Encounters: The Chain Guardian

Posted on July 19, 2012 by


In the deepest part of the caverns lurks a giant metal door, bound tight in chains, although the heroes have no way of knowing whether they keep trespassers out or hold something inside.  As they approach the door, a figure drops from above, dangling from a thick chain.  “None approach the door” it intones in a dull voice as lights appear behind its metallic eyes.  The chain shoots down from the ceiling, ending in a huge barbed hook, which connects itself to the end of the figure’s arm as it shifts into a combat stance.

Setting the Field: This fight works well in any terrain due to the enemy’s high mobility.  The more you use obstacles and difficult terrain, the harder it becomes for your players, so keep that in mind.  I’ve planned versions of this encounter that take place on rope bridges over a chasm, on board a pair of ships in a storm, even in a dense forest.  There are lots of options for a clever DM.

While technically the Chain Guardian isn’t immune to crowd control, being slowed has no effect because his movement is tied to his attack, and being dazed or immobilized doesn’t matter for the same reason.  He cannot be pushed, pulled, slid, or knocked prone because he can support himself by firing a hooked chain into any available surface.  Don’t let your players stun, dominate, or otherwise render him useless.


The Chain Guardian gets three turns each round, which should be evenly spaced throughout the initiative order.

Attack A – Swinging Assault

When there are less than three enemies within 2 squares of the Chain Guardian he attacks by choosing the furthest target within 8 squares, swinging to them and delivering a powerful melee attack for medium to high damage.

Attack B – Chain Whip

If there are three or more enemies within 2 squares of the Chain Guardian, he attacks each of them for medium damage.  Enemies hit are immobilized until the end of their next turn.  After making this attack, the Chain Guardian swings away from the area, to the safest spot within 8 squares.

Phase Change – Magma Core

At 75%, 50%, and 25% health, the Chain Guardian waits for its next turn and then enters a very dangerous stance, begun by swinging to the most isolated point on the battlefield.  It then grabs any of the heroes going before its next turn in the initiative order and drags them adjacent to it.  After their turns, it deals huge damage to each enemy within 4 squares (no attack roll) and then grabs the next set of heroes before repeating the process.  To illustrate (for a party of 6 heroes):

Chain Guardian A – Swing to empty area, grab heroes 1 and 2
Hero 1
Hero 2
Chain Guardian B – Deal huge damage within 4, grab heroes 3 and 4
Hero 3
Hero 4
Chain Guardian C – Deal huge damage within 4, grab heroes 5 and 6
Hero 5
Hero 6
Chain Guardian A – Deal huge damage within 4, end stance

I found that it worked well to reduce all incoming damage by half while the Chain Guardian was in this stance, as it really encourages the players to get the hell away.  By pulling the next heroes in the initiative order, the Chain Guardian gives them a single turn to make a difficult decision.  Either they attack and then run, taking an attack of opportunity, or they shift away and then move, escaping the murder zone.

Of course, if your players are anything like mine, they might just stand in the area attacking while they take giant auto hit damage three times in a row.  The attack should deal around a healing surge worth of damage with each hit, maybe more (I found that 1d10+30 damage seemed to inspire them).


It’s a good fight with a relatively manageable learning curve.  You can adjust the difficulty by lowering damage, increasing hit points, or even making the danger stance more deadly.  Although the Chain Guardian could be used as a precursor to a larger fight, he’s easily tough enough to work as a final boss.


I’ve personally run this fight with a powerful pirate captain who used animated grappling hooks as weapons, and before that I considered using it for a Kython (chain devil) king.  Even an Indiana Jones whip character could work.

Posted in: Encounters