“You find yourself standing in the shadow of Castle Anvl. Its sturdy walls and high towers are manned by vigilant guards, their helms glinting in the sunlight. The creak of wagons and shuffling of feet mingles with hushed whispers in the streets. Banners and flags snap and quiver as a chilling breeze moans its way from the western moors. Several horses spook and rear up on their hind legs as their owners settle them down. A lone crow caws from high atop his perch on The Golden Dragon Inn. A warm glow, jaunty music, laughter and the scent of mulled cider filter through the rickety door. Ten bells ring out from the local church, the gentle voice of the choir catches a ride on the bitter wind, seeming to dance and mingle until the air itself seems to warm in cheer and thaw its icy bite.”
Our heros are approached by a nervous man around 20 years old. He wears a pointy broad brimmed hat and clutches a large tome nervously. Despite being dressed for travel, it is clear that he is far from used to it as he seems to struggle under the weight of his own pack. He offers to pay the heroes to escort him to a town several days away. However his nervous behavior belies the simple trip that the meager pay promises. For what shadows could he possibly be looking for over his shoulder?
GM Adventure Overview:
This adventure is meant to insert a small level of paranoia in your campaign by introducing characters who are not what they first appear and who lie through omissions and misdirections rather than falsehoods. Feel free to modify it to suit your campaign though we will present it as a standalone adventure in case you require inspiration.
The main character, Andrew Riddlemane, in this adventure presents himself as a weak, relatively innocent and naive hoping to elicit sympathy from the heroes. He adopts stereotypical clothing and phrasing in the hopes that assumptions will be made and he will not have to answer questions. He even goes so far as to overplay his nervousness so that he can produce a “reveal” to put any nagging feelings of him being up to something at ease and to not be pressed for more information.
In reality, he secretly carries a stolen item with him, a mcguffin, that you can swap out for whatever you need to suit your own campaign. He seeks to travel to a town several days away, where he intends to hand it off to his partner for a hefty sum. While he is willing to lie to the heroes, he means them no harm, but is trying to keep his cargo a secret and fears they may rob him or turn him in if they discover what it is. He knows he is being followed, and while he feels he can talk his way out of trouble in town, he knows he does not stand a chance if he is caught alone on the road. He hopes that by traveling with a couple of armed individuals, he can keep his pursuers from approaching. If he is ultimately pushed to reveal the truth of his mission, he reveals the whole truth and offers to bring them in on the deal.
Along the road, as they are resting, the party will be approached by two bandits, Oorag Rocktusk and Hulnd Jaspereye. This duo is simply interested in the item in Andrew’s pack and are willing to strike a deal if it is offered or even some light conversation as they are not particularly interested in a fight, though the pay they are offered is enough that they will fight if they have to. They are not meant to be a major threat to the heroes, but their appearance should cause the player to feel that the mcguffin is of some importance and that more people will be coming for it. The reality is that the adventure only plans on the singular encounter, but feel free to add more if you want.
The adventure assumes a trip of 3 days and 2 nights, leaving plenty of time to throw in minor encounters to increase the paranoia level of the players. Feel free to modify the random encounters presented in the adventure as they are independent of the main plot.
The adventure concludes with arriving in Windfield where you can either wrap up the adventure as a self contained scenario, or you can have it lead on into further adventures.
Act 1: A Plea for Help.
The adventure begins with the heroes resting in an inn (or some place they may be approached without drawing much alarm). Andrew Riddlemane, a young 20 something year old, approaches the most heavily armed and armored member of the party, assuming they are in charge. He wears a pointy, broad brimmed hat and clutches a large tome nervously. Despite being dressed for travel, it is clear that he is far from used to it as he seems to struggle under the weight of his own pack.
“Ummm… Excuse me?” he says meekly. “You wouldn’t happen to be heading towards Windfield, would you? I’m supposed to meet my master there, but I am afraid to travel the road by myself. I hear there are bandits that rob unsuspecting victims, but I am sure they wouldn’t want to mess with someone like you.”
It should be made obvious that he is nervous and there is more to his story than he is letting on, and as he continues, expect the players to want to make checks to see if he is up to something or if there is more to the story.
The players will likely want to ask him a few questions:
- Windfield is a small farming village about three days away with nothing remarkable about it (Feel free to change this to wherever you want, though it should be some place requiring at least 1 night of rest on the road to allow for the main encounter).
- If the heroes are not already heading that way, or if they ask for compensation, he can offer them a small sum that barely would make a round trip worth it. If they ask for more, or want to turn him away, he will quickly assure them that his Master, Master Terry (if they ask his name), would certainly be willing to make it worth their effort.
- If they ask Andrew about why he is not with his Master, he nervously brushes them off by simply stating that he was running some errands.
It is very likely that at least one of the players will be suspicious of Andrew at this point. So feel free to either have them roll an easy check to pick up that he is not telling the whole story. If they press him even a little about what is actually going on, he will quickly reveal that he is being followed by some hired thugs, but he is certain they would not want to actually fight the heroes.
If they ask why he is being followed, he simply says that he has valuable information for his Master. He refuses to share more information on the information he has, though at this point he assures the heroes that it is valuable enough to his Master that they will be well compensated if they can get him there.
The reality is that Andrew is carrying a stolen magical censer that when used to burn incense conjures images in the smoke of whatever story is being told. He keeps it in a sealed box in his backpack that blocks most forms of detection. This is the cause of his backpack appearing to be too much for him to carry.
If the heroes decide to not accompany Andrew, the adventure will likely end, though you can feel free to have the following encounter occur without Andrew present as a means to force the players back on track by having the duo ask for help in finding Andrew.
Act 2: Stalkers on the Road.
The road to Windfield is relatively calm, though several other travelers of no consequence travel it as well. Feel free to describe some minor interactions with other travelers, or skip straight to the main encounter. Just be sure to roll some dice as though rolling on an encounter table.
As the group settles in for the night, two men approach the camp. An orc and a dwarf with a patch over one eye announce their presence.
“Aye, got room for two?” calls a dwarf with a small reddish brown beard and ragged eyepatch covering one of his eyes. “It seems we have some business with you fine folks.”
This is Hulnd Jaspereye, and his orc companion is Oorag Rocktusk. They are here for the box in Andrew’s backpack, but would prefer to avoid a fight. They are even willing to offer double what Andrew offered for the trip, but if they cannot manage a business deal, they try to continue negotiating while they move into position to attack. A fight with Hulnd and Oorag should not be terribly difficult.
It is likely the heroes will question Andrew about the contents of the box, which he will try to brush off as not important unless it looks like they will try to take it from him, or abandon him. In the former case, he will flee as quickly as he can, and if they appear to be ready to abandon him, he will offer to cut them in on the sale of the item which should net the heroes a sizable amount of money.
Act 3: Shadows on the Road.
Assuming that the party continues to travel with Andrew, or have taken the box from him, the remainder of the trip is relatively uneventful and serves to simply build some paranoia in the players. Roll 1d100 to select one of the following mini encounters (or just pick one, the key is to roll some dice to keep the players suspicious.)
01-25: As the players are traveling, they spot a glint of metal from a nearby thicket. The players will likely be suspicious that this is an ambush, or possibly simply curious. The reality is that it is simply a man who has fallen asleep in the shade of a tree, and the wind caused a brief glint of light off of some of his equipment.
26-50: The heroes come across a man standing next to a wagon with a broken wheel. The cart is piled high with hay and he asks for help fixing the wheel and even offers them a ride to the next town. The players will likely be suspicious that this is an ambush of some kind. Feel free to play this up a bit if you want. You can change up this mini encounter with several possibilities. It could be that he is completely sincere in just needing help, or he could be smuggling weapons underneath the pile of hay. It could even be an actual ambush setup to try and capture the box.
51-75: The trip is uneventful with only some minor interaction with passing travelers.
76-100: An armed man stands on the side of the road stopping travelers. He demands a minor fee to let people pass. It should be something rather insignificant to the heroes, but his presence should make them suspicious of an ambush. The reality is that this is some poor man who has absolutely no desire to fight. At even the mildest sign that travelers will not fall for his bluff, he apologizes and lets them pass.
Act 4: Finders Keepers.
Regardless of the events, the heroes should make it to Windfield with relatively little trouble but with some suspicion or paranoia in their minds. Here you can have several different outcomes occur.
- You can have things go as expected and meet up with Master Terry who happily thanks the party and pays them.
- Master Terry could be nowhere to be found, possibly signs of a struggle indicate that something has happened to him
- Andrew could run off with the box, leaving the heroes to chase him, or give up.
For this adventure, though, the heroes arrive in the small farming village of Windfield. Master Terry is nowhere to be found, though a casual enquiry to the townsfolk easily identify the eccentric individual who was seen heading off towards some nearby ruins only the night before. If asked for details about the ruins, most of the townsfolk believe it to be haunted as strange lights and sounds emanate from the ruined tower. A few brave individuals have entered it over the years, but promptly fled upon seeing objects moving on their own.