I recently heard a panel discussion where Wolfgang Baur said that adventures are the best way to build a game world, because people play adventures. The idea is that a world without adventures is built for nothing, because players have nothing to do in it. That makes sense, but it’s a little intimidating for me: I’ve never written an adventure. I don’t really read adventures, either. I read setting books and world-books all the time, because I like world-building, but even when I’m running them I tend to skim adventures, because I make things up on the fly.
Still, I like to experiment and challenge myself, so I’m giving this adventure-writing thing a shot. In less than 2000 words, there isn’t much space to really “build an adventure,” so instead I’ll put in a couple of seeds, a rough outline, and some monsters. Next time, a tighter adventure, maybe.
Betrayal at Mahana Wai
(An adventure for low-level characters in the Summerlands)
Mahana Wai is a bustling resort town on the central coast, a half-day’s journey from the great lighthouse at Twilight’s Eye. With its many geothermal pools, Mahana Wai is one of the few coastal cities with a real hospitality industry: its dozens of inns, taverns, and shops cater to sea kin and others who come for the relaxation and medicinal qualities of the pools. The tourism industry in Mahana Wai is strengthened by the difficulty in settling there. Residency, and the ability to build a new house that comes with it, are only granted by permission of the town mayor, and such dispensations are only typically granted to close relatives (though it is said that anyone with enough coin, regardless of their actual relation, or even their race, can become a relative of the mayor).
When a Kato Hightide, a wealthy landowner, is found dead on the beach, everyone assumes that he was killed by a selkie, and the mayor begins taking bids on his extensive lands (which if broken up, could be sold to more than a dozen new arrivals. While Hightide’s wounds look to have been made by claws of some kind, his wife is convinced that he was not killed by a selkie (and she has good reason to believe that, as she is a selkie, herself, who gave up her life to be with him). Was he killed by the mayor, to open up expansion? Was it one of the wealthy bidders, looking a quick way to settle in town? Could it be the town sheriff, who is clearly in love with Hightide’s wife? Whoever it is, how could they have made it look like a selkie attack? Did they make a deal with a local sahuagin tribe? Did they hire one of the varanus that lives outside of town?
As they investigate the murder (perhaps at the request of the widow, who can certainly pay, or on orders from the sheriff or the mayor, looking for outsiders to take the fall), the party will encounter sea kin toughs, sahuagin squatters, and a wealthy reven looking to retire by the sea, all of whom know more than they let on.
The Fallen Tower
(An adventure for 4-6th level characters)
On the northern coast, west of the Seaway River, reven and sea kin loggers fell mighty redwood trees, while grippli and wildren observers make sure that replacements are planted and treaties are respected. Such work is always dangerous, though it is made easier by the reven ability to glide, and the sea kin facility with water. All the same, accidents are expected, and casualties are part of the job. Recently, though, loggers have been going missing during the night.
The reven suspect wildren, and tensions in the camp are high, with neither group trusting the other to solve the disappearances to their satisfaction. Outside contractors are called in. The adventurers might discover that a wildren war-band has been sabotaging the logging operations, but they, too, have been losing members during the night.
Both sets of disappearances can be tracked to a fallen tower, outside of town. Once the laboratory of wildren druid/wizard, the tower has spent a decade laying on its side, sinking into the mud. Outside, the ruin is home to swarms of bloodflies and hawkwasps, but inside there is evidence of a great battle. Skeletons of aarakocra lie among the remains of creatures that are part ape, part… something else.
While many of the wizard’s experiments escaped, some have made their homes in the tower’s ruins: spined apes, a pair of oranagons, (in a flooded room) a small tribe of apetapuses, all answering to a mighty girallon.
In the sunken room, explorers can find a cache of broken dragon eggs. In another room, bodies of reven loggers, each brutally slain. Finally, in the wizard’s laboratory, the girallon’s lair, a gruesome sight: the wizard’s corpse, half-frozen and half-burned by dragonfire as punishment for his desecration of the dragon eggs. Nearby, broken wildren, killed in the girallon’s misguided attempt to put the wizard back together.
What secrets can be found in the wizard’s hidden notebooks? What other foul experiments roam the countryside as a result of his work?
Medium beast, unaligned
Armor Class 14 (natural armor)
Hit Points 22 (4d8 + 4)
Speed 30 ft., climb 20 ft.
STR 16 (+3) DEX 14 (+2) CON 13 (+1) INT 5 (-3) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 8 (-1)
Skills Athletics +5, Acrobatics +4
Senses passive Perception 10
Challenge 1 (200 xp)
Spiked Hide. When the spined ape is hit with a melee attack, the attacker takes 2 damage.
Multiattack. The spined ape makes two attacks. The spined ape can make a melee and a ranged attack in the same round.
Fist. Melee weapon attack. +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) bludgeoning and piercing damage.
Slam. Melee weapon attack. +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d68+ 3) bludgeoning and piercing damage.
Spines. Ranged weapons attack. +4 to hit, range 30/60, one target. Hit 6 (1d6 + 3) piercing damage.
Medium beast, unaligned
Armor Class 13
Hit Points 50 (8d8 + 24)
Speed 10 ft., swim 30 ft.
STR 16 (+3) DEX 16 (+3) CON 16 (+3) INT 8 (-4) WIS 14 (+2) CHA 8 (-1)
Skills Athletics +5, Acrobatics +4, Perception +4, Stealth +4
Senses passive Perception 12
Challenge 2 (450 xp)
Amphibious. The apetopus can breathe air and water.
Multiattack. The apetopus makes two melee attacks or one ink cloud attack.
Fist. Melee weapon attack. +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) bludgeoning damage.
Tentacles. Melee weapon attack. +5 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) bludgeoning damage, and the target is grappled (escape DC 14). Until this grapple ends, the apetopus can’t use its tentacles on another target.
Ink Cloud (Recharges after a Short or Long Rest). A 10-foot-radius cloud of ink extends all around the apetopus if it is underwater. The area is heavily obscures for 1 minute, although a significant current can dispense the ink. After releasing the ink, the apetopus can use the Dash action as a bonus action.
Large beast, unaligned
Armor Class 14 (natural armor)
Hit Points 96 (12d10 + 36)
Speed 50 ft.
STR 18 (+4) DEX 12 (+1) CON 16 (+3) INT 6 (-2) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 6 (-2)
Skills Perception +2
Senses blindsight 10 ft., darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages Draconic (can’t speak)
Challenge 4 (1,100 xp)
Resistance: The orangagon gains resistance to a type of damage based on its color.
Breath Weapon (Recharge 5-6). The orangagon exhales a breath weapon based on its color. Each creature in the area must make a saving throw, taking 24 damage on a failed save, or half as much on a successful one.
|Black||15-foot line of acid, 5 feet wide||DC 11 Dexterity saving throw|
|Blue||30-foot line of lightning, 5 feet wide||DC 12 Dexterity saving throw|
|Green||15-foot cone of poison||DC 11 Constitution saving throw|
|Red||15-foot cone of fire||DC 13 Dexterity saving throw|
|White||15-foot cone of cold||DC 12 Dexterity saving throw|
Multiattack. The orangagon makes three melee attacks.
Fist. Melee weapon attack. +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8 + 4) bludgeoning damage.
Claw. Melee weapon attack. +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8 + 4) slashing damage.
Bite. Melee weapon attack. +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 4) piercing damage, and the target is grappled (escape DC 14). While the target is grappled, the orangagon can use its breath weapon to affect the target, which takes disadvantage on the saving throw. When used in this way, the orangagon’s breath weapon does not affect the area listed above.
Large beast, unaligned
Armor Class 15 (natural armor)
Hit Points 150 (12d10 + 36)
Speed 40 ft., climb 40 ft.
STR 18 (+4) DEX 16 (+3) CON 16 (+3) INT 9 (-1) WIS 12 (+2) CHA 8 (-1)
Skills Athletics +6, Acrobatics +5, Perception +4, Stealth +5
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 14
Challenge 6 (2,300 xp)
Four-armed terror: The girallon can take three reactions per round in combat.
Multiattack. The girallon makes four melee attacks.
Claw. Melee weapon attack. +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8 + 4) slashing damage. If the girallon hits the same target with two claw attacks, the creature is grappled (escape DC 15). Until the grapple ends, the target is restrained and the girallon can’t make claw attacks against another target.
Bite. Melee weapon attack. +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d10 + 4) piercing damage, and the target is grappled (escape DC 15). Until the grapple ends, the target is restrained and the girallon can’t bite another target.
Shake: The girallon makes one bite attack against a creature that it is grappling. If the attack hits, the girallon shakes the creature violently, doing 19 (3d10 + 4) points of damage.
Hacking The Antagonists
I love the idea of a wildren druid-mage to committed to their ape-related magic that all their creatures are ape hybrids. It’s like the wizard who created the owlbear, except they’re asking “What does this ape need to be more awesome? Octopus genes!” The tower doesn’t have to be in the Summerlands, and the druid doesn’t have to be a wildren: D&D worlds are full of wizards who are over-enthusiastic about their theme. The same wizard would probably have ape-related spells, as well: “Ape Climb” and “Howl of the Silverback,” or something.
The adventures are one-page seeds, which should be enough to get started on them. These were meant to be quick-and-dirty prompts, because I wanted more than one.