Your party has made it across The Great Desert and is currently in the rocky foothills on its outskirts. Suddenly, arrows rain down killing the horses! A strange ball of flame bursts through the air, setting fire to the wagon carrying your supplies. On a ledge above the crest of the hill you notice a group of short humanoids clad in dirty sand colored robes. Bounding down the hill are large canines that look like a cross between a wolf and hyena, their mangy coats the same color as the small humanoids.
This is a fun encounter because it has a dynamic map with the burning wagon, you decide how long it burns, the height adjustments make it easy for the ranged characters and casters to get a chance to shine, while the melee focused classes can handle the “dune dogs.” Further encounter ideas will be presented this week.
Meet the Monsters:
A sand shifter is a small humanoid in the family of goblinoids. They live in arid climates and use pack tactics to prey upon travelers on the edge of civilization. This encounter will include stats for melee, ranged, and caster versions of the monster. The sand shifter serves as a good alternative to tried and true low-level monsters such as goblins and kobolds. They are thematically well suited for desert campaigns.
Good tactics for sand shifters would be to have them primarily being ranged fighters, they tend to prefer to fight at range unless they are cornered or are in large numbers. They usually are accompanied by dune dogs who they have trained to handle their frontline defense. There is usually a shaman amongst them who casts spells (usually a fire spell, but sometimes healing spells.)
Sand shifters have a rudimentary understanding of the common tongue and will beg and plead for their life if they are the last one alive.
Dune dogs are medium sized beasts that resemble a cross between a wolf and a hyena. They are the color of sand and blend in well with the environment. Depending on the group at the table, really play up their smell and mangy hides. They are foul beasts but are trainable. They often are trained by sand shifters and can be trained by party members or npcs if they can stand the foulness of the creatures. Small creatures can ride them as a mount.