Combat rating 3
1 Allosaurus (CR 2)
2-3 Lizardfolk (CR 1/2)
Combat rating 3
1 Allosaurus (CR 2)
3 Giant wasps (CR 1/4)
Combat rating 4
2 Allosauruses (CR 2)
1 Grick (CR 2)
Combat rating 5
2 Allosauruses (CR 2)
2 Griffons (CR 2)
How to Use Dinosaurs
Of all the monsters in the Monster Manual, dinosaurs are the ones that really don’t fit. A few of the other monsters may have had their origins in other genres, but we’ve gotten used to them being part of fantasy, and nobody will raise their eyebrows on meeting a werewolf or vampire in D&D. [I would guess that some readers will be surprised to hear that these aren’t fantasy monsters. They’ve become that regular.]
Dinosaurs are different. I very rarely see them in fantasy, and they don’t feel like they fit. For this reason, I would suggest that you don’t throw them in at random locations, but rather that you set aside a specific location or quest, and that you confine use of dinosaurs to that location. Possibly a remote island, in the spirit of Jurassic Park, or The Land That Time Forgot, or possibly a quest that takes them back in time, possibly to retrieve a certain rare herb, or a treasure that was hidden there by other time travelers.
[If you want villains, you could have your players be in a race to obtain the item first, or have the villains be trying to stop them [or vice versa]. You could even have the villains be camped there for a while, trying to find or guard the item, if you want them to have a base.]
The ideal level that I’d suggest for this quest would be level 3-4, maybe level 5. That will be both low enough and high enough that almost all the dinosaurs will be within their level range, not too easy or too hard. [And yes, I am aware that the one dinosaur that they won’t be able to fight is also the one that everybody wants to fight. I’m depending on that, actually. You’ll have to wait until the final dinosaur article to find why.]
How to Use – Combat encounters (difficulty 4)
The allosaurus is a pack hunter. Campaign wise, I would consider giving it the open areas, the grasslands, and using it to force the players to navigate through the jungles, where they’re less frequent. [It’s also true that it will be much easier to place adventures in jungle than in grassland.]
The first time they encounter the allosauruses, have them be forced to run a defensible, stony hill / miniature mountain. The entrance is narrow, which means that they can hold off the allosauruses there, nor will the allosauruses hand around once they see they can’t reach their prey. [Realize that while dinosaurs aren’t intelligent, even animals won’t stay around in a place where they’re taking damage from ranged without being able to fight back.]
I would probably place a narrow path at the side that one or two of them manage to scramble up before the players realize that there is a [just barely passable] way up over there. This will force them to split their attention between holding the main entrance and retaking the side entrance. That said, because it is a hard way to get up, the other allosauruses will reinforce the ones there at an absolute max of one allosaurus every two rounds. Once they retake the side entrance, it is easy to wall off with a boulder or to destroy the path up.
The side path should help draw the players attention to their rear, which is also open. The allosauruses won’t discover that way up immediately [you could have small piece of the mountain that juts out to the side, or a thick growth of trees and shrubbery, thereby making the rear near the PCs but somewhat far from the allosauruses.]
They might realize the danger themselves. If they have an NPC with them, or an intelligent familiar, you can have them realize the danger and point it out to the players [but give the players a chance to realize it themselves. If they do pull it off, it will be an accomplishment, and they don’t need to know that you would have told them about it if they hadn’t realized.] If they don’t have an NPC, you can either narrate that the path behind them looks open, and they might want to check it out, or you can have the allosauruses surprise them.
If they beat the allosauruses there, I would have the allosauruses still be trying to get in at the front. They’ll have to split their focus, with some of the party holding the entrance and the other fortifying the rear. Having the entrance be narrow enough that the allosauruses can only advance one or two at a time, and that one PC can block the entire entrance, would be a good idea.
If the allosauruses surprise them from behind, I might have the allosauruses at the front be hanging back, dissuaded by their previous failures. If the players forget to guard the front while focusing on the back, [and if you think they can handle it,] you can have the allosauruses at the front mount an attack. In the meantime, they not only have to defeat the allosauruses behind them, they have to slip past them and block off the passage first. They can’t afford to wait until they defeat the ones who already came.
In terms of how to block off the path behind them, I would provide loose boulders, trees that they can chop down to use as wood, and if you can think of something I missed, I’d provide that as well. I would give an area where the path narrows, so that it can be blocked off. Most importantly, I would be supportive of any idea my players came up with, as long as there is any logic to it.
If they fail, and you don’t want a TPK, you could have them cling to the cliff face until the allosauruses go away. They’ll lose almost everything they have, and they’ll probably take several levels of exhaustion, but it will give you a way to let them escape. (Normally, you’d just let them escape if they can’t win, but here the entire fight is about them trying to escape. Providing another option requires that the other option be even less good.)
If they succeed, the allosauruses will eventually get bored, give up, and leave. This will give your players a chance to get to somewhere safer, such as the jungle, where they can hide in the trees. Allosauruses don’t seem like the type to lurk in ambush.
(difficulty 3-4) You could have a mountain they need to scale, or a river they need to cross. While normally these wouldn’t be a big deal, this mountain or river is on the other side of the grasslands where the allosauruses hunt. They’ll have to figure out how to cross it without spending too much time, as that will give the allosauruses too much of an opportunity to attack them.
I would let them know about the obstacle in advance. (It isn’t literally on the other side of the grasslands, just some distance across the grasslands.) This will make it easier for them to deal with, they’ll have a chance to plan it out and prepare resources, which will mean that you can make the mountain or river harder to climb/cross.
(difficulty 3) You could find a reason that they have to take out a specific allosaurus. Perhaps the ones hiding the treasure had the dumb idea of chaining an important key around its neck, for safety, or writing/engraving an important message onto its scales.
Taking out this allosaurus can require luring a number of allosauruses into a trap, and hoping that this one will be among them, or simply attacking the allosauruses and then quickly retreating. I will remind you that the allosauruses being animals doesn’t make them suicidal. If they’re in a situation where the PCs can shoot at them and they can’t fight back, they will try to retreat, even if that means trying to break out of a trap. They’ll also retreat if they see the fight going against them too badly.
In my last post, I also had a monster [the spined devil] that appeared in groups to harass the PCs. In that one, I suggested that giving the players a chance to take out the monster would be a good idea, and deeply satisfying. You could do that with the allosauruses as well, provide a cave or complex where they sleep, giving the players a chance to take them out all at once. The challenge will be getting to the cave without being discovered, and/or having some of the players stop them from breaking out before the other can bring the cave down on their heads.
Personally, I’m not sure it’s worth it. In last post, the enemy was intelligent, evil, and I could see the players being highly motivated to take it out. This monster is an animal. Removing it could be useful, but I don’t see motivation beyond that.