Combat Challenge 8
Chasme (CR 6)
1 Black pudding (CR 4)
2 Ochre Jellies (CR 2)
Combat Challenge 9
Chasme (CR 6)
3 Hell hounds (CR 3)
2 Perytons (CR 2)
Combat Challenge 11
Chasme (CR 6)
1 Bulette (CR 5)
3 Gnoll pack lords (CR 2)
2 Gnoll fangs of Yeenoghu (CR 4)
Combat Challenge 12
1 Chasme (CR 6)
2 Wraiths (CR 5)
3 Minotaurs (CR 3)
How to use – Combat Encounters (difficulty 6. With pursuit, difficulty 8)
Aside from the plain usage of being an ordinary attacker, there are three way I would go about using a chasme.
[Note: I am going to be setting all the encounters in the mountains.]
- Seize and Leave.
The chasme knocks out its enemies just by being near them. I haven’t been able to find out whether unconscious people need to be grappled in order to move them, but my inclination is against. Still, neither the chasme’s drone nor the movement after it has the PC grappled are actions, so it could move near a party, either attack or hide somewhere nearby where they won’t be able to attack it easily [see next section] and then fly away with its very own captive. Ruling that it doesn’t take an action just gives it an attack as well.
When flying away with a captive, ideally it should fly over a height so that if the other players try to shoot it down, they’ll risk their friend falling to his death. [More practically, taking a bit of falling damage and falling somewhere inaccessible.]
If he does take damage and break out of unconsciousness, you’ll have to decide what to do. If he was never grappled, it seems a bit unfair to inform him now that he’s grappled, and your players will protest. While I’m not necessarily saying not to do that, if you have him held over an open area, the argument is solved. He can either choose of his own accord to let the chasme continue to hold him, or he can choose to fall, taking damage and ending up somewhere inaccessible.
Given the chasme’s magic resistance trait, they can’t easily stop it with spells either.
If they don’t stop the chasme, the best move is for the chasme to leave the PC somewhere high up or low down, where the players can’t easily reach him. A different cliff face facing them is also a possibility. For extra difficulty, fly him around the side of the mountain, where they can’t see him either.
If you want a variant, place him along a ledge that’s too weak to support the weight of the PC who might try to reach him. [The ledge where the unconscious PC is located is strong, the ledge in between that PC and the others is weak. Or if you want to be evil, the ledge where the unconscious PC is located is only strong enough for the weight of a single PC. Should they reach him, they’ll both fall.]
After that, the chasme will fly back and take hold of another unconscious PC, to deposit them in a different location. When it runs out of unconscious PCs, probably because the conscious PCs have wakened them, or if it can’t reach the other unconscious PCs [they’re too well defended], it will attack the conscious PCs. There’s no reason to attack the unconscious PCs, as they won’t wake up until well after the battle.
The other approach it might take would be to dog them and make hit and run attacks as they try to reach the unconscious PC[s]. Even if it does this it will take a stand before letting them reach the unconscious PC, preferably in a narrow place where no more than one PC can reach it. The only time it might not take a stand will be if it’s a forward unit for a larger force. [The pursuit option discussed below.]
- Hit and Run
The next possible approach would be to sneak attack them and then retreat. The fact that the bulk of its damage can’t be healed makes this approach feasible.
The weakness of the chasme in this area is that it can’t hide. The droning noise of its wings also serves to reveal its location. On the positive side, the droning effect means that the players are going to be frightened of getting too close to it, which might mean that it gets to use it on only a few of them at a time. That might be advantageous when pursuing this strategy.
Ways for the chasme to hit and run can be divided into the following categories:
- The chasme waits for them in a place where they won’t be able to stick together easily. This can include along a narrow ledge or defile, where they’ll have to go in a line; a place where a ledge won’t support more than one at a time, a difficult climb or decent, or the need to jump to a distant ledge. To prevent being shot down, the chasme should waiting for them above a rock outcropping, on the bottom of a ledge that they’ll walk over, or [in a dungeon] behind a doorway.
- The chasme, which is intelligent, sets up a ploy to distract them. This can include dropping a boulder onto them, to knock them down or force them to dodge; setting up a landslide, to knock them off the path or split the party in the middle; or dropping a cloud of dust; to reduce visibility. In the same vein, it can wait near a weak ledge which will collapse under them, or a slippery ledge. Strong winds also give him an opportunity [and are a feature of terrain as much as weather.]
- Any obstacle that has to be dealt with also opens up opportunities, as it is difficult to do this while also defending your back. This includes a locked door, or a large boulder that the chasme managed to move onto the pathway; a large gap too big to jump, that has to be bridged; or, inside a dungeon, a trapdoor that’s high up, and they have to move heavy furniture and pile it up so they can reach it.
- Any and all enemies, as combat splits them up by necessity.
- Fly by and Spy
The third use is as an advance scout for a pursuing force. The chasme will fly in and out of the area where the PCs are traveling, scouting them out and then moving back to let the following force know where they are. If the players want to escape, they’ll have to deal with this.
The two ways that they might deal with it are 1. Finding a way to lure the chasme closer. 2. Hiding when it flies their way, so that it won’t know where they’ve gone.
Coming up with these solutions is their job, but giving them the tools to do so is the DM’s. If you’re using it as a scout, I would throw in mention of crevices, cracks in the rocks, and caves. I would consider supplying at least some vegetation, if the terrain will support it. Finally, I would keep a receptive ear open to whatever the players were discussing, and I would try to meet it with at least some degree of support and cooperation.
One more thing I wanted to mention about the chasme. In the previous article, I said that the barlgura is one of the best pictures in the Monster Manual. The chasme is one of the worst. The stat block informs us that the chasme is the size of a horse, but the picture suggests a monster far smaller [especially with the barlgura staring at us from the opposite page.] As such, I wouldn’t share this picture with my players if I had a choice. If you don’t have a choice (probably because your players are insistent,) I would describe it as being the size of a horse, as this seems the best description to give a feel for its size.
Running a Pursuit
(Note: The pursuit is necessary for the third idea, but also the first two ideas can use it. The chasme will be trying to slow them down, to allow the pursuers to close the gap. You can even combine all three sets of ideas. When using the first two as part of a pursuit, you will need to decide how many obstacles and opposition methods you use. Probably not as many as when there is no pursuit.]
When you have the PCs running away from a superior force, there are several things you should be aware of.
The force needs to be vastly superior. If you use fifty or a hundred gnolls, the players will probably start scheming a way to ambush, trap, or otherwise flip the scales on them. (Which is fine, it’s just a different scenario.) Think hundreds, maybe thousands of gnolls.
Players want to be the heroes, and heroes don’t just run away. Therefore, it is important that they be running to somewhere, not just away. Running to warn the kingdom should work, or running to activate [or destroy] some powerful magic is another example.
The next item is how to do the pursuit, how to make it significant without it killing them. Below is my idea.
When starting the pursuit, give them two points. Any time they slow down or are delayed greatly they lose a point. Any time they do well in moving forward, evading pursuit, [or destroying the path behind them], they gain a point.
These points are for you, to help you keep track of how they’re doing, not for you to share with the players. Sharing them with the players will make the game seem more artificial, less real. You can place a high point in the path where they can see the enemy behind them, have the path zigzag to make looking back easier, and let them hear the sound of the enemy [or the smell, if they’re lighting fires], if and when you want to let them know how they’re doing.)
If the points drop to zero, the enemy catches up. If they raise the points to five, they manage to be so far ahead that the enemy ceases to be relevant. Be fair, and take into account the difficulty of the obstacles facing them. It should be possible for them to win, and they shouldn’t feel that they lost unfairly.
The first two times the points drop to zero, you can have some of the enemies catch up. If they fight them off, the points reset and they try again.
For the first time the enemy catches up, I would use 2-3 elite units that went ahead of the rest. In our case, I would suggest 2 fangs of Yeenoghu and maybe one regular gnoll to provide ranged support.
The second time, use a much more significant force. I would suggest 6-8 units, with 1-2 more coming in a turn. You’ll need to provide a way for them to escape after they defeat enough of the enemy, such as a narrow ledge that they can destroy behind the, or a rockfall they can trigger.
(Normally you would give multiple possible solutions, because players don’t always think of the solution you had in mind. I worry that doing that here will be too obvious. If you don’t provide multiple solutions, I would choose as obvious a solution as possible. If they had an experience with a ledge breaking or a rockfall blocking the path recently, offer that solution. Be prepared to hint heavily in case they don’t get it. And finally, let them know that in five rounds the enemy will catch up en-masse, and they won’t have a chance if they’re still there.)
If they catch up a third time, or if the players don’t get away the second time, they’ve failed entirely. (Again, don’t make this your fault. Make certain that they have more than a fair chance of escaping.)
With a different enemy I would suggest they get taken prisoner, but gnolls and demons don’t do prisoners. If you don’t want to TPK them, I would suggest having them fall into the underdark [either because they escape, or failing that when the ground breaks under them] or you could knock them into the river and they get swept into… a haunted forest, say. If you took my earlier advice, they were running to achieve something, such as to warn a town. That you can tell them they failed, and ideally make them face the consequences.
If you had a campaign planned, or even more if you were playing an official campaign, you may be very reluctant to do this as it takes your game completely off the rails. You could always TPK them, or announce that they should build new characters as their characters are lost in the underdark, haunted forest, of other area.
[The advantage of this idea instead of the typical TPK is that the PCs can theoretically be brought in again later. The players might also be happier about their characters surviving, although I’m uncertain about whether this is going to be the fact. The disadvantage is that if the PCs are alive, your players might well insist on playing them. If you don’t think they’ll accept this idea, you probably shouldn’t use it.]
The only other idea I can suggest is that sometimes you can adjust the campaign. If they were going to help a human city with a cursed item or with a hostile dragon [random examples], maybe they can help a dwarf city or an elf city instead. The dragon can be changed into a shadow dragon, or they can have an aboveground area [for farming, maybe?] that the dragon is hassling.)
I wish I had a perfect solution for you, but big failures always require a lot of adapting. Trying to avoid that is part of why I suggested giving your players so many tries to escape.