The Tunder-House

As I said on Friday, I’ve never written an adventure, before. This was a fun experiment, though I think I probably did too much work. The end result was about 10 pages long, and I haven’t yet formatted it, properly. If it doesn’t suck, I might put some energy into that. More on that, next time. For now, the (sort-of) five-room dungeon: The Tunder-House!

mossy_tree_house_by_yngvemartinussen-d6oz5phThe Tunder-House

The adventure starts when the characters are camping for the night, while traveling through a forest. It has been an uneventful, even boring, day, and the travellers are discussing who will cook, or what will be cooked, after doing some foraging and fishing in the nearby river. From deep in the forest, there is the sound of hunting horns, and minute later a dozen redcaps burst from the foliage and attack. They are uninterested in parlay, or even surrender, and fight until they are all killed.

At some point during the combat, each character should make a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw, and those with darkvision should make a DC 30 Wisdom (Perception) check. A character that fails the save starts whistling tunelessly, but there are otherwise no visible effects. A character that succeeds at the Wisdom (Perception check) notices that there is something large at the distance of their vision. As soon as it is observed, the creature retreats into the forest, using tree stride to escape a chase, if necessary.

Two more times during the night, the characters are awoken by redcap attacks, and while neither attack does notable damage, the waves keep the characters from sleeping (the redcaps focus on waking characters up over doing damage). The next day, the characters have not recovered hit dice or spells, and have one level of fatigue.

If the characters stays in the campsite, they are attacked by nereids during the day, although the nereids don’t kill, and retreat to the water to swim downstream as soon as they either bring two characters to 0 hit points, or are at half hit points. The rest of the day, whether they travel or stay, they are haunted by strange noises and plagued by mishaps: backpack straps break, belts slip off, and deep puddles suddenly appear underfoot.

By nightfall, the characters should be more fatigued, paranoid, and frustrated. As night falls, they hear the hunting horns again. In the woods, they can hear the sound of crashing, as though a large creature is barreling towards them. To their left, on the other side of a clearing, a porch light turns on, and they notice a house that seems to be hewn from the trees (describe more specifically).

Any character who succeeds at a DC 19 Wisdom (Perception) check sees a dozen banshrae, all in their mantis stance, stalking down the path towards the group, their movements sudden and jerky, as though they don’t so much walk as shift from place to place. They approach without fear, immune as they are to ranged attacks. Each stops one to use their blowgun on a different character. Any character that is successfully charmed or frightened by the banshrae hears sing-song voices in their heads, imploring that character to stay and play. If the characters insist on engaging with the banshrae, they will quickly be overwhelmed. Include the house in the initiative order, if combat is joined.

When the banshrae are nearly within striking distance, or on its turn during the first round of combat, the door to the house opens suddenly. Any frightened character recognizes the house as a safe place, and the charmed condition is removed from all characters. The banshrae immediately (or on their turn) retreat in the opposite direction from the house, and the voices in the characters’ heads become softer.

The entryway to the tree-house is a 15×15’ room. To the left of the door is a wooden coatrack and to the right are a hatrack and a shoerack, both also made of wood. As soon as the last character enters, a voice says, “Please remove your travelling clothes and be at ease.” Any character that removes hats, cloaks, coats, or shoes, will find them taken by an unseen servant and placed on the appropriate rack, where they will be cleaned and dried by prestidigitation. The unseen servant will not take weapons or armor, even if they are offered. In one corner of the room, there is a bubbling fountain that looks like a large egg, with drinkable water coming out the top and flowing into a basin, where it is magically purified. In the other corner rests an empty table. Each time the characters exit the foyer and return, this table holds a bowl of fruit, containing one piece for each character. The fruit looks and tastes like no fruit they have ever experienced, and replenishes one hit die, which the character can use to heal.

The square room contains a single door in the middle of each wall. The door the characters entered sits to the West, a dark wood with iron bands. If the characters try to open it, they find that it has locked behind them, though no mechanism is visible. Across the room, a heavy iron door with two knockers bearing the faces of gargoyles leads to the East. To the North, a simple stone door stands slightly ajar. A simple blonde-wooden door leads to the South (the hinges, handle, and lock of this door are made of wood, as well).

Gymnasium (north). A DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) or Dexterity (Stealth) check is required to look past the stone door to the north without moving it. On a failed check, the character taps the door, and it swings open with a loud creak. Either way, the character can clearly see the whole room: a brightly lit gymnasium, 40 feet wide and 50 feet deep, with a 20×30’ recessed area in the middle, four large pillars spaced out along the upper ledge. There are no other doors in the room, but sunlight steams in from window-slits along the top of the high walls. The architecture is reven, with sweeping arches and high ceilings. The entire space is covered in weapons, however: attached to the walls, laying on the floor, even hanging from the ceiling. Any weapon that the characters can imagine can be found here, including ammunition, all of them made of cold iron, dealing an additional 2d6 damage to fey creatures.

In the recessed area in the center of the room, a band of reven engages in mock combat. As soon as the characters enter, the reven cheer and join in battle against them. If the door was accidentally opened, making the reven aware that something is coming through it, they have advantage on their initiative checks. The reven allow the characters to move about the room, rather than choking them in doorway. They take cover from ranged attacks behind the pillars. Throughout the encounter, they bark orders at one another in draconic, acting more like a military unit than an adventuring party, and their actions are precisely coordinated. They will try to keep the characters alive for questioning., and yield if brought below 25% of their hit point totals. Regardless, they fight with a sense pure delight for the combat, but are not overly bloodthirsty.

If defeated, the reven refuse to give any information beyond their names. The reven believe that the characters have trapped them in the house, and while they appreciate being rescued from the “stabbing lights,” they want to return to their unit before they are declared deserters and court martialed in absentia. If the characters can convince the reven that someone else is responsible for their shared predicament, however, the reven become more talkative. The reven have no idea what is in the other doors, and have been in the house for two days, after being chased by “dozens of invisible dust motes.” They saw this room first, and have no interest in exploring the other rooms, believing that some foul magic has stolen them and preferring to heal in safety before they try to escape. They were scouts along the southern border plains city-states, watching for varanus raiding parties. None of them use magic, although all are accomplished warriors. They do not object to the characters taking cold iron weapons from the room, although they want to keep their own weapons and armor.

If the characters look at the windows, they find that it is mid-day, and they can see the coast. The windows do not open, and the walls and windows resist attempts to damage them.

Desert (west): When the characters approach the door to the West, one of the knockers begins to speak: “We are the guardians of this portal,” is says, its voice deep and stentorian. “One of us always lies and one always tells the truth. You may ask us one question.” The second knocker speaks, its voice high and reedy, “Choose carefully, or you will never enter this door.” In fact, both knockers can both lie and tell the truth, and the door is not locked. They just like playing games, and will test the characters’ ability to deal with frustration. Their goal is to reveal the characters as violent or hotheaded, then to remind the characters that the door is not looked, and that they have overlooked the obvious. “Do not believe everything your senses tell you,” is one of their parting jabs.

The knockers will give the characters additional chances to ask questions, and might even give hints if it keeps the game going longer. They particularly enjoy characters who are frustrated by the whole exercise, and if a character notices that the door is unlocked with a DC 25 Wisdom (Perception) check, or discerns that the game is rigged with a DC 15 Wisdom (Insight) check, they complain loudly about cheating and portend dire consequences for those who break the rules. They have no idea what is on the other side of their door. The knockers have a +10 to their Charisma (Bluff) skill rolls.

The door opens onto a vast, illusionary desert that stretches as far as the eye can see. Once characters step through the door, it disappears. If characters interact with the desert, they can make a DC 25 Wisdom saving throw to disbelieve it. If a character dealt with the knockers with a sense of humor, that character has advantage on the saving throw.

If any character disbelieves the illusion, it disappears, revealing a room full of skeletons of various races, which have been rotting in the room for various lengths of time. When the illusion fades, the door becomes visible once again. In the center of the room, on a small pedestal, rests a bag of magical dust that cannot be identified, except to know that it is magical. There is nothing else of interest in this room.

If all characters fail the saving throw, they are soon attacked by a gynosphinx (MM 282). The gynosphinx does not speak, and resists any attempts at reason or diplomacy. Its attacks do real damage, but each time it deals damage the damaged creature can attempt a new Wisdom saving throw to disbelieve the illusion, including the gynosphinx. During the attack, each character must make the saving throw to disbelieve separately. Each character that makes the save seems, to the others, to disappear without explanation.

Grotto (south). A note is pinned to the door with a simple dagger. It reads, “Save all those you can save.” The door opens onto an enormous grotto, its walls at least 60’ apart in every direction.

In opposite corners of the room, two scenes play out: on the western corner, a brownie is attacking a young boy. Along the eastern wall, a young girl is pulling the wings off of a sprite.

Neither attacker will stop without physical intervention, and intervening with one will give the other time to kill their prey. Both the girl and the sprite will fight any efforts to stop them, and both use the stats of a banshrae (without its blowgun).

There are four possible outcomes:

  • The characters do nothing, and both the boy and the sprite are killed.
  • The characters save the boy and allow the sprite to die.
  • The characters save the sprite and allow the boy to die.
  • The characters effectively split up and save both victims.

How the characters stop the fights is up to them. The boy being attacked can be removed from the room, effectively protecting him from the brownie. The girl attacking the sprite can be reasoned with, but it is not easy (DC 25 Charisma (Persuasion) check). The characters can kill the fey or either of the children (although killing the girl has serious repercussions, later). If the boy is saved, however, he kisses two characters on the cheek. If the sprite is saved, it does the same. Immediately after thanking the characters, the surviving combatants disappear. If the characters manage to save all four creatures, both the boy and girl thank the characters (the boy for saving his life, the girl for keeping her from doing something she would have to live with for the rest of her life), and the sprite nobly bows and says that it will not forget their kindness. The brownie never speaks, but leaves behind a magical dagger, unless it is slain.

After the surviving combatants disappear, the grotto remains, and the characters may camp out there, for a time, without risk of danger.

Return to the Foyer

After the characters have interacted with all three side-rooms, they return to a much-changed foyer. There are couches where the tables once stood, and two additional chairs: seating enough for all the characters and any guests they have group along (including retainers and the reven from the gymnasium, if necessary), all arranged to face a single large chair. In that chair sits an ancient, green-skinned tunder.

As the tunder speaks, its appearance shifts from female to male and back, and their skin color fades from bright green to red to orange to brown and back, again.

How the characters have behaved in the various rooms will determine how the tunder reacts to them, and what happens next.

If the characters have been bloodthirsty (killing the reven, slaying the sprite, allowed the little girl to slay the sprite, etc.), the tunder brusquely waves a hand at them to sit. “I am not here to play games,” they say. “But I had to take your measure. I would have spoken to you sooner, but I was busy dying. Forgive me. The house brought you here because out there is certain death. You were being hunted by a tunche, a fey creature of great power. The house, my house, rescues mortals like you, those being hunted by the fey. Now that it has you,” they point to the character or characters affected by the tunche’s whistle. “It can track you anywhere. It will never let you go. If it had caught you, it would have devoured you. Since you came into my house, I have learned much about you. I will allow you to choose: if you want to spend the rest of your days running, looking over your shoulder, waiting for the tunche to find you and bring you down like deer, the house will take you anywhere in the Summerlands and leave you there, to fend for yourself.

“If, instead, you want to make your stand in the same clearing you recently left, then the house and I will equip you for that stand. Choose now, and choose quickly, I do not have much time left.”

The tunder does not answer any questions, particularly those about their name or origin, saying only that time is short and the decision must come. If the characters choose to leave elsewhere, they are true to their word: the house brings the characters anywhere in the world, and disappears behind them as soon as the door closes. The tunche, however, will never stop tracking them, and it should catch them long before they are at an appropriate level to combat it effectively. This could be an ongoing struggle, or the characters might build up allies to combat it. Either way, when they leave the house they move outside the scope of this adventure.

If the characters instead choose to face the tunche immediately, the tunder smiles. “Good,” they say. “I like those who face death with a brave heart. I will help you, in this. In the war room, you will find weapons that are made to hurt fey. Please take as many as you like.” If the characters found the dust in the desert, the tunder explains what it does: as an attack, a character can throw a handful of the dust at the tunche. Unless the tunche succeeds at a DC 20 Constitution saving throw, it is stunned for one round, and its spells are disabled for an additional round. There are four doses of dust in the bag.

If the characters killed either the little boy or the little girl in the grotto, they receive no additional boons. Otherwise, however, each character kissed by a sprite or child gains resistance to all attacks by fey creatures for 24 hours after they leave the house.

After the weapons are chosen, the tunder waves their hand and the door opens. “We will not see each other again,” they say. “Fight well.”

If the characters have been passive (refusing to right the reven, letting the girl and the sprite kill one another, etc.) the tunder listlessly waves a hand at them to sit. “You do not know why you are here,” they say. “This has paralyzed you into inaction. We would have spoken sooner, but I was busy dying. This house intervenes to save mortals who are being hunted by the fey. I am happy to save those in need, and the house can bring you anywhere in the world. I do not recommend the forest from which you came. The tunche will devour you. Please choose quickly.”

The tunder does not answer any questions, particularly those about their name or origin, saying only that time is short and the decision must come. They are, however, true to their word: the house brings the characters anywhere in the world, and disappears behind them as soon as the door closes. The tunche, however, will never stop tracking them, and it should catch them long before they are at an appropriate level to combat it effectively. This could be an ongoing struggle, or the characters might build up allies to combat it. Either way, when they leave the house they move outside the scope of this adventure. The tunder has no use for those who are passive, and does not concern itself with their fate.

If the characters found the dust in the desert, she explains what it does: as an attack, a character can throw a handful of the dust at the tunche. Unless the tunche succeeds at a DC 20 Constitution saving throw, it is stunned for one round, and its spells are disabled for an additional round. There are four doses of dust in the bag.

If the characters were active enough in the grotto to save either the child or the fey, each character kissed by a sprite or child gains resistance to all attacks by fey creatures for 24 hours after they leave the house, though this resistance will have long faded by the time the tunche catches up with them.

If the characters have been compassionate but active (sparing at least some of the reven, trying to intervene in the sprite combats, etc.) the tunder warmly waves a hand at them to sit. “You have my sincerest apologies for testing you. I had to be sure of your hearts. The house brought you here because out there is certain death. You were being hunted by a tunche, a fey creature of great power. The house, my house, rescues mortals like you, those being hunted by the fey. Now that it has you,” they point to the character or characters affected by the tunche’s whistle. “It can track you anywhere. It will never let you go. If it had caught you, it would have devoured you.

“For centuries, this house and I have gone where we were needed, rescuing mortals like you and the reven in other room. Though it is small, this house has great power. I am dying. I may already have died. I’m not sure. I need brave, compassionate, worthy souls to take my position, here, to rescue those in need. In exchange, the house can take you anywhere you want to go in the Summerlands.

“If you want this, the house and I will help you in your battle against the tunche. If not, I understand. It is much to ask. If you refuse, we will help you as much as we can, but we cannot stay. I must find worthy replacements before the magic begins to fade.

“You must face the tunche here, now. It will be weakened and you will be strong. You will have tools. In the war room, you will find weapons that are made to hurt fey. Please take as many as you like.” If the characters did not find it, particularly if they refused to fight the sphinx, the tunder gives them the dust and explains what it does. (If they found it, the tunder simply explains.) As an attack, a character can throw a handful of the dust at the tunche. Unless the tunche succeeds at a DC 20 Constitution saving throw, it is stunned for one round, and its spells are disabled for an additional round. There are four doses of dust in the bag.

Each character kissed by a sprite or child gains resistance to all attacks by fey creatures for 24 hours after they leave the house. In addition, if they saved the sprite, the creature appears and greets them with delight. The sprite is a manifestation of the house, and will fight alongside them (using the statistics of a lurker-in-light).

Once the characters are ready, the tunder wishes them well and the door opens onto the clearing they left.

Clearing the Way

The clearing is littered with banshrae bodies. Three banshrae still stand, though they refuse to approach the house. The dead banshrae are clustered around the door to the house, apparently killed by its defenses.

The tunche is waiting with the remaining banshrae to finish its hunt. The clearing has been affected by the magic of the house and the magic of the tunche, however. The clearing itself should have an place in the initiative, and on its turn, roll on the following table to see how it influences the combat:

2d6 roll Effect
2 Reverse Gravity: Any creature that is not flying “falls” 60 feet upwards. No creature is considered to be touching the ground for purposes of spells or effects, and all creatures gain disadvantage on melee attacks. On the clearing’s next turn, all creatures fall and must succeed at a DC 20 Dexterity (Acrobatics) saving throw or take damage.
3 Night-into-Day: In a turn, 24 hours passes. The sun rises and sets, and all creatures, including the characters, they fey, and any allies, are treated as though they have taken a long rest.
4 Steam Jets: Geothermal vents in the ground open up. Everyone in the clearing must succeed at a DC 20 Dexterity saving throw or be knocked prone and take 6d10 fire damage.
5 Trees: Trees spring up randomly around the clearing, disappearing seconds later. For one round, everyone in the clearing has partial cover, and no one is considered adjacent to another creature unless they take a move action to change their position.
6 Sinkholes: Everyone in the clearing must make a DC 20 Dexterity saving throw or fall into a sinkhole. The sinkholes are 20 feet deep, and require a Strength (Athletics) check to climb out of. At the beginning of the clearing’s next turn, the sinkholes disappear, but do not eject creatures trapped within. Those creatures must now succeed at a DC 25 Strength (Athletics) check to dig themselves out or be buried alive.
7 Heal: Everyone in the clearing is healed as though they had spent half of their maximum hit die.
8 Tremor: All creatures concentrating on a spell must succeed at a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or lose their concentration.
9 Bats: The clearing suddenly fills with bats. The bats do not attack, but provide concealment to all creatures, and deny all creatures line of sight for spells and effects until the beginning of the clearing’s next turn.
10 Frost: The clearing becomes suddenly freezing cold, stiffening characters’ abilities to react. Until the beginning of the clearing’s next turn, no creature may act outside of its turn, including reactions and legendary actions.
11 Year-to-year: On the clearing’s turn, one year passes. The characters become one year older, and gain one level.
12 Roll twice, adding an additional roll each time a twelve is rolled.

Wrap-up

The tunder is true to their word, and either deposits the characters at a location of their choosing, or hands the house over, if they have earned that reward. There is little time to explain, however, as the energies keeping the tunder alive (or keeping its spirit in the house) dissipate as soon as a successor is chosen. The characters will have to learn for themselves what the house can do, and how they can best use it to help victims of the fey. They could make a considerable difference in the lives of Summerlanders, if they choose to. The house, however, is less likely to bring them to places they want to go to than places where they are needed. That, however, is another adventure, entirely.

Next time: Summerlands wrap-up, and thoughts on where I’m going, from here.

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