot of
adventure, it might be that trying to salvage the adventure is more trouble than it’s worth. It doesn’t have to
be a total waste, though. You can scavenge encounters
and locations from it for your next adventure.

A Cakewalk
Whether your characters are higher in level than the
adventure intended, or better equipped, or just more
inventive and tactically savvy, sometimes they overcome the encounters you throw at them without ever
feeling seriously challenged. Fortunately, solving that
problem is easy.
You can adjust encounter levels upward using the
three techniques described in the previous pages: add
monsters, increase monster levels, or substitute monsters. You can also alter terrain to give the monsters
a home field advantage and challenge the players’

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 98

3/12/08 4:15:28 PM

Searching for the Fun


Sometimes characters wander about, growing increasingly frustrated with you and the adventure, not
because they’ve strayed off the intended course, but
because they missed some important bit of information the adventure assumes they’ll come across. Don’t
make the players search for the fun in the adventure.
The fun should be within easy reach, even if the
answers to the mysteries they face aren’t.

Here’s another case where encounters you’ve
prepared in advance can save the day. When things
start grinding to a halt, a bad guy kicks in the door, a
thrilling combat encounter ensues, and the characters
conveniently find the information from the bad guy
or what he was carrying to kick-start the plot of the
adventure. You don’t have to use a combat encounter,
but don’t hesitate to spring some kind of unexpected
occurrence on the characters.
These added encounters can also introduce interesting new twists to a plot. If the characters get lost while
trying to solve a mystery, perhaps a stranger invites
them to his house and gives them the clue they’re
looking for. Why? What’s the stranger’s interest in all
this? He could be an indifferent observer, or he could
have some stake in the outcome of their investigation.
Perhaps he wants a favor from the PCs in exchange
for his help (and negotiates for that favor in a tensionfilled skill challenge). Perhaps he’s looking for some
other information he hopes they’ll drop in the course
of their conversation with him. Perhaps unraveling the
mystery eventually leads the characters to a confrontation with a hated rival of this stranger. The possibilities
are limitless, and a little creative improvisation can
create lots of room for exciting plot twists and wrinkles
in your campaign.


tactical mastery. Watch what your players do and use
the same tactics against them.
These changes are easy enough to make during
your preparation time, but you can also make them
on the fly if you need to. Extra monsters can arrive as
reinforcements. A dramatic event (such as an earthquake) can alter the battlefield and give the players a
little more to worry about at the same time. The monsters are more threatening when the PCs also have
to avoid collapsing ceilings and yawning chasms. A
monster or villain might suddenly manifest a new ability when it becomes bloodied. It could even suddenly
transform into an elite, a solo monster, or an entirely
different monster. The world of the D&D game is a
fantastic place, so as long as the events you describe
seem like they fit in the world, you can get away with a
lot of adjustment as you go.

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 99

3/12/08 4:15:29 PM

When you build an adventure, you’re building a frame
to hang encounters on. Building that structure is a process of answering some simple questions.
You don’t have to answer these questions in any
particular order. You might start from a quest: One
of your players wants a specific magic sword, so the
adventure gives her a place to find that sword. A cool
villain or monster might be the springboard for a setting or series of events. An interesting setting idea
might call for particular inhabitants and plot. The
climax might suggest a story leading up to it.

✦ How does the adventure start and end?
✦ What happens in between?
✦ What is the situation?
✦ What led up to this situation?
✦ Does solving the situation require going somewhere?
✦ Does solving the situation require responding to events?
✦ Why do the PCs care?
✦ What are the PCs’ goals?
✦ Where is the situation taking place?
✦ What is this setting’s original purpose?
✦ What is the setting used for now?
✦ What kind of terrain and locations can you find there?
✦ What’s interesting and dangerous there besides monsters?
✦ How do you build an event-based adventure?
✦ Who and what inhabits the setting?
✦ Does the adventure have a villain?
✦ Who else cares about the situation?
✦ Which characters are helpful, neutral, or hostile?

Things to Bear in Mind
When you design an adventure, remember the
motives that bring your players to the table. Doing so is
a sure way to help everyone have more fun. See Chapter 1 for more on player motives.
Consider your adventure’s place in the campaign. If
the adventure centers on a wondrous location, it gives
players a sense of a world that has a reality beyond
their characters. An adventure that engages the PCs
because it involves them on a personal level gives a
sense that the characters have a place in the world.
Both senses are valuable to your game. See Chapter 8
for more on campaigns.

Adventure Structure
All good adventures have a clear structure. Like a
novel or a story, an adventure has a clear beginning,
middle, and ending.

An adventure’s beginning is a proposal of a problem,
sometimes suggesting the adventure’s end. An adventure can begin with a roleplaying encounter in which
the PCs find out what they must do and why. It can
start with a surprise attack on the road, or the heroes
stumbling upon something they were not meant to see.
Whatever form it takes, the players should be hooked
into the adventure by the time the beginning is over.
Reach out and grab the players with the adventure’s
beginning. If the adventure starts with someone
asking the PCs to do something for them, you are
inviting them to say no. Players never say no to rolling
initiative. Starting with action is a solid lead-in that
clearly shows adventure is afoot.

✦ Show the players that adventure is afoot.
✦ Make the players want to be involved, rarely forcing them.
✦ Are exciting but short—one game session.

The middle of an adventure is where most of the
action occurs. An adventure’s middle might reveal new
quests or change the goal altogether as the PCs make
discoveries. Whatever the case, a good middle requires
the PCs to make important choices and gives the sense
that the adventure is building toward an end.

✦ Include a variety of challenges and clear choices.
✦ Build excitement, but give some time for reflection.
✦ Draw the players and the PCs in and onward.

The ending of an adventure speaks to the proposal of the
beginning and the substance of the middle in a satisfying way. An ending is often a confrontation with a major
villain, but it can also be a tense negotiation, a narrow
escape, or the acquisition of a prize. Endings needn’t be
triumphant for the PCs, but they should make sense in
the larger context of the whole adventure.

✦ Tie together the beginning and middle.
✦ Fit with character actions and choices.
✦ Allow the players and PCs to clearly see success or failure.
✦ Might provide new beginnings.

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 100

3/12/08 4:15:31 PM

Poor Structure

Good structure makes use of the tenets of good beginnings, middles, and ends.
Hooks: From the beginning, players should want
their characters to be involved in the challenge the
adventure proposes. The “hook” used to pull the
characters into the adventure must be compelling or
personal, or both, to the players and their characters.
Here is where knowing your players and their characters’ goals pays off (see “Player Motivations” on page 8,
“Party Background” on page 10, “Campaign Details”
on page 11, and “Using Character Backgrounds” on
page 11). Use that knowledge to make compelling
Choices: Player and character choices must matter
in a good adventure. Not only must they matter, but
also in at least a few cases, those choices must be
important to an adventure’s end. Your communication skills and information flow become especially
important here (see Chapter 2: Running the Game).
You must give the players enough information, even
in simple situations, for them to make meaningful
Challenges: A good adventure provides varied
challenges that test the PCs and stimulate the players. Create different encounters to emphasize attack,
defense, skill use, problem-solving, investigation,
and roleplaying. Make sure the encounters invite the
player behavior you want by drawing out and rewarding that behavior. Know the characters’ capabilities
so you can build encounters that test those resources.
Chapter 4 gives more advice for building good
Excitement: The tension should build in a good
adventure. Event-based adventures are easy to fashion
in this way, but setting-based adventures can have
building tension too. See “Adventure Setting” (page
Climax: Even the simplest adventures should have
dramatically decisive moment when crucial knowledge or decisive action pays off, or the villain gets
what’s coming to him. A sprawling dungeon complex
or a long event-based adventure might have several
such instances, with a big payoff at the ultimate end.
A tough fight doesn’t by itself constitute a climactic
encounter. The last encounter should be the most fantastic and epic in the adventure. Don’t give the players
an exciting encounter on a bridge with swinging
blades and goblin archers mounted on worgs, and then
let them kill the goblin king alone in a bare cave.
Meaningful Victory: Whatever the goal of the
adventure, the characters’ success should be meaningful. Players should care about what happens if
they fail.

Watch out for some common pitfalls that can wreck
your adventure structure and leave your players dissatisfied or even angry.
Bottlenecking: Don’t let the characters’ ability to
move forward in or complete the adventure hinge on
a single action, such as finding the secret door to the
villain’s lair. If the characters don’t find the door, the
adventure comes to a grinding halt. Make sure that the
characters can move ahead with the adventure in at
least two different ways. Instead of punishing characters with a bottleneck if they fail to find the right clues,
reward them with an extra edge if they do find those
Railroading: If a series of events occurs no matter
what the characters do, the players end up feeling
helpless and frustrated. Their actions don’t matter,
and they have no meaningful choices. A dungeon that
has only a single sequence of rooms and no branches
is another example of railroading. If your adventure
relies on certain events, provide multiple ways those
events can occur, or be prepared for clever players to
prevent one or more of those events. Players should
always feel as though they’re in control of their characters, the choices they make matter, and that what they
do has some effect on the end of the adventure and on
the game world.
Cluelessness: On the flip side, don’t give the
players so many options that they can’t make any
meaningful decisions. Even though that open-ended
situation is far from railroading, too many options is
still frustrating to the players. Give hints, nudge them
however you like, but try to keep the action, the story,
and the pace of the game going.
Sidelining: The player characters should always
be the central heroes in the adventure. If NPCs can do
everything the characters can, why are the characters
even on the adventure? Along similar lines, don’t bring
in a powerful character as a deus ex machina to save
the characters from disaster. The characters should
take the consequences and reap the rewards of their
Squelching: D&D characters are powerful, and as
their powers grow, it is harder to build encounters to
challenge them. Know what the characters are capable
of, and then design to reward the clever use of those
powers. Don’t resort to weird effects that shut down
the characters’ capabilities.
Anticlimax: An unsatisfying end to an adventure
can be a real disappointment to the players. Make sure
to end the adventure with a bang and a big payoff.


Good Structure

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 101

3/12/08 4:15:32 PM

Quests are the fundamental story framework of an
adventure—the reason the characters want to participate in it. They’re the reason an adventure exists, and
they indicate what the characters need to do to solve
the situation the adventure presents.
The simplest adventures revolve around a single
quest, usually one that gives everyone in the party
a motivation to pursue it. More complex adventures
involve multiple quests, including quests related to
individual characters’ goals or quests that conflict
with each other, presenting characters with interesting
choices about which goals to pursue.

✦ Capture
✦ Compete with to accomplish another task
✦ Defeat
✦ Discover hidden
✦ Drive away
✦ Escape from
✦ Hide from
✦ Infiltrate
✦ Thwart activities or plans
Allies, Extras, and Patrons
✦ Escort to a location
✦ Establish a relationship with
✦ Help perform a specific task
✦ Hide or protect from attack, kidnapping, or other harm
✦ Rescue from existing danger
✦ Settle a debt
✦ Deal with the aftermath
✦ Flee or hide from ongoing weird or harmful
✦ Mistaken identity
✦ Prevent or stop weird or harmful
✦ Transported to a strange place
✦ Win a contest, race, or war
Items or Information
✦ Deliver to a place or person
✦ Destroy, perhaps by a particular method
✦ Hide
✦ Retrieve for an ally or patron
✦ Recover for personal use
✦ Escape from
✦ Explore
✦ Protect from attack or damage
✦ Seal off
✦ Secure for another use
✦ Survive in

Using Basic Quest Seeds
When you’re devising a simple adventure, one to three
basic seeds are enough to get you started. A classic
dungeon adventure uses three: The characters set
out to explore a dangerous place, defeat the monsters
inside, and take the treasure they find. One simple
quest can be enough, such as a quest to slay a dragon.
You can combine any number of basic seeds to
create a more multifaceted adventure. The more
seeds you throw in the mix, the more intricate your
adventure will be. You might add timing elements to
one or more of the seeds to create more depth in your
Once you have your seed or seeds, you can start
getting specific. Go back and answer the questions in
“Components of an Adventure” on page 100, keeping
your quest seeds in mind. Again, you don’t need to
follow any particular order. You might come up with a
set of monsters you want to use first, you might invent
a cool place or item, or you might choose a seed or
three. You can then use Chapter 4 and the “Adventure
Setting” section of this chapter to help flesh out your

Major Quests
Major quests define the fundamental reasons that
characters are involved. They are the central goals
of an adventure. A single major quest is enough to
define an adventure, but a complex adventure might
involve a number of different quests. A major quest
should be important to every member of the party, and
completing it should define success in the adventure.
Achieving a major quest usually means either that the
adventure is over, or that the characters have successfully completed a major chapter in the unfolding plot.
Don’t be shy about letting the players know what
their quests are. Give the players an obvious goal, possibly a known villain to go after, and a clear course to
get to their destination. That avoids searching for the
fun—aimless wandering, arguing about trivial choices,
and staring across the table because the players don’t
know what to do next. You can fiddle with using
another secret villain or other less obvious courses, but
one obvious path for adventure that is not wrong or
fake should exist. You can count on the unpredictability of player actions to keep things interesting even in
the simplest of adventure plots.
Thinking in terms of quests helps focus the adventure solidly where it belongs: on the player characters.
An adventure isn’t something that can unfold without
their involvement. A plot or an event can unfold without the characters’ involvement, but not an adventure.
An adventure begins when the characters get involved,

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 102

3/12/08 4:15:32 PM


when they have a reason to participate and a goal to
accomplish. Quests give them that.

ing. It’s a point of reference that the players can refer
to and that the characters might be able to return to.

Minor Quests


Minor quests are the subplots of an adventure, complications or wrinkles in the overall story. The characters
might complete them along the way toward finishing
a major quest, or they might tie up the loose ends of
minor quests after they’ve finished the major quest.
Often, minor quests matter primarily to a particular character or perhaps a subset of the party. Such
quests might be related to a character’s background,
a player goal, or the ongoing events in the campaign
relevant to one or more characters. These quests still
matter to the party overall. This game is a cooperative
game, and everyone shares the rewards for completing
a quest. Just make sure that the whole group has fun
completing minor quests tied to a single character.
Sometimes minor quests come up as sidelines to
the main plot of the adventure. For example, say the
characters learn in town that a prisoner has escaped
from the local jail. That has nothing to do with the
main quest. It pales in importance next to the hobgoblin raids that have been plundering caravans and
seizing people for slaves. However, when the characters find and free some of the hobgoblins’ slaves, the
escaped prisoner is among them. Do they make sure
he gets back to the jail? Do they accept his promise to
go straight—and his offer of a treasure map—and let
him go free? Do they believe his protestations of innocence and try to help him find the real criminal? Any
of these goals can launch a side quest, but clearly the
characters can’t pursue all of them. This situation gives
them the opportunity to roleplay and make interesting
choices, adding richness and depth to the game.

The goal of a quest is what the characters have to
accomplish to succeed on the quest. Goals should be
as clear as you can make them. Goals can change as
the characters uncover information, but such changes
should also be clear.

Designing Quests
Design quests so that they have a clear start, a clear
goal, and clear consequences. Any quest should provide a ready answer for when the players ask, “What
should we do now?”

The reward for success and the cost of failure should
be or become clear to the players and their characters.
Like goals, outcomes can change over the course of an
adventure as the PCs expose the truth.

No Redundant Quests
Don’t reward the characters twice for the same
actions. Quests should focus on the story reasons for
adventuring, not on the underlying basic actions of
the game—killing monsters and acquiring treasure.
“Defeat ten encounters of your level” isn’t a quest. It’s
a recipe for advancing a level. Completing it is its own
reward. “Make Harrows Pass safe for travelers” is a
quest, even if the easiest way to accomplish it happens
to be defeating ten encounters of the characters’ level.
This quest is a story-based goal, and one that has at
least the possibility of solution by other means.

Conflicting Quests
You can present quests that conflict with each other,
or with the characters’ alignments or goals. The players have the freedom to make choices about which
quests to accept, and these can be great opportunities
for roleplaying and character development.

Player-Designed Quests
You should allow and even encourage players to come
up with their own quests that are tied to their individual goals or specific circumstances in the adventure.
Evaluate the proposed quest and assign it a level.
Remember to say yes as often as possible!

Give the quest a level based on how difficult it is to
accomplish. A good rule of thumb is to set the quest
at the level you expect the characters to be when
they complete it. For example, if completing a quest
requires overcoming several encounters well above the
party’s level, the average level of those encounters is a
fine level for the quest.

A quest’s start is where the characters begin the quest
if they choose to accept it. It might be a person who
assigns the quest. It might be an observation they
make that leads them to adopt a quest of their choos-

You can give the players index cards to help them keep
track of their quests. Each card should include the quest
level, the start of the quest, the goal, and the possible outcomes the characters are aware of. This helps remind the
players what they’re trying to do, which can be important
when a quest spans several gaming sessions. Quest cards
can also help players keep their objectives in mind when
they reach a decision point in an adventure.
Leave space on the cards for players to make notes
about the quest, including changes to the quest’s goals or
possible outcomes.
CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 103

3/12/08 4:15:33 PM

When you’re building an adventure, try to vary the
encounters you include, including combat and noncombat challenges, easy and difficult encounters, a
variety of settings and monsters, and situations that
appeal to your players’ different personalities and
motivations. This variation creates an exciting rhythm.
Adventures that lack this sort of variety can become a
tiresome grind.

Encounters can be complex in several different ways.
An encounter with five different kinds of monsters is
complex for the players and for you, so mix those up
with wolf pack encounters (a group made up of a single
kind of monster; see page 59 in Chapter 4) as well as
more straightforward encounter types.
Some encounters are complex in their relationship
to the plot, such as a tangled interaction in which the
characters have to unravel each adversary’s motivations and hidden agendas, or even a combat encounter
that raises new questions about what’s going on in the
adventure. Make sure to mix those up with encounters
in which it’s completely clear what’s going on.
Rooms with lots of interesting terrain, cover, and
room features make for great combat encounters,
but you should keep some variation in that level of
complexity. You don’t have to resort to a straight-up,
face-to-face melee in a tiny room, but some encounters
can be less tactically interesting than others.

If every encounter gives the players a perfectly balanced challenge, the game can get stale. Once in a
while, characters need an encounter that doesn’t significantly tax their resources, or an encounter that makes
them seriously scared for their characters’ survival—or
even makes them flee.
The majority of the encounters in an adventure
should be moderate difficulty—challenging but not
overwhelming, falling right about the party’s level or
one higher. Monsters in a standard encounter might
range from three levels below the characters to about
four levels above them. These encounters should make
up the bulk of your adventure.
Easy encounters are two to three levels below the
party, and might include monsters as many as four
levels lower than the party. These encounters let the
characters feel powerful. If you build an encounter
using monsters that were a serious threat to the characters six or seven levels ago, you’ll remind them of
how much they’ve grown in power and capabilities
since the last time they fought those monsters. You

might include an easy encounter about once per character level—don’t overdo it.
Hard encounters are two to three levels above
the party, and can include monsters that are five to
seven levels above the characters. These encounters
really test the characters’ resources, and might force
them to take an extended rest at the end. They also
bring a greater feeling of accomplishment, though, so
make sure to include about one such encounter per
character level. However, be careful of using highlevel soldiers and brutes in these encounters. Soldier
monsters get really hard to hit when they’re five levels
above the party, and brutes can do too much damage
at that level.
Monsters that are more than eight levels higher
than the characters can pretty easily kill a character,
and in a group they have a chance of taking out the
whole party. Use such overpowering encounters with
great care. Players should enter the encounter with
a clear sense of the danger they’re facing, and have
at least one good option for escaping with their lives,
whether that’s headlong flight or clever negotiation.
On average, it takes a character eight to ten encounters to gain a level, with the possible addition of a
major quest. For a group of nine encounters, here’s
how they might be broken down.

Level of Encounter
Level – 1
Level + 0
Level + 1
Level + 3

Number of Encounters
1 encounter
3 encounters, 1 major quest
3 encounters
1 encounter

The D&D game is all about fantasy, so don’t feel
restricted by realism when coming up with weird and
interesting adventure elements. Allow movies, video
games, and other media to inspire you. Imagine cool
encounter situations and locales, and then include
them in your adventure.
That does not mean that every encounter has to be
incredibly fantastic. Some monsters provide all the
fantasy an encounter needs. Fighting a dragon is such
a staple of the fantasy genre that you can’t forget you’re
playing a fantasy game in the middle of that battle. On
the other hand, encounters with humanoid monsters
such as orcs and bugbears can start to feel mundane,
and those encounters can use a fantasy injection. A
floating cloud castle or similar fantastic location, an
add-on monster such as a rage drake or a wyvern, or a
strange magical effect such as shifting shadow tendrils
that provide concealment—these elements remind the

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 104

3/12/08 4:15:34 PM

In addition to using different monster groups to vary
the complexity of your encounters, try to vary the
kinds of monsters the characters face in ways that are
more basic as well. Don’t fill a dungeon with nothing
but humanoid monsters, at the risk of losing the sense
of fantasy and wonder. Make sure to include minions
and solo monsters from time to time, so not every
fight pits five PCs against five monsters. Use different encounter templates, and vary the composition of
those groups as well, using controllers and soldiers for
some encounters, artillery and brutes for others.
You can also create variation within the same kinds
of monsters, which is particularly useful when the
story of the adventure seems to demand a lot of battles
with the same kinds of monster. When the characters
strike into the hobgoblin stronghold, use the different
hobgoblins presented in the Monster Manual (as well
as goblins and bugbears), make sure to include plenty
of nonhumanoid guard monsters, and then use the
templates in Chapter 10 to create new hobgoblin variations. The hobgoblin leader might be a vampire or a
mummy, or just a 10th-level fighter built as an NPC.
Or he could be a solo monster, a whirlwind of flashing
blades and killer moves. Or he could be some kind of
aberrant monstrosity dredged from your worst nightmares and created using the guidelines in Chapter 10.
The players will remember that encounter for years.

Memorable nonplayer characters are best built on
stereotype. The subtle nuances of an NPC’s personality are lost on the players. Just don’t rely on the same
stereotype for every NPC you make. Not every villain
has to be a cackling megalomaniac, not every ally is
honest and forthright, and not every bartender is loud
and boisterous. Variety in NPCs is the spice of your
adventures and lends depth to your campaign.

Player Motivations
Make sure to include a variety of encounters designed
to appeal to the different motivations of your players. See Chapter 1 for more about these motivations,
but remember these encounter elements for different
types of players.
Actor: Interaction encounters are the actor’s natural habitat. Plenty of decision points give the actor a
chance to consider what his character would do and
act out the deliberation and debate.
Explorer: The explorer loves cool settings and
fantastic environments. Make sure a sense of new
wonders over the next hill or down the next dungeon
staircase abounds.

Instigator: Traps give the instigator a chance to
make things happen, though deadly traps can bring
the wrath of the other players down on the instigator’s
head. Interaction encounters with lively NPCs, especially if you’re ready for those encounters to turn into
combat, give the instigator plenty to work with.
Power Gamer: Combat encounters give the power
gamer a place to shine. Cool rewards, including quest
rewards, keep this player happy.
Slayer: Use more combat encounters. The slayer
enjoys a variety of complexity in combat encounters
and can get bored during other encounters.
Storyteller: This player thrives on encounters that
advance the story of the adventure and the campaign
and gladly pursues quests that tie into her background
and specific goals.
Thinker: Puzzle encounters, difficult decisions,
and tactically interesting combats give the thinker
plenty to work with.
Watcher: You never know when or if a watcher
will latch onto an element that catches his interest, so
give him variety. Varied encounters give him opportunities to get more involved without forcing it on him.


players that their characters live in a fantastic world
that doesn’t obey the natural laws of the real world.

Traps and Hazards
Not every combat encounter consists only of monsters
and terrain. Include traps as part of monster mixes as
well as traps that stand alone as encounters in their
own right. Other hazards add spice to encounters as
well. Don’t overlook these components of encounter design, but don’t overuse them, either. Monsters
are the staple of D&D encounters for a good reason.
They’re exciting, tactically challenging, and visually

Fun is one element you shouldn’t vary. Every encounter in an adventure should be fun. As much as
possible, fast-forward through the parts of an adventure that aren’t fun. An encounter with two guards at
the city gate isn’t fun. Tell the players they get through
the gate without much trouble and move on to the
fun. Niggling details of food supplies and encumbrance usually aren’t fun, so don’t sweat them, and
let the players get to the adventure and on to the fun.
Long treks through endless corridors in the ancient
dwarven stronghold beneath the mountains aren’t fun.
Move the PCs quickly from encounter to encounter,
and on to the fun!

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 105

3/12/08 4:15:35 PM

The Vault of the Drow, the Tomb of Horrors, the Forge
of Fury, and the Keep on the Shadowfell—all those
names describe two things: adventures published
over the last 30 years of D&D history, and the settings
in which those adventures take place. One element
that all the best adventures share is a compelling and
evocative setting. When you’re building an adventure,
think about what makes an awe-inspiring and memorable setting.
One good way to think about setting is to work
backward: imagine a great climactic battle against the
ultimate villain of the adventure. You don’t need to
have any idea who that villain is just yet, but thinking
about the setting might give you ideas. Of course, if you
have a villain in mind, that might inspire setting ideas
as well. If you want your players fighting a red dragon
in that last encounter, something volcanic or otherwise
fiery is a good starting point. Alternatively, if some fantastic terrain inspires you, run with that. Perhaps you
want to set that great climactic battle in an enormous
Underdark cavern where two mighty armies of drow
clashed centuries ago, staining the rock with their
accursed blood. From that starting point, you could
build an expansive Underdark adventure that eventually leads the characters into that cavern and its blood

Types of Settings
Adventure settings in the D&D world tend to fall into
four categories. The first consideration in thinking
about a setting is what type of setting you want: an
underground “dungeon,” a wilderness environment, a
city or other settlement, or a fantastic different world
(or plane of existence).

Many D&D adventures revolve around a dungeon
setting. That’s why the game is called DUNGEONS &
DRAGONS. The word “dungeon” might conjure images
of dry, bare stone corridors with manacles on the
walls, but dungeons in the D&D game also include
great halls built into the walls of a volcanic crater, natural caverns extending for miles beneath the surface
of the earth, and ruined castles that provide gateways
to other planes.
Underground settings are such a staple of D&D
adventures because dungeon environments are
cleanly defined, separated from the outside world
and set apart as a special, magical environment.
More important, dungeons physically embody good
adventure design: they offer choices (branching passages and doorways) but not too many choices. They’re
limited environments that clearly define the options

available. The rooms and corridors constrain the characters’ movement, but the characters can explore them
in any order they choose, so they have a feeling of control and meaningful choices.
Many dungeons are ancient ruins, long abandoned
by their original creators and now inhabited only by
monsters looking for underground lairs or humanoids
setting up temporary camps. Some undying remnants
of the original inhabitants might also linger in the
ruins—undead, constructs, or immortal guardians set
in place to keep watch over treasures or other important locations. The dungeon’s rooms might contain
hints of their previous purpose—rotting remnants
of furnishings piled together into kruthik nests, or
faded tapestries hanging behind a crumbling throne.
Rumors of ancient treasures or artifacts, historical
information, or magical locations might lure adventurers into these ruins.
Other dungeons are currently occupied, presenting
a very different sort of environment for the characters to explore. Whether they originally created the
dungeon or not, intelligent creatures now inhabit it,
calling its chambers and passages home. It might be a
fortress, a temple, an active mine, a prison, or a headquarters. The inhabitants organize guards to defend
it, and they respond intelligently to the characters’
attacks, especially if the characters withdraw and
return later. Characters might fight or sneak their way
into an occupied dungeon to discover the secrets of an
underground cult, stop the orcs from pillaging nearby
towns, or prevent a mad necromancer from animating
undead legions to conquer the barony. Or they might
seek to reclaim the ancient dwarven fortress from the
goblins that have taken it over, making it safe for habitation once again.
Sometimes dungeons are built to hold something—
whether a mighty artifact or the body of a revered
ruler—and keep it safe. A dungeon might also serve
as a prison for a powerful demon or primordial that
couldn’t be destroyed at the time. These dungeons are
usually sealed, often trap-laden, and sometimes inhabited only by monsters that can survive the passage of
ages—undead, constructs, immortal guardians, devils,
or angels.
Some dungeons aren’t built at all. They’re sprawling networks of natural caverns stretching deep below
the earth. Taken as a whole, this expanse of naturally
occurring dungeon is called the Underdark. It is an
almost lightless region of subterranean wilderness.
Within those caverns, adventurers might find cities of
the drow, ruins of long-forgotten dwarf strongholds,
or the hidden tomb of a mind flayer lich. Many kinds
of monsters call the Underdark home, making it
among the most dangerous areas of the world.

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 106

3/12/08 4:15:35 PM

Not every adventure has to take place in a dungeon.
A trek across the wilderness to the heart of the Blackmire or the Desert of Desolation could be an exciting
adventure in itself.
When designing a wilderness adventure, it helps
to think of the great outdoors as a big dungeon. The
characters should have a destination in mind, so that
helps make the route they will take predictable. Roads,
paths, and terrain features can channel the PCs
along predefined paths, rather than allowing them to
wander freely around a vast and open map. The PCs
still have plenty of choices—from simple choices such
as whether to walk along the bottom or the top of a
gorge, to larger choices such as whether to skirt the
edge of the swamp or cut through the middle, taking
days off the journey but exposing the characters to
greater danger.
In cases where the terrain doesn’t channel the characters to specific locations, think about the adventure
in more of an event-based structure, with encounters
connected by a flowchart of events and choices rather
than defined by geographical location. See “EventBased Adventures” on page 115 for more ideas.
Most wilderness areas should seem familiar but
have fantastic elements. The creatures flitting among
the branches of the Wyrmclaw Forest might be tiny
dragonets rather than birds. They’re not any more
dangerous than birds (until the characters encounter a
needlefang drake swarm), but they add a fantastic and
flavorful element to the wilderness environment. Once
in a while, though, break up the familiar wilderness
with truly wondrous locations: trees that hover above
the ground and send roots snaking through the air,
auroras of many-colored light dancing in the depths of
a lake, coldfire flames cascading across the surface of
a glacier, or a swamp filled with pools of acid.

From the smallest village to the largest metropolis,
urban environments offer limitless opportunities for
adventure. Humanoids make the most cunning and
devious foes, and NPCs found within the boundaries of the adventurers’ hometown are often the most
memorable villains.
Urban settings need not be mundane—not any
more than wilderness or dungeon areas. Wealthy
citizens might ride hippogriffs between the towers of
the upper-class families. A mysterious local wizard
might live in a tower floating above the city. The storm
sewers might crawl with wererats or hide a secret
enclave of aboleths. The baron might be a rakshasa or
a doppelganger. Magic and danger don’t always come
from normal humanoid threats.
Adventures based in settled areas don’t usually
focus on exploring a location and killing its inhabitants. However, cities can hold mini-dungeons (such
as the aboleths’ sewers or the floating tower of the
rakshasas) that combine elements of underground
and urban settings. City adventures also work well as
event-based adventures in which the setting is a backdrop for the unfolding drama.


Finally, many dungeons combine two or more of
these elements. For example, imagine that the dwarves
of an ancient civilization built a sprawling subterranean complex where they thrived in splendor for many
years. Then they dug too deep. Their tunnels opened
into the natural caverns of the Underdark. Some
horrible evil emerged from the lightless depths and
destroyed the dwarven civilization. Centuries later,
most of the original complex lies in ruins. Here and
there among its sprawling passages, though, ragged
bands of degenerate dwarves, enclaves of scheming drow, and a tribe of savage orcs have made their
homes, and they live in a perpetual state of war against
each other. Somewhere in the ruins is the tomb of the
last dwarf queen, said to hold the mighty Axe of the
Dwarvish Lords. Lastly, the ruins still connect to the
Underdark. All four dungeon types come together in
this single dungeon.

The world is not the only dangerous place full of dungeons. The Shadowfell and the Feywild hold countless
opportunities for even low-level adventurers to seek
treasure and glory, and the Elemental Chaos and the
dominions of the Astral Sea are proving grounds for
the most powerful characters. These different worlds
offer the most magical, fantastic settings for D&D
adventures. The Elemental Chaos is full of mountains
floating through the air, stone slabs drifting on rivers
of liquid fire, and clouds of pure lightning. The dominions of the gods in the Astral Sea are as different as
the deities themselves, from Zehir’s Endless Night to
Pelor’s shining palace at the pinnacle of Celestia.
Planar adventures sometimes resemble wilderness
adventures with more fantastic terrain. However, such
adventures have plenty of opportunities for dungeon
exploration—the fey Labyrinth of Eldren Faere or the
Endless Crypts of Morth Dire in the Shadowfell—and
even urban encounters in the City of Brass or the
Bright City.

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 107

3/12/08 4:15:36 PM

Setting Personality
A great way to think about the setting for your adventure is to imagine its personality. A dungeon built as a
hobgoblin stronghold has a very different flavor from
an ancient temple-city inhabited by yuan-ti, and both
are different from a place where the alien energy of
the Far Realm has warped and twisted all life into
aberrant forms. A setting’s personality lends its flavor
to the adventure as a whole.
Deciding on a setting’s overall personality helps you
create all the little details that make it come to life.
That said, here and there you can throw in elements
that don’t fit the overall theme. While fighting their
way through the hobgoblin stronghold, if the characters find a secret door leading to an ancient shrine to
Bahamut built by the dungeon’s original creators, they
get a sense of a bigger world beyond their adventures,
a taste of history, and a larger view of the dungeon’s
place in the world.

Creator and Inhabitants
A setting’s creator and current inhabitants can have a
profound impact on the personality of that setting. A
forest haunted by ettercaps and spiders is a very different place from one where the Feywild draws near
the world and the fey lead their hounds on monthly
wild hunts. An ancient dwarven stronghold takes on
a different flavor when a minotaur cult moves into its
When large creatures create dungeons or cities,
they build things to scale. A fortress crafted by titans
can be hard for humans to negotiate, even if only goblins and dark creepers inhabit it now. On the flip side,
adventurers (except halflings) find a kobold warren
to be close quarters. The difference between grand
battles in the stately halls of the titan ruins and running skirmishes in the cramped tunnels of the kobolds
leads to a marked difference in the personality of those
two settings.
Some other fundamental elements of a setting’s
structure can be shaped by the nature of its creator.
A lost temple of the yuan-ti, choked by overgrown
jungle plants, might use ramps instead of stairs. A
place carved by beholders would use empty shafts to
connect different levels. Flying creatures in general
approach the construction and use of their lairs very
differently from land-bound creatures, potentially creating challenging dungeons for adventurers to explore.
A setting’s environment might also be closely
related to who built it or lives in it. A fortress built into
the side of an active volcano might have been built by
fire giants or be inhabited by salamanders. A towering palace of ice in the frigid northern wastes could be
the work of ice archons, or it might be a temple to the
Raven Queen. These are cases in which distinguishing
between the setting’s original creator and its current
inhabitants can be very interesting. Perhaps dwarves

built the volcano fortress, but they were wiped out
when the volcano erupted a hundred years ago. Now
the volcano is home to salamanders. Or its current
inhabitants could be relatively normal creatures that
rely on magic rituals to keep them protected from the
volcano’s heat and ongoing activity.
Cultural details, at both a large scale and a small
one, bring a setting’s personality to life in your players’ minds. Great bearded faces carved on the doors
of a dwarven stronghold (perhaps defaced by the orcs
who live there now), spiderweb decorations in a citadel
of the drow, grisly battle trophies impaled on spears
around a gnoll camp, and a statue of Pelor in the
ruined temple are all details that tell the PCs something about who built the setting or who currently
inhabits it. Cultural details such as these can also
tie different settings together, perhaps suggesting an
interesting storyline. Imagine that in three different
dungeons, all the gold coins the characters find were
minted by the ancient tiefling empire of Bael Turath.
Does this cultural detail hint at some historical element linking these three dungeons?
A more dramatic sort of cultural detail has to do
with the types of rooms or buildings you might find
in the setting. A drow stronghold might have pens for
slaves, a number of torture chambers, and elaborate
temples to Lolth. A kobold warren or dragonborn ruin
might have egg incubation chambers. An expansive
complex with a dusty library and museum has a different feel from one full of armories, barracks, and

Many of the elements just discussed speak to the
setting’s history. The race or culture that originally created a dungeon gives it a great deal of its personality,
and the history of the site between its creation and the
present is no less significant.
The D&D world has a glorious history of expansive empires and prosperity. In the present day, the
empires of the past lie in ruin, replaced by petty baronies and vast expanses of lawless wilderness. This
world has endless opportunities for adventure: ancient
ruins to explore, lost treasures to be recovered, savage
hordes to drive away from settled lands, and terrible
monsters haunting the dark places of the world. The
exact history of your own campaign world, of course,
is yours to design if you so choose, but these basic
assumptions make for a world of opportunity from the
adventurer’s point of view.
Does this dungeon hold the last ancient monster of
its kind, a powerful being that fiercely defends its last
stronghold? Were its long-dead rulers the last known
possessors of the Regalia of the Seven Kingdoms? Was
it built as a prison for a primordial or demon prince
whose influence still lingers in the place? Do the residents of the city in the remote jungle not know that

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 108

3/12/08 4:15:37 PM


the empire of Nerath has fallen? These are all ways
you can tie the history of a setting into adventures you
place there, shaping its flavor and feel.
A word of warning: Let background be background.
Unless the background is essential to your adventure,
don’t spend a lot of time detailing the history of a
dungeon in exhaustive detail. Use history to spice up
the setting and provide the interesting details that help
bring it to life in the players’ minds, then move on to
focus on the adventure.

Sometimes a setting’s surroundings give it all the personality it needs. A ruined castle in the Shadowfell, a
monastery drifting through the Elemental Chaos, or
the classic dungeon built into an active volcano are all
settings that have a distinct personality regardless of
their history or inhabitants. You might find inspiration
in the jungle-choked ruins of Angkor Wat or decide
to create a coral labyrinth in a tropical sea. The environment in these cases is the primary element of the
setting’s personality, which you can then enhance by
choosing the right inhabitants and creating an appropriate history.



A subtle but important way to communicate your
setting’s personality to the players is through the
background sensory details you use in your descriptions—the ambience the characters experience in the
place. Remember to consider all five senses, as well as
harder-to-define gut feelings and emotional responses
characters might have to the setting. As the characters
enter a natural cavern complex, they might see a dim
blue glow radiating from the walls, hear the distant
dripping of water, smell the slightly acrid scent of wet
earth, and feel the cool air even as the weight of the
earth and stone above them seems to press down on
their spirits. When they creep down the stairs of an
ancient crypt, describe the dust-covered cobwebs, skittering beetles, dry air, and perhaps the haunting sense
of a presence deep within the tomb that watches their
every move, anticipating their arrival.
You don’t need to pile atmospheric details into your
very first description of an adventure setting. Make
a note of the ambience of the place, perhaps listing a
variety of details that might appear to every sense, and
break them out to add some flair to your narratives as
the adventure progresses.

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 109

3/12/08 4:15:37 PM

Setting Details
You can design the details of settings in your adventures in three ways: the natural method, the staged
method, and the best method. The strengths of the
first two methods fuse to create the best method while
countering their weaknesses.

The Natural Method
With this method, you picture a location in your mind
and draw it out on your map. If the goblins live in a
ruined castle, you take care to design a castle first, add
in crumbled walls and ruined areas to reflect its age,
and then determine how the goblins live in the place.
Logic, story, and realism guide your design. The areas
you map have a history, they were built for a purpose,
and those two factors guide your design.
The natural method is the best method because it
creates realistic, believable environments that reflect
the story and your campaign world.
The natural method is the worst method because it
can cause you to worry too much about realism, especially realism that is lost on the players. Taken too far,
worrying about “real” encounter areas can force you
to build boring ones. Remember, you are the creator
and final arbiter of the game, not a rule, someone else’s
sense of realism, or any other outside factor.

The Staged Method
This method embraces the encounter area as a setting for a game. It sets aside worries about realism or a
sense that a location existed as something other than
the place for a fight. With the staged method, you treat
encounter areas as stages for the action, just like a
director or novelist. The only thing that matters is how
much excitement and fun the encounter yields.
The staged method is the best way to go because it
promotes action, adventure, and excitement. It forces
you to design toward a clear goal of making things fun.
The staged method is the worst approach because
it places artifice above everything. Like a paper-thin
façade, it works as long as no one pushes against it. If
the players stop to think about the area, or if you try to
make sense of it in terms of story and narrative, it falls

The Best Method
The aptly named best method is a fusion of the natural and staged approaches. Build encounter areas
within the context of the campaign’s story and history, but keep an eye out for creating fun, interesting
encounters. In truth, the two methods are completely
compatible, particularly when you add monsters to the
For instance, a ruined castle might have an
entrance gate with battlements above it. The goblin
lord of the place assigns archers to watch the gate from

this position. When the PCs attack, the archers rain
arrows down upon them while the characters must
rush through the gate and up the crumbling stairs to
reach the goblins.
A dungeon filled with puzzles and weird monsters
was built that way because Emperor Darvan the Mad
constructed it to defend his most valuable treasures.
The alleyways around the syndicate’s headquarters are
rife with traps and ambush points because the Lord
of Shadows is always ready for an attack by his rivals.
Encounter areas never spring from a vacuum. They are
built, designed, or chosen by monsters and intelligent
creatures for a reason.
Even wholly natural terrain lends itself to this
approach. While the characters travel along the road,
bandits attack when they reach an area of rough
ground that offers plenty of cover for the bandit
archers. A bulette hunts in a box canyon, trapping animals in a dead end.

Dungeon Rooms
The rooms in a dungeon setting show what the place
was built for, and they show how the inhabitants live
their lives. When you add rooms to a site, consider the
story they tell about the place and its dwellers. Rooms,
as well as the arrangement of them, should make
sense within the context of their intended purpose and
current use. Don’t forget that fantastic elements can be
a part of the scene—illusions instead of art, or unusual
passages and rooms for creatures that have a distinctly
nonhuman body or mindset.

Audience chamber
Burial site
Communication center
Dumping grounds
Guard post

Training area
Water supply

Terrain Features
In natural settings, whether outdoors or underground,
large-scale terrain features tend to define the environment. In outdoor environments, look for fantasy art or
even real-world photography that depicts dramatic natural settings. A forest does not need to be just a battle
grid dotted with trees and undergrowth when even a
casual Internet search can bring up dozens of beautiful pictures of dramatic forest landscapes. Not only do
your players have a more vivid scene to imagine, but
an encounter can also become a lot more interesting
when it takes place on a forested hill with a stream
tumbling down its rocky side.

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 110

3/12/08 4:15:40 PM






Ritual caster
Spice merchant






Gypsum flower


City Buildings
Even in a fantastic city, a lot of buildings are mundane
places—the ropemakers, tanneries, and provisioners’ shops that support the day-to-day life of the city’s
people. Those don’t usually make great adventure sites,
though. Use them for color as characters move through
the city. The types of businesses found in a city can say
a lot about the city’s personality. (Does the city have a
slave auction yard or abundant hostels where the poor
can find food and shelter? Does it host three temples to
Bahamut, or a great fortress-temple to Bane?)
Look to more exotic and interesting sites for the
important scenes in an urban adventure. Sites that can
take a role as part of an encounter are always a good
choice—a mill with wheels and gears turning a giant
millstone is terrain that smart players (or monsters)
can use to their advantage. Moving parts, built-in hazards, and verticality—the risk of falling with a wrong
step—make city sites more interesting than a stereotypical tavern brawl.

Bridges, balconies, and rooftops
Forge (smithy or smelting furnace)
Mill (windmill, water wheel)
Monument (pyramid or ziggurat)
Ruins from an ancient, larger city on the same site
Temple (with magical traps and hazards)
Tower (bell tower, clock tower, watch tower)
Waterways (storm sewers, aqueducts, canals)

Defensive walls of magical fire or thorns
Floating buildings—towers, palaces, or whole
Hippogriff stables or behemoths as beasts of burden
Magical lamps or an artificial sun
Monstrous or magical sentinels (treants or golems)
Planar connections (shadow district or fey garden)


Gambling hall

Pawn shop

Furnishings and Features
Spice up dungeon or city rooms with furnishings or
other minor features whose primary purpose is flavor.
Any detail you add to a room not only brings the setting to more vivid life in your players’ minds, it can
also spur unusual and creative ideas in encounters,
such as tipping over a brazier of burning coals or pulling a tapestry down over opponents. (Refer to “Actions
the Rules Don’t Cover” in Chapter 3 on page 42 when
these situations come up.) Some of these features
might count as difficult terrain or grant cover (see
“Encounter Settings” on page 60 in Chapter 4).

Fallen stones
Murder hole
Stuffed beast
Weapon rack

Collapsed wall
Fire pit
Sunken area
Torture device

Arrow slit
Evil symbol
Loose masonry
Wall basin

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 111

3/12/08 4:15:40 PM


Open doorway

Open pit

Natural stairs



Rock wall


Double door

Portcullis or bars

Covered pit



Tapestry or

Rock column


Secret door

Trap door in






Pool or lake

One-way door

Trap door in
f loor




Arrow slit



False door

Secret trap door

Stairs/slide trap





Elevated ledge

Revolving door

One-way secret

Spiral stairs


Table and chest

Illusory wall


Natural chimney

Mapping the Site


Once you’ve come up with a concept for your adventure’s setting, you probably need a map. An adventure
map can take many forms—from an exquisitely
detailed dungeon map that shows every feature in
every 5-foot square to a sketchy outline of how one
encounter might lead to one or two or three others,
depending on the route the characters choose. Whatever your map looks like, it serves the fundamental
purpose of mapping out your adventure, not just its
setting. The map is a visual representation of how
all the encounters that make up the adventure fit
together. The map is also like a flowchart, in which
each decision point (a branch in a corridor, a room
with multiple exits) leads along a different course to
new decision points. By looking at your map, you can
tell where the characters’ decisions lead them. If they
leave the room by the north door, you look at your map
and see that it leads them into the great hall, lined
with pillars, where the fire giant king holds court. If
they leave by the secret door to the southeast, you look
at the map and follow the secret tunnel as it winds to
the hidden vaults below the great hall.
Chapter 11 includes a short adventure with a
dungeon map you can use as example and inspiration
for your own maps. Each encounter also includes a

map of the encounter area in greater detail. Although
in the case of that adventure, the encounter areas are
all close to each other in a relatively limited space, that
doesn’t have to be true. Your adventure map could be
circled numbers representing encounter areas with
lines between them, and each line possibly representing hours or even days of travel. Your adventure might
have decision points along those lines that aren’t
encounter areas: “After about two hours, you reach a
point where the passage splits. The left branch starts
with a short flight of stairs and seems to lead gently
upward beyond them, while the right branch slopes
sharply downward. Which way do you go?” It is fine if
your map glosses over long stretches of travel to keep
the adventure moving.
Sometimes an encounter map is literally a flowchart, when the setting is less important than the plot,
and encounters are more like events. Decision points
on such a map aren’t literal rooms with multiple exits,
but they work just the same way: If the characters
convince the baron to send soldiers to the pass, they
lead a squad to the pass the next day, and their next
encounter is with a group of hobgoblins in the pass. If
they fail to convince the baron, their next encounter is
a team of assassins sent by the vizier that attacks them
that night.

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 112

3/12/08 4:15:41 PM

The Map Key

When you’re setting out to draw a dungeon map, start
with a blank sheet of graph paper. With one square on
the graph paper representing 5 feet of distance, you
can easily translate the encounter areas on your map
to the battle grid when combat breaks out.
Your map should include all the important features
of a room, although flavor details can rest in descriptive text or notes rather than appearing on the map.
Consider all the elements that apply from the following list.

The key for your map is the substance of your adventure. For each room on the adventure map, your key
describes what’s in the room—its physical features, as
well as the encounter that waits there. The key turns
a room sketched on graph paper with the numeral 1
in the middle of it into an encounter on the battle grid
designed to entertain and intrigue your players.

✦ Boundaries and walls
✦ Doors and passages
✦ Furnishings
✦ Hazards
✦ Numbers or letters for key locations
✦ Obstacles
✦ Secret areas
✦ Terrain
✦ Territory for factions
✦ Traps
Unless cartography is fun for you, don’t worry about
the drawing quality in your mapping. Your map is
a tool to help you keep track of the adventure and
convey the setting to the players. It just needs to be
clear and easy for you to use. Make notes on it that will
help you describe the area and run the encounters.
Map Symbols: You can use symbols to indicate
map features. The map symbol illustration here shows
one way to depict common features of adventure settings, but use whatever symbols work best for you.

Adventure Map and Battle Grid
When you map encounter areas, keep in mind that
you’re going to have to transfer your map to the battle
grid when the characters enter the area. Don’t make
areas that are too big to fit on your table (or your gridded surface). If you use D&D Dungeon Tiles for your
battle grid, consider building each area with the tiles
first, then transferring it to the map. That way, you
are sure you can build the location again when the
encounter starts.


✦ Room description
✦ Monsters
✦ Traps
✦ Hazards
✦ Monster tactics
✦ Encounter XP value
✦ Treasure, if any
✦ Rules for terrain and features in the room


Drawing the Map

The encounter areas presented in Chapter 11 are
reasonably well detailed, but you don’t necessarily
need the same level of detail in your own adventures.
Particularly if you don’t have a lot of time to prepare, it
can be enough to jot quick notes about each encounter.
Even so, try to include at least enough detail to spur
you to give an expanded description when you’re running the encounter. Here’s an example of the sort of
quick notes you might make for a room:

Room 1—Foulspawn Guards (2,100 XP)
Smell like rotting flesh mixed with chemical odor. Strange
shadows—don’t seem to follow light, things moving?
2 foulspawn berserkers
1 foulspawn seer
2 foulspawn manglers
Berserkers attack when the characters enter the room. Next
round, seer enters on balcony (10 ft. up) and manglers
sneak in through side doors (Stealth +12).
Treasure: Seer wears an amulet of protection +2 (+2 defenses).

Whatever format works best for your reference during
the game is the format you should use. Some DMs like
having a page neatly organized for each encounter,
while others use index cards. Still others write the
contents of each room directly on the map and don’t
bother with a key at all, trusting their ability to improvise any further details. Your own preference is what
matters, along with the preparation time you have

Here’s a tip for drawing diagonal walls on the battle grid:
Don’t draw the walls through the corners of squares.
Instead, start at the middle of a square’s edge and go
through the middle of the adjacent square’s edge. This way,
where creatures can stand is always clear: A square with a
corner cut off is a legal square, but a creature can’t occupy
a space that’s just the corner of a square.

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 113

3/12/08 4:15:43 PM

Outdoor Settings
A dungeon makes a great adventure setting because
it offers choices without presenting too many options.
The characters can turn right or left, and that choice
can make a significant difference in the adventure,
but they can’t go in a completely different direction
than you planned for. Because the players’ options
are limited, planning for all possibilities is easy. Just
determine what’s in every dungeon room, and you’ve
covered all your bases.
By contrast, an outdoor setting seems to present
limitless options. The players can move in any direction they want to over the trackless desert, and you
might think you’d have to detail every square mile of
the desert in order to be prepared for every possibility.
Either that, or you design an encounter in an oasis, the
characters miss the oasis because they wandered off
course, and the result is a boring adventure with uninterrupted slogging across bare rock and dry sand.
The solution is to think of an outdoor setting very
much like you think about a dungeon. First, most
terrain—even trackless desert—does present some clear
pathways. The reason that roads seldom run straight
is that they follow the contours of the land, finding
the most level or otherwise easiest pathways across
uneven ground. Valleys and ridges channel travel in
a certain direction. Mountain ranges present a forbidding barrier except for natural or constructed passes.
Even an apparently trackless desert has easier routes
and harder ones—regions of wind-blasted rock that are
easier to walk on than shifting sand.
Second, you don’t have to be precise about where
you place encounters on your outdoor maps. A part of
your brain might cling to the realism of saying, “But
the oasis is right there,” but the oasis is not there. The
oasis isn’t real. It exists precisely where you need it to
exist, which is in the path of the player characters as
they make their way across the desert. It might be 80
miles into their journey, or however far they travel in
three days.
You might want to draw a sketch of an outdoor
map for an adventure. However, keep it on the freeform side. Just as you do in a dungeon, think about
decision points and encounter areas and how to connect them, rather than focusing on the exact terrain
between. A decision point might be a fork in the road,
or the choice to ford a river, continue down its closer
bank, or build a raft and paddle downstream. The ford
might lead to one encounter, while either walking or
rowing downstream might lead to another. The adventure continues, no matter which route the characters

Thinking about outdoor adventures in this way
presents some risk of overpreparing. If the characters’
goal is to get from one place to another, and the adventure is the encounters they have along the way, they’re
significantly more likely to miss encounters you have
planned than they are in a dungeon where they’re
inclined to explore every room. You can approach this
problem in two ways: You can grin and bear it, taking
care not to put too much effort into each encounter
and knowing that the characters will skip over some of
them. Or, you can throw every encounter in the characters’ way, regardless of the choices they make.
That might seem like railroading, but it’s not—at
least, not any moreso than a normal dungeon is. As
long as the players feel as though they’re making
meaningful choices along the way, the end result can
be that they go through the same encounters they
would have if they would have made completely different choices. Their choices should influence the order
in which the encounters occur, just as they do in a
dungeon. For example, opponents from one encounter
might flee and appear again as reinforcements in a
later encounter.
Another way to think about outdoor travel is as
an extended skill challenge. The “Lost in the Wilderness” skill challenge example in Chapter 5 (page 79)
shows how to make a journey through the wilds into
an important part of an adventure. You can interrupt
the skill challenge with combat encounters at several
points along the way—the higher the complexity of the
challenge, the longer it will take to complete, and thus
the more often it is liable to be interrupted. Using the
skill challenge system in this way makes the players
feel as though the episode of outdoor travel is full of
meaningful choices and a chance for their characters’
skills to matter in the game.

Varying Adventure Settings
Present a variety of settings within both a single
adventure and over the course of several adventures.
It’s almost a cliché of the game, but one outdoor
encounter on the way to the dungeon—or an outdoor
encounter that leads the characters to the dungeon—
can be an exciting way to lay the foundation of an
adventure, cluing the players in to the nature of the
threat they face.
A mix of dungeon, outdoor, urban, and even planar
adventuring also keeps a campaign interesting. You
might even structure your campaign so that characters routinely travel the world, with one adventure
in steamy tropical rainforest and the next set in the
frozen tundra.

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 114

3/12/08 4:15:44 PM

If a good outdoor adventure map is a sort of abstraction of a dungeon map, then the “map” for a purely
event-based adventure is even more so. But the idea of
a dungeon map as flowchart is a great metaphor for
how to structure an adventure around events and decisions instead of around physical space.
An event-based adventure focuses on the things
the characters do rather than the places they go.
Each decision—as well as the outcome of each
encounter—leads to direct consequences. Typically,
event-based adventures rely heavily on skill challenges, particularly those that involve interactions
with nonplayer characters. They might involve solving
a mystery (which you might also think of as a logic
puzzle), plunging into a tangled web of diplomacy and
intrigue, or tracking down a hidden cult operating
in the bell tower of the abandoned temple. An eventbased encounter is a great way to involve the actors,
storytellers, and thinkers in your group, but you can
keep slayers happy with frequent combat encounters
thrown into the mix.
The setting of an event-based adventure is often
a city (though it can be anything). An event-based
structure works well for urban adventures because you
don’t have to map every building in the city. What’s
important is whom the characters interact with. However, you can also use this structure for outdoor or
dungeon encounters, particularly in cases where the
opponents are organized and intelligent, rather than
dumb brutes who lurk in their dungeon lairs until
characters come along to fight. Consider an ancient
ruin now inhabited by three different factions: yuan-ti
in one quarter, minotaurs in another, and drow in the
cellars, sewers, and caverns below. Such an adventure
has an element of exploration, but more interesting
is how the characters might play the three factions
against each other, making the events of the adventure
far more important than the setting—particularly since
the inhabitants of the ruin move around regularly,
rather than appearing in fixed encounter locations.
Certain points on the event flowchart for your
adventure might be sites—small dungeons or just
city building. At those points, you set the flowchart
“adventure map” aside and turn to a smaller map,
let the characters explore that site and complete the
encounters there, then return to the flowchart, following one branch or another depending on the outcome
of those encounters. These mini-dungeons are a good
way to vary the pace and feel of the adventure and so
to appeal to different player motivations.

Similarly, have encounter areas mapped for the
combat encounters you do plan for an event-based
adventure. Assassins might attack the characters anywhere in the city, when the time is right, but if you
have a few interesting encounter maps available to
choose from (a marketplace, a tavern, a warren of back
alleys) you can pick the right one for the event when it
Even more than in most adventures, the overall
structure of an event-based adventure is essential.
You want events to hook the characters in immediately, build excitement slowly, and reach a climactic
moment, a crucial encounter. That crucial encounter might be an all-out fight against the mind flayer
impersonating the baron or a final showdown with
the castellan to determine the duke’s final decision,
but it should be the most exciting and tension-filled
encounter in the whole adventure. Pay close attention
to the advice about good and bad structure (see page
101). It’s easy to bottleneck or railroad the players in
an event-based adventure.
Another useful tool for organizing an event-based
adventure is with a timeline. Certain events might
occur at specific times in the adventure regardless
of the characters’ actions (a solar eclipse, a new nonplayer character arriving on the scene, a festival day,
or some other event beyond the player characters’
control), or events on the timeline could trigger unless
the characters manage to prevent them. A timeline is a
great way to make sure an event-based adventure stays
on track by adding new elements to the mix at regular
intervals. It can also put time pressure on the characters to accomplish their goals before certain inevitable
events occur. If the villains are scheming to assassinate the earl during the festival, the characters have a
limited time to unravel the plot and stop it.
Finally, have a few more-or-less random combat
encounters prepared to kick-start the action if things
start to bog down. Rather than drop a clue in the characters’ lap, have someone kick down their door and
start a fight, dropping the clue in the process. That
way, the players feel like they earned the clue, and
the encounter also gets their adrenaline flowing and
ratchets up the excitement a notch.


Event-Based Adventures

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 115

3/12/08 4:15:45 PM

An adventure’s cast—the monsters and nonplayer
characters involved—brings it to life. Cast members are
tools that facilitate the game. Many cast members are
monsters or NPCs for the PCs to face and defeat. They
require little work aside from placing them in encounters and a little attention to behavior that makes them
interesting to roleplay. Others are extras directly
involved with the PCs—employers and other support
characters who require at least a little detail for roleplaying purposes. Still others are unique villains or
monsters that require statistics and roleplaying details
you create.
Every cast member has a purpose, a reason for
appearing in the adventure. The most fundamental
purposes are straightforward: Is the character an ally
or patron to the characters, their enemy, or an extra
with a walk-on role? When you populate your adventure, you can give some of the cast notable purposes.
However, such purposes are relevant only if they’ll
matter to the PCs. Don’t bother with such details if no
way exists for the PCs to interact with them.
Sometimes a cast member can serve multiple
purposes, and the purposes of some cast members
can change as a reaction to the characters’ actions or
events in the world. An ally or patron could become
an enemy, or fade into the background and become a
mere extra. Enemies can reconcile and even become

Sometimes you want an ally or patron nonplayer character to accompany the player characters on part or all of an
adventure. You might do it for story reasons, or just because
you like having a character of your own to play when the
player characters leave the comforts of civilization. An ally
can be a way to introduce clues to the characters, or might
be along just so she can betray the characters (and turn
into an enemy) at the worst possible moment.
When a nonplayer character participates in an encounter, that character earns an equal share of experience
points. You should build encounters to challenge the
party that includes the ally. Allies are within their rights to
demand a share of treasure earned as well, though in that
case you should add treasure to the adventure to account
for the ally.
Resist the temptation to use allied nonplayer characters as a way to railroad the players, and don’t ever let an
ally become the focus of an adventure. Keep the spotlight
firmly on the player characters where it belongs.

An ally is a cast member that helps the PCs in some
way, large or small. Allies come in all sorts, from the
sagacious peasant who knows and can relate all the
local legends, to the guard captain who fights alongside the characters as they hold off the hobgoblin
invaders. Allies don’t need to give their help for free,
but they often do.
Allies can serve a number of roles in an adventure.
An ally might be an explorer who shares her maps
with the characters or guides them through the wilderness. Or he might be the priest the characters turn
to when they need a Raise Dead ritual performed. A
deity might even assign an angel of protection to ward
a character on a particularly dangerous and important
adventure. If you plan a twist in your game, an ally
might have darker qualities that make the character
later become an enemy.
An ally needs only as much detail as its role in the
game requires. A sage who exists only to provide an
important clue doesn’t need any more detail than a
quirk of appearance or mannerism to help you play
her at the table. But the explorer-guide who accompanies the characters on part of their adventure needs
full combat statistics in addition to those small details.

A patron employs the characters, providing help or
rewards as well as hooks to adventure. Most of the
time, a patron has a vested interest in the characters’
success and doesn’t need to be persuaded to help.
However, circumstances or hidden schemes might
make a patron cagey or even treacherous. A patron
might cease to care about the characters after they
complete a particular task. Let these circumstances
guide the detail you give a patron. A name and a few
choice interactions are all you need for a patron who
serves as an adventure hook, but you might need further facets for a recurring patron—or one who might
become an ally or enemy. At the least, give some
thought to why the patron wants what he does and
why he hires the characters to pursue his goals instead
of doing it himself.

Enemies oppose or hinder the characters. Simple
monsters are enemies, as are dastardly villains you
make up. Most enemies need combat statistics more
than roleplaying details, although an enemy in a skill
challenge might need more extensive personality notes
and motivations. Enemies who play a significant role
in an adventure—the villains featured in climactic

CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 116

3/12/08 4:15:45 PM

Extras are characters and creatures that exist to make
the world seem more real. In a movie, they’re the people
in the background that the main characters rarely interact with. The duke’s servants, townsfolk who witness
(and scatter away from) a street brawl, and tavernkeepers are extras. In a D&D game, you might keep basic
and short notes on extras you think might become part
of a brief encounter. Many DMs make up extras on the
spot when the PCs go somewhere unexpected. Often
you need to know only what kinds of extras to expect in
an area of your adventure or settlement.

is just random. When you invent a new character’s
personality, make a note of it, so you can refer back to
it when the heroes return to the same place later.
One of the great things about establishing consistency like this is that it can be very effective when you
break it. If characters visit their favorite tavern at noon
and find the night keeper on duty, they wonder why,
which can be a wonderfully subtle way to draw the
heroes into an adventure.

Variant Behavior


encounters, as well as recurring villains who vex the
characters in adventure after adventure—should always
be more than their combat statistics. They don’t need
extensive personal histories that explain why they
became so evil, but tales of their past evils can be a
good way to build player anticipation for that climactic
battle. A memorable personality, preferably something that becomes apparent before the final battle,
also brings a villain to life. Mocking verses, in flowery
language, scrawled in blood beside each victim speak
volumes about the villain the characters seek.
Also consider the motivations of an important
enemy. Is he an evil cultist who offers sacrifices to
Orcus in a cellar shrine? A scheming mastermind who
plans to take over the barony? A mercenary criminal who does anything if the price is right? A crazed
lunatic who delights in torture with no real purpose?
Villains with different motivations can give very different flavor to the adventures they appear in.

Surprise your players occasionally by making familiar
creatures act in unusual or bizarre ways for their kind.
The variant behavior should be explainable if the PCs
can discover the cause. Perhaps the setting changes
those who stay within it too long. Maybe the presence
or influence of one or more creatures has swayed
others to behave in an unusual way.
Variant behavior can go in many directions. An evil
creature might instead behave in a more benevolent
fashion, or it could be limited in some way that prevents or suppresses its natural tendencies. Innocent
creatures might be forced to fight for the bad guys,
causing the PCs a moral quandary. Weak creatures
might have stronger yet subservient allies.


Bringing the Cast to Life
One way to ease the job of roleplaying a wide variety of characters is to give each one a distinctive
trait—something the heroes remember that character by. If the tavern keeper on duty during the day is
hard of hearing and the one on duty at night speaks
loudly (and tactlessly), the players have an easier
time remembering which is which. Traits that have
an easy, obvious effect on how you play that character
are best. It’s one thing to tell the players that a criminal contact has bad breath, but it’s quite another to
play him so that he ends every sentence with a noticeable exhalation of breath toward the characters. If
your voice and acting talents are up to the challenge,
creating distinctive voices for important characters
is a great way to make sure they stick in the players’
minds, and different facial expressions can create a
vivid picture of different characters.
Another important thing to remember as you
bring this enormous supporting cast to life is to be
consistent. Creating a distinct daytime and nighttime
tavernkeeper is great. Randomly using one of two different personalities whenever the heroes visit a tavern
CH A P T ER 6 | Advent ures


4E_DMG_Ch06.indd 117

3/12/08 4:15:46 PM




Experience points,

treasure, action
points, and intangible rewards keep characters
moving on from encounter to encounter, level to level,
and adventure to adventure. Small rewards come
frequently, while large rewards provide a big boost
once in a while. Both are important.
Without frequent small rewards, players begin to
feel like their efforts aren’t paying off. They’re doing
a lot of work with nothing to show for it. Without
occasional large rewards, encounters feel like pushing
a button to get a morsel of food—a repetitive grind
with no meaningful variation.
Characters gain experience points (XP) for
every encounter they complete. They gain action
points when they reach milestones, generally after
every two encounters. They gain treasure as they
complete encounters—not after every encounter, but
sporadically over the course of an adventure. They
gain a level after completing eight to ten encounters
(including quests).
Gaining a level (see page 27 of the Player’s
Handbook) is the most significant reward the game
has to offer, but even that reward has its own tidal
rhythm. Characters gain new attack powers at
odd-numbered levels, and they gain new feats, ability
score increases, and global adjustments to all their
attacks and defenses at even-numbered levels. Both
are exciting, but they feel different.
This chapter includes the following sections.
✦ Experience Points: Every monster slain, skill
challenge, puzzle solved, and trap disabled is
worth an XP reward. As characters gain XP, they
move toward new levels.
✦ Quests: Completing quests brings rewards just
like completing encounters.
✦ Action Points: Action points encourage
characters to take on more encounters before
stopping to take an extended rest.


✦ Treasure: Whether it’s coins, gems, art
objects, or magic items, treasure is the reward
characters can put to use right away.

C H A P T ER 7 | Re ward s


4E_DMG_Ch07.indd 118

3/12/08 4:17:47 PM

C H A P T ER 7 | Re ward s

4E_DMG_Ch07.indd 119

3/12/08 4:17:52 PM

Experience points (XP) are the fundamental reward
of the game, just as encounters are the building blocks
of adventures and campaigns. Every encounter comes
with an experience reward to match its difficulty.

XP Rewards
The Experience Point Rewards table provides XP
values for monsters of every level. Use the “Standard
Monster” column for NPCs, traps, and noncombat
encounters (skill challenges and puzzles).





Earning XP
Characters earn XP for every encounter they overcome. The XP reward for completing an encounter is
the sum of the XP values for each monster, NPC, trap,
or hazard that makes up the encounter. You noted or
assigned this number when you built the encounter,
to judge its difficulty against your players. (Published
adventures note the XP value of each encounter they
contain.) Divide the XP total for the encounter by the
number of players present to help overcome it, and
that’s how many XP each character gets.
Overcoming an Encounter: What counts as overcoming an encounter? Killing, routing, or capturing
the opponents in a combat encounter certainly counts.
Meeting the success conditions of a skill challenge is
overcoming it. Remember that an encounter, by definition, has a risk of failure. If that risk isn’t present, it’s
not an encounter, and the characters don’t earn XP. If
the characters accidentally trigger a trap as they make
their way down a hallway, they don’t get XP because it
wasn’t an encounter. If the trap constitutes an encounter or is part of an encounter, though, they do earn XP
if they manage to disarm or destroy it.
Say the characters avoid a hydra to get into the treasure vault it guards. Do they get XP for overcoming
the challenge of the hydra? No. If the treasure was the
object of a quest, they get the reward for completing
the quest (see Quest Rewards on page 122), which
should include XP as well as treasure. But because
they didn’t have an encounter with the hydra, they
didn’t overcome the challenge. (If they sneak past,
trick, or defeat the hydra in an encounter, they do
earn XP.)
XP for Combat Encounters: The Monster Manual
indicates the XP reward each monster is worth. That
number comes from the Experience Rewards table
on this page, and it depends on the monster’s level. A
minion is worth one-quarter of the XP of a standard
monster of its level. An elite monster is worth twice
as much XP, and a solo monster is worth five times as
much XP.
If you apply a template to a monster (see page 175),
you turn it into an elite or solo monster (see “Creating New Solos,” page 185) and therefore adjust its XP
value. Likewise, if you alter a monster’s level, its XP
value changes.
A nonplayer character counts as a monster of his
or her level for calculating XP. Traps and hazards that
serve as combat complications also have levels. If the
characters overcome a combat encounter where a trap
or hazard presented a threat during the encounter,
give them XP for the trap or hazard even if they didn’t
disable or neutralize it. They overcame the challenge it

C H A P T ER 7 | Re ward s


4E_DMG_Ch07.indd 120

3/21/08 10:16:39 AM

Experience at the Table
Awarding experience points is a simple process, but
it can raise a few sticky issues at the table. It’s worth
setting a few table rules for how you give out those

XP per Encounter
Some DMs prefer to give XP after every encounter.
That way, they don’t have to keep track of a running
XP total for the session. The players are the only
ones who have to worry about how many XP they’ve
earned. Others prefer to award XP when the characters stop for an extended rest or at the end of a gaming
session. It’s purely a matter of personal preference, but
be mindful of the pace of the session. Don’t stop to give
out XP if it’s going to bring the game to a halt at a tense

Varying the Rate of

Leveling Up

The experience point numbers in the game are built
so that characters complete eight to ten encounters
for every level they gain. In practice, that’s six to eight
encounters, one major quest, and one minor quest per
character in the party.
If you were to start a campaign with 1st-level characters on January 1st, play faithfully for four or five
hours every week, and manage to finish four encounters every session, your characters would enter the
paragon tier during or after your session on June 24th,
reach epic levels in December, and hit 30th level the
next summer. Most campaigns don’t move at this pace,
however; you’ll probably find that the natural rhythms
of your campaign produce a slower rate of advancement that’s easier to sustain.
If you double the XP rewards you give out, your
characters will gain a level at least every other session,
and hit 30th level in thirty-five sessions, or about eight
months. That can be great for a campaign that runs
during the school year (allowing some time for holiday
If you want to limit your campaign to a single tier
(ten levels), you could cut the XP rewards in half and
stretch that campaign out to nearly a year. Characters
gain levels a little less often than once a month.

Absent Players

Simpler Experience Points
If you want to, you can treat experience points the
same way you handle action points (see “Awarding
Action Points” on page 123): Tell the players that they
gain a level after they complete eight to ten encounters. Don’t count really easy encounters, count really
hard encounters as two, and don’t worry about precise
XP totals. As with action points, harder and easier
encounters balance each other out over the course of
that level.


presented most directly, which was its danger during
the combat.
XP for Noncombat Encounters: Noncombat
encounters that carry risk also carry reward. A skill
challenge has a level and a difficulty that combine
to determine the XP your characters earn for successfully completing the challenge. A skill challenge
counts as a number of monsters of its level equal to its
complexity—so a 7th-level challenge with a complexity
of 3 counts as three 7th-level monsters, or 900 XP.
If a puzzle constitutes an encounter (see “Is a
Puzzle an Encounter?” on page 81), treat it as a monster. If the puzzle is the entire encounter, treat it as
a solo monster. If it’s part of an encounter that also
includes traps or monsters, count it as one or two monsters, depending on how hard it is and how important
it is for the characters to solve it.

Some DMs let characters gain the benefits of a new
level as soon as they have the required XP to reach
that level, while others prefer to wait until the characters take an extended rest or even until the end of a
session before letting characters level up. That decision
is entirely up to you. If your players are particularly
slow about advancing their characters and are taking
a long time to pore over the options available to them,
it might be best to wait until the end of a session. If
leveling up would completely shatter the pace of the
session, put it off until they take an extended rest at

One issue that’s going to come up is how to handle
experience for characters who weren’t present for a
session. As with other table rules, decide on a policy
and stick to it, although it’s all right to make an exception for the player who misses a lot of sessions for a
good reason.
The game works better in a lot of ways if you just
assume that the characters all gain experience and
advance levels at the same rate, even if their players
miss a session. You don’t have to worry about players lagging behind the others, and players who miss
a session don’t feel like they’re less effective. D&D is
a cooperative game, and it’s more fun when all the
players are on a level playing field, able to make equal
contributions to the group’s success. All the players can
share in the excitement of gaining a level at the same
time. And it makes tracking XP much easier. In fact, a
group could decide to delegate the job of tracking XP
to a single player, who could announce when the characters go up a level.
The alternative, of course, is to give XP only to the
characters who are present and who participate in
each encounter. If a character is dead while the rest
C H A P T ER 7 | Re ward s


4E_DMG_Ch07.indd 121

3/12/08 4:17:55 PM

of the party faces an encounter, that character doesn’t
get XP for the encounter. If a player misses a session,
that character doesn’t get XP for the whole session. The
result is that players who never miss a session get ahead
of those who miss the occasional game, and eventually
they wind up a level or more ahead. There’s nothing
wrong with that.

months of gaming because of work or school or family,
it’s pretty punishing to return to the game three levels
behind the other characters. Discuss the situation with
the other players, but strongly consider advancing the
character to the same level as the rest of the group or
maybe a level behind.

Catching Up
Quest Rewards
When the characters finish a major quest that they’ve
been pursuing for several sessions, divide the XP
reward among all the characters who participated
in the quest, even those who aren’t present in the
particular session when the PCs complete it. That’s
only fair—a major quest is like an encounter that
stretches over multiple game sessions, and everyone
who participates deserves to share in the reward.

Extended Absences
Even if you don’t give characters XP for sessions they
missed, consider making an exception for a player who
has to step out of the game for a long period because
of a significant life event. When a player misses two



Major Quest Reward
4 PCs
5 PCs
6 PCs
95,000 114,000

If letting absent characters keep pace with the rest of
the group is too hard to swallow but you don’t want
characters lagging behind, you can let them catch up
a little more slowly. When a player misses a session,
let the character lag behind for the next session, but
award the character the XP he missed at the end of
the session. Therefore, all the characters present have
the same XP total at the end every session.
If a player misses multiple sessions in a row, you
might require that player to attend the same number
of sessions he missed before awarding the missed XP.
Ultimately, it depends on how much bookkeeping
you’re willing to do in order to let the character catch
up at the rate you want.

Minor Quest

Completing quests earns rewards for the PCs. These
rewards primarily take the form of treasure (both
money and items) and experience points, but quests
can also have less concrete rewards. Perhaps someone
owes them a favor, they’ve earned the respect of an
organization that might give them future quests, or
they’ve established a contact who can provide them
with important information or access.
Fundamentally, a minor quest is worth the same as
one monster of the quest’s level, in terms of both XP
and treasure rewards. A major quest is worth a whole
encounter of its level. As with other rewards, all the
PCs share in the rewards for quests, even if the quest
was meant for an individual member of the group.
Completing a major quest is equivalent to completing an encounter, so it really feels like a significant
accomplishment. The XP reward varies based on the
number of characters in the group, just as the XP value
for an encounter does. When a group of characters
completes a 10th-level major quest, each individual in
the group gets 500 XP, regardless of how many characters are in the group.
Completing a minor quest is equivalent to defeating
a single monster, and that XP reward is divided among
all the characters in the group. Since minor quests
are more likely to be individual quests, the number
of characters in the group helps determine how many
minor quests the characters complete. When a group
of four adventurers completes a 9th-level minor quest,
each character gets 100 XP. When they complete four
minor quests, they earn 400 XP.

C H A P T ER 7 | Re ward s


4E_DMG_Ch07.indd 122

3/12/08 4:17:56 PM

If the characters complete multiple encounters
without resting, they reach milestones. “Reaching a
milestone” means completing two encounters without
taking an extended rest. For every two encounters
the characters complete between extended rests, they
reach a milestone.

Awarding Action Points


When characters reach milestones, they get action
points. Action points help balance the depletion of

character resources (expended daily powers and healing surges) by providing a new resource that can help
characters adventure longer before taking an extended
Characters have 1 action point when they complete an extended rest. When they reach a milestone,
they gain another action point. They gain additional
action points after every milestone. When they take an
extended rest, they lose any unspent action points and
start the next day with 1 action point again.


Even though the XP reward for a major quest is
the same as the reward for an encounter, don’t count
a quest as an encounter for the purposes of earning
action points. Characters need to complete two actual
encounters to gain an action point.
If you want to, you can attach a treasure reward to a
quest as well as XP. Treat a quest just like an encounter
for purposes of treasure. You can assign one or more
treasure parcels (see page 126) to its completion, or you
can put all the treasure in the dungeon. Sometimes the
person who gave the PCs a quest gives them a payment
for completing it. Sometimes the characters collect a
bounty on the head of a dangerous criminal or receive a
goodwill offering collected by the families and friends of
the prisoners they rescued and escorted back to safety.

Varying Action Point
You’re well within your rights to tell the players that
an encounter doesn’t count toward a milestone. An
encounter that’s two or more levels lower than the
characters is really easy, and it shouldn’t contribute
toward a milestone.
Likewise, if the characters overcome an encounter
that’s really hard, you can count it as two encounters,
so they reach a milestone right away. An encounter
that’s four or more levels higher than the characters
should count as two encounters.
If you vary encounter difficulty within a more
normal range—one level below to two or three levels
above the characters’ level—just count each encounter
as one. The harder encounters balance out the easier

C H A P T ER 7 | Re ward s


4E_DMG_Ch07.indd 123

3/12/08 4:17:57 PM

Treasure rewards come in two basic flavors: magic
items and monetary treasure. Magic items include all
the magic weapons, armor, gear, and wondrous items
detailed in the Player’s Handbook and other sources.
Monetary treasure includes coins (silver, gold, and
platinum), precious gems, and valuable objects of art.
Over the course of an adventure, characters acquire
treasure of all kinds.

Monetary Treasure
Monetary treasure doesn’t have a level, but it has a
similar economy. Gold coins are the standard coins
of treasure hoards from 1st level through the paragon
tier. At the lowest levels, characters might find silver
coins as well, but that mundane coinage disappears
from dungeon treasures after about 5th level.
In the mid-paragon tier, platinum coins start
appearing in treasures. One platinum piece (pp) is
worth 100 gp and weighs the same as 1 gold piece,
so it’s a much easier way to transport the quantities of
wealth that high-level characters possess. By the time
characters reach epic level, they rarely see gold any
more. Platinum is the new standard.
In the mid-epic tier, a new currency comes into
play: astral diamonds. These precious gems are used
as currency in the Elemental Chaos and in any divine
dominions that have commercial economies. One
astral diamond (ad) is worth 100 pp or 10,000 gp, and
10 ad weigh as much as one gold or platinum coin—so
500 ad weigh one pound. Astral diamonds never completely replace platinum, but they’re a useful measure
of wealth in the high epic tier. Astral diamonds are
most commonly found in strings of five or ten, linked
together in settings of mithral or silver.

Precious gems are as good as currency. Characters can
cash them out at full value or use them to purchase
expensive items. Gemstones come in four common
values: 100 gp, 500 gp, 1,000 gp, and 5,000 gp. The
most common examples of each value are shown on

Astral diamonds are clear, faceted crystals that glow with a
faint silvery light. Some legitimate operations mine astral
diamonds in the divine dominions that float through the
Astral Sea, particularly in Mount Celestia and the hinterlands of the Bright City. Secret mines also exist in other
dominions. Abandoned dominions are poor sources for
astral diamonds, but characters venturing to those desolate
landscapes might find both operating mines and abandoned ones that are dangerous epic dungeons.

the lists below. (Numerous kinds of gems exist.) Astral
diamonds are technically gemstones worth 10,000 gp
apiece, but they are more often used as currency in
their own right.

100 gp Gems: amber, amethyst, garnet, moonstone, jade,
pearl, peridot, turquoise
500 gp Gems: alexandrite, aquamarine, black pearl, topaz
1,000 gp Gems: emerald, fire opal, sapphire
5,000 gp Gems: diamond, jacinth, ruby

Gems appear in treasures beginning at 1st level. In
the paragon tier, 100 gp gems are rare. Gems worth
500 gp start appearing in 5th-level treasures and fade
out in the paragon tier. Gems worth 1,000 gp appear
from the middle of the heroic tier to the high end of
the paragon tier. The most precious gems occur only in
paragon and epic treasures.

Art Objects
Art objects include idols of solid gold, necklaces dripping with gems, old paintings of ancient monarchs,
bejeweled golden chalices, and more. Art objects
found as treasure are at least reasonably portable, as
opposed to enormous statues (even if they are made of
solid platinum) or tapestries woven with gold thread.
In the heroic tier, characters commonly find art
objects worth 250 gp or 1,500 gp. At paragon levels,
items worth 2,500 gp or 7,500 gp appear. At high
paragon and epic levels, items worth 15,000 gp and
50,000 gp appear in treasures as well. Examples of
each category of item appear on the lists below.

250 gp Art Objects: gold ring with 100 gp gem, bone or ivory
statuette, gold bracelet, silver necklace, bronze crown,
silver-plated sword, silk robe
1,500 gp Art Objects: gold ring with 1,000 gp gem, gold
or silver statuette, gold bracelet with 500 gp gems, gold
necklace with 100 gp gems, silver tiara or crown with
100 gp gems, ivory comb with 500 gp gems, cloth of gold
2,500 gp Art Objects: gold or platinum ring with 1,000 gp
gems, gold or silver statuette with 500 gp gems, gold
necklace with 500 gp gems, gold crown with 500 gp gems,
gold chalice with 100 gp gems, ceremonial gold breastplate
7,500 gp Art Objects: platinum ring with 5,000 gp gem,
gold statuette with 1,000 gp gems, mithral necklace with
1,000 gp gems, adamantine crown with 1,000 gp gems,
adamantine box containing elemental flame, black tunic
woven of pure shadow
15,000 gp Art Objects: mithral ring with an astral diamond,
gold statuette with 5,000 gp gems, gold necklace with
5,000 gp gems, mithral tiara with 5,000 gp gems, cup of
celestial gold that glows with a soft inner light, silvery cloak
of astral thread, enormous emerald or sapphire

C H A P T ER 7 | Re ward s


4E_DMG_Ch07.indd 124

3/12/08 4:18:00 PM

Many of the most precious art objects include material from the Elemental Chaos or the Astral Sea and
its dominions. None have any magical effect, however,
and even elemental fire is stripped of its heat in the
crafting process so it can’t do any damage (to its wearer
or an enemy).

Magic Items
All the magic items in the Player’s Handbook have a
level. When characters risk life and limb in adventures, they find magic items of higher level than their
own level. Players enjoy finding powerful items, and
they have a strong incentive to use those items rather
than sell or disenchant them for a fraction of their
value. When they use their own resources to acquire
magic items, they buy or create items of their own level
or lower. These items are useful and can be important,
but they don’t have the wonder and excitement of
the items players find on their adventures—and that’s

Awarding Treasure
While experience points are fundamentally an
encounter-based (or quest) reward, treasure is a
larger-scale reward doled out over the course of an
adventure. You plan treasure in terms of the eight to
ten encounters it takes characters to advance from one
level to the next.
During the course of gaining that level, expect a
group of five characters to acquire four magic items
ranging in level from one to four levels above the party
level. In addition, they should find gold and other
monetary treasure equal to the market price of two
magic items of their level. So a 6th-level party would
find four magic items, one each of levels 7 through 10,
and gold worth two 6th-level items, or 3,600 gp.
At the start of an adventure, look at the adventure
in chunks of eight to ten encounters. (Include major
quest rewards as if they were encounters, and if the
party completes five minor quests, include those five
rewards as a single encounter as well.) For each of
those chunks, look at the treasure parcels on the following pages. Find the level of the characters as they
work through those encounters, and note the parcels
of treasure you will give out over the course of the
If your group has more than five characters, add a
parcel for each additional character, as shown below.
If you have fewer than five characters, remove parcels

8 Characters: Add three parcels: a magic item of Level + 3, a
magic item of Level + 2, and a magic item of Level + 1.
7 Characters: Add two parcels: a magic item of Level + 2 and a
magic item of Level + 1.
6 Characters: Add one parcel: a magic item of Level + 2.
5 Characters: Use the parcels as given.
4 Characters: Remove parcel 3 (a magic item of Level + 2).
3 Characters: Remove parcel 2 (a magic item of Level + 3) and
parcel 4 (a magic item of Level + 1).
2 Characters: Remove parcel 1 (a magic item of Level + 4),
parcel 2 (a magic item of Level + 3), and parcel 4 (a magic
item of Level + 1).
1 Character: Remove parcel 1 (a magic item of Level + 4),
parcel 2 (a magic item of Level + 3), parcel 4 (a magic item
of Level + 1), and parcel 5.


50,000 gp Art Objects: bracelet formed of cold elemental
lightning, gown woven of elemental water, brass ring with
bound elemental fire, celestial gold statuette with astral
diamonds, royal attire of astral thread with 5,000 gp gems,
enormous diamond or ruby

If you want to, you can give the characters one parcel
of treasure after each encounter they complete (including one for a major quest reward, if appropriate). It’s
more interesting, however, to combine some parcels
into larger hoards and leave some encounters with no
treasure at all. Sometimes it’s a good idea to include
treasures with no associated encounter, such as a
hidden cache of gold or stashed item that the characters can find with careful searching after they’ve
overcome a few encounters. In any event, when you
give out one parcel of treasure, cross it off your list.
The trickiest part of awarding treasure is determining what magic items to give out. Tailor these items
to your party of characters. Remember that these are
supposed to be items that excite the characters, items
they want to use rather than sell or disenchant. If none
of the characters in your 6th-level party uses a longbow, don’t put a 10th-level longbow in your dungeon as
A great way to make sure you give players magic
items they’ll be excited about is to ask them for wish
lists. At the start of each level, have each player
write down a list of three to five items that they are
intrigued by that are no more than four levels above
their own level. You can choose treasure from those
lists (making sure to place an item from a different
character’s list each time), crossing the items off as the
characters find them. If characters don’t find things on
their lists, they can purchase or enchant them when
they reach sufficient level.
Each set of ten treasure parcels includes one less
magic item than there are characters in the party.
That’s not meant to be unfair, just to make sure that
characters gain magic items at a manageable rate.
Make sure that over the course of several levels of
adventuring, you award items evenly to all the characters, so that over the course of, say, five levels, every
character has acquired four useful and exciting items.
The monetary rewards included in the treasure parcels should also allow characters to buy or enchant
items of their level or lower.
C H A P T ER 7 | Re ward s


4E_DMG_Ch07.indd 125

3/12/08 4:18:01 PM

Treasure Parcels

Party Level 3

The lists in the following pages show treasure parcels
for each character level from 1st to 30th.
Mix: The first four parcels at each level are individual magic items, and the rest are monetary treasure
parcels. Each monetary treasure parcel is expressed
in three different ways—various amounts of coinage,
gems, and art objects, and sometimes potions or elixirs.
Combining Parcels: Remember that you can combine parcels to make some larger treasures. Try to find
a balance between the excitement of finding a large
treasure hoard and the regular reward of finding several smaller treasures. As a quick rule of thumb, over
the course of eight to ten encounters, use one treasure
hoard of three parcels, two treasures of two parcels
each, and three treasures with a single parcel. That
leaves two to four encounters with no treasure reward.
Potions: Keep an eye on how many potions you
give the characters. Don’t give out more than about
three to five potions over the course of a level. The
potions in these lists include only those that are in the
Player’s Handbook—potions of healing, vitality, recovery,
and life. If you want to include potions from other
sources, insert them into parcels using their market
price as part of a monetary treasure parcel’s value.


Heroic Tier Treasure Parcels

Party Level 5

Party Level 1


Total Monetary Treasure: 720 gp


Magic item, level 5
7 120 gp, or one 100 gp gem +
Magic item, level 4
20 gp, or one potion of healing
Magic item, level 3
+ 70 gp
Magic item, level 2
8 120 gp, or 100 gp + 200 sp,
200 gp, or two 100 gp gems,
or one 100 gp gem + 200 sp
or two potions of healing +
9 60 gp, or one potion of healing
100 gp
+ 10 gp, or 50 gp + 100 sp
6 180 gp, or one 100 gp gem + 10 40 gp, or 400 sp, or 30 gp +
80 gp, or one potion of healing
100 sp
+ 130 gp

Party Level 2

Total Monetary Treasure: 1,040 gp


Magic item, level 6
7 170 gp, or one 100 gp gem +
Magic item, level 5
70 gp, or one 100 gp gem +
Magic item, level 4
one potion of healing + 20 gp
Magic item, level 3
8 170 gp, or 150 gp + 200 sp,
290 gp, or two 100 gp gems
or one 100 gp gem + 70 gp
+ 90 gp, or two potions of
9 90 gp, or one potion of healing
healing + 190 gp
+ 40 gp, or 60 gp + 300 sp
6 260 gp, or one 250 gp art
10 60 gp, or 30 gp + 300 sp, or
object + 10 gp, or two potions
one potion of healing + 10 gp
of healing + one 100 gp gem
+ 60 gp

Total Monetary Treasure: 1,355 gp

Magic item, level 7
Magic item, level 6
Magic item, level 5
Magic item, level 4
380 gp, or one 250 gp art
object + 130 gp, or two
potions of healing + two 100
gp gems + 80 gp
6 340 gp, or three 100 gp
gems + 40 gp, or one potion
of healing + one 250 gp art
object + 40 gp

Party Level 4

7 225 gp, or two 100 gp gems
+ 25 gp, or one 100 gp gem +
one potion of healing + 75 gp
8 225 gp, or two 100 gp gems
+ 250 sp, or 180 gp + 450 sp
9 110 gp, or one potion of
healing + 60 gp, or 80 gp +
300 sp
10 75 gp, or 50 gp + 250 sp, or
one potion of healing + 25 gp

Total Monetary Treasure: 1,680 gp


Magic item, level 8
7 280 gp, or two 100 gp gems
Magic item, level 7
+ 80 gp, or one 100 gp gem +
Magic item, level 6
two potions of healing + 80 gp
Magic item, level 5
8 280 gp, or one 250 gp art
470 gp, or one 250 gp art
object + 30 gp, or 250 gp +
object + two potions of healing
300 sp
+ 120 gp, or four 100 gp
9 140 gp, or one 100 gp gem +
gems + 70 gp
40 gp, or one potion of healing
6 420 gp, or one 250 gp art
+ 90 gp
object + 170 gp, or three
10 90 gp, or 50 gp + 400 sp, or
100 gp gems + one potion of
one potion of healing + 40 gp
healing + 70 gp

Total Monetary Treasure: 2,000 gp

Magic item, level 9
Magic item, level 8
Magic item, level 7
Magic item, level 6
550 gp, or two 250 gp art
objects + 50 gp, or one 500
gp gem + 50 gp
6 500 gp, or one 250 gp art
object + 250 gp, or five 100
gp gems

Party Level 6

7 340 gp, or three 100 gp gems
+ 40 gp, or one 250 gp art
object + one potion of healing +
40 gp
8 340 gp, or one 250 gp art
object + 90 gp, or 300 gp +
400 sp
9 160 gp, or one 100 gp gem +
60 gp, or one potion of healing
+ 110 gp
10 110 gp, or one 100 gp gem +
10 gp, or one potion of healing
+ 60 gp

Total Monetary Treasure: 3,600 gp

Magic item, level 10
Magic item, level 9
Magic item, level 8
Magic item, level 7
1,000 gp, or one 500 gp gem
+ one 250 gp art object +
250 gp, or two 250 gp art
objects + 500 gp
6 900 gp, or one 500 gp gem
+ 400 gp, or one 250 gp art
object + 650 gp

7 600 gp, or four 100 gp gems
+ 200 gp, or one 250 gp art
object + two potions of healing
+ 250 gp
8 600 gp, or two 250 gp art
objects + 100 gp, or two 100
gp gems + 400 gp
9 300 gp, or one 250 gp art
object + 50 gp, or one potion
of healing + two 100 gp gems
+ 50 gp
10 200 gp, or two 100 gp gems,
or two potions of healing +
100 gp

C H A P T ER 7 | Re ward s


4E_DMG_Ch07.indd 126

3/12/08 4:18:02 PM

Total Monetary Treasure: 5,200 gp


Magic item, level 11
8 850 gp, or two 250 gp art
Magic item, level 10
objects + 350 gp, or four 100
Magic item, level 9
gp gems + 450 gp
Magic item, level 8
9 400 gp, or one 250 gp art
1,500 gp, or two 500 gp gems
object + 150 gp, or three
+ 500 gp, or one 1,000 gp
potions of healing + 250 gp
gem + 500 gp
10 300 gp, or one 250 gp art
6 1,300 gp, or one 500 gp gem
object + 50 gp, or three 100
+ 800 gp, or five 250 gp art
gp gems
objects + one potion of healing
7 850 gp, or three 250 gp art
objects + two potions of healing,
or six 100 gp gems + 250 gp

Party Level 8

Total Monetary Treasure: 6,800 gp


Magic item, level 12
7 1,100 gp, or two 500 gp gems
Magic item, level 11
+ 100 gp, or one 1,000 gp
Magic item, level 10
gem + 100 gp
Magic item, level 9
8 1,100 gp, or two 250 gp art
1,900 gp, or one 1,000 gp gem
objects + 600 gp, or eleven
+ 900 gp, or one 1,500 gp art
100 gp gems
object + 400 gp
9 600 gp, or one 500 gp gem
6 1,700 gp, or one 1,500 gp art
+ 100 gp, or two 250 gp art
object + 200 gp, or three 500
objects + one 100 gp gem
gp gems + 200 gp
10 400 gp, or one 250 gp art
object + 150 gp, or four 100
gp gems

Party Level 9


Party Level 11

Total Monetary Treasure: 18,000 gp


Magic item, level 15
Magic item, level 14
Magic item, level 13
Magic item, level 12
5,000 gp, or two 2,500 gp art
objects, or one 5,000 gp gem
6 4,000 gp, or four 1,000 gp
gems, or two 1,500 gp art
objects + one 1,000 gp gem

Party Level 12

7 3,000 gp, or two 1,500 gp
art objects, or three 1,000 gp
8 3,000 gp, or one 2,500 gp
art object + 500 gp, or one
potion of vitality + two 1,000
gp gems
9 2,000 gp, or two 1,000 gp
gems, or one 1,500 gp art
object + 500 gp
10 1,000 gp, or two 500 gp
gems, or one potion of vitality

Total Monetary Treasure: 26,000 gp


Magic item, level 16
Magic item, level 15
Magic item, level 14
Magic item, level 13
7,200 gp, or one 5,000 gp
gem + two 1,000 gp gems +
200 gp, or seven 1,000 gp
gems + 200 gp
6 7,000 gp, or seven 1,000 gp
gems, or two 2,500 gp art
objects + 2,000 gp

7 4,400 gp, or two 1,500 gp art
objects + 1,400 gp, or four
1,000 gp gems + 400 gp
8 4,400 gp, or one 2,500 gp
art object + one 1,500 gp art
object + 400 gp, or one potion
of vitality + three 1,000 gp
gems + 400 gp
9 2,000 gp, or two 1,000 gp
gems, or one 1,500 gp art
object + 500 gp
10 1,000 gp, or one 1,000 gp
gem, or one potion of vitality

Total Monetary Treasure: 8,400 gp

Magic item, level 13
Magic item, level 12
Magic item, level 11
Magic item, level 10
2,400 gp, or two 1,000 gp
gems + 400 gp, or one 1,500
gp art object + 900 gp
6 2,100 gp, or four 500 gp
gems + 100 gp, or one 1,500
gp art object + 600 gp

Party Level 10

Paragon Tier Treasure Parcels


Party Level 7

7 1,400 gp, or one 1,000 gp
gem + 400 gp, or four 250 gp
art objects + 400 gp
8 1,400 gp, or two 500 gp gems
+ 400 gp, or three 250 gp art
objects + 650 gp
9 700 gp, or seven 100 gp
gems, or five potions of healing
+ 450 gp
10 400 gp, or four 100 gp gems,
or one 250 gp art object +
150 gp

Party Level 13

Total Monetary Treasure: 34,000 gp


Magic item, level 17
Magic item, level 16
Magic item, level 15
Magic item, level 14
9,500 gp, or one 7,500 gp art
object + 2,000 gp, or three
2,500 gp art objects + two
potions of vitality
6 8,500 gp, or three 2,500 gp
art objects + 1,000 gp, or
eight 1,000 gp gems + one
500 gp gem

7 5,700 gp, or two 2,500 gp
art objects + 700 gp, or one
5,000 gp gem + 700 gp
8 5,700 gp, or three 1,500 gp
art objects + 1,200 gp, or five
1,000 gp gems + one 500 gp
gem + 200 gp
9 2,800 gp, or one 2,500 gp
art object + 300 gp, or two
potions of vitality + 800 gp
10 1,800 gp, or one 1,000 gp gem
+ 800 gp, or one 1,500 gp art
object + 300 gp

Total Monetary Treasure: 10,000 gp

Magic item, level 14
7 1,700 gp, or one 1,000 gp
Magic item, level 13
gem + 700 gp, or one 1,500
Magic item, level 12
gp art object + 200 gp
Magic item, level 11
8 1,700 gp, or one 1,500 gp art
2,800 gp, or one 2,500 gp art
object + two 100 gp gems, or
object + 300 gp, or two 1,000
six 250 gp art objects + 200
gp gems + 800 gp
6 2,500 gp, or one 1,500 gp art 9 800 gp, or three 250 gp art
object + one 1,000 gp gem,
objects + 50 gp, or eight 100
or two 1,000 gp gems + one
gp gems
500 gp gem
10 500 gp, or two 250 gp art
objects, or one 500 gp gem

Party Level 14

Total Monetary Treasure: 42,000 gp

Magic item, level 18
Magic item, level 17
Magic item, level 16
Magic item, level 15
12,000 gp, or 120 pp, or four
2,500 gp art objects + 2,000
6 10,000 gp, or two 5,000 gp
gems, or one 7,500 gp art
object + one 2,500 gp art

7 7,000 gp, or one 5,000 gp
gem + two 1,000 gp gems, or
four 1,500 gp art objects +
1,000 gp
8 7,000 gp, or one 5,000 gp
gem + two potions of vitality, or
seven 1,000 gp gems
9 4,000 gp, or one 2,500 gp
art object + one 1,500 gp art
object, or two 1,500 gp art
objects + 1,000 gp
10 2,000 gp, or two 1,000 gp
gems, or one 1,000 gp gem +
one potion of vitality

C H A P T ER 7 | Re ward s


4E_DMG_Ch07.indd 127

3/12/08 4:18:02 PM

Party Level 15

Total Monetary Treasure: 50,000 gp


Magic item, level 19
8 8,500 gp, or one 5,000 gp
Magic item, level 18
gem + one 2,500 gp art
Magic item, level 17
object + 1,000 gp, or eight
Magic item, level 16
1,000 gp gems + 500 gp
14,000 gp, or 140 pp, or one
9 5,000 gp, or one 5,000 gp
7,500 gp art object + one
gem, or one 2,500 gp art
5,000 gp gem + one 1,500 gp
object + one 1,500 gp art
art object
object + one potion of vitality
6 12,000 gp, or 120 pp, or one 10 2,000 gp, or two potions of
7,500 gp art object + 4,500 gp
vitality, or two 1,000 gp gems
7 8,500 gp, or one 7,500 gp
art object + 1,000 gp, or one
7,500 gp art object + one
1,000 gp gem

Party Level 16

Total Monetary Treasure: 90,000 gp


Magic item, level 20
Magic item, level 19
Magic item, level 18
Magic item, level 17
25,000 gp, or 250 pp, or five
5,000 gp gems
6 22,000 gp, or 220 pp, or two
7,500 gp art objects + one
5,000 gp gem + 2,000 gp
7 15,000 gp, or two 7,500 gp
art objects, or three 5,000 gp

8 15,000 gp, or one 7,500 gp
art object + one 5,000 gp
gem + two potions of vitality +
500 gp, or four 2,500 gp art
objects + one 5,000 gp gem
9 8,000 gp, or one 5,000 gp
gem + one 2,500 gp art
object + 500 gp, or one 7,500
gp art object + 500 gp
10 5,000 gp, or one 5,000 gp
gem, or two 1,500 gp art
objects + two potions of

Party Level 19

Total Monetary Treasure: 210,000 gp


Magic item, level 23
Magic item, level 22
Magic item, level 21
Magic item, level 20
60,000 gp, or 600 pp, or four
15,000 gp art objects
6 52,000 gp, or 520 pp, or
three 15,000 gp art objects +
seven 1,000 gp gems
7 35,000 gp, or 350 pp, or
seven 5,000 gp gems

Party Level 20

8 35,000 gp, or four 7,500 gp
art objects + one 5,000 gp
gem, or two 15,000 gp art
objects + three 1,000 gp
gems + two potions of vitality
9 18,000 gp, or one 15,000
gp art object + three potions
of vitality, or three 5,000 gp
gems + three 1,000 gp gems
10 10,000 gp, or two 5,000 gp
gems, or one 7,500 gp art
object + one 2,500 gp art

Total Monetary Treasure: 250,000 gp


Magic item, level 24
Magic item, level 23
Magic item, level 22
Magic item, level 21
70,000 gp, or 700 pp, or 600
pp + two 5,000 gp gems
6 61,000 gp, or 610 pp, or four
15,000 gp art objects +
1,000 gp
7 42,000 gp, or 420 pp, or two
15,000 gp art objects + two
5,000 gp gems + 2,000 gp

8 42,000 gp, or 400 pp + two
potions of vitality, or eight
5,000 gp gems + two 1,000
gp gems
9 21,000 gp, or 210 pp, or four
5,000 gp gems + one potion
of vitality
10 14,000 gp, or twp 5,000
gp gems + one 2,500 gp art
object + 1,500 gp, or one
7,500 gp art object + one
5,000 gp gem + one potion of
vitality + 500 gp

Epic Tier Treasure Parcels
Party Level 17

Total Monetary Treasure: 130,000 gp

Magic item, level 21
Magic item, level 20
Magic item, level 19
Magic item, level 18
36,000 gp, or 360 pp, or two
15,000 gp art objects + one
5,000 gp gem + one potion of
6 33,000 gp, or 330 pp, or four
7,500 gp art objects + three
1,000 gp gems
7 22,000 gp, or 220 pp, or four
5,000 gp gems + two 1,000
gp gems

Party Level 18

8 22,000 gp, or two 7,500
gp art objects + one 5,000
gp gem + 2,000 gp, or four
5,000 gp gems + two potions
of vitality
9 11,000 gp, or two 5,000 gp
gems + 1,000 gp, or one 7,500
gp art object + two potions of
vitality + 1,500 gp
10 6,000 gp, or one 5,000 gp
gem + 1,000 gp, or four 1,500
gp art objects

Total Monetary Treasure: 170,000 gp


Magic item, level 22
8 29,000 gp, or five 5,000 gp
Magic item, level 21
gems + 4,000 gp, or one
Magic item, level 20
15,000 gp art object+ one
Magic item, level 19
7,500 gp art object + three
48,000 gp, or 480 pp, or three
potions of vitality + 3,500 gp
15,000 gp art objects + one
9 15,000 gp, or three 5,000
2,500 gp art object + 500 gp
gp gems, or two 7,500 gp art
6 42,000 gp, or 420 pp, or two
15,000 gp art objects + two
10 7,000 gp, or one 5,000 gp
5,000 gp gems + 2,000 gp
gem + two potions of vitality, or
7 29,000 gp, or 290 pp, or
seven 1,000 gp gems
three 7,500 gp art objects
+ one 5,000 gp gem + one
1,500 gp art object

Party Level 21

Total Monetary Treasure: 4,500 pp


Magic item, level 25
Magic item, level 24
Magic item, level 23
Magic item, level 22
1,250 pp, or two potions of
recovery + one 50,000 gp art
object + five 5,000 gp gems,
or two 50,000 gp art objects +
five 5,000 gp gems
6 1,120 pp, or 1,000 pp + two
5,000 gp gems + two potions
of vitality, or one 50,000 gp
art object + four 15,000 gp
art objects + 2,000 gp

Party Level 22

7 750 pp, or five 15,000 gp
art objects, or 700 pp + one
5,000 gp gem
8 750 pp, or 600 pp + three
5,000 gp gems, or 500 pp +
one potion of recovery
9 380 pp, or two 15,000 gp art
objects + one 5,000 gp gem +
three potions of vitality, or five
7,500 gp art objects + 500 gp
10 250 pp, or five 5,000 gp
gems, or three 7,500 gp art
objects + 2,500 gp

Total Monetary Treasure: 6,500 pp

Magic item, level 26
Magic item, level 25
Magic item, level 24
Magic item, level 23
1,800 pp, or 1,500 pp + six
5,000 gp gems, or three
50,000 gp art objects + two
15,000 gp art objects
6 1,600 pp, or 1,000 pp + four
15,000 gp art objects, or
three 50,000 gp art objects +
two 5,000 gp gems

7 1,100 pp, or 600 pp + two
potions of recovery, or two
50,000 gp art objects + two
5,000 gp gems
8 1,100 pp, or 500 pp + four
15,000 gp art objects, or 600
pp + ten 5,000 gp gems
9 550 pp, or one potion of
recovery+ six 5,000 gp gems,
or seven 7,500 gp art objects
+ 25 pp
10 350 pp, or two 15,000 gp art
objects + one 5,000 gp gem,
or seven 5,000 gp gems

C H A P T ER 7 | Re ward s


4E_DMG_Ch07.indd 128

3/12/08 4:18:03 PM

Total Monetary Treasure: 8,500 pp


Magic item, level 27
Magic item, level 26
Magic item, level 25
Magic item, level 24
2,400 pp, or 2,000 pp +
two 15,000 gp art objects +
two 5,000 gp gems, or four
50,000 gp art objects + two
15,000 gp art objects + two
5,000 gp gems
6 2,100 pp, or 1,600 pp + one
50,000 gp art object, or two
potions of recovery + four
15,000 gp art objects
7 1,400 pp, or 1,000 pp +
one potion of recovery + one
15,000 gp art object, or two

Party Level 24

Total Monetary Treasure: 10,500 pp


Magic item, level 28
Magic item, level 27
Magic item, level 26
Magic item, level 25
3,000 pp, or one potion of life
+ 20 ad, or six 50,000 gp art
6 2,500 pp, or 20 ad + one
potion of recovery + five 5,000
gp gems, or 1,000 pp + three
50,000 gp art objects
7 1,750 pp, or 1,000 pp +
one potion of recovery + one

Party Level 25


50,000 gp art object, or 15
ad + five 5,000 gp gems
8 1,750 pp, or 1,500 pp + one
15,000 gp art object + two
5,000 gp gems, or 1,500 pp +
one potion of recovery
9 900 pp, or six 15,000 gp art
objects, or one 50,000 gp art
object + 400 pp
10 600 pp, or two 15,000 gp
art objects + one potion of
recovery + 5,000 gp, or 300
pp + six 5,000 gp gems

Total Monetary Treasure: 12,500 pp

Magic item, level 29
Magic item, level 28
Magic item, level 27
Magic item, level 26
3,500 pp, or 20 ad + one
potion of life + one 50,000
gp art object, or 30 ad + two
potions of recovery
6 3,200 pp, or 20 ad + two
potions of recovery + one
50,000 gp art object + 200
pp, or 30 ad + four 5,000 gp

Party Level 26

50,000 gp art objects + two
15,000 gp art objects + two
5,000 gp gems
8 1,400 pp, or 450 pp + one
50,000 gp art object + three
15,000 gp art objects, or
one potion of recovery+ two
50,000 gp art objects + three
5,000 gp gems
9 700 pp, or four 15,000 gp art
objects + two 5,000 gp gems,
or two potions of recovery +
four 5,000 gp gems
10 500 pp, or one potion of
recovery + five 5,000 gp gems,
or one 50,000 gp art object

7 2,000 pp, or 20 ad, or 10 ad
+ four 15,000 gp art objects +
eight 5,000 gp gems
8 2,000 pp, or 1,000 pp + two
50,000 gp art objects, or four
50,000 gp art objects
9 1,000 pp, or one potion of life,
or twenty 5,000 gp gems
10 800 pp, or five 15,000 gp art
objects + one 5,000 gp gem,
or one 50,000 gp art object +
six 5,000 gp gems

Total Monetary Treasure: 22,500 pp

Magic item, level 30
7 3,750 pp, or 20 ad + three
Magic item, level 29
potions of recovery + two
Magic item, level 28
50,000 gp art objects, or 30
Magic item, level 27
ad + one 50,000 gp art object
6,250 pp, or 50 ad + 750 pp
+ five 5,000 gp gems
+ one 50,000 gp art object, or 8 3,750 pp, or 20 ad + 1,750
twelve 50,000 gp art objects
pp, or one potion of life +
+ one potion of recovery
2,750 pp
6 5,600 pp, or 40 ad + one
9 1,900 pp, or three 50,000 gp
potion of life + two potions of
art objects + 400 pp, or 15 ad
recovery + two 5,000 gp gems,
+ 400 pp
or 50 ad + one 50,000 gp art 10 1,250 pp, or 10 ad + one
object + 1,000 pp
potion of recovery, or one
50,000 gp art object + five
15,000 gp art objects

Party Level 27

Total Monetary Treasure: 32,500 pp


Magic item, level 30
Magic item, level 30
Magic item, level 29
Magic item, level 28
9,000 pp, or 90 ad, or 50
ad + one potion of life + six
50,000 gp art objects
6 8,000 pp, or 80 ad, or 75 ad
+ two potions of recovery
7 5,500 pp, or 55 ad, or 50 ad
+ 500 pp

Party Level 28

Total Monetary Treasure: 42,500 pp


Magic item, level 30
Magic item, level 30
Magic item, level 30
Magic item, level 29
12,000 pp, or 120 ad, or 60
ad + two potions of life + eight
50,000 gp art objects
6 10,000 pp, or 100 ad, or
50 ad + five 50,000 gp art
objects + 2,500 pp

Party Level 29

8 5,500 pp, or one potion of life
+ thirty 15,000 gp art objects,
or 50 ad + three 15,000 gp art
objects + 500 pp
9 2,800 pp, or 25 ad + 300
pp, or 25 ad + one potion of
recovery + one 5,000 gp gem
10 1,700 pp, or 15 ad + 200 pp,
or 10 ad + four 15,000 gp art
objects + two 5,000 gp gems


Party Level 23

7 7,200 pp, or 70 ad + 200 pp,
or 35 ad + six 50,000 gp art
objects + 700 pp
8 7,200 pp, or 50 ad + four
50,000 gp art objects + 200
pp, or 60 ad + one potion of
life + 200 pp
9 3,600 pp, or 35 ad + 100 pp,
or six 50,000 gp art objects +
two potions of recovery + 100
10 2,500 pp, or 25 ad, or five
50,000 gp art objects

Total Monetary Treasure: 52,500 pp


Magic item, level 30
8 8,750 pp, or 55 ad + two
Magic item, level 30
potions of life + 1,250 pp, or
Magic item, level 30
60 ad + two potions of life +
Magic item, level 30
750 pp
15,000 pp, or 150 ad, or 100 9 4,500 pp, or 45 ad, or 30 ad
ad + one potion of life + six
+ two 50,000 gp art objects +
50,000 gp art objects
two potions of recovery
6 13,000 pp, or 130 ad, or 100 10 2,500 pp, or 25 ad, or 15 ad
ad + 3,000 pp
+ 1,000 pp
7 8,750 pp, or 85 ad + 250 pp.
or 40 ad + two potions of life +
three potions of recovery + four
50,000 gp art objects

Party Level 30

Total Monetary Treasure: 62,500 pp

Two magic items, level 30
Magic item, level 30
Magic item, level 30
Magic item, level 30
17,500 pp, or 175 ad, or
three potions of life + ten
50,000 gp art objects + 95 ad
6 15,000 pp, or 150 ad, or 80
ad + two potions of life + ten
50,000 gp art objects

7 10,000 pp, or 100 ad, or 50
ad + four potions of recovery
+ six 50,000 gp art objects +
1,000 pp
8 10,000 pp, or 80 ad + 2,000
pp, or 25 ad + ten 50,000 gp
art objects + 2,500 pp
9 6,000 pp, or 60 ad, or 25 ad
+ five 50,000 gp art objects +
1,000 pp
10 4,000 pp, or 40 ad, or two
potions of life + four 50,000
gp art objects

C H A P T ER 7 | Re ward s


4E_DMG_Ch07.indd 129

3/12/08 4:18:04 PM




Just as a D&D adventure is a series of
encounters strung together into an overarching story,
a campaign is a larger story that ties those adventures
together. When you’re ready to construct your own
campaign, let this chapter be your guide.
At its most fundamental level, a campaign is the
story of the characters in your game. You don’t have to
give a lot more thought to it than that: It’s fine to run
adventures in an episodic format, with the characters
as the only common element. But you can also weave
themes through those adventures to build a greater
saga of those characters’ achievements in the world.
Planning an entire campaign seems a daunting
task, but don’t worry—you don’t have to plot out every
detail right from the start. You can start off with the
basics, running a few adventures (whether published
or those you design yourself ), and later think about
larger plotlines you want to explore. You’re free to add
as much or as little detail as you wish.
This chapter includes the following sections.
✦ Published Campaigns: An overview of how
published campaigns can give your campaign a
solid start and lots of fuel for adventures to come.

✦ Campaign Theme: Ideas for creating a campaign
from adventures with a common link.
✦ Super Adventures: How to build a campaign
consisting of just one long adventure.
✦ Campaign Story. Advice on developing the
campaign, looking toward its conclusion, and
planning how the characters will get there.
✦ Beginning a Campaign. How to get started—keep
it small at first.
✦ Running a Campaign. Tying adventures together
in a way that makes sense.


✦ Ending a Campaign. How to bring the story
to its natural conclusion, in a fun and satisfying

CH A PTER 8 | Campaigns


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 130

3/12/08 4:19:24 PM

4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 131

3/12/08 4:19:31 PM

You don’t have to create an entire campaign from
nothing. A published campaign makes starting and
running a game as easy as possible.
Chapter 11 of this book presents a brief example
of a published campaign. It includes a starting area, a
short adventure, and plot hooks and story ideas for further development. You can continue from that starting
point, using other published adventures (for example,
Keep on the Shadowfell, Thunderspire Labyrinth, and
Pyramid of Shadows) or designing stories of your own.
A complete campaign setting, such as the FORGOTTEN REALMS setting, goes quite a bit farther than this
introduction. A published campaign isn’t quite like a
published adventure. You can run an adventure right
away, with only a minimum of preparation, or customize it to fit your play group. Although you can start a
published campaign as soon as you crack open the
book, you’ll get more out of using the tools and ideas
it contains as inspiration for crafting your own adventures in that setting.
The FORGOTTEN REALMS Campaign Guide provides a
starting area—the town of Loudwater—complete with
interesting characters and encounters, but that’s just
a taste of what awaits. That town lies in the Gray Vale,
just one region in a richly detailed fantasy world. The
FORGOTTEN REALMS setting is full of mysterious ruins,
evil plots, and deadly threats. You can build your own
adventures from those details, use published ones set
in that world, or draw on years of FORGOTTEN REALMS
novels for inspiration. The Campaign Guide will help
you weave those ideas together with story threads to
bring the campaign setting to life. Your players can
even make characters custom-fitted for the world,
using the rules in the FORGOTTEN R EALMS Player’s Guide.
Everything you need to keep a campaign going for
years is readily available in these resources.

Character Origin and
The Player’s Guide for a published campaign gives your
players rules and background information to make
characters who feel as though they belong in the setting. Your job is to find common threads to tie those
characters together at the start of the campaign. In
a FORGOTTEN REALMS campaign, for example, one
player might bring a heroic scion native to the Gray
Vale, reared on tales of her parents’ and grandparents’
adventures. Another might play a horse barbarian
from Narfell, traveling the world in search of a way
to free his homeland from the icy grip of winter. A

third character could be an escaped slave from Thay,
haunted by years of servitude in that land of evil
With just these simple backgrounds, your players
have already given you a lot to work with. Start by
learning more about Thay and Narfell in the Campaign
Guide and think about what led those characters to
the Gray Vale or why they met. You can also let your
players take on that responsibility: They can play
characters of any background, but they have to give a
good reason for them to be in the starting area. (This
tactic is also an incentive for players to learn more
about the world.) Perhaps the escaped slave has heard
whispered tales of the heroic scion’s grandparents,
who won renown fighting against the Red Wizards
of Thay a hundred years ago, and has come seeking
them. The slave might have run into the horse nomad
during their travels, regaling him with tales of those
legendary figures and inspiring him to seek them out
as well. How will the two react when they find out that
the great heroes’ only surviving heir is no more accomplished an adventurer than they? Your campaign is off
to an interesting start.

The Campaign Start
A setting’s Campaign Guide provides introductory material to familiarize yourself and your players with the
setting. You can get going right away in the starting
location, and the book supplies a few short adventures
as well as pointers to further story ideas. While you’re
playing through these, look for hints, plots, and other
hooks that grab the attention of you or your players.
You can develop your campaign by following those
ideas to interesting parts of the world.
On the flip side, you might first read through the
Campaign Guide to find a story element that captures
your imagination, then plant the seeds of that story in
the very first adventure. To grow the campaign, work
in some connection to the larger world—ties between
the adventure’s main antagonist and a larger villainous
organization, or foreshadowing of some greater threat
to come. Now you’re ready for the next steps.

Next Steps
By the time you get close to wrapping up the introductory adventures of your campaign, you should have
some idea of what to do next. Maybe you’d like to run
another published adventure, or you feel ready to
strike out on your own. Either way, you’ll need to come
up with a theme.

CH A PTER 8 | Campaigns


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 132

3/12/08 4:19:34 PM

run free. It doesn’t matter whether you’re putting
your own personal stamp on a published campaign or
making up your own and incorporating elements you
like from a published setting. The campaign is just as
much yours either way.

Looting Freely
Even if you want to create your own campaign, you
don’t have to do all the work yourself. A lot of really
creative fantasy is already out there, and you can pick
and choose from that rich body of material to make
your game more colorful and exciting.
Perhaps you have an idea for a campaign with a
strong elemental theme, ultimately pitting the characters against one or more primordials. Your world
might incorporate the elemental-touched genasi race
from the FORGOTTEN R EALMS Player’s Guide, but can also
borrow heavily from other sources. The Avatar: The
Last Airbender animated television show is full of wonderful imagery and ideas to suit an elemental plotline.
The AL-QADIM campaign setting for the D&D game,
published in the 1990s, drew on the legends of the
Arabian Nights and featured efreets and elementals.
What and how much you borrow doesn’t matter. The
final product is uniquely yours, and your players will
marvel at its detail.


A campaign’s theme has a clear direction and gives
the players a sense of purpose. (There’s more about
campaign themes in the next section.) It might be
an exciting villain whom you want to expand on, an
organization that sponsors adventurers, or a worldshaking threat that grows more urgent as the campaign
progresses. Your theme can carry your campaign all
the way to epic levels, or be a short-term issue that
evolves or disappears as time goes by. It might fit in
neatly with elements at the start of the campaign or be
completely unrelated—it’s all right to shift gears, introducing new themes and plots after the players have
gotten their feet wet.
A Campaign Guide is a treasury of good ideas,
bundled with the tools you need to adapt them to your
game. Use the guidelines in Chapter 6 to help you
customize published adventures for the setting and
choose the ones that work best with your campaign.
Say you’re running a FORGOTTEN REALMS campaign
that revolves around the shades of Netheril. You can
easily relate the plot of a published adventure to the
far-reaching ambitions of the shades, regardless of
geographic setting. You might make its key villain into
a shade, then create other adventures featuring that
organization more prominently. Ultimately, the characters might dare the floating cities of Netheril itself.

Making It Yours
Even though you’re using a published setting, always
remember: It’s still your campaign. You should never
limit your creativity to what the book says—any book.
A Campaign Guide is a source of ideas and a toolbox. You don’t have to use that material exactly as
it stands. You can and should change things you
don’t like, incorporate elements you like from other
campaigns or adventures, and put your own distinctive stamp on the world.
Altering a published campaign to suit your tastes
can be tricky if the setting is familiar to one or more of
your players. It’s a good idea to establish at the outset
that not everything in the book is necessarily true in
your version of the world. Otherwise, the game can
get bogged down by arguments about the details, such
as whether the adherents of this or that deity would
do the things your adventure calls for them to do. It’s
your game, and the players should understand that its
events make sense in your vision for the setting.
In short, use a Campaign Guide as it’s intended—a
springboard for creativity—and let your imagination

W I L L I A M O ’ CO N N O R

Don’t be afraid to steal ideas from books, movies, and other
sources for your personal use. The DM’s job is to entertain,
not to be original.
—Andrew Finch


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 133

3/12/08 4:19:35 PM

Just as the personality of a setting shapes the adventures
that take place there, the theme of a campaign gives
a distinctive flavor to its stories. A freewheeling series
of adventures, in which the characters travel from one
dungeon to another with little or no connection, feels
very different from a years-long struggle against cultists
of Orcus that culminates in a final showdown with the
Demon Lord of the Undead himself.
This section gives overviews of some typical campaign themes, as well as different ways of handling

Evolving Themes
You don’t have to stick with a single theme from the
start of your campaign through thirty levels of play.
The characters grow and change over the course of
a campaign; so should your world. You can wrap up
one storyline after a few levels and start a new one, or
introduce multiple themes at various levels and weave
them subtly together.

Breaks between tiers are natural points for concluding one theme and bringing in another. For example,
the characters might spend their first twenty levels
fighting the temples of evil gods, then discover the
even greater threat of a primordial uprising. At epic
levels, they have to join forces with the gods—including the evil ones who were their former enemies—to
defeat the primordials.

Dungeon of the Week
This sort of campaign resembles an episodic television
show. Each week, the main characters move from one
distinct setting to another (a planet, a haunted house,
an era of history, and so on). They solve that episode’s
problems, then go on their way to deal with the next.
Once they’re done, things return to pretty much the
way they were at the start.
A “Dungeon of the Week” is the simplest kind of
campaign to run, since it requires little effort beyond
finding or creating adventures. Each story has its own
main villain, unconnected to the antagonists of any
other. The D&D world is dark and full of threats, and
they don’t need anything else in common.

On a Mission
Only slightly more involved than an unconnected
series of adventures, this campaign theme quickly
links the characters’ exploits with an overarching
goal. It’s easy to overlay a mission or similar story on
otherwise independent sessions. The simplest is one of
exploration: The characters set out to map the region,
the continent, or the whole world, encountering
threats along the way. Perhaps they seek the ancient
capital of a fallen empire, or are trying to find their
way back to the home they left to fight in a recent war.
Religion is a ready-made source of missions. For
example, the characters could be pilgrims to some
holy site, or members of a sacred order dedicated
to defending the last bastions of civilization in an
ever-darkening world. In more militant orders, they
might be holy warriors dedicated to stamping out a
particular kind of threat, such as aberrant creatures
or demonic cultists. Whatever the story, it implies a
stronger connection between adventures.

Episodic adventures against a certain kind of opponent, such as in the “holy warrior” mission above, lead
naturally to a campaign focused on a single villain
who’s ultimately behind everything. The characters
might begin their careers fighting goblins and kobolds,
only to discover that those monsters are the servants
of foulspawn. Their continuing adventures lead them


Ultimate Villain

CH A PTER 8 | Campaigns


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 134

3/12/08 4:19:37 PM

Recurring Villains and
Secret Weaknesses
Players can become deeply invested in a campaign
whose main villain keeps coming back to vex their characters. One way to ensure that the final battle with their
nemesis really is climactic is to give the villain a secret
weakness. In order to ultimately destroy their archenemy, the characters need to discover this weakness
and then exploit it. Then that last battle will be more
than just a race to see who runs out of hit points first.
For example, every lich has a phylactery, a magical receptacle for its soul that it keeps well hidden.
The characters face the lich in combat and defeat it,
believing they have ended its threat, only to find later
that has returned to continue its evil schemes. Now
they must discover the location of the phylactery, win
their way past its magical and monstrous guardians,
and ultimately fight the lich again, with the phylactery
hanging in the balance. Destroying the item might
itself become a quest in which time is of the essence—
the characters might have to perform a particular
ritual, or locate the forge of the phylactery’s creation to
melt it down. Such a theme can carry a campaign well
into the paragon tier.
Epic-level characters might have to confront and
overcome a creature of enormous power, such as the
tarrasque, a demon lord, a deity, or a primordial. Such
beings can be defeated only with special rituals or
particular items. For example, the party must quest
for and assemble the scattered pieces of the Rod of
Seven Parts to have a hope of destroying the primordial
called the Queen of Chaos. Even relatively ordinary
foes can return again and again, protected by some
means that the characters must discover and eliminate. A vile caliph performs a ritual to remove his
still-beating heart and hides it in a chest at the center
of a desert sandstorm. A wicked baron is cursed to rise

from the dead until the onyx shard that holds a splinter of his soul is found and destroyed.
Naturally, when the characters start pursuing the
means to kill a powerful villain, their enemy is sure
to get wind of their efforts sooner or later—and try to
put a stop to it. The villain will be prepared when they
arrive for the ultimate confrontation or, more likely,
will send out agents or otherwise try to prevent them
from completing their task. The villainous response to
the party’s actions can produce a wealth of adventures
in itself.


into the horrors of the Far Realm’s influence, with
battles against aboleths and illithids, climaxing in an
epic struggle against a mind flayer mastermind and its
swordwing minions. That aberrant mastermind need
not have been directly involved in the characters’ first
adventures, but the existence of even the lowly foulspawn can be traced to its activities.
You can build a villain-focused campaign from the
top down or from the bottom up. In the first method,
you first choose an epic villain for the campaign’s
climactic battle (Orcus, for example), and then plan
adventures toward that conclusion from the start of
the campaign. In the case of Orcus, these encounters
build on themes of cultists, demons, and undead. In
the second method, you build encounters around
low-level monsters that appeal to you (such as the foulspawn) and then create adventures involving similar
or related monsters at higher levels.

World-Shaking Events
A campaign featuring a major villain often revolves
around a diabolical plan that will result in significant
changes to the world—presumably for the worse—
which the characters must stop. In other campaigns,
the world faces a crisis without a villain’s involvement,
and the characters have to prevent or at least minimize the impact of such an event.
Campaigns of this nature have a deadline that
looms over the course of dozens of adventures. The
dreaded event will take place at a certain time unless
the characters succeed. Perhaps the Elemental Chaos
is eating away at the stable fabric of creation, drawing the world toward ultimate entropy; the characters
must collect scattered shards of divine energy to shore
up the pillars of creation. Or a primordial entombed at
the center of the earth is extending tendrils of realitywarping energy toward the surface, forming dungeons
that spew forth hideous monstrosities. The characters
must clear the dungeons and cut off their connection
to the primordial before they engulf what shattered
remnants of civilization remain. The threat to your
world might be mundane in nature, but no less devastating—in the last days of a great empire’s decline, orc
hordes menace the frontiers while decadence and corruption undermine the empire’s foundation.

Unfolding Prophecy
This type of campaign puts an interesting spin on
world-shaking events, casting them as the unfolding
fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. A villain might
be helping to bring about the foretold doom, furthering his own plans, or try to keep the prophecy from
coming true (for example, killing the child who is destined to destroy the villain).
The beauty of a well-crafted prophecy is its ambiguity. Classical myth is full of examples of tragic
misinterpretation or ultimate vindication of what has
been foretold. Since it’s always open to a variety of
interpretations, many different ways can exist to fulfill
the prophecy. The villain might try to bring it about in
one way, while the characters struggle to find a solution that betters the world instead of plunging it into
CH A PTER 8 | Campaigns


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 135

3/12/08 4:19:38 PM

Divine Strife
The ongoing struggle between good and evil is the
basis for many tales, myths, and campaigns. In a conflict between two gods, or between groups of deities
with different alignments, taking sides becomes a
matter of cosmic importance.
In a campaign built around divine strife, the
characters aren’t just fighting evil creatures—they’re
servants of good deities warring with the agents of evil
ones. They might be champions of a single god, such
as Bahamut, dedicated to overthrowing the temples of
Bane. In such a storyline, the enemies of their adventures are connected to the opposing deity: priests of
Bane, hobgoblin warlords devoted to that lord of conquest, and angelic servitors of the god himself. Bane
might be planning to seize power from Bahamut, or
to conquer the Celestial Mountain where Bahamut,
Moradin, and Kord reside. Or Bahamut might instigate
the struggle, bent on exterminating an ancient enemy.

Primordial Threat
Even more fundamental to the world than conflicts
among deities is the gods’ ancient war with the primordials, embodiments of chaos and elemental power.
From the earliest times, gods and primordials fought
over ownership of the cosmos, and the gods emerged
victorious. The surviving primordials could yet arise
as a threat to the whole of creation, seeking to return it
to the Elemental Chaos of its birth.
In the early stages of such a campaign, the characters might battle a goblin cult of a minor fire spirit,
then discover that it is just one manifestation of a
worldwide madness. More cults dedicated to destructive elemental forces are springing up everywhere,
channeling power to the entombed primordials in
preparation for their escape. Ultimately, the epic-level
characters might have to fight alongside the gods
themselves to oppose these mighty foes.

Fantasy Subgenres
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is a fantasy game, but that
broad category has room for a lot of variety. Many different subgenres of fantasy exist in both fiction and
film. Do you want a horrific campaign inspired by the
works of H.P. Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith? Or a
world of muscled barbarians and nimble thieves, along
the lines of the classic swords-and-sorcery books by
Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber? The D&D game
can handle either of these models, and many others.

Vampires brood on the battlements of their accursed
castles. Necromancers toil in dark dungeons to create
colossi of undead flesh. Devils corrupt the innocent,
and werewolves prowl the night. All these elements
evoke horrific aspects of the fantasy genre.

If you want to put a horror spin on your campaign,
you have plenty of material to work with. The Monster
Manual is full of creatures that perfectly suit a storyline
of supernatural horror. The most important element
of such a campaign, though, isn’t covered by the rules.
You must create an atmosphere of building dread,
through careful pacing and evocative description.
Your players contribute too—they have to be willing
to be scared. Whether you want to run a full-fledged
horror campaign or a single creepy adventure, you
should discuss your plans with the players ahead of
time to make sure they’re on board. Horror can be
intense and personal, and not everyone is comfortable
with such a game.

The corrupt vizier schemes with the baron’s oldest
daughter to assassinate the baron. A hobgoblin army
sends doppelganger spies to infiltrate the city before
the invasion. At the embassy ball, the spy in the royal
court makes contact with his employer.
Political intrigue, espionage, sabotage, and similar
cloak-and-dagger activities can make for an exciting
D&D campaign. In this kind of game, the characters
might care more about skill training and making contacts than about attack powers and magic weapons.
Roleplaying and interaction-focused skill challenges
take on greater importance than combat encounters,
and the party might go for several sessions without
seeing a monster.
Again, make sure your players know ahead of time
that this is the kind of campaign you want to run.
Otherwise, a player might make a character such as a
dwarf paladin focused on defense, only to find he is out
of place among the half-elf diplomats and tiefling spies.

Who stole three legendary magic swords and hid
them away in a remote dungeon, leaving a cryptic clue
to their location? Who placed the duke into a magical
slumber, and what can be done to awaken him? Who
murdered the guildmaster, and how did the killer get
into the guild’s locked vault?
A mystery-themed campaign puts the characters in
the role of investigators, perhaps traveling from town
to town to crack tough cases the local authorities can’t
handle. Such a campaign emphasizes puzzles and
problem-solving in addition to combat prowess.
A larger mystery might even set the stage for the
whole campaign. Why did someone kill the characters’ mentor, setting them on the path of adventure?
Who really controls the Cult of the Red Hand? In this
case, the characters might uncover clues to the greater
mystery only once in a while; individual adventures
might be at best tangentially related to that theme. A
diet of nothing but puzzles can become frustrating, so
be sure to mix up the kinds of encounters you present.

CH A PTER 8 | Campaigns


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 136

3/12/08 4:19:39 PM

Rapier-wielding sailors fight off boarding sahuagin.
Ghouls lurk in derelict ships, waiting to devour treasure hunters. Dashing rogues and charming paladins
weave their way through palace intrigues and leap
from balconies onto waiting horses below.
You can have grand fun modeling your campaign
on the swashbuckling adventures of pirates and musketeers. The characters typically spend more time in cities,
royal courts, and seafaring vessels than in dungeon
delves, making interaction skills important (though not
to the extent of a pure intrigue campaign). Nevertheless,
the heroes might end up in classic dungeon situations,
such as searching storm sewers beneath the palace to
find the evil duke’s hidden chambers.
A swashbuckling theme is slightly anachronistic for
the medieval setting of the D&D game, so you might
want to make some cosmetic changes—particularly
where heavy armor is concerned. Rapiers and acrobatic combat moves don’t go well with heavy, clanking
metal. The paladin who normally wears a suit of plate
mail might instead sport a relatively light breastplate.
In this case, you might need to adjust the armor bonus
to match that of plate in a standard campaign.

Swords and Sorcery
A grim, hulking fighter disembowels the high priest
of the serpent god on his own altar. A laughing rogue
spends ill-gotten gains on cheap wine in filthy taverns.
Hardy adventurers venture into the unexplored jungle
in search of the fabled City of Golden Masks.
A swords-and-sorcery campaign is old-school
D&D, a tradition that goes right back to the roots of
the game. Here you’ll find a dark, gritty world of evil
sorcerers and decadent cities, where the protagonists
are more motivated by greed and self-interest than
by altruistic virtue. Martial characters tend to be far
more common than arcane or divine ones. In such a
pulp fantasy setting, those who wield magic often symbolize the decadence and corruption of civilization.

A hobgoblin army marches toward the city, leading
behemoths and giants to batter down its walls and
ramparts. Dragons wheel above a barbarian horde,
scattering enemies as the raging warriors cut a swath
through field and forest. Fire archons muster at an
efreet’s command, poised to assault an Astral fortress.
Warfare in a fantasy world is rife with opportunities for adventure. A war campaign isn’t generally
concerned with the specifics of troop movements, but
instead focuses on the heroes whose actions turn the
tide of battle. They might be sent on specific missions:
capture a magical standard that empowers undead
armies, gather reinforcements to break a siege, or cut
through the enemy’s flank to reach a demonic commander. In other situations, the party might support

the larger army, by holding a strategic location until
reinforcements arrive, killing enemy scouts before
they can report, or cutting off supply lines. Information gathering and diplomatic missions might
supplement the more combat-oriented adventures.

When their mentor disappears mysteriously, his young
students must hunt down the oni that’s terrorizing the
village. Accomplished heroes, masters of their respective martial arts, return home to free their village
from a evil hobgoblin warlord. The rakshasa master
of a nearby monastery is performing rituals to raise
troubled ghosts from their rest.
Chinese martial-arts movies (or Japanese anime)
form a distinct fantasy tradition. A campaign that
draws on these elements can still feel very much like
D&D. Players can define the appearance of their
characters and gear however they choose, and powers
might need cosmetic changes to flavor so that they
better reflect such a setting. For example, when the
characters use powers that teleport them or shift
them several squares, they actually make high-flying
acrobatic leaps. Climb checks don’t involve careful
searching for holds but let characters bounce up walls
or from tree to tree. Warriors stun their opponents by
striking pressure points. Such flavorful descriptions of
powers don’t change the nuts and bolts of the rules but
make all the difference in the feel of a campaign.



Variations on a Theme
It’s a good idea to mix things up once in a while, so that
your players can enjoy a variety of adventures. Even
if you’re running a tightly themed campaign, you can
stray now and then. If your campaign involves lots of
intrigue, mystery, and roleplaying, your players might
enjoy the occasional dungeon crawl—in the end, it might
turn out to be related to a larger plot in the campaign. If
most of your adventures are dungeon expeditions, shift
gears with a good urban mystery (whose solution leads
the party into a kind of dungeon crawl in an abandoned
building or tower). If you run horror adventures week
after week, try throwing in a villain who turns out to be
quite ordinary, perhaps even silly. Comic relief is a great
variation on almost any D&D campaign, though players
usually provide it themselves!
Make sure you provide a variety of opponents as
well. Even if your campaign is all about invading
hobgoblins, your players will get tired of fighting an
endless series of them, week after week. Hobgoblins
are accomplished beast trainers, so mix in pets and
war animals to vary your encounters. Even better, take
a break once in a while from the hobgoblin armies
and introduce a new threat. Perhaps gnolls from the
nearby hills take advantage of the chaos of war to raid
the characters’ supply lines, providing a chance to
fight a very different flavor of humanoid opponent.
CH A PTER 8 | Campaigns


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 137

3/12/08 4:19:40 PM

A super adventure is a type of short campaign—really
one long adventure—that focuses on a single, limited
setting. The characters’ exploration of this one site
might form part of a larger campaign, or be itself the
entire campaign. A super adventure combines the best
features of a short campaign and a narrow theme. You
don’t need to tie adventures together or link different
villains to a single grand plot. The climactic battle at
the end is a tidy way to end a campaign—before you
begin your next one!
Super adventures share a number of traits:
✦ They are limited to a single setting.
✦ They often allow for free-form, nonlinear
✦ They might involve different quests and multiple
✦ They encourage character specialization.
Each of these attributes is discussed in more detail

Single Setting
The setting for a super adventure has to be both large
and compelling, providing enough material for characters to explore over several months of play. You might
create a massive dungeon with many floors, each more
dangerous than the last, or design a secluded wilderness site with small dungeons scattered throughout.

The adventure site could be a vast network of Underdark passages, leading the party ever deeper into the
A super adventure demands the most compelling
setting you can imagine, with a striking personality
and lots of potential for interesting locations. Classic
published super adventures have been set in the fabled
ruins of Greyhawk; Castle Ravenloft with its mysterious lands; the Forbidden City, nestled in a crater
choked with jungle overgrowth; and the Vault of the
Drow, hidden deep underground. You might create
a new classic of your own: the Blackmire, a miasma
of madness and disease surrounding a slumbering
primordial; or the haunted forest of Grimmendeep,
which has swallowed many ancient castles in its tangled briars.
Designing a super adventure is easier if you divide
the larger setting into smaller units. That way, you
and your players can better keep track of where they
are and what they’re doing. A dungeon is a convenient
and traditional design for separating encounter areas.
Its multiple floors have limited connections, whether
stairs or shafts, and each can have its own distinct
personality. A vast locale such as Grimmendeep can
also contain multiple smaller areas with a variety of
flavors, though they’re all overlaid by the larger site’s
personality (in this case, the choking roots and vines of
the haunted forest).

It’s my contention that the first super adventure was a
slim, 28-page module called Dwellers of the Forbidden City,
published by TSR, Inc., in 1981. “Proto-super adventure”
might be a more accurate term. It was really just a setting
that was ripe for exploration, combined with a single quest
that barely scratched the surface of its possibilities.
The adventure as published called for the characters to
track down goods recently stolen from merchant caravans.
To do that, they had to find the Forbidden City, and a way
into it, and track down a wizard who had made his home
among the ruins. A straightforward quest—but what made
it exceptional was the number of possible ways to accomplish that single goal. This adventure pioneered the idea
of nonlinear exploration. No dungeon corridors channeled
the characters’ movements. There were at least four ways
to get down into the crater where the Forbidden City lay,
each one detailed as a mini-site within the larger setting.
The characters could choose their approach and go whatever way they wanted to in the ruined city.

Within the city itself were three factions of monsters.
The yuan-ti made their first appearance in this adventure,
and they were accompanied by froglike bullywugs and
humanoids of highly questionable heritage called mongrelmen. Long-armed, arboreal humanoids called tasloi
rode giant wasps through the jungle trees. Fighting the
bullywugs or the tasloi didn’t bring the characters any
closer to finding the lost caravan goods, but there they
were anyway.
An all-too-brief section at the end of the adventure took
a tentative next step, suggesting other quests that might
bring the characters into the Forbidden City. With more
detail, more fleshed-out quests, and another hundred pages
or so, Dwellers of the Forbidden City would have been a spectacular super adventure—four years before the landmark
release of The Temple of Elemental Evil, which more properly
deserves that description.
—James Wyatt

CH A PTER 8 | Campaigns


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 138

3/12/08 4:19:40 PM

You can design your super adventure’s setting to let the
characters choose which areas to explore and in what
order, depending on the quests laid before them. This
method requires more preparation time but rewards
you and the players with a more interesting experience. The characters might decide to clear the drow
out of the Phantom Tower before they deal with the
raiders in the ruins of Dorbren Keep, for example.
Those two locations are relatively small and self-contained, rather than full-fledged adventures, so you can
have both ready for whatever the players decide to do.
Each adventure area should contain eight to ten
encounters, so the characters will probably advance
a level when they complete its challenges. But when
adventurers can travel to any area in any order, building appropriate encounters can be tricky. Fortunately,
adjusting encounter difficulty is fairly simple. To
account for characters who have advanced a few levels,
you can boost the monsters’ levels to match, using the
guidelines in Chapter 10, or add monsters to make the
encounter more challenging.
When characters leave a part of your adventure
setting and venture back later, it should change in
response to their actions. This kind of detail helps
the setting seem more real and alive to the players.
Monsters the party has killed should (usually) stay
dead—the site shouldn’t just reset to the state it was in
the first time around. But the second delve might well
present new threats to the characters. Intelligent survivors of the characters’ first intrusion into their domain
react appropriately, bolstering their defenses or evacuating the area. New creatures might appear in areas
left vacant, such as predators drawn to shelter and
prey opportunities. A living setting provides repeat
play value and continues to hold the players’ interest.
A free-form environment such as this feels very
natural—the opposite of railroading. The players’ decisions seem to really make a difference to the course
of the adventure. A possible problem is that the party
might end up wandering around with no real idea of
what to do. You can keep them from having to search
for the fun by making liberal use of quests.

simply be more interesting. It’s better to offer too many
quests than too few, but don’t go too far in either direction. They can be major or minor, aimed at the whole
group or tailored to individuals (whether known to
the whole group or secret). At the outset, you might
design individual quests based on each character’s
background and motivations. As the super adventure
progresses, players might even suggest their own.

Character Specialization


Nonlinear Exploration

A super adventure usually has a narrow focus, such
as a certain kind of environment or foe. Such a theme
gives players the opportunity to choose specialized
options for their characters that they might otherwise
avoid. In a super adventure, the players know their
characters will be fighting undead—or dragons or
demons or gnolls, depending on the setting—for the
duration of their careers.
Published super adventures often include material
specifically designed to allow this kind of specialization. When you design your own super adventures,
consider creating or borrowing elements that let
characters focus on what they are called to do: specialized feats, powers, paragon paths, magic weapons and
armor, and the like. Remember also that characters
can retrain as they advance, changing specialized
skills as needed to face new challenges.

W I L L I A M O ’ CO N N O R

Multiple Quests
A good way to start your super adventure, just as
with any other adventure, is with a quest or two that
draws the characters in. As the adventure unfolds,
give them more quests that encourage them to move
around the area. They might find clues in one area
that send them to a different one. Quests might lead
the party into a dungeon, back out again, and in again
with a new purpose.
With a number of quests at hand, characters can
look at all their options and choose one. A given quest
might seem the obvious first thing to do, or it could


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 139

3/12/08 4:19:41 PM

The theme you choose for your campaign shapes
the story it will tell. When you start a campaign, you
should have some idea of its end and how the characters will get there. Fundamentally, the story is what the
characters do over the course of the campaign.
Keep that point in mind—the story is theirs, not
yours, and not that of any nonplayer character in your
world. The players’ job is to tell that story, develop
their characters, and help chart the course of events
through the choices they make. When you’re writing a
novel, you have control over the protagonists, but when
you’re creating a D&D campaign, they have free will
and are apt to do unexpected things.
That said, you can do a lot to shape the campaign
story. You provide the context—the setting, the background, and the quests that hook the characters. You
determine how the world responds to their actions.
You set the stage on which their story unfolds with
the adventures you design. For that reason, all the
advice in Chapter 6 about creating adventures applies
to campaign design as well. Offer strong hooks and
meaningful choices. Present varied and exciting challenges. If the characters go in drastically unexpected
directions, try to coax them back to the story you want
your game to tell without railroading them. Build
the campaign to a climax that’s even bigger than the
smaller peaks of each adventure, and let the players
feel as though their ultimate victory really makes a difference in the world.
When you’re thinking about the story of your campaign as a whole, ask yourself these three questions.
✦ How does my campaign’s theme shape its story?
✦ What significant events took place before the start
of the campaign?
✦ What’s going to happen in the campaign?

Theme and Story
A campaign theme should suggest the outline of a
story, or at least give some idea about how things are
likely to end up. Here’s advice on how to build a story
using the themes discussed earlier in this chapter.

Dungeon of the Week
A highly episodic campaign doesn’t need to have an
overall story, but it could. As the characters explore,
they might begin to uncover common elements that
link the disparate dungeons together, ultimately leading to the “Mother of All Dungeons,” figuratively or
even literally speaking. You can also gradually nudge
this sort of campaign toward any other theme, giving
your campaign a new direction and ultimately an
exciting conclusion.

On a Mission
In this kind of campaign, the characters’ purpose
drives the story. How do they achieve their goal? That
question is easier to answer for some missions than for
others. If the characters are trying to explore a continent, their story might not end until they fill in every
bit of coastline, riverbank, and mountain range on the
map. But if they’re on a holy quest to stamp out evil,
imagining a satisfactory conclusion is a little harder.
In such a case, consider evolving the theme somewhat
over the course of the campaign. For example, the
characters might uncover corruption within their own
church, and their goal shifts to rooting it out—ultimately confronting whoever is behind the evil within.

Ultimate Villain
This campaign revolves around the characters’ efforts
to foil the villain’s plot. Thus, this plot shapes the story
of the campaign. Typically the ultimate villain exploits
the plans of less powerful bad guys to further his or
her ends. Think about those lesser antagonists along
the way to the final conflict, and how their actions
contribute to this greater goal. Do they know they’re
helping the mastermind, or are they oblivious to this
larger purpose? The answers direct the progress of the
story, leading to a climactic confrontation.

World-Shaking Events
When the foundations of the world tremble, the characters need some way to make a difference. How do
these great events play out, and how do the characters
influence them? Will they in fact avert the destruction or transformation of the world, and if so, how? It
might be that they can’t prevent the calamity, but their
actions can determine what follows in its wake. Perhaps they can’t stop the empire’s fall, but they might
drive the orc barbarians back from the frontiers, then
destroy the decadent emperor and establish a republic—or a stronger empire with themselves as rulers.

Unfolding Prophecy
The prophecy itself is the story in this kind of campaign. You can imagine each “verse” of the prophecy
as a series of forking paths: How one is fulfilled causes
the following ones to unfold in different ways, with
multiple interpretations all down the line. In the end,
does the prophecy come to pass, or do the characters
prevent whatever cataclysmic events it seemed to foretell? Perhaps they must venture to the Bright City and
persuade Ioun herself to alter the prophecy. If they
can’t, they might have to battle their way to the loom
where the strands of fate are woven into the tapestry of
history, there to cut the thread.

CH A PTER 8 | Campaigns


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 140

3/12/08 4:19:43 PM

This campaign theme suggests an escalating conflict
against increasingly powerful servants of the characters’ divine enemy. Ultimately, the party could face
an evil god directly or play a pivotal role in a battle
between gods. However you plan it, such a scenario
needs to emphasize the characters’ importance—
watching helplessly on the sidelines while two gods
duke it out isn’t a fun or satisfying conclusion to a campaign. Perhaps Bane has imprisoned Bahamut, and
the only way the characters can defeat him is to join
together into a single, mighty avatar of Bahamut that
combines their own abilities with an infusion of divine
power. Some evil gods (such as Tiamat, Torog, and
Zehir) are within the reach of 30th-level characters,
who can win a final, epic struggle by themselves.

Primordial Threat
When the gods fought the primordials at the beginning of the world, they became the first adventurers,
working in parties of four or five to challenge individual enemies. In a campaign revolving around a
primordial resurgence, the characters might fight
alongside their divine allies. Or they could follow in
the gods’ footsteps, defeating a primordial as the pinnacle of their careers—and earning a well-deserved
place among the gods as their final reward.

Evolving Themes
If you’re thinking about evolving campaign themes,
you’re already considering the overall story. What
events bring this change about? Are they the actions of
the characters, or do they result from external influence? Characters on a mission of discovery might
unearth a world-shaking threat at some point in their
explorations and alter their focus to deal with it. A
party embroiled in a conflict between two gods might
become aware of a growing danger from a primordial. At that point, the characters have to persuade
the divine enemies to set aside their differences long
enough to overcome the greater threat. (But will one
deity use the climactic battle with the primordial to
attack the other when his back is turned?)

What Has Come Before
You should put some thought into the events that have
brought your world to the point where the campaign
begins. Don’t overdo it, though. You need only as much
history as necessary to set the stage for the story you
have in mind.
The material in the D&D core rulebooks makes a
few basic assumptions about the game world. Mighty
empires rose and fell in the distant past: the dragonborn realm of Arkhosia, Bael Turath of the tieflings,
and the eladrin Realm of the Twin Queens. Most
recently, the human empire of Nerath covered much

of the known world, uniting the civilized races into
one great nation—but it, too, has fallen. If any empires
remain, they are distant and foreign. The world as the
characters know it is a dangerous place where civilized areas are small, flickering lights amid a greater
This historical sketch provides a background
against which the D&D game makes sense. Why is
the world full of dungeons, where characters fight
monsters and find treasure? Because ancient fallen
empires leave behind both ruins and precious artifacts. The encroaching darkness is full of creatures
that make their lairs in those ruins and hoard those
treasures. Why do dwarves, tieflings, eladrin, and
humans cooperate in adventuring parties? Because
the human empire brought the different races together
in its towns and cities, and they still live beside one
another in most remaining communities. As well, the
threats of the darkness are driving people from their
ancestral holdings—for example, burning forests scatter the elves, who seek refuge in human towns.
None of these principles are set in stone. You
might adopt them wholly, tweak some of them to suit
your campaign, or discard them completely in favor
of a history of your own. They make a good starting
point, though, for creating your own story. If you alter
this assumed history, make sure you can explain the
underlying assumptions of your campaign.


Divine Strife

The Campaign Outline
Once you have some idea of how your campaign
theme will shape the story and have developed a historical backdrop, you can sketch out its major events.
Such an outline must be in broad strokes, since the
characters’ actions have to make a difference, and
their choices be meaningful. This sketch is likely to
change significantly as your campaign progresses and
new details are filled in. If nothing else, though, you’ll
at least have an idea of the campaign’s climax and how
the characters can get there. When they stray from
your outline—and they will—you’ll have some sense of
what adventures to create to get them back on course.
One way to think about this outline is to divide it
into adventuring tiers: heroic, paragon, and epic. You
can use the Monster Manual to find out the kinds of
threats the characters might face at each tier. Since
characters need eight to ten encounters to gain a level,
a tier consists of roughly a hundred encounters, or ten
fairly short adventures. There are plenty of drow in the
paragon tier, for example—perhaps at those levels the
characters will be traveling through the Underdark
realms. You can use that idea as a springboard for
designing adventures to fit your broad story outline
from 11th to 20th level.

CH A PTER 8 | Campaigns


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 141

3/12/08 4:19:44 PM

The start of a campaign is a lot like the start of an
adventure: You want to get quickly to the action, show
the players that adventure awaits, and grab them right
away. Give the players enough information to make
them want to come back week after week to see how
the story plays out.

Start Small
You’ve spent some time thinking about the big picture
of your campaign’s theme and story. Now it’s time to
start building adventures and fleshing out the details.
Start small. Don’t be intimidated by the size of the
setting—focus on what’s close at hand. You don’t need
to draw a map of the world right away, because the
characters only know about the town where they start
the game, and perhaps the nearby dungeon. You might
have ideas about how this town’s barony is at war with
a nearby duchy, or some distant forest is crawling with
yuan-ti, and you should make a note of those things.
But right now, the local area is enough to get the game
off the ground.
Above all, make sure you provide a common starting location for the characters—a place where they
have met and decided to put their lives in each other’s
hands. This starting point might be the village where
they grew up or a city that has attracted them from
all over. Perhaps it’s the dungeons of the evil baron’s
castle, where they are locked up for various reasons,
throwing them into the midst of the adventure.
Whatever you choose, give that starting place only
as much detail as it needs. You don’t need to identify every building in a village or label every street
in a large city. If the characters start in the baron’s
dungeon, you do have to design it—that’s the site of
your first adventure—but you don’t have to worry
about the names of all the baron’s knights yet. Sketch
out a simple map, think about the surrounding area,
and consider whom the characters are most likely to
interact with early in the campaign. Most important,
visualize how this area fits into the theme and story
you have in mind for your campaign. Then get to work
on your first adventure!

Character Origin and
Once you’ve identified where you want to start your
campaign, let the players help tell the story by deciding how their characters got there.

Some players might have trouble coming up with
ideas—not everyone is equally inventive. You can help
spur their creativity with a few simple questions about
their characters.
✦ Are you a native, born and raised in the area? If so,
who’s your family? What’s your current occupation?
✦ Are you a recent arrival? Where did you come
from? Why did you come to this area?
✦ Are you a transplant who has been in the area for
a year or more? Where are you from? Why did you
come here, and what made you stay?
This step is one of your best opportunities to get
the players doing some of the work of world design.
Listen to their ideas, and say yes if you can. Even if
you want all the characters to have grown up in the
starting town, for example, consider allowing a recent
arrival or a transplant if the player’s story is convincing enough. You might suggest some alterations to a
character’s background so it better fits your world, or
you might weave the first threads of your campaign
story into her history.

Informing Your Players
As you start to develop the ideas of your campaign,
you’ll need to fill in the players on the basics. The easiest way to do this is to compile essential information
into a campaign handout. Typical material to include
in the handout includes the following.
✦ Any restrictions or new options for character creation, such as new or prohibited races.
✦ Any information in the backstory of your campaign
that the characters would know about. This gives
the players an idea of the theme and story you have
in mind.
✦ Basic information about the area where the characters are starting—the name of the town, important
locations in and around it, prominent NPCs they’d
know about, and perhaps some rumors that point to
trouble brewing.
Keep this handout short, sweet, and to the point—two
pages is a reasonable maximum. Even if you have a
burst of creative energy that produces twenty pages of
great background material, save it for your adventures.
Let the characters uncover it gradually.

CH A PTER 8 | Campaigns


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 142

3/12/08 4:19:44 PM

Sometimes you don’t want to start characters at 1st
level. A paragon- or epic-tier game might be more to
your taste. Maybe you want to run a published adventure that requires higher-level characters, or you want
to try a one-shot that pits 30th-level characters against
Orcus. Whatever the reason, at some point you’ll need
to create higher-level characters. This process isn’t
much harder than making a 1st-level character.
The steps for creating a D&D character above 1st
level are almost the same as those ones outlined in
Chapter 2 of the Player’s Handbook for a new character.
1. Choose Race. Remember that some racial traits
improve at higher levels.
2. Choose Class. If your level is 11th or higher,
choose a paragon path appropriate to your class. At
21st level or higher, you’ll also need to choose an
epic destiny.
3. Determine Ability Scores. Generate scores as
for a 1st-level character, applying racial modifiers.
Then increase those scores as shown on the Character Advancement table in the Player’s Handbook,
with increases at 4th level, 8th level, 11th, 14th,
and so on. (You can also use the NPC Ability Scores
table on page 187.)
4. Choose Skills. Make sure you meet skill prerequisites for a paragon path or epic destiny, if applicable.
5. Select Feats. You generally don’t have to worry
about the level at which you gained a particular feat, since retraining allows you to have the
feats you want at any given level. Do watch out
for paragon and epic feats, though. For example,
a 14th-level character can’t have more than seven
paragon feats (those gained at 11th, 12th, and 14th
level, as well as up to four retrained feats).
6. Choose Powers. You know two at-will powers from
your class; remember to increase damage if your
level is 21st or higher. The Powers by Class Level
table summarizes the number and levels of powers
you have in the other categories. These totals are
not cumulative. The table assumes that you replace
your lowest-level powers with those at higher levels,
but you can keep lower-level ones if you wish.
7. Choose Equipment and Magic Items. Mundane
equipment is much less important for higherlevel characters than it is when you’re starting out.
Choose whatever standard adventuring gear you
want from the tables in the Player’s Handbook. For
magic items, choose one item of your level + 1, one
item of your level, and one item of your level – 1. In
addition, you have gold pieces equal to the value of
one magic item of your level – 1. You can spend this
money on rituals, potions, or other magic items, or
save it for later.

8. Fill in the Numbers. After noting the bonuses you
gain from feats and magic items (as well as your
increased level), calculate your hit points, Armor
Class, defenses, initiative, base attack bonuses and
damage bonuses, and skill modifiers. The Quick Hit
Points table provides a formula for hit points by class.
9. Roleplaying Character Details. Flesh out your
character, using the suggestions in Chapter 2 of the
Player’s Handbook or your own ideas.

Class Encounter
Level Powers
2nd 1
3rd 3, 1
4th 3, 1
5th 3, 1
5, 1
6th 3, 1
5, 1
7th 7, 3, 1
5, 1
8th 7, 3, 1
5, 1
9th 7, 3, 1
9, 5, 1
10th 7, 3, 1
9, 5, 1
11th P, 7, 3, 1
9, 5, 1
12th P, 7, 3, 1
9, 5, 1
13th P, 13, 7, 3
9, 5, 1
14th P, 13, 7, 3
9, 5, 1
15th P, 13, 7, 3
15, 9, 5
16th P, 13, 7, 3
15, 9, 5
17th P, 17, 13, 7
15, 9, 5
18th P, 17, 13, 7
15, 9, 5
19th P, 17, 13, 7
19, 15, 9
20th P, 17, 13, 7
P, 19, 15, 9
P, 17, 13, 7
P, 19, 15, 9
22nd P, 17, 13, 7
P, 19, 15, 9
23rd P, 23, 17, 13 P, 19, 15, 9
24th P, 23, 17, 13 P, 19, 15, 9
25th P, 23, 17, 13 P, 25, 19, 15
26th P, 23, 17, 13 P, 25, 19, 15
27th P, 27, 23, 17 P, 25, 19, 15
28th P, 27, 23, 17 P, 25, 19, 15
29th P, 27, 23, 17 P, 29, 25, 19
30th P, 27, 23, 17 P, 29, 25, 19
P: Power from your paragon path.
E: Power from your epic destiny.

6, 2
6, 2
6, 2
6, 2
10, 6, 2
10, 6, 2
P, 10, 6, 2
P, 10, 6, 2
P, 10, 6, 2
P, 10, 6, 2
P, 16, 10, 6, 2
P, 16, 10, 6, 2
P, 16, 10, 6, 2
P, 16, 10, 6, 2
P, 16, 10, 6, 2
P, 16, 10, 6, 2
P, 22, 16, 10, 6, 2
P, 22, 16, 10, 6, 2
P, 22, 16, 10, 6, 2
P, 22, 16, 10, 6, 2
E, P, 22, 16, 10, 6, 2
E, P, 22, 16, 10, 6, 2
E, P, 22, 16, 10, 6, 2
E, P, 22, 16, 10, 6, 2
E, P, 22, 16, 10, 6, 2


Starting at Higher Level


Hit Points
(level × 5) + 7 + Constitution score
(level × 6) + 9 + Constitution score
(level × 6) + 9 + Constitution score
(level × 5) + 7 + Constitution score
(level × 5) + 7 + Constitution score
(level × 5) + 7 + Constitution score
(level × 5) + 7 + Constitution score
(level × 4) + 6 + Constitution score

CH A PTER 8 | Campaigns


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 143

3/12/08 4:19:45 PM

Running a campaign boils down to running a series
of adventures. Chapter 6 provides plenty of advice for
making adventures fun and compelling. Here you’ll
learn how to do the same for your campaign.
The secret of a good campaign lies in how you
weave adventures together to form a larger story,
including the little things that give the sense of a
coherent, consistent world.

Linking Adventures
Adventures that relate directly to your campaign’s
story trace its development over the characters’
careers. A dungeon-of-the-week sort of campaign
doesn’t necessarily need any link between one adventure and the next, and even one with a tight theme
can include occasional adventures that are completely
unconnected to other events. But a campaign story
that connects the adventures lets the players feel as
though they’re making real progress, not just racking
up experience points.
A simple way to tie adventures together is to use
common foes, related quests, and linked events that
are related to the campaign’s overall story. Each suite
of adventures might contain enough encounters to
advance the characters three or four levels, serving
as a simple story arc. You need no more than that to
take characters from 1st level all the way to 30th. The
characters might spend most of their careers fighting
the Nine Dread Scions, working their way through the
nine dungeons where those villains reside, and then
pursuing an epic quest to destroy their monstrous progenitor. Or they have to collect the pieces of the Rod of
Seven Parts scattered in ruins across the world before
confronting the primordial Queen of Chaos.

Story Hooks
You can make a campaign feel like one story with
many chapters by planting the seeds of the next adventure before the last one is finished. This technique
naturally and smoothly moves the characters along.
You don’t have to do this all the time—it’s all right for
the party to have some downtime. But when you take
the opportunity to introduce the right elements, you
can hook the players and the characters effectively.
If you’ve set the hook properly, when the characters
finish the current adventure, they’ll naturally follow
up on that “loose end.” Perhaps a character drinks
from a magic fountain in a dungeon and receives a
mystifying vision that foreshadows the next episode.
The party might find a cryptic map or bizarre relic
that, once its meaning is puzzled out, points to the

next quest. Perhaps an NPC warns the characters of
impending danger or implores them for help.
Be careful, though, that you don’t distract the
characters from the adventure at hand. Designing an effective hook takes some experimentation.
It should be compelling, but not so much that the
characters stop caring about what they’re doing right
now. It should encourage them to finish the current
adventure, preferably by requiring them to complete
a related task. That way, they get interested early on,
but they can’t start the next adventure until they’ve
successfully completed this one. They might have to
assemble all the pieces of a map in a dungeon to learn
where it leads. Alternatively, they find the map but
can’t decode it without the key, which they recover
from the defeated villain.
The best way to keep players from straying is to save
your hooks for the very end of your adventures. The
villain wields a bizarre relic that leads the characters
to learn more about its history, or the party discovers
a letter demonstrating that the villain is working for
someone else.

History and
You can make good use of the history behind your
campaign by relating it to the unfolding story. Uncovering that history is a natural way to link adventures.
For example, the ultimate villain might be some enormously powerful aberrant being that was imprisoned
deep in the earth ages ago. Over the course of their
adventures, the characters fight large numbers of aberrant creatures, slowly learning about this alien being.
These hints foreshadow the climax of your unfolding
story—the aberrant horror breaking free of its prison.
Examples of such historical elements include the ruins
of ancient temples devoted to the being, records of the
destruction it caused during its rampages, copies of the
rituals used to bind and imprison it, and hints to the
location of its prison.
Foreshadowing doesn’t need to have anything to
do with history, though. If the party fights a lot of
demons and undead over the course of adventures,
your players will have a good idea that the campaign
will end in a confrontation with Orcus. You can also
use prophetic verses to hint at future events. Watch out
for being heavy-handed or, conversely, too obscure. A
well-designed prophecy is a kind of riddle that helps
the characters recognize and deal with key events
when they occur. (You’ll find advice about constructing riddles on page 83.)

CH A PTER 8 | Campaigns


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 144

3/12/08 4:19:46 PM

Details matter. Your players will more easily imagine
that their characters are living in a real world if it
makes sense. If the characters frequent a particular
tavern, the layout of the building, the staff, and even
the decor shouldn’t change dramatically from one visit
to the next. Consistent details bring the world to life.
On the other hand, the world should definitely
respond to the characters’ actions. When the characters kill a monster, it stays dead; when they remove
treasure from a room, it doesn’t magically reappear
the next time they enter. If they leave a door open, it
should stay open—unless someone closes it. If you’re
meticulous about details, the players pay attention
when things aren’t as they expect.
No one’s memory is infallible, so it pays to keep
track of such details. A simple method is jotting notes
directly on your adventure map to keep track of open
doors, disarmed traps, and the like. Events beyond
the scope of a single adventure are best recorded in
a notebook dedicated to your campaign. Whether it’s
a literal book or some kind of electronic file, such a
record is a great way to keep your notes organized.
Your notebook might contain any of the following

the characters meet your NPCs, and keep track of
the status of their relationships.
✦ Character Notes: Keep a running tally of the
characters’ classes and levels, their goals and backgrounds, any individual quests they’re pursuing, the
magic items they want, and any other details that
might be significant to your planning. You might even
maintain a copy of each character sheet, particularly
if they’re in electronic form. It’s also a good ideas to
make notes about the players—their motivations and
play styles, what kinds of encounters they particularly
enjoy, and what pizza toppings they prefer.


Keeping Track

✦ Campaign Calendar: Your world feels more real
to your players when the characters notice the passage of time. Here’s where you note details such as
the change of seasons and major holidays, and keep
track of any important events that affect the larger

✦ Campaign Journal: This is the place for notes
about your campaign theme and story, including
the plot outline for planning future adventures.
Update that outline as the campaign develops,
adding ideas as they come to you.
✦ Campaign Handout: Keep a copy of the handout
you made for your players (page 25). You might
want to revise it from time to time, summarizing the major events of the campaign to date and
adding hints of things to come.
✦ Adventure Log: This briefly summarizes each
adventure to help you keep track of the unfolding
campaign story. You can give your players access to
this log as well, or to an edited version stripped of
your notes and secrets. The players might instead
keep their own record of adventures, which you
should also read and copy to your notebook.

W I L L I A M O ’ CO N N O R

✦ Toolbox: Here’s where to keep notes whenever you
create or significantly alter a monster, make up
nonplayer characters, design unique traps, hazards, magic items, or artifacts, or generate random
dungeons or encounters. (For more information, see
Chapter 10.) That way, you don’t repeat your work,
and you’ll be able to draw on this material later.
✦ NPC Notes: Record statistics and roleplaying notes
for any nonplayer character the characters might
interact with more than once. Here’s where to identify the two bartenders with their different voices,
as well as their names, the tavern where they work,
the names of other staff members—maybe even
what’s on the menu. Keep notes on when and how
CH A PTER 8 | Campaigns


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 145

3/12/08 4:19:47 PM

As characters grow in power, game play changes, and
so will your campaign. At each level they gain access
to new powers and extraordinary capabilities they
didn’t have before. At higher tiers, new powers and
features from paragon paths and epic destinies can
dramatically alter the feel of the game. Powerful rituals also come into play at the upper levels, sometimes
drastically changing the way characters respond to
situations outside combat.
As your campaign progresses, your story and the
style of encounters need to take into account the different tiers of play.

The Heroic Tier
Even 1st-level characters are heroes, set apart from the
common people by natural characteristics, learned
skills, and some hint of a greater destiny that lies
before them.
At the start of their careers, characters rely on
their own abilities and powers, and they wield mundane gear. They acquire magic items quickly, though,
and might even fill their available item slots by 10th
level. In combat, they can make mighty leaps or
climb incredibly fast, but they’re still basically earthbound and generally remain visible. Since they rely
on healing surges to regain lost hit points, heroic tier
characters are likely to take an extended rest when
surges get dangerously low. However, toward the
upper end of the tier, even death is a surmountable
obstacle because of the Raise Dead ritual.
The fate of a village might hang on the success or
failure of heroic tier adventurers, to say nothing of the
characters’ own lives. Heroic characters navigate dangerous terrain and explore haunted crypts, where they
can expect to fight savage orcs, ferocious wolves, giant
spiders, evil cultists, bloodthirsty ghouls, and shadarkai assassins. If they face a dragon, it’s a young one
that might still be searching for a lair and has not yet
found its place in the world—in other words, much like

The Paragon Tier
By 11th level, characters are shining examples of courage and determination—true paragons in the world, set
well apart from the masses.
Paragon tier adventurers are a lot more versatile
than they were at lower levels, and they can find just
the right tool for a given challenge. They can spend
action points to gain additional effects, are able to use
magic rings, and can sometimes regain limited powers
they’ve expended. In combat, they exploit short-range

flight and teleportation, making difficult terrain less
important, and might be able to turn invisible or resist
specific damage types. They also have ways to regain
hit points beyond healing surges, including regeneration, so they can complete more encounters between
extended rests. On the other hand, monsters at the
paragon tier have more ways to thwart these new capabilities, including their own flight, damage resistance,
and blindsight.
Rituals at the paragon tier begin to give characters
magical ways to gather information and overcome
obstacles. Divination rituals such as Consult Oracle
grant access to knowledge they might otherwise not
have, while View Object can make some kinds of mysteries obsolete. Exploration rituals such as Passwall
and Shadow Walk let a party bypass solid barriers and
quickly travel long distances.
The fate of a nation or even the world might depend
on momentous quests that such characters undertake.
Paragon-level adventurers explore uncharted regions
and delve long-forgotten dungeons, where they confront savage giants, ferocious hydras, fearless golems,
evil yuan-ti, bloodthirsty vampires, crafty mind flayers, and drow assassins. They might face a powerful
adult dragon that has established a lair and a role in
the world.

The Epic Tier
By 21st level, characters have truly superheroic capabilities, and their deeds and adventures are the stuff
of legend. Ordinary people can hardly dream of such
heights of power.
Epic adventurers have even more ways to recover
expended powers, more ways to heal damage without
relying on healing surges, and more powers overall
from magic items and epic destinies. In combat, flight
and teleportation are routine, as well as extraordinary
feats of climbing and jumping. Terrain in general is
less important, unless it blocks extraordinary forms of
travel. Invisibility is common. Such characters can last
through many encounters before resting and can even
return from death in the middle of a fight. Furthermore, epic destinies break the rules in dramatic ways.
At the epic tier, rituals include more and better
kinds of divination, including the ability to spy on
distant beings with Observe Creature. Epic characters
can use True Portal to transport themselves instantly
anywhere in the world.
Epic adventures have far-reaching consequences,
possibly determining the fate of millions—in the
natural world and even places beyond. Epic characters traverse otherworldly realms and explore

CH A PTER 8 | Campaigns


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 146

3/12/08 4:19:50 PM

A character’s epic destiny guides how he or she ultimately exits the world. That hero’s story has to come
to an end, though his or her actions leave existence
indelibly changed. Each epic destiny presented in the
Player’s Handbook suggests a way for a character with
that destiny to achieve immortality. It’s up to you, in
cooperation with your players, to determine how their
characters get there.
The final quest of your campaign should be its
dramatic climax. After the final encounter of that
last adventure, the characters attain their destined
immortality—the “happily ever after” to their careers.
You might lift them to that state as soon as their enemy
is defeated, or spend a little time wrapping up loose
ends, letting the characters put their affairs in order
and say their goodbyes.
If you don’t have a clear endpoint in mind for your
campaign, the characters’ epic destinies can give you
some direction for those last ten levels. Each individual quest takes on greater importance, so that the
party achieves group immortality by completing each
member’s ultimate destiny.
Epic-level characters don’t have to leave play. If you
want to, you can prolong your campaign indefinitely
with 30th-level adventurers, concocting new challenges to their godlike capabilities. At some point,
though, your campaign will have to end—and it’s better
to do it with a thrilling final quest and a glorious victory than to let it fizzle out.

Wind your campaign up with a bang. As with the
ending of an adventure, a campaign’s ending should
tie up all the threads of its beginning and middle.
Create an exciting and satisfying conclusion for the
theme and story you’ve crafted.
If your campaign has an ultimate villain, the
campaign’s climax ought to feature a final confrontation. If some other threat has menaced the world, the
characters should put an end to that threat—or if they
cannot, take dramatic action to help the world weather
the storm. A party on a mission should finally complete it, and an unfolding prophecy should be fulfilled
one way or another. Even if your campaign is based on
simple discovery, with the characters spending their
entire careers exploring the world, it’s not enough for
them to simply draw in the last few lines on the map.
They need a final adventure that gives some meaning
to that long quest and makes that last pen stroke truly
You don’t have to take a campaign all the way to
30th level. Ending it at 10th or 20th level can be just
as satisfying, Whenever your story reaches its natural
conclusion is where you should wrap it up. If you see
the end approaching, and the characters are getting
close to 10th, 20th, or 30th level, consider stretching
out the last adventure or two to help them reach that
level by the climax.
Make sure you allow space and time near the end
of your campaign for the characters to finish up any
personal goals. Their own stories need to end in a satisfying way, just as the campaign story does. Ideally, try
to link all the characters’ individual goals to the ultimate goal of the final adventure. If you can’t, though,
give them a chance to finish those quests before the
very end.
Once the campaign has ended, a new one can
begin. If you’ll be running a new campaign for the
same group of players, you can really help them get
invested in the new setting by using their previous
characters’ actions as the basis of legends. Let the new
characters experience how the world has changed
because of the old ones. In the end, though, the new
campaign is a new story with new protagonists. They
shouldn’t have to share the spotlight with the heroes of
days gone by.


never-before-seen caverns of wonder, where they fight
savage balor demons, abominations such as the ferocious tarrasque, mind flayer masterminds, terrible
archdevils, bloodthirsty lich archmages, and even
the gods themselves. The dragons they encounter are
ancient wyrms of truly earth-shaking power, whose
sleep troubles kingdoms and whose waking threatens

Know where you are going with your campaign. Don’t be
afraid to end it when you get there.
—Andrew Finch

CH A PTER 8 | Campaigns


4E_DMG_Ch08.indd 147

3/12/08 4:19:50 PM


The World


You won’t

find a world map in this or any of
the core D&D rulebooks. “The world” in which the
D&D game takes place doesn’t have a map—not until
you create one. And you shouldn’t feel in any great
hurry to create one. A map is important only when
the characters seek out the places shown on it.
That said, these books do make some assumptions
about the world in which your adventures take place.
This chapter talks about those assumptions, and then
discusses how you might change them. In the end, the
setting of your campaign is your world—the details are
yours to change or create from whole cloth. But these
aren’t details you have to worry about when you’re
starting out as a DM.
This chapter includes the following sections.
✦ The D&D World: The game is built around
certain core assumptions, but you can fill in the
details or alter those assumptions to make the
world your own.

✦ Civilization: Civilized parts of the world are
points of light in the darkness, and they can be
exciting adventure sites as well as safe home bases.
This section describes how to design settlements
for various purposes in your campaign.
✦ The Wild: Most of the world is untamed
wilderness, and its dangers include more than
monsters and raiders. Weather and harsh
environments add to the risks of adventuring far
from civilization.
✦ The Planes: Beyond the natural world, the
universe holds greater challenges and greater
rewards for brave adventurers.
✦ The Gods: The Player’s Handbook introduces
the D&D pantheon. This section gives more
information about the nature of these deities,
as well as details about the evil gods whose
servants can challenge the characters.

✦ Languages: This section includes more
information about the languages and scripts of the
D&D world and how to use them in your game.


✦ Artifacts: Powerful magic items with agendas
of their own, artifacts can be exciting additions
to a campaign at any level.

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 148

3/12/08 3:58:15 PM

4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 149

3/12/08 3:58:22 PM

The rules and story elements in the D&D game are
built around a set of core assumptions about the world.
Here are some of the most important.
The World Is a Fantastic Place. Magic works,
servants of the gods wield divine power, and fire giants
build strongholds in active volcanoes. The world might
be based on reality, but it’s a blend of real-world physics, cultures, and history with a heavy dose of fantasy.
For the game’s purposes, it doesn’t matter what historical paladins were like; it cares about what paladins are
like in the fantasy world.
The World Is Ancient. Empires rise and empires
crumble, leaving few places that have not been
touched by their grandeur. Ruin, time, and natural
forces eventually claim all, leaving the D&D world
rich with places of adventure and mystery. Ancient
civilizations and their knowledge survive in legends,
magic items, and the ruins they left behind, but chaos
and darkness inevitably follow an empire’s collapse.
Each new realm must carve a place out of the world
rather than build on the efforts of past civilizations.
The World Is Mysterious. Wild, uncontrolled
regions abound and cover most of the world. Citystates of various races dot the darkness, bastions
in the wilderness built amid the ruins of the past.
Some of these settlements are “points of light” where
adventurers can expect peaceful interaction with the
inhabitants, but many more are dangerous. No one
race lords over the world, and vast kingdoms are rare.
People know the area they live in well, and they’ve
heard stories of other places from merchants and travelers, but few know what lies beyond the mountains
or in the depth of the great forest unless they’ve been
there personally.
Monsters Are Everywhere. Most monsters of the
world are as natural as bears or horses are on Earth,
and monsters inhabit civilized parts of the world and
the wilderness alike. Griffon riders patrol the skies
over dwarf cities, domesticated behemoths carry trade
goods over long distances, a yuan-ti empire holds sway
just a few hundred miles from a human kingdom, and
a troop of ice archons from the Elemental Chaos might
suddenly appear in the mountains near a major city.
Adventurers Are Exceptional. Player characters
are the pioneers, explorers, trailblazers, thrill seekers,
and heroes of the D&D world. Although nonplayer
characters might have a class and gain power, they do
not necessarily advance as PCs do, and they exist for
a different purpose. Not everyone in the world gains
levels as PCs do. An NPC might be a veteran of numerous battles and still not become a 3rd-level fighter; an
army of elves is made up of soldiers, not fighters.

The Civilized Races Band Together. The character races in the Player’s Handbook all drew closer
together during the time of the last great empire
(which was human-dominated). That’s what makes
them the civilized races—they’re the ones found
living together in the towns and cities of civilization.
Goblins, orcs, gnolls, and kobolds—along with plenty
of other races in the Monster Manual—were never part
of that human empire. Some of them, such as the
militaristic hobgoblins, have cities, organized societies, and kingdoms of their own. These are islands of
civilization in the wilderness, but they are not “points
of light.”
Magic Is Not Everyday, but it Is Natural. No
one is superstitious about magic, but neither is the use
of magic trivial. Practitioners of magic are as rare as
fighters. People might see evidence of magic every day,
but it’s usually minor—a fantastic monster, a visibly
answered prayer, a wizard flying by on a griffon. Powerful and experienced practitioners of magic are far
from commonplace.
Gods and Primordials Shaped the World. The
primordials, elemental creatures of enormous power,
shaped the world out of the Elemental Chaos. The gods
gave it civility and permanence, and warred with the
primordials for control of the new creation. The gods
eventually triumphed, and primordials now slumber
in remote parts of the Elemental Chaos, rage in hidden
prisons, or float, lifeless, through the Astral Sea.
Gods Are Distant. Gods exist, though most of
them maintain a distance and detachment from the
everyday happenings of the world. Exarchs act in
the world on behalf of their gods, and angels appear
to undertake missions that promote the agendas of
the gods they serve. Gods are extremely powerful,
compared to mortals and monsters, but they aren’t
omniscient or omnipotent. They provide access to the
divine power source for their clerics, paladins, and
other prayer-using followers, and their followers pray
to them in hopes that they or their exarchs will hear
them and bless them.

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 150

3/12/08 3:58:24 PM

Altering Core Assumptions

The preceding section sums up the basics of what the
game assumes about the D&D world. Within those
general parameters, though, there’s a lot of room for
you to fill in the details. Each published campaign setting describes a different world that adheres to some of
those core assumptions, alters others, and then builds
a world around them. You can do the same to create a
world that’s uniquely yours.

One definition of speculative fiction (of which fantasy
and science fiction are two branches) is that it starts
with reality as we know it and asks, “What if some
aspect of the world was different?” Most fantasy starts
from the question, “What if magic was real?”
The assumptions sketched out on the previous page
aren’t graven in stone. They make for an exciting D&D
world full of adventure, but they’re not the only set of
assumptions that do so. You can build an interesting
campaign concept by altering one or more of those
core assumptions. Ask yourself, “What if this wasn’t
true in my world?”
The World Is a Fantastic Place. What if it’s not?
What if your characters all use the martial power
source, and magic is rare and dangerous? What if your
campaign is set in a version of historical Europe?
The World Is Ancient. What if your world is
brand-new, and the characters are the first heroes to
walk the earth? What if there are no ancient artifacts
and traditions, no crumbling ruins?
The World Is Mysterious. What if it’s all charted
and mapped, right down to the “Here there be
dragons” notations? What if great empires cover huge
stretches of countryside, with clearly defined borders
between them?
Monsters Are Everywhere. What if monsters are
rare and terrifying?
Adventurers Are Exceptional. What if the cities
of the world are crowded with adventurers, buying
and selling magic items in great markets?
The Common Races Band Together. What if, to
use a fantasy cliché, dwarves and elves don’t get along?
What if hobgoblins live side by side with the other
Magic Is Not Everyday. What if every town is
ruled by a powerful wizard? What if magic item shops
are common?
Gods and Primordials Shaped the World. What
if the primordials won, and hidden cults dedicated to
a handful of surviving deities are scattered through a
shattered world that echoes the Elemental Chaos?
Gods Are Distant. What if the gods regularly walk
the earth? What if the characters can challenge them
and seize their power? Or what if even exarchs and
angels never sully themselves by contact with mortals?

The Details
Where the core D&D rulebooks talk about the world,
they drop names that exemplify the core assumptions—such as the tiefling empire of Bael Turath and
the Invulnerable Coat of Arnd. Just as you can alter
names in published adventures to suit the flavor of
your campaign, you can change the names of these
assumed parts of the world. For example, you might
decide that the tieflings of your world have a culture
reminiscent of medieval Russia, and call their ancient
empire Perevolochna. Or, to use the example from
Chapter 6, a peasant hero named Al-Rashid might
have worn the Invulnerable Coat in ancient days.
Aside from these changeable assumed details, most
of the specifics of the world are left to your own invention. Even if you begin your campaign in the town of
Fallcrest and lead the characters on to Winterhaven
and Hammerfast, eventually the characters will move
off the map in Chapter 11 and explore new lands of
your own creation.
If you follow the core assumptions of the game,
sketching out the world beyond your starting area is
a simple matter. Great tracts of wilderness separate
civilized areas. South of Fallcrest, the characters
might travel through a forest on an old, overgrown
road they’ve been told leads to the city-state of Ironwood. You can throw adventures in their path along
the way, then draw them into another grand dungeon
adventure when they arrive in what turns out to be the
gnoll-infested ruins of Ironwood.
You can draft a map of the whole continent at or
near the beginning of your campaign. You don’t have
to, of course, but even if you do, it’s a good idea to
keep it sketchy. As the campaign progresses, you’ll
find that you want certain terrain features in specific
places, or an element of the campaign story will lead
you to fill in details of the map in ways you couldn’t
have anticipated at the start of the campaign. Just as
when you prepare an adventure, don’t overprepare
your campaign. Even in a published campaign, the
large-scale maps of regions and continents don’t detail
every square mile of land. You can and should feel free
to add details where you need them—and alter them
when your campaign suggests it.

T H E D & D WO R L D

It’s Your World

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 151

3/12/08 3:58:25 PM

The D&D world is a wide and wondrous place, filled
with monsters and magic. However, most people live
in relatively safe communities, and even bold adventurers need safe havens. Such areas are points of light
in a dark world, and they share common traits. When
you think about the civilized areas of your world, consider these questions:

✦ What purpose does it serve in your game?
✦ How big is it? Who lives there?
✦ Who governs it? Who else holds power?
✦ What are its defenses?
✦ Where do characters go to find what they need?
✦ What temples are there? What other organizations?
✦ What fantastic elements distinguish it from the ordinary?
The guidelines in this section are just that. They’re
here to help you build the settlement you want for the
purpose you have in mind. If you decide that you want
a particular feature in a settlement you create, don’t let
anything in this section stop you.

A settlement’s primary purpose is to facilitate the fun
in your game. Creating a settlement should also be
fun. Other than these two points, the actual purpose
the settlement serves determines the amount of detail
you need to put into it.
As always, don’t do more work than you have to.
Create only the features of a settlement that you know
you’ll need, along with notes on general features. Then
allow the place to grow organically as the PCs interact
with more and more of it, keeping notes on new places
you invent and use in the game. Eventually, you’ll have
a living town that you can use again and again.

Home Base
The primary reason to create a settlement is to give
the characters a place to live, train, and recuperate
between adventures. Such a settlement is the launching pad from which the characters go out into the
wider world. An entire campaign can center on a
particular town or city. Sometimes, however, a base is
just a temporary stopover for one or more adventures
before the characters move on.
If the characters start their careers in a particular locale, one that they all call home, that town can
have a special place in their hearts and minds. What
happens in and to that place takes on personal meaning. Characters might want to protect the town from
destruction and corruption, or they could want to
escape the memories and limitations the place holds.

A home base needs a moderate amount of detail,
but that’s work that the players can help you with. Ask
the players to tell you a bit about mentors, family members, and other important people in their characters’
lives. You can add to and modify what they give you,
but you’ll at least start with a solid foundation of the
NPCs who are important to the characters. You might
also have the players tell you where and how their
characters spend their time—a favorite tavern, library,
or temple, perhaps. Unless the home base is also an
adventure site, you don’t need more detail than that at
the outset.

Adventure Site
A settlement makes a great adventure site (see Chapter
6 for more about urban adventuring). The amount of
preparation you need for such a settlement depends
on the adventures you want to run there. You might
detail adventure areas, such as battlements or towers
(see “City Buildings” on page 111). For an event-based
adventure, you need notes on the NPCs who play a
part in the adventure. This work is adventure preparation as much as it is world building, but the cast of
characters you develop for your adventure—including allies, patrons, enemies, and extras—can become
recurring figures in your campaign.

Local Color
Often, a settlement is just a place where the characters stop in to rest and buy supplies. A settlement of
this sort needs no more than a narrative description.
Include the town’s name, decide how big it is, add a
dash of flavor (“The prominent temple to Avandra suggests that this town hasn’t outgrown its pioneer roots”),
and let the characters get down to business. The history of the inn where the characters spend the night,
the mannerisms of the shopkeeper they buy supplies
from—you can add this level of detail, but you don’t
have to. It’s fine to toss in these bits if the characters
return to the same town—at that point, it begins to feel
a little more like a home base, if a temporary one. Let
it grow as the need arises.

The size of a settlement is largely a matter of flavor, but
it can also influence the goods and services available
there. Since even small villages spring into being along
trade routes, it’s safe to assume that characters can
find what they want or need to buy in practically any
settlement, given enough time. Don’t let a community’s
size get in the way of your characters’ enjoyment of the
game by forcing them to travel hundreds of miles out
of their way to buy the magic items they want.

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 152

3/12/08 3:58:26 PM

Most settlements are agricultural villages, supporting themselves and nearby towns or cities with crops
and meat. The citizens of a village are involved in
food production in one way or another—if not tending
the crops, then supporting those who do by shoeing
horses, weaving clothes, milling grain, and the like.
They maintain trade with nearby settlements.
Villages pop up within areas protected by the
local rulers, or on land with a defensive geographic
advantage such as a river. Some villages support and
surround military fortresses and outposts, and others
crop up as boomtowns when valuable resources are
discovered. Villages can also become isolated over
time, as kingdoms crumble.
A village’s population is dispersed around a large
area of land. Farmers live on their land, which spreads
them widely around the village center. At the heart of
the village, a standard set of structures cluster together:
essential services, a marketplace, a temple or two, some
kind of gathering place, and perhaps an inn for travelers.

✦ Population: Up to about 1,000.
✦ Government: Noble ruler (usually not resident), with
an appointed agent (a reeve) in residence to adjudicate
disputes and collect taxes for the lord.
✦ Defense: The reeve might have a small force of soldiers;
otherwise the village relies on a citizen militia.
✦ Commerce: Basic supplies are readily available, possibly an
inn. Other goods available from traveling merchants.
✦ Organizations: One or two temples or shrines, farmer
associations, few or no other organizations.

Towns are major trade centers, where important industries and reliable trade routes allowed the population
to grow. As many as half of a town’s citizens are part
of a thriving middle class of artisans. Towns rely on
commerce—the import of raw materials and food from
surrounding villages, and the export of crafted items to
those villages as well as other towns and cities.
Towns grow in places where roads intersect waterways, or at the meeting of major land trade routes.
A town might also grow in a place with a strategic
defensive location or near significant mines or similar
natural resources.

A town’s population is centralized in an area surrounded by defensible walls. Its population is more
diverse than that of villages—during the time of the
last human empire, merchants and artisans of all races
mingled together in the towns and cities, whereas villages remained more homogeneous.


The vast majority of distinct settlements in the
D&D world are villages clustered around a larger
town or city. Farming villages help supply the town or
city population with food, in exchange for the goods
the farmers can’t produce themselves. Towns and
cities are the seats of the local nobles who govern the
surrounding area, who also carry the responsibility
for defending the villages from attack. Occasionally,
the local lord lives in a keep or fortress with no nearby
town or city.

✦ Population: Up to about 10,000.
✦ Government: Noble ruler in residence, with an appointed
lord mayor to oversee administration and an elected town
council representing the interests of the middle class.
✦ Defense: Sizable army of professional soldiers as well as
the noble’s personal soldiers.
✦ Commerce: Basic supplies are readily available, though
exotic goods and services are harder to find. Inns and
taverns support travelers.
✦ Organizations: Several temples might hold political as
well as spiritual authority, merchant guilds, some other

Cities are overgrown towns and function in the same
way. Their larger populations require more support
from both surrounding villages and trade routes, so
they’re rare. They typically appear in areas where
large expanses of fertile, arable land surround a
location that’s friendly to trade, almost always on a
navigable waterway.
Cities are walled like towns, and it’s possible to
identify the stages of a city’s growth from the expansion of the walls beyond the central core. These
internal walls naturally divide the city into wards,
which have their own representatives on the city
council and their own noble governors. In some
cities, shrinking populations since the fall of the great
empires have left wards abandoned and in ruin.
Cities with more than 25,000 people are extremely
rare in the current age, but they stand as monuments
of civilization and vital points of light in the D&D

✦ Population: Up to about 25,000.
✦ Government: Noble ruler in residence, with several
other nobles sharing responsibility for surrounding areas
and government functions. One such noble is the lord
mayor, who oversees the city administration. An elected
city council represents the middle class, and might hold
more power than the lord mayor. Other groups serve as
important power centers as well.
✦ Defense: Large army of professional soldiers, guards, and
town watch. Each noble in residence has at least a small
force of personal soldiers.
✦ Commerce: Almost any goods or services are readily
available. Many inns and taverns support travelers.
✦ Organizations: Many temples, guilds, and other
organizations, some of which hold significant power in city
C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d

15 3

4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 153

3/12/08 3:58:27 PM

In the absence of empires or large kingdoms, power
and authority in the D&D world are concentrated in
towns and cities. Here minor nobles cling to the titles
their families carried under past empires—dukes,
barons, earls, counts, the occasional prince, here and
there a self-styled king. These nobles hold authority
over the towns and cities where they live and the surrounding lands. They collect taxes from the populace,
which they use for public building projects, to pay
the soldiery, and support a comfortable lifestyle for
themselves (although nobles also have considerable
hereditary wealth). In exchange, they promise to protect their citizens from threats such as orc marauders,
hobgoblin armies, and roving human bandits.
The noble lords appoint officers to act as their
agents in villages, to supervise the collection of taxes
and serve as judges in disputes and criminal trials.
These reeves, sheriffs, or bailiffs are commoners native
to the villages they govern, chosen for their position
because they already claim the respect of their fellow
Within the towns and cities, the lords share authority (and administrative responsibility) with lesser
nobles, usually their own relatives, and also with representatives of the middle class. A lord mayor of noble
birth is appointed to head the town or city council,
and to perform the same administrative functions
that reeves do in villages. The council is made up of
representatives elected by the middle class of traders
and artisans. Only foolish nobles ignore the wishes
of their town councils, since the economic power of
the middle class is more important to the prosperity
of a town or city than the hereditary authority of the

When you draw a map for a settlement in your game, don’t
worry about the placement of every building.
For a village, sketch out the roads, including trade routes
leading beyond the village and local roads that connect
outlying farms to the village center. Note the location of
the village center and any important terrain features in the
area. If the characters visit specific places in the village, you
can mark those spots on your map.
For towns and cities, again, note major roads and
waterways as well as surrounding terrain. Outline the
walls, and mark the locations of features you know will
be important—the lord’s keep, significant temples, and
the like. For cities, add internal walls and think about
the personality of each ward. You might give the wards
names reflecting their personalities, which also identify the
kinds of trades that dominate the neighborhood (Tannery
Square, Temple Row), a geographical characteristic (Hilltop,
Riverside), or a dominant site (the Lords’ Quarter).

The larger a settlement, the more likely it is that
other individuals or organizations hold significant
power there as well. Even in a village, a popular individual—a wise elder or a well-liked farmer—can wield
more influence than the appointed reeve, and a wise
reeve avoids making an enemy of such a person. In
towns and cities, the same power might lie in the
hands of a prominent temple, a guild independent of
the council, or a single individual with magical power
to back up her influence.

Soldiers—both professional and militia—serve double
duty in most settlements. They carry the responsibility of defending the settlement from outside threats,
including bandits and raiders. They also keep order
within the settlement. The largest cities maintain
separate forces for these two purposes (a guard and a
watch). In many cities, the noble ruler also has a personal force of soldiers to maintain the security of the
keep in addition to those responsible for defending the
city walls. These soldiers come from noble families
The size of a professional soldiery depends on the
type of settlement as well as its population. If a village has full-time soldiers at all, they number no more
than perhaps twenty-five. A town or city might have as
little as one soldier for every hundred residents, or as
many as twice that in particularly dangerous or crimeridden areas.
Except in the largest cities, the watch is more adept
at handling disturbances than at investigating crime.
Inquisitives who specialize in solving mysteries are
rare. Instead, the watch commonly offers rewards for
solving mysteries or bringing criminals to justice—fine
opportunities for adventurers to prove themselves!

Even small villages give characters ready access to the
gear they need to pursue their adventures. Provisions,
tents and backpacks, and simple weapons are commonly available. Traveling merchants carry armor,
military weapons, and more specialized gear. Most
villages have inns that cater to travelers, where adventurers can get a hot meal and a bed, even if the quality
leaves much to be desired. When characters stop in
at a settlement to rest and restock their supplies, give
them a bit of local flavor, such as the name of the inn
where they spend the night, and move on with the
Even small villages rely heavily on trade with other
settlements, including larger towns and cities. Merchants pass through regularly, selling necessities and
luxuries to the villagers, and any good merchant has
far-reaching contacts across the region. When characters have magic items to sell, a traveling merchant is in

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 154

3/12/08 3:58:28 PM

The Magic Item Economy
Most of the time, characters find magic items on their
adventures that are above their level. These are exciting items, and the characters have a strong incentive
to keep these items and use them. As characters attain
higher levels, the items they find might replace items
they already have—the fighter finds a +3 flaming sword
and no longer wants his +2 magic sword.
When this happens, the characters ordinarily sell
those items—it’s slightly more beneficial to do that than
to use the Disenchant Magic Item ritual, because the
characters don’t have to pay the component cost. A
merchant, agent, or fence buys items from the character at one-fifth the items’ value, in the hope of selling
them at significant profit (usually, above the items’
value). Buyers are hard to find, but the profit to be
made makes it worth the merchant’s risk.
Characters can use the monetary treasure they
find, as well as the gold from selling items, to acquire
new magic items. They can’t make items above their
level, and can’t often afford items more than a few
levels above theirs. It’s to their benefit to use the
Enchant Magic Item ritual for items of their level
or lower, rather than buying these items from merchants, agents, or fences, because of the 10–40 percent
markup over items’ value that these sellers charge.

When they want items above their levels, they have to
go to merchants.
The game still works if you decide that magic items
can’t be bought and sold in your world. Characters
can rely entirely on rituals to duplicate the economy
of buying and selling without money changing hands.
The residuum they collect from disenchanting items
provides the expensive ritual components they need
for the enchanting ritual. If you want characters to rely
entirely on these rituals, remove the cost to perform
the Disenchant Magic Item ritual, making it just as
efficient as selling.
On the flip side, you can drive the characters to
markets instead of rituals by altering the prices they
pay for magic items. You can remove the random
markup, or even alter it to allow the possibility of finding items for sale below normal price. For example,
roll 1d6 as usual, but a 1 means the item is available
for 10 percent below the base price, a 2 means it’s
available for the base price, and 3–6 means a 10 percent to 40 percent markup. Items are readily available,
and sometimes characters can get a good deal.


town—or will be soon—to take it off their hands. The
same applies to exotic mundane goods as well: No one
in the village makes silk rope or has much use for it,
but merchants making their way between major cities
carry it all the time.
Traveling merchants are also a great way to introduce adventure hooks to the characters as they
conduct their business. Since they make their living
traversing roads that are not as safe as they used to be,
merchants hire competent guards to keep their goods
safe. They also carry news from town to town, including reports of situations that cry out for adventurers to
get involved.
These merchants can’t provide specialized services,
however. When the characters are in need of a library
or a dedicated sage, a trainer who can handle the griffon eggs they’ve found, or an architect to design their
castle, they’re better off going to a large city than looking in a village. These services are less important in
the economy of the game than magic items and other
goods, so you shouldn’t feel as though you have to compromise your common sense for the sake of game play.
Of course, it’s natural for characters to travel far
beyond their native villages as they pursue adventure.
When they’re in the City of Brass, they should be able
to buy even the most expensive magic items readily. If
it doesn’t interfere with the flow of your game, it’s fine
to expect that characters will travel to larger cities to
do business as they reach higher levels and deal with
larger sums of money.

Temples, guilds, secret societies, colleges, and orders
are important forces in the social order of any settlement. Occasionally, their influence stretches across
multiple cities, echoing the wide-ranging political
authority that crumbled with the fall of empires. Organizations can also play an important part in the lives
of player characters, acting as their patrons, allies,
or enemies just as individual nonplayer characters
do. When characters join these organizations, they
become a part of something larger than themselves,
which can give their adventures a context in the wider

Temples and religious orders are among the most
important and influential organizations in the world.
They’re likely to have direct influence on characters
who use the divine power source, even though clerics
and paladins operate as free agents, independent of
these hierarchies.
Though the worship of the pantheon of gods is universal, there are no worldwide hierarchies devoted to
these gods. A temple to Bahamut in one city is unconnected to Bahamut’s temple in the next city, with each
having different rites and differently nuanced interpretations of the god’s commands.
Most temples are dedicated to more than one deity,
and a temple where Bahamut’s altar is next to Moradin’s might paint a different picture of the Platinum
Dragon than a temple where he’s worshiped alongside
Erathis. In the first, his protective aspects might be
emphasized—he and Moradin stand together to shield
the community. Beside Erathis, he might be more of
C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 155

3/12/08 3:58:28 PM

a crusading god, conquering evil to help the spread of
In the Temple of the Celestial Mountain, for example, Bahamut, Moradin, and Kord share temple space
as they’re said to share a divine dominion. In village
temples, Bahamut’s altar stands alongside Moradin’s
and Pelor’s, and the rites ask the gods’ protection over
both village and crops. The Temple of the Bright City
is devoted to Pelor, Erathis, and Ioun, who all share
a dominion and an interest in the various aspects
of urban life and civilization. Wayside shrines built
along trade routes, by contrast, celebrate the gods
of the roads and wild places—Avandra, Melora, and
Sehanine. The Temple of the Fates worships the three
gods of destiny: the maiden Avandra, god of luck; the
matron Ioun, god of prophecy; and the crone, the
Raven Queen, who ultimately cuts the thread of each
person’s life. Eladrin temples (and some elven ones)
feature altars to Corellon and Sehanine—and a few
have bare altars where no sacrifice is offered, saving a
place for Lolth when she is ultimately reconciled to the
other gods of her family.
A temple in the D&D world doesn’t hold scheduled
worship services. Rather, the temple is always open
and constantly busy. Priests perform the daily rites
the gods require, each at a separate altar. Worshipers
bring children, ailing family members, and livestock
in for the priests’ blessings, and they bring their own
prayers and sacrifices to ask the gods’ favor. Worshipers and petitioners stand or kneel in large open spaces.
On holy days, crowds press in to fill every available
space, sometimes for the entire length of the day.
These are as much social events as religious ones,
and the words of the rites can be drowned out in the
hubbub of conversation.
Other organizations have a religious foundation,
too. Knightly orders dedicated to Bahamut or Bane,
colleges devoted to Ioun, civic organizations that honor
Erathis, travelers’ aid societies dedicated to Avandra,
craft guilds that invoke Moradin’s name, and secret
societies of assassins dedicated to Zehir all wield influence in the cities and larger towns of the world.

Other Organizations
Organizations don’t always have religious underpinnings, of course. Knightly orders are formed with
noble patronage. Like-minded scholars with interests
in related subjects gather in colleges. Inns in different towns create informal networks and aid societies
to help travelers. Merchants and artisans form guilds
to protect their interests in city governments and
supervise the training of apprentices. Criminal organizations of all kinds operate in the shadows and alleys
of settlements.
Although people of the wizard class are not
common, every large city has associations for practitioners of arcane rituals, mages who can manage

simple spells, and scholars with an interest in magical
subjects as well as true wizards. These organizations
can be important resources for wizard and warlock
characters, a place to find a mentor or purchase rituals. They represent specific magical traditions, which
might be reflected in unique spells, rituals, feats, and
paragon paths. The Spiral Tower is an example—a religious organization dedicated to Corellon that teaches a
fey tradition of arcane magic and guides wizard characters into a specific paragon path (described in the
Player’s Handbook). The Order of the Golden Wyvern is
a loose association of spellcasters who use their talents
in military pursuits. Golden Wyvern wizards learn the
battle mage paragon path and take feats such as Spell
Military organizations can support any character,
particularly characters who use the martial power
source—fighters, warlords, rangers, and rogues. These
characters might be veterans of a city’s guard or watch,
a noble’s personal retinue, or a mercenary company
that travels from city to city as its services are needed.
Knightly orders, too, charge their members to travel
the countryside in pursuit of the orders’ goals, which
squares nicely with the adventuring life.
Criminal gangs, guilds, cults, and secret societies
are prominent enemies, particularly in campaigns
centered in urban areas. Characters might pursue
a single villain and bring her to justice, only to find
themselves the target of assassins from the villain’s
criminal guild. Suddenly, they’re involved in a bigger
adventure than they thought, dealing with a criminal
underground that considers them deadly enemies.

A feature of major cities that helps cement their important
place in the economy of the fantasy world is the presence
of permanent teleportation circles. Rituals such as Linked
Portal and Planar Portal rely on these circles, which are
commonly found in temples (particularly those dedicated
to Ioun, Avandra, or Erathis), universities, the headquarters
of arcane organizations, and prominent civic locations.
However, since every teleportation circle is a possible
means of entry into a city, they’re typically guarded by both
military and magical protection.
As you design a fantasy city, think about what teleportation circles it might contain and which ones characters who
learn Linked Portal are likely to know about. If characters
commonly return to their home base city by means of a
teleportation circle, you can use that circle as a hook for
plot developments in your campaign. What do the characters do if they arrive in a teleportation circle and find all the
familiar wards disabled and guards lying in pools of blood?
What if their arrival interrupts an argument between two
feuding priests at the Temple of the Bright City?

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 156

3/12/08 3:58:29 PM


Fantastic Settlements


In the magical world of the D&D game, most settlements follow the patterns described above. But
fantastic exceptions abound, cities where magic
or monsters play a significant role in government,
defense, commerce, or organizations. Different races
might also have different settlements from those
described above, and you can use these variations to
inject a fantastic flavor into the settlements your players visit.
Rather than a noble lord who’s nothing more than
a titled aristocrat, a town or city might be ruled by a
wizard, perhaps a retired adventurer, whose magical
power makes a personal retinue of soldiers unnecessary. Such a settlement might feature easily accessible
rituals and minor magic items—or the wizard might
severely restrict magic that could challenge his
A cleric, paladin, angel, or demigod might rule a
city as a theocracy, where religious commandments
hold the same status as laws. Depending on the ruler,
a theocracy can be a very good or a very bad place to
live or visit.
What happens when a dragon decides to take over
a city? Or a mind flayer secretly controls the baron,
steering the city toward its own mysterious purposes?
What if the ruler is a lich or vampire who installs
undead in positions of power?
As those examples suggest, not every settlement
in the D&D world is a point of light in the darkness—
some are part of the darkness. Hobgoblins and drow
are just as civilized as humans, but their cities are
nightmarish tyrannies where other races are enslaved.
Even a mundane town can be a dark and dangerous
place, when the ruler is a devotee of Asmodeus or even
just an inflexible autocrat. A visit to these cities is an
adventure in itself, and you might build a whole campaign that puts the characters in the role of criminals
or rebels in such a place, freeing slaves and working to
overthrow the tyrannical ruler.
Even in a fantastic settlement, there shouldn’t be
many nonplayer characters with classes from the
Player’s Handbook. The player characters are exceptional, in part because they have these classes and
gain levels through their adventuring. Most citizens
are 1st-level minions or other low-level examples of
their races drawn from the Monster Manual or created
using the design guidelines in Chapter 10. The priests
in a temple are ordinary people who might have some
mastery of rituals—and might not. A hedge wizard
might be the human mage from the Monster Manual,
with simple spells and rituals. Reserve classes for
exceptional and important NPCs, particularly patrons
and villains.

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 157

3/12/08 3:58:29 PM

Uncounted miles stretch between the civilized areas of
the world, wild and dangerous. When characters leave
the relative safety of towns and cities, they quickly
enter a world of monsters and raiders, where the land
can be actively hostile. Even if they’re traversing only a
few miles between a village and a nearby dungeon, the
wilderness is a force to be reckoned with.
Wilderness areas fall into three broad categories.
Formerly settled regions have been reclaimed by the
forces of nature—overgrown with forest, swallowed
into swamp, or worn into rubble by desert wind and
scouring sand. Once-busy roadways are now nothing
but fragments of brick littering the ground. Even in
the peak of the great empires of the past, the lands
between cities were wild, and only frequent patrols
kept trade routes safe. Now those lands are full of monster-haunted ruins, including the crumbled remains
of those ancient cities. Quests might lead adventurers
to these ruins in search of lost libraries or artifacts,
investigating a rumor of a surviving settlement buried
in the wilderness, or looking for treasure.
Other regions have never been settled. These
consist primarily of inhospitable terrain—deserts,
mountains, and frozen tundra, expanses of jungle and
wide swamps. These areas hold no ruins from the
ancient empires of the world, except the occasional
hint of a short-lived colony that failed to tame the wilderness around it. These regions hold more fantastic
terrain—places where magic gathers in pools, or where
parts of the Feywild, the Shadowfell, or the Elemental
Chaos overlap with the world and alter nature with
their proximity. Adventurers might find a foundry
built by fire archons or a snow-capped mountain torn
from its roots and suspended in the air. Their quests
might lead them to seek a font of magical power on
a forbidding peak or a city supposed to appear in the
desert once every century.
Finally, even in these days of fallen empires, colonists and pioneers fight back the wilderness on the
frontier, hoping to spread the light of civilization and
found new kingdoms and empires. The world’s largest city-states establish colonies at the edge of their
sphere of influence, and brave and hardy souls build
hardscrabble villages near sources of minerals or other
resources. Devotees of Erathis seek to tame the wilderness, and followers of Avandra roam in search of new
frontiers. These tiny outposts of civilization barely
shed a glimmer of light into the surrounding wilderness, but they can be home bases for adventurers who
have reason to venture into the wilds around them. A
city-state might send characters on a quest to find or
save a colony that has broken contact, or characters
who serve Erathis might undertake a quest to found a
colony of their own.

As characters adventure in the wilderness, the
weather can be one of the most significant threats
they face. It might be as simple as drizzling rain that
obscures their foes or gusting wind that hampers
movement in combat. Blinding snow can complicate
a climb through a mountain pass, or a living storm
might attack at random as they scramble for cover.
These examples show four ways you might use weather
in a wilderness adventure.
Rain, fog, or falling snow creates obscured terrain
(see page 61). It might also create difficult terrain on
the ground. Use these weather features as you would
other kinds of terrain when building encounters.
Gusting wind might be an obstacle hazard in an
encounter (see page 86). In a narrow mountain pass,
the wind might be a constant force that acts like a current in water. Or it might gust every few rounds (roll
1d4 each round, with a 4 indicating a gust).
Blinding snow in a treacherous mountain pass complicates a skill challenge encounter. It might force PCs
to make Endurance checks every hour, or Acrobatics
checks to avoid slipping and taking damage.
A living storm is a blaster trap, possibly a solo trap
that constitutes an encounter. It attacks every round,
with bolts of lightning, gusts of wind, or blasts of thunder. In open terrain, the PCs can’t take cover—and they
might find that the storm turns cover where it is available into an additional hazard, blasting tree branches
or rock from an overhang down onto them where they
hide. Countermeasures could include Nature checks
to predict and avoid its attacks. Defenders can use
the aid another action to shelter less hardy characters
from the storm’s ef-fects, granting a bonus to those
characters’ defenses against the storm’s attacks.
Weather can also just be a narrative detail you use
to set the atmosphere of your adventure or an encounter. It’s an important part of your description—your
world feels more real if the weather changes and the
seasons change. But the weather is what you want and
need it to be at any given time, and it doesn’t need to
follow the rules of real-world meteorology.

Environmental Dangers
Wilderness adventures pose another sort of risk: the
environment itself. Polar adventurers risk frostbite
and ex-posure, desert explorers face heat stroke, and
mountaineers must contend with the perils of high
In the D&D world, cataclysmic magical events
can render entire regions hostile. The Lands of the
Screaming Dead sap the life force of those who cross
its borders, and the ash from the volcanic Mount

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 158

3/12/08 3:58:31 PM


Skuldan, stoked by fire titans, can choke the last living
breath from even a hardy adventurer.
The Endurance skill determines how well a character can withstand such dangers. Every eight hours
within an area of environmental danger, the character
must succeed on an Endurance check. Each time a
character fails, he loses one healing surge. If a character has no healing surges left when he fails a check, he
loses hit points equal to his level.
The adventure sets the DC for the Endurance
check. Here are some useful benchmarks. When
designing your own environmental dangers, rely on
the Difficulty Class and Damage by Level table (page
42) and your common sense.


Severe weather
High altitude
Extreme altitude
Frigid cold
Stifling heat
Pervasive smoke or ash
Pervasive necromantic energy

Endurance DC

If a character takes an extended rest while in an area
of environmental danger, he recovers healing surges
lost in combat but not those lost from failed Endurance
checks. During the six hours that include extended
rest, the character gets a +2 bonus to Endurance
checks because he’s resting and not exerting himself.
If two or more environmental dangers apply at
the same time (such as climbing a mountain in a

snowstorm), characters make Endurance checks
against each danger.

Starvation, Thirst, and
When deprived of food, water, or air, the rule of three
applies. An adventurer can handle three weeks without food, three days without water, and three minutes
without air outside of strenuous situations. After that,
such deprivation is a significant test of a PCs’ stamina.
At the end of the time period (three weeks, three
days, or three minutes), the character must succeed on
a DC 20 Endurance check. Success buys the character
another day (if hungry or thirsty), or round (if unable
to breathe). Then the check is repeated at DC 25, then
at DC 30, and so on.
When a character fails the check, he loses one
healing surge and must continue to make checks. A
character without healing surges who fails a check
takes damage equal to his level.
In strenuous situations, such as combat, going without air is much harder. A character holding his breath
during underwater combat, for example, must make
a DC 20 Endurance check at the end of his turn in a
round where he takes damage.
As with environmental dangers, a character cannot
regain healing surges lost to starvation, thirst, or suffocation until he eats a meal, drinks, or gains access to
air again, respectively.
A character with 0 or fewer hit points who continues to suffer from one of these effects keeps taking
damage as described above until he dies or is rescued.

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 159

3/12/08 3:58:32 PM

The world occupies a special place at the center of
the universe. It’s the middle ground where the conflicts between gods and primordials, and among the
gods themselves, play out through their servants both
mortal and immortal. But other planes of existence
surround the world, nearby dimensions where some
power sources are said to originate and powerful creatures reside, including demons, devils, and the gods.
Before the world existed, the universe was divided
into two parts: the Astral Sea and the Elemental
Chaos. Some legends say that those two were once one
realm, but even the gods can’t know that for certain,
for they had their origin in the Astral Sea.

The Astral Sea
The Astral Sea floats above the world, an ocean of
silvery liquid with the stars visible beneath the shallow sea. Sheets of shimmering starlight like gossamer
veils part to reveal the dominions, the homes of the
gods, like islands floating in the Astral Sea. Not all the
gods live in dominions—the Raven Queen’s palace of
Letherna stands in the Shadowfell, and Lolth’s home,
the Demonweb Pits, is located in the Abyss. Avandra,
Melora, and Torog wander the world, and both Sehanine and Vecna wander the whole cosmos.
Arvandor is a realm of natural beauty and arcane
energy that echoes the Feywild. It’s the home of Corellon and sometimes of Sehanine. Arvandor seems to be
as much a part of the Feywild as of the Astral Sea, and
travelers claim to have reached it through both planes.
The Bright City of Hestavar, as its title suggests, is a
vast metropolis where Erathis, Ioun, and Pelor make
their homes. Powerful residents of all the planes make
their way to the Bright City to buy and sell exotic
Tytherion, called the Endless Night, is the dark
domain that Tiamat and Zehir share. No light can
pierce its darkest depths, and both serpents and
dragons haunt its otherworldly wilderness.
The Iron Fortress of Chernoggar is Bane’s stronghold in the Astral Sea. As its name suggests, it’s a
mighty stronghold of rust-pitted iron, said to be
impregnable to attack. Even so, Gruumsh makes his

Somewhere between the planes, neither adrift in the
Astral Sea nor rooted in the Elemental Chaos, spins the
City of Doors, the bustling metropolis of Sigil. Planar trade
flows freely through its streets, facilitated by a bewildering
number of portals leading to and from every known corner
of the universe—and all the corners yet to be explored. The
ruler of the City of Doors is the enigmatic Lady of Pain,
whose nature is the subject of endless speculation.

home on an eternal battlefield outside the fortress’s
walls, determined to raze it to the ground one day.
Immortal warriors fight and die on both sides of this
conflict, returning to life with every nightfall.
Celestia is the heavenly realm of Bahamut and
Moradin. Kord also spends a good deal of time on
its mountainous slopes because of an old friendship
with the other gods, but his tempestuous nature keeps
him from calling it home. Upon parting a veil to enter
Celestia, a traveler arrives on the lower reaches of a
great mountain. Behind him, the mountains disappear
into silvery mist far below.
The Nine Hells is the home of Asmodeus and the
devils. This plane is a dark, fiery world of continentsized caverns ruled by warring princelings, though all
are ultimately under the iron fist of Asmodeus.

The Elemental Chaos and
the Abyss
At the foundation of the world, the Elemental Chaos
churns like an ever-changing tempest of clashing elements—fire and lightning, earth and water, whirlwinds
and living thunder. Just as the gods originated in the
Astral Sea, the first inhabitants of the Elemental Chaos
were the primordials, creatures of raw elemental
power. They shaped the world from the raw material
of the Elemental Chaos, and if they had their way, the
world would be torn back down and returned to raw
materials. The gods have given the world permanence
utterly alien to the primordials’ nature.
The Elemental Chaos approximates a level plane on
which travelers can move, but the landscape is broken
up by rivers of lightning, seas of fire, floating earthbergs, ice mountains, and other formations of raw
elemental forces. However, it is possible to make one’s
way slowly down into lower layers of the Elemental
Chaos. At its bottom, it turns into a swirling maelstrom
that grows darker and deadlier as it descends.
At the bottom of that maelstrom is the Abyss,
the home of demons. Tharizdun, the Chained God,
planted a shard of pure evil in the heart of the Elemental Chaos before the world was finished, and the gods
imprisoned him for this act of blasphemy. (This story
is told in more detail in the “Demon” entry of the Monster Manual.) The Abyss is as entropic as the Elemental
Chaos where it was planted, but it is actively malevolent, where the rest of the Elemental Chaos is simply

The World and its Echoes
The world has no proper name, but it bears a wide
variety of prosaic and poetic names among those
people who ever find need to call it anything but “the
world.” It’s the creation, the middle world, the natural
world, the created world, or even the First Work.

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 160

3/12/08 3:58:34 PM


places of deep shadow, sometimes spilling out into the
world, and other times drawing hapless travelers into
its dark embrace. It is not wholly evil, but everything
in the Shadowfell has its dark and sinister side. When
mortal creatures die, their spirits travel first to the
Shadowfell before moving on to their final fate.
The Feywild is an enchanted reflection of the
world. Arcane energy flows through it like streams of
crystal water. Its beauty and majesty is unparalleled
in the world, and every creature of the wild is imbued
with a measure of fantastic power.


The primordials formed the world from the raw
materials of the Elemental Chaos. Looking down on
this work from the Astral Sea, the gods were fascinated with the world. Creatures of thought and ideal,
the gods saw endless room for improvement in the
primordials’ work, and their imaginings took form and
substance from the abundance of creation-stuff still
drifting in the cosmos. Life spread across the face of
the world, the churning elements resolved into oceans
and landmasses, diffuse light became a sun and moon
and stars. The gods drew astral essence and mixed
it with the tiniest bits of creation-stuff to create mortals to populate the world and worship them. Elves,
dwarves, humans, and others appeared in this period
of spontaneous creation. Resentful of the gods’ meddling in their work, the primordials began a war that
shook the universe, but the gods emerged victorious
and the world remains as they have shaped it.
As the world took shape, the primordials found
some pieces too vivid and bright, and hurled them
away. They found other pieces too murky and dark,
and flung them away as well. These discarded bits of
creation clustered and merged, and formed together in
echoes of the shaping of the world. As the gods joined
in the act of creation, more ripples spread out into the
Feywild and the Shadowfell, bringing creatures to
life there as echoes of the world’s mortals. Thus the
world was born with two siblings: the bright
Feywild and the dark Shadowfell.
The Shadowfell is a dark echo of
the world. It touches the world in

And Beyond
Scholars claim that the universe described here is
not all there is—that something else exists beyond the
Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos. Evidence for this
idea appears in the form of the most alien creatures
known, aberrant monsters such as the aboleth and gibbering orb. These creatures don’t seem to be a part of
the world or any known realm, and where they live in
the world, reality alters around them. This fact has led
sages to postulate the existence of a place they call the
Far Realm, a place where the laws of reality work differently than in the known universe.
In addition, the souls of the dead—though they
travel first to the Shadowfell—pass beyond it after a
time. Some souls are claimed by the gods and
carried to the divine dominions, but
others pass to another realm beyond
the knowledge of any living being.

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 161

3/12/08 3:58:35 PM

The deities of the D&D world are powerful but not
omnipotent, knowledgeable but not omniscient, widely
traveled but not omnipresent. They alone of all creatures in the universe consist only of astral essence. The
gods are creatures of thought and ideal, not bound by
the same limitations as beings of flesh.
Because of their astral nature, the gods can perform
deeds that physical creatures can’t. They can appear
in the minds of other creatures, speaking to them in
dreams or visions, without being present in physical
form. They can appear in multiple places at once. They
can listen to the prayers of their followers (but they
don’t always). But they can also make physical forms
for themselves with a moment’s effort, and they do
when the need arises—when presumptuous epic-level
mortal adventurers dare to challenge them in their
own dominions, for example. In these forms, they can
fight and be fought, and they can suffer terrible consequences as a result. However, to destroy a god requires
more than merely striking its physical form down with
spell or sword. Gods have killed other gods (Asmodeus
being the first to do so), and the primordials killed
many gods during their great war. For a mortal to
accomplish this deed would require rituals of awesome power to bind a god to its physical form—and
then a truly epic battle to defeat that form.

Deity Alignment
Areas of Influence
Power, domination, tyranny
Change, luck, trade, travel
Lawful good
Justice, honor, nobility,
War, conquest
Arcane magic, spring,
beauty, the arts
Civilization, invention, laws
Chaotic evil
Turmoil, destruction
Knowledge, prophecy, skill
Storms, strength, battle
Chaotic evil
Spiders, shadows, lies
Wilderness, sea
Lawful good
Creation, artisans, family
Sun, summer, agriculture,
Raven Queen Unaligned
Death, fate, winter
Trickery, moon, love,
Chaotic evil
Annihilation, madness
Wealth, greed, vengeance
Underdark, imprisonment
Undeath, secrets
Darkness, poison, serpents

The most powerful servants of the gods are their
exarchs. Some exarchs are angels whose faithful service has earned them this exalted status. Others were
once mortal servants who won the station through
their mighty deeds. Asmodeus has devils as exarchs,
and both Bahamut and Tiamat have granted that
status to powerful dragons. Every exarch is a unique
example of its kind, empowered with capabilities far
beyond those of other angels, mortals, or monsters.

Malign Gods
The good, lawful good, and unaligned gods are
described in the Player’s Handbook. The evil and chaotic evil gods aren’t detailed there, because the game
assumes that player characters view these gods and
their servants as enemies. The villains in your campaign, though, can be servants of these malign gods.

Asmodeus is the evil god of tyranny and domination. He rules the Nine Hells with an iron fist and a
silver tongue. Aside from devils, evil creatures such as
rakshasas pay him homage, and evil tieflings and warlocks are drawn to his dark cults. His rules are strict
and his punishments harsh:
✦ Seek power over others, that you might rule with
strength as the Lord of Hell does.
✦ Repay evil with evil. If others are kind to you,
exploit their weakness for your own gain.
✦ Show neither pity nor mercy to those who are
caught underfoot as you climb your way to power.
The weak do not deserve compassion.

Bane is the evil god of war and conquest. Militaristic
nations of humans and goblins serve him and conquer
in his name. Evil fighters and paladins serve him. He
commands his worshipers to:
✦ Never allow your fear to gain mastery over you, but
drive it into the hearts of your foes.
✦ Punish insubordination and disorder.
✦ Hone your combat skills to perfection, whether you
are a mighty general or a lone mercenary.

Gruumsh is the chaotic evil god of destruction, lord of
marauding barbarian hordes. Where Bane commands
conquest, Gruumsh exhorts his followers to slaughter
and pillage. Orcs are his fervent followers, and they
bear a particular hatred for elves and eladrin because

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 162

3/12/08 3:58:37 PM

✦ Conquer and destroy.
✦ Let your strength crush the weak.
✦ Do as you will, and let no one stop you.

Lolth is the chaotic evil god of shadow, lies, and spiders. Scheming and treachery are her commands, and
her priests are a constant force of disruption in the
otherwise stable society of the evil drow. Though she is
properly a god and not a demon, she is called Demon
Queen of Spiders. She demands that her followers:
✦ Do whatever it takes to gain and hold power.
✦ Rely on stealth and slander in preference to outright
✦ Seek the death of elves and eladrin at every

Tharizdun is the chaotic evil god who created the
Abyss. He is not mentioned in the Player’s Handbook or
named in the Monster Manual, because the fact of his
existence is not widely known. A few scattered cults
of demented followers revere him, calling him the
Chained God or the Elder Elemental Eye. Tharizdun
doesn’t speak to his followers, so his commands are
unknown, but his cults teach their members to:
✦ Channel power to the Chained God, so he can
break his chains.

torturers pray to him in deep caves and cellars, and
creatures of the Underdark revere him as well. He
teaches his worshipers to:
✦ Seek out and revere the deep places beneath the
✦ Delight in the giving of pain, and consider pain you
receive as homage to Torog.
✦ Bind tightly what is in your charge, and restrain
those who wander free.

Vecna is the evil god of undead, necromancy, and
secrets. He rules that which is not meant to be known
and that which people wish to keep secret. Evil
spellcasters and conspirators pay him homage. He
commands them to:
✦ Never reveal all you know.
✦ Find the seed of darkness in your heart and nourish
it; find it in others and exploit it to your advantage.
✦ Oppose the followers of all other deities so that
Vecna alone can rule the world.

Zehir is the evil god of darkness, poison, and assassins.
Snakes are his favored creation, and the yuan-ti revere
him above all other gods, offering sacrifice to him in
pits full of writhing serpents. He urges his followers to:
✦ Hide under the cloak of night, that your deeds
might be kept in secret.

✦ Retrieve lost relics and shrines to the Chained God.

✦ Kill in Zehir’s name and offer each murder as a

✦ Pursue the obliteration of the world, in anticipation
of the Chained God’s liberation.

✦ Delight in poison, and surround yourself with


Divine Evil

Tiamat is the evil god of wealth, greed, and envy. She
is the patron of chromatic dragons and those whose
lust for wealth overrides any other goal or concern.
She commands her followers to:

Evil and chaotic evil deities have clerics and paladins
just as other gods do. However, the powers of those
classes, as presented in the Player’s Handbook, are
strongly slanted toward good and lawful good characters. Players might find it jarring to fight a paladin of
Zehir whose weapon erupts with radiant light.
You can alter the nature of powers without changing their basic effects, making them feel more
appropriate for the servants of evil gods: changing
the damage type of a prayer, for instance, so that evil
clerics and paladins deal necrotic damage instead of
radiant damage. When a prayer would blind its target
with holy light, it might instead shroud a character’s
eyes with clinging darkness. Holy fire consuming a
foe with ongoing fire damage might become a coating
of acidic slime that eats away at the flesh, or a purple
hellfire with identical effects.

✦ Hoard wealth, acquiring much and spending little.
Wealth is its own reward.
✦ Forgive no slight and leave no wrong unpunished.
✦ Take what you desire from others. Those who lack
the strength to defend their possessions are not
worthy to own them.


L E E M OY E R (9)


Corellon put out one of Gruumsh’s eyes. The One-Eyed
God gives simple orders to his followers:

Torog is the evil god of the Underdark, patron of jailers
and torturers. Common superstition holds that if his
name is spoken, the King that Crawls burrows up from
below and drags the hapless speaker underground to
an eternity of imprisonment and torture. Jailers and

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d

16 3

4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 163

3/12/08 3:58:39 PM

Artifacts are unique, named magic items whose creation or existence can’t be explained by the normal
laws of magic. Unlike common magic items, artifacts
are an essential part of the world’s weave, a piece of
the story of the universe.
Artifacts have a level but no price—they can’t be
bought or crafted, and their temporary nature ensures
that they don’t have a long-term impact on a character’s
total wealth. As with normal magic items, an artifact’s
level measures the potency of its properties and
powers, but artifacts break the usual magic item rules.
An artifact can’t be created, disenchanted, or
destroyed by any of the normal means available for
other magic items. In fact, the characters’ access to
artifacts (and even their retention of recovered artifacts) is entirely within your control. A character
can quest after a particular artifact whose existence
is known or suspected, but even then the character
acquires an artifact only if the DM says so.
Similarly, a character can research a specific
method to destroy a known artifact, if destroying it
fits with your plans for the campaign. Destroying an
artifact should require an extraordinary effort—artifacts are normally immune to all forms of damage or
unwanted alterations to their form—and each artifact
has a unique means of destroying it. For instance, you
might decide that a character can destroy the Eye of
Vecna by hurling himself (with the Eye implanted in
his skull) into the Rift of Pyradon, a fiery chasm in
the depths of the Elemental Chaos. The Hand of Vecna,
though, might survive that fate, requiring instead that
its owner sever it from his arm with the sword of the
same dead god whose skull crowns the Wand of Orcus.

Artifact Use Limits
Artifacts do not count as magic items when it comes
to using their daily powers. In other words, the use of
an artifact’s daily power does not cost you the use of a
magic item’s daily power and does not count toward
that limit.

Artifact Behavior
Artifacts are sentient—although they’re not necessarily
communicative—and they have their own motivations.
In many ways, they function like nonplayer characters.
An artifact cooperates with its owner as long as doing
so fits with the artifact’s goals and nature.
Each artifact’s description contains a list of its goals
and roleplaying notes for its personality. Some artifacts
are malevolent and seek to corrupt their wielders,
whereas others push the wielder to great acts of heroism.
What’s more, an artifact’s powers change depending on its attitude or connection to its current owner.

When its wielder performs actions in concert with its
goals, an artifact becomes more powerful, but when
the wielder acts against the artifact’s wishes, its power
diminishes. The artifact’s mindset is measured by a
concordance score.

An artifact’s concordance score measures the artifact’s
attitude toward its wielder. The scale ranges from 0
(angered) to 20 (pleased).
When a character takes possession of an artifact,
it starts with a concordance of 5. (The owner’s race,
class, or other characteristics might adjust this starting
concordance.) Various actions and events increase or
decrease this score as long as the character possesses
the artifact. When the artifact is pleased with its
wielder’s actions, its concordance goes up. When the
wielder acts contrary to the artifact’s desires, its concordance decreases.
The wielder knows of the factors that alter the
concordance—it’s in the artifact’s best interests to communicate its desires and expectations. But keep the
artifact’s concordance score a secret, telling the player
only if the artifact’s powers or properties change. The
player shouldn’t ever know exactly how close the artifact is to changing its attitude.

0 or lower

Artifact’s Attitude

Moving On
Whatever their nature, all artifacts share one
behavioral trait in common: They move on. When a
character acquires the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords, she
instinctively realizes that, as with all the heroes and
villains before her who have held the artifact, her ownership will be temporary.
Every artifact has unique goals. When a wielder has
advanced the artifact’s goals or proven to be a hopeless
case, the artifact moves on. For a few levels, make the
artifact’s intentions part of your story line and the PCs’
possible quest. Consider the artifact’s probable exit
points before you allow a character to gain possession
of an artifact.

Artifacts are not legal for use in RPGA events unless the
event grants the use of the artifact. If you gain the use of
an artifact during an RPGA event, the artifact automatically
“moves on” at the end of the adventure; you cannot keep
it for a future event.

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 164

3/13/08 3:52:29 PM

an Artifact
More than any other magic item, an artifact is a part of
the world—its story stretches into the history and legends of the ancient past and possibly into the distant
future as well. This chapter describes four artifacts
by way of example, and future supplements and campaign guides include more. To understand an artifact
and its place in your world, consider the following.
1: What is it and what does it want? Every artifact has a personality and goals. You don’t need to
come up with an exhaustive history, especially if the
players are unlikely to learn that history during the
course of the game. But consider how the artifact communicates and what it says, treating it like a nonplayer
character with all the quirks and breadth of possibility
that your other NPCs possess.
2: Concordance modifiers. Every artifact has one
to three positive modifiers and one to three negative
modifiers that match the artifact’s personality and
goals. Every artifact’s concordance increases by 1d10
when its wielder gains a level. Other positive modifiers might include performing a quest on behalf of a
specific group or individual (a religion or other organization, the heir of a specific lineage, or the like), or

killing a specific kind of enemy. Negative modifiers
can include any behavior the artifact disapproves of,
refusing its commands, or introducing it to someone
the artifact thinks would be a better wielder.
3: Attach effects to each attitude. Artifacts typically have properties and powers that function the
same way no matter what its concordance with its
wielder is. These are comparable with other magic
items of the artifact’s level—a similar enhancement
bonus (in the case of an artifact weapon, armor, or
amulet), and other powers and properties in line with
the character’s powers.
An artifact’s greatest powers are granted only
to a wielder the artifact trusts. As the concordance
between an artifact and its owner improves, the
artifact grows more powerful. Its greater powers can
exceed even the character’s most potent abilities,
though its best power is rarely more than five levels
above the character’s level.
On the other hand, when an artifact’s attitude worsens, it grows less powerful. Its powers or properties are
reduced in potency, it applies penalties that encourage
(or discourage) particular behaviors, or it actively seeks
to harm to its wielder or his allies.
A wielder can always utilize the standard powers
of an artifact (unless specifically told otherwise by the
artifact’s attitude). The powers granted by an artifact’s
attitude, however, are only available while the artifact
possesses the appropriate concordance score or higher.


As a rule of thumb, plan for an artifact to remain in
a character’s possession for somewhere between one
and three levels of play. You can make exceptions, of
course, but this is about the right amount of time to
allow a specific artifact to play a role in your campaign.
An artifact moves on when you decide it does. A
particularly mighty quest might provide a great finale
for the artifact’s presence—perhaps it must be sacrificed
to complete the quest, or the final act of slaying the evil
champion drains the artifact of its power, or the artifact just decides that it has other places to be and other
things to do. Of course, not all exit points are heroic—a
villain might steal the artifact for his own use, or the
artifact’s evil might move the characters to seek its
When an artifact decides to leave, it moves on in
whatever manner is appropriate to the artifact, its
current attitude, and the story of your campaign. A
benevolent artifact, such as the Axe of the Dwarvish
Lords, typically chooses a quiet time to take its leave.
If its attitude is positive, it waits until the next time
its wielder gains a level, wishing the character a fond
farewell and good fortune in future adventures. If its
attitude is negative, it disappears at the end of the current encounter, communicating its disappointment in
its wielder as it departs.
A malevolent artifact such as the Eye of Vecna has
no compunctions about leaving its owner at the most
inopportune moment (for instance, ripping itself from
the character’s eye socket during a battle).

The Axe of the
Dwarvish Lords
The Axe is appropriate for epic-level characters.

Axe of the Dwarvish Lords

Epic Level

One of five tools given to the first dwarves by Moradin, the Axe of
the Dwarvish Lords appears in times of great crisis—often in the
hands of a champion destined to save the dwarf people.
The Axe of the Dwarvish Lords is a +5 thundering greataxe with
the following properties and powers.
Enhancement: Attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +5d6 damage, or +5d10 damage against creatures
larger than Medium size
Property: This weapon deals an extra 2d10 damage against
creatures larger than Medium size.
Property: You can throw the Axe as a heavy thrown weapon
(range 5/10). It returns to your hand after being thrown as
normal for a magic thrown weapon.
Property: You can speak and understand the Dwarven
language and read the Davek script.
Power (Daily ✦ Divine, Healing): Standard Action. You can
use death ward (paladin 16).
Power (Daily): Free Action. You can use this power when you
hit an enemy with the Axe. The enemy is knocked prone.
That enemy’s space, and all squares within 2 squares of the
enemy, crack and fracture into rubble and become difficult
terrain until the end of the encounter. You and your allies
can move through this terrain as if it were normal.
C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 165

3/13/08 3:52:42 PM

✦ Help the dwarves
flourish in keeping
with their ancient
✦ Give goblins and
(especially) giants the
deaths they so richly
✦ Become an inspiration to honorable
people everywhere.

the Axe of
the Dwarvish
The Axe of the Dwarvish
Lords is taciturn—even
by the standards of sentient weapons from the
mists of ancient history. It communicates in gruff commands only its bearer can hear. It urges its bearer to
battle any giants encountered, becoming sullen when
refused this honor.

Starting score
Owner gains a level
Owner is a dwarf
Owner completes a quest on behalf of dwarf leaders
Owner kills a giant (maximum 1/day)
Owner or an ally attacks a dwarf (max. 1/encounter)
Owner disobeys a directive from dwarf leaders

Pleased (16–20)
“A thousand dwarf ancestors guide the path of this blade.
I’m just one in an unbroken line of champions.”
The Axe is clearly in tune with its wielder at this
point, and together they’re doing the will of the
The Axe’s enhancement bonus increases to +6.
Critical: +6d6 damage, or +6d10 damage against creatures
larger than Medium size
Property: This weapon deals an extra 3d10 damage against
creatures larger than Medium size.
Power (Daily): Minor Action. You call forth an aura of
thunder (aura 1) that lasts until the end of your next turn.
Any enemy that starts its turn within the aura takes 15
thunder damage and is knocked prone.
Special: An exarch or angel in the service of Moradin might
occasionally emerge from the Axe to give you prophetic
guidance or send you on a quest. It won’t fight for you.

Satisfied (12–15)
“Quail in fear, giants! This Axe has spilled the blood of your
savage ancestors.”
The wielder has proved to be a worthy representative
of the dwarves, and the Axe does its wielder’s bidding
as long as the bearer remains worthy of its trust.
Power (Daily): Minor Action. You can heal yourself, recovering
hit points as if you spent a healing surge.

Normal (5–11)
“The Axe asks for my fealty to the dwarves.”
The Axe is reserved and cautious with a new wielder
until the character proves his worth and dedication.

Unsatisfied (1–4)
“I’m disappointing the Axe—and the dwarves.”
The wielder is fighting dwarves or disobeying their
legitimate leaders, and the Axe is not pleased. If the
wielder doesn’t change his ways, the Axe soon leaves.
Special: You take a –2 penalty to attack rolls and damage rolls
against any creatures other than goblins or giants. This
applies whether you are using or even holding the Axe.

Angered (0 or lower)
“I have failed it—the Axe is not pleased.”
The wielder is not meeting the Axe’s expectations,
and it will not remain in his possession for long.
The Axe’s enhancement bonus drops to +4.
Critical: +4d6 damage, or +4d10 damage against creatures
larger than Medium size
Property: This weapon deals an extra 2d10 damage against
creatures larger than Medium size.
Special: You take a –5 penalty to attack rolls and damage rolls
against any creatures other than goblins or giants. This
applies regardless if you are using or even holding the Axe.

Moving On
“The Axe tells me it’s needed elsewhere now.”
The Axe wants to go where it’s most useful, and at
some point it knows that it’s more needed in other
hands. When the character next gains a level, the Axe
disappears, its sentience and other abilities traveling to
another land for a new hero to discover. If the Axe is at
least satisfied, it leaves behind a normal +6 thundering
greataxe for its champion to wield in its stead.

The Eye of Vecna
The Eye is appropriate for paragon-level characters.
The Eye of Vecna doesn’t do anything unless installed
permanently in an empty eye socket. Removing an
eye to make room for the Eye of Vecna is a gory process
that deals damage equal to three times the character’s
healing surge value. These hit points can’t be restored
until after the character has taken an extended rest.
Once installed, the Eye of Vecna becomes part of its
possessor’s body, functioning just like a normal eye
(though it retains its unusual appearance).


Goals of the
Axe of the

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 166

3/13/08 3:53:04 PM

Paragon Level

One of two relics left behind by Vecna before he ascended to godhood, the Eye of Vecna is a red, embalmed orb that pulses as if
alive, but remains icy cold to the touch. It retains a remnant of
Vecna’s mortal power—a power with a singular devotion to evil.
Body Slot: Head
Property: You gain a +1 item bonus to Arcana, Insight, and
Perception checks.
Property: The Eye grants you darkvision.
Property: When using an attack power granted by the Eye,
you can use your highest mental ability score (Intelligence,
Wisdom, or Charisma) for the attack, regardless of the
normal ability score noted for the power.
Power (At-Will ✦ Arcane, Charm, Implement, Psychic):
Standard Action. You can use eyebite (warlock 1).
Power (Encounter ✦ Arcane, Illusion, Implement, Psychic):
Standard Action. You can use mire the mind (warlock 7).
Power (Daily ✦ Arcane): Standard Action. You can use eye of
the warlock (warlock 16).

Goals of the Eye of Vecna
✦ Be reunited with the Hand of Vecna.
✦ Spread the worship of Vecna across the world.
✦ Wrest secrets from those who keep them, then use
those secrets as weapons of betrayal.
✦ Be installed in a powerful living vessel, preferably a
powerful wielder of arcane magic.

Roleplaying the Eye of Vecna
The Eye of Vecna communicates silently with its possessor, delivering vivid hallucinatory visions about
what it wants. These visions are subtle at first, but
eventually they become grisly and more explicit.
The Eye’s ability to communicate is limited when
it’s not installed in an eye socket. Those who handle
the Eye in its unattached state receive only brief visions
of power—whatever is compelling to that person.
They also gain a clear idea of what they need to do to
acquire the Eye’s power.

Until its wielder implants the Eye, the artifact has no
concordance and the wielder doesn’t gain any of its
properties or powers.
Starting score
Owner gains a level
Owner can cast at least one arcane spell
Owner attaches the Hand of Vecna
Owner betrays a close friend in dire straits
Owner wrests an important secret from a captive
Owner or ally kills an undead creature
(maximum 1/encounter)
Owner spends 8 hours in the presence of a
higher-level arcane spellcaster (maximum 1/day)


The Eye of Vecna

Pleased (16–20)
“The Eye and I are one.”
The Eye of Vecna is pleased with its host—for now.
It concentrates on advancing Vecna’s designs on the
world, confident that it has found an effective vehicle
for its ambitions.
Property: The Eye’s item bonus to Arcana, Insight, and
Perception checks increases to +5.
Property: You take a –5 penalty to Diplomacy checks.
Power (Daily ✦ Arcane, Implement): Minor Action. You call
forth an aura of clear sight (aura 10) that lasts until the end
of your next turn. While the aura is active, you gain a +10
bonus to all attack rolls, skill checks, and ability checks
made against targets within the aura.

Satisfied (12–15)
“The Eye . . . it reveals so much to me.”
The Eye of Vecna is satisfied enough with its host, but
it’s still looking for a better one. It’s content to serve its
host, but it occasionally sends a frightening vision to
remind the possessor who’s really in charge.
Property: The Eye’s item bonus to Arcana, Insight, and
Perception checks increases to +2.
Property: You take a –2 penalty to Diplomacy checks.
Power (Encounter ✦ Arcane, Implement, Necrotic):
Standard Action. You can fire a beam of necrotic energy
from the Eye. The attack is made with your highest mental
ability score vs. Fortitude. A hit deals 3d6 + 5 necrotic
damage and ongoing 5 necrotic damage (save ends).

Normal (5–11)
“I can feel the Eye’s power.”
When first implanted in a host, the Eye is communicative, trying to set the terms of the relationship and
explain what activities the Eye favors or abhors.

Unsatisfied (1–4)
“The Eye is showing me things. Horrible things.”
The Eye of Vecna believes that the host is unlikely
to satisfy its ambitions, so it’s actively seeks a better
wielder. But it’s evil enough to toy with the current
host first, even in dangerous situations.
Property: You take a –2 penalty to Diplomacy checks.
Special: Once per day at any time, the Eye can induce a
horrifying vision in your mind. The Eye makes a special
attack against your Will defense, rolling 1d20 + your level.
If this attack hits, you are stunned (save ends).

The Eye typically induces a vision during a nonthreatening situation first, trying to force a more compliant
attitude from its owner. But the Eye isn’t shy about
inducing a vision during a combat situation.

Angered (0 or lower)
“Tear it out! Don’t let it see you!”
At this point, the Eye of Vecna is at war with its possessor, and it wants to torture its host before moving on
to a more acceptable wielder.
C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 167

3/12/08 3:58:44 PM

Property: You take a –5 penalty to Diplomacy checks.
Special: Once per encounter at any time, the Eye can induce
a horrifying vision in your mind. The Eye makes a special
attack against your Will defense, rolling 1d20 + your level.
If this attack hits, you are blinded and stunned (save ends).
Special: Each time you make an initiative check at the start
of an encounter, there is a 25% chance that the Eye uses
eyebite against one of your allies within range of the spell
(determined randomly by the DM).
Special: The Eye can speak through you whenever you are
stunned or unconscious. It can use either your natural
voice or a sinister, eerily loud whisper.

The Hand of Vecna
The Hand is appropriate for characters in the middle
of the paragon tier and upward.
The Hand of Vecna doesn’t do anything unless
attached to the stump of an arm where a hand once
was. Removing a hand to make room for Vecna’s Hand
deals damage equal to one-half the character’s maximum normal hit points. Once installed, the Hand of
Vecna becomes part of its possessor’s body. It retains
its grisly appearance, though it functions just like as a
normal hand.

Moving On
“I am Vecna.”
The Eye of Vecna consumes its owner, body and
mind. The character dies instantly, and his body
crumbles to dust. Even if the character is raised from
the dead, he forever carries an empty eye socket as a
souvenir of having once possessed the Eye.
The Eye rejoins its divine namesake. Vecna immediately gains all the knowledge of the former wielder
and savors the secrets so acquired. After a time, he
sends the Eye back into the world to glean more secrets
from other unwitting or greedy arcane characters.
If the Eye’s wielder also bears the Hand of Vecna, that
artifact also returns to the god.

The Hand of Vecna

Paragon Level

One of two relics left behind by Vecna before he ascended to godhood, the Hand of Vecna is a blackened, mummified left hand,
icy cold to the touch. It retains a remnant of Vecna’s mortal
power—a power with a singular devotion to evil.
Body Slot: Hands
Property: You gain a +2 item bonus to Athletics checks.
Property: When using an attack power granted by the Hand,
you can use your highest physical ability score (Strength,
Constitution, or Dexterity) for the attack, regardless of the
normal ability score noted for the power.
Power (At-Will ✦ Arcane, Implement): Standard Action. You
can use diabolic grasp (warlock 1).
Power (Encounter ✦ Arcane, Implement): Standard Action.
You can use sign of ill omen (warlock 7).
Power (Encounter): Move Action. You can use spider climb
(warlock 6).

Goals of the Hand of Vecna
✦ Be reunited with the Eye of Vecna.
✦ Spread worship of Vecna across the world.
✦ Wrest secrets from those who keep them, then use
those secrets as weapons of betrayal.
✦ Be installed in a powerful living vessel, preferably a
powerful wielder of arcane magic.

Roleplaying the Hand of Vecna
The Hand of Vecna can move independently of its
owner’s wishes to communicate, using a strange sign
language that only a character who has attached the
Hand can understand. Its ability to communicate is
limited when it’s not attached. When a humanoid
character touches the Hand, it springs to life, scratching at the left hand of the creature that touched it. At
the same time, the character feels a surge of power,
accompanied by a sense that his greatest desires are
within grasp.



Until its owner attaches the Hand, the artifact has no
concordance and the owner doesn’t gain any of its
properties or powers.

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d

16 8

4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 168

3/12/08 3:58:45 PM

Property: You take a –2 penalty to Diplomacy checks.
Special: Once per day at any time, the Hand might choose
to drop whatever it holds and attempt to choke you.
The Hand makes a special attack against your Fortitude
defense, rolling 1d20 + your level. If this attack hits, you
are dazed (save ends). Until you make a saving throw, you
also can’t use the Hand to attack or manipulate objects or
to use the Hand’s powers.


Starting score
Owner gains a level
Owner can cast at least one arcane spell
Owner implants the Eye of Vecna
Owner betrays a close friend in dire straits
Owner wrests an important secret from a captive
Owner or ally kills an undead creature
(maximum 1/encounter)
Owner spends 8 hours in the presence of a
higher-level arcane spellcaster (maximum 1/day)

The Hand typically defies its host in a nonthreatening
situation first, trying to demonstrate who’s in charge.
After that warning, any time becomes fair game.

Pleased (16–20)
“I am Vecna’s hand in the world.”
The Hand of Vecna is pleased with its host—for now.
It concentrates on advancing Vecna’s designs on the
world, confident that it has found an effective vehicle
for its ambitions.
Property: The Hand’s item bonus to Athletics checks
increases to +5.
Property: You take a –5 penalty to Diplomacy checks.
Power (Daily ✦ Arcane): Minor Action. You call forth an aura
of death (aura 10) that lasts until the end of your next turn.
While the aura is active, enemies that enter the aura or
start their turn in the aura take 10 necrotic damage. Each
time an enemy takes damage in this manner, you heal 10
hit points.

Satisfied (12–15)
“All power is within the grasp of this Hand.”
The Hand of Vecna is satisfied enough with its host,
but it’s still looking for a better one. It’s content to serve
its host, but it occasionally acts on its own to remind
the possessor who’s really in charge. The wielder
might wake in the middle of the night to find the Hand
clenched around her throat, for example.
Property: The Hand’s item bonus to Athletics checks
increases to +3.
Property: You take a –2 penalty to Diplomacy checks.
Power (Encounter ✦ Arcane, Implement, Necrotic):
Standard Action. You can hurl a ball of necrotic energy
from the Hand, (area burst 1 within 10 squares). The
attack is made with your highest physical ability score vs.
Reflex. A hit deals 2d10 + 5 necrotic damage and ongoing
5 necrotic damage (save ends) to all enemies in the burst.

Angered (0 or lower)
“Get it off me! Keep away from it!”
At this point, the Hand of Vecna is at war with
its possessor, and it wants to torture its host before
moving on to a more acceptable wielder.
Property: You take a –5 penalty to Diplomacy checks.
Special: Once per encounter at any time, the Hand might
choose to drop whatever it holds and attempt to choke
you. The Hand makes a special attack against your
Fortitude defense, rolling 1d20 + your level. If this attack
hits, you are dazed (save ends). Until you succeed on a
saving throw, you also can’t use the Hand to attack or
manipulate objects or to use the Hand’s powers.
Special: Each time you miss with an attack, there is a 25%
chance that the Hand uses diabolic grasp against one of
your allies within range of the spell (determined randomly
by the DM).

Moving On
“I am Vecna.”
The Hand of Vecna consumes its owner, body and
mind. The character dies instantly, and her body
crumbles to dust. Even if the character is raised from
the dead, she forever carries a handless stump as a
souvenir of having once wielded the Hand.
The Hand rejoins its divine namesake. Vecna
immediately gains all the knowledge of the former
wielder and savors the secrets so acquired. After a
time, he sends the Hand back into the world to glean
more secrets from other unwitting or greedy arcane
If the Hand’s wielder also bears the Eye of Vecna,
that artifact also returns to the god.

Normal (5–11)
“I can feel the Hand’s power.”
When first attached to a host, the Hand is communicative, trying to set the terms of the relationship and
explain what activities the Hand favors or abhors.

Unsatisfied (1–4)
“The Hand doesn’t do what I want, it does what it wants.”
The Hand of Vecna believes that the host is unlikely
to satisfy its ambitions, so it actively seeks a better
wielder. But it’s evil enough to toy with the current
host first, even in dangerous situations.

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 169

3/12/08 3:58:46 PM

The Invulnerable
Coat of Arnd

Pleased (16–20)

The Invulnerable Coat is appropriate for characters in
the middle of the heroic tier and upward.

The Invulnerable Coat of Arnd

Heroic Level

This gleaming chain mail belonged to a poor cleric of Kord who
fought to free his village from its tyrannical baron. Imbued with
the cleric’s fighting spirit and holy strength, the Invulnerable
Coat of Arnd seeks to reclaim its ancient glory.
The Invulnerable Coat of Arnd is a suit of +2 chainmail.
Enhancement: AC
Property: You gain resist 5 acid, resist 5 fire, and resist 5
Property: You gain a +2 item bonus to saving throws.
Power (At-Will ✦ Divine, Weapon): Standard Action. You
can use valiant strike (paladin 1).
Power (At-Will): Minor Action. Change one of the resistances
granted by the armor to any of the following damage
types: acid, cold, fire, force, lightning, necrotic, psychic, or
radiant. That resistance remains changed until you use the
power to change it again.
Power (At-Will): Minor Action. Change the Invulnerable Coat
into plate armor, scale armor, or chainmail.
Power (Encounter): Minor Action. You can spend a healing

Goals of the Invulnerable
Coat of Arnd

Property: You gain resist 10 acid, resist 10 fire, and resist 10
lightning. This supersedes the normal resistances granted
by the artifact.
Property: You gain a +5 bonus to Will defense against fear
Power (Daily): Minor Action. You call forth an aura of courage
(aura 2) that lasts until the end of your next turn. You and
any ally within the aura gain a +5 bonus to attack rolls.

Satisfied (12–15)
“We are destined for greatness.”
The Invulnerable Coat of Arnd is pleased with the
wielder’s bravery and drive, so it devotes more of its
power to urging him on to greater glory.
Property: You gain a +2 bonus to Will defense against fear
Power (Daily): Free Action. Gain 1 action point.

Normal (5–11)
“Glory waits for no one—we must seize it by the throat!”
The Coat wants its wielder to put himself in harm’s
way, and it urges him toward acts of daring.

Unsatisfied (1–4)

✦ Attach itself to a hero who will be remembered in
✦ Prove itself against ever greater threats and
✦ Overthrow tyrants.

“All is not lost—I can still redeem myself!”
Special: You take a –2 penalty to all defenses against
creatures whose level is equal to or lower than yours.

Angered (0 or lower)
“I’m not worthy of armor this fine.”
The Coat regards its wielder as a coward and urges
him to find someone more worthy to wear it.

Roleplaying the Invulnerable
Coat of Arnd
The Invulnerable Coat thrives on danger, so it urges
its wearer to take on increasingly difficult risks. The
Invulnerable Coat’s not happy unless the wearer is
throwing himself into battle. Planning and strategy
aren’t high on the artifact’s list of priorities. The Invulnerable Coat doesn’t communicate with its wearer, but
its emotional state does rub off, so the owner feels
elated in battle and despairs at defeat.

Starting score
Owner gains a level
Owner receives public acclaim for completing a
major quest
Owner defeats an enemy three or more levels
higher than he is (maximum 1/day)
Owner falls to 0 hit points in battle
Owner flees from combat

“There is no limit to the brave deeds we can accomplish.”
The Invulnerable Coat of Arnd is excited to have such
a hero to protect. It starts to literally glow with pride,
constantly shedding dim light in a 2-square radius.


The artifact’s enhancement bonus to AC drops to +1.
Special: You take a –5 penalty to all defenses against
creatures whose level is equal to or lower than yours.

Moving On
“Our names shall live on in legend.”
The Invulnerable Coat recognizes that its wielder’s
bravery needs no further assistance.
When the wielder next gains a level, the Invulnerable Coat crumbles into residuum worth 5,000 gp. Its
magic and sentience appear elsewhere in the world,
encased in a new suit of armor.
Also, the wielder gains a permanent +1 bonus to
Diplomacy checks and Intimidate checks. Even those
who do not know of his bravery recognize an aura of
greatness around him—a remnant of the Coat.
If the Invulnerable Coat moves on because it is unsatisfied with the wielder, then the wielder receives a
permanent –1 penalty to Diplomacy and Intimidate
checks, and the armor crumbles into worthless dust.

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 170

3/12/08 3:58:47 PM

The Player’s Handbook introduces the ten languages
spoken throughout the D&D world, along with the
six scripts used to write them. The Monster Manual
includes information on the languages creatures speak
and understand, though of course individuals might
vary from those standards.
A universe with ten languages might seem improbable, but it’s explainable in the context of the D&D
world and better for the play of the game.
The gods have their own language, Supernal, which
they share with their angelic servants. When a god
or angel speaks Supernal, listeners who don’t speak
Supernal understand the words as if the speaker used
their own languages. The gods and angels can choose
to disguise their speech, but in general Supernal is a
universal language.
When the gods created the races of the world, each
race heard the Supernal language in a different way,
based on fundamental characteristics of their nature.
From those distinct ways of hearing, the foundational
languages of the world arose—Common for humans
and halflings, Elven for elves and eladrin, Goblin for
the goblin races, Dwarven for the dwarves, and Draconic for dragons.
The primordials had their own language with none
of the special qualities of Supernal. The titans and
giants adopted a debased version of this language for
their own tongue, and Abyssal is a form of Primordial
warped and twisted by the evil at the heart of the
These foundational languages spread to other
creatures of the world and the planes, with dialect
variation but no more significant alteration.
Scripts follow a similar logic. Supernal and Primordial have their own scripts. The main civilized races
developed different scripts to transcribe the foundational languages: Common, Davek runes for Dwarven,
the Rellanic script for Elven, and Iokharic lettering for
Draconic. Goblin is the only foundational language of
the world that lacks its own script, owing to the brutal
and barbaric nature of the goblin race. The Giant
language uses the Davek runes of the dwarves, dating
from the dwarves’ long servitude to the giants.
The Deep Speech is a language related to the
alien communication of the Far Realm, used by creatures influenced by the energy of that place beyond
the world and the planes. It uses the Rellanic script
because the drow were the first to transcribe it, since
they share Underdark haunts with aberrant creatures.

Languages in the Game
Having only ten languages keeps the game moving.
It’s easy for a party of adventurers to master nearly
every language, and intelligent creatures they encounter speak at least a little Common. Familiarity with
languages lets adventuring parties read inscriptions
and tomes they come across in their adventuring.
The 1st-level ritual Comprehend Language covers the
situations where they can’t. Fundamentally, language
never has to be an issue in the game—unless you want
it to be.
Characters and their opponents can use languages
as a kind of code, speaking among themselves in languages their enemies can’t understand. An arrogant
eladrin lord might refuse to speak in Common and
ignore anyone who doesn’t speak Elven. Barbaric
goblins might not understand Common, forcing the
characters to negotiate with them in Goblin for the
release of captives. When you use languages in this
way, make sure you don’t leave players whose characters can’t participate bored for too long.
Scripts are essentially independent of language.
Just as different real-world languages use the same
script to transcribe their different words, Common
could be written in Davek or Rellenic as easily as in
the Common script. Characters might run across old
dwarf texts in Davek runes that use Common words—
or the Abyssal language. Such a text would require
familiarity with two languages to decipher.
The six basic scripts named in the Player’s Handbook
might not be the only scripts ever used in your world.
You might decide that an ancient empire had its own
script, one that none of the characters are familiar
with. This would work just like a cryptogram puzzle
(see page 83), forcing the players to figure out what
runes or characters represent which letters in the
“Common” script.



Words of Power
The Supernal and Abyssal languages are both actual
languages used to communicate, but they also include
words of power—words whose syllables contain the
raw magic of creation (in the case of Supernal) or primordial evil (Abyssal). Player characters can’t know
these languages initially. They might eventually learn
the basics of communicating in these tongues, but
without mastering these mighty sounds. Mortals who
learn Supernal don’t gain the ability to have their
words universally understood. Texts containing these
words in either language could unleash powerful
effects—and these tomes or scrolls might be artifacts in
their own right.

C H A P T E R 9 | T h e Wo r l d


4E_DMG_Ch09.indd 171

3/12/08 3:58:47 PM


The DM’s Toolbox

As the

Dungeon Master, you continually
exercise your creative imagination to present new
challenges to your players. You’re not even limited
by the encounter rules in this book or the selection
of monsters in the Monster Manual—only your own
imagination controls what you can do. This chapter
is all about going beyond the basics and making the
D&D game distinctly yours.
Customizing your campaign is a mix of art and
science. Here is where you’ll find plenty of “crunch”—
new rules for creating and modifying monsters and
other challenges. This chapter also offers plenty of
advice on giving your imagination free rein without
unbalancing your game. Above all, it’s about having
This chapter includes the following sections.
✦ Customizing Monsters: Tools to help you adjust
abilities or add specialized roles or class levels to
existing monsters.
✦ Creating Monsters: How to create your own
monsters to supplement those in the Monster
✦ Creating NPCs: How to create nonplayer
characters, who are important villains and allies.
They work much as the players’ characters do,
using the same classes and the same basic rules.
✦ Creating House Rules: Advice on customizing
your campaign with new rules of your own design.
✦ Random Dungeons: These rules let you create an
adventure on the fly or provide starting points for a
crafted dungeon.


✦ Random Encounters: A way to generate
challenges on the spur of the moment—even
without a Dungeon Master!

C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 172

3/12/08 4:21:17 PM

4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 173

3/12/08 4:21:23 PM

The Monster Manual provides hundreds of enemies for
your adventures, but they aren’t all that’s available. You
can customize existing monsters to increase their utility, making them stronger, weaker, or just different.
Whether you want to bump an ogre up a few levels
or turn it into an elite berserker, this section gives you
the tools you need to tinker with monsters. You’ll also
find rules for adding a class to a monster, mining the
Player’s Handbook for combat powers.
You can use several methods to adjust an existing
monster: change its level, give it equipment, alter its
appearance and behavior, and apply a template. Each
of these approaches is discussed below.

Boosting a monster’s level is easy. Just increase its
attack rolls, defenses, and AC by 1 for every level you
add. For every two levels, increase the damage it deals
with its attacks by 1. The monster also gains extra hit
points at each level, based on its role (see the “Monster
Statistics by Role” table on page 184).
Decreasing a monster’s level works like increasing it, but in reverse. For each level down, reduce the
creature’s attack rolls, defenses, and AC by 1 and drop
its hit points based on its role. For every two levels, also
reduce its damage by 1.
This process works best for adjusting a monster’s
level up to five higher or lower. Beyond that, the monster changes so much that you’d do better to start with
another creature of the desired role and level range.

heavy to light armor, you can also add the higher of its
Dexterity or Intelligence ability modifier to its AC.
If the creature’s statistics block does not mention
any worn armor, use the higher of its original AC or its
new AC after adding armor. Most creatures have naturally thick hides that provide an armor bonus to AC. If
the armor a creature wears is not as good as its natural
armor, it uses the AC bonus provided by its natural
armor. Worn armor, such as a suit of chainmail, and
natural armor, such as an insect’s carapace or a dragon’s thick scales, do not stack.
For example, an ogre savage normally has an
Armor Class of 19 (it’s assumed to be wearing crude
hide armor). Its effective armor bonus is +5 (19 – 10
– 4 [Dex]). Giving the ogre chainmail instead would
improve its AC by 1 to 20, since the armor’s +6 bonus
is 1 higher than this number.
Magic Items: A monster equipped with magic
items can use the powers those items grant.
Enhancement Bonuses: A monster benefits from an
enhancement bonus to attack rolls, defenses, or AC
only if that bonus is higher than its magic threshold, as
shown on the table below.
A monster’s magic threshold is an abstract representation of its equipment, power, and general
effectiveness against characters of its level. If you give
the monster a magic item that grants a bonus to attack
rolls and damage rolls or to defenses, subtract the
magic threshold from that bonus before you apply it.
For example, if you give that 8th-level ogre savage a +2
magic greatclub, you add only a +1 bonus to its attack
rolls and damage rolls, since its magic threshold is +1.

Adding Equipment


Increasing or Decreasing

You can add equipment to a monster to make it a little
more challenging, or to put treasure into the characters’ hands. Equipment shouldn’t be random but
should serve some purpose in the design of an encounter. Make sure to include any such items as part of the
overall treasure you’re giving out for the adventure
(see “Treasure” on page 124).
Armor: When you add armor to a monster, you
first need to determine if the armor is good enough
to improve the monster’s AC. Start with the monster’s
effective armor bonus—a measure of how much of the
creature’s AC comes from its armor or from its thick
hide. This number is equal to its AC minus 10 minus the
higher of its Dexterity or Intelligence ability modifiers.
Do not include the Dexterity or Intelligence modifier if
the creature wears heavy armor. Subtract the effective
armor bonus from the creature’s AC, and then add the
bonus from its new armor. If the creature moved from

Monster Level

Magic Threshold

Remember that a monster’s game statistics are set to
be appropriate for its level. Thus, altering a monster’s
attack, defense, or damage values is a lot like changing its level (see above). Avoid the temptation simply
to give all your monsters better armor and weapons.
Giving all your ogre savages plate armor and +3 greatswords may seem like a reasonable change, but now
they have the attack, damage, and defense numbers of
a higher-level monster—which makes them a tougher
challenge than other 8th-level brutes.
If you want to give a monster equipment that
changes its attack, defense, or damage values by more

C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 174

3/12/08 4:21:26 PM

Cosmetic Changes
The characters are delving into the jungle-covered
ruins of an ancient city now haunted by the yuan-ti.
There they discover strange arboreal humanoids with
long arms that swoop into battle on the backs of giant
wasps. What are these mysterious beings?
This technique is useful for keeping players on their
toes even when they know the Monster Manual backward and forward. Use the statistics of a given monster
but completely alter its appearance when you describe
it to the players. You can make minor changes to its
powers as well, altering damage types or changing
details of weapons (lashing tentacles become a whipping tail, for example).

A template is like a recipe for changing a monster.
Each template provides instructions for modifying hit
points and defenses, and adds a number of powers and
abilities. Simply pick a monster and a template, follow
the directions, and you’re ready to go.
This section provides more than a dozen templates
for customizing monsters. Functional templates adapt
a monster to a given purpose in an adventure. You can
also add a functional template to a nonplayer character.
See “Creating NPCs” on page 186 for more information.
Class templates allow you to add features of a specific
character class to a monster.
Multiple Templates: Each of these templates is
intended for use by itself, making a monster into an elite
opponent. However, you can turn a standard monster
into a solo creature by adding two templates. Follow the
process for adding each template, one at a time, but add
just one template’s hit point bonus (your choice which).
Then double the creature’s total hit points. Increase the
monster’s saving throw bonus to +5.
You can also advance an elite monster to a solo one
by adding a template, then doubling its hit points and
adjusting its saving throw as above.
This method is quick and easy, but it carries some
risks. For example, the adjusted monster’s hit points
might be lower than those of a typical solo monster of
its level and role. Once you’ve finished the process, be
sure to “reality check” the monster by comparing its
statistics and abilities to others of similar power.



Battle champion
Death knight
Death master
Demonic acolyte
Frost adept
Mummy lord
Mummy champion
Savage berserker
Scion of flame
Shadowborn stalker
Vampire lord



than a point or so, consider also making those alterations as part of changing its level. For example, those
ogre savages in plate armor and wielding +3 greatswords
have AC, attack rolls, and damage rolls three points
higher than normal. That’s pretty close to what a monster three levels higher would have (+3 to all defenses,
+3 to attack rolls, and +1 damage), so you might as well
make those ogre savages into 11th-level monsters and
give them the extra hit points to go along with their
other benefits.

How to Read a Template
A template lists changes to a monster’s statistics and
grants it some new powers and abilities. In general, if
a template does not alter a certain statistic, that entry
does not appear in the list.
Each template notes any prerequisites for adding
it to a monster. Some can be added to any creature,
while others work only with particular types or at certain adventuring tiers.
The modified monster retains all its normal powers
and abilities except those that overlap or conflict with
those bestowed by the template.
Here’s a sample template, the lich.

Prerequisite: Level 11, Intelligence 13

Elite Controller or Artillery


XP Elite

Senses Darkvision
Defenses +2 AC; +4 Fortitude; +4 Will
Immune disease, poison
Resist 5 + 1/2 level necrotic
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level (controller) or +6 per level (artillery)
Regeneration 10. If the lich takes radiant damage, its
regeneration doesn’t function on its next turn.
Spellmaster (minor; recharge ⚄ ⚅ )
The lich regains the use of an expended encounter power.
Necromantic Aura (Necrotic) aura 5
Any living creature that enters or starts its turn in the aura
takes 5 necrotic damage.
Necrotic Master
The lich can convert any attack power it has to necrotic.
Change a power’s energy keyword to necrotic, or add
necrotic energy to an attack power that doesn’t normally
deal energy damage.

C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 175

3/21/08 10:17:22 AM

Every template begins with a brief descriptive passage that explains the essential nature of the template,
followed by a paragraph that tells you what types of
creatures or classes the template can be applied to.
Prerequisite: This entry appears if the monster
must meet certain requirements to gain the template,
such as a specific type or a minimum level.
The remaining information is presented in monster
stat block form, for easy insertion into the monster’s
existing statistics.
Role: The monster’s combat role appears in the
upper right corner of the stat block header.
Type and Keyword: The left-hand entry of the
second line of the stat block header states this information. If the template adds a keyword to the monster,
such as undead, it is included here. The monster
retains any previous keywords.
Senses: Add the given abilities to the monster’s
Senses entry.
Defenses: Adjust the monster’s AC and other
defenses as described in this entry.
Immune/Resist/Vulnerable: Add the stated
entries and values. If the monster already has one or
more of these abilities, use the more beneficial value.
Saving Throws +2: All elite monsters have a +2
bonus to saving throws.
Action Point 1: All elite monsters have 1 action

When you a overlay a template on a monster, you simply
add the template’s abilities and powers to those the monster already has. Sometimes, though, these powers and
abilities contradict or duplicate previously existing ones.
The basic rule in such situations is that numeric values
of duplicate abilities are not cumulative. (See “Bonuses and
Penalties” on page xx of the Player’s Handbook for complete
information.) The monster retains the value more favorable
to it.
The following points deal with unusual situations.
✦ If a monster has vulnerability to a given damage type
and then receives a template that grants resistance or
immunity to the same damage type, it retains its vulnerability. For example, a creature that has vulnerable 10
necrotic and gains resist 10 necrotic from a template
ends up taking no extra damage from a necrotic attack.
However, if an effect strips it of its necrotic resistance,
it is still vulnerable to necrotic damage.
✦ If a template grants a monster an encounter power
it already had, the monster now has two uses of that
power per encounter. Track the two abilities separately—the one conferred by the template might have
a different recharge requirement, for example.

Hit Points: Add the stated number of hit points for
the monster’s new role, and then also add its Constitution score to the new hit point total.
Powers: Add the stated powers to the monster’s stat
block, calculating attack and damage numbers. The
level of an attack power usually depends on the monster’s level and is expressed as “Level + n,” where “Level”
is the monster’s level and n is a number you add to that
value. Damage is adjusted by the modifier for a given
ability score, just as with characters’ attack powers.

Functional Templates
Functional templates adapt a monster or a nonplayer
character to a given purpose in an adventure. Some
reflect a classic villain archetype, such as the death
master that commands armies of undead. Others help
a monster fill a useful niche in an encounter, such
as the bodyguard that holds back the party while its
master fulfills her plans.

Battle Champion
The battle champion is a tougher-than-normal humanoid monster from a civilized tribe or nation, such as
a goblin king, a drow duelist, or the commander of a
garrison of dwarves. It is not only a skilled warrior, but
also a rallying point for allies in combat.
“Battle champion” is a template you can apply to
any humanoid monster. If you are modifying a nonplayer character, this template works best with the
fighter, paladin, and warlord classes.
Prerequisite: Humanoid
Battle Champion

Elite Soldier (Leader)
XP Elite

Defenses +2 AC; +2 Fortitude
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Battle Lord Tactics
The battle champion and its allies deal an extra 1d6
damage against enemies that the battle champion flanks.
Increase this extra damage to 2d6 at 11th level and to
3d6 at 21st level.
Battle Talent
The battle champion can score critical hits on attack rolls
of natural 19 and 20.
Inspiring Assault
Whenever it scores a critical hit, the battle champion and
all allies within 5 squares of it regain hit points equal to
one-half the battle champion’s level.

C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 176

3/12/08 4:21:28 PM

Death Knight

Villains can always find guileless dupes to carry out
their plans. Yet they still need capable, skilled assistants. The bodyguard is one of the most important
followers a villain can have, a fanatic melee combatant
who gladly gives its life to protect its master.
“Bodyguard” is a template you can apply to any
humanoid creature. If you are modifying a nonplayer
character, this template works best with the fighter,
paladin, and ranger classes.
Prerequisite: Humanoid

Death knights were once powerful warriors who have
been granted eternal undeath, whether as punishment
for a grave betrayal or reward for a lifetime of servitude to a dark master. A death knight’s soul is bound
to the weapon it wields, adding necrotic power to its
undiminished martial prowess. Death knights make
good leaders for groups of undead creatures.
“Death knight” is a template that can be added
to any monster. Most death knights begin as NPC
defenders, such as fighters and paladins. However,
monsters in the soldier role can make effective death
knights, from fire giants to githyanki to yuan-ti
Prerequisite: Level 11


Elite Soldier
XP Elite

Defenses +2 AC; +2 Fortitude, +1 Reflex, +1 Will
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Indomitable Presence
Every time a bodyguard attacks an enemy, whether the
attack hits or misses, it marks that target. The mark lasts
until the end of the bodyguard’s next turn. When a target
is marked, it takes a –2 penalty to attack rolls if the attack
doesn’t include the bodyguard as a target. A creature
can be subject to only one mark at a time. A new mark
supersedes a mark that was already in place.
In addition, whenever a marked enemy that is
adjacent to the bodyguard shifts or makes an attack that
does not include the bodyguard, the bodyguard can make
a basic melee attack against that enemy as an immediate
Allies adjacent to the bodyguard gain a +2 power bonus to

Death Knight



Elite Soldier (Leader)


XP Elite

Senses Darkvision
Defenses +2 AC; +4 Fortitude; +2 Will
Immune disease, poison
Resist 10 necrotic at 11th level, 15 necrotic at 21st level
Vulnerable 10 radiant
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Marshal Undead
Aura 10; lower-level undead allies in the aura gain a +2
bonus to their attack rolls.
Soul Weapon ✦ Necrotic, Weapon
When attacking with its melee weapon, the death knight
deals an additional 5 necrotic damage to its target.
C Unholy Flames (standard; recharge ⚄ ⚅ ) ✦ Fire,
Close burst 2; level +2 vs. Reflex; 6d8 + Constitution
modifier necrotic and fire damage to living creatures;
undead creatures within the burst (including the death
knight) deal an extra 2d6 fire damage with melee attacks
until the end of the death knight’s next turn.

Death Master
A death master is the epitome of necromantic power.
It can call undead creatures from the grave to serve it
and to smite its enemies with fell magic that drain life
energy for its own use.


The process of becoming a death knight requires its caster
to bind his immortal essence into the weapon used in
the ritual. If this soul weapon is broken or destroyed, the
death knight can restore it to perfect condition by touch
as a minor action.
A death knight is dazed and weakened while it doesn’t
have possession of its soul weapon. Any creature other
than the death knight is dazed and weakened while carrying the soul weapon.
The soul weapon loses its soul weapon properties when
the death knight is destroyed.
C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 177

3/21/08 10:17:35 AM

“Death master” is a template you can apply to any
humanoid, usually a cleric, wizard, or warlock. It represents a spellcaster who has delved into the secrets of
necromantic lore and used them to create and control
the undead.
A death master is always accompanied by four
undead minions of the death master’s level or lower.
Prerequisite: Humanoid
Death Master
Humanoid (shadow)

Elite Controller (Leader)
XP Elite

Defenses +2 AC; +2 Fortitude; +2 Will
Resist 5 necrotic at 1st level, 10 necrotic at 11th level, 15
necrotic at 21st level
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Shroud of the Grave (necrotic) aura 5
All undead within 5 squares of the death master lose
any vulnerability to radiant damage.
R Call of the Grave (standard; encounter)
Ranged 10; four undead minions of the death master’s
level or lower appear in any unoccupied space within
range. These undead minions take their turns immediately
after the death master.

This template portrays a villain with overwhelming
force of personality who desires to manipulate and use
others. Its followers are utter fanatics dedicated to the
cause, no matter the price—even death or worse.
“Demagogue” is a template you can apply to any
humanoid or magical beast to represent the leader of
an evil organization or group. Any NPC or monster
that leads and uses others is a good fit for this template.
Prerequisite: Humanoid or magical beast
Humanoid or magical beast

Elite Controller (Leader)
XP Elite

Defenses +2 Fortitude; +4 Will; +4 to all defenses against
charm and fear effects
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Deathless Fanaticism aura 5
Lower-level allies (other than minions) in the aura remain alive when reduced to 0 hit points. An affected
creature dies at the end of its next turn if it is still at 0 hit
points or below.
Mob Defense
The demagogue gains a +1 bonus to all defenses for each
ally adjacent to it.
Clever Escape (move; recharge ⚄ ⚅ )
The demagogue moves up to twice its speed. It can move
only into squares that take it farther away from its enemies.
This movement does not provoke opportunity attacks.

Demonic Acolyte
This template reflects grim priests of Orcus, raving
cult lords of Demogorgon, sacred berserkers of
Baphomet, and devotees of other demon lords. A
demon lord must personally invest power in an acolyte, making such foes particularly dangerous.
“Demonic acolyte” is a template you can apply to any
humanoid or magical beast to represent the priesthood
of a demon’s cult. If you are modifying a nonplayer
character, this template works best with the cleric, warlock, and wizard classes. In particular, clerics who have
turned away from the gods and sought power from
demons are ideal candidates for such “blessings.”
Prerequisite: Humanoid or magical beast
Demonic Acolyte

Elite Controller (Leader)

Humanoid or magical beast (demon)

XP Elite

Defenses +1 AC; +2 Fortitude; +2 Will
Resist 5 (choose one type) at 1st level, 10 (choose two types)
at 11th level, 15 (choose three types) at 21st level
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Shield of Abyssal Majesty aura 5
Allies in the aura gain the demonic acolyte’s
Abyssal Might
The demonic acolyte gains a +2 power bonus to damage
rolls with all attacks. This bonus increases to +4 at 11th
level and +6 at 21st level.
Consume Soul (immediate reaction, when an ally within 5
squares of the acolyte is reduced to 0 hit points)
The demonic acolyte regains hit points equal to one-half
its level.

The devastator is an expert at battle magic. It excels at
laying down a continuous fire of destructive spells to
blast enemies from the field.
“Devastator” is a template you can apply to any
humanoid creature to represent a spellcaster trained
for war. If you are modifying a nonplayer character,
this template works best with the cleric, warlock, and
wizard classes.
Prerequisite: Humanoid

Elite Artillery
XP Elite

Defenses +2 AC; +2 Reflex
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +6 per level + Constitution score
Spell Shaper
Whenever the devastator uses a close burst or an area
attack power, it can choose up to two allies in the power’s
area of effect. Those allies are not targeted by the power.
Endless Power (minor; recharge ⚅ )
The devastator regains the use of an expended encounter

C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 178

3/12/08 4:21:32 PM


Feyborn creatures embody the Feywild. They have
been subtly transformed by the plane’s powerful,
uncontrolled magic. Some underwent prolonged exposure to powerful fey magic. Others are favorites of fey
lords, who granted them special boons in return for
faithful service.
“Feyborn” is a template you can apply to any beast
or humanoid creature, representing a being infused
with the mystical power of the fey.
Prerequisite: Beast or humanoid

Liches are evil arcane masterminds that pursue the
path of undeath to achieve immortality. They are
cold, scheming creatures who hunger for ever-greater
power, long-forgotten knowledge, and the most terrible
of arcane secrets.
Some liches know a ritual that sustains them
beyond destruction by tying their essence to a phylactery. When a lich who has performed this ritual is
reduced to 0 hit points, its body and possessions crumble into dust, but it is not destroyed. It reappears (along
with its possessions) in 1d10 days within 1 square of
its phylactery, unless the phylactery is also found and
“Lich” is a template you can add to any intelligent
creature of 11th level or higher. It best complements an
arcane NPC, such as a wizard or warlock, or a monster
with arcane powers, such as a beholder or oni. Other
highly intelligent creatures might also become liches;
for example, mind flayers, who draw on psionic power.
Prerequisite: Level 11, Intelligence 13

Beast or humanoid (fey)

Elite Skirmisher
XP Elite

Defenses +1 AC; +2 Reflex, +2 Will
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Step Through the Mists (move; encounter)
The feyborn creature teleports up to 3 squares.
M Undeniable Beauty (immediate interrupt, when feyborn
creature is targeted by a melee attack; at will)
Level + 2 vs. Will against the attacker; the attacker must
target a different creature or end its attack.
R Lure of the Wild (standard; recharge ⚅ )
Ranged 10; level + 2 vs. Will. The target is pulled 5
squares and is dazed (save ends).

Frost Adept
A frost adept is a champion of elemental cold, specially chosen for strict adherence to its master’s power.
Elemental beings grant the might of ice to especially
faithful servants, such as an utterly devoted priest or a
warrior of unmatched skill.
“Frost adept” is a template you can apply to any
humanoid or magical beast to represent a monster
blessed with the power of elemental cold. If you are
modifying a nonplayer character, this template works
best with the warlock and wizard classes.
Prerequisite: Humanoid or magical beast
Frost Adept
Humanoid or magical beast (elemental)

Elite Controller
XP Elite

Defenses +2 AC; +2 Fortitude
Resist 5 cold at 1st level, 10 cold at 11th level, 15 cold at
21st level
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Body of Ice
Any creature that hits the frost adept with a melee attack
is slowed until the end of that creature’s next turn.
Ice Master
The frost adept can convert any attack power it has to
cold. Change a power’s energy keyword to cold, or add
cold energy to an attack power that doesn’t normally deal
energy damage.




Elite Controller or Artillery


XP Elite

Senses Darkvision
Defenses +2 AC; +4 Fortitude, +4 Will
Immune disease, poison
Resist 5 + 1/2 level necrotic
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score (controller) or
+6 per level + Constitution score (artillery)
Regeneration 10. If the lich takes radiant damage, its
regeneration doesn’t function on its next turn.
Spellmaster (minor; recharge ⚄ ⚅ )
The lich regains the use of an expended encounter power.
Necromantic Aura (Necrotic) aura 5
Any living creature that enters or starts its turn in the aura
takes 5 necrotic damage.
Necrotic Master
The lich can convert any attack power it has to necrotic.
Change a power’s energy keyword to necrotic, or add
necrotic energy to an attack power that doesn’t normally
deal energy damage.

Mummy Champion
A mummy champion is created through a dark ritual
intended to sustain a creature past its mortal life
span, or revive it after death. Such rituals are typically
reserved for important religious champions and warriors, but they could also curse an unfortunate soul to
a prison of undeath.
“Mummy champion” is a template you can apply to
any humanoid creature, especially one with the brute
or leader role.
This monster has a strongly divine flavor, so NPCs
with the template are usually clerics, paladins, or
fighters in service to a god.
Prerequisites: Humanoid, level 11
C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 179

3/21/08 10:17:56 AM

Mummy Champion
Humanoid (undead)

Elite Brute (leader)
XP Elite

Senses Darkvision
Defenses +2 AC; +2 Fortitude, +4 Will
Immune disease, poison
Resist 10 necrotic at 11th level, 15 necrotic at 21st level
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +10 per level + Constitution score
Regeneration 10. If the mummy champion takes fire damage,
its regeneration doesn’t function on its next turn.
Despair (Fear) aura 5
Enemies within the aura receive a –2 penalty to attack
rolls against a mummy champion.
m Rotting Slam (standard; at will) ✦ Necrotic
Level + 5 vs. AC; 2d8 + Strength modifier necrotic damage,
and the target contracts mummy rot (see page 49). Mummy
rot’s level is equal to the mummy champion’s level.

Mummy Lord
Humanoid (undead)

Elite Controller (leader)
XP Elite

Senses Darkvision
Defenses +2 AC; +2 Fortitude, +4 Will
Immune disease, poison
Resist 10 necrotic at 11th level, 15 necrotic at 21st level
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Regeneration 10. If the mummy lord takes fire damage, its
regeneration doesn’t function on its next turn.
Despair (Fear) aura 5
Enemies within the aura receive a –2 penalty to attack
rolls against a mummy lord.
C Mummy’s Curse (when reduced to 0 hp)
Close burst 10; level +2 vs. Will; all enemies within burst
contract the mummy rot disease (see page 49). Mummy
rot’s level is equal to the mummy lord’s level.

Mummy Lord

Savage Berserker

A mummy lord is created through a dark ritual
intended to sustain a creature past its mortal life
span, or revive it after death. Such rituals are typically
reserved for important religious leaders, but they could
also curse an unfortunate soul to a prison of undeath.
“Mummy lord” is a template you can apply to any
humanoid creature, especially one with the controller or leader role. This monster has a strongly divine
flavor, so NPCs with the template are usually clerics. A
drow priestess, foulspawn seer, kuo-toa whip, or yuanti malison disciple of Zehir are all good candidates for
the mummy lord template.
Prerequisites: Humanoid, level 11

A savage berserker is a brutal, vicious champion of
battle. It doesn’t need allies to succeed in combat but
draws on its own toughness and brutal strength.
“Savage berserker” is a template you can apply to
any humanoid creature. It’s ideal for creating a villain based on an evil humanoid race, such as an orc
war leader, a hill giant chieftain, or the champion of a
lizardfolk tribe. If you are modifying a nonplayer character, this template works best with the fighter and
paladin classes.
Prerequisite: Humanoid
Savage Berserker

Elite Brute (leader)
XP Elite

Defenses +4 Fortitude
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +10 per level + Constitution score
Regeneration 5 at 1st level, 10 at 11th level, 15 at 21st level
Murderous Frenzy
The savage berserker gains 1 action point the first time it
reduces a foe to 0 hit points in an encounter.
Savage Rebuke (immediate reaction, when hit by a melee
attack; at will)
The savage berserker makes a basic melee attack.

A scion of flame is a champion of elemental fire, specially chosen for its devotion to the all-consuming
flame. Elemental beings grant the blessings of fire to
especially faithful servants.
“Scion of flame” is a template you can apply to any
humanoid or magical beast to represent a monster
infused with the power of elemental fire. If you are
modifying a nonplayer character, this template works
best with the warlock and wizard classes.
Prerequisite: Humanoid or magical beast


Scion of Flame

C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 180

3/12/08 4:21:33 PM

Humanoid or magical beast (elemental)

Elite Controller
XP Elite

Defenses +1 AC; +2 Fortitude, +2 Reflex
Resist 5 fire at 1st level, 10 fire at 11th level, 15 fire at 21st
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Body of Flame
Any creature that hits the scion of flame with a melee
attack takes fire damage equal to 2 + one-half the scion’s
Fire Master
The scion of flame can convert any attack power it has
to fire. Change a power’s energy keyword to fire, or add
fire energy to an attack power that doesn’t normally deal
energy damage.

Shadowborn Stalker

Elite Lurker

Humanoid (shadow)

XP Elite

Senses Darkvision
Defenses +2 AC; +2 Reflex, +2 Will
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +6 per level + Constitution score
Cloak of Shadows (minor; encounter)
The shadowborn stalker is invisible until the end of its
next turn.
A Cloud of Darkness (minor; encounter)
Close burst 1; this power creates a zone of darkness that
remains in place until the end of the shadowborn stalker’s
next turn. The zone blocks line of sight for all creatures
except the shadowborn stalker. Any creature entirely
within the area (except the shadowborn stalker) is blinded.


Scion of Flame

Vampire Lord
Shadowborn Stalker
The Shadowfell offers power to those willing to delve
into forbidden lore and dark rituals. A shadowborn
stalker draws the essence of the plane into its body
and soul, causing a radical transformation in its abilities and appearance. It gains light gray skin, jet-black
hair, and white, pupilless eyes. An aura of shadow
plays about a shadowborn stalker, granting it a
sinister cast.
“Shadowborn stalker” is a template you can apply
to any humanoid creature to represent an assassin
or thief who has struck a bargain with the powers
of the Shadowfell. Goblins, drow, shadar-kai, and
other beings that rely on stealth are good choices for
this template. If you are modifying a nonplayer character, this template works best with the rogue and
warlock classes.
Prerequisite: Humanoid

Vampire lords are powerful and dangerous undead
villains. Some are former spawn freed by their creators’ deaths, others mortals chosen to receive the
“gift” of vampiric immortality. They can create armies
of dominated vampire spawn or pass on their powers
to chosen mortals.
“Vampire lord” is a template you can apply to any
humanoid creature of 11th level or higher. Vampire



When you apply a class template to a monster, you can
determine its attack bonus in one of two ways. Use whichever one yields the higher value, so that your villains have
a reasonable chance to hit the characters.
The simplest method is to calculate attack bonus using
the creature’s level, equipment (if any), and ability scores as
you would when making a character. However, this result
might be lower than the expected attack bonus for the
monster’s role and level. In that case, calculate the value
for role and level and use that value if it is higher. Use the
role provided by the class template, not the monster’s
original role, when making this comparison.
Use your own judgment about what is an appropriate
value, but keep in mind that a monster with a lower-thanexpected attack bonus is unlikely to pose much of a threat.

C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 181

3/21/08 10:18:15 AM

lords retain their living appearance, although they are
paler and their canines somewhat more pronounced,
and they are wholly evil.
Prerequisites: Humanoid, level 11
Vampire Lord

Elite Controller or Skirmisher

Humanoid (undead)

XP Elite

Senses Darkvision
Defenses +2 AC; +2 Fortitude, +2 Reflex, +2 Will
Immune disease, poison
Resist 5 necrotic at 1st level, 10 necrotic at 11th level, 15
necrotic at 21st level
Vulnerable radiant 10
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Regeneration 10 (regeneration does not function while the
vampire lord is exposed to direct sunlight)
M Blood Drain (standard, encounter; recharges when an
adjacent creature becomes bloodied) ✦ Healing
Requires combat advantage. Level + 2 vs. Fortitude; 2d12
+ Charisma modifier damage, and the target is weakened
(save ends), and the vampire lord heals hit points equal to
one-quarter of its normal total.
R Dominating Gaze (minor, recharge ⚅ ) ✦ Charm
Ranged 5; Level + 2 vs. Will; the target is dominated (save
ends, with a –2 penalty to the saving throw). Aftereffect:
The target is dazed (save ends). The vampire lord can
dominate only one creature at a time.
Mist Form (standard; encounter) ✦ Polymorph
The vampire lord becomes insubstantial and gains a fly
speed of 12, but cannot make attacks. The vampire lord
can remain in mist form for up to 1 hour or end the effect
as a minor action.

Class Templates
Class templates allow you to add features of a specific
character class to a monster. The following eight templates represent all the classes in the Player’s Handbook.
Adding a class to an existing monster is a simple
matter of overlaying the appropriate template. If you
want to advance the monster in a class, first increase
its level as described on page 174, then add the relevant class template.
This method works best with existing monster statistics blocks. Use the rules for creating new monsters
(page 184) if you are adding class levels to creatures of
your own design.
If the effect of a class feature or power depends on
level, such as the cleric’s healing word, use the monster’s
level. As usual, the monster retains its own abilities
and powers unless they contradict or duplicate those
provided by the template.

Choosing Class Powers
The heart of applying a class template is choosing suitable powers for the monster. For a heroic-tier monster,
select one power from that class’s list for each category:
at-will, encounter, and daily attack powers, and utility
powers. For monsters at higher tiers, choose additional
powers as summarized below.
✦ At-Will Powers Choose one.
✦ Encounter Powers Choose one of a level up to the
monster’s level. For a monster of 11th level or higher,
choose one additional encounter power. The powers
must be of different levels.
✦ Daily Powers Choose one of a level up to the
monster’s level. For a monster of 21st level or higher,
choose one additional daily power. The powers must
be of different levels.
✦ Utility Powers Choose one of a level up to the
monster’s level. For a monster of 11th level or higher,
choose one additional utility power. For one of
21st level or higher, select a third utility power. The
powers must all be of different levels.

How to Read a Class Template
Class templates follow the same general format as
functional templates. Categories of information that
appear only in class templates are explained below.
Power Source: This information sometimes interacts with other game rules. See page 54 of the Player’s
Handbook for more information.
Skills: If the monster already has training in the
a skill granted by the template, it cannot substitute
another skill.
Class Features: Refer to the relevant entries in the
Player’s Handbook for descriptions of class features.
Implement: If a class template enables a creature
to use one or more kinds of implements, that information is noted here.
Weapon Proficiency/Armor Proficiency: If
the monster already uses the weapon or armor types
granted by the template, it cannot substitute others.

Power Source: Divine.

Elite Controller (Leader)

Defenses +2 Will
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Weapon Proficiency Simple weapons
Armor Proficiency Cloth, leather, hide, chainmail
Trained Skills Religion, plus one other skill from the cleric
class list
Class Features Channel Divinity, Healer’s Lore, healing word
Implement Holy symbol

C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 182

3/12/08 4:21:37 PM


Power Source: Martial.

Power Source: Arcane.


Elite Soldier

Defenses +2 Fortitude
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Weapon Proficiency Simple melee, military melee,
simple ranged, military ranged
Armor Proficiency Cloth, leather, hide, chainmail, scale; light
shield, heavy shield
Trained Skills Two skills from the fighter class list
Class Features Combat Challenge, Combat Superiority,
Weapon Talent


Elite Skirmisher

Defenses +1 Reflex, +1 Will
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Weapon Proficiency Simple melee, simple ranged
Armor Proficiency Cloth, leather
Trained Skills Two skills from the warlock class list
Class Features Eldritch blast, Eldritch Pact, Prime Shot,
Warlock’s Curse
Implements Rods, wands




Power Source: Martial.

Power Source: Divine.

Elite Soldier

Defenses +1 Fortitude, +1 Reflex, +1 Will
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Weapon Proficiency Simple melee, military melee,
simple ranged
Armor Proficiency Cloth, leather, hide, chainmail, scale,
plate; light shield, heavy shield
Trained Skills Religion, plus one other skill from the paladin
class list
Class Features Channel Divinity, Divine Challenge, lay on
Implement Holy symbol

Power Source: Arcane.

Power Source: Martial.

Elite Skirmisher

Defenses +1 Fortitude, +1 Reflex
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Weapon Proficiency Simple melee, military melee,
simple ranged, military ranged
Armor Proficiency Cloth, leather, hide
Trained Skills Dungeoneering or Nature (your choice), plus
one other skill from the ranger class list
Class Features Fighting Style, Hunter’s Quarry, Prime Shot

Elite Soldier (leader)

Defenses +1 Fortitude, +1 Will
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Weapon Proficiency Simple melee, military melee,
simple ranged
Armor Training Cloth, leather, hide, chainmail, light shield
Trained Skills Two skills from the warlord class list
Class Features Combat Leader, Commanding Presence,
inspiring word

Elite Artillery

Defenses +2 Will
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +6 per level + Constitution score
Weapon Proficiency Dagger, quarterstaff
Armor Proficiency Cloth
Trained Skills Arcana plus one other skill from the wizard
class list
Class Features Arcane Implement Mastery, cantrips, Ritual
Caster, spellbook
Implements Orbs, staffs, wands

Power Source: Martial.

Elite Skirmisher

Defenses +2 Reflex
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +8 per level + Constitution score
Weapon Proficiency Dagger, hand crossbow, shuriken, sling,
short sword
Armor Proficiency Cloth, leather
Trained Skills Thievery plus one other skill from the rogue
class list
Class Features First Strike, Rogue Tactics, Rogue Weapon
Talent, Sneak Attack
C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 183

3/21/08 10:18:30 AM

The information on customizing monsters (page 174)
and the creatures provided in the Monster Manual and
future volumes should handle most of your needs for
monsters. When you really need to create something
from scratch, the guidelines here will help you with
the process.

Monster Design Steps
Following these steps won’t result in a fully designed
and developed monster, but they’ll provide a good
1. Choose Level. The level of the monster determines its key statistics, including defenses, attack
bonuses, and hit points.
2. Choose Role. A monster’s role suggests the
kinds of powers it uses in combat. Chapter 4 describes
monster roles more fully, and the Monster Statistics
by Role table on this page shows how a monster’s role
influences the statistics and powers you give it.
3. Determine Ability Scores. It’s helpful to think
of ability scores in pairs, each pair corresponding to
one of the three defenses (Fortitude, Reflex, and Will).
Ability scores also help determine the monster’s attack
bonuses, ability and skill checks, and Armor Class.
On average, the highest ability score of a pair is
equal to 13 + one-half the monster’s level. For example, the target score for an 8th-level monster is 17 (13
+ 4). However, set the ability that governs the monster’s primary attacks to be 3 higher, or 16 + one-half
the monster’s level. An 8th-level monster that relies on
melee attacks should have a Strength of 20.
4. Determine Hit Points. Level and role determine hit points. The monster gains a flat number of
hit points at each level, just as characters do. Use the
Monster Statistics by Role table to set hit points.
5. Calculate Armor Class. A monster’s Armor
Class is based on its level and role. Average AC is equal
to 14 + the monster’s level, but some roles alter this
target number, as shown in the table.
6. Calculate Other Defenses. A monster’s level
determines its defenses. A given defense based on an
average ability score is equal to 12 + the monster’s level.

For every 2 points the ability score varies from the average, adjust the defense by +1 (if higher) or –1 (if lower).
7. Choose Powers. The most complex part of
monster creation is creating powers for the monster.
For inspiration, check the powers for creatures in the
Monster Manual. That book has a list of monsters by
level and role, so you can quickly look up other creatures that are similar to your new monster. Then either
choose some powers that seem right, modifying them
as needed, or create new ones of comparable effect.
A monster needs a basic attack, which can be melee
or ranged and is usable at will; some kinds of monsters might have a second basic attack. Then add one
encounter power or rechargeable power per tier (one
at heroic, two at paragon, three at epic).
8. Calculate Attack Bonus. The monster’s attack
bonus is a function of its level and role. Powers that
target AC typically have a higher attack bonus than
those that target other defenses.
9. Set Damage for Attacks: Use the Damage by
Level table to set damage for the monster’s attacks.
Most at-will attacks should use the medium normal
damage shown on the table. For attacks against multiple targets, the melee attacks of artillery monsters,
and controller attacks that also include significant
control functions, use the low normal damage column.
For attacks that have low accuracy (including brute
attacks) and the high-damage attacks of lurker monsters, use the high normal damage column. Use the
limited damage expressions for powers the monster
can use only once or twice a fight—powers that have
encounter recharge or recharge rolls.
10. Additional Details. Monster design doesn’t
stop once you’ve done all the math. Add flavor, appearance, and tactics to round out your creation.

Elite and Solo Monsters
Elite and solo monsters represent the toughest foes the
characters can face; Chapter 4 has more about these
role enhancements. They make great villains, stars
of a campaign, or intimidating “boss” monsters at the
climax of an adventure.

8 + Con
10 + Con
8 + Con
+ (level × 8)
+ (level × 10)
+ (level × 8)
Level + 14
Level + 12
Level + 16
Other defenses
Level + 12
Level + 12
Level + 12
Attack vs. AC*
Level + 5
Level + 3
Level + 7
Attack vs. other defenses* Level +3
Level + 1
Level + 5
*Reduce the attack bonus by 2 for powers that affect multiple creatures.
Initiative bonus
Hit points

6 + Con
+ (level × 6)
Level + 14
Level + 12
Level + 5
Level + 3

8 + Con
+ (level × 8)
Level + 14
Level + 12
Level + 5
Level + 4

6 + Con
+ (level × 6)
Level + 12
Level + 12
Level + 7
Level + 5

C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 184

3/24/08 9:31:13 AM


Normal Damage Expressions
1d6 + 3
1d10 + 3
2d6 + 3
1d6 + 4
1d10 + 4
2d8 + 4
1d8 + 5
2d6 + 5
2d8 + 5
1d8 + 5
2d6 + 5
3d6 + 5
1d10 + 6
2d8 + 6
3d6 + 6
1d10 + 7
2d8 + 7
3d8 + 7
2d6 + 7
3d6 + 8
3d8 + 7
2d6 + 8
3d6 + 8
4d6 + 8
2d8 + 9
3d8 + 9
4d6 + 9
2d8 + 10
3d8 + 10
4d8 + 10


Limited Damage Expressions
3d6 + 3
2d10 + 3
3d8 + 3
3d6 + 4
3d8 + 4
3d10 + 4
3d8 + 5
3d10 + 5
4d8 + 5
3d8 + 5
4d8 + 5
4d10 + 5
3d10 + 6
4d8 + 6
4d10 + 6
3d10 + 6
4d10 + 7
4d12 + 7
4d8 + 7
4d10 + 7
4d12 + 7
4d8 + 8
4d12 + 8
5d10 + 8
4d10 + 9
5d10 + 9
5d12 + 9
4d10 + 9
5d10 + 9
5d12 + 9

Iconic D&D villains, such as the vampire Count
Strahd von Zarovich or the demilich Acererak, are
solo monsters. Such enemies are powerful enough by
themselves to take on an entire party of adventurers.
Elite monsters are tough enough to fight a lower-level
party on their own, but normally they have a few allies
on hand. Lareth the Beautiful, an evil cleric of Lolth,
is a good example. Although powerful, he never enters
battle without bandits, gnolls, or ghouls at his side.

Creating New Elites
An easy way to create a memorable villain is to convert an existing monster into an elite version. In a
goblin-infested dungeon, for example, an elite bugbear
warrior makes a natural chieftain. Adding a template
is an easy way to “upgrade” a monster, whether it’s one
in the Monster Manual or a new creation of your own.
You can also follow these guidelines to advance a
monster to elite status.
1. Adjust Role. The monster’s level and role
remain the same, but it is now an elite version.
2. Adjust Hit Points. An elite monster has hit
points equal to twice the hit points of the standard
monster, plus twice its Constitution score.
3. Adjust Defenses. Increase up to three defenses,
including AC, by 2. Focus on the creature’s best
defenses first. If your monster has a specific weak
defense, don’t increase it.
4. Adjust Saving Throws: All elite monsters have
a +2 bonus to saving throws.

5. Add 1 Action Point: All elite monsters have 1
action point.
6. Adjust Powers and Abilities: Although your
elite creature represents two monsters in combat, it
still has only one set of actions each turn. In effect,
you’re trading two sets of actions for one. Thus, an
elite monster needs additional opportunities to attack,
hinder, or otherwise react to the characters.
Recharge When First Bloodied: As a rule, elite monsters are more dangerous when the chips are down.
To reflect this, select one of the creature’s encounter
powers. It gains another use of this power when it
becomes bloodied for the first time in an encounter.
Immediate Actions: An elite monster typically has
some way to interfere with or respond to the characters’ actions. Many of the templates described earlier
in this chapter include powers that grant an immediate action, whether interrupt or reaction, to counter or
respond to an opponent’s attack or movement.
Additional Attacks: As an alternative to immediate
actions, allow an elite creature to make an additional
attack on its turn. This might be a special attack it can
use as a minor action once during its turn, or simply a
double attack using a standard action.



Creating New Solos
You can turn a basic creature into a terrifying solo
monster as the high point of an adventure.
You can make a “quick and dirty” solo monster
by applying two templates (or one, if the monster is
already elite), as described in the “Templates” section.
Alternatively, you can create a new solo from scratch.
1. Adjust Role. The monster’s level and role
remain the same, but it is now a solo version.
2. Adjust Hit Points. A solo has hit points equal
to 8 times its level +1, plus its Constitution score. If the
solo is level 10 or lower, multiply that result by 4 for its
final hit points. If it is level 11 or higher, multiply that
result by 5 for its final hit points.
3. Adjust Defenses. Increase up to three defenses,
including AC, by 2.
4. Adjust Saving Throws: All solo monsters have
a +5 bonus to saving throws.
5. Add 1 Action Point: All solo monsters have 2
action points.
6. Adjust Powers and Abilities: A solo creature represents five monsters in combat, so it needs
a number of ways to take additional actions. It also
needs more ways to use powers on its own turn and to
interfere with the characters.
More At-Will Powers: Select one of the creature’s
encounter powers. It can now use that power at will.
Additional Standard Action: The easiest way to let a
solo take on an entire party at once is to give it an additional standard action on each of its turns. Thus, it can
always make at least two attacks on its turn, and can
make a third when necessary by using an action point.
C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 185

3/13/08 3:53:31 PM

Nonplayer characters (NPCs) are the supporting cast
in the drama that stars your players’ characters. Creating NPCs helps to bring your adventures and your
campaign to life, creating a world that seems real.
NPCs are typically humanoid beings with a clearly
defined purpose in your campaign and distinctive
personalities. One might be a paladin of the Raven
Queen who stalks the land, a gloomy figure who could
become enemy or ally. Another is the scheming cleric
of Asmodeus who leads the god’s hidden cult, the
main antagonist of your adventure. A third is a brutal
yet honorable orc champion, a powerful warlord and
another ultimate adversary or ally. All have a strong
flavor based on their class and their connections to
other parts of the world.
That said, no NPC needs the depth of background,
personality, and statistics that a well-crafted player
character has. Many NPCs just need a name, a couple
of skills, and a word or two about their place in the
world and how it relates to the PCs. For example,
the town priest Avarun worships Erathis and has a
number of ritual scrolls that he can use: Cure Disease
(4), Raise Dead (1), and Remove Affliction (2).
You can also compose seven sentences to summarize an NPC’s essential elements so that he or she can
interact with the player characters in a meaningful
and memorable way.
Occupation: The first sentence introduces the NPC,
describing the character’s way of life.
Physical Description: This sentence provides a
brief summary of the NPC’s appearance. In addition
to covering the basics (height and build, color of skin,
hair, and eyes, and so forth), think about a distinctive
quirk to help set the character apart in the players’
minds. Roll or choose a quirk from the table, or come
up with one of your own.
Attributes and Skills: Here is where you note
whether any of the NPC’s abilities are markedly above
or below average—great strength or monumental
stupidity, for example. You should also mention any
special skills he or she has, even if they’re not associated with the character’s occupation. These notes will
help you create appropriate statistics later.
Values and Motivations: Summarize the values
that the NPC holds dear, and what spurs him or her to
action. These factors can have an impact on the party’s
interaction with that person. These details also help
you decide how the NPC reacts to the characters.
Behavior: This sentence describes how the NPC
interacts with others—traits that will stand out in the
players’ minds. An NPC might be urbane, sarcastic,
loud and obnoxious, soft-spoken, or condescending. If
this behavior is applied differently depending on who
you are, people than with strangers, note that here.

Useful Knowledge: Does the NPC know something that might benefit the PCs? This information
might be purely for flavor, or it could be a key clue
leading the PCs deeper into the adventure.
Mannerism: Describe a memorable characteristic
of the NPC, something for the players to remember.
They might forget a name, but they’ll remember the
blacksmith with the elaborate vocabulary. Roll or pick
a mannerism from the table, or make up your own.


Is prone to singing, whistling, or humming quietly
Speaks in rhymes or meter
Has particularly low or high voice
Slurs words, lisps, or stutters
Enunciates very clearly
Speaks loudly
Uses flowery speech or long words
Frequently uses the wrong word
Uses colorful oaths and exclamations
Constantly makes jokes or puns
Is prone to predictions of certain doom
Fiddles and fidgets nervously
Stares into distance
Chews something
Taps fingers
Bites fingernails
Twirls hair or tugs beard


Distinctive jewelry (earrings, necklace, bracelets)
Flamboyant or outlandish clothes
Formal or very clean clothes
Ragged and very dirty clothes
Pronounced scar
Missing tooth
Missing finger
Unusual eye color (or two different colors)
Unusual skin color
Braided beard or hair
Unusual hair color
Nervous eye twitch
Distinctive nose
Distinctive posture—crooked or very rigid
Exceptionally beautiful
Exceptionally ugly

C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 186

3/12/08 4:21:40 PM

When the Monster Manual doesn’t have the exact entry
you need, use these guidelines to craft an NPC. Remember that many NPCs simply need a name, a couple of
sentences of background (as described on the previous
page), a key skill or two, and maybe a ritual. Most don’t
have classes or even roles (in the monster sense). Only
go to the trouble of adding game statistics if the NPC is
going to serve as an opponent or an adventuring ally for
the PCs. Otherwise, you’re doing too much work.
Along the same lines, treat NPCs as you would monsters. That is, only give them the things you’ll need to
run them in an encounter or an adventure. Don’t stat out
an NPC as a player stats out a player character. That’s
just too much work for what you really need. Most NPCs,
even opponents, only need as much detail as a monster.
In the rare case where you want to build a campaignlong villain, then it might serve for you to fully stat out
the NPC in PC fashion, but this should be the exception—the rare exception.
1. Choose Level. The level of the NPC determines
key statistics, as well as its threat to the party.
2. Choose Race and Class. Decide which class
most closely matches the NPC’s role. Some classes
work well for more than one role, depending on the
powers you select. Use the NPC class blocks that
3. Determine Ability Scores. Use the standard
ability array. Assign the six numbers as appropriate to
the NPC’s class, applying any racial modifiers. Then
adjust the scores to account for the NPC’s level, just
as you would for a player character. The table below
summarizes the total ability score increases at specific
levels. (These increases are not cumulative.)

Standard Ability Array: 16, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10.


Ability Score Increases
+1 to two
+2 to two
+3 to two, +1 to all others
+4 to two, +1 to all others
+5 to two, +1 to all others
+6 to two, +2 to all others
+7 to two, +2 to all others
+8 to two, +2 to all others

4. Determine Hit Points and Healing Surges.
An NPC’s hit points are primarily determined by his
class, role, and level, as described below. An NPC
is, fundamentally, like a monster, and therefore the
NPC’s hit point total must be close to that of a monster.
NPCs can use healing surges. Like monsters, they
have one healing surge per tier. So, a heroic tier NPC
(1st–10th level) has one healing surge, and an epic tier
NPC (21st level or higher) has three.

Like player characters, NPCs can use their second
wind once per encounter as a standard action.
5. Calculate Defenses. Determine the scores for
the NPC’s Fortitude, Reflex, and Will defenses using the
standard formula: 10 + 1/2 level + relevant ability modifier. Calculate the NPC’s Armor Class as you would for a
player character, including bonuses from armor.
After you have calculated these numbers, add any
bonuses from class or race to all defenses. Then add
the level bonus to represent improvements based on
level advancement, as described in the “Level Bonus
and Magic Threshold” sidebar.
If you gave the NPC a magic item that grants a
bonus to defenses, you must also subtract the magic
threshold from that bonus, as noted in the sidebar.


NPC Design Steps


Level Bonus

Magic Threshold

6. Choose Powers. As described below.
At-Will Powers: Choose one.
Encounter Powers: Choose one of the NPC’s level.
Add an additional power of a lower level if 11th level
or higher.
Daily Powers: Choose one of the NPC’s level. Add an
additional power of a lower level if 21st level or higher.
Utility Powers: Choose one of the NPC’s level. Add
an additional power of a lower level if 11th level or
higher, and another if 21st level or higher.

As player characters gain levels, they choose feats and
gain magic items that increase their attack bonuses and
defenses. The level bonus, shown on the table below, is
an abstraction that helps NPCs keep pace with characters. You can think of it as representing feats you’re not
bothering to choose, low-level magic items, or the NPC’s
intrinsic power.
Add this number to the NPC’s Armor Class and other
defenses, attack rolls, and damage rolls.
An NPC’s magic threshold is related to the level bonus.
If you give an NPC a magic item that grants a bonus to
attack rolls and damage rolls or to defenses, subtract the
magic threshold from that bonus before you apply it.
For example, if you give a 12th-level NPC a +4 magic
longsword, add only a +2 bonus to his or her attack rolls
and damage rolls, since the magic threshold at that level
is +2.

C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 187

3/12/08 4:21:41 PM

7. Choose Skills. Pick a skill or two for the NPC to
be trained in, using the information below.
8. Choose Equipment. Select weapons and armor
from Chapter 7 of the Player’s Handbook, taking into
account class and race.
You can give the NPC a magic item of a suitable
level, but if he or she is an antagonist, count the item as
part of the treasure for the adventure. (See “Awarding
Treasure,” page 125, for more information.)
9. Calculate Attack and Damage Bonuses.
Calculate the NPC’s attack bonuses and damage
bonuses as you would for a player character, then add
the level bonus to each just as you did for defenses in
step 5. The weapon you chose in step 8 determines the
damage of weapon-based powers.
If you gave the NPC a magic item, remember
to subtract the magic threshold, just as you did for
defenses in step 5.
10. Choose Rituals: Giving your NPC certain
ritual scrolls might be appropriate, especially if he or
she is an ally of the characters. Ritual scrolls work well
for NPCs that aren’t ritual casters. Remember that villains can perform powerful rituals “off camera” to help
drive your narrative.

Cleric NPC
Power Source: Divine. Role: Controller (Leader)
Defenses +2 Will
Hit Points 8 per level + Constitution score
Weapon Proficiency Simple weapons
Armor Proficiency Cloth, leather, hide, chainmail
Trained Skills Religion, plus one other skill from the cleric
class list
Class Features Channel Divinity (one power), healing word
Implement Holy symbol

Fighter NPC
Power Source: Martial. Role: Soldier
Defenses +2 Fortitude
Hit Points 8 per level + Constitution score
Weapon Proficiency Simple melee, military melee,
simple ranged, military ranged
Armor Proficiency Cloth, leather, hide, chainmail, scale; light
shield, heavy shield
Trained Skills Two skills from the fighter class list
Class Features Combat Challenge

Paladin NPC
Power Source: Divine. Role: Soldier
Defenses +1 Fortitude, +1 Reflex, +1 Will
Hit Points 8 per level + Constitution score
Weapon Proficiency Simple melee, military melee,
simple ranged
Armor Proficiency Cloth, leather, hide, chainmail, scale,
plate; light shield, heavy shield
Trained Skills Religion, plus one other skill from the paladin
class list
Class Features Divine Challenge, lay on hands
Implement Holy symbol

Ranger NPC
Power Source: Martial. Role: Skirmisher
Defenses +1 Fortitude, +1 Reflex
Hit Points 8 per level + Constitution score
Weapon Proficiency Simple melee, military melee,
simple ranged, military ranged
Armor Proficiency Cloth, leather, hide
Trained Skills Dungeoneering or Nature (your choice), plus
one other skill from the ranger class list
Class Features Fighting Style, Hunter’s Quarry

Rogue NPC
Power Source: Martial. Role: Skirmisher
Defenses +2 Reflex
Hit Points 8 per level + Constitution score
Weapon Proficiency Dagger, hand crossbow, shuriken, sling,
short sword
Armor Proficiency Cloth, leather
Trained Skills Thievery plus one other skill from the rogue
class list
Class Features First Strike, Rogue Weapon Mastery, Sneak

Warlock NPC
Power Source: Arcane. Role: Skirmisher
Defenses +1 Reflex, +1 Will
Hit Points 8 per level + Constitution score
Weapon Proficiency Simple melee, simple ranged
Armor Proficiency Cloth, leather
Trained Skills Two skills from the warlock class list
Class Features Eldritch blast, Eldritch Pact, Warlock’s Curse
Implements Rods, wands

Warlord NPC
Power Source: Martial. Role: Soldier (Leader)
Defenses +1 Fortitude, +1 Will
Hit Points 8 per level + Constitution score
Weapon Proficiency Simple melee, military melee,
military ranged
Armor Training Cloth, leather, chainmail; light shield
Trained Skills Two skills from the warlord class list
Class Features Combat Leader, inspiring word

Wizard NPC
Power Source: Arcane. Role: Artillery
Defenses +2 Will
Hit Points 6 per level + Constitution score
Weapon Proficiency Dagger, quarterstaff
Armor Proficiency Cloth
Trained Skills Arcana plus one other skill from the wizard
class list
Class Features Arcane Implement Mastery, Ritual Caster,
Implements Orbs, staffs, wands

C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 188

3/12/08 4:21:42 PM

As Dungeon Master, you wear several hats: storyteller,
rules arbiter, actor, adventure designer, and writer.
Some DMs like to add a sixth hat to that stack: rules
designer. House rules are variants on the basic rules
designed specifically for a particular DM’s campaign.
They add fun to your D&D game by making it unique,
reflecting specific traits of your world.
A house rule also serves as a handy “patch” for a
game feature that your group dislikes. The D&D rules
cannot possibly account for the variety of campaigns
and play styles of every group. If you disagree with
how the rules handle something, changing them is
within your rights.
This advice can’t turn you into an expert game
designer—we’d need more than a page for that.
Instead, this is a basic introduction to the concepts
behind rules design. Once you’ve become familiar
with these ideas, the best way to learn more about
game design is to play, see what’s fun and what’s not,
and use your discoveries to guide your own work.

Rules Design 101
Before you begin designing a house rule, ask yourself
how necessary it is. A new rule won’t help your game if
it keeps all the problems of the old one. Keep in mind:
✦ Why do I want to change or add this rule?
✦ What should the change accomplish?
✦ How should my new rule accomplish its goal?
Think carefully about the reason for changing or
adding a rule. Are you reacting to a persistent problem
in your campaign, or to one specific incident? Isolated
problems might be better handled in other ways. More
important, do the other players agree to the need for
a change? You have the authority to do whatever you
want with the game, but your efforts won’t help if you
have no group.
If a change still seems in order, consider what the
new or revised rule should do. You need a clear grasp
of the rule’s function before you can begin design.
Start by thinking about intent—don’t worry about the
mechanics yet. Imagine what you want to happen at
the game table when the rule comes into play.
Once you have worked out the rule’s intended function, write up how it works. This material doesn’t need
to be exhaustive or resemble a legal code. You can
modify the rule or make judgment calls during play.
Playing with the new rule is the most important
part of the design process. Keep a close eye on how the
rule affects the game. Does it achieve the desired goal?
Is your group enjoying the game more because of it?
If not, try revising how it works—or even start over. A
rule hardly ever works perfectly the first time.

Example House Rules
Here are a couple of sample house rules, followed by
discussions on their intended purpose.
Whenever you make an attack roll of natural 1, your
turn immediately ends, and you grant combat advantage to all attackers until the start of your next turn.
If the roll is part of a close or area attack, resolve
all the other attack rolls before ending your turn.
A fumble, or “critical miss,” is a failed attack that leaves
the attacker in a bad position. A lot of DMs like the
symmetry of having fumbles on natural 1s to balance
the possibility of critical hits on natural 20s. This rule
models the uncertainty of combat, when even a skilled
warrior can take a bad step or misjudge an attack so
badly as to be unable to respond to any counterstrike.
The exception for close and area attacks is something that you’d likely discover a need for in play. Such
powers affect all targets at once, as opposed to those
that let you blast one foe at a time, so it doesn’t make
sense to cancel the remaining attacks. This way, if a
wizard fumbles a single attack roll with fireball, the
spell still fries the other monsters in its area.
Characters using powers that give them multiple
attack rolls will fumble more than other characters,
because they’re rolling more attacks (and thus getting
more natural 1s). The wizard in the party might get
frustrated from fumbling in every fight just because
he’s rolling three times as many attacks as the fighter.
A fumble rule adds a sense of uncertainty to every
attack, so it works best with players who like a random
element of danger. It’s also a lot of fun to take advantage of a monster’s critical miss.



On a skill or ability check, a roll of natural 20 is a critical success and a roll of natural 1 is a critical failure.
On a critical success, the check automatically succeeds, and you gain a +5 bonus to checks with that
skill until the end of your next turn. In a skill challenge,
add one extra victory to the tally.
On a critical failure, the check automatically fails,
and you take a –5 penalty to checks with that skill
until the end of your next turn. In a skill challenge, add
one extra defeat to the tally.
This house rule extends the symmetry of natural 20s
and natural 1s to skill checks. Some DMs don’t like the
idea of skill checks that always succeed, or conversely,
that have no chance in a desperate attempt.
This house rule adds an extra layer of uncertainty
and tension to noncombat situations, especially in skill
challenges (see page 72). Monsters and NPCs can gain
the benefits (and take the risks) of this rule too, which
might have unintended consequences in play.
C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 189

3/12/08 4:21:42 PM

Did the characters unexpectedly wander into the
Great Labyrinth below the minotaur city? Perhaps you
find yourself with less time to prepare than usual, or
you just want a dungeon environment that’s a little
wacky. Whether you want to prepare something quick
for tonight’s adventure or have some fun on a rainy
day, creating random dungeons is a simple way to fill a
sheet of graph paper.
The tables provided in this section help you quickly
create a dungeon environment. You can either draw
the chambers and corridors yourself, using the
examples provided here, or use pieces from any D&D
Dungeon Tiles product to represent them. Dimensions
are given in squares.
To start, copy one of the areas pictured in this section onto a sheet of graph paper or use photocopies of
the battle grid on pages 222 and 223 of this book. If
you’re building a dungeon on the fly while your players are at the table, lay down tiles to create the starting
area or draw it onto your battle grid. Then pick an exit—
or let the players choose one—and roll a d20, consulting
either the Corridors table or the Doors table below.

How Does it End?
Following these instructions can lead to sprawling
complexes that more than fill a single sheet of graph
paper. If you want to constrain the dungeon somewhat,
you can set some limits ahead of time to just how far it
can grow.
Don’t Leave the Paper: If a feature would exceed
the boundaries of your sheet, cut it short or otherwise
limit it. A corridor might turn or come to a dead end at
the map edge. A chamber can become smaller, or be
replaced by stairs or a dead-end corridor.
One Level at a Time: Once you’ve created eight
to ten chambers, stop. The result is a dungeon section
that should advance your characters one level and give
them about a level’s worth of treasure. You can either
go back and erase doors and corridors on the map that
you haven’t filled out yet, or find ways to connect them
up with each other.

A dungeon can start with a corridor, or you can place a
corridor as a separator between doors or chambers.
Result of 1–19: If the corridor ends in a door, a
chamber, or stairs, refer to the appropriate section and
roll again on the tables provided there.
If the passage divides at an intersection or has a
side branch, choose a path and roll again on the Corridors table. If the corridor continues and also has a
door or stairs, choose either the corridor or the door
or stairs and roll on the appropriate table. You decide
C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 190

3/12/08 4:21:44 PM

d20 Corridor
Straight 4 squares
Straight 8 squares
Ends in door
Straight 4 squares, door on right
Straight 4 squares, door on left
Straight 4 squares, side passage on right
Straight 4 squares, side passage on left
Three-way intersection (“T”)
Four-way intersection
90-degree turn left
90-degree turn right
14–15 Ends in chamber (no door)
Ends in stairs
Straight 4 squares, stairs on right
Straight 4 squares, stairs on left
Dead end
Random encounter


Corridor left and right
Corridor straight ahead
False door plus trap

Result of 1–8: If the die roll results in a corridor of
some sort, refer to the “Corridors” section below and
roll again on that table.
Result of 9–18: If the die roll results in a chamber,
refer to the “Chambers” section below and roll again
on the tables there.
Result of 19: If the die roll indicates stairs, refer to
the “Stairs” section below and roll again on that table.
If your dungeon has only one floor, reroll this result or
substitute another kind of exit.
Result of 20: A roll of 20 results in a false door that
triggers a trap. See “Traps and Hazards” in Chapter 5
to choose a suitable trap for your characters’ level.


The first step in creating random doors is deciding
whether they’re all easy to open or not. If you want
doors of varying difficulty, consult the Door Types
table first. The door’s material determines how hard it
is to open, with difficulty increasing by tier (roll on the
applicable column). Refer to page xx in Chapter 4 for
details of different sorts of doors and portcullises.

Quite often, a door or corridor leads into a chamber
of some kind. Although small rooms are possible,
larger areas work better for combat since they allow
more movement choices and varied terrain. The
chambers provided in the following table are big
enough to leave lots of space for the party and monsters or hazards.
First roll on the Chamber Size and Shape table,
then refer to the Chamber Exits table to determine
how many exits lead out (the way in doesn’t count).
You’ll have to decide how many exits are in which
walls, or you can choose a suitable dungeon tile
with the right number. For each exit that isn’t stairs,
roll another d20 to see if it’s a door or a corridor. If
your dungeon has only one floor, reroll a result that
includes stairs, or substitute another kind of exit.





Not stuck


or locked



Door Type
or locked
Iron portcullis

Iron portcullis


which square an opening, door, or stairway is in, either
by drawing it on the map or aligning a dungeon tile
the way you want.
If the corridor dead-ends, choose a different exit
and roll on the indicated table.
Result of 20: A roll of 20 results in a random
encounter of some sort, whether a trap or hazard, or
one or more monsters. See the “Random Encounters”
section starting on page 193 for help on working out
what’s there.


Square, 8 × 8 squares
Square, 10 × 10 squares
Rectangle, 6 × 8 squares
Rectangle, 8 × 10 squares
Rectangle, 10 × 16 squares
Octagon, 8 × 8 squares
Octagon, 8 × 12 squares
Octagon, 12 × 12 squares
Irregular, roughly 8 × 10 squares
Irregular, roughly 10 × 16 squares

After deciding on the door’s difficulty, roll another
d20 and refer to the following table to see what lies
C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 191

3/12/08 4:21:45 PM

Stairs only
One exit plus stairs
For each exit other than stairs, roll 1d20:
1–10, exit is a door
11–20, exit is a corridor

Finally, roll on the following table for unusual features
in the chamber, placing them as you wish. You can
roll more than once if you want to, or have multiple
squares contain the same feature, but watch out for
crowding. The “Terrain Features” section of Chapter 4
has more advice about using terrain effectively.


Rubble or other difficult terrain
Crevasse or chasm
Statue, obelisk, or similar object
Pool, fountain, or basin
Altar, brazier, or arcane symbol on floor
Platform or dais

The existence of stairs presumes a dungeon with more
than one floor. If you want to keep your dungeon
simple, reroll stairs results from other tables or replace
them with other kinds of features.
For the purpose of this entry, “stairs” includes other
means of going up and down, such as chimneys, shafts
(with or without elevators), and ladders. The distance
between the floors of your dungeon is up to you; 30
feet is a good starting number.


Up to dead end
Down to dead end
Down one floor
Up one floor
Trapdoor plus ladder up one floor
Trapdoor plus ladder down one floor
Shaft up and down, one floor each way

C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 192

3/12/08 4:21:46 PM

Sometimes you need a group of monsters to challenge your characters on the spur of the moment. This
section shows you how to populate those random dungeons with challenging encounters. This is also where
we at last reveal the secret of how to play D&D without
a Dungeon Master!
A random encounter is usually less complex than
one you craft yourself, but it doesn’t have to be any less
fun. You can create interesting tactical challenges with
a few die rolls.

Encounter Basics
Before you create your random encounter, you need to
establish its difficulty and basic nature.
To determine the difficulty of the encounter, roll a
d20 and consult the following table.

the wolf pack), you can either choose one or randomly
select it.
Then comes the tricky part: choosing specific monsters (or traps and hazards) to build the encounter. For
traps and hazards, choose an example in Chapter 5
that’s closest to the level you want. For monsters, your
best bet is to use the Monster Manual’s list of monsters
by role and level. You can either choose the creatures
you want from the list or roll them randomly. Let’s say
you’re creating a commander and troops encounter
for a 4th-level party, and you need 4th-level soldiers or
brutes to fill it out. The Monster Manual includes four
4th-level brutes and three 4th-level soldiers. To choose
randomly from the seven available monsters, roll a
d8. If you get a result of 8, choose a 5th-level monster





Now, roll d10 on the Encounter Template table below
to determine the sort of encounter. Encounter templates are described in Chapter 4.


Commander and troops
Wolf pack
Dragon’s den
Battlefield control
Double line

If you want more variety, and an opportunity to work
traps and hazards (see Chapter 5) into the process, roll
d10 again and consult the Encounter Extra Feature
table below.




Extra Feature
No extra feature
Replace one monster with trap
Replace one monster with hazard
Replace one monster with lurker
As template from above, but add a trap
As template from above, but add a hazard
As template from above, but add a lurker

Each encounter template in Chapter 4 suggests a composition for various difficulty levels. If the template
offers multiple options for a given difficulty (such as

C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 193

3/21/08 10:18:46 AM

The Encounter Deck
You can generate random encounters by assembling
a deck of cards that represent monsters, traps, and
hazards. The stat cards included with D&D Miniatures
Game products are ideal for this purpose, since they
present brief monster statistics for easy reference. This
approach requires some preparation but gives fun and
flexible results.
Before the game, you need to assemble an encounter deck. For an adventure containing eight to ten
encounters, aim for about fifty cards. You probably
won’t use them all, but this mix allows a nice variety.
Create a mix of roles close to the following list.

✦ 18 soldiers or brutes
✦ 14 skirmishers
✦ 5 minions
✦ 5 artillery
✦ 5 controllers
✦ 2 lurkers
✦ 1 solo

You can choose monsters at random, but you can
create more interesting and flavorful encounters by
working with a theme, such as aberrant monsters or
evil cultists. Mixing themes works well—along with
the aberrant creatures, for example, you could have a
strong contingent of demons and demon-worshipers.
Multiple cards might well represent the same monster.

Generating Encounters
When it’s time to generate an encounter, draw one
card from the deck for each character in the party
Each card stands for one monster of that role, with two
exceptions. A card that indicates a soldier or brute represents two of the same monster, while each minion
card represents four creatures.
Once you’ve drawn all your cards, assemble an
encounter using the following principles. Shuffle any
cards you don’t use back into the deck for the next


Within this selection of monsters, put together a range
of challenges along the following lines. In each case,
“Level” refers to the level of the characters.

✦ 7 of Level – 2
✦ 30 within Level – 1 to Level + 1
✦ 8 of Level + 2 or Level + 3
✦ 5 of Level + 4 or Level + 5

C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 194

3/12/08 4:21:50 PM

✦ If you draw a lurker, set it aside and draw another
card. Build an encounter from the rest of the cards
and the new one, then add the lurker to the mix.
✦ A solo monster is the only creature in the encounter. Return all the others to the deck.
If certain monsters seem to naturally fit together in a
certain situation, simply choose them from the deck
instead of drawing randomly.

You can add special characteristics to some of the
cards in your deck to liven up your encounters and
make them feel more like an adventure.
Boss: Add a card for a powerful monster (six or
seven levels above that of the characters) and designate
it as the “boss,” the main villain of the adventure. The
party’s goal is to defeat that monster. The first time you
draw the card, don’t add it to the encounter—draw a
replacement and shuffle the first back into the deck.
Doing this give the characters their first tantalizing
glimpse, setting up the later showdown with that
enemy. The boss might be seen slipping out a door
behind the other creatures, or standing at a safe vantage point to watch the progress of the battle. (This is a
fine opportunity for it to utter a taunt such as “You’ve
fallen into my trap, foolish adventurers!” and then
laugh maniacally before getting away.) A really tricky
boss might escape twice before finally confronting the
Another way to handle a boss monster is to leave
its card out of the deck at the beginning of the adventure. After the PCs have defeated one or two monsters
you’ve designated as key, shuffle the card into the
deck. For example, you might decide that the boss will
arrive after the party encounters your solo monster.
Evolving Deck: To create a sense of progress,
you can have your dungeon change over time. To do
so, start with one encounter deck. As the characters
advance through the dungeon, add in cards from a
second deck of more difficult encounters.
To use this option, you’ll need to create two encounter decks, with the creatures in the second of higher
level than those in the first. Whenever the party
defeats monsters, springs traps, or overcomes hazards
in the first deck, replace those cards with an equal
number of random cards from the second deck. As the
adventure continues, the encounters become tougher
and tougher.

You can combine this option with a boss monster.
In this situation, leave out the boss’s card until the
characters defeat one or more creatures from the
second deck. Then shuffle its card into the second
For an interesting variant, try giving the two decks
different themes. The first deck might contain mostly
vermin and beasts, while the second is made up of
evil clerics, their undead creatures, and their humanoid guards. In this example, the characters are out
to locate and destroy an evil temple. They start out
encountering miscellaneous dungeon denizens but
then run into members of the temple, leading to the
final battle.
Traps and Hazards: You can add traps, hazards,
and interesting terrain features to your random
encounters. To do this, include cards representing
them, in addition to your fifty monster cards. Each
time one of these cards comes up, add it to the encounter and draw another card from the encounter deck.


✦ Each encounter should contain two brutes or soldiers plus two or three monsters of other roles. If
your group has more than five players, add a monster for each additional character.

Playing without a DM
This might seem to be strange advice for a Dungeon
Master’s Guide, but it’s entirely possible to play D&D
without a Dungeon Master. If all you’re looking for
is fun and exciting combat, with no more than the
barest hint of plot or purpose, a random dungeon with
a random encounter deck is all you need. Someone
needs to prepare the deck, and someone needs to run
the monsters during the game. They doesn’t need to be
the same person. All the players can decide together
what the monsters do, and let the player who’s the
target of an attack make that attack roll (or have the
person to the left roll for the monsters).
A random dungeon with no DM makes for a good
way to spend a game session when your regular DM
can’t play. It’s also a fun activity over a lunch hour, as
long as your school or office is forgiving of a group of
people rolling dice and shouting battle cries!

C H A P T E R 10 | T h e D M ’s To o l b o x


4E_DMG_Ch10.indd 195

3/12/08 4:21:52 PM




Where do

the player characters go when
they’re not battling through dismal dungeons or
exploring ancient ruins? Where do they go to spend
the treasure they win and rest up for the next
adventure? The answer is simple: a base town.
A base town is a haven where the heroes can
interact with patrons, listen for rumors, sell art
objects or magic items, and buy new gear. It
might be an elven tree-village that happens to be
located near a dungeon the heroes are exploring,
a prosperous human trade-town that interesting
people pass through, an isolated dwarf stronghold
in the borderlands, or a true city inhabited by
thousands of people. Whatever the nature of the
base town, it’s the place your player characters return
to between adventures, and the place where new
adventures begin.
This chapter introduces a town called Fallcrest,
which you can use as a base town for your first
D&D game.
✦ The Town of Fallcrest: This section is a brief
description of the town’s story, important
characters, and noteworthy locales. Fallcrest
provides adventurers with inns to sleep in,
taverns to frequent, merchants to barter with, and
contacts or patrons who can point them at the next

✦ The Nentir Vale: The region surrounding
Fallcrest is a thinly settled frontier dotted with
ruins and monster lairs. This section is an overview
of the lands around Fallcrest.
✦ Involving the Players: In this section we provide
suggestions for giving your player characters story
connections to Fallcrest and its people.


✦ Kobold Hall: The chapter concludes with a readyto-play beginning adventure: Kobold Hall. If
you’re looking for a chance to start being a
Dungeon Master, this adventure is for you.

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 196

3/12/08 4:23:17 PM

4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 197

3/12/08 4:23:24 PM


A small town built from the ruins of a larger city, Fallcrest is
the crossroads of the Nentir Vale.
Population: 1,350; another 900 or so live in the countryside
within a few miles of the town. The people of Fallcrest are
mostly humans, halflings, and dwarves. No dragonborn or
eladrin are permanent residents, but travelers of all races
pass through on occasion.
Government: The human noble Faren Markelhay is the Lord
Warden (hereditary lord) of the town. He is in charge of
the town’s justice, defense, and laws. The Lord Warden
appoints a town council to look after routine commerce
and public projects.
Defense: The Fallcrest Guard numbers sixty warriors (see
the accompanying statistics block), who also serve as
constables. Moonstone Keep is their barracks. The Lord
Warden can call up 350 militia at need.
Inns: Nentir Inn; Silver Unicorn. The Silver Unicorn is pricier
and offers better service; the Nentir Inn sees a more
interesting clientele.
Taverns: Blue Moon Alehouse; Lucky Gnome Taphouse;
Nentir Inn taproom.
Supplies: Halfmoon Trading House; Sandercot Provisioners.
Temples: Temple of Erathis; Moonsong Temple (Sehanine);
House of the Sun (Pelor).

Fallcrest’s Story
Up until four centuries or so ago, the Moon Hills and
the surrounding Nentir Vale were thinly settled borderlands, home to quarrelsome human hill-chieftains
and remote realms of nonhumans such as dwarves
and elves. Giants, minotaurs, orcs, ogres, and goblins
plagued the area. Ruins such as those on the Gray
Downs or the ring-forts atop the Old Hills date back

to these days, as do stories of the hero Vendar and the
dragon of the Nentir.
With the rise of the empire of Nerath to the
south, human settlers began to move up the Nentir,
establishing towns such as Fastormel, Harkenwold,
and Winterhaven. A Nerathan hero named Aranda
Markelhay obtained a charter to build a keep at the
portage of the Nentir Falls. She raised a simple tower
at the site of Moonstone Keep three hundred ten years
ago, and under its protection the town of Fallcrest
began to grow.
Over the next two centuries, Fallcrest grew into a
small and prosperous city. It was a natural crossroads
for trade, and the Markelhays ruled it well. When
the empire of Nerath began to crumble about a century ago, Fallcrest continued to flourish—for a time.
Ninety years ago, a fierce horde of orcs known as the
Bloodspears descended from the Stonemarch and
swept over the vale. Fallcrest’s army was defeated in a
rash attempt to halt the Bloodspears out on Gardbury
Downs. The Bloodspears burned and pillaged Fallcrest and went on to wreak havoc all across the Nentir
In the decades since the Bloodspear War, Fallcrest has struggled to reestablish itself. The town is a
shadow of the former city; little trade passes up and
down the river these days. The countryside for scores
of miles around is dotted with abandoned homesteads
and manors from the days of Nerath. Once again the
Nentir Vale is a thinly settled borderland where few
folk live. This is a place in need of a few heroes.

Key Locations
Fallcrest is divided into two districts by a steep bluff
that cuts across the town. The area north of the bluff is
known locally as Hightown. This district survived the
city’s fall in relatively good shape, and it was the first
area resettled. To the south of the bluff lies Lowtown,
which tends to be newer and poorer. In the event of
a serious threat, people retreat up to Hightown—the
bluff and the town walls completely ring this part of
Fallcrest, making it highly defensible.
The map on the facing page depicts all the numbered locations discussed in this section. Four of the
locations include statistics for nonplayer characters
who might come into conflict with the PCs.

1. Tower of Waiting
This old fortification was built on a small island in the
Nentir to guard the city from any waterborne attack
from the north. It fell into ruin even before the sack of
the old city, and now is little more than an empty shell
overrun by mice and birds.


Fallcrest stands amid the Moon Hills at the falls of the
Nentir River. Here travelers and traders using the old
King’s Road that runs north and south, the dwarven
Trade Road from the east, and the river all meet. The
surrounding ridges shelter several small valleys where
farmers and woodsfolk live; few are more than six or
seven miles from the town. In general the people outside Fallcrest’s walls earn their living by farming or
keeping livestock, and the people inside the walls are
artisans, laborers, or merchants. People with no other
prospects can make a hard living as porters, carrying
cargo from the Lower Quays to the Upper Quays (or
vice versa).
Fallcrest imports finished goods from the larger
cities downriver and ironwork from the dwarf town
of Hammerfast, and exports timber, leather, fruit,
and grain. It also trades with the nearby town of Winterhaven. The surrounding hills hold several marble
quarries that once produced a good deal of stone, but
the area has little demand for ornamental stone these
days, and only a few stonecutters still practice their

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 198

3/12/08 4:23:26 PM

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 199

3/12/08 4:23:27 PM

DM Tip: According to local legend, the tower was
once a prison for nobles who were too well connected
to be killed out of hand or mistreated. The ghost of an
evil princess who dabbled in demon worship haunts
the tower. You can build your own small dungeon
beneath the ruins, featuring a wrathful specter and
minor demons.

woman who has been known to turn a blind eye to odd
cargo moving over the bridge when paid to do so.
The river current begins to pick up on the south
side of the bridge. Boats (or swimmers) venturing far
from the banks are in danger of being carried over the

4. Nentir Inn
2. Upper Quays
Boats proceeding down the Nentir must stop here and
offload their cargo, which is then portaged through
the town to the Lower Quays and loaded onto boats
below the falls. Likewise, cargo heading in the other
direction is carried up to these quays and loaded
aboard boats bound upstream.
A surly dwarf pugilist named Barstomun Strongbeard runs the porters’ guild, and he takes a cut of
any wages paid to laborers carrying cargo up or down
around the falls. Barstomun and his thugs are trying
to extend their reach by intimidating merchants who
send their goods overland and forcing them to hire
guild porters for any cargo handling in town.
Barstomun Strongbeard

Level 4 Brute

Medium natural humanoid, dwarf
XP 175
Initiative +3
Senses Perception +4; low-light vision
HP 67; Bloodied 33
AC 16; Fortitude 18, Reflex 15, Will 15
Saving Throws +5 against poison effects
Speed 5
m Fist Pummel (standard; at-will)
+7 vs. AC; 1d6 + 4 damage.
M Quick Punch (minor; at-will)
+7 vs. AC; 1d6 + 4 damage.
Dodge and Throw (immediate reaction; encounter; after an enemy
misses with a melee attack)
+7 vs Fortitude; slide target 1, and target is knocked prone.
Stand Your Ground
When an effect forces Barstomun to move—through a push, a
pull, or a slide—he moves 1 square less than the effect specifies.
When an attack would knock Barstomun prone, he can
immediately make a saving throw to avoid falling prone.
Alignment Unaligned
Languages Common, Dwarven
Skills Endurance +7
Str 18 (+6)
Dex 13 (+3)
Wis 13 (+3)
Con 17 (+5)
Int 11 (+2)
Cha 8 (+1)

3. Five-Arch Bridge
Dwarf artisans from the citadel of Hammerfast built
a fine stone bridge over the Nentir two hundred years
ago. Although the bridge was destroyed when Fallcrest
fell, the great stone piers supporting it remained intact,
so a few years back the people of the town laid a new
timber trestle over the old stone footings.
A small toll house guards the western side of the
bridge. Five Fallcrest guards under the command of
Sergeant Thurmina watch this post. They collect a
toll of 1 cp per head (and 1 sp per mount) making use
of the bridge in either direction. Thurmina is a gruff

A fine new building constructed of fieldstone and
strong timber, the Nentir Inn stands on the west bank
of the river. Merchants from Winterhaven or Hammerfast make up the clientele, along with travelers
who happen to be passing through. A good room with
two single beds goes for 5 sp per night. The Nentir Inn
also boasts a lively taproom, which is popular with the
folk who live in the vales on the west bank of the river.
The proprietor is a charming half-elf named
Erandil Zemoar who showed up in Fallcrest one day
about two years ago, bought land, and built an inn.
The money that Erandil used to set up the Nentir
isn’t his; he charmed an aging noblewoman in the far
south out of her fortune, and fled one step ahead of the
One of the Nentir Inn’s current guests is an expatriate noble from the south named Serim Selduzar, who
harbors ambitions against Fallcrest. This tiefling is
clever and feigns good humor about his “present unfortunate circumstances,” and he has a wickedly sarcastic
streak to his wit. Serim claims to be the third son of a
southern noble with little prospect to inherit. He tells
inquirers that he is thinking of establishing a small
manor somewhere nearby, but in truth he has set his
sights on arranging the downfall of the Markelhay
family and installing himself as the new Lord Warden.
The tiefling is looking for capable associates to help
him, and a band of enthusiastic adventurers would
suit his purposes admirably. Given the chance, Serim
befriends the player characters in the hope that he
might dupe them into overthrowing the Markelhays
for him.

5. Knight’s Gate
Fallcrest’s northern city gate is known as Knight’s
Gate, because the Lord Warden’s riders normally
come and go from the city by this road. The gate consists of strong outer doors of iron-reinforced timber
and an inner portcullis between a pair of small stone
towers. The portcullis is normally lowered at sunset,
and the gates close only in times of danger.
The gatehouse barracks accommodates five Fallcrest guards plus Sergeant Nereth, who commands
this gate. He is a stiff-necked fussbudget who rigorously enforces all rules; the guards stationed here can’t
stand their sergeant.

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 200

3/12/08 4:23:32 PM

Fallcrest’s Hightown is guarded on two sides by a wall (the
river and the bluffs protect the other two sides). It consists
of two parallel barriers of stone block with a few feet of
fill between them, and stands about 20 feet tall. Every
hundred yards or so, a small tower strengthens the wall.
Two pairs of sentries (Fallcrest guards from the castle) walk
the wall tops at night, but unless danger is imminent, the
towers are left locked and aren’t manned. The gatehouses
are permanently garrisoned.

who dispenses a never-ending stream of advice to his
customers, such as, “It never rains but as someone
gets wet!” or “A nail ain’t afraid of a hammer with no
handle!” No one knows what he’s talking about most of
the time, but Selarund is more sly than he lets on and
keeps a close eye on events all around the town.
The Halfmoon Trading House is an excellent place
to buy any of the mundane tools, gear, supplies, or
clothing mentioned in the Player’s Handbook.

6. Silver Unicorn Inn

8. Moonstone Keep

For many years, the Silver Unicorn has billed itself
as “the Pride of Fallcrest,” charging high rates for its
attentive service and well-appointed rooms. The recent
opening of the Nentir Inn put a big dent in the Silver
Unicorn’s business, and the owner, a stern halfling
matriarch named Wisara Osterman, strongly disapproves. She’s certain that there is something shifty
about Erandil Zemoar, but can’t put her finger on it.
A room in the Silver Unicorn costs 2 gp per night.

The seat of Lord Warden Faren Markelhay, Moonstone
Keep is an old castle that sits atop a steep-sided hill
overlooking the town. The outer bailey includes barracks housing up to sixty Fallcrest guards. At any given
time about twenty or so are off-duty. Other buildings
in the courtyard include a stable, an armory, a chapel,
a smithy, and several storehouses. The keep is the large
D-shaped building at the north end of the castle.
Faren Markelhay is a balding, middle-aged human
with a keen mind and a dry wit. He is a busy man and
sees to local matters personally, so adventurers calling
on him are likely to wait a long time for a short interview. However, he is eager for news of other towns in
the Vale (and farther lands as well) and never turns
away someone who brings him news or waits to see

7. Halfmoon Trading House


The Halfmoon family is a large, far-flung clan of
halflings who keep small trading posts in several settlements throughout the Nentir Vale. This is the largest
and most important of those establishments. It’s under
the care of Selarund Halfmoon, a friendly halfling



C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 201

3/12/08 4:23:33 PM

DM Tip: The Lord Warden is always on the lookout
for traveling sellswords or adventurers who might take
on a contract to clear out a nest of bandits, drive off a
dangerous beast, or escort a valuable cargo to its destination. The kobolds of Kobold Hall have been causing
trouble on the King’s Road lately, and they’re at the top
of his list; if the player characters are looking for work,
Lord Markelhay points them toward Kobold Hall first
(see the adventure later in this chapter). He also has
word of trouble in the town of Winterhaven, and he
encourages player characters to consider helping the
Lord Mayor of that town.
Lord Markelhay’s wife is Lady Allande Markelhay
(female human wizard 4). She is a cool and reserved
woman ten years younger than her husband. A student
of the arcane arts, she uses her powers to advise her
husband. They have four children; the eldest, Ernesto,
is currently away in the south, living in the court of
another ruler.

9. The Tombwood
Along the southern slopes of Moonstone Hill grows
a large thicket that has never been entirely cleared.
Within its tangled paths lies the old castle cemetery
(now heavily overgrown), as well as a battle-mound
dating back centuries.
DM Tip: These old crypts are linked by secret passages to dangerous, sealed-off parts of the Moonstone
Caverns beneath the town. You can create your own
dungeon here.

10. House of the Sun
When Fallcrest was a larger city, it supported several
good-sized temples located in the Hightown districts.
With the town’s depopulation, several of these were
abandoned, including the House of the Sun, a temple
dedicated to Pelor. The place also includes shrines to
Kord and Bahamut. Recently, a zealous dwarf priest
of Pelor named Grundelmar came to Fallcrest from
Hammerfast and reestablished this old temple. Grundelmar is loud and opinionated, a real fire-breather
who goes on and on about smiting evil wherever it
might lurk.
DM Tip: Grundelmar is worried about conditions
on the Trade Road, and he strongly encourages any
would-be heroes to search out the bandit lair of Raven
Roost and deal with the outlaws. This lair is a good
opportunity to build your own dungeon.

11. House Azaer
A small, well-off trading company, House Azaer is
owned by the tieflings of the Azaer family. They
import goods (including arms and armor) from Hammerfast, Harkenwold, and the lands to the south, and
organize caravans up to Winterhaven several times
a year. House Azaer is an excellent place to purchase

nearly any mundane equipment from the Player’s
Handbook, although its prices are a little on the high
Amara Azaer is in charge of the house business
in Fallcrest, and spends her time on the premises.
Though young, the tiefling is quite sharp and doesn’t
miss an opportunity for profit in running the Azaer

12. The Nentir Falls
Here the Nentir River descends nearly 200 feet in
three striking shelflike drops. On the small island in
the middle of the falls stands the statue of an ancient
human hero named Vendar, holding up his hand as
if to challenge enemies approaching from downriver.
Local legend tells that Vendar slew a dragon whose lair
was hidden in caverns beneath the falls.

13. Temple of Erathis
This large, impressive stone temple is finished with
Fallcrest’s native marble. Its chapel is a large rotunda
with a 30-foot-tall dome. The temple of Erathis is the
largest and most influential temple in town. The place
also includes shrines to Ioun and Moradin.
High Priest Dirina Mornbrow oversees two lesser
priests and several acolytes—townsfolk who spend part
of their day tending the temple. Dirina is a woman
of about sixty who is convinced of the superiority of
Erathis’s dogma, and disappointed that more people
in Fallcrest don’t pay proper reverence to “our city’s
patron god.” She is familiar with several divination
and restoration rituals and can aid adventurers with
ritual magic at need—for an appropriate gift to Erathis,
of course. She has limited access to the following ritual
scrolls: Hand of Fate (1), Cure Disease (4), Raise Dead
(1), Remove Affliction (2).

14. The Bluffs
Fallcrest is divided in half by a great cliff snaking
northwest to southeast across the town. The bluffs
average 150 to 250 feet in height. They are not strictly
vertical, but are too tall and steep to be easily climbed.
Someone leaping (or pushed) off the upper edge would
fall and roll about 2d6 [ts] 10 feet before sliding to a
stop, likely on a precarious ledge.

15. The Catacombs
The limestone bluffs between Hightown and Lowtown
hold a number of caves, which the folk of Fallcrest
have used as burial crypts for centuries. As caves fill
up, they are walled off and forgotten about. Naturally,
stories abound in town about treasure hoards hidden
away in the crypts, and the restless undead that guard
DM Tip: The stories are in part true; portions of
the catacombs now in use are safe enough, but explor-

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 202

3/12/08 4:23:35 PM

16. Moonsong Temple
The third of Fallcrest’s temples is devoted to Sehanine.
It also includes shrines to Corellon, Melora, and Avandra. The Markelhays regard Sehanine as their special
patron, and over the years they have given generously
to the temple. The temple occupies a commanding
position atop the bluffs, and its white minarets can be
seen from any corner of Lowtown.
The leader of the temple is High Priest Ressilmae
Starlight, a wise and compassionate elf who finished
adventuring decades ago and retired to a contemplative life. He is a musician of great skill who happily
tutors the local children, even those who are poor and
can’t afford to pay for their lessons. He has limited
access to the following ritual scrolls: Cure Disease (2),
Raise Dead (1), Remove Affliction (1).

17. Fallcrest Stables
Lannar Thistleton owns this business, providing travelers with tack, harness, stabling, shoeing, wagons,
and just about anything dealing with horses, mules, or
ponies. He keeps a larger corral about a mile outside
of town, and at any given time Lannar has several
riding horses, draft horses, or mules in his paddock
near Wizard’s Gate. The halfling is an excellent source
of rumors, since he sees the travelers coming or going
by the roads. He is a friendly fellow of about forty,
with a large brood of children at his home out in the

18. Wizard’s Gate
Fallcrest’s eastern city gate is known as Wizard’s Gate,
because it’s the gate most convenient to the Septarch’s
Tower. The road to the east travels a few miles into the
surrounding hills, linking a number of outlying farms
and homesteads with the town.
The gate resembles Knight’s Gate in construction, and is similarly watched by a detachment of five
guards and a sergeant. The leader of this detachment
is Sergeant Murgeddin, a dwarf veteran who fought
in the Bloodspear War and was present at the Battle
of Gardbury, where Fallcrest’s army was defeated.
A friendly drink goes a long way toward loosening
Murgeddin’s tongue about that long-ago war.
DM Tip: During the battle, Murgeddin saw the
old Lord Markelhay flee into the catacombs under
the Gardmore Abbey and never come out. The dwarf
suspects that the ancestral sword of the Markelhays—
Aranda Markelhay’s magic longsword Moonbane—lies
somewhere below the abbey. You can create your own
dungeon in the ruins of the abbey.

19. Naerumar’s Imports
Considered the finest of Fallcrest’s retail establishments, Naerumar’s Imports deals in gemstones,
jewelry, art, and magic trinkets. The owner is Orest
Naerumar, a tiefling who displays impeccable manners and discretion. Orest corresponds with relatives
and colleagues in several towns and cities outside
the Nentir Vale; given a few weeks, he can order in
low-level magic items or other items of unusual value.
Similarly, Orest purchases interesting items such as
these, since other dealers in distant towns or cities
might be looking for them.
Orest doesn’t ask questions about where characters
in his store found the goods they’re selling to him,
but he is not a fence—if he knows that something was
obtained illegally, he declines to purchase it.
DM Tip: Orest normally arranges for halflings
of the Swiftwater clan to transport special orders—
jewelry, gems, or magic items of value. However, he
sometimes makes other arrangements for items that
seem especially valuable or dangerous. If the player
characters are looking for something to do, Orest can
hire them to carry or guard exceptionally valuable
goods he’s sending to a merchant in another town.
Orest Naerumar


ers forcing their way into older portions might stumble
into deadly traps, ancient curses, evil shrines, and
more than a few malevolent undead.

Level 8 Skirmisher

Medium natural humanoid, tiefling rogue
XP 350
Initiative +8
Senses Perception +5; low-light vision
HP 79; Bloodied 39
AC 21; Fortitude 19, Reflex 23, Will 22
Resist fire 9
Speed 6
m Dagger +1 (standard; at-will) ✦ Weapon
+11 vs. AC; 1d4 + 1 damage.
M Sly Flourish (standard; at-will) ✦ Martial, Weapon
+14 vs. AC; 1d4 + 9 damage.
M Dazing Strike (standard; encounter) ✦ Martial, Weapon
+14 vs. AC; 1d4 + 4 damage and target dazed until the end of
Orest’s next turn.
Infernal Wrath (minor; encounter)
Orest gains a +1 power bonus to his next attack roll against an
enemy that hit him since his last turn. If the attack hits and deals
damage, Orest deals an extra 5 damage.
First Strike
At the start of an encounter, Orest has combat advantage against
any creatures that have not yet acted.
Sneak Attack
Once per round, Orest gains +2d6 damage when he has combat
Orest gains a +1 racial bonus to attack rolls against bloodied
Alignment Unaligned
Languages Common, Dwarven
Skills Bluff +13, Diplomacy +14, Insight +11, Stealth +10
Str 13 (+5)
Dex 19 (+8)
Wis 14 (+6)
Con 15 (+6)
Int 15 (+6)
Cha 20 (+9)
Equipment usually unarmored, might carry a level 6 through 8
magic dagger

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 203

3/12/08 4:23:35 PM

20. Kamroth Estate
This is the home of the self-styled “lord” Armos Kamroth, a wealthy landowner who collects rents from
scores of farmers and herders living in the countryside
nearby. Armos is a brusque, balding man of about fifty
who makes a show of loaning money in good faith and
exacting only what the law allows—but somehow he
has quietly bought up dozens of free farms over the
years and turned their owners into his tenants.
Armos is a miser of the worst kind and is secretly
a devotee of Tiamat. He leads a small circle of likeminded folk who meet secretly in hidden vaults
beneath his comfortable estate. Any news of treasure
discovered by itinerant heroes inflames his avarice
and leads him to begin scheming for ways to part the
adventurers from their wealth.
Armos Kamroth

Level 5 Controller (leader)

Medium natural humanoid, human cleric
XP 200
Senses Perception +6
Initiative +3
HP 54; Bloodied 27
AC 18; Fortitude 16, Reflex 15, Will 20
Speed 5
m Mace (standard; at-will) ✦ Weapon
+7 vs. AC; 1d8 + 3 damage.
R Lance of Faith (standard; at-will ) ✦ Divine, Implement
Ranged 5; +7 vs. Reflex; 1d8 + 5 damage, and one ally gains a +2
power bonus to his next attack against the target.
R Cause Fear (standard; encounter) ✦ Divine, Implement
Ranged 10; +7 vs. Will; the target moves its speed + 1 away from
Armos. The fleeing target avoids unsafe squares and difficult
terrain if it can. This movement provokes opportunity attacks.
Divine Fortune (free; encounter ) ✦ Divine
Armos gains a +1 bonus to his next attack roll or saving throw
before the end of his next turn.
Healing Word (minor; 2/encounter ) ✦ Divine, Healing
Close burst 5; you or one ally can spend a healing surge and
regain an additional 1d6 hit points.
Alignment Evil
Languages Common, Draconic
Skills Diplomacy +8, Religion +7
Str 14 (+4)
Dex 12 (+3)
Wis 18 (+6)
Con 14 (+4)
Int 11 (+2)
Cha 12 (+3)
Equipment chainmail, mace, symbol of Tiamat worn under shirt

21. Moonwash Falls
A small, swift stream known as the Moonwash flows
through Fallcrest to meet the Nentir River. The stream
is rarely more than 20 feet wide or 5 feet deep. The
town’s children love to play in the pool at the base of
the falls in the summertime.

22. Septarch’s Tower
This lonely structure is a tall, seven-sided spire of pale
green stone that doesn’t match anything else in the
town. In the days before the Bloodspear War, this was
the seat of Fallcrest’s mages’ guild—an order of a dozen
or so wizards and arcane scholars. Defensive enchantments prevented the orcs from sacking the tower, but
the guild’s members died fighting for the city or fled to
safer lands.

The tower is now the property of Nimozaran the
Green, an elderly wizard who was once apprenticed
to the last of the old guild mages. Nimozaran considers himself the “High Septarch of Fallcrest” and
master of the guild, whose membership now includes
only himself and a rather unpromising male halfling
apprentice named Tobolar Quickfoot. Nimozaran
expects any potential new guild members to pay a
hefty initiation fee, and so far none of the few other
arcanists living in or passing through Fallcrest have
seen reason to join. He can teach a limited number
of rituals, including Comprehend Language, Eye of
Alarm, and Enchant Magic Item.
The topmost level of the tower is a room that
includes a permanent teleportation circle. Characters
using travel rituals can set this circle as their destination (although they’ll certainly startle old Nimozaran if
they do).

23. Blue Moon Alehouse
This brewhouse on the banks of the Moonwash Stream
is the best tavern in Fallcrest. The owner is a nervous,
easily flustered fellow of fifty or so named Par Winnomer. The true genius behind the Blue Moon is the
halfling brewmaster Kemara Brownbottle. She is
happy to let Par fret about running the taphouse, while
she spends her time perfecting her selection of ales
and beers.
The Blue Moon is popular with halfling traders
whose boats tie up along the Lower Quay, well-off
town merchants, and the farmers who live in the countryside south of Fallcrest. The old dwarves Teldorthan
(area 24) and Sergeant Murgeddin (area 18) hoist a
tankard or two here on frequent occasion, and both
can provide beginning adventurers with good leads on
potential adventures.

24. Teldorthan’s Arms
The dwarf Teldorthan Ironhews is the town’s weaponsmith and armorer. He is a garrulous old fellow who
spends his time trading stories with his customers
with a pipe clenched in his teeth, while his apprentices (two of whom are his sons) do the work. Make no
mistake—Teldorthan is a master armorer, and under
his supervision his apprentices turn out work of exceptional quality.
Teldorthan has in stock (or can soon manufacture)
just about any mundane weapon or armor found in the
Player’s Handbook, although he advises beginners to try
a hammer: “If you can drive a nail, you can kill an orc!
You can drive a nail, can’t you?”
DM Tip: Teldorthan recently lost a valuable strip of
dragon hide he intended to make into scale armor. A
trade caravan had sent it down from Winterhaven, but
kobolds raided the caravan near the Cloak Wood and
stole the wagon’s goods. The dwarf strongly suspects
that the kobolds are hiding out in the ruined manor

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 204

3/12/08 4:23:36 PM

25. King’s Gate
Fallcrest’s southern gate was destroyed in the attack
that devastated the city long ago, and it still has not
been entirely rebuilt. One of the two paired towers
is nothing but rubble, and several large gaps remain
in the town walls south of the bluffs through which
anyone could enter the city.
Despite its lack of functionality, the King’s Gate is
still used as a guardpost by the Fallcrest guards. Sergeant Gerdrand is in charge here; he is a tall, lanky
man who doesn’t say much, answering questions with
a grunt or a shake of the head.

26. The Market Green
The majority of Fallcrest’s folk live above the bluffs in
Hightown and walk down to do business on the streets
of Lowtown, which bustle with commerce. This wide
square is an open, grassy meadow where Fallcrest’s
merchants and visiting traders do business in good
weather. The town’s children gather here for games of
tag or kick-stones.


Level 5 Skirmisher

Medium natural humanoid, human rogue
XP 200
Initiative +5
Senses Perception +6
HP 52; Bloodied 26
AC 20; Fortitude 16, Reflex 21, Will 16
Speed 6
m Dagger (standard; at-will) ✦ Weapon
+8 vs. AC; 1d4 + 3 damage.
M Deft Strike (standard; at-will ) ✦ Martial, Weapon
Kelson can move 2 squares before the attack. +11 vs. AC; 1d4 +
6 damage.
M King’s Castle (standard; encounter) ✦ Martial, Weapon
+11 vs Reflex; 2d4 + 6 damage; Kelson can also switch places
with a willing adjacent ally.
First Strike
At the start of an encounter, Kelson has combat advantage
against any creatures that have not yet acted.
Nimble Reaction
Kelson gains a +2 racial bonus to AC against opportunity attacks.
Second Chance (immediate interrupt; encounter)
When an attack hits Kelson, he forces the enemy to roll the
attack again. The enemy must use the second roll.
Sneak Attack
Once per round, Kelson gains +2d6 damage when he has combat
Alignment Evil
Languages Common
Skills Bluff +9, Diplomacy +9, Streetwise +7, Stealth +12
Str 14 (+4)
Dex 20 (+7)
Wis 11 (+2)
Con 12 (+3)
Int 10 (+2)
Cha 15 (+4)
Equipment leather armor, dagger, one level 4 through 6 magic item

27. Sandercot Provisioners

29. Lower Quays

The largest general store in Fallcrest, Sandercot’s deals
in just about anything—food, clothing, stores, rope,
tools, gear, leather goods, and more. Compared to the
Halfmoon Trading House, Sandercot’s has slightly
cheaper prices but goods of somewhat lower quality.
The owner is Nimena Sandercot, the widow of the
late and unlamented Marken Sandercot. Marken associated with brigands and ne’er-do-wells, making a tidy
sum by buying up goods stolen from his neighbors. His
widow has continued the practice. Nimena puts on an
air of rustic charm, but when it’s time to talk “backroom business” she is ruthless, grasping, and greedy.
She has three young sons, all of whom are quickly
learning the family business.
Nimena is a willing fence for anything someone
cares to sell, but she won’t pay a copper more than she
has to.

Keelboats and similar craft put in here to unload
their cargo and portage it up to other boats above
the falls. As described above for the Upper Quays,
the porters’ guild jealously defends its monopoly
on moving cargo around the falls, and it frequently
attempts to intimidate local merchants into paying for
portage services—whether needed or not. In addition
to the porters’ guild, another gang of troublemakers
lurks around the Lower Quays: the River Rats. These
street toughs and thieves look out for the chance to
pilfer from the warehouses or roll a drunk in a dark
Boats belonging to a number of different travelers
tie up here, the most common of which are the keelboats of the halfling Swiftwater Clan. The Swiftwaters
carry cargo all the way down to the Nentir’s mouth,
hundreds of miles downriver. They’re more than willing to take passengers for a small fee. Irena Swiftwater
is the matriarch of the clan. She is a sharp merchant
who passes herself off as an absent-minded reader of
fortunes and maker of minor charms.

28. Lucky Gnome Taphouse
The Lucky Gnome is widely regarded as the cheapest
and coarsest of Fallcrest’s drinking establishments. It
caters to the porters and laborers who work the nearby
docks, and fistfights are a nightly occurrence.
The owner of the Lucky Gnome is an unsavory
character named Kelson. Kelson runs the River Rats, a
small street gang that plagues Lowtown, from the back
room of his tavern.


called Kobold Hall, and he wants someone to recover
his property. He is willing to pay the player characters
to make the attempt. This offer leads characters into
the sample adventure later in this chapter.

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 205

3/12/08 4:23:37 PM


Fiveleague House
Fiveleague House is more properly known as the Fiveleague Inn. It’s a strongly built innhouse surrounded
by a wooden palisade. Fiveleague House caters to
travelers and merchants coming or going from Hammerfast, a day’s journey (five leagues) farther east. The
proprietor is a big, bearlike human named Barton.
Barton makes a good show of joviality, but he’s secretly
allied with the bandits of Raven Roost and sends them
word of travelers worth robbing who will be continuing west toward Fallcrest.

Gardmore Abbey
The Gardbury Downs take their name from this
striking ruin, a large monastery that has lain in ruins
for almost one hundred fifty years. The abbey was
dedicated to Bahamut and served as the base of a
militant order of paladins who won great fame fighting in Nerath’s distant crusades. As the story goes,
the paladins brought a dark artifact back from a far
crusade for safekeeping, and evil forces gathered to
assault the abbey and take it back. Extensive dungeons
lie beneath the ruins, which might still conceal the
hoarded wealth of the old crusading paladins.


Fallcrest lies near the middle of the broad borderland region known as the Nentir Vale. The vale is
now mostly empty, with a handful of living villages
and towns scattered over this wide area. Abandoned
farmsteads, ruined manors, and broken keeps litter
the countryside. Bandits, wild animals, and monsters
roam freely throughout the vale, threatening anyone
who fares more than few miles away from one of the
surviving settlements. Travel along the roads or river is
usually safe—usually. But every now and then, travelers
come to bad ends between towns.
The Nentir Vale is a northern land, but it sees relatively little snow—winters are windy and bitterly cold.
The Nentir River is too big to freeze except for a few
weeks in the coldest part of the year. Summers are
cool and mild.
The “clear” parts of the map are covered in mixed
terrain—large stretches of open meadowland, copses
of light forest, gently rolling hills, and the occasional
thicket of dense woodland and heavy undergrowth.
The downs marked on the map are hilly grassland,
with little tree cover. The hills are steeper and more
rugged, and include light forest in the valleys and
saddles between the hilltops.
Interesting locales in the Nentir Vale are described

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 206

3/12/08 4:23:38 PM

Kalton Manor

This large burial mound stands near the middle of
the Gray Downs, a desolate region. The old human
hill-clans who lived in the Vale raised the barrow
centuries before civilized folk settled in Fallcrest. The
hill-folk are long gone, but their grim barrows remain.
The Sword Barrow gained its name because scores of
rusted blades of ancient design are buried around its
edges, blades pointing inward; a visitor can turn up
several in a few minutes of looking around. The blades
seem completely ordinary, not hinting at the old warding magic that surrounds the place.

Back in the days when Nerath was settling the Nentir
Vale, minor lords in search of land to call their own
established manors and holds throughout the area.
Kalton Manor was one of these, a small keep raised by
Lord Arrol Kalton about two hundred years ago. Lord
Arrol intended to settle the lower vale of the White
River, but it was not to be—monsters from the Witchlight Fens drove off the tenants Arrol had brought with
him. At the end, Arrol and a handful of his servants
and family lived alone in a half-finished keep slowly
falling into ruin until they disappeared as well. Stories
tell of hidden treasure—the old Kalton fortune—hidden
in secret chambers beneath the ruined keep.

A dwarven hold cut from the rock of a deep vale in
the Dawnforge Mountains, Hammerfast is the largest
and wealthiest town in the region. The Trade Road
runs through the citadel gates and continues eastward
beyond the Dawnforge Mountains. Hammerfast is
governed by a council of masters, each the leaders of
one of the town’s powerful guilds. The current High
Master is the leader of the merchant guild, a dwarf
named Marsinda Goldspinner. The dwarves of Hammerfast look to their own first and don’t give away
anything for free, but they are honest and industrious.


The Sword Barrow

Keep on the Shadowfell
Long ago, soldiers from Nerath built a strong fortress
over the Shadowfell rift to protect it. The old keep
lies in ruins now, and a new generation of cultists has
secretly taken up residence here. They seek to undo
the magical wards sealing the Shadowfell rift and
open the way for undead horrors.
The keep is described in detail in the adventure H1:
Keep on the Shadowfell.

Kobold Hall
Harken Forest
This large woodland stretches from the Nentir River
to the mountains and extends for miles to the south.
It separates the Nentir Vale from the more populous
coastal towns of the south. A strong goblin keep called
Daggerburg lies somewhere in the southwest reaches,
not too far from Kalton Manor; the goblins sometimes
raid the river-traffic moving along the Nentir, or send
small parties of marauders to Harkenwold’s borders.
An elf tribe known as the Woodsinger Clan roams
the eastern portions of the forest. They occasionally
trade with the humans of Harkenwold and keep an
eye on travelers along the old King’s Road. They have
a long-standing feud with the Daggerburg goblins,
and the goblins keep to the western parts of the forest
to avoid swift and deadly elven arrows. However, the
goblins are growing more numerous and have become
bolder in recent months.

Half a dozen small villages lie along the upper vales of
the White River. Together, they make up the Barony
of Harkenwold—a tiny realm whose total population is
not much greater than Fallcrest’s. The people of Harkenwold are farmers, woodcutters, and woodworkers;
little trade comes up or down the old King’s Road.
The ruler of Harkenwold is Baron Stockmer, an
elderly man who was known for his strong sword arm
in his youth. He is a just and compassionate ruler.

Like Kalton Manor, the wreck now known locally as
Kobold Hall was the estate of a minor lord who came
to Nentir Vale to establish his own demesnes. Ruined
during the Bloodspear War, the old castle has been
abandoned for almost a century. Kobold tribes from
the Cloak Wood now lurk in its depths.
The short adventure at the end of this chapter is set
in Kobold Hall.

This tiny human village lies at the east end of Lake
Nen. The folk here make a meager living by trading
smoked fish to the dwarves of Hammerfast. They also
deal with the Tigerclaw barbarians of the Winterbole
Forest. When the wild folk choose to trade, they come
to Nenlast to barter their pelts and amber for good
dwarven metalwork.

Raven Roost
This small keep stands at the southern end of the Old
Hills. Once it was the seat of a small manor, but it fell
into ruin long ago and has recently been taken over
by a gang of bandits. The leaders of the bandits are
a trio of shadar-kai named Samminel, Erzoun, and
Geriesh. They secretly deal with Barton, the proprietor of Fiveleague House, giving him a cut of the take
when he tips them off about wealthy travelers on the
Trade Road.
C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 207

3/12/08 4:23:40 PM

Ruins of Fastormel
Once a prosperous town on the shores of Lake Nen,
Fastormel was destroyed by the Bloodspear orcs and
has never been resettled. The town was ruled by a
Lord Mage (the most powerful wizard in town claimed
the ruler’s scepter), and the Mistborn Tower of the last
Lord Mage still stands amid the ruins of the town. The
tower is shrouded in a strange silver mist that never
dissipates, no matter what the weather would otherwise dictate.

The Stonemarch
A rugged land of stony hills and deep gorges cut by
white-rushing rivers, the Stonemarch is home to tribes
of dangerous humanoids and giants. Orcs, ogres,
giants, and trolls haunt the farther reaches of these
barren lands. Fortunately for the residents of the vale,
the monsters rarely come east over the Cairngorm
Peaks. A great orc-warren known as the Fanged Jaws
of Kulkoszar lies in the northern part of the wasteland;
here the chief of the Bloodspear tribe rules over hundreds of the fierce warriors.

Temple of Yellow Skulls
The ruins of an evil shrine stand in the middle of
these desolate hills. Legend tells that a rakshasa prince
summoned demons to this place and bound them
to his service by imprisoning their vital essences in
gold-plated human skulls. None of these have yet been
recovered from the ruins, but the story persists. Deep
caverns beneath the ruins lead all the way down to the
Underdark, and from time to time dangerous monsters of the deep places emerge here and prowl the
nearby lands.

This striking peak is the largest of the Old Hills.
Beneath Thunderspire lies the ancient minotaur city
of Saruun Khel. The minotaur kingdom fell almost a
hundred years before Fallcrest was established, when
a struggle for succession led to a vicious civil war. In
the upper halls of the minotaur city the mysterious
order of wizards known as the Mages of Saruun have
established a secretive stronghold; merchants passing
along the Trade Road sometimes take shelter here.
The labyrinth of Saruun Khel is the setting for
adventure H2: Thunderspire Labyrinth.

Hard under the Cairngorms at the west end of the
Nentir Vale lies the remote town of Winterhaven. Like
Fallcrest, Winterhaven is a small town surrounded by
a few miles of farmland and pastures. Winterhaven
serves as the characters’ base of operations during the
adventure H1: Keep on the Shadowfell.

When you begin a new DUNGEONS & DRAGONS campaign, it’s a good idea to encourage the players to
create characters grounded in your setting. Before
your first game session, ask the players what sort of
characters they would like to play. Armed with this
information, you can build ties between the characters
and the town of Fallcrest. The players will care a lot
more about what’s going on in and around the town if
they see reasons why their characters would care.
If you don’t like the ideas offered here, no problem—you’re free to make up your own connections
for the player characters, or have no connections at
all. It’s often fun for a player to roleplay being “the

Dragonborn: No dragonborn are native to Fallcrest,
but travelers occasionally pass through and take up
work for a time, especially as bodyguards or caravan guards. The Halfmoon halflings, House Azaer,
and the importer Naerumar have work available for
a capable adventurer.
Dwarf: A fair number of dwarves live in Fallcrest, so
a dwarf character could easily be a native of the
city—perhaps a relative of Teldorthan Irontooth. If
not, the nearest dwarven homeland is Hammerfast,
a week’s travel distant. Merchants and crafters from
Hammerfast travel to Fallcrest to trade or work,
lodging in one of the local inns for a few weeks.
Eladrin: Eladrin are not often seen in Fallcrest. Some
of the old manors in the Moon Hills and the nearby
parts of the Vale were once the homes of well-off
eladrin families; a player character eladrin might
hold the title to an abandoned estate a mile or two
out of town, which provides a good reason to call
on Lord Markelhay (and earns the enmity of Armos
Kamroth, who wants the land for his own).
Elf: Elves are also scarce in Fallcrest, but a small
number reside in and around the town. Ressilmae
Starlight of the temple of Sehanine might be a relative or an old friend of an elf character. Elves from
outside Fallcrest might belong to the Woodsinger
clan from the Harkenwold Forest.
Half-Elf: A small number of half-elves reside in Fallcrest or the vicinity. Most are well-off farmers or
herders living in the Moon Hills near the town; the
rest are expert artisans—jewelers, tailors, or woodworkers—in the town. A half-elf player character
can be the child or relative of a Fallcrest family.
Half ling: Halflings are the most numerous people
in Fallcrest aside from humans, and they come
from any walk of life. A Fallcrest native might be
related to the Halfmoon family, the Ostermans of
the Silver Unicorn, or the Thistletons of Fallcrest

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 208

3/12/08 4:23:41 PM


W I L L I A M O ’ CO N N O R

Cleric: Since there are temples of Erathis, Pelor, and
Sehanine in town, a player character cleric devoted
to one of these deities would naturally have allies
and colleagues here.
Fighter: Fallcrest is a trading town, and merchants
need bodyguards or caravan guards when they set
out for distant towns. The Halfmoons or House
Azaer might employ a fighter. Fighters from betteroff families might be retainers in the service of the
Markelhays—young “court blades” who are a cut
above the typical garrison guard.
Paladin: As with clerics, paladins devoted to Erathis,
Pelor, or Sehanine have natural allies in the temples
of Fallcrest. In addition, paladin characters might
also be aspiring knights sworn to the service of the
Markelhay family.

Ranger: Many of the countryside folk living around
Fallcrest are foresters and hunters; a ranger character could easily belong to one of these families.
Rangers who aren’t natives might hail from the
Barony of Harkenwold or the remote village of Nenlast to the northeast.
Rogue: Members of groups such as the porters’
guild or the River Rats are natural associates of a
player character rogue. Capable people are in high
demand anywhere, and a rogue might also fit in as
an agent of a merchant house such as the Halfmoons or the Azaers.
Warlock: The folk of Fallcrest regard warlocks as they
do wizards—mysterious figures to be treated cautiously. Well-off merchants or nobles often retain
a “house mage” to advise them in magical matters,
so a warlock could easily work for the Markelhays,
Amros Kamroth, or other wealthy individual.
Warlord: Like fighters or paladins, warlords might
be attached to the Markelhay household. Those of
lower stature can serve as sellswords or agents of
merchant companies such as House Azaer.
Wizard: A player character wizard might be an
apprentice to Nimozaran, of the Septarch’s Tower.
Lady Markelhay is also a skilled mage and might
take a wizard character into her confidence.


Stables. Halflings descended from the traders
who pass through Fallcrest can be members of the
Swiftwater clan.
Human: Most of Fallcrest’s people are human. Characters with rural backgrounds likely grew up on
the farms in the nearby Moon Hills. Characters
with an urban upbringing might be the children of
well-off landowners such as the Kamroths, or ruffians and sellswords who had a hard childhood in
Tief ling: Two tiefling families and a few individuals
live and thrive in Fallcrest, including the Azaers
and the Naerumars.


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 209

3/12/08 4:23:42 PM

The ruined manor now known as Kobold Hall was
once a minor lord’s proud holding, a walled keep overlooking the old King’s Road. That was years ago, and
the lord’s name and the glories he earned are long forgotten. Today, the place is called Kobold Hall after the
malicious humanoids that infest the place. The Cloak
Wood has overrun the grounds, with trees growing in
the midst of abandoned gardens and courtyards.
Several kobold tribes dwell within the ruins, hiding
in the multitude of tunnels, ruins, and cellars found
here. The tribes squabble with each other, raid surrounding settlements, and attack caravans on the old
King’s Road. Lately, the kobolds have become more
aggressive. The Skull Kicker tribe has taken over or
driven off the rival tribes. Emboldened, the Skull Kickers stole a wagon loaded with valuable cargo from a
caravan on the King’s Road. As the adventure begins,
the characters find themselves in the small town of
Fallcrest. Explain to the players that their characters
know each other and are looking for adventure.
Use one of the hooks below to set up the backstory
for the adventurers, or create your own. You don’t need
a lot of details; you just need enough to explain why
the PCs are together and why they are heading out to
investigate Kobold Hall.
If you use one of these hooks, the PCs might also
gain experience points for completing a quest. When
the party finishes a quest, divide the XP award among
all the characters who participated in the quest.

Hook: Dragon Hide
The player characters are hired by Teldorthan Goldcap, the dwarf armorer. Among the cargo in the stolen
wagon was a cured green dragon hide destined for
Teldorthan’s shop. The dwarf intends to turn the hide
into a fine suit of scale armor. Teldorthan hires the
adventurers to enter the kobold lair and get back his
dragon hide. If they succeed, he gives them 200 gp.
Alternative: The PCs hear about the loss of the
wagon and the dragon hide and approach Teldorthan
to see if there’s a reward for its return.
Quest XP: 500 XP for recovering the dragon hide
and returning it to Teldorthan Goldcap.

Hook: Kobold Bounty
The Lord Warden of Fallcrest has had enough of
kobold raids along the old King’s Road. If the PCs
approach him looking for work, he readily offers
them a bounty for clearing out Kobold Hall. The Lord
Warden promises a bounty of 10 gp for each dispatched kobold and an additional 100 gp if the PCs
bring proof that the ruins have been cleared out, such
as the bone mask worn by the kobold leader.

Alternative: The Lord Warden specifically seeks
out the PCs to ask them to undertake this mission.
Quest XP: 750 XP for bringing the wyrmpriest’s
bone mask to the Lord Warden as proof of the demise
of the kobold threat.

Hook: Terrible Secret
Nimozaran the Green, High Septarch of Fallcrest,
believes that something more terrible and dangerous
is behind the kobold attacks. They seem too organized
and too aggressive, compared to other kobolds the old
wizard has dealt with in the past. He asks the PCs if
they are willing to enter the creatures’ lair to discover
the secret of Kobold Hall. He offers them the use of his
tower’s teleportation circle if they accept the quest.
Alternative: The PCs approach the old wizard to
offer him their services in exchange for his good will
and any magical aid he might be willing to offer.
Quest XP: 500 XP for bringing back news of the
presence of a white dragon in the ruins to Nimozaran.

Players’ Introduction
When the PCs decide to explore Kobold Hall, read or
paraphrase the following to the players:
You travel 15 miles from Fallcrest into the wilderness to
find the once-sprawling manor now known as the ruins of
Kobold Hall. Inside the keep, you find a trapdoor at the base
of an old guard tower. It must lead beneath the ruins.

DM’s Introduction
“Kobold Hall” is a simple D&D adventure for five 1stlevel player characters. It is short on plot and decision
points; it’s simply five combat encounters in a row. The
adventure is intended to give you something easy to
run the first time you try your hand as the Dungeon
Master, while allowing the other players at the table to
explore their characters’ abilities and learn the game.
Try to bring the kobolds and the environment to
life. The first encounter is a simple fight, but the next
four use interactive environments and traps to show
off elements of the D&D game.
Be sure to read each encounter thoroughly before
running the adventure, particularly paying attention
to the traps and terrain. You should also closely examine the monster statistics blocks. They’ve got some
nasty tricks up their sleeves for the player characters!

Altering Treasure
As with any published adventure, it is possible that
the treasures found here aren’t optimal for your party.
It’s a good idea to replace such items with goods that
appeal to the party. The levels of the two items found
as treasure in this adventure are given to make it
easier to find replacements.



C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 210

3/12/08 4:23:44 PM


Kobold Hall

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 211

3/12/08 4:23:45 PM

Encounter Level 1 (500 XP)


2 Kobold Slingers (S)

This area serves as a guardroom for the kobolds. A pit
filled with sludge provides an obstacle for intruders.
When the PCs arrive, they see one kobold. The others
stay hidden until the PCs move deeper into the area.
This encounter includes the following creatures.
2 kobold slingers (S)
3 kobold skirmishers (K)
As the adventurers enter this chamber, read:
Dominating the room ahead is a long trench filled with a
glowing green substance. Beyond the trench, a small, reptilian humanoid stands in a shadowy chamber, gaping at you.
It carries a sling, and quickly reaches into a pouch at its belt
for a stone. It hisses and shouts, “Intrudersss! Intrudersss!”
3 Kobold Skirmishers (K)

up requires a DC 15 Strength check. The lever to open
it is down the hall from the portcullis.

Level 1 Skirmisher

Small natural humanoid
XP 100 each
Initiative +5
Senses Perception +0; darkvision
HP 27; Bloodied 13
AC 15; Fortitude 11, Reflex 14, Will 13; see also trap sense
Speed 6
m Spear (standard; at-will) ✦ Weapon
+6 vs. AC; 1d8 damage; see also mob attack.
Combat Advantage
+1d6 damage on melee attacks and ranged attacks against
target the skirmisher has combat advantage against.
Mob Attack
+1 bonus to attack rolls per kobold ally adjacent to the target.
Shifty (minor; at-will)
Shift 1 square as a minor action.
Trap Sense
+2 bonus to all defenses against traps.
Alignment Evil
Languages Common, Draconic
Skills Acrobatics +8, Stealth +10, Thievery +10
Str 8 (–1)
Dex 16 (+3)
Wis 10 (+0)
Con 11 (+0)
Int 6 (–2)
Cha 15 (+2)
Equipment hide armor, light shield, spear

Level 1 Artillery

Small natural humanoid
XP 100 each
Initiative +3
Senses Perception +1; darkvision
HP 24; Bloodied 12
AC 13; Fortitude 12, Reflex 14, Will 12; see also trap sense
Speed 6
m Dagger (standard; at-will) ✦ Weapon
+5 vs. AC; 1d4 + 3 damage.
r Sling (standard; at-will) ✦ Weapon
Ranged 10/20; +6 vs. AC; 1d6 + 3 damage; see also glue shot.
Glue Shot (standard; at-will)
Ranged 10/20; +6 vs. Reflex; the target is immobilized (save
Shifty (minor; at-will)
Shift 1 square.
Trap Sense
+2 bonus to all defenses against traps.
Alignment Evil
Languages Common, Draconic
Skills Acrobatics +8, Stealth +10, Thievery +10
Str 9 (–1)
Dex 17 (+3)
Wis 12 (+1)
Con 12 (+1)
Int 9 (–1)
Cha 10 (+0)
Equipment leather armor, dagger, sling with 20 bullets and 3 glue
shot sling bullets (see above)

The kobold slinger attempts to lure the PCs into the
room, where the others hide. The slinger fires at
the PCs, while the two skirmishers split up to circle
around the pit and attack.
Meanwhile, the kobolds behind the portcullis wait
until the PCs are in sight of their position. Once the
PCs have moved up, they attack.
The kobolds are alert to area attacks. They never
cluster together unless they can gain flanking attacks.

Features of the Area
Pit: The pit is 10 feet deep, filled up to 4 feet with
a thick, green sludge. Any PC who falls into the pit is
immobilized. A DC 13 Strength check allows a PC to
break free. The sludge is difficult terrain. Creatures
can walk in it, but a creature that ends its move in the
sludge is immobilized as described above.
Climbing out of the pit requires a DC 10 Athletics
check. A creature that falls in takes 1d10–2 damage,
since the sludge provides cushion against a fall.
Portcullis: The passage to the east has a portcullis designed to bar larger creatures. Small creatures
ignore it, but it stops larger folk. Forcing the portcullis

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 212

3/12/08 4:23:50 PM

Encounter Level 1 (550 XP)

This chamber was once a tomb. The kobolds use the
traps here to defend their lair.
This encounter includes the following creatures and
3 kobold skirmishers (K)
2 dart traps (1 and 2)
As the adventurers enter this chamber, read:
The room ahead has four stone coffins, all of which show
signs of vandalism and abuse. To the left is a series of six
niches, set apart into two groups of three. Two more niches
along the walls each hold a suit of armor.
On the opposite end of the room is a raised section of
floor with a makeshift altar to Tiamat set atop it. Three
kobolds carrying spears stand in front of the altar.

3 Kobold Skirmishers (K)
Small natural humanoid
See page 212.

Dart Trap

Level 1 Skirmisher
XP 100 each

A R EA 2 : T H E TO M B


The kobolds attempt to use the traps to their advantage. They try to lure characters into chasing them
across the room, taking advantage of the fact that
creatures of Small size are too light to trigger the

Features of the Area
Coffins: The stone coffins are difficult terrain
that provide cover.
Armor: These two suits of plate armor stand at
attention. When the dart traps activate, their helmet
visors swing open to reveal a dart-firing mechanism.
Trigger Points: Several squares on the map are
marked with the number 1 or 2. The 1s correspond
to squares that trigger dart trap 1. The same applies
to trap 2. The two suits of armor are likewise marked
1 and 2 to indicate the location of each trap’s firing
Altar: The kobolds have lovingly crafted this crude
altar to the evil dragon god. A small bag on the altar
holds 60 gp, an offering to Tiamat.

Level 1 Blaster

XP 100
Darts fire from the suit of armor, filling the chamber with danger.

M I K E S C H L E Y ( 2)

Trap: When one of the traps is triggered, a dart flies from the suit of
armor’s visor.
✦ DC 20: The character notices the firing mechanisms in the .
✦ DC 25: The character notices a trigger stone.
If a character enters a trigger square or starts its turn in a trigger
square, the dart trap attacks.
Immediate Interrupt Ranged 10
Target: Character who enters or starts its turn in a trigger square
Attack: +8 vs. AC
Hit: 1d6 + 2 damage, and target is Immobilized until the end of
target’s next turn.
✦ An adjacent character can disable a trigger stone with a DC 20
Thievery check.
✦ An adjacent character can disable a firing mechanism with a DC
25 Thievery check.
✦ A suit of armor can be destroyed. Each has AC 12, 30 hp, and
resist 5 to all damage.

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 213

3/12/08 4:24:01 PM

Encounter Level 2 (675 XP)

This chamber has been turned into an arena for games
of skull-skull, the sport of Kobold Hall. The player
characters enter the chamber while a game is in progress and find that the game is an exercise in mindless
violence, as befits kobolds.
This encounter includes the following creatures.
2 kobold slingers (S)
2 guard drakes (D)
4 kobold minions (M)
As the adventurers enter this chamber, read:
This chamber looks like it was once a tomb, but the kobolds
have transformed it into what you might almost call a
Four stone coffins lie here, with a sludge-filled pit
between them. On the opposite end of the room is a pair of
wooden double doors. Flanking the double doors are two
raised platforms, both 10 feet above the floor. Two kobolds
stand on each platform.
Arrayed on the coffins are several animal skulls, all of
them arranged in small piles. One kobold holds a sludgedrenched stone tied to a long rope that is secured in the

2 Guard Drakes (D)

Level 2 Brute

Small natural beast (reptile)
XP 125 each
Initiative +3
Senses Perception +7
HP 48; Bloodied 24
AC 15; Fortitude 15, Reflex 13, Will 12
Immune fear (while within 2 squares of an ally)
Speed 6
m Bite (standard; at-will)
+6 vs. AC; 1d10 + 3 damage, or 1d10 + 9 damage while within 2
squares of an ally.
Alignment Unaligned
Languages —
Str 16 (+4)
Dex 15 (+3)
Wis 12 (+2)
Con 18 (+5)
Int 3 (–3)
Cha 12 (+2)

4 Kobold Minions (M)

Level 1 Minion

Small natural humanoid
XP 25 each
Initiative +3
Senses Perception +1; darkvision
HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minion.
AC 15; Fortitude 11, Reflex 13, Will 11; see also trap sense
Speed 6
m Spear (standard; at-will) ✦ Weapon
+5 vs. AC; 2 damage.
r Javelin (standard; at-will) ✦ Weapon
Ranged 10/20; +5 vs. AC; 2 damage.
Shifty (minor; at-will)
Shift 1 square.
Trap Sense
+2 bonus to all defenses against traps.
Alignment Evil
Languages Common, Draconic
Skills Stealth +5, Thievery +5
Str 8 (–1)
Dex 16 (+3)
Wis 12 (+1)
Con 12 (+1)
Int 9 (–1)
Cha 10 (+0)
Equipment hide armor, light shield, 3 javelins, 1 spear

2 Kobold Slingers (S)

Level 1 Artillery

Small natural humanoid
XP 100 each
Initiative +3
Senses Perception +1; darkvision
HP 24; Bloodied 12
AC 13; Fortitude 12, Reflex 14, Will 12; see also trap sense
Speed 6
m Dagger (standard; at-will) ✦ Weapon
+5 vs. AC; 1d4 + 3 damage.
r Sling (standard; at-will) ✦ Weapon
Ranged 10/20; +6 vs. AC; 1d6 + 3 damage; see also glue shot.
Glue Shot (standard; at-will)
Ranged 10/20; +6 vs. Reflex; the target is immobilized (save ends).
Shifty (minor; at-will)
Shift 1 square.
Trap Sense
The kobold gains a +2 bonus to all defenses against traps.
Alignment Evil
Languages Common, Draconic
Skills Acrobatics +8, Stealth +10, Thievery +10
Str 9 (–1)
Dex 17 (+3)
Wis 12 (+1)
Con 12 (+1)
Int 9 (–1)
Cha 10 (+0)
Equipment leather armor, dagger, sling with 20 bullets and 3
rounds of glue shot (see above)

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 214

3/12/08 4:24:08 PM

Level 1 Blaster

XP 100
This sludge-covered stone is tied to a long rope that hangs from a hook
in the ceiling.
Trap: When a kobold throws the stone, it attacks a target and then
returns to the kobold on the opposite platform.
A kobold uses a standard action to attack with the skull-skull stone.
It can be used by two different kobolds in each round.
Standard Action Melee
Target: One character in the marked area on the map.
Attack: +8 vs. AC
Hit: 1d8+2 damage and push 2 squares.
✦ A character in the marked area can ready an action to attack the
rope (AC 14, 10 hp, and resist 5 to all damage).
✦ A character can make ranged attacks against the rope.


Climbing out of the pit requires a DC 10 Athletics
check. A creature that falls in takes 1d10–2 damage,
since the sludge provides cushion against a fall.
Door: The door has 20 hit points. Bashing it down
requires a DC 16 Strength check.
Skull-Skull Stone: This weird device counts as a
trap. The kobolds normally swing it down to hit a skull
on the coffins below. The object of the game is to get
a skull to stick to the rock, and then grab the skull as
it comes back to the thrower. When the PCs arrive
on the scene, the kobolds are happy to use the rock
against them.
Platforms: There are no railings for the raised platforms. Climbing the wall up to the platform from the
floor requires a DC 15 Athletics check. Scattered on
the floor in a small pile in the northern platform are
100 gp in coins, a ruby worth 50 gp, and two garnets
worth 25 gp each.

A R EA 2 : S K U L L - S K U L L !

Skull-Skull Stone

The kobolds try to batter the PCs into submission
while avoiding melee.
The kobold minions split up, two on each platform.
Two take turns activating the skull-skull trap, one
throwing a spear on a turn when it isn’t activating the
trap. The other two minions remain on the stairs, out
of sight, ready to replace a fallen comrade and keep
the trap operating.
The slingers fire at the PCs, hoping to use their special shots to harass characters and make them easier
targets for the rock.
The kobolds’ pet guard drakes remain on the other
side of the door. They rush up the stairs to attack a PC
who climbs up to the platforms. Otherwise, they attack
anyone who breaches the door.

Features of the Area


Pit: The pit is 10 feet deep, filled up to a depth of
4 feet with a thick green sludge. The sludge has two
important traits.
First, it is sticky. Any character who falls into the pit
is immobilized. A DC 13 Strength check allows a PC
to break free.
The sludge is difficult terrain. Creatures can walk
in it, but a creature that ends its move in the sludge is
immobilized as described above.

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 215

3/12/08 4:24:17 PM

Encounter Level 4 (850 XP)

The kobold chieftain rules from this chamber. Paranoid at the thought of intruders, the chieftain and his
minions erected an elaborate, crushing boulder trap in
this room. When the PCs enter, the chieftain activates
the boulder and hides in his lair. Meanwhile, kobolds
pour forth to attack the PCs.
This encounter includes the following creatures and
2 kobold slingers (S)
1 kobold wyrmpriest (W)
2 kobold dragonshields (K)
1 spiretop drake (D)
1 rolling boulder (T)
As the adventurers enter this chamber, read:
You arrive at a chamber with a 20-foot-tall ceiling. Before
you is a 10-foot tall wall that leaves passages open to both
the right and left. Suddenly, the sound of cracking timbers
echoes through the hall. The floor shakes, dust cascades
down from the ceiling, and something big and heavy hurtles
toward you!
Kobold Wyrmpriest (W)

Level 3 Artillery (Leader)

Small natural humanoid
XP 150
Initiative +4
Senses Perception +4; darkvision
HP 36; Bloodied 18
AC 17; Fortitude 13, Reflex 15, Will 15; see also trap sense
Speed 6
m Spear (standard; at-will) ✦ Weapon
+7 vs. AC; 1d8 damage.
R Energy Orb (standard; at-will) • see text
Ranged 10; +6 vs. Reflex; 1d10 + 3 cold damage.
C Incite Faith (minor; encounter)
Close burst 10; kobold allies in the burst gain 5 temporary hit
points and shift 1 square.
C Dragon Breath (standard; encounter)
Close blast 3; +6 vs. Fortitude; 1d10 + 3 cold damage. Miss: Half
Shifty (minor; at-will)
Shift 1 square.
Trap Sense
+2 bonus to all defenses against traps.
Alignment Evil
Languages Common, Draconic
Skills Stealth +11, Thievery +11
Str 9 (+0)
Dex 16 (+4)
Wis 17 (+4)
Con 12 (+2)
Int 9 (+0)
Cha 12 (+2)
Equipment hide armor, spear, bone mask, +1 staff of the war mage

2 Kobold Dragonshields (K)

Level 2 Soldier

Small natural humanoid
XP 125 each
Initiative +4
Senses Perception +2; darkvision
HP 30; Bloodied 15
AC 18; Fortitude 14, Reflex 13, Will 13; see also trap sense
Resist 5 cold
Speed 6
m Short Sword (standard; at-will) ✦ Weapon
+7 vs. AC; 1d6 + 3 damage, and the target is marked until the
end of the kobold dragonshield’s next turn.
Dragonshield Tactics (immediate reaction, when an adjacent
enemy shifts away or an enemy moves adjacent; at-will)
The kobold dragonshield shifts 1 square.
Mob Attack
The kobold dragonshield gains a +1 bonus to attack rolls per
kobold ally adjacent to the target.
Shifty (minor; at-will)
Shift 1 square.
Trap Sense
+2 bonus to all defenses against traps.
Alignment Evil
Languages Common, Draconic
Skills Acrobatics +7, Stealth +9, Thievery +9
Str 14 (+3)
Dex 13 (+2)
Wis 12 (+2)
Con 12 (+2)
Int 9 (+0)
Cha 10 (+1)
Equipment scale armor, heavy shield, short sword

Spiretop Drake (D)

Level 1 Skirmisher

Small natural beast (reptile)
XP 100
Initiative +6
Senses Perception +3
HP 29; Bloodied 14
AC 16; Fortitude 11, Reflex 14, Will 13
Speed 4, fly 8 (hover); see also flyby attack
m Bite (standard; at-will)
+6 vs. AC; 1d6 + 4 damage.
m Snatch (standard; at-will)
+4 vs. Reflex; 1 damage, and the spiretop drake steals a small
object from the target, such as a vial, scroll, or coin.
M Flyby Attack (standard; at-will)
The spiretop drake flies up to 8 squares and makes one melee
basic attack at any point during that movement. The drake
doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks when moving away from
the target of the attack.
Alignment Unaligned
Languages —
Str 11 (+0)
Dex 18 (+4)
Wis 16 (+3)
Con 13 (+1)
Int 3 (–4)
Cha 11 (+0)

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 216

3/12/08 4:24:26 PM

Level 1 Artillery

Small natural humanoid
XP 100 each
Initiative +3
Senses Perception +1; darkvision
HP 24; Bloodied 12
AC 13; Fortitude 12, Reflex 14, Will 12; see also trap sense
Speed 6
m Dagger (standard; at-will) ✦ Weapon
+5 vs. AC; 1d4 + 3 damage.
r Sling (standard; at-will) ✦ Weapon
Ranged 10/20; +6 vs. AC; 1d6 + 3 damage; see also glue shot.
Glue Shot (standard; at-will)
Ranged 10/20; +6 vs. Reflex; the target is immobilized (save ends).
Shifty (minor; at-will)
Shift 1 square.
Trap Sense
+2 bonus to all defenses against traps.
Alignment Evil
Languages Common, Draconic
Skills Acrobatics +8, Stealth +10, Thievery +10
Str 9 (–1)
Dex 17 (+3)
Wis 12 (+1)
Con 12 (+1)
Int 9 (–1)
Cha 10 (+0)
Equipment leather armor, dagger, sling with 20 bullets and 3 glue
shot sling bullets (see above)

Rolling Boulder
A giant boulder rolls through the chamber.

Central Room: The wall here is 10 feet tall, and
the ceiling in this chamber is 20 feet above the floor.
PCs and kobolds can climb over the wall to reach the
central chamber. Climbing requires a DC 10 Athletics check.
The wall is wide enough to allow a creature to
stand on top of it.
Door: The door to the central room has 20 hit
points. Bashing it down requires a DC 16 Strength
Boulder: Full stats for the trap are given above. It
starts at the point marked on the map and follows the
Platform: There are no railings on the raised platforms. Climbing up the side of the platform requires a
DC 15 Athletics check. The platform is 10 feet up.

Level 3 Blaster
XP 150

Trap: The boulder rolls over everything in its path.
✦ DC 10: The character notices the approaching boulder.
Initiative +5
Speed 8
As soon as the encounter begins, the trap rolls initiative.
Opportunity Action Melee
Target: Attacks any character in a space it enters
Attack: +7 vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d6 damage and knock prone.
Special: If the boulder ends its turn in a space with a character, it
makes a second attack. The character then moves to any open
adjacent space (character’s choice).
✦ A character can attempts a DC 20 Athletics check as an
immediate reaction to leap over the rolling boulder.

The kobolds prefer to let their boulder crush the PCs.
They keep to the sides of the chamber, firing at the
characters. The slingers climb ladders in the interior
chamber to stand atop the interior walls and fire.
The chieftain (the wyrmpriest) and the two dragonshields remain on the platform. If a PC comes close
to the platform, the dragonshields rush forward to
attack. The chieftain uses his +1 staff of the war mage to
increase the area of his dragon breath attack.
The spiretop drake is the chieftain’s pet. It darts out
to peck at the characters. If it can steal a potion from a
PC, it does so and brings the trinket to its master.


Features of the Area

A R EA 4 : T H E B I G B O S S

2 Kobold Slingers (S)

Ending the Encounter
When the characters defeat the kobolds, they find a
small silver key in the chief ’s belt pouch, along with
a piece of parchment that describes the location of a
secret door in the alcove to the north. The key opens
the door, revealing a secret set of stairs leading down
to the final encounter area.
The kobold chieftain carries a +1 staff of the war
mage (level 3 item).
+1 Staff of the War Mage: This staff provides its
user with a +1 enhancement bonus to attack rolls and
damage rolls. On a critical hit, it deals an extra 1d8 +
1 damage. In addition, once per day as a free action,
the user can increase the size of a blast or a burst by 1.

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 217

3/12/08 4:24:36 PM

Encounter Level 3 (750 XP)

This chamber is the lair of the young white dragon
Szartharrax. Although he is still small by the standards of his kind, Szartharrax is far and away the
most dangerous monster in Kobold Hall. He is the
reason the Skull Kickers managed to assert themselves
over the other kobold gangs in the area; Szartharrax
decided to back them and ate the rival chieftains,
which persuaded the rest of the scaly little monsters to
swear allegiance to the Skull Kickers. Szartharrax has
an appetite for gold, and the white dragon has been
demanding tribute from his loyal servants. Fear of the
dragon’s anger is driving the kobolds to attack caravans and launch raids against the nearby settlements.
Szartharrax is a tough opponent; the adventurers
will have to fight well to survive.
This encounter includes the following creature.
1 young white dragon (D)
As the adventurers enter this chamber, read:
You follow a long, winding passage from the kobold
chieftain’s throne room down and down into the earth. Eventually, the finely worked stone tunnels give way to natural
passages. Finally, you come upon a large cavern. The air is
unnaturally cold in here. In the center of the room is a large
pool of frozen dark water. The cavern is quiet.

The dragon begins the encounter hiding in the area
marked on the map. Since he is hidden behind the
large pillar, make a Stealth check for the dragon, and
then have the players make Perception checks for
their characters. Player characters whose Perception
checks are lower than the dragon’s Stealth check are
surprised. Roll initiative and begin the combat.
The dragon starts by flying to a spot just in front
of the party and using his icy breath against as many
player characters as he can catch in the area at one
time. He then immediately spends 1 action point
to use his Frightful Presence ability. In subsequent

Young White Dragon (D)

Level 3 Solo Brute

Large natural magical beast (dragon)
XP 750
Initiative +1
Senses Perception +7; darkvision
HP 232; Bloodied 116; see also bloodied breath
AC 18; Fortitude 20, Reflex 18, Will 17
Resist 15 cold
Saving Throws +5
Speed 6 (ice walk), fly 6 (hover), overland flight 10
Action Points 2
m Bite (standard; at-will) ✦ Cold
Reach 2; +6 vs. AC; 1d8 + 4 plus 1d6 cold damage (plus an extra
1d6 cold damage on a successful opportunity attack).
m Claw (standard; at-will)
Reach 2; +6 vs. AC; 1d8 + 4 damage.
M Dragon’s Fury (standard; at-will)
The dragon makes two claw attacks. If the dragon hits a single
target with both claws, it makes a bite attack against the same
C Breath Weapon (standard; recharge ⚄⚅ ) ✦ Cold
Close blast 5; +4 vs. Reflex; 3d6 + 4 cold damage, and the target
is slowed and weakened (save ends both).
C Bloodied Breath (free, when first bloodied; encounter) ✦ Cold
The dragon’s breath weapon recharges, and the dragon uses it
C Frightful Presence (standard; encounter) ✦ Fear
Close burst 5; targets enemies; +4 vs. Will; the target is stunned
until the end of the dragon’s next turn. Aftereffect: The target
takes a –2 penalty to attack rolls (save ends).
Alignment Evil
Languages Draconic
Skills Athletics +15
Str 18 (+5)
Dex 10 (+1)
Wis 12 (+2)
Con 18 (+5)
Int 10 (+1)
Cha 8 (+0)

rounds, the dragon tears the adventurers apart with
his Dragon’s Fury attack. If Szartharrax gets the
chance to make any opportunity attacks, he uses his
bite instead.
Szartharrax avoids heavily armored characters,
preferring instead to pick off lightly armored foes. If
the dragon becomes bloodied, he goes into a rage. He
attacks the nearest PC, ignoring any intelligent tactics
in favor of brute force.

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 218

3/12/08 4:24:44 PM

Features of the Area
Pool: The pool of water is 2 feet deep and frozen
solid. The ice is difficult terrain, but the dragon
ignores it if it walks through it (thanks to its ice walk

The party slew the dragon and defeated the kobolds,
but the PCs have only just begun their adventuring
Slaying a dragon is no easy feat, and Szartharrax
might have powerful allies who want revenge. Perhaps
his mother or sibling hunts down the characters and
their friends.
This adventure might also point to bigger things.
The characters find a letter in Szartharrax’s treasure
chest. Written in Draconic, it is an offer of alliance
from a goblin warlord who wishes to unite the monsters in the area against the people of Fallcrest. If you
plan to run the H1: Keep on the Shadowfell adventure,
that goblin could be Irontooth. The letter sends the
PCs off on their next adventure.
Finally, there is nothing like a good, old-fashioned
dungeon crawl. Having defeated the kobolds, the
characters can explore Szartharrax’s caves to uncover
auxiliary passages leading deeper into the earth. Use
the random dungeon generator or create an adventure
of your own that involves the rest of the dragon’s minions. Perhaps a kobold cleric and his undead minions
uncovered a shrine to Tiamat, and Szartharrax needed
Teldorthan’s hide to finish a terrible rite to the dragon
god. Using the encounters in this chapter as a guide,
there’s no better time than now to start creating your
own adventures. Recruit some vicious monsters, draw
some encounter maps, create a story to lead the PCs to
the adventure, and keep playing!

A R EA 5 : T H E T R U E T H R EAT

Further Adventures



If the PCs manage to slay the dragon, they find a small
cave up ahead that has a locked treasure chest (DC 20
Thievery check to open). The chest contains the piece
of dragon hide that Teldorthan wanted recovered, 100
gold pieces, a pearl worth 20 gp in a small felt bag, and
a +1 lifedrinker longsword (level 5 item).
+1 Lifedrinker Longsword: This longsword provides its user with a +1 enhancement bonus to attack
rolls and damage rolls. On a critical hit, it deals an
extra 1d6 necrotic damage. In addition, when the user
drops an enemy to 0 hit points with a melee attack
with this weapon, the user gains 5 temporary hit

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 219

3/12/08 4:24:54 PM

©2008 Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Permission granted to photocopy for personal use only.

4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 220

3/12/08 4:25:03 PM

PC Combat Card

Condition/End state
Condition/End state

Condition/End state

Condition/End state

PC Combat Card

Condition/End state
Condition/End state

Condition/End state
Condition/End state

End of Turn: Attempt Saving Throws, End Duration Effects
Conditions: Asleep, Blinded, Dazed, Deafened, Dominated, Dying, Helpless, Immobilized, Marked (put marking creature’s name in parens),
Ongoing damage, Petrifi ed, Prone, Restrained, Slowed, Stunned, Surprised, Unconscious, Weakened.
End State Abbreviations: EoT = end of turn; SoT = start of turn; Sv = until saving throw; EoE = end of encounter. Indicate whose turn; for example
“Dazed/Tordek EoT.” Cross out the condition when it ends.
© 2008 Wizards

Conditions: Asleep, Blinded, Dazed, Deafened, Dominated, Dying, Helpless, Immobilized, Marked (put marking creature’s name in parens),
Ongoing damage, Petrifi ed, Prone, Restrained, Slowed, Stunned, Surprised, Unconscious, Weakened.
End State Abbreviations: EoT = end of turn; SoT = start of turn; Sv = until saving throw; EoE = end of encounter. Indicate whose turn; for example
“Dazed/Tordek EoT.” Cross out the condition when it ends.
© 2008 Wizards



End of Turn: Attempt Saving Throws, End Duration Effects

Damage Taken

Bloodied: o

daily/encounter power used:
Action points used (if elite or solo): o o

Condition/End state

Condition/End state


Condition/End state

Condition/End state

daily/encounter power used:

Condition/End state

Condition/End state

daily/encounter power used:

Condition/End state


Monster Combat Card
Start of Turn: Check for Recharge, Apply Ongoing Damage

Monster Name

Condition/End state

Damage Taken

Bloodied: o

daily/encounter power used:
Action points used (if elite or solo): o o

Condition/End state

Condition/End state


Condition/End state

Condition/End state

daily/encounter power used:

Condition/End state

Condition/End state

daily/encounter power used:

Condition/End state

Condition/End state


Monster Combat Card

Start of Turn: Check for Recharge, Apply Ongoing Damage

Monster Name

Conditions: Asleep, Blinded, Dazed, Deafened, Dominated, Dying, Helpless, Immobilized, Marked (put marking creature’s name in parens),
Ongoing damage, Petrifi ed, Prone, Restrained, Slowed, Stunned, Surprised, Unconscious, Weakened.
End State Abbreviations: EoT = end of turn; SoT = start of turn; Sv = until saving throw; EoE = end of encounter. Indicate whose turn; for example
“Dazed/Tordek EoT.” Cross out the condition when it ends.
© 2008 Wizards

End of Turn: Attempt Saving Throws, End Duration Effects

Conditions: Asleep, Blinded, Dazed, Deafened, Dominated, Dying, Helpless, Immobilized, Marked (put marking creature’s name in parens),
Ongoing damage, Petrifi ed, Prone, Restrained, Slowed, Stunned, Surprised, Unconscious, Weakened.
End State Abbreviations: EoT = end of turn; SoT = start of turn; Sv = until saving throw; EoE = end of encounter. Indicate whose turn; for example
“Dazed/Tordek EoT.” Cross out the condition when it ends.
© 2008 Wizards
Init Result



Init Result

End of Turn: Attempt Saving Throws, End Duration Effects

Damage Taken

Healing Surges used:

Action Points used: o o o
Bloodied: o
ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo

Condition/End state

Condition/End state

Second Wind used:

Condition/End state

Start of Turn: Apply Ongoing Damage

Character Name

Condition/End state

Init Result

Damage Taken

Healing Surges used:

Action Points used: o o o
Bloodied: o
ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo

Condition/End state

Condition/End state

Second Wind used:

Condition/End state

Start of Turn: Apply Ongoing Damage

Character Name

Condition/End state

Init Result

absent players 121, 122
Abyss, the 160
action points 41, 123
actor (player motivation) 8
adventure setting 106
adventure structure 100
adventures, event-based 115
adventures, linking 144
adventures, published 96
alert (monster readiness) 36
allies (cast of characters) 116
allies as targets 40
altitude (environment) 159
aquatic combat 45
Arcana skill 26
arrow slits (terrain) 66
art objects 124
artifacts 164
artillery (monster role) 54, 62
asleep (monster readiness) 36
astral diamonds 124
Astral Sea 160
Axe of the Dwarvish Lords 165
background, character 10, 11, 142
battle champion (template) 176
battle grid/battle map 7, 25, 112
blaster (trap/hazard role) 86
blindsight 67
blocked vision 37
blocking terrain 44, 60
blood rock (terrain) 67
bloodied 27
bodyguard (template) 177
brute (monster role) 54, 62
campaign story 140
campaign theme 134
campaigns, published 132
cast of characters 116
catwalks (terrain) 66
cave slime (terrain) 67
challenging terrain 44, 60
character origin and background 142
character roles 10
charge (mounted combat) 47
choke frost (terrain) 67
choosing class powers 182
city buildings 111
city traits 153
civilization 152
class templates 182
cloudspore (terrain) 67
cold (environment) 159
combat cards 38, 220
commerce (civilization) 154
complexity (encounters) 104
complexity (skill challenges) 72
concealment 61
concordance (artifacts) 164
conditions and effects 27, 40
controller (monster role) 54, 62
cover 43
cover terrain 62
critical success and failure (house
rule) 189
cryptograms 82, 83
current (underwater terrain) 45
D&D Insider 7
D&D world, the 150
damage, improvised 42
damage by level (table) 42, 185
damaging objects 65
darkvision 67
death (of characters) 30
death knight (template) 177
death master (template) 177
defense (civilization) 154
deities 162
demagogue (template) 178
demonic acolyte (template) 178

devastator (template) 178
diagonal walls 113
difficult terrain 44, 48, 60, 64, 65
Difficulty Class by level (table) 42
disease 49
distracted (monster readiness) 36
“DM’s best friend” 42
doors 64
drowning (suffocation) 159
dungeon dressing 64
dungeon rooms 110
Dungeoneering skill 26
dungeons, random 190
duplicate monster abilities 176
earning XP 120
Elemental Chaos 160
elite and solo traps 86
elite monsters 55, 59
ember moss (terrain) 67
encounter difficulty 30
encounter level 56
encounter mix 104
encounters, generating 194
encounters, random 193
ending a campaign 147
Endurance skill 49, 50, 158, 159
enemies (cast of characters) 116
environmental dangers 158
epic tier 146
event-based adventures 115
experience point rewards (table)
57, 120
experience points 120
explorer (player motivation) 8
extended rest 41
extras (cast of characters) 117
Eye of Vecna 167
falling damage 44
feyborn (template) 179
Feywild 161
flying 47
foliage, leaves, and vines (terrain) 66
font of power (terrain) 68
forced movement 44, 46
frost adept (template) 179
fumble (house rule) 189
functional templates 176
furnishings and features 111
furniture (terrain) 66
gems 124
gods 162
government (civilization) 154
grab grass (terrain) 68
grasping slime (terrain) 68
group size 6, 31, 58, 125
group skill checks 75
Hand of Vecna 168
handouts 25
hazards 27, 59
Heal skill 49
healing surges 76, 159
heat (environment) 159
heroic tier 146
hills (terrain) 66
hindering terrain 44, 61
History skill 26
house rules 188
ice (terrain) 66
illusions (terrain) 68
illusory wall (terrain) 68
immortality 147
improvised damage 42
initiative 38, 46
Insight skill 26
instigator (player motivation) 8
Invulnerable Coat of Arnd 170
knowledge checks 26
ladders 65
languages 171

leader (monster role) 55
ledges and platforms 65
leveling up 121
lich (template) 179
light sources 66
listening through a door 37
loadstone (terrain) 68
logic puzzles 82, 84
low-light vision 67
lurker (monster role) 54, 62
lurker (trap/hazard role) 96
magic item economy, the 155
magic items 27, 174
magic items (treasure) 125
mapping 112, 154
metagame thinking 15
milestones 123
miniatures 7, 25
minion (monster role) 54, 59
mirror crystal (terrain) 68
missing players 14
monetary treasure 124
monster magic threshold (table) 174
monster statistics by role (table) 184
monsters, creating 184
monsters, customizing 174
mounted combat 46
movement in three dimensions 45
multiple characters 14
mummy champion (template) 179
mummy lord (template) 180
mundane terrain 64
murder holes (terrain) 66
Nature skill 26
necromantic energy (environment)
NPC level bonus and magic threshold
(table) 187
NPCs, creating 186
number grids (puzzles) 82, 84
objects, damaging 65
obscured terrain 61
obstacle (trap/hazard role) 86
obstacles 27
opposed checks (skill challenges) 74
organizations (civilization) 155
outdoor settings 114
outdoor terrain 66
paragon tier 146
passive skill checks 26, 74
patrons (cast of characters) 116
Perception skill 26, 36, 37, 41, 64
pillar of life (terrain) 68
player motivations 8, 105
playing without a DM 195
poison 50
pools 65
portcullises 64
potions (treasure) 126
power gamer (player motivation) 9
powers by class level (table) 143
precipitous terrain 44
problems in adventures 98
quest rewards 122
quests 102, 122
quick hit points (table) 143
quotation puzzles 82, 83
random dungeons 190
random encounters 193
rate of advancement 121
ready (monster readiness) 36
religion (civilization) 155
Religion skill 26
riddles 83
rituals 27
rolling dice 15
sacred circle (terrain) 68
sand and dirt (terrain) 66
savage berserker (template) 180

scion of flame (template) 180
searching the room 41
secret doors 65
settlements 152
settlements, fantastic 157
shadowborn stalker (template) 181
Shadowfell 161
short rest 41
Sigil 160
skill challenges 72, 84
skill check Difficulty Class (table) 61
skirmisher (monster role) 54, 62
slayer (player motivation) 9
slides (terrain) 68
smoke or ash (environment) 159
soldier (monster role) 55, 62
solo monsters 55, 59
soul weapon 177
spiderwebs (terrain) 69
squeezing (mounted combat) 47
stairs 65
starting at higher level 143
starvation 159
statues and pillars 65
Stealth skill 36, 37
storyteller (player motivation) 9
streets (terrain) 66
suffocation 159
super adventures 138
supplies 6
surprise 36
swamp (terrain) 66
tapestries and curtains 65
target encounter XP totals (table) 57
targets, legitimate 40
teleportation circles 156
teleporters (terrain) 69
templates 175
terrain features 110
thinker (player motivation) 9
thirst 159
three dimensions 45
tiers of play 146
town traits 153
trapdoors 65
traps 27, 59
traps and hazards 85, 105
treasure 124
treasure parcels 126
trees (terrain) 66
tremorsense 67
undergrowth (terrain) 66
underwater terrain 45
vampire lord (template) 181
village traits 153
vision and special senses 67
walls 64
warder (trap/hazard role) 86
watcher (player motivation) 10
weather 158, 159
whirlwind (terrain) 69
wilderness 158
windows (terrain) 66
word puzzles 82, 83
words of power 171

C H A P T E R 11 | Fa l l c re s t


4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 221

3/21/08 10:19:13 AM

©2008 Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Permission granted to photocopy for personal use only.

4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 222

3/12/08 4:25:04 PM

©2008 Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Permission granted to photocopy for personal use only.

4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 223

3/12/08 4:25:05 PM

4E_DMG_Ch11_b.indd 224

3/12/08 5:58:32 PM


Source Exif Data:
File Type                       : PDF
File Type Extension             : pdf
MIME Type                       : application/pdf
PDF Version                     : 1.6
Linearized                      : No
XMP Toolkit                     : Adobe XMP Core 4.2.1-c043 52.372728, 2009/01/18-15:08:04
Modify Date                     : 2016:07:06 02:59:37-07:00
Create Date                     : 2008:07:14 09:52:48+01:00
Metadata Date                   : 2016:07:06 02:59:37-07:00
Creator Tool                    : Adobe Acrobat 7.0
Format                          : application/pdf
Title                           : Dungeon Master's Guide
Description                     : 
Creator                         : James Wyatt
Document ID                     : uuid:fe81c1a1-b734-4aa0-91fa-5aa15c5dc04e
Instance ID                     : uuid:ab0b1acf-76a4-4a34-86f5-8fbff020ddc3
Producer                        : Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Image Conversion Plug-in
Page Layout                     : SinglePage
Page Mode                       : UseNone
Page Count                      : 226
Author                          : James Wyatt
Subject                         : 
Warning                         : [Minor] Ignored duplicate Info dictionary
EXIF Metadata provided by EXIF.tools

Navigation menu