Combat rating 1
1 Cockatrice (CR 1/2)
3-4 Pteranodons (CR 1/4)
Combat rating 1
1 Cockatrice (CR 1/2)
2-4 Axe beaks (CR 1/4)
2 Cockatrices (CR 1/2)
1 Dryad (CR 1)
Combat rating 2
2-3 Cockatrices (CR 1/2)
3 Dust mephits (CR 1/2)
2 Mud mephits (CR 1/4)
How to Use – Combat Encounter 1: Used by Enemies (difficulty 3)
When using a cockatrice, the enemies have to have a way to use it without it attacking them. (Of course, you can say that they successfully tamed it, but the monster manual doesn’t mention that this is possible, and these ideas are more interesting.)
One idea is that the enemies have it in a small box/cage, and they use the Catapult spell (from Xanther’s Guide to Everything) to hurl the cage into the players. To prevent the force of the throw from killing the cockatrice, you can make the cage out of straw (which unfortunately means that the cage itself won’t do any damage to the players.) The other option is to line the inside of the cage with something soft. Of course, the cockatrice would peck it to pieces, but you can ignore that. Say that it was put in recently, or that the padding was glued in strongly, so that even after the cockatrice shredded it the cage was still padded. *
If you don’t have Xanther’s, you can say that the cage is hanging above the doorway. The enemies have the rope holding up the cage going up and over a beam above the entrance, from there to another beam in the back of the room, and then down to the floor. This means that they can cut the rope near them and have it drop onto the PCs after they’ve entered the room.
With either of these ideas, you might want to give the enemies a pair of cockatrices. With only one cockatrice, it can get killed too easily and then your fight is ruined.
* When I tried this idea in one of my D&D games, one of my players used invisibility and snuck into the bandit lair before I had the chance to cast the first catapult spell.
(I had put a rope trap in the path leading to the door so that the bandits would have time to realize that they were under attack and get into position. For reasons that I never really understood, the player decided not to take the direct path but instead to make his way circuitously through the plants.)
In the end, the entire plan fizzled. My players never even found out about my [clever?] idea, and as I recall, one of the bandits ended up getting petrified by one of the cockatrices.
I’m mentioning this story because I think it shows a valuable lesson. Yes, the plan didn’t work, and fell to pieces right in the beginning. I still don’t consider it a failure, however. Having the cockatrices there made it a far more interesting fight than if they had just been fighting bandits, or even if they had been fighting bandits with tame cockatrices. (Tame too many animals and all the animals will start to feel like just plain minions, with perhaps a few extra powers.) Who cares if it didn’t come out as expected.
Combat Encounter 2: In the Wild (difficulty 3)
When encountering a cockatrice outdoors, if you want to enliven the encounter consider what happens after it petrifies the first player. (If you want to be certain it petrifies a player, have it be lurking inside a bush as the players arrive. It makes its first attack on a surprise round. You might also want to use a pair of cockatrices, like in the last encounter.)
The players are on a hill. As a result of being petrified, the PC falls sideways and tumbles down the hill to the water below, where there are crocodiles waiting. In the meantime, behind the cockatrices lurk a lion or tiger.
This forces the players to split up, to rescue teammates on both sides.
Have them pass by a statue of some monster that’s too high CR for them. [A giant or a dragon seem the most obvious choices.] As they walk behind its back, the monster starts to come to life. It hasn’t noticed them, but it is clearly only a matter of time.
What do they do? Do they try to hide? (You’ll want to designate hiding places before, based on the terrain, and to decide whether it will succeed or not. Also keep in mind that there might be a period in which it looks around, which they might be able to use to sneak away.) Do they take advantage of the fact that it’s still recovering to fight? (I’d give it the effect of the Slow spell, for anywhere from a half-minute to a minute [5-10 rounds]. Keep in mind that they probably wasted a few of these rounds before they decided to attack.) Do they run, and if so where do they run to?
You should probably have already had an encounter with a cockatrice before you try this idea, so that they’ll be able to figure out what’s going on, but that encounter doesn’t have to have taken place immediately before.