Welcome again to Steal This Hook! This edition's theme is dramatic brawls: adventure hooks designed to get those PCs into combat in unusual environments and unpredictable conditions, possibly with campaign-altering consequences. These could work well as climactic campaign-enders with the Big Bad Guy, or simply as minor scuffles with minions and no-names. Above all, they're designed to inspire fight scenes that have the Eberron tone of pulp adventure.
Showdown in the Laboratory
The heroes track an unscrupulous artificer to his laboratory deep in a range of mountains. When they arrive, they see that he has equipped himself with bizarre machinery throughout his body: Hoses feed liquids to his limbs; pistons pump in and out of his shoulders; metal components embedded in his muscles move as he moves. He utters villainous curses with a smile on his lips, and begins . . . growing. His muscles expand and his head bloats horribly. And with the flip of a switch on his midsection, the artificer's body suddenly bristles with an array of magic weapons. He attacks the party, firing magic missiles from a wandlike appendage, shooting bolts from a tentacle-mounted crossbow, and blowing flames from an open panel in his chest. The fight should be short and destructive: The artificer drags hoses as he fights, pulling down vats of vital acids which will in turn eat away at important magical generators. The artificer's growth should be unstable -- he has put too much experimentation into his own body, and he won't be able to handle the mutation.
What led to this fight? Was part of Sharn experiencing a mystic brownout from drained power? Did multiple wizards report powerful reagents missing? Did a local village hear strange, haunting laughter from a nearby mountain pass?
What happens after the fight? Must the PCs discover the artificer's identity, or why he's done this to himself? Must they return a critical component of the artificer's body to a needy town? Must they free the kidnap victims, whose living liquids fed the artificer's unnatural experiments?
Raw Fish Rumble
The fight breaks out at Salgandro's, an expensive fish restaurant above the east bank of Breland's Dagger River. Salgandro's has twenty round tables for four and six tables for eight, and each table has a linen tablecloth and fine place settings. A kitchen outfitted with large grills and two wood-burning ovens supplies food to customers. Through the floor-to-ceiling windows on the river side, diners can see that the river tumbles 7 or 8 feet over a small waterfall -- a spectacle that diners can view from a narrow deck attached to the restaurant if they are romantically inclined. The fight might occur table to table, or back into the kitchen, or into the storage pantry in the small basement. In the center of the restaurant, Salgandro's has a columnar aquarium 10 feet in diameter, outfitted with authentic representations of Dagger River life -- fish, pebbly sediment, ropy and kelplike river plants, the underwater wooden nests of beavers. If the glass were to be smashed by a villain, it would alter the terrain significantly -- first a quick onrush of pebbly water, then a wet unstable landscape full of floating napkin holders and flappy fish. Other details include chandeliers made from native moose antlers, lit candles on every table, fish netting decorating the walls, and proudly displayed mounts of prize river catches by the owner.
What led to this fight? Did an escaped Jungle Boy gangster flee here, seeking protection from his brother, Salgandro's head chef? Were the diners attacked by sahuagin scouts from downriver? Have assassins ambushed a scholar here who means to publish certain Emerald Claw secrets?
What happens after the fight? Do the heroes help with the cleanup? Are they chased off by the rolling-pin-waving owner, or embraced by her in gratitude? Does the bad guy dive off the deck into the river, go over the tiny falls, and disappear mysteriously into the foamy depths?
Ambushed by the Olmstoys
In a dusty subterranean crypt, the heroes find the bodies of the Olmstoys, a bygone noble family. The Olmstoys are arranged in strange, standing positions, and in some cases they still wear burial armor. When one of the PCs trips over a dust-submerged cable, it yanks some mechanism deep in the crypt walls, and a mighty magic machine is set in motion. Set in the ceiling, behind a protective iron cage, glows a blue gem that animates the Olmstoys -- and they're not happy to see the intruders. The fight that results will involve flesh-obsessed zombies, the fickle lighting of sputtering everbrights, choking clouds of dust, swarms of clicking beetles, further tripwire-and-gear traps, a decades-old living spell or two, and possibly even the matriarch of the Olmstoy family -- a grisly, level-draining wight.
What led to this fight? Were the PCs tasked to recover a burial trinket from one of the Olmstoys' bodies? Did they seek the powerful blue gem or information about the crypt's mechanisms? Did they follow a gang of shifter graverobbers here, looking to solve a mystery surrounding the sale of black-market antiques?
What happens after the fight? Does the ambush trigger the opening of even deeper tunnels into the crypt? Does a living Olmstoy relative sue for damages? Might a collector of archaeological remains contact them for help identifying each of the bodies?
The Thuranni Outpost
When the heroes' patron asks them to investigate a war-blasted, abandoned jail on the eastern edge of what used to be Cyre, it soon becomes clear that House Thuranni uses the structure as a base of operations. Trained assassins or not, the party must reconnoiter if the patron says to reconnoiter, so they get themselves into a royal rumble soon after unlocking the main gate. This fight is all about position and reach -- with all the iron-barred doors and gates, locking obstacles can impede movement while ranged spells and attacks can fire away. Most of the Thuranni agents carry skeleton keys that unlock any of the gates, but the compound is not prepared for a full-on assault from outside, so many of the gates remain unlocked. Simple bunks and footlockers hide elaborate Thuranni daggers and scrying equipment. The party may need light spells, since the Thuranni elves' darkness effects may plunge the fight into a blind scrap.
What led to this fight? Could someone posing as the party's patron have set a trap? Is House Phiarlan motivated to procure information about those other bearers of the Mark of Shadow? Does a mourning parent believe his son's remains are still hiding in the jail somewhere?
What happens after the fight? Do the PCs chase off a relatively minor squad of Thuranni elves, or do they retreat after encountering a full-on assassins' fortress? Does the fight continue onto a hidden airship escape vehicle? Does the Big Bad Guy challenge the PCs to a final showdown in the jail's former torture chamber?
About the Author
Doug Beyer spent a lot of time getting philosophy degrees until he figured out that he should just move to Seattle and become a web developer for Wizards of the Coast. Now he spends his days working on games and his evenings playing them. Doug uses the time normally allotted for sleeping to lurk on the Wizards.com message boards as his alter ego, WotC_Doog.
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