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  • Scorn of the Sands, Part 3: Desert Sled Encounter
Krampus Encounter Assets - Sleigh preview - Alt

The finale of a desert adventure against an ancient beast and his sled of undead, with stat blocks and a magic item for use in D&D 5E.

Finally, we come to part 3 of our holiday desert adventure. With both the Hitir giants and the people of Brightwater covered, it’s time for the party to use the knowledge they have and the friends they’ve made to defeat the desert spirit. Or perhaps they will fall and become the newest additions to the sled.

Refer back to ‘Part 1: Hitir Desert Giants‘ and ‘Part 2: The Desert Town of Brightwater‘, for context on this encounter and the people that may be assisting the party.

For generations, the people of the Hitikon desert have come under yearly attacks by an unstoppable manifestation of the desert’s punishment. It appears in the midst of a sandstorm, a churning mass of sand supporting sled platforms of immortal servants. The worst of them is the rider. His whip snatches any victims it can find and adds them to its ranks. This creature is known as ‘K’rhamas, the Taker’, and his defeat will be exactly as difficult as it sounds.

Preparing for the Attack

Without exact knowledge of when the spirit will appear, the people of Brightwater have their own methods of safeguarding and preparing for it. They barricade themselves within the town’s buildings with enough food and water rations to last up to a week. The entrances and any other openings to the buildings are boarded shut, while sandbags and other supports are laid at the bases of structures to mitigate the damage to them. Many people keep weapons, though these serve only to give a feeling of safety against the unstoppable foe.

Any additional preparation is up to the party. They have complete freedom in deciding how to deal with the attack, with the residents of Brightwater, Sovis, and any allied giants present to assist and advise them. The characters also have access to Greva’s frillies and an array of resources and tools around the town that they can use to enact their plan. The Marshal will advise against attempting to trap the spirit, as it can tear through entire buildings, though they may manage to slow it before the more likely pursuit.

Desert Oasis Town Map - Featured image banner

Knowledge of the Giants

The method by which the players can overcome the spirit lies in the tales of its origin. Ultimately, their objective is to break the ritual that binds the spirit and its rider, K’rhamas. They may figure this out on their own, or it can be hinted at or provided by either Ulvi Dernir or Sovis Golbard. Their objectives are the following:

Break the spirit’s bindings. The Hitir’s legend tells of a set of large spikes that affixed the sled to the creature’s back as part of its bindings. These must be destroyed, dispelled, or removed in order to set it free.

Kill K’rhamas. While the creature cannot be permanently slain and will rise back shortly after being defeated, sufficiently injuring him is necessary to weaken his hold over the spirit. Doing so after the removal of the spirit’s bindings should break their connection to each other.

Succeed before the spirit vanishes. Previous attempts at pursuing the sled have also witnessed the storm surrounding it condense and collapse before the sled disappears beneath the sand. Given the chances of surviving such a descent, the characters must succeed and escape quickly.

Sovis also notes that the sled is manned by the shaman’s original assistants, as well as many of his victims, all of whom will attempt to stop the party. He posits that they are almost certainly undead and so are beyond saving, unlike Lieutenant Kelly. Finally, either the cleric or Ulvi points out the rage and hatred between the shaman and spirit and suggests that separating them will lead to a great deal of sudden, violent chaos. Anyone involved will want to make a swift exit.

K’rhamas’s Arrival

The sled will reach Brightwater six days after the party’s arrival, coming from the south-east. This gives them a full day to prepare after the four days to reach the Hitir camp and return. During this time, the people of Brightwater will have already retreated into their buildings and are now awaiting the attack. 

When the spirit becomes visible on the horizon, shortly after midday on the sixth day, read the following:

Brightwater is silent and barren, all of its people in their homes. But amidst the silence, you feel something. You notice faint, vibrating tremors and humming in the air. Looking out to the south-east, you see an expansive storm of sand on the horizon, pouring over the distant dunes and consuming anything within it. It takes only a moment to see that it is approaching.

It is up to the characters to execute their plan as the sandstorm nears. During this time, there are several things that may go wrong in Brightwater, in addition to the party’s plan.

Lieutenant Kelly. Once the sandstorm reaches Brightwater, Lieutenant Kelly will awaken in the Marshal’s house and begin fighting his way out, potentially escaping and running to the sled. Have Kelly (CN male half-elf scout) make DC 17 Strength checks every few minutes, or more frequently as it draws closer, to break his bindings.

Frightened frillies. Similar to Lieutenant Kelly, any of Greva’s lizards that are unattended may panic and try to break free. Roll a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw for the frillies. On a failure, Greva must leave to tend to them, risking either herself or the escape of her lizards. Frightened lizards are violent and confused, and require a DC 15 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check to calm, which Greva has advantage on. 

Victim of the Taker. When the sled reaches the town, the sands tear a section of wall from one of the buildings, allowing Kr’hamas to whip someone away from inside. Roll to randomly determine which of the buildings is affected. One of the residents of that building will be taken onto the sled and bound to it.

These developments can also force a reaction if the party chose to either ignore the encounter or to barricade themselves in with the people of Brightwater. They may need to rush to stop the Lieutenant, protect Greva, or save a victim, especially if the building they are in is the one targeted.

Assets and Maps Downloads

All of the parts of this desert encounter were created for a series of desert maps and assets. You can find all of these releases, as well as other useful resources, below…

Within the Storm

The giant shaman that once attempted to bind the desert’s spirit was changed into a hulking, furred beast of vindictive punishment. In the language of the desert giants, the creature is known as ‘K’rhamas, the Taker’.

Scorn of the Sands Sleigh

The Sled

A large shape appears within the storm and rumbling ground. Within the storm, you see a horizontal whirlwind of sand, exploding and imploding as it rushes forward like a shark breaching the surface of water. It gets closer and you can make out platforms atop it. Multiple stages of gnarled wood and tangled rope are bound together in a line to form a multi-staged sled, suspended atop the creature of sand. Silhouettes stand on them, manning their stations like the crew of a ship.

Click to zoom in!

Platforms. K’rhamas’s sled consists of six total platforms. The frontmost is K’rhamas’s, from which he commands the spirit. Behind him are the four sections that hold the enchanted binding nails; two on the sides of the second platform, and one in the center of each of the two behind that. The next is a longer platform with a number of K’rhamas’s minions and their weaponry. The final section slopes down to act as a platform for the strongest of the undead to cast nets, catching materials from whatever the spirit crushes. These materials are used to fashion their weapons and create new additions to the sled. 

Each platform is 20 feet wide and 40 feet long, the longer platform being twice as long. The distance between them can vary from 5 feet to 10 feet as the sled moves.

Binding nails. Enormous, enchanted nails hold the sled to the spirit. Each nail is 3 feet long and covered in glowing runes. A creature can use its action to make a DC 17 Strength check to remove a nail from its mooring. Damaging the sled around the nail lowers the DC of this check. The nails can also be dispelled with dispel magic or a similar effect (treat the enchantment as a 3rd-level spell).

Minions. Aside from K’rhamas himself, every platform of the sled is occupied by a collection of his victims, risen in servitude to him. There are four desert giant skeletons, created from his original acolytes, as well as a number of zombies, skeletons, and even kobold skeletons, primarily wielding spears and javelins. All of K’rhamas’s minions are bound to the sled’s will and will serve it no matter the cost.

The largest of the minions, the desert giant skeletons, are also able to toss their allies in battle. Kobold skeletons can climb into barrels for the giants to toss, emerging wherever the attack lands.

Surrounding storm. A sandstorm surrounds the sled in a radius of one mile. Creatures in the storm that do not serve K’rhamas have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks. Ranged weapon attacks within the storm automatically miss targets beyond the weapon’s normal range. Against targets within normal range, the attack roll has disadvantage unless the weapon is a crossbow, a net, or a weapon that is thrown like a javelin or the desert giant skeletons’ barrels.

The spirit below. The spirit that supports the sled is manifested in a churning torrent of sand. It is cylindrical in shape, extending 15 feet to either side of the sled and raising the platforms 15 feet above the ground. The front extends 15 feet forward from K’rhamas’s platform. The back tapers down, with the end of the final platform raised only 5 feet from the ground and the spirit extending 5 feet beyond its end.

A creature that enters the spirit’s space must make a DC 16 Strength saving throw. On a failure, the creature takes 10 (3d6) bludgeoning damage and is flung 10 feet away from the spirit and knocked prone. If the saving throw is successful, the creature takes half of the bludgeoning damage and is pushed out of the spirit but is not knocked prone.

Krampus Encounter - Sand Sleigh - 25x20
The encounter battle map

K’rhamas, the Taker

The front of the sled is manned by a shrouded behemoth beneath a cloak of thick animal hide, towering as large as the desert giants. Its left hand holds to the sled while its right grips a violently barbed whip, the length of which seems to constantly change.

K’rhamas acts as the commander of the sled. He stands on the frontmost platform and directs the spirit’s movement, while also wielding his whip to pull victims onto the sled.

K’rhamas does not immediately engage anyone attacking or attempting to board the sled, instead leaving the task to his minions. This changes once the attackers begin targeting the sleds nails, eliminating a significant portion of his minions, or otherwise demonstrating an ability to effectively oppose him. He will then enter combat, making use of his whip and physicality.

When the characters gain enough of K’rhamas’s attention for him to enter combat, read the following:

The creature turns, a muscular, bestial claw casting its cloak aside. Revealed beneath is a hunched monstrosity of matted, brown and orange fur. Hooved feet support a body more akin to a werewolf or minotaur, but with long, goat-like horns and a mane extending back to its protruding spine. It looks to you, its eyes widening in an all-too-human expression. The creature bares its crooked fangs in a deranged smile and begins to slowly laugh.

Click to zoom in!

K’rhamas is also fully aware of both his whip’s and his own abilities, particularly to regenerate. This makes him exceedingly confident in combat, while also taking joy in being ruthless and animalistic. Finally, if the opportunity to take the mind of another creature and bind them to his will presents itself, K’rhamas would prefer that over simply killing them.

Lair Actions

K’rhamas’s sled and the storm surrounding it act as extensions of the creature. He can command them in addition to his own actions and abilities.

On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), K’rhamas takes a lair action to cause one of the following effects; he can’t use the same effect two rounds in a row:

Binding sand. The sandstorm tightens and becomes restrictively dense. The area within the storm is difficult terrain until initiative count 20 on the next round.

Chaotic storm. The nearby winds violently shift direction. Each creature of K’rhamas’s choice within 120 feet of him that he can see must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be thrown 10 feet in a random direction.

Sand geyser. A torrent of sand erupts from a point on the ground K’rhamas can see within 120 feet of him, creating a 20-foot-high, 5-foot-radius geyser of sand. Each creature in the geyser’s area must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 7 (2d6) bludgeoning damage and being flung 10 feet away on a failed save. On a successful one, a creature takes half the bludgeoning damage and is not flung away.

As the Bindings Break

The spirit is set free once the binding nails are removed and K’rhamas is at zero hit points. When this happens, read the following:

You feel a wave of energy wash over you, seeming to calm the surrounding chaos. But it lasts for only a moment. A thundering, earthen roar bellows from the front of the sled, shaking the platforms and almost deafening everyone nearby. You see the sand grow violent again, its ire now turned on both the sled and everyone aboard it.

The freed spirit seeks to destroy the sled and everything on it. On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), the spirit attacks the frontmost remaining platform. The first attack cracks the wood and a second will destroy the platform entirely, causing it to explode. It will then target the next platform in the chain. Any creature on a platform as it explodes takes 10 (3d6) bludgeoning damage and is flung 30 feet away and knocked prone.

The destruction of the sled is the explosive climax of the encounter. Are your characters escaping it a little too quickly? Have the spirit move faster and skip over some of the damaging attacks to make them explode immediately. Just don’t make it unfair. The intention is for the explosions to be right on the heels of the escaping characters. 

With the sled destroyed, the spirit will descend into the sand and dissipate. Any of K’rhamas’s remaining minions are released from the magic sustaining them and either have their minds returned or simply break apart. The characters see K’rhamas lying in the sand amidst the shattered ruins of the sled. He is slowly pulled beneath the sand, leaving only the whip behind.

K’rhamas’s Claw

Weapon (whip), rare (requires attunement)

Formed from a long, barbed vine of an unknown desert plant, this whip is only marked as a weapon by the roughshod leather binding at its thicker end. The plant matter is dry and appears brittle, yet bends without effort or any sign of cracking.

You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this whip.

This whip has 4 charges. While attuned to it, you can expend 1 charge to trigger one of the following effects:

  • As a bonus action, you can extend the whip’s reach to 30 feet until the start of your next turn.
  • On a hit, you can command the whip to wrap around and grapple the target if they are Large size or smaller (escape DC 13). The whip can only grapple one target at a time and cannot be used to attack while a target is grappled in this way.
  • On a hit, you can cast the Command spell on the target as a bonus action (spell save DC 13).

The whip regains 1d4 expended charges daily at dawn.

Support the Author

This concludes our desert-Krampus-Mad-Max-hybrid-thing encounter! With the creature defeated and the spirit of the desert freed, the characters are able to travel through the desert with the aid of both Brightwater and the Hitir. The two peoples may also grow closer after facing the common foe whose existence had driven them apart. While that is happening, you can let us know what you thought of the encounter! Is there something you liked, or something you’d change? We love hearing your feedback!

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About the author

Troy McConnell

Part-time DM and author of 2-Minute Tabletop's encounters, map lore, and characters. Basically, I write about all the campaign ideas that I don't have time to run. All with the assistance of my feline familiar, Wink. You can support my writing efforts on Patreon.

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  1. Great encounter, loved the flavor of the oasis town and desert giants. My only complaint is I couldn't find a suggested level range for the PCs, but I decided to give it a try.
    I decided on level 6 for my three players, and strongly hinted at gathering as many allies as they could. I went with 4 zombies, 4 normal skellies, and 8 kobold skeletons, giving the 4 Desert Giant Skeletons plenty of ammo to throw. The players brought along 3 Desert Giants (a crusher, a hunter, and a shaman) as well as Sovis. The Marshall joined in later once Cody Kelly ran off to the sled.
    The fight was challenging and tough, but my players survived and enjoyed the rollplaying and combat aspects.
    Thank you for writing it and making adorable tokens and great maps, keep up the good work!

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