When I prepare encounters for my players I like to flesh out a whole what-if-scenario so that even if my players don’t interact with the encounter as I thought (which happens a lot), I still have a new plot line added to the main story. If the party does not deal with it immediately, there might be bigger foreshadowed challenges down the road.
I prepared the following Gnoll encounter for my players to be used around levels 3-4 to be sprung while travelling between two adventure sites.
The Finger Gnashers, a small and weak gnoll warband, has managed to escape captivity from a large band of orcs. The gnolls, are in a weak shape; starving, wounded and poorly equipped. Roaming the wilderness they come across Farpost, a small mining thorpe. In a brutal attack in the middle of the night they capture the miners, drag them into the nearby mines and prepare to eat them to replenish their strength and numbers… the party stumbles across the thorpe, a ghost town, but with very recent traces of blood and battle. If they don’t deal with the gnolls, the warband will move along, gaining strength and momentum.
About a week ago the local Baron’s men cornered and assaulted the orc clan Blackshadow Rotters. In the ensuing confusion, a gnoll warband, slaves to the orcs managed to escape captivity undetected. The gnoll warband, the Finger Gnashers, are in a sorry state; weak from captivity, starving and poorly equipped. Their brown-grey fur is mangy, parasite ridden and with fresh traces of brutal whippings and other wounds. Tuffs of fur are missing here and there. They are led by the gnoll leader Raan Dustpaw and his disdainful second in command, Irirr Soilbarb. Only 9 gnolls managed to escape, but what must surely be sign from their demonic god – Yeenoghu, three hyenas have already joined their numbers.
Day 1 – The Finger Gnashers having travelled the undetected wilderness for several days are mad with hunger reaches the small mining thorpe Farpost. They prepare to attack it during the night despite their weak state and after a couple of minutes of bloodcurdling howling, the warband attacks. The mining thorpe is caught by surprise and the warband manages to subdue the miners and villagers. They gather the miners that survived and drag them screaming down into the nearby iron mine where they proceed to feast on the dead to curb their hunger and replenish their strength. Two villagers manage to escape the slaughter and flees out into the woods. In a test of might Irrir challenges Raan for leadership but fails and badly wounded is expelled from the warband. Knowing that he will be next on the menu, Irirr flees the mine and hides in the village to heal his wounds.
Day 2 – The day after the attack the gnolls are satiated and tired from the night’s depravity. They have a few guards posted at the mine entrance trying to stay awake with the help of a little finger gnashing. Throughout the day a few hyenas are busy gorging themselves on a corpse or two still in the actual village. Irrir Soilbarb hides in the cellar of the communal house. In the late afternoon the gnolls start to butcher the dead villagers in the mine, preparing to break up and leave.
The two villagers that fled during the night return to the village only to find that everyone is dead and there are still gnolls in the vincinity. They manage to scavenge some food and then flees north to the nearby village Sandvale. They arrive in Sandvale in the evening and describes what happened.
During the evening the gnoll warband gathers up the surviving villagers in chains and rope and leave the mine. The enslaved villagers are forced to carry the butchered remains of the dead in ore sacks. Their goal is to find another food source and a safe place to lair. During the night they move north towards Sandvale. In the late night, the gnolls comes across a lone farm outside the village. The gnolls assault it, and while taking some casualties, they manage to overpower the farm and withdraw back into the forest with more food and captured farmhands.
Day 3 – During the day the Finger Gnashers rest up an hour away from the farm. They still have a few surviving human slaves and plenty of food. Instead of attacking the alerted Sandvale they plan to move deeper into the wilderness to fully recover and stay away from the humans.
Villagers from Sandvale discover the slaughter at the farm and are organising their defence. A messenger has been dispatched to the local ruler, seeking help. The village constable manages to track the gnolls into the forest but don’t attack out of fear.
During the night, the gnolls are once again on the move. They move steadily west throughout the night, deeper into the wilderness. They are joined by additional hyenas that pick up the scent of the warband. Just before sun rise they find an old ruin of a stone tower that they entrench.
Day 4 – The gnolls discover that they are not the only ones at the tower, it is also the home of the Vomitbreakers goblin tribe. After an initial bloody struggle, the gnolls subdue the goblins and an uneasy truce is forged. Luckily for the Vomitbreakers, goblin meat tastes horrible, even for gnolls. In secrecy the dominated goblins tries to figure out how to get rid of their new tyrants. The Finger Gnashers are satisfied with their new situation; they have food, slaves and goblin allies. The gnoll leader Raan Dustpaw surveys the area with the aid of the goblin chieftain Blagzark Blackvomit.
Day 5 – The goblin tribe is forced to move down into the dank catacombs below the ruins as the gnolls claims the cellar and the upper parts of the tower. For the next couple of days the slaves are forced to cut down trees and build defences around the tower. During the day the tower is guarded by hyenas while everyone else rests. During the night slaves are busy at work while the goblins are sent out to patrol. Raan Dustpaw is anticipating human retaliation during their weak period before they have reclaimed their strengths and numbers.
Day 8-9 – The defences are in place and the gnolls feel safe and begins an orgie of debauchery to repopulate their warband. In the ensuing grotesque orgies, the remaining human slaves are killed while the goblins maintains guard. New gnolls emerge from the exploding carcasses.
Day 10 – Hunger grips the gnolls and they start moving towards Sandvale to replenish their food supplies and round up new slaves.
The Finger Gnashers are initially weaker than a normal gnoll and thus the encounter could be run with a couple of level 2 players. The party should be around 2-4 level to handle the Finger Gnashers.
1… The party stumbles across the mining thorpe the day before the gnolls attack. During the night they are present as the gnolls attack and are forced to fight for their own and the thorpe’s survival. If they manage to hurt the gnolls sufficiently, they retreat and plan to attack again the next night…
2… The party walks into Farpost the day after the slaughter. It is obvious that something horrible just happened. Traces of blood and battle is evident. It is possible for the party to come across both Irirr, hyenas and the two surviving villagers. Blood and other tracks points toward the nearby mine…
3… The party is resting up in Sandvale as the two villagers comes screaming into the village…
4… The party is hired by the Sandvale constable or the local baron to track down the gnoll party (leading to the ruined tower) and avenge the dead.
Finger Gnasher Stats and Tactics
The gnoll warband is initially weak with HP in the lower end of the span, they are armed with makeshift weapons such as mining picks, clubs and wooden spears. On the same line they are not wearing proper hide armour and shields, lowering their AC. By the time they’ve reached the ruined tower they should be a little better armed and should be reverted to standard gnoll stats.
In combat they would charge the nearest foe, preferring squishy targets over heavy armoured ones. If unable to reach a new enemy using their rampage ability they might very well take a big bite instead, causing one failed death save on its victim.
Weak Finger Gnasher Gnoll (including Irirr): AC 12 (patchwork armor), HP 15, spd 30ft; STR +1, DEX +1, CON 0, INT -2, WIS 0, CHA -2Darkvision 60Ft, passive perception 10, Language: gnollRampage: When a gnoll reduces enemy to 0 hp, do a half move + bite attackBite +4 1D4+1 pierce; Improvised weapon +4 1D6+1Challenge 1/4 (50XP)
Raan Dustpaw: AC 15 (hide armour, shield), HP 25, Spd 30ft; STR +2, DEX +1, CON 0, INT -2, WIS 0, CHA -2Darkvision 60Ft, passive perception 10, Language: gnoll & broken commonRampage: When a gnoll reduces enemy to 0 hp, do a half move + bite attackBite: +4 1D4+2 pierce; Spear +4 1D6+2 Challenge: 1/2 (100XP)
In the next update I’ll post a little overview of Farpost and the iron mine.