Dragon Encounters

Making dnd combat fun, finding monsters that fit together, monster tactics and strategies, and other ways of using the monsters of dungeons and dragons

GORISTRO: How to Use Mazes and Forced Movement



Combat rating 20


1 Goristro (CR 17)

1 Bulette (CR 5)

3 Hill giants (CR 5)


Combat rating 21


1 Goristro (CR 17)

1 Behir (CR 11)

3 Fomorians (CR 8)


Combat rating 23


1 Goristro (CR 17)

4 Nyacloths (CR 5)

1 Archmage (CR 15)


Combat rating 25


2 Goristros (CR 17)

3 Purple worms (CR 15)

How to use

The intended tactics for the goristro are, I think, that he makes a head charge one turn, the next turn he multiattacks, hopefully tripping at least one PC prone. This lets him take at least one less opportunity attack when he backs up, which he’ll do in order to set up another charge for the following round. (I would have him back up even if he doesn’t manage to knock anyone prone, however. It seems too big a pity to invalidate using his charge just because of bad luck.)

This approach only really works if there are other enemies in the battle, however. If the goristro is by himself, there is nothing to stop the PCs from advancing after the goristro, at which point he has to either take additional opportunity attacks or forgo his charge. Below are four ways you can play him:

  • He acts exactly as I described above anyway. This means he’ll be sucking up opportunity attacks every single round, but he does have the HP to spare and he is pretty dumb.
  • He’ll perform more or less as I described, but he won’t back up unless there are no enemies adjacent to him who aren’t prone. (On the charge rounds he’ll back up and then charge forward, regardless.)
  • If you don’t like the idea of a chaotic enemy taking his turns in routine patterns, you can roll a dice every turn to see which of his two options he’ll choose. I would suggest that a roll of 1-2 means repeat previous attack, and a roll of 3-6 be use different attack than last round, to reduce the chances of him constantly using one attack. The first round should be a charge, regardless.
  • Every round the goristro will choose which PC to target at random. If that target is within ten feet, it will use its multiattack, if not it will charge, backing up if necessary. (Because of its size, it doesn’t have to worry about PCs blocking it from reaching its target.)

Combat encounter 4 will feature natural obstacles for the goristro to send PCs flying into.

Combat Encounter 1: The Tower (difficulty 20)

The PCs are invading an enemy base in a tower, or set inside a cliff. Either way, there should be 1-2 encounters, or other discoveries of interest, per floor. The players should be constantly climbing.

In the middle of the second or third floor, the goristro arrives outside. With its long reach, it can punch them through the windows and still maintain distance from them, so they won’t be able to counterattack except through spells and ranged weapons. They also won’t get to make attacks of opportunity. (It will forgo is hoof attack in the scenario, but that’s an acceptable trade.)

It will also use its charge to assault the building of the enemy base. Effects of this can be heavy blocks of stone sent flying, perhaps crashing into PCs, doing damage and knocking them backwards. The goristro will naturally try for the areas of the wall which the PCs are behind, as it wants to get to the PCs. (I’m assuming windows, or that it can hear where the PCs are, or perhaps smell them.)

It’s even possible that a stone block will end up knocking one of them down a staircase, thereby doing extra damage and possibly taking the PC out of battle for a round or two. If the block lands on top of a PC, they might be pinned to the ground until they make a successful STR check to free themselves, or one of their friends help them.

Another effect of the goristro’s attacking the building is that the building shakes, with everybody having to make DEX saves to avoid falling prone. Also, you could have parts of the building fall in, causing damage to anyone underneath it and making parts of the floor impassible, difficult terrain, or very difficult terrain.

The areas where stones fall can be random, or you can mention that the ceiling looks unsteady in certain areas, thereby letting them know that standing under it over there poses a risk. A third possibility is that stones adjacent to the weakened areas also often fall together with the weakened areas, giving them some idea of where to avoid but not total knowledge.

Another strategy that the goristro might employ would be to grab [grapple] one of the PCs and walk step back from the tower with them. As mentioned above, they’ll have a hard time retaliating, and in addition the goristro might be on the other side of a wall from them. You could place a balcony for them to stand on, but if the goristro breaks it they’ll go tumbling to the bottom of the tower. (Decide if you’re okay with this happening before you place a balcony.)

If they don’t manage to rescue the PC, there are two possibilities. Either the goristro gets to attack the PC with no interference, or the goristro throws the PC at the other PCs, with the same effect as a stone block hitting them. (Although in this case the PC thrown will also take damage.) I would suggest that it do the first for one turn, and then throw him the next.

I have in mind that there’s some kind of time limit, such as a ritual spell being performed at the top which they have to reach in time to stop. If you don’t do this, they’ll probably fight back against the goristo, not advancing further up the tower until they kill it. That’s okay, of course. You just have to decide how you want to play it.

(You can also prevent them from fighting the goristro by telling them that it’s too strong for them [although I wouldn’t do that unless it’s true], or by giving them some other reason to keep climbing. Another idea is that so long as they remain on that floor a steady stream of villains/monsters will keep showing up as reinforcements, and if they climb up two more stories they’ll be too high for the goristro to fight. Let them know this.)

If you use the ceremony idea, you can have a floor or two where they’re out of range of the goristro, letting them think they don’t have to worry about it for now, then when they reach the top [and the boss fight] they find the goristro sitting on top of the tower or cliff. It’s punched holes in the ceiling for its arms and leg, letting it use its hoof attack for the first time this combat. It can be a fight in itself or just a participant in the boss fight [or in a different fight, I suppose.]

Combat encounter 2: The Maze. (Difficulty 16)

The goristro seems meant as an enemy that is encountered inside mazes, similar to the minotaur. This is a brief look at how you would do that.

In this scenario, the goristro is going to show up, attack one of the PCs with a gore charge, and either leave that turn or retreat the next after using hoof as part of a multiattack to trip one enemy. (The goristro isn’t fleeing, as demons don’t flee. It’s playing with its prey.)

To prevent the players from pursuing, narrate beforehand that the floor is extremely uneven, with frequent boulders, clusters of stone, and/or gaps in the floor. With the goristro’s huge size, it will just step over them, but the players would have to make their way around them, more than doubling their movement cost. (The goristro has a faster speed, but not enough to get away in one turn. Nor can it dash away in the first turn, as it used its action to attack the PCs. It will get away without this, but not without paying a steep price in HP.)

You’ll also want to have the maze contain a lot of twisting turns, so that the goristro doesn’t get hit by ranged attacks and spells for multiple turns each time it retreats. This will also allow the goristro to take the players by surprise, and to avoid soaking up multiple ranged attacks and spells as it moves to attack.

You don’t need, or even want, to describe all the obstacles and turns of the last two paragraphs. Narrate enough so that they know that they’re there, and then just let them know that that they exist throughout the maze, you’re just not narrating it.

Mazes: I want to mention that when you’re placing a maze in D&D, simplify it greatly and then simplify it still more. Many people, used to the type of mazes where you see the entire maze on a sheet of paper, don’t realize quite how difficult mazes become when you’re narrating one turn at a time.

I’ve seen a maze in one novel where the entire maze consisted of four squares. Picture them joined together in the shape of a larger square, but with space between them the as big as one side of a square. [The outlines of the square are the path of the maze.] The top left square is missing, and it’s the beginning and end of the maze.

To solve the maze in the most efficient manner, you follow a straight path until you get to the first [three-way] junction, you take a right, and you keep taking a right every time you reach a junction. If you choose a different way, you get taken for a loop, and the direction you need to take when you arrive back at the junction is different, depending on which path you took into the loop.

I will mention that if you’re proving landmarks, or allowing them to create landmarks, you can make it a little bit more complicated. If you don’t want them to create landmarks, having the walls be loose sand on which drawn landmarks will fall away and which might cover items placed on the floor is the simplest solution. The fact that they’re going to be distracted in the middle of the maze by combat, such as the goristro, or other obstacles raises the complexity. I would not recommend a maze much more complicated than the one I described above, even with landmarks.

Combat Encounter 3: The revealed maze. (Difficulty 10)

A different way to use a maze would be to give the players a magic, bird’s eye view of the entire maze. This can be a magic scroll that shows the surroundings, or a spell. [If you don’t want them having this ability afterwards, make it part of this scenario and set to this area. It doesn’t work anywhere else.]

If you do this, you could make it interesting by placing a few magical one-way arrows. Once they enter such a passage, they can only leave from the far side. The goristro’s gore charge can knock PCs over an arrow, thereby derailing their planned movement. If the paths aren’t flat, being knocked prone could cause a PC to roll downhill, and go over an arrow.

I would caution you not to use too many one-way arrows. You need the players to have a lot of choice as to which way to go.

I have in mind in my design for this scenario a lot of interconnected paths. The players have to pick up multiple keys, or flick multiple switches, or something like that. Picture a scenario something like Pac-man. You’ll want to decide if they all have the ability to see the map, or just one of them [and the others when they’re with him. A single magic map as opposed to multiple maps.] You also need to decide if they can see where the enemies are. There are pros and cons both ways.

The difficulty level is lower than the goristro’s CR because I don’t intend for them to fight the goristro, but rather to avoid it as much as them can. They might come up with ways to use spells to set up traps, block passages, or otherwise speed up their passage and/or slow the goristro. Unlike in Pac-man, they can afford the meet the goristro a few times, especially as it runs away after one or two rounds (like in the previous scenario.)

If you want to add a few more enemies to the mix, I’d suggest giving the goristro a few gorgons as pets. They also have an ability to push PCs with their charge. If the players are a high enough level, you can simply use more than one goristro.

Scenario 4: Natural obstacles. (Difficulty 18)

This scenario involves obstacles for the goristro’s charge to push them into. You can run this as a basic battle, with one or two such obstacles scattered around on the map.

Alternatively, you can have the PCs be traveling, preferably through a series of canyons or some similar terrain, to allow the goristro to get close without them seeing and to rapidly retreat. See scenario 2. To keep them moving, rather than just fortifying one spot and waiting for the goristro, either have there be other monsters who start showing up and attacking if they stay in one spot for too long, and/or provide some reason that they need to reach their destination sooner rather than later.

Finally, you can use them as part of a maze.

I would not suggest using these ideas as part of a find the correct path maze, like in scenario 2. Such mazes are difficult be themselves, and the goristro’s attacks already added a lot of extra difficulty on top of that. To add even more difficulty seems ridiculous. If you want to use these ideas as part of a maze, I would suggest an eagle’s eye view maze, like in scenario 3.

An alternative idea would be that they’re trapped in a magical maze, and they leave it by killing the goristro, not by finding the way out. Like above, either have monsters who attack if they don’t keep moving, and/or let them find occasional treasures lying around in the maze.

  • Thorn bushes or cacti: In addition to their possibly taking [a small amount of] extra damage, they’ll be restrained and immobilized by the thorns. They’ll either need an ally with a slashing damage weapon to cut them free, or they’ll need to spend an action and make a STR check [DC 14] to pull themselves free. Pulling themselves free will inflict damage on them.
  • The goristro hurls them into the wall of the canyon, which then collapses on them. They’ll need a STR check [DC 15-17] to pull themselves free, or any ally can help dig them out. Can be combined with the next idea.
  • When the goristro hurls them into the canyon wall, it releases a cloud of dust that causes that area to be heavily obscured for 1 round.
  • The goristro knocks them down a hill/incline, causing them to roll further than the 20 feet that the goristro would normally move them. This can happen automatically, or only if they fail a DEX same, your choice. [The truth is, just making the area difficult terrain would be enough to make getting knocked out of position be a problem. This just adds more.]
  • The goristro knocks the PC over a small chasm. If the ground on the far side is lower than the ground on the goristro’s side, jumping over will be hard. You could rule it impossible, or you could require a STR [athletics] check, with failure meaning that they’ll fall into the chasm, taking damage and needing multiple rounds to escape. [Or even worse, if there’s a creature living at the bottom of the chasm.] Of course, they might find other ways to cross the chasm.
  • There are a number of caves dotting the cliff side, and the goristro knocks the PCs into one of them. The caves contain monsters. These monsters won’t attack the PCs so long as the PCs stay outside, but will attack should they enter. [Suggested monsters include: Oozes, rust monsters, shadows, shadow demons. As these are all low level, I would suggest that the caves be large, contain numerous hiding places, and contain a large number of the monsters on average. When they enter the cave, they’re attack by one or a few monsters, and more trickle out over time.]

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About Me

I have been a DM for several years, and I was designing home RPG games since my young childhood. I have been a fan of many different types of games (computer, board, RPG, and more) and have designed several for my own entertainment. This is my first attempt to produce game content for a wider audience.