The Road to Baldur’s Gate has led your party to the very edge of the Misty Forest. Fortunately, their road doesn’t take them through this ancient and mysterious wood, but strange things can happen even on the outskirts of this mystical realm. This week’s encounter is titled Misty Marauders, in which the characters find themselves awash in strange visions as they travel the length of the Misty Forest. In this series, a group of adventurers will travel down the Sword Coast for nearly two months over road and wilderness, from the gates of Waterdeep to the threshold of Baldur’s Gate. You may use this series as an introduction to the upcoming D&D storyline Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, as an expansion to the caravan sequence in the first D&D storyline adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen, or piecemeal as standalone encounters.
You can keep track of this journey on this massive map of the Sword Coast, originally presented in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. The trip from Waterdeep to Baldur’s Gate covers about 750 miles of both road and off-road wilderness. A small party on horseback can cover about 24 miles per day at a casual pace, with just under two days off for rest per tenday of travel. All in all, this journey takes about a 45 days to complete for a small party of adventurers—assuming they’re well-prepared and no serious complications arise. And note, not every day of travel needs to be represented by an encounter; the characters may go for days with only minor encounters with passing merchants or travelers.
This is the fourth encounter along this journey. The previous encounters are:
Combat Encounter: Misty Marauders
This combat encounter is suitable for a party of 2nd-level characters. A party adept in stealth, deception, or even performance could defuse this encounter before it begins.
To most, the Misty Forest is exactly what it appears to be on the surface: a perfectly typical forest of ancient pines shrouded in mist that rolls off the High Moor to its immediate east. Some folk tales have spread of the spirits of the departed lingering in its boughs and taking shape as misty specters along the forest’s edge—but these are naught but fairy tales. The Misty Forest is truly the domain of Melandrach, King of the Woods, and the wood elves who follow his rule.
If you want more information on the Misty Forest, Melandrach, and the elves who dwell within it, you can read about it in chapter 2 of the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, and in chapter 4 of The Rise of Tiamat.
About four days after departing Daggerford and traveling down the Trade Way, the characters find themselves riding along the western edge of the Misty Forest. As the characters recall stories of elves and secrets hidden deep within its boughs, a bank of fog large enough to cover the horizon and blot out the sun billows over the treetops. Within seconds, the silvery mist subsumes the road, and before long, the characters smell an eye-watering odor, and hear distant cackling and whispering within the mist.
A pair of opportunistic troglodytes and their nose-less orog boss have taken advantage of the mist shroud to ambush travelers along the Trade Way. The characters can try to muddle through a misty, shadowy battle—or use the mist to their advantage and try to sneak, deceive, or spook their would-be ambushers.
Four days after their dangerous encounter in Daggerford, the characters have traveled nearly 100 miles down the Trade Way, and are walking alongside the Misty Forest. Depending on how they resolved the Danger in Daggerford encounter, they may have had other misadventures on the way. When they pass within 100 feet of the edge of the forest, read or paraphrase the following:
You round a bend in the well-worn road and find yourself traveling directly alongside the edge of the Misty Forest. The early-morning sun clips the top of centuries-old pine trees, casting long shadows across the road, and tendrils of silvery mist reach out from the shady boughs of the forest.
After reading this, each of the characters can make a DC 13 Intelligence (History) check to recall a rumor about the Misty Forest. On a success, a character recalls one of the following tales of the forest; if Pip Kip is traveling with them cordially, the imp also relays one piece of information.
- The Misty Forest is an ancient land that even barbarians fear to hunt in. (True)
- The spirits of the dead supposedly linger in the forest, and sometimes emerge to harm outsiders. (False)
- The Misty Forest is ruled by an ancient elven king who kills all non-elves who enter the wood. (Partially true; King Melandrach has made the forest a domain of elves, but is not so barbaric as to kill all outsiders.)
- The forest contains a misty portal to the infamous realm of Ravenloft, and every 100 years, it emerges to engulf the unsuspecting and carry them away. (False… unless you want it to be true.)
- Monsters from the High Moor sometimes intrude in the forest to hunt. (True; some even pass through the forest to prey upon travelers on the Trade Way!)
The Mist Rolls In
After the characters have recalled and recounted this information about the Misty Forest, something strange occurs. Read or paraphrase the following:
A chill wind flows from the east, and the silvery tendrils of mist you saw curling out of the edge of the forest grow longer and longer, until a titanic fog cloud billows out of the forest. Within seconds, the entire world seems to be replaced by a swirling cloud of mist. The temperature has dropped so sharply that you can see your breath—and the fog is so thick that you can barely see more than 15 feet in front of you.
A massive cloud of fog bubbles over the tips of the pines and rolls onto the road. Within seconds, the characters are engulfed. Despite its mystical appearance, this fogbank is perfectly natural, and susceptible to effects that can whisk away or destroy fog, such strong winds or create or destroy water.
This fog is dense and thick, and about half a mile wide, with the characters directly in its center. Everything within the fog bank is lightly obscured, and creatures without truesight have their vision restricted to 15 feet in front of them. Any open flame that casts light pierces the fog while burning, but only casts light for half its usual radius. Effects that create light without a flame, such as the light cantrip merely reflect off of the glimmering haze, to no effect. Within this fog, creatures with the Sunlight Sensitivity trait or a similar trait are unaffected by sunlight.
After the fog rolls in, any character with a passive Wisdom (Perception) score of 12 smells a putrid stench coming from somewhere in front of them, through the mist. A character that notices the stench can make a further DC 17 Wisdom (Perception) check. On a success, that character hears that sound of talons scraping through soil, and of heavy armored footfalls not far behind. Three creatures are moving through the mist, no farther than 50 feet away.
Two troglodytes, led by Talbarrux, a clever orog are using the mist as a cover to ambush helpless travelers along the Trade Way. The orog wears a fearsome dread helm (from chapter 2 of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything) that casts supernatural shadows over his face and causes his eyes to glow red while wearing it. The helm has a T-shaped slit for his eyes, nose, and mouth, and a pair of huge, steel, bat-like wings extend from either side of the helm.
If the characters have a clever plan to sneak through the mist, allow them to attempt it before the marauders make their move. Stealth is one option; the orog and the troglodytes have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks made to spot the sneaking characters, because the fog lightly obscures them—though this applies in reverse, as well. Trying to spook the weak-willed troglodytes is another, though the orog is made of sterner stuff. In either case, you can represent this by making opposed checks, such as the characters’ group Dexterity (Stealth) check versus the marauders’ group Wisdom (Perception) check, or one character’s Charisma (Intimidation or Performance) versus each of the marauders’ individual Wisdom (Insight) check.
If the characters don’t immediately try to evade the encounter, the marauders sneak up on them. The troglodytes smell to high heaven, but sneak around and get behind the characters. Once the troglodytes are within 20 feet of the characters, they hide. They make their Dexterity (Stealth) checks with advantage, thanks to their Chameleon Skin trait, and the characters make Wisdom (Perception) checks to see them with disadvantage, because of the fog. Likewise, once the orog is within 30 feet of the characters, he dons his dread helm and his crimson eyes pierce the fog. In a low, rumbling voice he intones, “The god of mists demands tribute, mortals. Your weapons. Your valuables. All you possess. Drop it at your feet, lest the god of the mists claim first your lives.”
Talbarrux waits for a few seconds, allowing the characters to drop their valuables in a panic. If they don’t, the orog clicks his tongue and snarls, “Destroy them.” The troglodytes leap from cover and attack the characters (with advantage, if the characters didn’t spot them). Roll initiative, and any character that didn’t spot the troglodytes is surprised by them. The orog doesn’t attack on the first turn of combat, but instead plods menacingly forward, demanding that the characters submit. He attacks on subsequent rounds.
Escaping the Mists
Once the marauders have been defeated, tricked, or snuck past, the characters have only to travel for about an hour through the mist before emerging on the other side of the fogbank. Their journey continues—onward towards Baldur’s Gate!
If the characters defeated Talbarrux and the troglodytes, they can claim their valuables. The orog’s dread helm is ripe for the taking, and the troglodytes each held a coin purse containing 15 gp.
Did you like this encounter? If you want to read more adventures, take a look at the other encounters in the Encounter of the Week series! If you're looking for full adventures instead of short encounters, you can pick up the adventures I've written on the DMs Guild, such as The Temple of Shattered Minds, a suspenseful eldritch mystery with a mind flayer villain (for 3rd level characters). My most recent adventures are included in the Platinum Bestseller Tactical Maps: Adventure Atlas, a collection of 88 unique encounters created by the Guild Adepts, which can be paired with the beautiful tactical poster maps in Tactical Maps Reincarnated, recently published by Wizards of the Coast.
James Haeck is the lead writer for D&D Beyond, the co-author of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and the Critical Role Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, the DM of Worlds Apart, and a freelance writer for Wizards of the Coast, the D&D Adventurers League, and Kobold Press. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his partner Hannah and their feline adventurers Mei and Marzipan. You can usually find him wasting time on Twitter at @jamesjhaeck.