Note: This was posted on my old blog originally on December 27 2019, hence the holiday theme.
Given that people are home for the holidays and one-shots are popular at this time of year, I thought instead of another character concept, I’d provide more adventure hooks, this time with a more festive theme. Feel free to use any ideas in your own tabletop games, and give me a little shout-out or nudge others at your table to check out my work.
For now, game on, and enjoy!
NOTE: I’m keeping track of all of my adventure hooks consecutively, so these start at #5. For Adventure Hooks #1-4, see this post.
#5 Presents Presented Summary: Your group finds themselves in a small serfdom, where all the poor villagers are forced by dictatorial law to present gifts to the lord of the land. Many people spend a good portion of their yearly savings on a worthy gift, others spend lots of time crafting something in hopes that it is good enough.
Solutions: The group, whose presence would have been alerted to the lord by one of his loyal subjects, would be informed that they too must present a gift, or face the lords wrath. They can buy or craft a gift, or start a revolution against the misery lord.
Options: -The lord may be stockpiling the gifts year after year, to attempt to bribe a dragon or other lord for a big favor. He didn’t order the gift be given out of malice, but couldn’t tell everyone why he needed them. -The lord insists on wooden toys, and uses them to heat his large castle. -The lord keeps all of the toys and gifts for himself, and his son who is growing older wants help overthrowing him. -The party overhears someone talking about spreading a disease to the lord through their gift. -The party becomes aware that one of the gifts one of the villagers goes to give is actually a very powerful magical item, and they can’t let the lord know or get his hands on it.
#6 Oh Rein-Deer Summary: One day, in a woodland village/town, people are reporting being bit, charged, and otherwise attacked by feral reindeer. Someone claims to have seen one falling from the sky, but that can’t be right? Oh deer.
Solutions: Something, or someone is messing with the deer in the region, and now they’ve got issues that the town is unequipped to handle, it’s up to your party to deer-bate the claims, and deer-cide the face of the town.
Options: -A playful wind elemental found a family of deer and used her control over wind to play with the deer in the sky above the forest, when called home though, she let the deer fall forgetting they couldn’t fly. Injured and in shock, the deer act erratically. -A foolish, yet ambitious druid, attempted to gain control over a family of deer and wasn’t able to concentrate on all the magic they were trying at once and something snapped in the deer, now they must be calmed or culled. -A type of fungus that only grows in the region when the weather turns cold made for a tasty treat for the reindeer. However, they are now trippin’ out of their minds, and are somehow also able to fly, or at least, they think so, and apparently so does the guy who saw one flying. -One of the deer, unable to find food beneath the snow, had attacked and ate another deer. Now, the spirit of the Wendeergo has been released into the forest, and the other deer are turning hostile and evil until the one cannibal deer is put to rest.
#7 Fireworks, or the works of a cult? Summary: During one towns celebration, there is a marvelous fireworks display. Everyone comes out to watch it, and there is a fire in the town square with music, dancing, hot drinks, and freshly baked treats. During the climax of the fireworks show, everyone expects an explosive finale, but there is a single, strange, green firework with a black smoke trail that flies far high into the sky. Despite the crowds expectations that the firework may be a dud, it erupts with a deafening boom, and the green shimmers, viewable in the sky for miles, align to show the words, “Zarash Come”. Some of the older townspeople begin to whisper loudly and fretfully. The party may learn that Zarash was the name of an evil cult leader who lived in the region nearly a century ago. They suspect that there is a resurgence in his cult taking place.
Solutions: The party will learn the history of Zarash from some older townspeople, and through investigation will discover that there were other similar displays in three other towns nearby, except they contained different messages. “Zarash Come” “Will Scream” “Rise Darkness” “Fools Below” The message when assembled reads, “Zarash will rise fools, come scream darkness below.” Screaming darkness below, refers to a cave beneath the pyre where Zarash was burned to death 100 years ago. Beneath the pyre, the cultists and his mournful family built a small shrine of rocks, statues, flowers, etc. Beneath the shrine, there is a concealed hatch, leading down a ladder into a cave lair of the cult of Zarash. There, party members must dispatch the horrid whispers of old, to prevent the new cult leader from bringing Zarash back.
Options: -The words in the fireworks can changed as needed, and to shorten the adventure simply have the other fireworks displays be visible from town one after the next. Alternatively, for a longer adventure, the party could travel between the towns to learn differing opinions of the messages and of the cult. -The fireworks could spell out one word at a time, giving a greater sense of horror and fear in the townspeople, and creating a sense of urgency for the adventure. -It’s possible that Zarash has family surviving today, who are ashamed of his evil actions and decent into madness, but who will not give up the location of his ashes burial site. -It’s possible (and likely) that the cult had people watching the fireworks, or at least someone who swapped the final firework, with the message firework of the cult, the cultist responsible may be known as an engineer in town, or may feign innocence when asked about the strange firework. -For a more serious and climactic ending, as the party investigates, do not lead them to the cult lair. Instead, the day after, green fires begin breaking out in town, as the cult begins a siege planning to do to the townspeople what they did to their once leader.
#8 Fire Light, Fire Sprite Summary: Fires have begun in two citizen’s homes, and despite a local fire brigade throwing water at them, they did not die, and completely burned down the homes. A local wizard has been asked to investigate, and his first instruction was for everyone to put out their fires. However, in the middle of winter, the townspeople were not agreeable. They needed their fires for both heat, and light. They even share fire when someone’s goes out, by bringing over a lit lantern, or partially burned log from the fire. The wizard plans to investigate as much as he is able but has a sneaking suspicion about the cause…
Solution: The wizard suspects that it is the work of a Fire Sprite, or Mote of Living Fire, an elemental creature born of fire, that cannot ever be extinguished through non-magical means. The creature tends to live in places where the fire is kept hot, and there is a degree of warmth, socially, in the area. Given the nature of the townspeople, it’s no wonder such a creature found it’s way here. The party will need to locate the creature, which involves attempting to put fires out and seeing if they can non-magically, and the creature can live in any source of flame, of which there are many in town. Then they will either need to dispatch the creature using cold magic, or capture the creature and allow the wizard to take responsibility of it.
Options: -The Fire Sprite may be found in a homes hearth, a torch, a lantern, a candle, etc. They are drawn to warmer sources, both physically hotter, and socially more pleasant. The party may attempt to lure the mote to a location of their choosing by hosting a party, or lighting a large fire outdoors. -The Fire Sprite may be so playful and naive, that it may leap out from a flame towards someone particularly cheerful, resulting in townspeople who are celebrating finding themselves being burned while singing or dancing. -The creature may be defeated only using cold type damage, but the party could capture it within a lantern, or other enclosed source of flame. -If not defeated, it is possible the wizard may take the Mote as a familiar. If there is an eligible party member, ideally with some immunity or resistance to fire, this could be an option as well, something like a holiday gift to that player.
#9 Naughtytown Summary: A group of children started a street gang over the summer. It started off innocently enough, a gaggle of bored boys and girls looking for summer fun by messing with travelers coming through town. At first it was harmless pranks like loosening knots that kept horses tied to wagons, or feeding someones donkey a sleeping tea. But then they started robbing people, and taking things, and despite all the warnings by the parents and adults of the town that Krampus would come for them the during the holidays, the children did not listen. Now, as the winter festival arrives, the children have gone missing and the parents are worried. It’s up to you to find them.
Solution: After some investigating, you’ll learn that the children were kidnapped by a grumpy old soldier who was getting sick of their antics. They’re all tied up in the cellar of his home, and he said he didn’t hurt anyone, but wanted to try to make the town cheerful. However, his own actions have drawn the ire of Krampus, who arrives in the home and tosses as many children into his sack as he can during the combat. As he grows injured, he’ll make an escape, and flee into the dark woods beyond the town, into the blizzard and the night. You must go after the children, and survive within the dark of the woods, before their, or your own blood freezes.
Options: -For a shorter adventure, the entirety of the encounter can take place in the grumpy old man’s home. -For the portion of the adventure that is the chase through the forest, time, temperature, and triage are the name of the game. PCs will need to pass skill checks, to be able to track Krampus, and if they lose his trail, one of their only hopes should be splitting up. To GM this adventure, keep track of which direction everyone has gone, and how long it has been. The children were not dressed for being outdoors, and won’t last more than a few hours before starting to freeze, that is, if they make it. It’s possible Krampus dumps one from his bag to be able to travel a little faster, or may kill one and leave their bloody corpse in the snow as a warning. -Players should also be expected to be dressed for the weather, and if they offer any clothing to any surviving children, make a note of it, and have them roll for exposure. At this point in the adventure, Krampus is not far from being slain, so the elements should be the primary threat.