Call to Adventure: “The Sands of Time”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Dungeon Crawl

System: Pathfinder or D&D 5th Edition

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Levels: 1-2

Concept

This is a simple yet fairly difficult dungeon crawl for fledgling adventurers. It is meant to plant the seed for an epic treasure hunt, as well as provide the players with magical loot and treasure! This scenario takes place in a desert setting, and involves the party traveling underground to explore a mysterious sinkhole that turns out to be an hourglass-shaped dungeon guarded by the undead!

The dungeon is designed to teach the players the basic mechanics of play such as overland travel, resource management, exploration, solving puzzles, and combat!

Introduction

Read the following flavor text to the PCs at the beginning of the quest:

Life in the desert has always been a struggle. Whether it’s the constant heat of a scorching sun or the intermittent threat of attack from hostile bandits, settlers of the sands are as tough as they come. You are no different, and seek to carve out your fortune and fame amidst the endless salt of the wasteland. One day, an opportunity to test your mettle presents itself.

Sinkholes have been spontaneously appearing along the desert trade routes and swallowing up large portions of caravans. Dozens have been injured or killed and countless goods have been lost under the sands of the desert. Several days would pass before these sinkholes mysteriously disappeared, only to reappear again in another catastrophic event.

The merchant group known as the Gilded Sparrow has put out a sizable reward for whomever is brave enough to investigate this destructive phenomenon and prevent it from recurring. The most recent incident took place the day prior, and is located approximately twenty miles away.

Setup

Development

Getting There [OPTIONAL]

The PC’s journey to reach the dungeon can be an opportunity to teach them the basics of overland travel as well as resource management and environmental hazards. This is a good time to introduce them the tiers of travel speeds as well as testing them with appropriate Survival (Wisdom), Perception (Wisdom), and Knowledge (Intelligence) checks. Since they are in the desert, the party may encounter obstacles such as intense heat and quicksand. Try not to do anything too serious, and deplete resources such as food and water if they fail. If damage is inevitable, err on the side of caution and deal nonlethal damage (if applicable) instead.

Alternatively, the PCs can simply arrive at the entrance of the dungeon.

The Sinkhole

After following the primary trade road, the PCs will discover the sinkhole. This area is situated between two large cliffs and is strewn with debris from the incident. All loot has already been picked clean by scavengers.

The entrance is circular and roughly 20 feet across, and hole drops down 50 feet into a diamond-shaped 40 feet by 40 feet chamber [B1 MAP, Area 3].

If the players succeed a Perception (Wisdom) vs. Stealth, they can notice that there is something moving along the sand at the bottom. At this distance they are unable to ascertain the exact nature of the beast. The creature is actually a small earth elemental (Pathfinder Bestiary pg. 122) with a body composed entirely of finely ground sand instead of dirt.

If the PCs possess enough rope, they can safely descent to Area 3 with a successful Climb/Athletics (Strength) DC 15, but the sand elemental will not wait for them to safely land before it starts attacking them.

Area 1: Alternative Entrance

If the PCs search for an hour, they can find an alternative entrance to the dungeon [B1 MAP, Area 1]. This path takes them downward at a more gradual decline, so they don’t need to risk taking falling damage. The area is low-light at the cavern entrance and becomes total darkness at the far end. There is a flowing pool of safe-to-drink freshwater 30 feet deep that flanks the sides of a natural bridge. A darkmantle (Pathfinder Bestiary pg. 55 or D&D MM pg. 46) awaits on the ceiling disguised as a stalactite and will drop down upon the first person that crosses the bridge.

If the PCs are brave enough to swim underneath, they can find a secret passageway that leads straight to the final chamber [B2 MAP, Area 4] with a successful Perception (Wisdom) DC 25. To traverse the hidden path, a PC must perform a tight squeeze with an Acrobatics (Dexterity) DC 15. Failure will result in getting stuck and potentially drowning.

There are two paths to take from the alternative entrance. Going north takes the PCs to the sand pit with the sand elemental [B1 MAP, Area 3], and the east path takes the PCs through a puzzle [B1 MAP, Area 2].

Area 2: Hall of Mirrors

This path presents a simple puzzle for the PCs to fix that involves bouncing around a beam of light. Below is the diagram of the map in its starting configuration. There is a scarab-shaped jewel embedded into the post of the entrance and it generates the light beam. On the floor there is a riddle: “Walk the path of light and thou shall never fear death.” Because of the beam, treat this area as if it was well-lit.

This area is trapped; if a living creature strays out of the light beam, the five skeletons (Pathfinder Bestiary pg. 250 or D&D MM pg. 272) in the following room will become active, and slay anything they find. Otherwise, the skeletons remain inert, unless physically provoked. The skeletons are wearing golden scarab pendants, signifying their connection to the puzzle. Stealing this artifact requires a Sleight of Hand (Dexterity) DC 15 without awakening all the skeletal guardians.

The obvious solution is to walk within the path of the light beam, but the third mirror from the origin is broken! An unknown scuffle had taken place and knocked the mirror out of alignment, terminating the light prematurely. It will require a Strength DC 15 to successfully move the heavy object. After the first failure, a follow-up Dexterity DC 12 is required to handle the antique mirror with finesse. Failure to do so will cause it to break altogether.

If the PCs possess any mirror-like objects, they can craft a makeshift reflector with successful crafting checks at the DM’s discretion.

Below shows the main solution to this rudimentary puzzle. But if the players think outside the box and come up with inventive alternative solutions (generate their own light with spells, remove the scarab jewel and carry it, etc.), they should be considered and decided upon at DM’s discretion.

Area 3: The Sand Pit

This area is mostly low-light except for the pillar of light produced by the hole in the ceiling. It is also ferociously guarded by a sand elemental that will attack any creatures at enter. It uses the sand on the ground to hide itself as it uses hit-and-run tactics.

At the center of the pit, there is another hole 10 feet across that drops 30 feet into the final chamber [B2 MAP, Area 4]. The hole is partially obscured by sand build-up.

Area 4: The Throne Room

The final chamber is guarded by a skeletal champion (Pathfinder Bestiary pg. 252) sitting atop its throne. It will immediately engage with intruders and try to kill them.

Since this area is the lowest part of the hourglass structure, it is entirely dark. There is also a large pile of finely-ground sand 20 feet across and 10 feet at its deepest. The sand pile is treated as difficult terrain. At the south side of the final chamber there is a pool of water that connects to the entrance.

Conclusion

If the players survive the difficult encounter with the skeletal champion, they acquire an ornate (cursed) crown, a masterwork longsword, a full set of ancient metal armor, and several miscellaneous jewels. The highly-decorated nature of the final boss implies a royal lineage of some sort.

Inspecting the throne will reveal that the structure belongs to “King Valcyan.” A successfully History (Intelligence) DC 20 reveals that King Valcyan once reigned over the vast kingdom of Ako-Jorak thousands of years ago. However, the kingdom had so greatly offended the gods that it was swallowed up by the sands. This teleporting hourglass structure has some function in raising the lost civilization. The details are sparse, but the method is apparent; the hourglass appears and swallows up material, and whatever gets trapped within is destroyed into a fine powder that collects in the final area.

But before the PCs can ponder any further, the structure begins to crumble, as the magic has been interrupted by the slaying of the King. The PCs must escape before the collapsing dungeon traps them underground forever. After the dust settles, there is no trace of the underground structure, the sinkhole, or the side entrance; it was like as if they were never there.

If the PCs wish to uncover the secrets of the ancient kingdom, they must seek out the hourglass once more.

Call to Adventure: “The Crackling Mountain”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Scavenger Hunt

System: Pathfinder (but can be easily adapted to D&D)

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Levels: 1-3

Concept

This a deceptively simple collection mission intended for fledgling adventurers, but made more dangerous with a shocking twist! The idea was primarily inspired by the “anomaly” environmental puzzles from the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series of first-person shooters. It features minimal combat and utilizes auras in order to facilitate the puzzle-like aspect of navigation.

A square grid mat is highly recommended to get the optimal experience out of this adventure.

Introduction

Read the following flavor text to the PCs at the beginning of the quest:

After a particularly intense rainstorm, there were rumors of localized elemental anomalies across the surrounding mountainous region. Travelers have encountered pockets of shocking energy bursts seemingly centered around concentrated ingots of magical essence. These strange stones are worth harvesting for their high price alone, but they also possess several yet-to-be discovered magical applications. Venture out onto the rain-soaked earth, fetch this ore, and bring it back for your reward! But be wary, or you may find yourself at the end of a painful tendril of blue light!

The quest is an exploration and collection mission in which the player characters traverse a region of rocky terrain and search for the sites in which the special stones, referred to as “thund-ore”, can be found. Finding the sites is relatively easy, as they will be fairly obvious. But acquiring the material is much more complicated.

Local merchants, crafters, and spell-casters are willing to pay a sizable amount of gold for harvested thund-ore. The specific monetary value of each piece is up to the Game Master’s discretion.

Setup

Precious Stones

Thund-ore itself looks very similar to granite, but is imbued with concentrated lightning energy. It is near-impossible to visually spot from a distance, but when a character is within close proximity of the material they will begin feeling the effects (e.g. tingly sensation, hair standing up, etc.).

Thund-ore is also very volatile and may discharge if handled carelessly. Upon accepting the quest, the player characters are given specialized containers that will make storage and transport of these stones relatively safe.

The Lightning Anomaly

Thund-ore is formed as a result of multiple (minimum two) planar rips into the lightning demiplane converging upon a region of rocky material. Over time, the constant exposure to the raw elemental energy transforms the material, giving it magical properties.

These planar breeches do not allow material to pass through; only energy. Thus, they are extremely dangerous and the players should avoid physical contact at all times. Entering any space within 5 feet of an anomaly deals 2d6 lightning damage, and a Reflex (Dexterity) save DC 16 deals half damage instead. Since they are tears in space-time, rather than physical objects, they are also mostly invisible, and can only be detected by a keen eye. Perception (Wisdom) DC 18 to spot; DC is reduced to DC 14 when within 10 feet, due to environmental clues.

Harvest Sites

A source of thund-ore lies within the convergence of multiple planar scars. Each planar scar affects a region within 20 feet of its origin. In the following subsections we have two simplified examples, demonstrating the auras of the breeches as well as the placement of the thund-ore deposit.

Every 2d4 turns, the thund-ore deposit becomes so saturated with lightning energy that it discharges, potentially damaging everyone within a set radius. A creature within 20 feet of the deposit can sense how much longer it will take to discharge with a successful Arcana (Intelligence) DC 12 check. Whenever thund-ore discharges, it generates a cacophonous burst that affects every creature that can hear within 20 feet. The targets must succeed a Fortitude (Constitution) DC 15 or take 1d6 damage and be deafened for one minute.

Example 1: Two Zones

Example 2: Three Zones

Development

Modifying the Terrain

The aforementioned examples and diagram assume that the map is always level and uniform. Obviously, this is not always the case. The pathways in which the characters can safely traverse can be further complicated by factors such as changes in elevation and difficult terrain. Use the rocky outdoor setting to force the players to squeeze through narrow earthen corridors, cross chasms, or scale cliffsides to reach the material.

There was a recent torrential downpour before the phenomenon occurred, so there should also be several pools of standing water, increasing the chances of being injured by the bursts of lightning.

[OPTIONAL] Unexpected Guests

The quest is not combat centric, but an increased challenge can be achieved by adding some monsters to proceedings. This will complicate matters with additional roadblocks and chances for the players to lose more resources during their journey.

Perhaps some shocker lizards (Pathfinder Bestiary pg. 248 or this link) mistook this site as a gathering of potential mates? They could wander the zone, interacting fruitlessly with the scars, and only attacking when provoked. Maybe a particularly lucrative site of the thund-ore is guarded by a lesser lightning elemental?

[OPTIONAL] Beyond the Quest

The collection quest should be enough to give first-time adventurers a decent challenge. But the presence of these anomalies inherently raises several questions, which can be explored at the Game Master’s discretion.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • What are some advanced applications for this material? Can they player characters use them to craft new gear or enhance existing items? Does it become a viciously sought-after commodity, like gold in the Old West and oil in the Middle East?
  • Why does this region experience these planar scars? What is the root cause?
  • Is there a more ominous reason behind the occurrence of these anomalies? Is it a widespread and common phenomenon, or is it caused by some malevolent entity that is yet to be revealed?
  • Are these environmental hazards contained, or will they worsen and spread over time? Will an eventual escalation threaten the well-being of the locals and player characters?
  • Are there other variants of this event? Are there stones imbibed with the properties of other planes?

Experiment with the concept, and let this adventure plant the seeds of many more.

Call to Adventure: “Detox”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Dungeon Crawl, Bug Hunt, Comedy

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Levels: 3-6

Concept

This adventure is a twist on a common side quest: exploring the sewers! The deep and dark places of the world are often chock full of the same predictable beasts, such as spiders, rats, and the occasional ooze creature. But what if the sewers were suddenly flooded with the contents of an alchemist’s laboratory?

Alchemists are the mad scientists of the adventuring world; they concoct the powerful and often unstable compounds that can give adventurers the edge they need to survive. By simply imbibing an alchemist’s brew, one can be healed of all wounds, protected against most damage, granted the might of an bull, or given the agility of a cat. Alternatively, a tiny bottle could also hold the most potent toxin, an acid that could eat through stone, or an explosive surprise. Now imagine what would happen to the conventional subterranean ecosystem if all denizens were suddenly exposed to a wave of miscellaneous potions, oils, and extracts! It would be absolute madness!

That is where the quest begins. A local alchemist has been mindlessly dumping their failed experiments, excess reagents, and miscellaneous mixtures down the drain. This had the unfortunate side effect of contaminating the usually docile vermin that inhabit the sewers. Magically modified creatures have begun to emerge at an accelerated rate, terrorizing the populace. Chaos bubbles up from the depths, and those brave enough to venture underneath and purify the corruption can prevent trouble from spilling over!

Introduction

Read the following flavor text to the player characters at the beginning of the quest:

“Weeks ago, an alchemist’s lab was raided and quarantined by the local authorities. The owner had been illegally dumping their reagents into the general sewage system in an attempt to circumvent proper magical disposal methods and shave off costs. The resulting cocktail of magical-imbued chemicals has altered the denizens of the underground, turning them into dangerous, never-before-encountered monstrosities!

Although the origin of the contaminants have been stopped, there has been no decrease in the appearance of mutated creatures emerging from the sewers and wreaking havoc! A massive reward is promised to adventurers strong and courageous enough to investigate the source of the ongoing infestation.”

Setup

Denizens of the Deep

The basic template for every encounter is simple: take a commonly-used subterraneous monster, and modify it by applying an alchemical compound.

Perhaps the players encounter some rats, but they’ve recently drank Potions of Invulnerability and must be avoided until the effects wear off. An alligator may have accidentally imbibed a Potion of Flying, and is now hovering through the corridors, snapping at unsuspecting prey. The players could get stuck inside a Gelatinous Cube, but the acidic properties have been completely neutralized by the presence of a powerful base, and the creature poses more of a locomotive hindrance than a threat to their well-being.

Experiment with whatever combinations are suitably hilarious or mechanically interesting, to keep the players guessing on what they will have to fight next. But try to not repeat combinations.

Environmental Hazards

Like most sewers, any water sources found are either fetid, diseased, or downright deadly to the touch. They may also obscure whatever enemies the players will face, whenever appropriate.

However, some pools can also be saturated by helpful compounds. Perhaps one of the levels have been entirely flooded, but the water contains so much Potion of Water Breathing that it is literally impossible to drown in it. The contamination can be both a benefit or a hindrance to the party, depending on whether or not they can correctly identify the liquids they find.

Development

The Toxic Dragon

At the lowest depths of the sewers there is a creature that is a living amalgam of all the contaminants. This putrid mass of caustic material takes the form of a large black four-legged beast with translucent green wings. The toxic dragon viciously prowls the dark, consuming all that it can catch and spewing forth more mutated terrors from its body. This creature is the newfound source of the contamination.

The toxic dragon awaits at the deepest level, and serves as a final boss for the dungeon. In regards to monster design, it is mechanically a Black Pudding, with the same hit points, properties, and defenses. But also possesses the physical appearance and locomotive abilities of a Black Dragon Wyrmling, and displays animal-like intelligence. Like any creature, it will defend itself and its lair ferociously. Tactically, it seeks to kill and consume rather than negotiate or take prisoners.

Call to Adventure: “Trails of Blood”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Horror, Mystery

System: Pathfinder or D&D 5e

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Levels: 3-5

Introduction

This adventure is an occult whodunnit, but centered around a horrific and often unexplored culprit from southeast asian folklore: the penanggalan! The PCs enter a fog-laden city in the midst of a macabre murder mystery, and are tasked with uncovering the identity of the true killer and bringing them to justice before they strike again!

Oh yes, there will be blood…

Setup

The Monster

The penanggalan is the Malaysian variant to the vampire mythos. These sinister undead take the form of a ordinary female humanoid during the day, but at night they transform into a grotesque abomination; their heads and internal organs detach from their bodies, and this disgusting mass of levitating viscera stalks the night, thirsting for blood. Most of them are adept spellcasters, for it takes great effort, tremendous magical affinity, and a profound willingness to commit evil to become a penanggalan. For a template on how to build this monster, consult the Pathfinder Bestiary #3 pg. 216-217 or this link.

The true identity of the penanggalan is a human witch named Miranda, who was the first “victim.” Her distant family owned a farmstead and ran a pickling company inside the city. She uses the guise of her death to slip unnoticed in the night, preying on the unwary.

The Murders

For the past several weeks, people have been found eviscerated by some unknown beast and drained of most of their blood. These grisly events always occurred at night, when the streets were at their quietest and least occupied. The victims have seemingly no connection with one another, and no credible witnesses have come forth since the killings began.

  • The first victim was a woman whose head was torn off inside her home. Her sister Alenya was present during the “murder,” and was left in a bloodstained and hysterical state.
  • The second corpse was found in a gutter with its throat shredded to the bone.
  • The third body was discovered in a wine cellar, and had been disemboweled.
  • Authorities discovered the fourth body after hearing the sounds of a struggle inside an alleyway. The town watch pursued the culprit, but were unable to clearly see or apprehend them. The killer had left a trail of blood as they fled. This body was the least damaged, with only two puncture marks on the neck from where the blood had been drained.

The Mob

These ghastly murders have deeply disturbed the townsfolk, leading to great turmoil among the city’s residents. They have begun questioning the ability of the local authorities, as well as calling for the capture and summary execution of the culprit. But as the days passed on and the bodies piled up, the public outcry rose to a boil, and now they are deeply mistrustful of outsiders and some are outright hostile.

The townsfolk are a constant presence throughout the adventure, as they are deeply afraid and quick to anger. They may interfere with the investigation through acts ranging from attempted vigilante justice to full-scale riots, should the situation escalate.

NPCs

The Law

Sheriff Kida is a no-nonsense knight who believes in order and due process. She commands the utmost respect and discipline from the soldiers under her command, and has very little patience for fools or slackers. She rarely smiles and has nothing but disdain for superstitions. Due to her cold and calculated nature, she has been oblivious to the magical nature of the threat, a fact that the penanggalan has been happily exploiting. Her primary concern is keeping the townsfolk under control as she conducts her investigation.

The Suspects

Alenya is Miranda’s sister and was a first-hand witness to the dark ritual which left her horribly traumatized. Presently, she is despondent and of little help to the ensuing investigation, unless the PCs can help her recuperate from her mental breakdown. Her family is entirely unaware of their other daughter’s malevolent new form, and are in mourning for Miranda’s “death.”

The following set of NPCs can be expanded with more potential leads, distant connections, or red herrings, at the GM’s discretion. For instance, several other travelers could be passing through the town, as adventurers are oft to do. If any of them possess a vampiric heritage or affliction, they may be accused of performing the deeds. Spellcasters classes are also deeply mistrusted, given the ritualistic nature of the slayings. Perhaps a literal witch hunt begins, and innocent wizards and sorcerers are being targeted by mob justice.

Development

Every 2d4 days, a new murder takes place. Each time, more clues concerning the nature of the creature are revealed, but the populace’s disposition also worsens. If the PCs are knowledgeable or savvy enough, they may even intercept a feeding before it takes place, and encounter the creature directly.

Helpful and specific clues can be acquired through deduction or the appropriate checks (varies with system).

  • All the bodies were found in varying stages of mutilation, but they have one thing in common: two fang marks at the neck. The first body is the only exception, and has no bite marks.
  • Exhuming the first corpse will reveal that it has been whisked away.
  • During the day, Miranda discretely wanders the streets in a disguise to avoid detection. This allows her to locate new targets, assess the state of the city, and spy on her enemies with ease.
  • There are a variety of rituals that require the consumption of bodily fluids.
  • Certain monsters are capable of hiding their undead nature from detection. In the case of the penanggalan, it is indistinguishable as undead when in humanoid form, even through magical means.
  • No footprints have ever been found at the murder sites. This is due to the penanggalan’s innate ability to levitate coupled with its obvious lack of feet.
  • The only physical clues left behind by the killer are the trails of blood that seemingly vanish after a distance. These bloodstains carry a faint scent of vinegar.
  • After feeding, a penanggalan needs vinegar in order to resume humanoid form. The creature must soak in a vat of the liquid for at least 1 hour in order to be reduced in size enough to fit back inside its vessel.
  • Miranda and Alenya’s family owns a pickling company, which would provide the penanggalan with a suitable source of vinegar without drawing suspicion. Her “corpse” is stored there whenever she assumes her vampiric form to seek prey.

Call to Adventure: “Into the Wild”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Casual, Humor, Exploration

System: D&D 5e or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Level: 1

Introduction

Life in the village of Aelindorg has always been boring yet comforting in its predictability. It is nestled within a fertile forest valley and flanked by two large cities, either barely a three-day walk away, so resources are always bountiful. The occasional wild animal attack and visit from an eccentric adventurer breaks up the monotony, but otherwise your upbringing has been tranquil.

But one day, on a standard trapping and hunting expedition, you and a group of fellow villagers journey farther than usual in pursuit of a great stag with golden-streaked horns. The mysterious creature eludes your party and you quickly find yourself lost beyond the expanse. After some bushwhacking you discover a clearing that houses a circular arrangement of massive moss-covered stones. Based on what you can interpret from the more legible hieroglyphs, this structure appears to the dilapidated remnants of some ancient civilization that lived in the wilds and performed primitive magics. Whether they were destroyed, migrated away, or simply evolved through the passage of centuries, no one knows.

The stones are engraved with lengthy scripts of a long-dead language and most of the words are blocked by plant growth. All seems inert and eerily silent. But after brushing aside some moss in order to uncover more of the words and pictures, the engravings begin to glow brightly and emanate warmth as the stones vibrate. The phenomenon accelerates as you recoil in instinctual fear, but it is too late to avoid. In a blinding flash of light, you are knocked unconscious.

When your eyes clear, your body feels different. As you attempt to regain your bearings, you realize that your perspective has been altered and your senses amplified. Your hunting companions are also gone, and you find yourself among several sleeping wild creatures. You move to place a hand upon your throbbing head, and feel the contact of something inhuman against your brow. After a brief period of overwhelming panic, you realize what has just happened: everyone has been transformed into a wild beast.

The stag with the golden horns reappears before you, this time wreathed in light, and a disembodied voice echoes in your heads. “Greetings, wildkin. Welcome to the first stage of your initiation. I have blessed you with the beast forms best fitting the lesson you must learn. Use them to complete your journey to God’s Eye and thou shalt receive the Traveler’s Blessing.” After giving you these cryptic directions, the creature dissolved into a fine mist and left you in an stunned silence.

Setup

The Ritual

Functionally the player characters are under the effect of the transmutation spell Polymorph (PHB pg. 266), but the effect is much longer lasting; they will retain their animal forms for five days. During this period all transformed characters retain their alignment, personality, skill and saving throw proficiencies, and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. The remaining stats are replaced by the corresponding animal’s ability scores, as well as the hit points and hit dice.

Similar to the druid’s wild shape (PHB pg. 66-67) class ability, if a character’s animal form is reduced to 0 or fewer hit points, the character is returned to their original humanoid form after taking whatever carry-over damage need be applied. However, the characters are not aware of this fact from the offset. It is entirely possible that they just wait out for the effects to end, if they can figure it out by deciphering the runes.

The Journey

A successful Intelligence (History or Religion) check will reveal that the original purpose of this bizarre primitive ritual was to initiate youths into adulthood via a convoluted spiritual journey. It had obviously fallen out of favor as civilization advanced, but the magic has unfortunately lost none if its potency. The pilgrimage dictates that the transformed travel across the wilderness from this beacon to the complimentary beacon, located at a place called “God’s Eye.” As a native to the region, you inherently know that God’s Eye was the former name for Mount Kametyr, which is located 20 miles north of the village and stands at 2 miles at its highest peak. The stag spirit directed you towards that destination, and once you arrive at the sister beacon the spell will end.

New Forms

Animal forms can either be randomly assigned, based on thematic preference, player choice, or DM’s discretion. For ease of play, here are some recommendations. Character that focus on direct martial combat are transformed into larger beasts with increased physical strength. These options include: black bear (MM pg. 318), boar (MM pg. 319), and elk (MM. 322). The characters that prefer stealth, hit-and-run tactics, or indirect conflict resolution are changed into smaller and swifter creatures. These forms include, but are not limited to: constrictor snake (MM pg. 320), weasel (MM. 340), wolf (MM pg. 341), and any species of bird appropriate to the individual.

Concerning Magic

If casting magic in animal form is entirely forbidden, as per the strict interpretation of the core rules, then skip the following two subsections. Otherwise, magic users must be turned into one of two things, which allows them to still use their magic but in a limited capacity. They are morphed into either an ape (MM pg. 317) with fingers capable of performing somatic gestures, or a raven (MM pg. 335) that can croak phrases for verbal spells. Resolving the material components required for casting are entirely at the at DM’s discretion. Consult the following lists (filtered via http://donjon.bin.sh/5e/spells/) for possible spell-loadouts.

Spells Without Somatic Components

Spells Without Verbal Components

Development

This is not meant to be a particularly lethal adventure, although death is entirely possible if the characters are careless or unlucky enough. It is meant to test the player’s ability to survive and explore the wilderness under unconventional circumstances. In their wild forms, they will possess newfound advantages in feats such as acquiring food, environmental traversal, and enduring the elements. Conversely, they may also experience interactions with other humanoids but under stranger contexts. For instance, a wandering druid (MM pg. 346) may attempt to adopt one of them as a companion, or a ranger (Scout, MM pg. 349) may try to capture and eat one of them. Experiment with the concept and design the hazards along the route towards the mountain accordingly. Whether the “Traveler’s Blessing” actually confers upon the players any boon is up to the DM.

Princess Rumpstank’s Party Zone

Princess Rumpstank’s Party Zone

a mini-module by Remley Farr

Download the PDF file here!

Adventure Synopsis

“Princess Rumpstank’s Party Zone” is a Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition mini-event that makes the players put on a farcical show at a restaurant to entertain a duke’s daughter and friends during a birthday party.  The event is mostly humorous and can provide a solid quest line. It’s suitable for an adventuring group with players around levels 2 and 3.

Adventure Backstory

On the outskirts of a city, a local party place for children has gone out of business. Princess Rumpstank’s Party Zone used to be the best place to take your daughter for a party, but only if you had the coin to spare.

Similar to a modern day Chuck-E-Cheese’s, Princess Rumpstank’s Party Zone includes cheap party food, games, entertainment, and even a chance to meet Princess Rumpstank herself! Unfortunately, the owners closed up shop months ago due to failing profit margins—but Duke Oleander didn’t get the message, and he’s promised his daughter the best 10th birthday party a girl could have!

Though the party zone is closed down, it is not uninhabited. A wererat and a kenku have taken up shelter in the basement, living as squatters, and some believe that a band of bugbear ruffians have used the party zone as a halfway house.

Adventure Hooks

The PC’s can best be introduced to the adventure by stumbling across Princess Rumpstank’s on the road. Duke Oleander is standing outside, mortified that the location is closed:

You come across a wooden structure wild with color. Bright pink dominates the design, and a carved image of a beautiful princess looms over the entrance. A sparkly sign reads, “PRINCESS RUMPSTANK’S PARTY ZONE,” yet the overgrown grass and dirt-flecked decorations suggest that this place has been abandoned for a while. A litter drawn by two white horses rests in front of the business, a coachman sitting in front. Two guards stand at attention. One of the double doors to the abandoned structure soon slams open, revealing a panick-stricken nobleman. “This is a disaster!” he moans, one hand on his large belly. “A disaster!”

Grigori is distanced from the lives of common people, mostly adventurers. Because of this, he believes any working class individual can “make things happen.” He’s too dimwitted to know that skills in cooking, entertainment, and service take time to hone, so when he sees the adventurers, he believes they can fix up Princess Rumpstank’s in time before his daughter arrives—even if they have no idea what they’re doing.

If questioned about how Princess Rumpstank’s Party Zone operates, Grigori tells them:

“First off, the place should be spotless of dirt. It should shine! Surely something can be done about all of this filth. Also, the food is spectacular! Princes Rumpstank’s is famous for its crackling venison pies, so make sure it’s on the menu for my daughter! Oh, and also, make sure that the service staff is on point. No ingrates or the like: the server must be sharp! And most important of all, Princess Rumpstank herself should arrive and—and—do whatever princesses do. Remember, that’s a hundred gold pieces to each of you for this! You have my daughter and her eight friends to entertain”

With that being said, the party has 1 hour to get the location fixed up for Grigori’s daughter.

Party Zone Explored

Princess Rumpstank’s isn’t too different from most other taverns, except there are several gaudy “girly” decorations, mostly colors of pink and purple combined with unicorn, fairy, and butterfly imagery. There is a stage with a shoddily-painted castle as a backdrop, and the only other rooms besides the main dining area/stage are the kitchen and the cellar.

The kitchen has most items needed to cook: a stove, oven, chopping board, utensils, plates, etc. Most of it was abandoned. The cellar beneath contains bags of flour to make dough, bread rolls, and other basic grains. There is also a cask of mead.

Surrounding the party zone is a forest thick with wildlife. A party member can search the forest to find turkeys, deer, and rabbits for meat courses. Berries are scattered around the woods as well.

The Squatters

Princess Rumpstank’s, though unkempt, isn’t entirely abandoned. Two squatters, a kenku named Fitch and a wererat named Scabs, are hiding in the cellar. They are thieves hiding until nightfall, though they aren’t killers. A Perception (Wisdom) check DC 16 spots them hiding behind a barrel. If found they will put on an intimidating display, but they’ll surrender at the first sign of violence.

Scabs is the brawn of the two, but Fitch has a knack for money. The adventuring party can offer them work if they are short-handed. Grigori will pay Scabs and Fitch out of his pocket as well. If Scabs and Fitch are not discovered, they will hide and listen to the party, then attempt to leave. Use their attempt at escape as an obstacle that the party will have to handle.

Jobs Needed

The adventurers will have to find ways to deal with the finicky girls and satisfy all the jobs required to get the place up-and-going. Have Grigori elaborate or a PC can make a Wisdom (Insight) check DC 15 to reveal the following. Some jobs can be taken by one character:

  • The place needs to be cleaned. A river nearby can provide water, but it can take thirty minutes to go there and back.
  • Someone needs to forage for food in the woods, or if the party is carrying anything that can be made into a meal, it’s time to offer up.
  • Someone needs to be in the kitchen at all times monitoring the food.
  • Someone needs to be a server.
  • Someone needs to dress up like Princess Rumpstank and entertain the kids with “princessy stuff.”
  • Someone needs to keep other people from wandering in. Grigori has the place specifically reserved for the night.

Allow creative solutions if the PC’s come up with them. Putting the male half-elf in the Princess Rumpstank costume because he’s “the most feminine in the party” is sure to cause laughs, and a morally devious party might decide that Fitch the kenku could pass off as a giant turkey dish for the girls.

Disasters Afoot

It wouldn’t be a D&D adventure without something going horribly wrong. As a DM, make them work for that gold! Here are some complications that you can throw out to make the job harder for the party:

  • One of the daughter’s friends keeps wandering off.
  • Fitch and Scabs (if undiscovered) try to escape during the celebration.
  • A group of poor peasants want to enter the establishment with their crippled daughter. Milk the pity and sympathy, forcing your PC’s to be jerks or sneak the destitute family in.
  • Making the party roll checks for cooking, performing, and decorating—a failed cooking check could mean mixing up the mead with water, accidentally getting a couple of kids drunk.. A failed performance check by the party’s Princess Rumpstank could mean a wardrobe malfunction (fake boobs falling out, splitting the seam of the dress, etc).
  • A group of in-laws who Grigori hates shows up to celebrate. “Get them out of here by any means necessary,” Grigori will say.

Gang Territory

A group of bugbears uses Princess Rumpstank’s as their hideout, and at the end of the module, have them return from a pillaging spree. They’re tired and ready to sleep, so a sight of children “wrecking” their place of peace and quiet will be met with hostility.

There are two bugbears and one bugbear chief (MM, 33) in total, though Grigori also has two guards (that can help.

When the fight starts, Grigori will moan that “the party is ruined, unless…” then prompt the PC’s to make the fight look like an “act.” When the party’s rogue scores a critical hit on a bugbear, the children can all cheer and clap. If the party’s wizard uses a suggestion spell to make a bugbear dunk its head in the birthday cake, the children will all laugh at him. The added humor is that, while this “performance” is going on, the bugbears (and possibly guards) are getting brutally murdered. When the whole fight is done, the duke’s daughter will be ecstatic, claiming that she had the “bestest birthday ever!” You can add more humor into the mix by having Grigori be unaware that the bugbears are an actual threat, making him laugh and cheer at the party’s performance as well.

Concluding the Adventure

If the party did well, Grigori will pay them handsomely, even offering them a chance to do some of their “fancy entertainment nonsense” at his kingdom if they’re ever stopping by. If they do poorly, Grigori recants his payment and chastises them. The party should have an adventure that is truly unique to any previous encounter, and the Princess Rumpstank costume (as garish as it is) provides certain benefits!

Though Princess Rumpstank’s Party Zone is closed, the Princess Rumpstank character is still recognized throughout the area. A PC who wears the Princess Rumpstank costume can gain minor celebrity status when interacting with others (similar to someone dressed up as Batman or a Disney Princess interacting with folks at a public park). Be sure to let the PC who donned the outfit know that the costume can provide favorable opportunities when interacting with NPC’s in the future.

The Shaman of Shamblers

The Shaman of Shamblers

a mini-module

Download the PDF file here!

Adventure Synopsis

“The Shaman of Shamblers” is a Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition mini-event that introduces the adventurers to Madeen, a well-meaning demilich with a throng of undead family servants. She invites the players to dine with her, eventually asking them to find her phylactery and destroy it. The event is mostly humorous and can provide a solid quest line. It’s suitable for players around levels 1 and 2.

Adventure Backstory

Madeen is a demilich hiding in the grove of her formal tribe, the Howler Clan. Once a wood elf of potent magical prowess, she is now a slave to unlife; however, she did not become a demilich by choice.
As a child, Madeen was snatched from her tribe by an evil sorcerer who believed her to be a worthy sacrifice in his quest to become a lich. The sorcerer placed Madeen on an altar and summoned an ultroloth, bargaining the girl’s soul for the transcending power of a lich.

The creature had other plans.

Not knowing the magic within the girl, the ultroloth denied the sorcerer’s request, then turned his game against him: the ultroloth instead transformed Madeen into a lich, then chose the sorcerer to be Madeen’s living phylactery!
His plans ruined, the sorcerer fled from his tower and abandoned Madeen in her undead state. Since then, Madeen has been hiding in her family grove, praying that someone would vanquish the sorcerer so that her undead life would end.

Adventure Hooks

This adventure is an easy “on-the-road” story. Players can be travelling to another town and happen upon the encounter, or they can be assigned a quest to track down a sudden appearance of zombies near “the old Howler Clan Grove.” The zombies are the reanimated members of Madeen’s Howler clan, who died during an attack by another wood elf tribe.

Zombies Amuck

Madeen’s zombies are gathering supplies, mostly lumber, rocks, and flowers. They are clumsy, swinging axes and shovels with a zombie’s grace. Madeen likes to keep her grove joyful and neat. If the party comes across the zombies, have them find one zombie for each party member:

In the clearing ahead, you hear wood axes chopping against trees. There is also stone scraping against sand—a shovel perhaps—but amid it all is the low moaning sound of a creature that sounds like it has been dying for weeks.

The zombies are clearing land in a forest and are not aggressive towards the party, but if the zombies see the party, they’ll drop what they’re doing and stare at the party. If the zombies are attacked, then they will fight back.

Whether a fight with the zombies occurs or not, Madeen will eventually confront the party. As a demilich, she is nothing more than a skull. Her initial appearance should strike fear into the party:

A hulking zombie, elfish in looks, shambles into view. In its hand, the creature clasps a wooden staff topped with a skull bedecked in emerald gemstones. The zombie holds the staff forward, and the skull’s mouth speaks.

Madeen will tell the party to drop their weapons if they or fighting the zombies, or she will welcome them if they are peaceful. Any PC who passes an Arcane (Intelligence) check DC 15 knows that the skull on the staff is a demilich, which has the power to obliterate the party. Madeen will do no such thing—she’s a lich, but not by choice. Her mind is still pure even though her body and soul are corrupted.

Dine with the Dead

If the party shows no more aggression (though she can disable them in a heartbeat), Madeen will invite the party to dinner. She hasn’t had guests in decades, and since she doesn’t need to eat food, she hasn’t had a reason to cook. She’ll insist that they dine and talk with her.

The dinner itself is held at her grove, which has been decorated to perfection by Madeen’s zombie servants:

A stained-wood table sits among a grove of old, windy-branched trees. The moonlight shines through the canopy, and a series of candles on the tabletop give off an ambient glow. At the head of the table is a literal head—Madeen’s. Her skull is still mounted on the wooden staff, which is now planted in the ground. “Ahem,” Madeen groans, and a zombie appears, dressed head to toe in a tattered suit with tails.

Madeen introduces the zombie as Lonwick Howler. He was Madeen’s brother before his death. She then has the shambling zombie take everyone’s order, stating that her zombie chefs can cook up almost anything—especially with the help of Madeen’s demilich power.

Play the scene comically. Rotten zombie footmen serve the food; even platters of champagne glasses wobble under the zombies’ rickety hands.  If a zombie spills food on one of the PC’s, have Madeen shout a curse and cause the zombie to burst into flames (Madeen would certainly apologize for such an outburst). During this time, Madeen questions the party about their life, causing them to open up. Occasionally she’ll ask for a “closer look” at a PC, and Lonwick Howler will pick up her staff and shove her skull towards the party member in question.

Eventually, the party will ask about Madeen’s story, possibly wondering why she’s not evil. Madeen will indulge them, telling of how she was a sacrificial pawn to the sorcerer and how the ultraloth turned the request against the sorcerer. The reason she’s a demilich is from her inability to feed souls into her phylactery (the sorcerer), which is fine by her. She doesn’t know where the sorcerer is at the moment, though he’s definitely still alive.

Madeen’s Request

Ultimately, Madeen has one task that she would ask of the party: find the sorcerer who caused the chaos in Madeen’s life and slay him. Since he is Madeen’s phylactery, slaying him will let Madeen drift into the afterlife with her family’s souls. She will give the party the sorcerer’s name, though if a party member knows of a powerful, evil spellcaster in his or her backstory, feel free to incorporate that character into this tale so that Madeen’s story and a PC’s story can overlap.

Madeen cannot venture with the party. As a demilich, she is shunned from society. Also, since she has no access to souls for her phylactery, her powers aren’t strong enough to allow her travel. Instead, she will offer the party a different form of help:

Madeen looks towards her zombie brother. “Lonwick isn’t much, but he’s a better pack mule than most mules. I can’t go with you, but I can lend you my brother. He’s dependable and keeps to himself, but the stench can permeate most walls, so keep him bathed daily. Throw a cowl over his head if you’re afraid someone will see him. Trust me: he didn’t look much better when he was alive.” With that said, one of the zombies offers you a rope leash—the other end fastened to a collar around Lonwick’s neck.

Lonwick will accompany the party as their personal zombie, doing as he’s bid. Should something horrible happen to him (stepping on a trap, being dismembered by an angry mob, etc.) a PC can make an Arcane (Intelligence) or Medicine (Wisdom) check DC 20 and spend 1 day’s worth of time assembling him again. Failure means a “repair” can’t be made on him for 24 hours.

Afterwards

Now that the party has a side quest, they might seek out the sorcerer. Feel free to create your own story about the sorcerer’s whereabouts. Is he holed up in a tower and going mad from his encounter with the ultroloth? Is he imprisoned in a demon’s chamber from another deal gone sour? Or maybe he still hasn’t given up on the quest to become a lich, seeking one of the legendary Books of Keeping so that he may resummon the ultroloth and control the fiend for good.

Either way, Lonwick is sure to give plenty of hi-jinks along the way. Just don’t forget to feed him!

Seized Fire for the Ceasefire

Fleur Sleetshaper was a rare gem of a dwarf: born from a northern clan, she dedicated her life to the study of fire and ice magic. After building an icy tower on a glacier, she helped found the crabbing village of Firnboro, but in the last thirty years, she and the people of Firnboro have disappeared. Did Fleur’s arcane studies have a hand in Firnboro’s disappearance?

“The Frozen Men of Firnboro” is a Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition module for a party of 3-5 players at level 10. This one-shot module features an icy setting and a wizard’s tower’s worth of loot. Also, the nomadic group of whale-people that now inhabit Firnboro can provide entertaining interactions, possibly becoming strong allies. Great for new DMs or for those who want a quick session with no prep, this module comes complete with everything you’ll need: narrative text to be read to the players, background text for the DM, full stat-blocks for all monsters and NPCs, and detailed encounter maps! This module is HERE available on the DMGuild.

This module was written by our good friend Rem over at Insomniacs Ink. You can check out his other projects over at www.insomniacsink.com!

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The Fasting Worm at the Spider Feast

Eons ago, the demon lord Shomarrah defamed Lolth the Spider Queen, condemning herself into the cursed life of a massive purple worm. Now Shomarrah’s desecrated body serves as a drow fortress, guarded by a mad sorcerer and his team of driders. What deeper evils lie within?

“The Fasting Worm at the Spider Feast” is a D&D5E module for level 8 characters. Great for new DMs or for those who want a quick session with no prep, this module comes complete with everything you’ll need: narrative text to be read to the players, background text for the DM, full stat-blocks for all monsters and NPCs, and detailed encounter maps! This module is HERE available on the DMGuild.

This module was written by our good friend Rem over at Insomniacs Ink. You can check out his other projects over at www.insomniacsink.com!

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Fishing for Gods in Strade’s Gallows

A medical shipment to the swampy town of Strade’s Gallows takes a turn for the eccentric when the party happens across enigmatic shrimp-men who begin to worship them as gods. Can the party solve the mystery of Strade’s Gallows’ ailment, or will their new disciples botch it all up?

“Fishing for Gods” is a D&D5E module for level 2-3 characters. Great for new DMs or for those who want a quick session with no prep, this module comes complete with everything you’ll need: narrative text to be read to the players, background text for the DM, full stat-blocks for all monsters and NPCs, and detailed encounter maps! This module is HERE available on the DMGuild.

This module was written by our good friend Rem over at Insomniacs Ink. You can check out his other projects over at www.insomniacsink.com!

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The Sun Goes Down with a Ruby Smile

A small port seems the perfect place to dock when a freak storm forces the small trade cog, Sea’s Rock, to find solid ground. But the newly discovered port town raises questions: where are all the residents, and are any of them still alive?

“The Sun Goes Down with a Ruby Smile” is a D&D5E module for 1st level characters. Great for new DMs or for those who want a quick session with no prep, this module comes complete with everything you’ll need: narrative text to be read to the players, background text for the DM, full stat-blocks for all monsters and NPCs, and detailed encounter maps! This module is HERE available on the DMGuild.

This module was written by our good friend Rem over at Insomniacs Ink. You can check out his other projects over at www.insomniacsink.com!

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