This will be a starting adventure for characters of 1st to 5th level*. The basic premise will be that the party will be travelling in the wilderness. This is not a particularly strong raison d’etre but it does mean that this also could serve as a drop in side quest to another adventure.
The main monster in this adventure will be Gorcrows. Gorcrows, if you are not familiar with them are 1st level, 20hits and AT1 but they have a 55DB. Their attacks are pretty feeble 10 SPi/10 SCl/30 MCl (3). When on the ground their DB is halved and they cannot use their claw attack. The number encountered is 5-50, so we get pretty big flocks of Gorcrows to play with. This is another monster that exists in C&T, C&M and CrL so it is safe to use. What I like about them is that they are both easily imagined and are both monstrous and menacing with their 8′ wingspan.
So the opening scene has the characters travelling when they will see the flock of birds circling, vulture-like, up ahead and diving down at something out of sight on the ground. Whether they choose to hasten and investigate or not as the site in actually on their path they will come across the location anyway.
When the characters reach the site of activity the Gorcrows will still be in a feeding frenzy.
Encounter: I would suggest three Gorcrows per PC but every gorcrow that is wounded will flee. They are feeding only because this is free food. If the Gorcrows have the initiative then they will fight launching into the air to use their superior speed and claw attacks.
Once the flock has fled they will stream away to the south. The sheer number of them should be exaggerated by having them circle the site a couple of times first and describing them as blocking out the sun before streaming south.
Their victims were, past tense, two riding horses and one older gentleman. He was wearing workman style clothes. He is dead and dreadfully mutilated by the flock. There are two horses. The first appears to have been his mount, a great heavy horse better suited to pulling a cart than riding. This animal had no proper saddle just a horse blanket and a rope halter.
The second horse was a smaller and finer animal with proper saddle. What remains shows that its mane was platted and bloodied shreds of ribbon can still be seen.
The only bodies here are the two mounts and the one body.
The characters may use skills such as tracking to learn a bit more of what occured here.
Depending on the success of their skill rolls you may reveal certain facts.
- There are shreds of blue silk caught on some of the undergrowth beside the road. This is not of the same shade as the ribbon on the horse.
- There is a crushed area of vegetation near the body of the riding horse where it seems the rider may have fell.
- There are tracks approaching this site from both left and right off the road.
- Most of the tracks that can be seen were human and barefoot.
- One person worn small shoes or boots with a narrow heel.
- The only tracks leaving the site were the barefoot humans.
- An exceptional tracking roll may reveal that some of the barefoot humans were heavily laden.
- A bloody and trampled ladies handkerchief is under the body of the riding horse. It is embroidered with the name Katiya in blue thread.
The fleeing flock of Gorcrows will give the characters a pretty easy sense of direction to follow at first. They should be able to follow the general direction.
As night falls then to the south a beacon or bonfire lights the horizon.
I would like to be elastic with distances here. If the characters are on foot then they are probably only going to manage 2mph on foot and cross country, on horses they would be a little faster. Either way I would suggest the characters arrive at night fall. This gives the characters the advantage that skill tests for stalking and hiding are going to be easier in poor light.
The trail leads the characters to a lonely tower. The roof of the tower aflame with a beacon making it visible for miles in every direction.
The map below is one of Dyson Logo’s maps. I have the commercial rights to use these so I can use these in the published form of this adventure. The only difference will be that the one I publish will have a grid for dimensions on it.
Once the characters are close enough they will hear a mix of god like howls, human shouts and cries, apparently of joy. There is also a great deal of rhythmic drumming.
Inside the drumming is coming from the residents beating on wooden tables and slamming chairs against the floors. There are no actual drums.
The floor is flag stone but driven into the joints between flags are wooden stakes and tied to the stakes is a young woman in a tattered blue silk dress.
Dancing around her are naked humanoids with jackal heads and just two clawed fingers per hand. There are as many creatures here as there are characters in the party.
These creatures are Hothrog, 7′ tall man demons. C&T pg 97/81, C&M pg and CrL pg 611.
In total there are twice as many of these demons as there are characters in total. Each is 2nd level. 60hits, AT11 and 15DB. So these creatures are hitable. The danger is that they are vicious fighters with 50OB with claws and two attacks per round or a 50OB Bash with a 100OB followup bite if they get a critical with the bash.
The half of these demons that are not dancing around the prostrated woman are on the first and second floors. On the first floor the second chamber houses a huge cauldron and a pair of Hothrog are stoking fires and pouring in buckets of water. This is Katiya’s destiny if she isn’t rescued.
The remaining Hothrog are on the third floor feeding the flock of Gorcrows. There is an evil symbiotic relationship going on between the Gorcrows and the demons. The Gorcrows are their scouts and in return the Hothrog, who kill simply for pleasure provide food. Once the Gorcrows are roosting the beacon is lit and this keeps the flock in the tower over night as they are afraid of the fire so will not fly out past it.
So the ground floor holds the most Hothrog and the woman, the middle floor has just two Hothrog and the third floor has the remaining Hothrog and all the Gorcrows that were not killed earlier. The top floor is open to the elements but contains the beacon fire but no living foes.
The challenge is how the characters will attempt to rescue the girl.
Katiya: is a healer of 5th level. She learned her trade providing healing for her local community. The man with her was her father. When they were attacked they were rushing to a nearby village that had been attacked by the Gorcrows. This was a precursor to the village being attacked by the Hothrog.
If she can be rescued she will of course help any injured characters. If any Hothrog survive then there will be a follow up attack on the village with Gorcrows acting as a vanguard and then the surviving Hothrog attacking the village once the villagers are in disarray. The characters can save the village if they can get to it first and warn them of the nearby danger. When the attack comes it will be during the day and if the village is unprepared then the first people killed will be villagers working out in the fields, your shepherds and outlying farmers. The tell tale circling of the crows should serve as a harbinger of the approaching danger.
At the end of the adventure Katiya will want to stay with the villagers to help them recover and eventually return to her own cottage where she lived with her father. So is not intended to join the party as an NPC healer.
So that is my latest ‘cliched’ adventure “Characters wander around and for no reason get attacked by monsters who have holed up on a tower.”
*I used to think 1st to 5th level as designating adventures for not only new characters but also characters that had had a few adventures. It took a lot of exp to get to 5th level. Now of course we have no idea what level people are starting at.