GM in Training
Hey gang. This is an extended version of what I ran for my players over the holidays, written for other GMs to make use of. I'd like to run it past you all for proof reading and suggestions. I haven't thrown the NPC stat blocks in yet, but I will soon.
Starting: Wall of Text
Working Title: Ogres in the Woods
A short adventure set in the world of Sunchaser.
Location: A small community in western Anmai wear the land starts to rise into the mountains separating the Thousand River Valley from the wasteland of Avva's Anvil. The community, named “Evergreen” for the abundance of evergreen trees in the region, is a workers commune, made up of over one hundred people, the workers and their families.
The small hamlet is mostly made up of communal living spaces for single workers, or small, one to two room homes for families. Evergeen is built next to a large river with a slow current that is perfect for moving the logs from the work site. The foundation has been dug for a sawmill, and there is a stable that holds a couple of teams of oxen for hauling away the prepared logs. There are a couple of specialized buildings: a trading post for incoming goods, a tool shed, the constable's office, and a tavern (which serves a local brew, a bitter drink made from moss).
Situation: Two days ago, a couple of workers failed to return when the work day ended. A search was mounted, but nothing was found. Unknown to the people of Evergeen, an Ogre hunting party as come into the area to hunt human meat.
Who's Who and What They Know:
The Missing Workers: Jasric (single) and Tavas (married). They, like everyone else, came to Evergeen for the work. Nobody knows why they would have up and disappeared like they did. Most suspect they were attacked by a wild animal.
Torkin Tigereye: Evergreen's constable. His main role in town is to toss workers in the holding cell when they've had too much to drink and to mediate disputes. He led the failed search and it weighs heavily on him. When the party of Sunchasers arrive, he wastes no time in asking for their aid.
Einar GemCutter: A gruff dwarf who came to Evergreen and took a job as Torkin's deputy. He's heard a few rumors that the workers saw something large moving around the edge of the work site. He suspects they saw a bear and are making a mountain out of a mole-hill.
“Swift” Liam: The leader of Evergreen's few hunters, who's primary job is to bring in game animals for the hamlet. He poked around the work site, investigating the rumors of something large moving through there. He found evidence of something having passed by there, but doesn't know what. It certainly wasn't an animal.
Beth: Tavas' wife. She's beside herself with worry. She has little to offer in information about her missing husband, beyond how they met and the fact he came out to Evergreen for the work and she went along to stay close to him.
Getting the Players to Evergreen: The easy way is to have them arrive via a sunpool, less than a day's walk away from town. Otherwise, Evergeen could be a pit-stop on the way wherever the party may be headed.
Dave's Advice: This adventure is set up to react to what the players do, rather than direct them along a path, so be prepared to improvise and shuffle scenes around as need be.
Scene 1: Asking Around Town
With any luck, the players head to the tavern (or you begin the action there). Be sure to have them try out the local brew (a disgusting, bitter brew, fit only for the strongest stomachs). Before too long, Torkin will arrive and head straight to the player's table. Torkin will enlist their aid in finding the missing workers. He'll share what he knows about the disappearance and the failed search. Don't give the players a chance to refuse as he expects them to accept. He'll be in his office if they need him for anything. He points them in the direction of Einar and Swift Liam to begin their questioning.
Dave's Advice: In Sunchaser, adventurers are well respected for what they do. They receive free food, drink, and lodging wherever Sunchasers are welcome. In return for this treatment, sunchasers are expected to help the community, whether that be slaying a monster or helping with the harvest. Be sure the players are familiar with this fact.
The players are free to ask around town for information about the missing workers. Liam can take the players to the work site, but he can't stay to help them track, as he has to take the hunters out to look for game. Everyone is generally as helpful as they can be, so persuasion rolls aren't needed, but if the players wish to make the rolls anyway, don't stop them. If someone rolls exceptionally well, then drop the following hint:
“You know, I've heard stories about monsters coming into the Valley from Avva's Anvil. You think, maybe, that's what got Jasric and Tavis?”
This scene relies heavily on roleplaying, so feel free to shorten or lengthen the interactions to fit your players' style. If they like interacting with NPCs, add in a few more for them to interact with: The foreman at the work site and the cart driver are a couple of possibilities. If they enjoy the investigation, drop the idea that Jasric and Tavis could have found a deposit of gold near the mountains, or maybe they ran off together (neither of which are true, but it gives something more for the players to chew on).
Scene 2: The Work Site
About two to three miles from Evergreen, up river, is the work site. The men are hard at work, felling trees, lopping off limbs, and rolling them into the river. The foreman is there, directing traffic and will be more than happy to see the sunchasers. If the party happens to have an Erron (the setting's rootwalker) now would be a good time to make them feel very uncomfortable.
Looking around the camp for the evidence of the presence of anything non-human requires a Survival check with an Average DC. Success lets them find the trail of something large having moved along the site's perimeter. However, if they beat a Tricky DC they find a large footprint covered by some brush (identified as an Ogre with either a Knowledge check (Tricky DC) or a Survival check (Average DC)). If they beat a Hard DC, then they find that it was several somethings moving in single-file.
Dave's Advice: When it comes to running the Ogres for this adventure, keep in mind, that while they may not be smart, they are cunning. They lay ambushes and play cat and mouse with the party. Also, if the players ask, “How did the hunter miss this?” the simple answer is “If you don't know what you're looking for, you won't see it.”
The players can warn off the foreman, who has the men call it an early day and buys them all a round at the tavern (better to keep them in one area, rather than wandering off). They can also head back to town to warn the constable. This eats up more daylight, however.
Scene 3: The Houndmaster
Once the trail has been found, following it isn't hard. It leads away from the work site into where the terrain starts to slope upward and become more hilly, the trees becoming more sparse. Eventually, the trail leads them to an abandoned camp. Searching the campsite reveals discarded bones that have been gnawed on. The bones turn out to be human remains (hit the players with a d6 of stress damage, if you like).
Before the players get a chance to move on, a hunting horn sounds out and the players are attacked by a pack of wolves. What makes the wolves unique is that they are all collared. The wolves attempt to surround isolated party members and harry the rest. After the second round, the ogre huntmaster. He'll, likewise, go after party members that are separated from the rest. However, he'll change targets to whoever is dealing the most damage to him or his wolves. The huntmaster fights to the death, but his wolves will flee if their master falls.
After the battle, while the players lick their wounds, another hunting horn sounds in the distance, letting the players know that the rest of the ogres are still out there.
Dave's Advice: This encounter is meant to give the players a challenge, but not overwhelm them. If they're taking out the wolves too fast, add a couple more at a time. Start with a couple more wolves than the number of party members. If you want to end the adventure early, you can cut out references to more ogres and have this be the final confrontation. If you do, I recommend upping the number of wolves and maybe adding a second ogre, delaying their arrival by a couple of rounds.
Scene 4: Hunt or be Hunted
One might hope that the players recover the remains of the workers discovered in the previous scene. They can return to the town and have a funeral, or continue the hunt. Either way, night falls. If they spend the night in town, they rest peacefully. If they camp in the woods, they get less of a rest.
At night, the ogres sneak up on the camp (ogre's Sneak vs. watch's Notice) and ambush the party as they sleep. The ogres will retreat if the party organizes and puts up a strong fight. Otherwise, they'll attempt to kill a couple of party members, then withdraw. There is a good chance the party can catch the retreating ogres, however, but at the risk of becoming separated. If the ogres get away, the rest of the night passes by without incident.
Dave's Advice: Assuming a party of 4, you should send 2 ogres at the party, but no more than three, as they're all special characters. If you have a larger party, make it a maximum number of ogres equal to the party minus two.
The party should have no trouble following the ogre's trail. However, the ogres know they'll be followed, so they'll lead the party towards the mountains, where they can trap them in narrow passes, ambush them on cliffs, and so on. The party should be constantly on the defensive as the ogres continually assault them with hit-and-run attacks.
This extended sequence ends in a final confrontation where the party manages to trap the ogres in a dead end pass, the ogres having made a tactical error and going down the wrong pathway. That is, if the players don't kill the ogres before now. Either way, they're in for a pitched battle.
Dave's Advice: This last scene is left intentionally vague because so much of it depends on the player's actions and your ability to react to them. If the party decides to try luring the ogres into attacking, run with it. Listen to the players as they chat, if they come up with a plan that sounds like it could work, then let them pull it off.
Aftermath: The ogres defeated, the party returns to to Evergeen, lauded as ogre slaying heroes. The victory is bitter-sweet, however, as the town mourns the loss of two of it's own.