This blog seems to have become SessionReport.com, so to break the cycle I thought I’d share some random little quests I put together. I originally made these for my Hoard of the Dragon Queen campaign, to break up the travelling chapter with side-quests in each of the towns they came across. But they could be easily dropped into any typical d&d fantasy campaign with a bit of tweaking.
All the encounters have been balanced (“balanced”) for a party of 5 level 5 characters. You might need to adjust them for your own group.
The Drugs Don’t Work
There’s a new drug in town, that’s making people crazy. Crazy stupid. While it’s cut and sold by the usual criminal gangs, the actual suppliers are a coven of hags, who have captured an intellect devourer and managed to distill its magic into a saleable drug.
This was heavily inspired by the Old Bonegrinder from the Curse of Strahd adventure. I really like hags as enemies, but I thought killing children was a bit too dark for this campaign, so having them using an Intellect Devourer was more fun.
- The party find out about the new drug. Either they’re hired by the town’s mayor/sherrif/whatever, or they just get attacked by a gang of crazy people looking for their next fix. Maybe some shady person on the street offers to sell them some.
- Asking around town, kicking in doors, beating up dealers, etc. yields some information on the drug (I called it ‘Skull Fuck’ because I like naughty words):
- The drug apparently arrived in town a few weeks ago, and has spread like wildfire since then.
- Very few people seem to know where it actually comes from. There’s one person high up in the supply chain who knows who makes it, and they won’t be easy to ‘persuade’ to give up this information.
- The drug is massively addictive, and seems to drain people’s intelligence and morality as they use it. There’s been a spate of crimes caused by addicts.
- If any of the party are brave enough to try the drug, they spend 1d6 hours blissed out, unable to move, speak or take actions. They also lose 1 point of intelligence (you can make this as permanent as you like, depending on how evil a DM you are).
- Depending how the party handle it, getting the location of the supplier will either require a big fight through the local gang’s headquarters, a bit of espionage, some really good charisma checks, etc. Don’t try to plan it, the players will always do the opposite of what you expect.
- The investigation will eventually lead to the hag’s base of operations. I set this adventure in a coastal town, so had them based in an old derelict lighthouse. The hag’s will be disguised as nice old/young ladies, but won’t try to hide their trade. They’re more than willing to sell to the party.
- A fight will probably kick off.
- The party find the intellect devourer caged (and warded) at the top of the lighthouse. My plan was to describe how helpless and pathetic it looks, and how it seems to be asking the party to free it. If none of them know what they’re looking at, they might even do just that.
- The magical wards protect the devourer as much as the party. It can’t be killed without breaking the protection first.
- If they free it without trying to kill it, it runs off without attacking them.
- An intellect devourer can be a really mean/hilarious thing for a lowish-level party to face. I would include a scroll of greater restoration (or two) in the loot in the base, unless you want your players to cry.
- Addict ambush: 4x Addicts (use Quaggoth stat block, but remove the climbing speed, and rather than claws, have them use a club, dagger, etc) – Feel free to throw these in whenever the players are taking too long with their investigation, or if you get bored.
- Drug dealer’s hideout: 8x Thug, 2x Veteran, Bandit Captain – Divide up the dealers slightly across different rooms, so it doesn’t just become a massive scrum, but have reinforcements arrive with the sound of fighting. The bandit captain as the two veterans know the location of the hags.
- Hag’s Lighthouse: 3x Sea Hag (with coven casting) – Hag covens can be really interesting fights: the players will have a really hard time of it until they manage to kill one of the hags, at which point they’ll lose the coven spellcasting and it’ll probably be over quite quickly.
You can adjust the balance of investigation to fighting to suit your group. For example, finding the hag’s location can be an entire session’s worth of police work (if you can be bothered to prepare that), as simple as a local dealer just telling them after a good kicking, or anywhere in between. Have a few more dealings with addicts or dealers if you want more fights, and don’t be afraid to give the addicts bath-salts-superpowers if the party need a challenge – that’s why I gave them the Quaggoth stats.
Be really careful scaling the hag fight! The difference between 3 hags and a coven of 3 is massive. And beware of experienced players who know what an intellect devourer is – they might just burn the whole place down rather than deal with it!
Finally, if your players are stupid enough to release the intellect devourer into the wild: have fun.
An Easy Job
The local thieves guild have an easy job for you: an abandoned wizard’s tower, with a locked safe in it. You can keep everything else you find, just bring them the contents of the safe.
The problem is, it’s not really a wizard’s tower at all, it’s an alchemist’s workshop (the ‘tower’ is actually the chimney). He was making all kinds of interesting things, until one of his experiments turned him into a stain on the wall. The safe contains his greatest achievement: an explosive powder, very similar to TNT.
This is your classic trapped dungeon. It’s designed to not be too deadly, but just annoying enough.
- The party are given the job by the thieves guild (or someone similar). Once they agree to it, they’re given the location of the tower. It’s a bit hidden away, but easy enough to find with directions. If they ask, they might find out some more information with a decent persuasion check (in order from easiest to hardest to find out):
- The tower belonged to some dwarven wizard. No-one knew much about him, but he hasn’t been seen in over a year now.
- The guild know about the safe from an old ‘acquaintance’ of the wizard. Apparently he was very protective of it, and would never let anyone see inside.
- The guild sent another group before the adventurers. They never came back.
- The guild know the wizard was working on some kind of weapon. The spies they had keeping watch on the tower would often see smoke or fire coming from the top of it, and loud booms and bangs.
- The tower has no windows, no interesting designs, just a featureless brick column with one small steel door in the side. The door isn’t locked, but it is rusted shut and will take some force to open (DC15).
- The tower is hollow, so smashing open the door means they might then fall 20 feet down to the base of the tower (chimney).
- Have whoever makes the strength check (and pass it), immediately make a Dex save with a DC equal to the previous strength check. The harder you hit it, the harder it is to stop.
- There is a narrow staircase running around the inside wall of the tower, leading to the bottom.
- At the base of the ‘tower’ are a lot of burn marks, ash, etc. And a small steel door with a thick glass window in it. This was the wizard’s blast door, for when he was observing his experiments going off in the chimney.
- The door was trapped with a fireball spell – that’s what ended the previous group. A decent investigate check will reveal this.
- Inside the blast door is the wizard’s workshop. There’s the usual bunch of pipettes and books, but also loads of machinery.
- Decent intelligence checks might figure out what some of them do – pumping, moving, crushing, etc. Nothing very weapon-like.
- A decent perception check notices that the room is very clean. No dust, oil, stains, etc.
- A really good perception check might notice the gelatinous cubes before they attack! The wizard kept some around to extract materials from (you need a lot of acid to make TNT – Science Fact!), and they’ve got free.
- There’s one other exit to this room, a locked steel door at the far side from the blast door.
- Through this door is a very nice living/bedroom. Couches, drapes, rugs, and big comfy-looking bed. There’s even suits of armour, weapons, and other decorations lining the walls.
- You know what’s coming – the suits are animated armour and will attack anyone who enters (except the dwarf wizard, but he’s dead). The weapons are also animated swords (or axes, maces, whatever). And that nice rug? Yep: rug of smothering.
- The wizard also didn’t like to be disturbed by all the clanking machinery in the next room, so the whole room is covered by a silence spell. The players cannot speak while inside, except to describe what their character is doing.
- A rogue who scouts ahead might find themselves bundled up in a rug, and unable to call for help.
- Finally, they come to the safe, built into one of the walls of this room. Obviously it’s trapped and locked (I went with a simple burning hands type effect).
- Inside is some gold, a few magic or interesting items (I went for an elemental gem) and 5 sticks of TNT.
- If the party give the TNT to the guild, they might be able to convince them to keep one as reward.
- If the party don’t give it to the guild, they’re on a hit list. I hope they’re not staying in town…
- Workshop: 5x Gelatinous Cube – This isn’t a very hard fight, but you can make it harder by making sure the cubes start off hidden. A surprise round in which 3 or 4 characters are engulfed makes it whole different fight!
- Bedroom: 4x Animated Armour, 4x Flying Sword, Rug of Smothering – Again, this one works a lot better if the players don’t see it coming. Or if they do see it coming, let it be triggered by opening the safe rather than entering the room; hopefully by then they’ll have let their guard down.
As with the previous one, scale it up or down as you need to. I was originally going to have more rooms to the workshop, but then it becomes a dungeon crawl, rather than a side-quest. If you do want another encounter, consider having the thieves guild confront the party as they leave. There’s no honour among thieves right? (The dealer’s hideout group from above should work well)
Also, don’t simply describe the TNT as ‘sticks of TNT’. The characters have never seen/heard of chemical explosives before. Describe them simply as sticks or rods, and let the players figure it out. Maybe one will go off when someone gets a bit too curious? I’ve given them an effect similar to fireball, but with reduced damage and the ability to damage structures like doors and walls if placed correctly (or incorrectly). And having one in your pack when a fireball or similar goes off might be bad news…
The Inn at Serpent Falls
The inn at the base of the picturesque waterfall has long been a holiday destination for the idle rich. But recently all contact with the place has been lost, and any who travel out there haven’t returned. While the city’s mayor is keeping this information quiet to avoid any unnecessary rumours, she’d like the party to look into it.
The caves behind Serpent Falls are home to a group of Yuan-Ti, who have now managed to access the inn itself thanks to a fractured rock at the base. Realising the inn provided a steady stream of food, gold, and nobility for their sacrificial altar, they have been luring tourists into the trap for several weeks.
This started off as an adventure from an old Planescape book – The Well of Worlds. That involved a group of Slaadi behind the waterfall, which would be a bit too tough for my group, so I changed it to Yuan-Ti. And because Purebloods look like people, the inn needn’t simply be found covered in blood (as in the original adventure), but could act as a front to their activities.
- If you want to be really cliche, you could have the mayor’s son/daughter/wife/mistress be one of the people who went missing, and have the parry sent to find them.
- The inn is a fair distance from the nearest city, so the characters will probably arrive in the early evening. Just in time for a decent meal and a drink.
- When they arrive the inn seems fairly normal. Not too busy, half a dozen guests in the bar and a few staff.
- The inn is full of Yuan-Ti purebloods, but let the characters discover this slowly. They will all act normal, and ask about the characters to find out where they’ve come from, if they’re a threat, etc.
- The yuan-ti are most interested in sacrificing nobles and high-born people to their snakey god.
- Good perception, history, nature, etc checks reveal details like the people in the bar all look a bit similar, don’t seem to be from around here, or have some interesting ssssspeach impediments.
- Really good perception checks might notice a few scaly patches of skin, forked tongues, vertical slit pupils, or nictitating membrances (the extra eyelids snakes have – Science Fact!) in the people in the bar. These get easier to spot if they stop and chat.
- Remember that yuan-ti can use suggestion 3x per day, so a few sultry barmaids ‘suggesting’ the characters sit down, relax, and take off their armour can really change the encounter.
- If (when) a fight kicks off, have the bar staff release a swarm of snakes, or even a few giant ones, to help.
- Following any fleeing yuan-ti, or taking prisoners and ‘questioning’ them, will lead to the entrance to the caves behind the waterfall.
- The caves are right behind the waterfall, and the crashing water makes it almost impossible to hear anything. The disadvantage to stealth from armour is removed, but any perception checks that rely on hearing almost certainly fail.
- The cave system makes a mini dungeon-crawl. The Yuan-Ti might have been warned of an attack by any survivors from the pub, in which case they’ll be hidden and waiting for the party.
- The caves are winding, dimly-lit, and full of dead-end passages and larger rooms.
- I didn’t include any traps – this the Yuan-Ti’s home, and they generally don’t expect visitors.
- Several caves are sleeping/living areas, where a careful group might be able to ambush the snakes, and a careless one will get ambushed.
- One cave has several people in cages. The Yuan-Ti have been sacrificing the nobility, but keeping the servants and commoners for food (did anyone eat at the inn?).
- I had planned 3 enounters in the caves, with a mixture of Yuan-Ti Malisons, giant snakes, and a boss fight with an Abomination. Remember that Malisons come in 3 flavours!
- One well-kept cave, deep within the system contains a temple where the Yuan-Ti have been sacrificing their captives.
- A statue of their snake god is surrounded by gold and other trinkets they’ve taken off the captives. This is a good place to keep any interesting bits of treasure you want to give the group.
- The altar in front of the statue is covered in dried blood, and has channels and spouts for collecting the blood from their sacrifices.
- You might want the party to walk in on a ritual taking place, especially if they were sent to rescue someone in particular, whom they can find on the altar (potentially missing a few pint of blood).
- Bar Fight: 6x Yuan-Ti Pureblood, 1x Swarm of Poisonous Snakes – As I said in the description: let the characters in, get them comfortable, get them drunk. A few pre-combat uses of suggestion might get them into a more compromising position.
- Cave 1: Yuan-Ti Malison, 3x Yuan-Ti Pureblood, Giant Constrictor Snake, 2x Giant Poisonous Snake – Yuan-Ti are smart, and their snakes are well-trained, so let them fight tactically, and set up ambushes if they are forewarned. If the constrictor snake manages to hold someone, have the others gang up on them.
- Cave 2: 3x Yuan-Ti Malison – One of each flavour, or all the same, whichever you prefer (maybe they have some kind of caste system, based on type?).
- Cave 3/Temple: Yuan-Ti Abomination, 2x Pureblood – The abomination can make absolute mincemeat of a level 5 character (it can potentially do 60 points of damage per turn!), but hopefully by now they’re aware that these things are tough. I planned on having it ‘occupied’ with the purebloods to give them a chance to get the drop on it, but busy with a sacrifice in the temple also works.
This is the toughest of these side-quests, and the longest dungeon-crawl. If you wanted an easier or shorter adventure, you could have the inn be the entire quest, with maybe a few Malisons in one of the back rooms.
Also don’t do what I did: I had the party hired to “investigate” the inn. So they went in, found out it was full of Yuan-Ti and that the people were being sacrificed, decided they’d fulfilled their end of the bargain in finding out what was going on, and went home. Dicks.