In this, part 2 of the Maiden, Mother, and Crone series, I present to you an encounter setting for you to plug in to your ongoing campaign, or to use as a starting place for a new campaign. It will provide you with a setting, but not a plot. (There will be a plot, however, in Part 3, which will be a more complete Adventure Idea). Use this how you see fit, or change it. My true wish is that it drives your own creativity. Read Part 1 if you haven’t or this might not make much sense.
So I present to you, Part 2! Read on.
The Maiden, Mother, and Crone live in a cottage deep in the wood, generally about a days travel to a nearby town or village. The cottage and the area around it is a place of mystery and enchantment in itself, even if the three happen to not be home.
The forest nearest to the cottage is generally misty, and the foliage is much greener and more vibrant than is natural. The flowers are bigger and brighter, and the creatures seem to have slightly more intelligence.
The cottage sits in a small clearing in the forest, and has a garden, an apiary behind it, a short stacked stone wall running semicircle in the front of it, and a well to the side.
As an Encounter Setting
Rather than have the players meet the three right off, it might be fun to have them come across the cottage and get into a bit of trouble before the women return from some mysterious errand. I’ll list the different areas of interest, first outside the cottage and then inside. I’ve no skill in mapmaking, so I apologize if anything gets muddled in the text. Put things wherever you want in your game.
Outside the Cottage
1. The Garden
To the side of the house, right up to a large double window, is a verdant garden. Many leafy vegetables and what you assume to be tubers and beans are arranged in neat rows. In a small corner you can also see some catnip growing. There are a few bees buzzing about, and the place seems well taken care of.
The vegetables in the garden include peas, turnips, potatoes, carrots, cabbages, and in the autumn pumpkins. These and the catnip are of a very high quality, but lack any sort of magical effects beyond looking larger and fuller of color than normal.
2. The Well
The well is made of stacked stone, standing up to your waist. There is a bucket tied to a rope sitting beside it. Looking down into it you see a long dank shaft of brick. (Have the PCs that are looking in the well make a (spot/search/perception) check, DC 15. Or alternatively, roll for them. If success: You can see something glittering at the very bottom, but barely through the murky water.
If the PCs try to climb down the well, have them make a strength or dexterity check related to climbing or athletics, DC 15 unless they use rope, then 10. What they find at the bottom is an item:
Item – Golden Spurtle (worth 50 gold pieces)
This is a spurtle, an item used to mix oatmeal or soup with a flattened end to flip oatcakes. It also seems to be made of gold. Cleaned up correctly it would glitter fabulously. If given to one of the three women, they would be delighted in getting their spurtle back and the next Charisma check made by a member of the party toward the three would have advantage.
3. The Backyard/Apiary
Behind the cottage is a small wooden fenced area buzzing with life. Sitting up against the back of the cottage, roofed by an ramshackle awning, are a stack of rabbit cages from which you can hear scrabblings. Up against the fence is a large wooden apiary, with holes for the bees to fly in and out of their hive and a side door to open up and collect pieces of the beehive to harvest for honey. There is also an old barrel filled with what seems to be leavings: potatoes peels, apple cores, pieces of wood and so on.
There are eight rabbit cages in all, stacked in two columns of four. Each one has a largish rabbit in it, seeming agitated. If they party lets one out, it will escape unless someone can roll a DC 20 Dexterity check (applicable skills included). If the Three find out any are missing because of the party, then the next PC to make a Charisma check toward them will get disadvantage. The rabbits are a special enchanted breed, and if the PCs happen to kill, dress, and eat one (either by stealing it or being given one by the three) then the meat of the rabbit will last as rations for one PC for seven days.
The apiary is large, and the bees buzzing around it will not harm the PCs unless they try to harm one of the bees, the hive, or especially the queen. They will leave the players alone if they try to collect any honey. The honey itself is quite magical.
Item – Honey of the Maiden
The honey looks and tastes like normal honey, however if eaten the consumer will suddenly feel his heart swell in happiness, as if he were in love, though not to anything in particular. The good feeling of the honey means that any Charisma check the character makes for the rest of the day is given advantage. He also feels a spring in his step, and the day looks bright indeed.
The day after, however, upon waking the character will feel deeply heartbroken and sorrowful, though for no apparent reason. For the rest of that day, he has disadvantage on all Charisma checks. The day after he feels perfectly normal.
The three will not mind if the players try some of the honey, and will find it amusing. They will not reveal the properties of the honey unless they really like the party, and even then they might enjoy the joke.
The barrel is full of refuse, though if someone digs through it they will find a scroll quickly scrawled, and then tossed away. It contains a random level 1 spell from the Wizard’s spell list, and may be transcribed to a spell book using normal rules.
4. The Front Door
The entrance to the cottage is a large green painted door with a rounded top. There is a little round window, though something seems to be covering it. There is a large iron doorknocker, shaped to look like a deer with the antlers being the ring that connects it to the door. The doorknob is copper and stained over with use. You hear nothing from within the cottage.
The door is locked, though the lock is simple and a DC 10 check will open it easily.
Inside the Cottage
The cottage seems to be one large room, and you have the odd feeling looking in that it is bigger on the inside than it seems on the outside. It is divided into two parts; the left living area has a wooden floor and the right kitchen area is stone. The entire place is filled to the brim with clutter. Shelves lean heavily with books, baskets and pots are stuck in every little corner. There are brooms, buckets, bowls, and straw everywhere. On the kitchen side you see a great hearth, taking up one whole wall, where sits a large black cauldron. Hanging up in front of the window are dead rabbits and dried herbs. On the living area side there is a large oak table, circular, with items covering the surface. You see small wooden figures, many of them half painted. Leaning against a window sill you also notice a small folk harp. Sprawled across the top of a bookshelf is a very large white and gray house cat, sleeping.
1. The Table
If they search the table (DC 10) the party can find 1d4 scrolls. Each scroll is a random level 1 Wizard spell, which can be transcribed as normal rules permit. They also come across a strange tome, small and bound with dark leather.
Item – Singing Tome
If any players open the tome, it immediately begins to sing in a high pitched off key voice. The words are intelligible, and make little rhyming sense. The noise is loud enough to carry for a long distance in the forest. It also seems to be hard to shut, doing so requires a DC 20 Strength check. However, if anyone in the party asks the book politely to be quiet, it will shut and be silent.
2. The Cauldron
Inside the cauldron simmers a dark oily liquid, and it gives off a light grayish steam. Breathing in the steam makes you feel slightly light headed, though this has no other effect. The liquid is scalding, causing 1d4 damage to anyone who tries to touch it directly. If someone spoons some out, however, and blows on it, they may taste it. Doing so has no obvious effect, though on their next Wisdom check give them advantage. It’s up to you if you let them know why.
3. The Harp
The harp is a simple thing of no worth.
4. The Cat
The cat is only pretending to be sleeping, and is actually keeping tabs on the players. It has all the physical stats of a regular cat, however it’s Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma are all 14. If the players attempt to ‘wake’ it, it will yawn lazily and look at them, keeping up the ruse of being a regular cat until certain triggers.
1. Harm – If the cat or something in the cottage seem to be about to be harmed, it will yell out a curse to the players and try to stop them. The singing book will not trigger this.
2. Stupidity – If the characters do something the cat (who is snobby) sees as idiotic, it will say something sarcastic as a reaction, then curse itself when it realizes what it has done. The singing book might trigger this.
3. They ask him a question – If they ask him something directly it will speak to them, being more curious than cautious and above all egotistical.
Use your best posh accent for the cat if able; it considers itself a lot more intelligent than it is. It will be curious of the party, and will seem to be uncaring of the Three and try to change the subject casually. It will speak to the players about the Three warily if they make a DC 15 charisma check on him. He takes compliments very well and will speak more if they are polite to him. Insulting him or otherwise angering him will cause him to clam up, even going so far as leaving the cottage if they are overly rude.
5. Other Stuff
The players should have no chance to search the cottage thoroughly; have the Three come back if they attempt to do so, or have the cat speak to them to distract them. If some searching is done, award them with a small amount of gold or a potion.
The cottage does contain other magical items, though these are hidden away. It is probable that these items would be given as boons or gifts, though you may have the PCs try to find and steal them if you wish. Here I will list three such items they might have.
Item – Staff of the Root
This item is a +1 staff for all purposes. It is a gnarled staff, bent this way and that as if it were a big root. The staff has a maximum of two charges, regained each day at dawn. The user, if aware of the properties of the staff, can expend one charge to cast Entangle, as per that spells normal effects.
Item – Wand of Magic Missiles
This item is a simple wand, seemingly made of white birch. It follows the normal rules for this item as defined in the rules.
Item – Hat of the Field Mouse
This item has 1 charge at maximum, refilled each day at dawn. It is a hat, gray in color and made of some simple material. Putting it on, however, expends a charge from the hat and turns you into a field mouse for one hour. The hat shrinks with you, and if you take it off the spell ends then instead. For all purposes except for Intelligence and Wisdom you are a mouse.
They may give this item to the party as a prank and not tell them what it does.
The forest itself is usually an older wood with trees close together. An alternate encounter the players may have of the three, or perhaps after meeting them and returning from some task is as follows:
Have the players notice a flickering light in the wood at night. If they follow it:
From behind to trees, leaning close together, you can see out into a small clearing. Here, in the middle of the clearing, you see a caern; a pile of stones stacked into a mound. There is a strange chill in the air, one that makes you shiver though it’s not that cold. Suddenly, around the caern you notice three figures, almost glowing or sparkling under the moonlight. They all raise their arms to the air, speaking something too quietly to hear. All three are tall, expressionless, and seem almost ageless as they stand up straight.
Then, the ritual seems to end, and the light dies. There under the stars you see the three figures, though differently. One is a young maiden, another a middle aged woman, and the last a bent old crone. They make their way to the other side of the clearing silently.
If the players investigate the caern after the three leave, they can feel a tingle in the air. A DC 25 skill check dealing with magical, fey, or forbidden lore will reveal that the caern is some sort of power source. Perhaps even a doorway.
Well, that’s it for this part of the Maiden, Mother, and Crone series. I hope you have enjoyed it. Join me next time for the third and final part, where I will present to you an adventure of sorts to use these NPCs and this setting in. Thanks for reading!