Vicious Venues
The Orchard
By Skip and Penny Williams

The Orchard contains encounters of level 2-8
and is suitable for use with any D&D campaign.

A grove of hoary old fruit trees encircles a dilapidated old manor house like a moth-eaten blanket. Holes in the house's roof and walls suggest that it has been abandoned for decades or longer. Yet, a curl of smoke from one intact chimney announces that someone is in residence. Squatters, perhaps?

Background for the DM

The orchard sprawls over more than 200 acres. It is all that remains of the great estate belonging to the noble Montmorency family. The woods and fields around the orchard still belong to the family, but few people are left to work them. At one time, the orchard and fields were rich, but a prolonged drought followed by a war or other disaster drove off most of the common folk who worked the land. The family and a few stalwart retainers kept working the orchard, but they found themselves eating all of their produce (or giving it away to starving travelers) and the family was soon reduced to poverty.

Over the years, the family has just barely held onto its property. A sprawling manor house stands amid the cherry, apple, and plum trees, but it has fallen into disrepair and only a single wing remains habitable.

Today, only two Montmorency heirs remain. Tanya, an adopted daughter who was found abandoned on the manor's doorstep, works to revive the orchard and surrounding farmland. Leonor was born to the last count of Montmorency, Nikolos, and a local woman a few years after Tanya's adoption. The situation has left the title to the estate in doubt, because one heir is not a blood relative and the other is illegitimate. In fact, Nikolos left behind a will affirming that both women are his acknowledged heirs. The will makes Tanya sole owner of the estate until such a time as she judges Leonor responsible enough to claim her share. When Tanya thinks Leonor is ready, she is to get half the estate. Tanya knows about the will (but see the setup hook below for possible adjustments), but she has decided not to tell her sister about it. Tanya has no desire to cheat Leonor out of her due, but she's fairly certain her sister is not responsible enough to manage her inheritance.

The Setup

Unless the player characters have a taste for fruit, they're not likely to visit the orchard unless they're lost or overly inquisitive. Here are a few things that might pique their interest.

  • The PCs hear tales of a haunted orchard where flesh-eating spirits lurk and devour all who enter. A necromancer of great power and wealth dwells in a ruin at the center of the orchard, bending the spirits to her will and sending them forth to ravage the countryside.

These tales are outlandish but have some basis in fact. The pixies and giant owls that dwell outside the orchard provide the basis for most of the tales -- many travelers and trespassers have endured some very bad frights in the area. The pixies' illusion powers are mostly to blame, but an attack from the giant owl on a dark night can be pretty scary when you don't know what you're facing. Leonor, too, has sometimes frightened or attacked people near the orchard, as the mood strikes her.

  • A druid, merchant, or landowner hires the PCs to obtain a sapling (preferably several saplings) from a new variety of cherry that has come on the market recently. The person who has bred this new cherry is said to guard it jealously.

Tanya has indeed created a new cherry variety (see Visiting the Orchard). Perhaps she would be willing to sell a few of her trees, or perhaps she does not wish to part with them, at the DM's option. Another option is that saplings aren't available yet. In this case, Tanya does her best to explain the situation to the PCs, but the DM could choose to have the PCs' employer be suspicious of her story so the truth won't make any difference.

  • Leonor has somehow learned about her father's will and tries to hire the PCs to help her steal a copy that she believes is hidden in the house or orchard. Leonor doesn't know exactly what's in the will. She hopes that the will gives the whole estate to her, but she fears it has all gone to Tanya. She won't rest until she gets her hands on the will. The will might be hidden on the estate as Leonor suspects or it might be hidden elsewhere.

  • The PCs hear a rumor suggesting that the true Montmorency heir is neither Tanya nor Leonor. Or a person claiming to be the true Montmorency heir approaches the PCs and hires them to disprove Tanya's claim (or perhaps both Tanya's and Leonor's claims).

The heir could be an imposter, but another heir who has been unjustly denied a share of the estate could also exist. Nikolos' will is genuine, however, and the best a third heir could do is claim an equal share from Tanya and Leonor. Tanya may retain her right to withhold the third share if the DM chooses. If so, the newly discovered heir is not likely to take that sitting down, and he or she might try to force Tanya's hand. The PCs will be faced with choosing sides (or perhaps simply withdrawing from the whole tangled affair).

About Tanya and Leonor

Today, Tanya labors to rehabilitate the orchard and the rest of the estate. She and a few family retainers are carefully pruning, thinning, and replanting the orchard. She has found her considerable knowledge of agriculture and forestry unequal to the task and she has begun druidical studies. During the winter months, Tanya goes adventuring. She places the money she earns back into the estate.

Meanwhile, Leonor has become an accomplished thief who uses the estate as a place to lie low when her exploits have gotten her into trouble. Leonor is happy to let her sister keep the estate running. She is unaware of the true extent of the property or exactly what it is worth. She assumes (correctly) that the family has accumulated considerable debt over the years and hopes to earn enough adventuring to save the place from inevitable foreclosure.

In fact, Tanya is just barely staying ahead of the creditors, thanks to some careful negotiations and brilliant management of what assets she commands.

Tanya uses entangle or soften earth and stone to trap foes and make them more prone to see reason. If pressed, she uses produce flame to attack enemy spellcasters or heavily armored foes. She relies on Ebert to protect her. If a fight goes badly, she climbs aboard Ebert and tries to escape. (Ebert is not a riding horse, but he'll gladly carry Tanya out of danger.) If she has time, Tanya casts a summon nature's ally spell to help cover her retreat. If Leonor also in involved in the fight, Tanya won't withdraw unless she can persuade her sister to go, too.

Tanya Montmorency CR 5

Female human expert 3/druid 3
NG Medium humanoid
Init +1; Senses Listen +8, Spot +8
Languages Common, Druidic, Sylvan

AC 16, touch 11, flat-footed 15; Dodge
hp 26 (6 HD)
Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +8

Speed 30 ft. (6 squares); woodland stride
Melee mwk scimitar +6 (1d6+1/18-20) or
Ranged mwk sling +6 (1d4)
Base Atk +4; Grp +5
Combat Gearoil of darkness, potion of cure moderate wounds, 3 scrolls of cure light wounds, scroll of warp wood,wand of call lightning (DC 14, 4 charges)
Druid Spells Prepared (CL 3rd):
2nd -- barkskin, soften earth and stone
1st -- cure light wounds (2), entangle (DC 13), produce flame (+5 ranged touch, +5 melee touch)
0 -- cure minor wounds, guidance, resistance, virtue

Abilities Str 12, Dex 13, Con 11, Int 13, Wis 15, Cha 12
SQ animal companion, link with companion, trackless step, wild empathy +4 (+0 magical beasts)
Feats Alertness, Dodge, Scribe Scroll, Self-Sufficient
Skills Concentration +6, Diplomacy +7, Handle Animal +7, Heal +10, Knowledge (nature) +11, Listen +8, Profession (farmer) +6, Profession (forester) +6, Profession (herbalist) +8, Ride +3, Sense Motive +8, Spellcraft +7, Spot +8, Survival +12 (+14 in aboveground natural environments)
Possessions combat gear plus hide armor, heavy wooden shield, masterwork scimitar, masterwork sling, 10 bullets

Woodland Stride (Ex): Tanya may move through natural thorns, briars, overgrown areas, and similar terrain at her normal speed and without damage or other impairment. However, thorns, briars, and overgrown areas that are magically manipulated to impede motion still affect her.

Animal Companion (Ex): Tanya has a heavy horse named Ebert as an animal companion. Tanya and Ebert enjoy the link and share spells special qualities.

Link (Ex): Tanya can handle Ebert as a free action. She also gains a +4 circumstance bonus on all wild empathy checks and Handle Animal checks made regarding her horse.

Share Spells (Ex): Tanya may have any spell she casts on herself also affect her animal companion if the latter is within 5 feet at the time. The druid may also cast a spell with a target of "You" on her animal companion.

Trackless Step (Ex): Tanya leaves no trail in natural surroundings and cannot be tracked.

Wild Empathy (Ex): By making a successful wild empathy check, Tanya can improve the attitude of an animal as if making a Diplomacy check to improve the attitude of a person. The ability normally takes 1 minute to use, and Tanya and the animal have to be able to study each other (within 30 feet under normal visibility conditions).

Hook "Please don't make me do this." In a fight, Tanya prefers to disable or discourage foes.

Ebert Animal Companion CR --

N Large animal
Init +2; Senseslow-light vision, scent; Listen +5, Spot +5

AC 16, touch 11, flat-footed 14; evasion
hp 32 (5 HD)
Fort +6, Ref +6, Will +2

Speed 50 ft. (10 squares)
Melee 2 hooves +5 (1d6+3) and
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Base Atk +3; Grp +10

Abilities Str 17, Dex 14, Con 15, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 6
SQ 2 bonus tricks, evasion
Feats Endurance, Run
Skills Hide -2, Listen +5, Spot +5

When a battle begins, Leonor is equally likely to attempt to distract her foes, then hide (see the Hide skill description), or feint and sneak attack (see the Bluff skill description). If she has any allies in a fight, she'll use her Tumble skill to get into position to flank a foe and make a sneak attack. Leonor isn't prone to taking risks unless there's wealth or excitement to be gained, but she won't let her sister, Tanya, come to harm if she can help it.

Leonor Montmorency CR 5

Female human rogue 5
CN Medium humanoid
Init +3; Senses Listen +8
Languages Common, Goblin, Undercommon

AC 17, touch 13, flat-footed 17; uncanny dodge
hp 25 (5 HD)
Resist evasion
Fort +2, Ref +7, Will +1

Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee mwk rapier +7 (1d6-1/18-20) or
Ranged mwk light crossbow +7 (1d8/19-20)
Base Atk +3; Grp +2
Atk Options Point Blank Shot, sneak attack +3d6
Combat Gearwand ofmagic missile (19 charges), alchemist's fire

Abilities Str 8, Dex 16, Con 13, Int 14, Wis 11, Cha 10
SQ trap sense +1, trapfinding
Feats Persuasive, Point Blank Shot, Weapon Finesse
Skills Balance +5, Bluff +10, Climb +7, Diplomacy +4, Disable Device +12, Escape Artist +11, Hide +11, Intimidate +4, Jump +1, Listen +8, Move Silently +8, Open Lock +13, Search +10, Sleight of Hand +13, Tumble +11, Use Magic Device +8
Possessions combat gear plus masterwork studded leather armor, masterwork buckler, masterwork rapier, masterwork light crossbow, 10 bolts, cloak of elvenkind, wand of detect secret doors (26 charges), 9 gp

Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Leonor retains her Dexterity bonus to Armor Class even when flat-footed or targeted by an unseen foe (she still loses her Dexterity bonus if paralyzed or otherwise immobile).

Evasion (Ex): If Leonor is exposed to any effect that normally allows her to attempt a Reflex saving throw for half damage, she takes no damage with a successful saving throw.

Sneak Attack (Ex): Leonor deals 3d6 extra points of damage on any successful attack against flat-footed or flanked targets, or against a target that has been denied its Dexterity bonus for any reason. This damage also applies to ranged attacks against targets up to 30 feet away. Creatures with concealment, creatures without discernible anatomies, and creatures immune to extra damage from critical hits are all immune to sneak attacks. Leonor may choose to deliver nonlethal damage with her sneak attack, but only when using a weapon designed for that purpose, such as a sap (blackjack).

Trapfinding (Ex): Leonor can find, disarm, or bypass traps with a DC of 20 or higher. She can use the Search skill to find, and the Disable Device skill to disarm, magic traps (DC 25 + the level of the spell used to create it). If her Disable Device result exceeds the trap's DC by 10 or more, she discovers how to bypass the trap without triggering or disarming it.

Hook "Got ya!" Leonor loves to confound and torment her foes, but she also loves a good sneak attack.

Visiting the Orchard

A group who decides to prowl around the estate can find a few noteworthy places.

Manor House (EL 6-8)

As noted earlier, this sprawling pile is mostly a ruin. Tanya and her "family" live in one wing on the ground floor. They have a kitchen, a living area, and a few chambers for storage and sleeping.

Creatures: Tanya has a handful of laborers and servants to help her with the orchard. Most of these people are very old or very young and none can help in a fight. Tanya herself can prove a formidable combatant, especially with Ebert at her side.

Like any careful country farmer, Tanya keeps a few dogs for protection. These could be guard dogs or riding dogs, or both at the DM's option. From time to time, Leonor comes for a visit.

Dogs (6-9): hp 6 each; see Monster Manual, page 271.

Riding Dogs (2-3): hp 13 each; see Monster Manual, page 272.

Tactics: The dogs attack as a pack. The whole group picks out a likely target and converges. When possible, some dogs slip to the flanks once battle is joined. The tactics Tanya and Leonor use are described earlier.

Stables

This building looks decrepit, but Tanya keeps it in good repair. Inside, Tanya stores the fruits of the orchard: some fresh, some dried. Tanya also has a few draft animals (including Ebert), a wagon for taking goods to market, and a few pigs and chickens.

Inner Orchard and Gardens

Tanya has brought most of the property within about 50 yards of the house under proper cultivation. The area includes thriving fruit trees (including a variety of sour cherry that she has created herself through careful cross-pollination), vegetable gardens, and nursery plots where saplings grow.

Outer Orchard (EL 2-5)

The orchard beyond the well-tended band around the house is tangled and overgrown from long neglect. Tanya has allowed several squatters to move in here. Possible residents include the following:

Black Bears (1-2): hp 19 each; see Monster Manual, page 269.

Tactics: An abundance of wild and half-wild fruit has drawn these creatures. Tanya has conversed with them via speak with animals several times. The bears are grumpy toward most creatures other than Tanya herself, but they don't tend to attack unless surprised or harassed.

Giant Owls (3-5): hp 26 each; see Monster Manual, page 205.

Tactics: This company of giant owls lives and hunts among the taller trees in the woods on the estate. They're smart enough to distinguish casual visitors from raiders or attackers. They might attack creatures they regard as hostile, or they might simply send a messenger to warn Tanya of the intrusion.

Pixies (6-11): hp 3 each; see Monster Manual, page 236.

Tactics: The pixies frolic throughout the estate. They usually stick to the wilder areas, but they sometimes visit the house to play pranks on Tanya's servants or the receive treats of fruit and home cooking. They'll bedevil any intelligent creatures they meet. They usually refrain from lethal attacks, but quickly turn deadly if attacked with deadly force.

About the Authors

Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies and was the Sage of Dragon Magazine for 18 years. Skip is a co-designer of the D&D 3rd Edition game and the chief architect of the Monster Manual. When not devising swift and cruel deaths for player characters, Skip putters in his kitchen or garden (rabbits and deer are not Skip's friends) or works on repairing and improving the century-old farmhouse that he shares with his wife, Penny, and a growing menagerie of pets.

Penny Williams joined the roleplaying game industry as Game Questions Expert for TSR, Inc. in the 1980s. Since then, she has served as RPGA Network Coordinator, PolyhedronNewszine editor, and Senior Editor and Coordinating Editor for the RPG R&D Department at Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Now a busy freelancer, Penny edits for several game companies and runs the online playtesting program for Wizards products. When not enhancing the cruelty of the deaths PCs will suffer at the hands of designers, Penny puts up jam, works jigsaw puzzles, and tutors students in math and science.


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