Tired of orcs? 8 new low-level encounters to spice up your campaign

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Early adventures almost always start the same way: Goblins/orcs/kobolds/hobgoblins are terrorizing something or other. It’s up to you to stop them.

But you’re tired of orcs.

We’re all tired of orcs.

How about something new?

A standard orc has a challenge rating of ½. That’s a pretty low-level monster, and a party of five level 1 characters can take on two orcs without much trouble.

Replacement monsters at the same level include darkmantles, hobgoblins, gnolls, lizardfolk, magmin, rust monsters, shadows, swarms of insects, vine blights and worgs.

But we can do better than that, right? Let’s find some replacements for those tired, boring orcs.

An owlbear: One of these big guys crashing through the forest could make for a lot of fun. Limiting its movement with trees and other obstacles is a way to make a tougher monster easier for a first or second-level party.

Another adventuring party: Another party is competing for the same goal. Set both parties against each other. For some added fun, have the opposing NPCs have the same party makeup as your own group. They should match up well.

Rabid bears: A bunch of bears have invaded the town, eating and biting everything in sight. Perhaps after the bears are dealt with, it’s discovered a green hag is controlling the wildlife to drive people out of town.

Spider Infestation: D&D has all kinds of spiders. Giant spiders. Phase spiders. Giant Wolf Spiders. Regular old spiders. What if they were all working together? It would be mass chaos and a helluva lot of fun.

Giant rats: The local tavern basement is infested with massive rats. They’re way too big for the tavernkeeper to deal with, so he’s hired adventurers. Maybe after they’re cleared out, they find a hidden entrance to a deep dungeon built beneath the tavern.

A wounded dragon: When a dragon attacked the town, the townsfolk fought it off. But it will soon return, and some mighty adventurers will be needed for protection. This lets you drop the hit points and attacks of the dragon enough for a lower-level party to handle the encounter.

Zombies: Everyone’s encountered a few random undead in a dungeon now and then. But what about an endless horde of zombies? Send them in wave after wave, causing the players to retreat further indoors as the undead break through windows and doors.

Sharks: There’s nothing quite as scary on a high sea adventure quite like what lurks beneath the surface. A school of sharks could threaten the boat, knocking into it to push unwitting adventures into the water. And maybe they discover a water wizard is behind it all.

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