Looking Over Book of Challenges: Close Quarters
A small dragon uses tight terrain to its advantage.
I’m always a fan of considering the tactical impacts of terrain.
Having some consideration for the odor left behind by the dragon’s breath attack is a nice touch.
As far as 3E Dungeons & Dragons rules go, the sidebar on fighting in small spaces is relatively simple and streamlined.
The “Tactics” part gives a simple flowchart for hit-and-run behavior.
The treasure is split between a couple of locations, avoiding an all-or-nothing feeling.
While it isn’t called out in the text, the encounter has an obvious way of resolving itself without a fight to the death (by blocking the tunnel after the dragon retreats into it).
The extra tidbit that the tunnel was made by a different creature is fine in a vacuum, but I don’t see what it actually adds to the situation. Maybe it’s meant to inspire the GM for describing what the tunnel walls are like? Maybe it’s meant to be a nod at the dragon’s intelligence? It just feels so unnecessary to spend two sentences on that.
The quick adjudication guidelines for the volume covered by the dragon’s breath attack only consider if the dragon uses it at the mouth of the tunnel, not in the tunnel itself. I’d suggest having something in mind for that.
I could pick on the “partially collapsed tunnel network” consisting of a single tunnel on the map or the tunnel following an obvious grid, but neither of those is really a big deal.
The advice for alternate encounters aimed at different power levels feels particularly half-assed. Of the three example encounters presented, only the pixie adds anything of interest that wasn’t obvious.
This is a decent example of taking a very basic encounter (one creature in a nigh-featureless, dead-end room) and making it more interesting through some simple terrain, giving it a very different feeling with minimal extra complexity. While I have my doubts about how well it’d work with the actual encounter as written (for mechanical reasons that aren’t worth getting into here), that approach is a valuable idea to keep in mind. Demonstrating it in an encounter could also help plant the idea in the minds of players who aren’t inclined towards tactical thinking naturally, especially if the encounter ends up being far rougher than they’d expected.
All in all, I don’t think there’s anything too special about this particular encounter, but the ideas presented in it are great.