An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet
Type: Dungeon Dive, Hunting Quest, Wilderness Exploration, Rescue Mission
System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder
Ideal Party Size: 4-6
Recommended Level: 3-5
In this adventure, a routine monster hunting quest becomes deathly complicated as the party encounters uncovers an unusual alliance! A gargoyle band, along with their bizarre pets, have enacted a reign of terror! Will the heroes break through the enemy lines, or will the monuments of their failures stand for all time?
Read the following flavor text to the PCs at the beginning of the quest:
“A month ago, a dreaded basilisk was spotted roaming the nearby canyon and turning hapless travelers into stone! And although several trained hunters were dispatched to end the slinking reptilian menace, none of them have returned!
Investigate the canyon and slay this beast! We offer a 1000 gold piece reward for whomever returns with this creature’s hide. An additional reward will be provided for any travelers rescued from the petrification process.”
The simple-minded basilisk (consult page 24 of the Monster Manual for more information) is a merely patrolling the canyon and searching for food; it transforms its prey into stone with its magical gaze and feasts upon their frozen bodies at its leisure. This particular creature has been raised in captivity and is capable of obeying simple commands from its owners. But who are these shadowy puppet masters?
The true villains are a tribe of vicious gargoyles (also referred to as a “nastiness”) that have take refuge in the earthen labyrinth. Page 140 of the Monster Manual will give you more information about these winged stone monsters. They lurk among the strewn-about humanoid pillars created by their pet, making them nearly impossible to detect. Whatever their faithful serpent fails to petrify, they brutally slaughter. Feel free to adjust the number of gargoyles present to the desired difficulty (2-3 for medium and 4-5 for hard).
The nastiness is exploiting the presence of a hungry and all-consuming black pudding to dispose of the evidence of their misdeeds. This monster’s statistics are found on page 241 of the Monster Manual or at this link. This creature does not understand anything and acts purely on instinct. The fact that the gargoyles are unaffected by its caustic nature is purely coincidental.
The canyon is an expansive multi-tier dungeon with several places in which the players and monsters can hide. Traversal is difficult and frequently requires challenges such as Athletics (Strength) to scale cliffs and Survival (Wisdom) to avoid getting lost.
When they first arrive, allow them to briefly explore the premises and drop hints about the true enemy. Eventually, bring them into contact with the basilisk. Then surprise them with a gargoyle ambush. After that, the PCs become the hunted, and must evade, outsmart, and overcome their nefarious pursuers. Allow the outcomes of the pursuits to unfold organically through opposed checks such as Stealth (Dexterity) vs. Perception (Wisdom) and role-play.
Secret: The Master’s Quarters
But where did these creatures come from? If the PCs successfully explore and investigate their surroundings they will find a secret path into a wizard’s chambers at the heart of canyon. The nameless reclusive spellcaster had long-since expired from some unknown happenstance, but his familiar (the basilisk) and his sentries (the gargoyles) lingered behind. Over the years, the guardians grew bored and took to terrorizing the locals to pass the time. Use the wizard’s quarters as a means of rewarding the perceptive and inquisitive party with magical loot for their troubles.
Optional Objective: Rescuing NPCs
Throughout the adventure, the players can attempt to rescue anyone who has been petrified but hasn’t been killed or eaten yet. This can be accomplished by applying basilisk gullet oil, or through alternative magical means. As long as vital parts are still attached to the afflicted the de-petrification will yield a viable character.
The specific nature of each of these NPCs is up to Dungeon Master’s discretion. If they are having too much trouble, perhaps grant them a powerful ally who could help turn the tide against the gargoyles? Maybe one of the people they rescue yield a larger reward due to their higher social status? This could lead to other plot developments down the line. Experiment with the idea and have fun with it!