Vicious Venues
Oakknoll Wainwright
By Skip and Penny Williams

Oakknoll Wainwright contains a 9th-level encounters
and is suitable for use with any D&D campaign.

Wagons and wagon wheels are vital implements in most D&D game worlds, even if the majority of adventurers don't have much use for them. Nearly everyone else, from the lowliest farmer to the richest merchant, has a wagon or carriage for hauling freight or just for getting around. Oakknoll Wainwright is, at least at first glance, simply a place where these important, though mundane conveyances are made and repaired. Some wagons -- and some wainwrights -- hold secrets worth knowing, however.

Background for the DM

Naibrar Meliasae, the elf owner and chief wheel and wainwright at Oakknoll Wainwright, is at a stage in life that most elves reach sooner or later. He has an urge to see the world, meet its people, and perfect an art. Naibrar's path to self-actualization, however, has taken an unusual turn. After several years of successful adventures as a conjurer, Naibrar discovered he had a knack for making things (after he had occasion to craft or repair a few wagon wheels for stranded travelers). Sometime thereafter, Naibrar obtained the deed to a hill thickly covered with a mixed forest of oaks and other hardwoods. Naibrar then realized that by going into business for a short while (perhaps a century or so), he could both hone his creative skills and meet an endless parade of different people.

Today, Naibrar and a team of workers (mostly humans and tallfellow halflings) harvest trees from Naibrar's wooded hill and use the lumber to make carts and wagons of all types. Naibrar also does repairs and makes wheels for sale to other wagon makers. Though Naibrar's wheels are standardized, all his carts and wagons are custom work, designed and built especially for each customer.

Naibrar likes a challenge and will take on nearly any sort of commission for a special wagon. He has built many halfling house wagons and a large assortment of specialty wagons -- including many fitted with false bottoms and secret compartments. Naibrar suspects the latter were intended for smuggling, but decided to accept the task of making them anyway, just to see if he could do it.

Naibrar does most of the work himself, except for preparing raw lumber and any really heavy work. As a consequence, he works around the clock. Before dawn each day he's busy at his forge, making iron or steel wheel rims and other fittings for whatever projects he currently has in progress. Throughout the morning he works at cutting and shaping wooden parts. He takes a break around noon for a light meal and spends a few hours handling paperwork, billing, orders for supplies, and other sit-down tasks. In the afternoons, he test-fits what he has created that morning and spends the remainder of the afternoon and evening assembling his wares. Each evening, he spends a few hours in trance before arising to plan the next day's activities and start the whole cycle again. Naibrar's assistants find his boundless energy a source of wonder and amusement.

Though he fills his days with work, Naibrar doesn't keep a rigid schedule. He occasionally declares a personal holiday, which he usually spends roaming the countryside and enjoying nature. He sometimes takes longer trips to visit friends or family (he has a son living with older relatives about two days' ride away).

Even on workdays, Naibrar adjusts his schedule to best serve his goals for the day. For example, on days when his assistants cut and stack lumber, Naibrar usually drops his other tasks to supervise the operation. No matter what he's doing at the time, Naibrar always takes at least a few minutes to talk with any customers who drop in.

The Setup

As noted earlier, Naibrar's business is located at the foot of the wooded hill he owns. The site is located on a fairly well-traveled road on the outskirts of a small town or village in a heavily forested area. It's possible, however, that Oakknoll Wainwright is located in a more urban area. In that case, Naibrar's hill might be the only wooded land for miles around. In any case, Naibrar lives in an area where there is an elf colony or where elves make up a substantial percentage of the population.

Player characters might pass by Oakknoll Wainwright several times without noticing the place. They might stop there to purchase a vehicle, to have a vehicle repaired, or perhaps to sell one. It's also possible that something else will draw a group to the place:

  • As Naibrar suspects, some of his special wagons have been used for smuggling. The authorities have seized several of these wagons, and they believe that Naibrar is a smuggler himself. The authorities hire the PCs to investigate Naibrar's role in the smuggling operation. Meanwhile, the smugglers believe that Naibrar sold them out and vow revenge. The smugglers might send thugs to deal with Naibrar, giving the PCs a chance to identify the smuggler leadership, or the smugglers might try to mislead the PCs by implicating Naibrar in their plots.

  • An entire caravan of goods carried in wagons Naibrar built has gone missing recently and his customers blame Naibrar for the loss. Naibrar isn't legally bound to respond, but the charge of providing faulty goods has affected him deeply (the situation is bad for business as well). Naibrar hires the PCs to track down the lost caravan and find out what happened to it.

    The caravan wasn't lost because of faulty wagons from Naibrar. Perhaps bandits or a monster attacked, or perhaps a dishonest guide led it astray.

  • There has been a rash of fatal accidents recently among well-heeled aristocrats and wealthy business people. The wheels on their expensive carriages have failed when moving at very high speeds. One victim's family hires the PCs to investigate the incident, and Naibrar provided at least some of the (apparently) faulty wheels.

    It might simply be a coincidence that several similar accidents have occurred, but perhaps someone staged all the accidents to cover a single assassination. Or perhaps several different killers have decided to use a similar technique. The carriage wheels might simply have been sabotaged (with the Disable Device skill) or perhaps they were built to collapse deliberately. In the latter case, Naibrar might be responsible for the trick wheels. Perhaps he simply could not resist the challenge of making them. More likely, however, he recognized how dangerous trick wheels would be. In that case, Naibrar would have refused to make them. A rival (possibly a former assistant who bears Naibrar a grudge) actually made the trick wheels.

  • An infamous spy or outlaw has been identified and pursued through the area where Oakknoll Wainwright is located. The fugitive, however, seems to have vanished and is presumed to be hiding somewhere nearby. The PCs are hired to track down the fugitive.

    The fugitive was hidden in a wagon (possibly in a secret compartment or possibly simply hidden in the cargo). The wagon has been brought to Naibrar ostensibly for a repair (or perhaps the repair is genuine). Either Naibrar or one of his assistants has hidden the fugitive. The visitor might be concealed somewhere in a complex of buildings that the business uses, or perhaps somewhere on the wooded slopes above. The fugitive also could be hidden in plain sight as one of Naibrar's assistants. The person hiding the fugitive might be an accomplice or a paid servant. Or perhaps the fugitive has a relative or longtime friend at Oakknoll Wainwright.

Visiting the Oakknoll Wainwright (EL 9)

Naibrar's business occupies a small complex of buildings that house all phases of wagon construction, from cutting and curing lumber to forging metal parts to final assembly and painting.

A well-traveled road winds past a hillside covered with broad-leafed trees, and a deep gully with a trickle of water running through its depths separates the road from the hillside. A trail branches from the road and crosses the gully via a stone bridge wide enough for one lane of traffic. The trail winds uphill perhaps a bowshot before entering a clearing encircled by a low stone wall.

A two-story wooden building stands at the trailhead. The lower floor features a tall doorway wide enough for a formal coach, and a weathered wagon wheel hangs over this doorway.

Visitors can walk right onto the property anytime. Naibrar doesn't feel the need to keep regular business hours because customers can find him at work just about anytime. When the PCs visit, he assumes they're customers. He's accustomed to adventurers, so he reacts with equanimity to whatever they say. Read or paraphrase the following when they arrive.

A handsome elf with weathered features looks up from his work. "Greetings, travelers!" he says with a smile. "If you seek a wheeled conveyance of any sort for your travels, I have many options to choose from. Or, if you need a custom vehicle, I can make one to your specifications. So what shall it be? A sturdy wagon to transport crops to market? A gilded carriage for riding to fancy soirees in style? An armored war chariot? Or will you challenge my creativity in some other way?" The corners of his mouth lift in a smile that does not quite touch his shrewd eyes.

Naibrar usually conducts business in the main shop (see below). The major buildings on the site include the following:

The Main Shop: This is the building described above. The ground floor is given over to a spacious workshop where Naibrar does most of his work. A floor-to-ceiling tool rack fills the back wall. Workbenches fill the wall on the right side. The left wall has a desk and staircase leading to the second floor. The center of the floor usually contains Naibrar's current project.

The upper floor contains Naibrar's living quarters and an archive of plans and specifications for past projects.

Stable: A simple wooden building behind the main shop has stalls for three draft horses. A loft above holds grain and fodder.

The Smithy: A small brick building just uphill from the main shop houses a forge, metalworking tools, and a supply of charcoal.

Lumber Drying Sheds: Two long, low wooden buildings upslope from the smithy and main shop are filled with racks where Naibrar stores and cures freshly cut lumber.

Creatures: Naibrar has one to three workmen to assist him most days; use the statistics for 1st-level rogues from the Dungeon Master's Guide. These employees go home before dark each day and return just after dawn. During the workday, one usually accompanies Naibrar, and the others (if present) are at work elsewhere on the property.

Naibrar also has acquired a pair of hammerers to assist with security and heavy labor. Unless he has the automatons working on a special task, Naibrar usually keeps them out of sight but fairly close at hand, in case he needs their help.

Hammerers (2): hp 27 each; MM II 27.

Naibrar Meliasae CR 8
Male elf conjurer 7/expert 2
CGMedium humanoid
Init +2; Senses low-light vision; Listen +4, Spot +4
Languages Common, Draconic, Elven, Gnome

AC 16, touch 13, flat-footed 14
(+2 Dex, +2 armor, +1 deflection, +1 natural)
hp 26 (9 HD)
Immune sleep
Fort +2, Ref +6, Will +10

Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee mwk longsword +5 (1d8/19-20) or
Ranged mwk longbow +7 (1d8/x3)
Base Atk +4; Grp +4
Atk Options Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot
Combat Gearpotion of cure light wounds, potion of cure moderate wounds, scroll of slow, scroll of phantom steed, wand of Melf's acid arrow (21 charges)
Conjurer Spells Prepared (CL 7th):
4th -- Evard's black tentacles (+15 grapple), ice storm
3rd -- displacement, fireball (DC 16), fly, stinking cloud (DC 16)
2nd -- glitterdust (DC 15), protection from arrows, see invisibility, shatter (DC 15), summon swarm
1st -- expeditious retreat, grease (DC 14), magic weapon, shield, true strike, unseen servant
0 -- arcane mark, detect magic (2), light, mage hand
Opposition Schools enchantment, necromancy

Abilities Str 11, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 17, Wis 14, Cha 10
SQ elf traits
Feats Combat Casting, Craft Wondrous Item[B], Lightning Reflexes, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Scribe Scroll[B]
Skills Appraise +3 (+5 when appraising wood, metal, or wheels), Concentration +9, Craft (blacksmithing) +13, Craft (wheelwright) +13, Craft (woodworking) +13, Diplomacy +2, Heal +4, Knowledge (arcana) +12, Listen +4, Profession (herbalist) +11, Search +5, Sense Motive +8, Spellcraft +14, Spot +4
Possessions combat gear plus +1 amulet of natural armor, +2 bracers of armor, +1 ring of protection, masterwork longsword, masterwork longbow, 20 arrows, masterwork woodworking tools, masterwork metalworking tools, silver and bloodstone headband (50 gp)
Spellbook spells prepared plus 0 -- acid splash, dancing lights, detect poison, flare, ghost sound, mending, open/close, prestidigitation, ray of frost, read magic, resistance; 1st -- mount, Tenser's floating disk; 2nd -- locate object, Melf's acid arrow; 3rd -- dispel magic, tongues; 4th -- minor creation

Tactics: Naibrar thinks of himself as a skilled craftsman, not a combatant. He prefers to retreat if attacked, and he casts the expeditious retreat spell defensively to gain some distance between himself and the foe. If attackers pursue (or begin looting or damaging the shop), Naibrar moves toward his hammerers, casting grease and stinking cloud to delay his pursuers if necessary.

Once he can bring the automatons into play, he uses them as bodyguards and casts Evard's black tentacles at any characters he finds physically threatening. If necessary, he uses shield, protection from arrows, or displacement (or possibly all three) for personal defense. He uses ice storm and fireball whenever he can aim them to deal damage to the majority of his foes, and uses shatter (aimed at a weapon) against anyone who closes to melee range. If he finds himself running out of spells, he uses arrows or Melf's acid arrow spells from his wand (+6 ranged touch) to keep up the pressure on the foe.

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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