This post is my attempt at making a more free form sort of adventure, something that needs to be taken and adapted to whatever system you’re using. Rather than being linear, the focus is on exploration, or having the players act on their own, besides the initial push of putting them on the road north through Oak Hill. This will be a two part post, with the first post detailing Oak Hill and the moorlands of the region. The second post will detail Skywhite Pass and the ruins, though the players may end up going to the ruins straight away, so the two posts aren’t necessarily sequential.
This adventure is pretty simple. I didn’t want to overthink it, or over detail it, wanting instead to practice making something a little more freeform than what I’ve done before with posts on here. You’ll also note that I’ve avoided using ‘boxed text’ or speak a loud text. While I love this text, again I wanted to experiment a bit outside my comfort zone. Also, there’s no maps, as usual.
(Quick note: I’m still working on a discussion post about magic, but it’s taking me awhile, so I took a break to write this. Also, consider contributing to The Greenwheel Carnival post!)
In the minor fiefdom Idleberry, Lord Ramsus is a seeker of rare wines and spirits. He will often find willing hirelings to seek out and deliver to him such treasures as he can find information or rumor of. In this adventure, he has hired out the party of PC’s to travel north, through the town of Oak Hill, to the ruins of an old fort in Skywhite Pass on the very small chance that somewhere within the ruins might be some unbroken casks or bottles of Kellitesian Wine, left over from the centuries dead kingdom of Hertos.
Oak Hill itself, however, has problems of its own, and the ruins aren’t exactly unoccupied…
Wine for Idleberry, Part I
A System Neutral Role Playing Adventure
Lord Ramsus of Idleberry is a man who spares no expense on the greater pleasures in life. His greatest obsession is wine, and he loves to collect (and drink) rare vintages. His greatest passion is Kellitesian Wine, a very famous wine that was made during the time of the Kingdom of Hertos, and is notable for it’s extreme longevity. Any unmolested specimen found even now, centuries later, is not only drinkable, but has a taste that is unrivaled in the modern era. This makes it very valuable, and highly sought after.
In this adventure, Lord Ramsus of Idleberry has contracted out a party of adventurers to investigate the ruins of a once great fort, north of Idleberry in what is known as Skywhite Pass. Why might there be wine in the ruins? Simply because as far as anyone knows, no one has been to the fort since it’s destruction during an ancient battle. The reason? Because the battle there was supposed to be so bloody, and so horrific, that the area is supposed to be haunted by the wayward dead.
The adventure should begin with the party already on their way to the pass, on a northward road that will lead through the border town of Oak Hill. They are aware of two things; 1) The town of Oak Hill is the last civilized stop until the ruins of Skywhite Pass, and 2) due to a recent upsurge of goblin activity in the region, there is speculation that an encampment has moved into the area.
The Lord Ramsus has promised the adventurers a reward for the wine: 50 gold each by default, an extra 50 for each cask of wine they can find, and an extra 5 for each bottle they can find. This is under the market value of the wine, but he wishes to sell it himself. The PCs will also find a willing contact and ally in the Lord if they succeed. (Note that these gold values are superfluous, adjust as you need to for whatever game you are running.)
- Gathering information about the ruins
- Dealing with the goblins
- Playing Matchmaker for Sheriff Cousac
- Collecting antiques for Selene
- Getting the wine for either Lord Ramsus or Selene
- Figuring out what escaped the old barrow
- Exploring the ruins in general
There are two major locations associated with this adventure, and some minor ones. The adventurers might have rudimentary knowledge of Oak Hill and Skywhite Pass, but it may require some sort of knowledge or information gathering checks to know more than that. The PCs might go through Oak Hill, or they may choose to skip it entirely and go straight toward Skywhite Pass. Let them go where they will; this adventure is meant to be explored.
While in the wilderness between any location, there is a chance that the PCs might run into a small band of goblins, who seek to rob simple villagers. They are cowardly and will run if it’s obvious they are outgunned. The encounter should be easy to average in difficulty.
Oak Hill is a small town that gets it’s name from the hill that it spreads out from, though it no longer has any Oaks on it. The town has it’s origins in the old kingdom of Hertos, and was once a profitable trading hub between it and the kingdom to the north that was later to be it’s doom (the kingdom of Jelkyria). Now it is a small collection of rudimentary commodities and surrounding farmland. It is considered the northernmost border of the fiefdom of Idleberry.
The architecture of the town is simple wood and plaster, with many of the roofs of the buildings painted green. The buildings are thickly built to combat the harsher northern winters, and there are a few completely stone buildings in the town, relics of the bygone kingdom of Hertos.
Oak Hill Locations
The Wooden Ladle is a simple tavern on the south side of the town. It is, in fact, the only tavern in town. It is owned by a short bald man with bad eyes named Colt, who doesn’t know much of anything. It serves simple but hardy meals and has simple but clean rooms for rent. The townspeople will often gather here at sundown to drink and talk about news.
In the center of town is Stonespring Square, a small market area that surrounds a broken fountain. The fountain is remnent of the old kingdom that no one has bothered to fix; many believe the spring it was connected to has long dried anyway. The market offers very rudimentary goods, and hardly any weapons or armor.
Hill Tower is a tall stone tower that sits on the hill in the very middle of town. The guard are housed here, and at the top the surrounding area can be surveyed for miles.
Granny Sparrow’s Pies and Breads is a small bakery on the main road in town, that the PCs might notice due to the delicious smells coming from it. Granny Sparrow is a wizened gnomish matron, who speaks kindly though somewhat without a filter. If they PCs get into a conversation with her, and they mention their intentions to go north, she’ll tut at them for putting themselves into danger, though also point them toward the Wooden Ladle to speak to Old Man Rickard, and will give them a sweet roll to give to the, as she calls him, poor old dear. She will also give them a small basket of rolls for free if they were polite to her, telling them that if they must go north they ought to have some warm bread to eat. If they give the sweet roll to Old Man Rickard, he would require no further persuasion to speak about the ruins.
Oak Hill People of Note
The master of the town is a human named Mayor Conley. He is uninterested in anything that doesn’t directly affect his town, preferring to discuss farming and taxes than haunted ruins. If he is talked to, he’ll simply tell the PCs that they are fools to go so north into unknowable danger. He has a less than appreciative attitude toward his lord, Ramsus, and isn’t afraid to say so. He appreciates simple honesty, and he may help the PCs if they show such a virtue. He may also mention their current goblin problem, but would be remiss in asking the PCs directly to help out with it.
The captain of the guard is Sheriff Cousac, an old human veteran with a severe manner. He will tell the PCs to not approach the ruins as well, calling it a fools errand for some simple wine. He will, however, if the PCs act friendly toward him or show themselves capable, ask them directly to help with their goblin problem. He will tell them that he doesn’t have much to pay them (a below average amount for an equivalent level encounter).
As a possible romantic sidequest: The sheriff, if he really likes the PCs and trusts them completely, may confide in them that he is in love with Granny Sparrow, probably after they return from dealing with the goblins, especially if they go to celebrate at the tavern. If they come across him drinking, there is a chance it might slip. They might play matchmaker if they wish. Granny isn’t wholly against the idea, but would want the Sheriff to ask her to do something romantic himself, so they must convince him to gather his courage to do so. If they manage to get the two together, the sheriff will be very thankful, and will reward them with hs father’s bow. The bow is made of birchwood, and is so masterly crafted that it is considered a +1 bow.
Selene Fresia is an elven merchant, new in town and staying at the Wooden Ladle, the town’s only tavern. She is extremely interested in the ruins north, also having heard that it might hold antiques of the old kingdom, untouched due to the reputation of the area. She doesn’t, however, want to go into the ruins alone, or at all really. She is sly and cunning, though not necessarily malevolent. If she learns the PCs are going north to the ruins, she will beseech them to bring her antiques and she will gladly pay them for good finds. If she learns that they are after Kellitesian Wine, she will try very hard to convince them to sell the wine to her rather than the lord. She will offer them market price for the wine, which is 25% more than the Lord had offered. Taking this offer, however, may have dire consequences for the PCs. Refusing it will cause her to dislike the party. She offers certain simple potions for sale as well, for healing or of that equivalent value, but if they refuse to help her she will not sell anything to them unless they can be very persuasive.
At the Wooden Ladle, the most frequent customer is Old Man Rickard, the town drunk and story teller. If persuaded, usually with a drink, he will tell the PCs about the ruins. He’ll mention the following:
- The ruins are haunted by the walking dead corpses of the soldiers who fell in a great ancient battle.
- The last people to go to the ruins were slaughtered down to one man, who came into town in hysterics, crying about the sound of ‘hoofbeats from hell’.
- The wind constantly howls there.
- That apparently the main keep of the fortress is near untouched.
- He doesn’t recommend going, but if they do happen to go and get their hands on ancient coinage, he’ll trade them ten of the ancient coins for an ‘heirloom’ of his, but won’t go into detail about the heirloom, only that they may find it helpful on future adventures. The heirloom is actually a magical ring of mental stimulation that lets the wearer reroll or gain advantage on any sort of knowledge or lore check.
Between Oak Hill and Skywhite Pass
The PCs will probably choose to do one of two things after leaving Oak Hill: 1) they may decide to travel toward Skywhite Pass, or 2) if they were convinced by Sheriff Cousac they might search out the goblin encampment. The following small locations are places they might encounter while doing either of these, with the last location being the goblin encampment itself. Whether or not they encounter them is up to you; encourage exploration if you wish. Also remember that while traveling on the moors, there is a good chance they’ll come across small bands of goblin bandits. You can have them come across each other at these locations, or between them, whatever you feel works for the story.
This is an old grave barrow, dug into the side of a small hill. The stone door lies in a rubble heap, and the place looks like it has been broken into. A successful above average perception/wisdom/sense type of check will reveal that the door had been broken down from the inside.
Inside the burial barrow is an equally broken stone casket, with many symbols and esoteric iconography from the old kingdom. Anyone that has lore in history might recognize it as the tomb of a dishonored warrior, the glyphs being wards to keep the soul of the warrior earthbound until it can undo whatever sins had caused him or her to be punished in such a way. The tomb as it is now, however, is empty and barren of anything of note.
Though the players won’t know now, but whatever was in this barrow will probably come into play later, when they reach the ruins. For now, it may just spark their curiousity.
In a clump of trees atop a short hill, they may come across a simple hut of wood and branches. Depending on the time of day, the hut’s owner, an elven ranger named Mathwe may be inside or outside, ranging and hunting on the downs. Inside the hut is a bedroll, a place for a fire, and some mundane gear befitting a ranger of the land.
If they encounter Mathwe, either in or around the hut or ranging on the downs, he’ll talk to them about the goblins, and how he has been harrying them, and how he has figured out where their encampment lies. If they had agreed to help Sheriff Cousac, Mathwe can guide them to the encampment, and may even help them clear it. He is a level 1 ranger for all intents and purposes. If the party, however, seems to act in a way that is brigandly, he’ll slip away, and depending on their actions may end up harrying them as well. He goes into Oak Hill once a week to sell animal skins and meats and trade for things he might need.
Sometime in their travels across the moors, they might come across a thick creek. This creek flows down from the mountains to the north and to the south where it disappears into some far off bogs. There is a point in the creek where it gathers between some hills to form a large pond. The area around the pond is spongy.
Anyone with nature skills will find that the pond has some good fishing in it for blue gill, and catching some would be very easy. If anyone swims into the lake, a hard perception/wisdom/sense type of check will reveal an old breastplate from the old kingdom at the bottom. Digging it out might be difficult. It isn’t magical, but it might provide better armor to someone in the party, and is also considered an antique and thus can be sold to Selene at the Wooden Ladle.
The Goblin Encampment
The goblin encampment lies in the foothills close to the mountains, though a bit more west than the road that leads to the path to the ruins. It isn’t hidden very well, but it is mildly fortified with a palisade of thick wooden spikes. Twenty goblins occupy it, +1d8 at night, or -1d8 during the day, to represent that during the day a small band is out searching for plunder. They are evil creatures, and hostile by default.
It lies between two high hills, with the palisades protecting the paths between. On each of the two hills are rickety little towers that are constantly occupied. Approaching the camp without being seen would be almost impossible during the day. If spotted, the guards will blow bone horns to alert the rest of the camp, and 75% of the forces within will swarm out to attack on the open green.
There are seven tents throughout the camp, where many of the goblins sleep during the nighttime. Only 1d10 goblins will be awake as guards during the night, but as soon as they notice something wrong they will raise an alarm.
The largest tent is home to a goblin shaman, called Chok’tan by his underlings. On the off chance that the party somehow communicates with the goblins or their shaman master, they might learn that they are an offshoot of a larger clan from the south, driven away by a schism after the master of the larger clan had died. Chok’tan took his followers to start his own clan, feeding on the travelers and townspeople of the moorlands and Oak Hill. They might learn this by overhearing some goblins, if any of the party speaks goblin.
Chok’tan will avoid the PCs during the initial melee, if one happens, but will join the fight halfway through, hoping the PCs will be weakened by his warriors. If Chok’tan is felled during the fight, most of the goblins left will lose morale and flee across the moors.
If they search the encampment after defeating the goblins, or driving them away, or with a creative negotiation getting them to leave peacefully (small chance, but they might try it!) they will find the plunder they’ve gathered so far. Roll for a good amount of gold and mundane goods, mostly crops and farming supplies. In Chok’tan’s tent they will find two potions of healing, a random first level arcane scroll, and some sort of +1 weapon, probably a dagger or short sword.
When they return to Oak Hill, either right after or perhaps after returning from the ruins, Sheriff Cousac will reward them with what little gold he can muster, but they will have made an ally for life from both he and Mayor Conley. They may even be able to convince the two to send some guards with them to ruins as henchmen. They should be considered level 1 fighters or the equivalent of such.
Later, after the adventure, they may be asked to investigate the larger goblin clan if they learn and give this information to the Sheriff or the mayor, as it sounds out of the ordinary for goblin clans to be large enough to have schisms and succession problems. That would be an adventure for another time.
Next Time! Part II of Wine for Idleberry: The Ruins of Skywhite Pass! Stay tuned!