(adventure after jump)
THE PLIGHT OF EVERMORE
AN OLD-SCHOOL ADVENTURE FOR THREE TO FIVE 0-LEVEL CHARACTERS
Ah, Evermore! Long has this prosperous town served as a hub for trade and ideas along the Western Spine Road. A hundred years ago the King sent his finest engineers to Evermore to construct a mighty bridge, to show how important the town was in his land. Fifty years ago, explorers discovered a pass through the mountains of the Western Spine, and the town swelled with wealth and privilege.
Forty years ago, when the trolls and goblins spilled out of the mountains and overran the city, just about anyone who was anyone cleared out. After the bridge collapsed, Evermore was pretty much on its own. Now the town is a collection of outdated and poorly-repaired buildings in the middle of a muddy flat plain. All of the nearby trees were cut down, and travel into the woods is discouraged due to the threats of several creatures with prominent Hit Die ratings.
It is here we meet our player characters, in Evermore's sole remaining tavern, The Great View. These poor souls have been selected (and possibly pressured) by their fellow townsfolk to seek the aid of a wandering vagabond fighter who has taken up residence in the Great View for the last week. Estimates vary, but most agree he must be reaching the bottom of his coin purse. The encroaching wilderness has sapped the best from the town, and Evermore is now a collapsing slum, visited only by sociopathic wanderers like the fighter in the tavern. The townsfolk are desperate for aid, and so have sent the PCs to petition this fighter to act as their guard as they travel to the castle-city of Sevenlight. There they must petition the King to build a fort that can keep the town safe.
Gawain the Strong (5th-level Chaotic Neutral fighter)
32 HP | Str 16, Dex 7, Con 9, Int 7, Wis 5, Cha 5
WP: Bastard Sword (Spec), Short Sword (Spec), Dagger
NWP: Animal Lore, Blind-Fighting, Gaming
Gawain has a bastard sword, a short sword, two daggers (one on his belt and another in his boot), banded mail, and two weeks' worth of inexplicably uneaten trail rations.
The town elders are correct: Gawain the Strong is out of coin, and has been demanding drinks on credit all morning. The PCs have been given a bag with 50 gold coins to offer Gawain as a down payment, with another 200 hidden in their bags to pay him when they arrive in Sevenlight. It's more money than any of them will see in a year, but to this fighter it's chump change. Gawain will probably realize that if they intend to pay him when they get there, that means they're carrying the rest of the money on them.
The first obstacle for the PCs will be getting Gawain out of the tavern. He will probably want to spend some of his newfound gold before he leaves (the bartender has been taking more and more time getting rounds between IOUs). Once they're finally out of the tavern and into the sunshine, there's only one way to go - across the river. The collapsed ruins of the great stone bridge jut out of the water, but crossing there is out of the question. Travelers who want to cross usually take the ferry moored on the near shore. The ferryman charges a silver piece each. Gawain will naturally want to pilot the boat, despite his lack of the Navigation proficiency and (or perhaps because of) his criminally-low Intelligence.
If they manage to scramble, paddle or otherwise flounder across the river, the DM is free to throw a couple of goblins at the party. These creatures will bully the PCs for money unless they can drive them off or convince Gawain to engage them himself.
The rest of the day is uneventful, and as night falls along the old and disused road the PCs spot a light in the window of a tower. Gawain wants to camp outside, claiming that he can stay up "all night long" and "doesn't ever need to sleep". Just as he says this the PCs notice a pack of wolves circling them at a distance.
The tower is owned by Zambar the (Relatively) Magnificent, a mage of little repute who has an inflated sense of his own self-worth. He's also prone to abusing his repertoire of charm spells to make other people do his work for him.
Zambar the Relatively Magnificent (6th-level Neutral Evil wizard)
17 HP | Str 11, Dex 12, Con 6, Int 16, Wis 12, Cha 5
WP: Knife and Quarterstaff
NWP: 6 Brewing, Direction Sense, Fire-building, Reading/Writing (Common), Religion, Spellcraft
Spells (4/2/2): 1st-level: Charm Person, Color Spray, Detect Magic, Enlarge, Friends
2nd-level: Continual Light, Invisibility
He will allow the PCs and Gawain to sleep in his tower for the night. However, the PCs aren't likely to get much sleep, as Zambar sees them as a useful way to get his tower in order before he leaves to accompany Gawain on the trek to the King (the wizard has decided to follow the fighter for protection, since he wants to petition the King for an apprentice first-level wizard from the mage's college in Sevenlight.
Along the way the DM may have more goblins harass the PCs. These goblins, having been given word of the PCs' status as easy pickings, will be even more tenacious. Zambar and Gawain will likely be uninterested in engaging the goblins, although they may aid the players in exchage for the PCs performing humiliating acts such as shining Gawain's boots.
There is another slightly less prosperous village along the way named Everblight. There the PCs can purchase a map (of questionable veracity) of the area. Gawain, ever interested in a quick gold piece, will pilfer the map at the earliest opportunity. On it are marked such sites as The Cave of Gold, which is just a cave full of bears. Naturally Gawain will anger them in the course of his "exploration". However, if he makes it to the cave he will already be convinced there is something other than bears there, and will refuse to leave until the PCs have explored it thoroughly or somehow manage to divert his attention. There is also a stain on the map that Gawain will become fascinated with, sure that it marks a ruin of some kind. The unfortunately placed spot is smack in the middle of goblin country. The Forbidden Desert is more than two thousand miles south of Everblight, but there are a pair of hills that vaguely resemble the pyramids that Gawain will be eager to delve, provided they can find an entrance. There are several badger dens dug into the hillsides.
As they press farther, Zambar the Relatively Magnificent will constantly attempt to convince Gawain to get into ill-conceived fights so he will die and Zambar can take all the money. The PCs must calm Gawain, or else he will challenge whatever thing Zambar decides. On several occasions, if Gawain is left alone to talk to Zambar the PCs will hear the tail end of a conversation like "...just one body. They aren't even that strong." Zambar also has several unpleasant magical items on his person, like a hat that shrieks horribly if it is taken from him, a Wand of Polymorph Self (permanently stuck on toad), and a Circlet of Deluding the Wearer into Thinking It Has An Anti-Magic Field Around It.
Finally, after many travails, the party arrives at the gates of Sevenlight. The PCs are brought in along with Gawain and Zambar and made to wait. How much bureaucratic red tape they must maneuver through is up to the DM, but eventually they will be granted an audience with the King. Naturally, the King will agree at once and name Gawain to be the new Sheriff of Evermore, a position for which he will be paid well (out of Evermore's taxes, naturally).
"I've been looking for a new place to set up shop," Zambar remarks. "I think I'll give this Evermore a shot!"
Table 1: Random Gawain Situations (roll 1d20)
1-Gawain decides that one of the PCs is going to be his “squire.” Roll a die to determine who, regardless of class. He will be greatly offended if the person refuses to serve.
2-The PCs come upon a rapid but easily fordable stream. Gawain is picking his fingernails with his knife while crossing and drops it in the water. The knife is carried by the current and Gawain demands its return. Unless the knife is grabbed immediately, it winds up several miles to the south in a stinking pool filled with leeches. Gawain refuses to continue the journey without it, claiming it is “lucky.” If ever asked about it later, he will not acknowledge he ever said this.
3-Gawain becomes entranced with a ruin on the side of the road and wants to explore it, regardless of the fact that there are no obvious entrances. He will demand the PCs search it repeatedly, looking for secret doors. Whether any are to be found is up to the DM.
4-Gawain feels tired and decides that the PCs are done marching for the day. Wherever they are, they must stop and make camp or attempt to convince Gawain otherwise (unlikely).
5-Gawain misplaces his coin purse after a short rest and becomes convinced a random PC has stolen it. If violence does not ensue after 2 minutes, he will remember where it is.
6-Gawain discovers all his rations have been eaten. If confronted about the impossibility of this notion he will become enraged. He commands the PCs to go and scrounge for food every few hours, greatly reducing their traveling speed.
7-The PCs come upon a clearly filthy and stagnant pool of water. Gawain declares he is thirsty and attempts to drink from it. Unless the PCs restrain him, he becomes extremely ill and slows the party’s speed by half their normal movement. He suffers a -2 penalty to-hit anything and a -3 penalty to damage for the rest of the journey.
8-Gawain has secretly been taking sips of high alcohol elf-liquor all day. He is becoming increasingly belligerent and around the time that this encounter is meant to take place he will try to pick a fight with a random PC. If he can be held off by pleas, money, or force for a 1d4+1 minutes, he will break down into sobbing tears and refuse to move on for the rest of the day.
9-Gawain tells a disgustingly bawdy story about his time in a brothel. If challenged on any point (or anyone becomes offended) he will become quiet and withdrawn and refuse to assist the PCs no matter what trouble befalls them for the rest of the day.
10-Gawain somehow manages to convince himself that a nearby bee’s nest contains a special sweet nectar highly valued by dwarves. In reality it is a paper wasps’ nest, and if he is allowed to disturb it the PCs are all in for a treat.
11-The party stumbles upon a few shepherds with their flocks. Gawain insists on buying some “good throwing stones” from them, and approaches them. If no PC mediates, they will witness Gawain rapidly insult the shepherds and enrage him. If he becomes enraged and is unrestrained, the PCs will witness a pair of grisly murders as Gawain hacks the shepherds to pieces and pointedly leaves their sling-stones in a pile.
12-Gawain suffers a bout of generosity and gives every PC five copper pieces. He is incredibly smug about it.
13-Gawain suffers a bout of lesser generosity and gives a random PC five silver pieces. From then on, he declares this PC his “favorite” and that he is “taking him under his wing.”
14-The PCs happen upon an old dwarf barrow surrounded by warnings in dwarvish script. Oblivious to the extremely ominous nature of the place, Gawain insists on exploring. He discovers a stone buried in the earth which he pries up unless stopped. A dwarven zombie leaps from the hole to do battle with him. Horrified, he runs off leaving the PCs to deal with his mess. He returns 1d6 hours later and shows no signs of remembering what happened. If it is brought up he will become angry and withdrawn.
15-Gawain regales the PCs with tales of his bravery which are all patently false. His loud boasting draws a band of goblins to the party, and they begin to shadow the PCs, waiting for a good time to strike.
16-Gawain steps into a pile of horseshit on the road. He refuses to continue until someone either lends him a new pair of boots or cleans his.
17-Gawain takes a fancy to an article of clothing worn by a random PC. He demands it “just to try it out,” but then refuses to give it back.
18-Gawain decides he wants to gamble with the PCs. After a few tosses, it becomes clear that he is cheating. He will continue to gamble until he has won 1d10+5 gold pieces from them. If they call him out, he becomes sullen and refuses to help them again for the rest of the day.
19-Gawain falls into a deep hole, twisting his ankle. The hole is easily avoided if the PCs are careful, but they must expressly guide him around it. The hole is 15 feet deep. He takes 1d6 points of damage and begins cursing loudly. He cannot climb out without a rope of some kind. Party movement is halved for the next 1d4 days while the ankle “heals.”
20-Gawain inexplicably leaves the party while no one is looking. He strikes off in a random direction, returning to the PCs (wherever they are) 1d4 days later. At the DM's option he may have acquired an ogre's head and a skin of thick disgusting mead during his time away.
Table 2: Random Situations after Zambar joins (roll 1d20)
1-Zambar conspires with the PCs while Gawain is ahead scouting, sharing their agony about his idiocy. Upon his return, Zambar instantly changes sides, loudly and vocally supporting Gawain.
2-A random PC determined by a dice roll gets the feeling that he is being watched. If he choses to look at Zambar he will see the mage’s stare quickly shift back to the road ahead.
3-Zambar informs the party that he has to use the bathroom. Strangely, he leaves his hat behind. Anyone picking it up (including Gawain) will cause it to begin shrieking horribly. Zambar returns in a huff and takes it back angrily. He places it on his head and soothes it into silence.
4-7-Zambar and Gawain get into a dangerous argument over something inconsequential. It threatens to escalate and if the party does not intervene in 1d4 minutes, Zambar casts Color Spray on Gawain. When Gawain awakens he is duly chastised and more pliant to the wizard’s wishes.
8-A random PC catches a glimpse of Zambar filching a few silver coins from Gawain’s purse. If Zambar is confronted about it, he will claim the coins were planted on him. Gawain is forced to recount his coins three times and becomes confused, unsure if he has lost any. Zambar hates the accuser for the rest of the adventure.
9-Zambar loses his pipe and becomes increasingly irritated. His personality sours with each day and he can barely tolerate the presence of the PCs. The pipe can be found if the party returns to their previous campsite (or Zambar’s tower if they have yet to camp) and make a thorough search.
10-A PC chosen at random witnesses Zambar trip Gawain for no apparent reason.
11-Zambar choses a PC at random to conspire with. He will take the PC aside, promising them gold and riches as well as attempting to paint the rest of the party as ne’er do wells who will turn on them at the first opportunity. If the PC refuses, Zambar will glare at them coldly every so often for the rest of the adventure.
12-The party comes upon a wealthy royal tax caravan guarded by 2d4+2 men-at-arms and 1d4+1 crossbowmen (all 1HD men wearing chain). The caravan itself is a single wagon laden with grain and tax-gold. After it passes out of sight, the PCs can overhear Zambar attempting to convince Gawain to rob it. If they do nothing, the next time the party camps Gawain and Zambar slip off. They return in the morning, bloody and worn out, with a suspicious chest between them. The chest contains 3d100 silver pieces and 10d100 copper pieces of the king’s taxes.
13-Zambar tells an appalling story about a mimic chewing off an adventurer’s hands. Gawain refuses to touch any trees, rocks, chests, or purses for 1d4 days.
14-Zambar tells an even more frightening story about dopplegangers. Gawain suspiciously eyes all the PCs, Zambar, and his own reflection if he can see it. This suspicion makes him extremely paranoid for the next 1d4 days.
15-Zambar mysteriously decides to serve drinks of spiced wine to everyone. They aren’t poisoned, but his demeanor is extremely suspect.
16-Gawain filches Zambar’s spellbook while the wizard is sleeping. When he awakens he notices it is gone and 1d4 random PCs see it amongst Gawain’s effects. If they do not defuse the situation, Zambar will discover the book after 1d10 minutes and begin to cast his most powerful charming spells on Gawain to subdue him.
17-Zambar decides to have a nap. Travel is halted for the day. He cannot be persuaded otherwise unless the party is being pursued.
18-The party comes upon a strange pond that seems mysteriously deep. Zambar will attempt to convince Gawain to enter it. If Gawain is not stopped, he will wade in and instantly be attacked by the 2d4 giant frogs that live there.
19-The PCs come upon a young man who seems to recognize Zambar. The boy is actually Thurm, a former apprentice of the mage’s. He is horrified by the sight of his master and attempts to run. Zambar pretends to know nothing of this unless directly confronted with the information. Even so, he will narrow his eyes, look at the boy, and feign surprise. “Oh! Why yes, I suppose you are correct. How silly of me.” Thurm is terrified of his master and escapes at his nearest convenience if held.
20-The party sees an armored figure on a horse some miles distant but approaching along the road. Zambar hides as soon as no one is looking at him. The figure turns out to be Sir Preston Manderly, a paladin in the service of the king hunting for a certain criminal. If the PCs suspect he is hunting Zambar and give him up, Zambar will go without a fight (if found). Otherwise, Sir Preston rides off and Zambar returns a few minutes later, shifty-eyed.
Sir Preston Manderly (3rd level LG human Paladin)
22 HP | Str 14, Dex 10, Con 17, Int 13, Wis 16, Cha 17
WP: Longsword, Lance, Shortsword, Sword and Shield Style, Dagger
NWP: Riding, Weaponsmithing, Heraldry, Oratory
Sir Preston rides with a long charging lance, his trusty long sword, a shortsword sheathed on his horse, and a dagger at his belt. He wears field plate and an open-faced bascinet. He is carrying 27 gold pieces on him as well as several days worth of rations and oats for his destrier, Bonhomme.
Subtable 2a: What is Zambar charged with? (roll 1d8)
1-Squatting on the king's property
4-Harassing his apparentice
5-Malignant Magic Use
7-Not belonging to the Wizard's Guild
8-Roll twice more