I need help to create encounters for a mountain climb

Jv_Stuchi

Villager
Im a DM for a party of 6 people all level 5 and in a few sessions they are going to go climb a mountain, the problem is that im not having that many ideas for fun encounters, does anyone have some?
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
A terrible storm rolls in, and while seeking shelter they find a nice, cozy cave that seems empty. There's even room for the ponies.

In the middle of the night a crack appears at the back of the cave....
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
That storm that @Elfcrusher mentioned rolled in pretty quickly and unnaturally. There are lightning strikes near the PC's as they climb (figure some % chance of a PC getting struck based on how much metal they carry/wear maybe)?

Each time a PC is missed by a bolt, even over the rumbling of thunder there is either a howl of rage and/or laughter as the two cloud giants who summoned the storm up with their control weather innate ability wager back and forth about the lightning and the PC's getting struck or not (they bet both sides).

The giant's don't attack the PC's outside of that, and you could use the damage of a call lightning spell to emulate any damage actually taken rather than lightning bolt damage.

What season is it?

Non-combat hazards would/could just be temperature, climbing skill, avalanches/snowfall.
 

Jv_Stuchi

Villager
That storm that @Elfcrusher mentioned rolled in pretty quickly and unnaturally. There are lightning strikes near the PC's as they climb (figure some % chance of a PC getting struck based on how much metal they carry/wear maybe)?

Each time a PC is missed by a bolt, even over the rumbling of thunder there is either a howl of rage and/or laughter as the two cloud giants who summoned the storm up with their control weather innate ability wager back and forth about the lightning and the PC's getting struck or not (they bet both sides).

The giant's don't attack the PC's outside of that, and you could use the damage of a call lightning spell to emulate any damage actually taken rather than lightning bolt damage.

What season is it?

Non-combat hazards would/could just be temperature, climbing skill, avalanches/snowfall.
Pretty cool idea, i could also make them have to fight some creature in the middle of the storm to make the encounter a bit more intense

It’s spring getting close to summer
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
Flying creatures definitely make for interesting mountain encounters. Especially if the PCs are currently climbing and not able to use both hands. Monsters with flyby attack become much more difficult foes.

One thing I'd advise is give different paths and options for getting up the mountain, so it doesn't feel too on the rails. Do they take the more difficult chimney or the safer trail? And which trail? That one has a skull on a spear, but what are those weird glimmering lights up the other one?
 
Im a DM for a party of 6 people all level 5 and in a few sessions they are going to go climb a mountain, the problem is that im not having that many ideas for fun encounters, does anyone have some?
Why are they climbing the mountain? This determines what sort of stakes they should primarily face while climbing the mountain. For example...

Is it to reach an oracle on the mountain's summit? What might be at stake here:
  • Oracular wisdom. Does the oracle consider the PCs worthy of its wisdom, based on their choices made while climbing the mountain? In this sense, the mountain is a test of the worthy / test of virtue.
  • High cost. What is the high cost of reaching the oracle and are the PCs willing to pay it? This could simply be extreme hazards and risk of death the higher they climb, such that the players might wrestle with "this isn't worth it, maybe we should turn back?" Or it could be a mystical sacrifice – the details of which become clearer the higher they climb.

Is it to reach a beleaguered town in a valley on the other side before an advancing army attacks? What might be at stake here:
  • Time. Each challenge presents a cost in terms of time. If the PCs take too long, they might arrive during the army's attack or even after the beleaguered town has been sacked/invaded.
  • Scouting vantage points. Opportunities to reach overlooks to scout on advancing army, but maybe they risk being discovered by enemy scouts?
Is it to kill a bunch of yetis and bring their heads back to the lowlands to collect on a bounty? What might be at stake here:
  • Cold, altitude, and exhaustion. Maybe as the PCs press higher up the mountain in pursuit of more yetis to kill, they face increasingly dangerous cold and altitude (i.e. exhaustion). This gives the players a choice of how much risk vs. reward they wish to take on.
  • Moral dilemma. Should they be killing yeti, or have they been misled? Or does the attack cause retaliation by the yetis unless the PCs find a way to stop all of the yetis?
 

Jv_Stuchi

Villager
Why are they climbing the mountain? This determines what sort of stakes they should primarily face while climbing the mountain. For example...

Is it to reach an oracle on the mountain's summit? What might be at stake here:
  • Oracular wisdom. Does the oracle consider the PCs worthy of its wisdom, based on their choices made while climbing the mountain? In this sense, the mountain is a test of the worthy / test of virtue.
  • High cost. What is the high cost of reaching the oracle and are the PCs willing to pay it? This could simply be extreme hazards and risk of death the higher they climb, such that the players might wrestle with "this isn't worth it, maybe we should turn back?" Or it could be a mystical sacrifice – the details of which become clearer the higher they climb.

Is it to reach a beleaguered town in a valley on the other side before an advancing army attacks? What might be at stake here:
  • Time. Each challenge presents a cost in terms of time. If the PCs take too long, they might arrive during the army's attack or even after the beleaguered town has been sacked/invaded.
  • Scouting vantage points. Opportunities to reach overlooks to scout on advancing army, but maybe they risk being discovered by enemy scouts?
Is it to kill a bunch of yetis and bring their heads back to the lowlands to collect on a bounty? What might be at stake here:
  • Cold, altitude, and exhaustion. Maybe as the PCs press higher up the mountain in pursuit of more yetis to kill, they face increasingly dangerous cold and altitude (i.e. exhaustion). This gives the players a choice of how much risk vs. reward they wish to take on.
  • Moral dilemma. Should they be killing yeti, or have they been misled? Or does the attack cause retaliation by the yetis unless the PCs find a way to stop all of the yetis?
They are climbing the mountain in search of a golden gate that they recently got the key to open, they know the gate is on the mountain because of a family member of the gate builder but they don't know whats behind the gate or where in the mountain is the gate
 
They are climbing the mountain in search of a golden gate that they recently got the key to open, they know the gate is on the mountain because of a family member of the gate builder but they don't know whats behind the gate or where in the mountain is the gate
Awesome. Are the stakes: Will they find the golden gate or not?

Or is it part of your story so no matter what, as long as they try, they WILL find the golden gate. If that's the case, what stakes are you envisioning?
 

Jv_Stuchi

Villager
Awesome. Are the stakes: Will they find the golden gate or not?

Or is it part of your story so no matter what, as long as they try, they WILL find the golden gate. If that's the case, what stakes are you envisioning?
They have very much the chance to not find the gate, and if they do find it they are probably in bigger trouble since inside the gate there is a Fire Giant and his Hell hounds guarding a entrance to the Underdark, if they manage to convince the Fire Giant that they are trustworthy they gain a strong ally but if not there will be one hell of a fight, besides that my players are super curious and will probaly try to go to the Underdark even if they are a bit underlevel to go there in my eyes
 
They have very much the chance to not find the gate, and if they do find it they are probably in bigger trouble since inside the gate there is a Fire Giant and his Hell hounds guarding a entrance to the Underdark, if they manage to convince the Fire Giant that they are trustworthy they gain a strong ally but if not there will be one hell of a fight, besides that my players are super curious and will probaly try to go to the Underdark even if they are a bit underlevel to go there in my eyes
Gotcha. So it sounds like the stakes during the mountain climb are: Will they find the golden gate?

In that case, think of the mountain climb session as being all about the search. They know it's somewhere on the mountain, but not exactly where. So they're hunting different areas of this mountain, searching for clues which point to the golden gate.

You can see a skill challenge I put together for a similar concept (searching a jungle wasteland for a bone palace) over here: [5e] Help with a travel skill challenge? Most of the work went into designing a sort of logic puzzle which the clues helped guide the PCs toward solving; so it was a process of elimination – "Ok, it's not hexes A, B, C, D, G, or H based on this clue, and this other clue tells us it's not hexes K, M, or N, so we know..."
 

Jv_Stuchi

Villager
Gotcha. So it sounds like the stakes during the mountain climb are: Will they find the golden gate?

In that case, think of the mountain climb session as being all about the search. They know it's somewhere on the mountain, but not exactly where. So they're hunting different areas of this mountain, searching for clues which point to the golden gate.

You can see a skill challenge I put together for a similar concept (searching a jungle wasteland for a bone palace) over here: [5e] Help with a travel skill challenge? Most of the work went into designing a sort of logic puzzle which the clues helped guide the PCs toward solving; so it was a process of elimination – "Ok, it's not hexes A, B, C, D, G, or H based on this clue, and this other clue tells us it's not hexes K, M, or N, so we know..."
Cool, i will take a look and come up with good clues to the gate location
 

NotAYakk

Adventurer
The mountain is the first problem.

When you are on the mountain (past the base) you cannot long rest. The air is too thin. Short rests take 8 hours. And above a certain line, there is no more short rests; every hour you simply get a level of exhaustion.

Second: Everything is a dungeon!

3 starting paths, each with a fork into 3 sub paths. Those 3 choices can overlap.

A1
A2
A3 = B1
B2
B3 = C1
C2
C3

Now populate them; in general roll 1d8, rerolling duplicates. 1 is the path to the gate (on an 8, it is via path D). 1 tells you about route D (see below). 1 tells you about the guardian of the gate. 2 give clues asto which is the right path (eliminating some paths)

D is a path you can only find via the above hint. D3 is either a treasure, or the gate, depending on the result of the d8 earlier. One of D1/D2 is the gate if D3 isn't. Ones that aren't the gate, roll 1d8 skipping the gate and the clue where path D is.

This gives (A,B,C)+8 = 11 nodes. Each node should be populated with a challenge; a short rest's worth of encounters (either one hard-deadly, or multiple weaker ones) or something else.

Possible labels for A B C:

A: Climb the Glacier
B: A Goblin-spoor path
C: Up the River-Canyon
D: Underdark/Tunnels

Foes:
(A) obviously arctic monsters. Cracks in the ice. Blizzards.
(B) obviously goblins/humanoids. Harpies.
(C) obviously water creatures. Storm giants playing with lightning bolts.
(D) goblins or other underdark deziens. Lava and monsters. Fungus (from underdweller farms)

There. Lots of choices, and they aren't false. Dead ends to explore. Retreating down the mountain in the face of environmental difficulty.

That is 10 encounter-bundles ("scenes").

Now, 6 level 5 characters have an encounter level of (6*4)/4 = 6+1 = 7. Harpies are CR 1 with an encounter level of 1 per Harpy.

Your per-scene budget is 10 (4/3 encounter level of party) and your per-encounter discount is 2 (1/3 of encounter level of party).

So they are on a 40' level area, and 4 harpies attack, trying to lure them off the cliff (+50% difficulty due to terrain). Defeating them, they can go after the nest of 8 more harpies (but no longer as likely to go over a cliff) to secure the location. Note that song immunity is per harpy; they'll have to accumulate 4 successful saves in the first fight to not be lured off the cliff (!). DC is only 11, and you get 1 save initially, 1 at the end of first turn as you walk to the edge of the cliff, and 1 save the next turn or you plummet off the cliff.
 
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