Throwdown Thursday: The Throne of Grudgement, an Underground Throne Room Battlemap for D&D 5e
So, we built a Duergar Grudgekeeper on Monday, and he seemed pretty cool. I know the question that literally no one is asking: “Drake? How do I get him to the table? Is there maybe a free battlemap with some cool tactical stuff all baked in that I can deploy for this weekend’s game? Maybe something without a grid, so my VTT of choice doesn’t turn into a box of caffeinated rattlesnakes when I upload it?” As a matter of fact, I’ve got just the answer to this and more questions. Behold, the Throne of Grudgement.
Next time you’ve got a need for a subterranean citadel room with just a hopeless amount of fire-damage waiting in the wings, this map has you covered. To the south you’ve got some high ground, and a handy place for reinforcements to come streaming in. In the northeast and southwest corners, we’ve got some persistent fungus to play with. Central is the dais of judgement where the accused–which I refuse to call anything but the Engrudged–might stand to await the judgement of the angry little spite-ball himself. The Grudgekeeper keeps his court on that throne up there, scribbling in his Tome of Grudges to all and sundry who have spited the Duergar. And of course, what Grudgekeeper worth his salt wouldn’t have just a pitiless amount of molten stone and hissing steam at his back?
Okay, guys. I trust you all to set up your own encounter. I think if you’re bright enough to find this blog, with the signal to noise ratio of the internet being what it is, you can probably contrive a reason for your heroes to find themselves squaring off against the Duergar Grudgekeeper. You go ahead and let me know down in the comments if you think I’m wrong–standing offer.
Let’s talk about making this an interactive battlescape. Nothing ruins a good fight quite like letting it become a shin-kicking party. That’s slog, and it’s rarely fun. So let’s think about what the PCs might be playing with…or against. First of all, that dais looks like a good place for a last-stand, or maybe that’s where the PCs are frogmarched before the Grudgekeeper. Those chains hanging from the ceiling certainly look like they could be used to restrain a hero. Or maybe they could be used for a cool swashbuckling move. If the heroes don’t use them, show one of your Duergar using it to good advantage. I’ve noticed that a lot of players are afraid of playing with the battlefield. Be a good example, DM.
When I put those mushrooms down in the corner, I had the idea that maybe we could get some difficult terrain in there. They’ve got sprouting wrist-thick rhizomes that are burrowing through the stone, and that can’t be easy to navigate over, right? If you want to make that a little nastier, maybe crib the psychedelic spores from a Myconid and threaten a save when anyone braves the mushroom patches. Shove someone prone into that! Thunderwave works a treat. Or…and here’s what I’d probably do, when someone gets within, say, 20′ have that patch reveal itself to be a monster in its own right. That’ll spark the oh-crap reflex.
That magma is obviously a hazard that everyone will be looking at. You see a pool of magma, obviously someone’s gotta have the struggle right at the edge of it. Someone’s probably getting a lava bath. That’s classic D&D and that’s never a bad thing.
But you’re here for the nasty surprises. Good encounters have moving parts, not just what you see, right? Nasty surprises make a good setpiece. That’s why anytime I run a setpiece battle, I give it Lair Actions. Here’s my list for the Throne of Grudgement, but feel free to make up your own.
- Immolation: The Grudgekeeper reaches out with his free hand and throws a heavy brass lever. The braziers beside the Dais of Shame vomit forth a gout of savage flame. PCs within 10′ of a brazier must succeed on a DC 14 Dexterity save or take 2d8 fire damage.
- Steam Cloud: Water plummets from carved, dour faces in the ceiling and into the magma behind the throne. With a hiss, a cloud of steam explodes into the air, obscuring anything further than your outstretched hand. For the following round, all ranged attacks are made with disadvantage.
- Guards, Guards!: The clank of arms and armor down the haul serves as the only warning of oncoming reinforcements. 1d4 Duergar arrive and immediately act. They roll initiative as normal next round.
There it is, guys. Happy Grudging.