RROP 1. Hamsters of Descending

Randomly Rolled One-Page.

This D&D Adventure was made around randomly selected plot points from inspiration tables in official 5e books (listed below). Table results are Highlighted. No re-rolls allowed: whatever the dice decides, I try to roll with.

Sources

VAN RICHTEN's GUIDE TO RAVENLOFT

DUNGEON MASTER's GUIDE

XANATHAR'S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING

Lavel

8 -13

Genre

Folk Horror

Intrigue


Starting the adventure

While travelling on the road, the characters are attacked by monsters, who flee into the adventure location. The attackers are 6 pixies.

The pixies are also the patrons who want to lure the party into the Sea of Sorrows (Shadowfell's Domain of Dread).

Side note: By coincidence, I rolled pixies on both patron and monster tables.

Pixies will likely use sleep & polymorph while the party is taking a long rest and turn characters into hamsters (use rat stat block) to easily toss them into Shadow Crossing (A grave of some sort).

As characters wake up, they find themselves in a glass jar with some woodchips for comfort. Everyone is still a hamster. It is completely dark as the jar is buried in the soil, but hamsters have darkvision. They can open the cork by aligning themselves with a successful DC 8 group Wisdom (Acrobatics) check and the front hamster succeeding on a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) check. On success, climbing out of the coffin is easy as it isn't covered by soil. After which they will quickly revert to their original forms.

On a fail, they are free to enjoy the comfort of a jar until the spell wears off. A successful DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) smell check (on which hamsters have an Advantage) yields 2d8 nuts that pixies left for them to snack on + a tiny glass vile of water to drink. A small hole is drilled in the cork to allow for air to come.

As the spell wears off the party expands in size and crashes the jar, becoming free.


Sea of Sorrows

At first, the characters are not realizing that they are far from their home unless magic is used to learn that. The biome isn't too different from the place they camped at. After a half-mile walk, one character almost drops from what looks like a 10-mile high cliff. Thick branches of trees with strong roots block the view. They also hold the edges of the island from crumbling down. Party is positioned on an island floating in the air where people dream of lands below. Looking down they can see dark waters. Steam vents that are actually portals to elemental planes of fire create rising bubbles of boiling heat.

Looking closer, they can see floating debris on the water.

As the island isn't too big, sooner or later the party is bound to find the town of Lok where the adventure takes place.


Settlement - Lok

A mixed town, mostly humans, who live in harmony with other races. A Harmonious but rundown city with hints of former glory & wealth.


Key locations:

Tavern: The Running Demon

Shops: Fruits & vegetables, Carpenter

Chapel: A seemingly deserted chapel that has been burnt down and rebuilt a thousand times that serves Set (god of darkness and desert storms).

Mine: Long abandoned, entrance collapsed. Used to mine magic ore.

Temple: Of Bes (God of Music).

Ruler: Peren Tiltathana -The king, ruler on his deathbed, whose claimants compete for power.

Random urban encounter: Shady transaction between royals and suspiciously looking individuals, buying poison for the king.


One of the player characters bears an uncanny resemblance to the founders of the mine, which people note upon speaking with them. Potentially, if the player decides to, he could pretend to be a family member of that noble line. It doesn't yield any sort of power, but everyone is inclined to be respectful. This can have an opposite effect if the character behaves poorly, below the expectations, which will be received as disrespect to his heritage.

The town is known for its piety. A scandal threatens powerful families.

Peren is planning to reveal that island will not descend. He has no chance of doing that as the ones close to him will end him before his illness does. The town and its agitated political climate serve the plot only as a distraction for both the players and people so that Valanthe could execute her schemes. If somehow players manage to have a conversation with Peren, he can give them some of the truth described below, but he doesn't know that Valanthe is still around. The royal families agree with all the religious beliefs to win the sympathy of the people, they suspect some kind of punishment from gods, but in general, are too distracted to ponder on it too much - such is the nature of Shadowfell.


Short summary

The adventure in Lok can progress in many different ways based on players' actions, but the most straightforward and described here would be as follows: At first, the party can learn a bit about:

  • Location and history (floating island & magic ore mine)

  • Political intrigues (dying king)

  • Beliefs of the people (descending of the island)

At some point, they are approached by a priest male human Vanuatu (secretly female human Valanthe(ze/her) ) who believes that the party are key to attaining her desire and for some reason, one of the characters bears an uncanny resemblance to the founders of the mine which intrigued Valanthe. Could also be the reason why pixies or whoever sent them picked the party for this mission.

Vanuatu asks for help to prepare for the music festival for Bes (god of music) as the entourage are missing so players are asked to assist in entertainment and/or security. During the festival, this adventure is most likely to resolve, so no need to rush the event. Before the festival, 3 things may happen:

  1. Vanuatu (Valanthe) will ask the party to "Borrow" a musical instrument to see if characters can be trusted for more "nuanced" tasks.

  2. Ze may then request something much less moral, like assassination and lie her way through any questions. Valanthe is an expert lier, so insight checks will reveal only very vague hints at deception.

  3. To reinforce the Folk Horror genre, have Jiangshi rise from the mine and haunt the city at night creating horror scenarios at your discretion. This monster hints at a possible conclusion and the underlying mystery and shouldn't be causing big distractions at this point.

Whatever happens, protecting the chapel from people or defeating Valanthe in the mines are the two most likely ways of completing the adventure. It is best to build up for both of the outcomes. Alternatively, if players stay passive, Valanthe takes up a new body with characters having no way of knowing what happened, save for the absence of her body if they investigate the remains of the chapel.


Darklord

The domain's dark lord is Valanthe Hanali, (use Priest stat block) who doesn't have much relation to the king or the claimants to the throne. Ze is a secluded temple's high priestess who needs to find perfect sacrifice before the annual festival - the sacrifice of a kick-ass song. Valanthe isn't using her real name as her appearance is changed. Currently, ze goes under the name and likeness of a male Vanuatu.

Players may not realize that Vanuatu is evil, as ze just trying to keep everything together. But the moment things escalate, ze doesn't blink before meticulously planning her cleanup procedure to eliminate the opposition. Ze can easily lie to the characters to have them work as assassins.

Ideal: "I'm the servant of the people. They need to have hope even if it is based on lies. I don't believe in destiny. Inside the chaos, I'm in control."

Bond: "There is no escaping from this island. My way forward is here."

Flaw: "Everyone who opposes my teaching is not seeing a bigger picture. It is dangerous to confuse people and divide them even further. They should be removed for the betterment of others."


Torment

Chapel gets destroyed every time people learn that the community beliefs are false, but Valanthe keeps up the facade to maintain her position - this is the nature of her torment. While presenting herself well in public, ze gave up resisting her habits and indulges herself whenever possible. So eventually, people will once again learn the truth. And ze knows it deep in her heart.

Every time the chapel is destroyed, ze manages to run away through an underground passage and wait it out in a Mine.

As a part of her torment, ze appears as someone ze wronged. Her true appearance can be observed at a specific time during the music festival. Ze can use the magic of the mine to possess one of the people destroying the chapel at that moment. Mysteriously, that person survives the chapel collapse while the ones closest to them are killed. This fate can befall the players if they try to hunt for the Valanthe in or near the chapel. The Darklord can possess the adventurers too once ze reaches the mine. If trapped inside the chapel, the party can escape certain doom by finding the secret passage to the Mine under the chapel floor. Valanthe has an advantage to all ability checks and saving throws related to hiding, escaping and evading, while in the chapel. If the party tries to corner and question her, the raging crowd will interrupt them as they start destroying the place.


Weakness

During her former life, ze was in love with Broe. Broe's gossipy nature was one of the reasons for Valanthe's downfall. Despite that, ze never blamed him. Broe died in the chapel collapse. The villain's power is broken if the death of her true love is avenged. Valanthe could easily ask players to "silence" an individual to achieve her goals, but once the lynching mob surrounds the chapel, ze will rather run than try to reason or fight back. Only if the players themselves decide and succeed at persuading or even fighting back the townsfolk, preventing the destruction of the chapel, only then the Valanthe's powers stop working and ze gets eaten by Jiangshi in the mines, which spells the success of the mission.


Festival

A music festival for Bes - god of music is an important event that can put people in good spirits. Have players write and perform a song or something. Though extremely unlikely, if characters manage to make the festival into a big event that takes up people's attention for the night, the destruction of the chapel may be avoided.


Adventure Location: Chapel & The Mine



The Mine has an additional entrance on the cliff's face on the outside of the Island. Created by Cult or Religious group Worshipers of an evil deity Set, god of darkness and desert storms. Has a symbol of a Coiled cobra. The mine was destroyed by a magical catastrophe that also raised the island into the sky.


It contains a Ruined or toppled obelisk with a Wild Magic zone around it.


The truth & Lies

Before the fog took her, Valanthe was a leader of a cult of Set while also serving in a temple of Bes - god of music. Ze preached to her secret flock (of Set) that one day the city of Lok will be taken from the scorching desert and into an open sea to once again be a centre of trade and wealth. Life in Lok become harsher ever since the Mine of magic ore ran out.

Originally the mine was created by the cult of Set. But to facilitate trade the facade of Bes temple was established. Over time, as Lok grew, fewer and fewer people knew of the original faith, as Valanthe was maybe a bit too good at keeping the secret hidden. Many "loose ends" are now buried in an abandoned mine under the chapel (will later be reestablished to serve Set openly). During the music festival, which became less and less festive year-to-year, the townspeople who were growing ever more suspicious decided to take action. The chapel was destroyed as Valanthe fled to the mine. For years, the bodies of his victims inside the mine couldn't find rest as the wild magic zone in the mine prevented their souls from leaving their bodies. This torment turned them into Jiangshi who haunt the mines during the festival. As ze ran in, they chased her through the tunnels, eventually catching up. But before they managed to drain her life force, the fogs rose and took the town of Lok into a Sea of Sorrows of Shadowfell. And as Valanthe returns to consciousness, the members of the cult already overtook the town, inspired by witnessing their believes become reality... maybe not fully, as the town is still too high above the water to facilitate the trade or any kind of contact with other civilizations.

Ze wasn't able to harvest the glory as her mind was transferred into one of the townspeople, that burned the chapel.

What follows is confusion, as the town is torn between two religions, Valanthe once again between two personalities. Which, as ze quickly realizes, is something ze is very much used to. As ze repurposes the chapel of Bes into a chapel of Set - the new dominant belief of Lok, ze starts her cycle of torment.

Ze now preaches that there will be a phase 2, during which the island will descend into the water, but first people need to rebuild and improve the city.


Treasure

TBA


Ending the story

The 3 foreseeable endings are as follows:

  1. The chapel is destroyed, Valanthe possesses new townsfolk and rebuilds the chapel.

  2. The angry mob is stopped or reasoned with. Valanthe gets killed by Jiangshi.

  3. Party follows Valanthe to the mine or enters from the outside of the island and defeats her.

Whichever way the story goes, pixies return party home the same they came, but instead of nuts, they give hamsters a magic item.

The characters aren't expected to save Lok or return it to the ground. But if they really push for it, giving people in the mine a proper burial will let the island descend to the ground.

Darklord's torments usually don't end after they are defeated and restart after a week or two. DM is free to give Valanthe a redemption story, even escaping from her domain is on the table. I realize the dice resulted in a temple serving music-loving lady who tries to keep people happy and hopeful, which isn't a very convincing foundation for a hated villain.


Comments

I started from tables in VRGTR to get the core story and then went to DMG for some details on the town and adventure locations. I wasn't rolling on every single table, but as I flipped through the book, picked the ones that could add some useful info.

The second step was reordering the results to establish connections between things. "Flying island" felt like it should be a part of the torment and a basis for religious beliefs (false ones) while some parts ended up being less important.