Normally, the adventure hooks in this column focus on a concept, such as wilderness fires or wizard dangers. This month, however, our theme is the soon-to-be released Player's Handbook 2. It's full of new goodies for Dungeons & Dragons play, and we hope you can use some of the following ideas to introduce Player's Handbook 2 newness to your game without needing to create new characters.
Stopping the Goblin Hordes
"Who are these?" the captain asks, pointing at you.
"I think they're adventurers, sir. We stopped them as they sought to enter the area."
"Good enough, sergeant." Turning to you, the captain says, "You've been warned about the goblins, right? No? I see from your expressions that you haven't heard. Sergeant, give them the standard warning, and then send them away. And when you're done with that, send Wilk's company to Zaria's grove. We think that the druid's grove can check the progress of the goblin horde and buy us some time. We don't have to hold the grove indefinitely, though that's what Zaria would like. We just have to buy some time."
"But Wilk's company hasn't returned from that . . . other . . . mission you sent them on," replies the sergeant. "And we can't spare anyone else; we're still waiting on reinforcements from the king."
"We've got to act quickly if those reinforcements are going to find anyone to reinforce, Sergeant." Then the captain pauses and turns to look at you again. "Adventurers, eh?" he says.
Select or generate story elements from this table.
1. Goblin tribes from the wastes over the mountains are invading the lands of civilized folk. This happens every couple of decades, but usually most die in the mountains on the way. This time, they had an underground passage and they all survived, so the danger is great.
2. Zaria is a druid whose grove is in the path of the goblin invasion. It could provide a good location to hold off the goblins. More importantly, however, Zaria is a personal friend (or lover) of the captain of the army. He has more than a tactical interest in protecting her.
3. Zaria is actually a dryad or other fey creature posing as a human druid so that she can charm and steal men from the nearby towns. Should the PCs succeed in stopping the goblins at her grove, she turns her attention and charms toward the group.
4. Zaria's grove is on top of a site of ancient power and a gate to some far away plane. The captain knows this, though the sergeant doesn't, and the captain is worried that the goblins could gain control of the site. He hopes that a stalling battle there will divert their attention away from looking around too closely.
5. The goblin horde is made up of more than just goblins. It includes some half-orcs and shifters as well, plus hobgoblins and bugbears. The creatures are led by members of their races who have studied magic or the fighting arts.
6. There is no goblin invasion. The PCs have only these soldiers' word for it, after all. The army is really an army of thugs and thieves who are trying to take control of the villages in the region. The captain wants to be a warlord. The whole druid grove angle is a way to get rid of the PCs without letting them tell anyone about the captain before he has cemented his control. The PCs could wait days with no attack at the grove, or the attackers could be other humanoids hired at the last minute by the captain to support the lie.
Is He Lying?
The gnome bard ends a song about an epic quest to free a land from a dragon, then begins a story about a forgotten tomb. One nearby listener asks no one in particular, "Do you think the stuff in that last song happened?"
A woman nearby responds. "Most of what Pock sings about isn't true, and he's not any more reliable off stage. He likes to be important, so he pretends to know things. And we're sure he's involved in every criminal activity in town. He just looks shifty. Parts of this story might be true, but I'd say most of it is a load of . . ."
The woman's words trail off for a moment, then pick back up. "He's entertaining, though. I'll give him that. You almost wish the things he said were true, just so life would be more interesting."
Just then, Pock comes to the climax of his story and stops. "And the adventurers perished, to a man . . . and woman. The forgotten tomb remained forgotten -- except by me. You see, I was one of those adventurers. It's not one of my proudest moments, but I ran in the face of that danger, and I survived. And I am the only one who knows where the forgotten tomb is, and where its vast treasure is. For that's where they made their stand, on the treasure hoard. I'd love to go back and claim that treasure. . . ." He stops speaking and gets a faraway look in his eyes. Then he returns to the present. "One more, and then I have to take a break." With that, he launches into a rowdy drinking song.
Note: If this isn't enough to get the PCs to talk to Pock during his break, he can approach them with vague ideas about going to the tomb with them.
1. Pock tells lies to seem important, not out of malicious motivations. It makes him kind of like the boy who cried wolf, though, because now no one really believes him and he wants them to do so.
2. Pock is a malicious criminal whose every lie and truthful statement are designed to create impressions in the minds of his listeners. He is a master at manipulating those around him for his own ends.
3. Pock himself never tells lies, but the events in his songs and stories are so fantastic as to seem impossible, and thus people assume he is exaggerating or lying.
Select or generate story elements from this table.
1. Pock really does know the location of a forgotten tomb full of treasure, but it is not where he says in the story, and in fact the story has little similarity with the actual tomb. Why give away the real information? He fills the PCs in on the real situation on the road, or he doesn't and lets them discover as they go that they have the wrong information.
2. The forgotten tomb is the lair of a lich, and that Pock does not know. The lich is active in the tomb, and was responsible (though not directly) for the deaths.
3. The forgotten tomb was forgotten because the person originally interred there was moved long ago, along with his or her treasure. But the tomb has become occupied by something else with a treasure, so Pock's details will be off.
4. There is no tomb at all. Pock is lying to get someone to go with him to the location he claims is the tomb. In reality, the location is a demon prison and Pock cannot free the demon on his own. As soon as someone enters the "tomb," the demon is freed.
5. Rumors are available from other sources about this tomb, and they give different accounts of how much treasure is buried in the tomb.
6. The tomb might have been forgotten, but it has inhabitants that have developed their own societies in the intervening years or centuries. Vampire communities subsisting on goblin and dwarf warrens, animated statue guardians, and descendants of servants that were buried alive are just some of the creatures there. The treasure is the centerpiece of this little civilization, and stealing it would set everyone against the PCs.
As an added bonus, here's a look at two sample musical instruments from the pages of the Player's Handbook 2:
The wondrous items in chapter three are musical instruments. Any class can use musical instruments, but the items are particularly appealing to bards. A bard can use certain instruments as implements for bard powers as well as bard paragon path powers. A few instruments also have powers that are enhanced if used by a bard who has the Song of Rest class feature.
Using a Musical Instrument: Like other wondrous items, a musical instrument doesn’t take up an item slot. However, to use an instrument’s properties and powers, you must be holding and playing the instrument as appropriate: strumming a lute, sounding a horn, and so on.
This small black horn produces no noise when sounded, but it awakens your slumbering friends and makes them ready to fight.
Wondrous Item 4,200 gp
Power (Daily): Minor Action. The horn silently awakens each sleeping ally within 10 squares of you. Each ally is not surprised when he or she wakes up.
This harp calls down the fury of the storm and grants it to all listeners.
Wondrous Item 2,625,000 gp
Property: Bards can use this item as an implement for bard powers and bard paragon path powers. As an implement, it grants a +6 enhancement bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls, and it deals 6d6 extra damage on a critical hit.
Power (Daily): Standard Action. Use this power during a short rest. At the end of the short rest, you and each ally who remained within 20 squares of you during the rest are affected by this power. Until the end of each affected character’s next short rest or extended rest, his or her attacks deal 5 extra lightning damage.
The wreckage was strewn about the road and the surrounding land. Remains of wagons lay everywhere, along with bodies and the carcasses of horses (not always in one piece). Large and deep footprints in the chaos indicate that whoever did this was at least 7 feet tall and weighed over 300 pounds. A broken big heavy club confirms the size of the attackers. The eighteen people in this caravan clearly never had a chance.
In the middle of the wreckage stands a woman dressed in brown and armed to the teeth. Looking at you as you approach, she says, "Terrible, isn't it? It looks like goliaths did this. Seen any?"
Select or generate story elements from this table.
1. The woman is a ranger named Ellia, and she found this wreckage site about 15 minutes ago. She has been looking around, and her prints are mixed in with the rest. She wants to find whoever did this.
2. A group of rogue goliath barbarians came down from their hill settlement and attacked this caravan for the goods. They ruthlessly killed everyone and carried off the goods.
3. The attackers were bugbears, but they are trying to act like goliaths because it is known that a clan of them live in the region. By shifting the blame, they can continue raiding while retaliation goes uselessly against the innocent goliaths.
4. The woman is part of the raiding group, or maybe the leader. She is staying behind to provide false information and lead any pursuers off in the wrong direction because the goliath barbarians are moving slowly with the weight of their loot.
5. The goliaths are responsible, but they are stealing it for a dragon that is threatening their settlement.