The Abandoned Village contains encounters of level 1-9 and is suitable for use with any D&D campaign.
A cluster of decrepit buildings stands in an otherwise empty landscape. The structures seem to have a human scale (judging from the size and height of the empty doorways and windows). Most of the buildings lost their roofs long ago, and their interiors stand open to the elements. Vines, weeds, and mosses cover almost everything. Still, traces of narrow streets remain visible between the empty walls, and the faint lines of an unused crossroads pass through the site. It will be a few years yet before nature fully reclaims the place.
Background for the DM
The ruin was once Darow's Crossing, an agricultural settlement named for the explorer who first surveyed the abandoned roads that meet at the site. The residents were mostly human, with a few other humanoid races mixed in, as is typical for an isolated community. The village might have been deserted for several reasons. A drought, plague, or other natural disaster might have killed the residents or driven them off. A sudden attack from a powerful monster (such as a dragon) could have destroyed the place. If so, a close examination of the ruins should reveal some traces of the creature -- such as scorch marks from a red dragon or other fire breather or a few boulders lodged in walls from a giant's attack. Or perhaps something sent the place into a long decline, such as a succession of bad harvests, the aftereffects of a war, or a series of bandit raids that eventually wore down the residents.
No matter what brought about its demise, Darow's Crossing still has a few residents.
The place is laid out along the crossroads in a ragged "X" shape. There are about four dozen ruined cottages lined up along the two roads. Some larger buildings are set back from the crossroads so that cottages surround them on two sides.
Beyond the village lie four big fields separated by tall hedgerows. The villagers worked these fields in rotation, using one field as a pasture and the other three for crops each year. The fields are mostly filled with weeds now, but a few hardy examples of the old crops remain (mostly wheat, oats, and barley gone wild).
Cottages: These buildings were each about 25 feet square. They originally had walls made from local stone and plank or thatched roofs. Inside, each had a stone fireplace and chimney. Outside, the cottages had wooden doors and shutters. Every cottage also had a small root cellar lined with stone and accessed from outside via a stone stairway and a wooden trapdoor. These days, only the stonework survives (though most of the chimneys have fallen). The cellars are (mostly) still accessible, though weeds and shrubs screen the entrances from view.
Barns: There are two stone barns with slate roofs mostly intact. Each is about 50 feet long and 30 feet wide. The barns have two stories; the ground floors still have wooden stalls for livestock, and a few rusty farm implements hang from the walls. The upper floors were used to store fodder and bedding for the animals, and a few wisps of hay and straw still lie in the lofts.
Granary: This structure looks like a row of three stone beehives, each about 15 feet in diameter at the base and about 25 feet high. The three sections once held dried grain. Today, they hold nothing but dust and old rodent droppings.
Shrine: This fortresslike structure is 40 feet long and 30 feet wide. It is one story high and made from extra large stone blocks. It has a flat roof ringed with crenellations, and narrow windows that resemble arrowslits. The residents used this place for worship, public meetings, and as a rally point in case of danger or attack. Inside, the shrine has a large meeting room with a stone altar at one end. The rest of the place is a suite of three rooms for the presiding priest.
Vaults below the meeting hall contain burial crypts.
Spring House: This low stone building is only a half story high and some 15 feet square. A short flight of steps leads down about 5 feet to a stone floor. A raised basin, also stone, takes up most of the chamber. The basin holds clear, cool water (and maybe a few aquatic bugs). A channel leading outside sends overflow from the basin trickling downhill in a thin stream that eventually vanishes into a swampy area.
Read or paraphrase the following when the PCs first approach the village. The text assumes that the season is late spring or early summer. Adjust accordingly for a different time of year. The hedges bordering the fields make the area around the village look pretty much the same no matter what the surrounding terrain looks like, though in a very arid region, tumbleweeds or drifting sand should replace most of the plant life.
Player characters might meet almost anything in the village; here are some possibilities at several different encounter levels. For a more complex and dangerous encounter (or to use the village as a site for an entire adventure), several of these creatures might occupy the village at the same time. The more intelligent among them will work together against invaders. Even the dumb brutes will tend to be drawn toward any battle that erupts, hoping for a share of the spoils.
Goblins (EL 1-3)
These creatures have connected several of the root cellars under the cottages (and possibly the vaults under the shrine) with a series of tunnels. They stay underground during the day, but keep sentries posted in the upper floors of the barns to watch for intruders. They dug tunnels leading to both barns so the sentries can come and go without being seen or exposing themselves to daylight.
Goblins (4-9): hp 5 each; MM 133.
Tactics: The goblins prefer to lie low and allow visitors to pass by them. They'll attack, however, if someone spots a sentry or discovers one of their tunnels. If unsuspecting travelers pass through the village during the day, the goblins might track them down and attack during the night, most likely during the darkest hour. They'll certainly attack anyone camping inside the village overnight.
In a fight, the goblins toss their javelins at whatever targets present them with clear shots. After the volley of javelins, the goblins scatter and try to hide amid the ruined buildings and weeds. If pursued, one or two goblins stand and fight while the rest try to circle behind the party and attack their rear ranks.
Wolf Skeletons (EL 3-5)
These creatures were animated from the remains of wolves the villagers killed while defending their livestock. Their creator might have been a necromancer who used the village as a base for awhile, or he might be a current resident (see the Goblin Adept entry, below). The skeletal wolves prowl the outskirts of the village, day and night. They'll attack any living creature they meet, except goblins.
Wolf Skeletons (2-6): hp 13 each; MM 133.
Tactics: The mindless skeletons simply attack the closest foe.
Bugbear Zombies (EL 4-7)
These creatures were once allies (or masters) of the local goblin tribe. As with the skeletons, the zombies' creator might have been a necromancer who used the village as a base for awhile. Or a current resident might have created the zombies (see the Goblin Adept entry, below).
Bugbear Zombies (2-6): hp 42 each; MM 267.
Tactics: The mindless zombies simply attack the closest foe.
Werewolves (EL 5-9)
This troupe of lycanthropes has a few companion wolves. An onslaught by these creatures (or their ancestors) might have destroyed the village, or the werewolves might simply find the place a good place for a lair. They and their wolves have taken up residence in the shrine.
Werewolves (2-5): hp 20 each; MM 175.
Wolves (5-8): hp 13 each; MM 283.
Tactics: The werewolves start in their human forms and pose as prospectors, trappers, or treasure hunters. They pretend to welcome any visitors to the village, such as the PCs. The werewolves claim they've had nobody to talk to -- except each other -- for much too long. (That might be completely true.) They drop a few hints that suggest they have a big secret, but seem reluctant to divulge it -- at least at first. After pretending to debate for awhile, they eventually offer the PCs a cut of their action. If the PCs press for details, the werewolves simply say that they have discovered a great treasure (they have in the form of the PCs and their goods).
The werewolves keep their wolves out of sight, probably in the vaults beneath the shrine. Once they have the PCs at ease, they make an excuse to slip out -- perhaps to fetch food or drink. Once out of sight, they shift to hybrid form and return to attack. Their wolves accompany them. Once a fight begins, the lycanthropes send their wolves against the party's fighting types while they attempt to slay the group's spellcasters. If they can't break through to the spellcasters, they switch to wolf form and use their bite and trip attacks against the front line.
Goblin Adept (EL 8)
Hoggnos, a goblin adept, has moved into the village, bringing his four goblin warrior bodyguards and his familiar, Phester, with him.
Hoggnos can cast the animate dead spell and he could have created the wolf skeletons and bugbear zombies mentioned earlier. If so, Hoggnos might call on those undead creatures for extra muscle in a fight. He and his living troops also might move in and ambush anyone who attacks the undead.
Hoggnos CR 6
Phester CR --
Hoggnos's Bodyguards CR 2
Whenever a fight begins, Hoggnos casts lightning bolt on the biggest group of enemies, and the bodyguards shoot arrows at what they judge to be the most vulnerable targets. After that, the whole group falls back, with the bodyguards keeping themselves between the foe and Hoggnos. The bodyguards keep shooting and Hoggnos uses the rest of his spells to best effect. He uses web if he can catch foes someplace where he can anchor the webbing (such as underground or indoors).
If the enemy gets within melee range, the bodyguards switch to their bastard swords, and they use their speed to set up flanking attacks. If a foe gets too close to Hoggnos or seems to be on the way to defeating his bodyguards, he casts command (mostly likely to flee or drop a weapon) on that opponent.
Medusas (EL 7-9)
One or two medusas have renovated one of the cottages and live there, posing as ascetics. They have turned quite a few visitors to stone over the years. They keep their handiwork in the shrine or in one of the barns.
Medusas (1-2): hp 33 each; MM 197.
Tactics: The medusas pretend to be peaceful, but wary of visitors. They greet the PCs coolly, then bid them to go quietly, lest they disrupt the serenity of the ruins any further. The medusas use their gaze attacks at the slightest provocation from the PCs. They might also consider one of the PCs an "interesting specimen" and try to get that character alone so they can quietly petrify their chosen subject. In any case, the medusas are canny enough to use their gaze attacks against combative foes and their ranged weaponry against spellcasters whenever they can do so without provoking attacks of opportunity.
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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