Combat rating 10
1 Hezrou (CR 8)
2 Hell hounds (CR 8)
1 Black pudding (CR 8)
Combat rating 11
1 Hezrou (CR 8)
1 Gibbering mouther (CR 8)
3 Ogre zombies (CR 8)
1 Beholder zombie (CR 8)
Combat rating 14
2 Hezrous (CR 8)
1 Hydra (CR 8)
Combat rating 16
2 Hezrous (CR 8)
1 Shambling mound (CR 8)
4 Ogres (CR 8)
2 Mages (CR 6)
How to use
The hezrou actually does have an optimal fighting method, thanks to its poison effect. It wants to be as close to as many of its enemies as possible, so as to maximize the poison condition it causes. It also doesn’t have to worry as much about opportunity attacks once its poison condition takes effect, as poisoned gives disadvantage and makes the chances of being hit by opportunity attacks that much lower. The problem is that the hezrou doesn’t have the intelligence to realize any of this.
Let’s present the hezrou’s strategy like this. The hezrou , like every bully, prefers to pick on the weakest target available. However, it is also important that nobody think that it’s scared of anybody. To resolve this, it will use its first turn of combat to attack the strongest PC [read: The PC nearest it. By standing nearest to the herzou the PC has shown itself to be the bravest, which suggests that it’s the strongest.] This will prove the herzou’s bravery. Once this is done, it will select the weakest target at the beginning of its next turn [the PC furthest from itself. The same logic as before, but in reverse,] target them until they’re finished, then move on to whoever is currently furthest from itself.
Note that when determining bravery and cowardice, other monsters are irrelevant. The hezrou doesn’t realize that other monsters might be more fearsome than itself, nor would it admit to such a concept if it did realize it. This means that even if one of your PCs is soloing a tarresque, that PC is still branded a coward if he/she happens to be standing furthest from the hezrou . (If there’s an exception, it will be for someone standing adjacent to a different hezrou . Distance will only be measured from the hezrou doing the measuring, however. Measuring from multiple places is far too complicated for the hezrou .)
Combat Encounters (Difficulty 9)
The hezrou’s combat encounters, like the hezrou itself, are simple, and yet have the potential to be really difficult.
- The hezrou is inside a small room, and the party has to defeat it there. (I would suggest 20×20 feet, or 4×4 squares.) This will make it difficult to stay away from the hezrou’s bad odor, and hard to protect the mages.
- The hezrou’s foot is trapped near the door. The only way for any mages or ranged units to attack it is if they enter the room, which means passing right by the hezrou and probably getting hit with an attack of opportunity. If the hezrou is left with enemies targeting it and nobody adjacent to fight, it will pull its foot free [possibly taking a bit of damage] and charge. (I would suggest that it doesn’t free its foot until the beginning of the second turn, so that the players have some warning. That said, freeing its foot doesn’t cost it an action on the second turn, so that it can still attack that turn.)
- The hezrou is attacking them in a long, narrow, twisting hallway or tunnel. The small size of the tunnel means that only one PC can stand near the hezrou at a time, and the fact that its twisting means that ranged PCs can’t stand behind the PC and still have a clear shot. To make it easier you could put a few rooms that branch off the main hallway/tunnel, allowing the players to put PCs in one of them and have the other PCs lead the hezrou past that room, thus allowing them to put an attacker on each side.
- The final idea is that if you motivate them to split up, the hezrou will be a scary opponent for one PC, separated from the others, to have to survive/hide/flee from for the two rounds or so it takes the other players to arrive. Also, they’ll be forced to get into melee on order to save their companion. Setting this up will be a bit complicated, so let’s give this its own section. (Or you can have them come upon an NPC who is about to get killed by the hezrou . Same difficulty to defend when getting into melee has a steep cost, and it doesn’t need setup.)
The Hidden Secrets of the Office Space
This is a scenario to help incentivize the players to spit up.
The players are hunting down a cult. They find out about a merchant house that is actually a front for the cultists, but when they get inside [possibly after having to deal with the guardians in order to get in] they find the cultists torn apart bodies all over the main room. (This is to give the players fair warning that there’s a dangerous monster about before encouraging them to split up, and also to set the scene for the rest of the story.)
Once they search, they’ll find a picture frame swinging loose. At the foot of the picture frame is the head and shoulders of the leader of the merchant house [he’ll be the best dressed of the corpses]. If they look behind the picture frame, they’ll see that there’s a secret compartment is the wall behind it. The compartment is slightly open, as the cult leader was trying to get it open when the hezrou killed him. This makes it easy to find. Inside the secret compartment are four levers. (Remember to place several other pictures on the walls when describing the area.)
There are five offices on the floor. Three of them have secret storage areas that become accessible when one of the levers is pressed. [The other two are just to add challenge.] The changes that the levers make when pressed are subtle. The players will have to either pay careful attention to the room descriptions in order to notice the differences, at which point finding the secret compartments shouldn’t be too difficult, or they might think to post party members by the offices to see if they can spot the changes. Unfortunately for them, this will split them up.
Even if they post members by the rooms, you can decide how much notice. The changes are subtle. Posting members might let them hear the sounds of movement caused by the levers, and pin down which offices are affected. [Even to do this, I might suggest perception rolls.] If they’re looking at the spot affected, they’ll presumably notice the change, but if they’re facing the wrong way, they might not. You’ll have to decide how to play this. (This is also to force them to go back and forth, to have the PC by the levers press them multiple times. Added difficulty is likely to cause them to do one room at a time, however. Everything is a balance.)
Even once they figure out what the lever does, they’ll still have to figure out where the secret areas are. They’re not so obvious.
The fourth lever locks and unlocks a secret passage in the hallway. The hezrou went down this passage, only for the door to close and lock behind it. As they play with the levers, they’ll accidently unleash the hezrou , and the encounter can take place. The encounter won’t necessarily take place as soon as they press the lever, though. It might take the hezrou a while to realize it’s been freed. This will let you decide the time of the encounter.
I will just add that you might want to make the floor large and confusing, making it somewhat hard for help to arrive. If you fill the floor with small rooms and twisting passages, you will be incorporating the previous combat encounter into the mix as well, and raising the difficulty level. Decide whether you want to do that.
An interesting variation would be to add a few quasits hiding in the building. On the one hand, this might prevent them from splitting up as much, since the quasits will be ambushing them when they get the chance. On the other hand, the quasits scare ability will make it hard for players to come rush to their aid. Or, if you’re being really nasty, will prevent the PCs attacked by the herzou from fleeing.
Each room will be described twice. Once before the lever is presses, once after. The description will be followed by a description of the secret area. (For the sake of brevity, I’m keeping the descriptions somewhat short. Feel free to add the fine details.)
Room 1. Description 1: The room appears to be some kind of filing room, keeping store of all the records. The carpet on the floor looks like it was once of high quality, but that was a while ago. Now its crimson color is muted from the effects of countless footsteps, and one of the edges is starting to fray. The room’s desk is in the far-left corner, with a chair in front of it. A number of binders are standing on the desk. Beside the desk is a large closet. The right wall contains a tall but narrow window, with a second closet on its right and a short set of drawers on its left. The color pattern on the closet next to window and on the drawers are the same.
Room 1. Description 2: The room appears to be some kind of filing room, keeping store of all the records. The carpet on the floor looks like it was once of high quality, but that was a while ago. Now its crimson color is muted from the effects of countless footsteps, and one of the edges is starting to fray. The room’s desk is in the far-left corner, with a chair in front of it. A number of binders are standing on the desk. Beside the desk is a large closet. The right wall contains a tall but narrow window, with a second closet on its right and a set of drawers on its left. The color pattern and the height of the closet next to window and of the drawers are the same.
Solution: The drawers are partially underground. When the lever is pressed, the set of drawers rises, allowing access to the bottom two drawers. [They’re probably locked, so the players will have to break them open.]
Room 2. Description 1: The room appears to belong to a manager. There is a tall, imposing wood desk in the center of the room. Looking behind the desk, you see a wooden shelf extends out from the desk on the far side, with a matching chair with armrests and a black cushion resting on it. It’s set up so that the person sitting in it will be a foot higher that anyone else in the room. A handful of low wooden stools are scattered around in the front of the room. A large window occupies the wall behind the desk, with dark green curtains on either side. On the right side of the window is a large closet, and on the left a long shelf containing decorative objects. The floor is made up of marble squares.
Room 2. Description 2: The room appears to belong to a manager. There is a tall, imposing wood desk halfway across the room, on the left side. Looking behind the desk, you see a wooden shelf extends out from the desk on the far side, with a matching chair with armrests and a black cushion resting on it. It’s set up so that the person sitting in it will be a foot higher that anyone else in the room. A handful of low wooden stools are scattered around in the front of the room. A long shelf containing decorative objects occupies the wall behind the desk, with a large window with dark green curtains next to it, and a large closet on the far side. The floor is made up of marble squares.
Solution: There are very thin wires running along the inside of the cracks between the marble squares. When the lever is pulled, very small wheels emerge from the bottom of the desk, and the wires pull the desk to the side of the room. Raising the lever causes wires on the other side to pull the desk back to its first position. Under the desk is a carefully concealed trapdoor. Raising the trapdoor is completely impossible with the desk on top of it, of course. The desk is extremely heavy, and virtually impossible to move by force. [If they have at least three characters who specialized in STR, then maybe. Otherwise, probably not.]
Room 3. Description 1: When opening the door, you’re met with a low wall, the top of which is just above your head. Wide, wooden steps lead up on both sides to an opulent room, with thick carpet that your feet sink into, sofas at the sides of the room, a large desk made of expensive wood, an armchair with a thick cushion and a closet with a glass front, both made of matching wood. A large window runs along the top half of the wall, with a polished marble wall below and decorative patterns on a thin strip of wall on top of the window.
Room 3. Description 2: When opening the door, you’re met with a low wall, the top of which is about a foot and a half above your head. Narrow wooden steps lead up on both sides to an opulent room, with thick carpet that your feet sink into, sofas at the sides of the room, a large desk made of expensive wood, an armchair with a thick cushion and a closet with a glass front, both made of matching wood. A large window that runs along the center of the wall, with a polished marble wall below and a decorative pattern on a wide strip on top of the window.
Solution: The lever causes the room to rise. The stairs are constructed to split in two when the lever is activated. The walls don’t move with the room. Hidden in the marble decorations above the window are one or more secret panels. [The small part of the decorations that are visible before the room rises do not contain any part of the secret panels.]
The remaining rooms are just decoys. You can omit them to make the puzzle easier.
Room 4: The room is large, and lined with green velvet. There is a line of embroidered flowers on the velvet, halfway up the wall. The right wall is complete covered with bookcases, most of which are somewhat dusty, but there is a bookcase against the far wall that is shiny and new. The room has three desks. A large one near the far wall, with a padded chair on its far side, facing the entrance; and two narrow desks, lined up near the left wall, with benches between them and the wall. A window high up on the left wall, between the benches, provides the only illumination, although there is also a burned-out oil lamp on the far desk. In addition to the lamp, that desk contains a small pile of books. The narrow desk furthest from the entrance contains a pile of papers, and a partially used up ink bottle and quill. The last desk is empty.
Room 5: A large conference room, with a big oval table in the middle, surrounded by chairs. Most of the chairs are plain wood, but there is a large chair with armrests and a black cushion at the center of the table. There is a shelf high up on the wall near the biggest chair with a number of books on it, and a small closet at one end of the room. This is an interior room, and as such has no windows, but there are multiple lamps fixed to the walls at intersections around the room, and a candelabra in the air above the table. The candelabra is either rarely used or frequently polished, given how it gleams.