50 Overnight Encounters

Any band of adventurers worth their salt will take their time to set up a watch for the night. More often than not the night passes uneventfully and the journey slogs along. Sometimes you want something to shake your group up a bit, without resorting to a wandering monster.

All of these could range from unexplained occurrences to hooks for you to base entire adventures off of. It just depends on what you need for your game at the moment. I find that occasionally tossing in something like this will help to keep everyone engaged during long periods of travel.

These also work as good fillers, when I need something else to happen prior to the end of a session. Whatever the case, roll a d100 and consult below, to see what goes bump in the night.

1-2. Celestial Spectacle: The night sky comes alive with a breathtaking display of shooting stars or a rare planetary alignment.

3-4. Harmonious Melody: Enchanting music fills the air, seemingly emanating from an unseen source. The music is not loud enough to wake anyone up and will cease if any sleeping party members are awakened.

5-6. Glowing Fauna: Bioluminescent creatures emerge from the darkness, illuminating the surroundings with their ethereal glow.

7-8. Astral Projection: One of the sleeping characters experiences a vivid and prophetic dream, offering hints or warnings about their future endeavors.

9-10. Whispers in the Dark: Those on watch hear faint whispers or distant voices, carried on the night breeze. These hint at hidden secrets or long-lost knowledge.

11-12. Ghostly Encounter: A friendly or troubled spirit manifests during the night, seeking closure or offering guidance to the characters.

13-14. Lost Artifact: The characters on watch stumble upon a forgotten relic or artifact, partially buried in the ground, with unknown powers or a mysterious past.

15-16. Dream Realm: Sleeping characters find themselves in a shared dream, navigating a surreal landscape or confronting their deepest fears.

17-18. The Illuminated Path: Characters on watch notice a faint, glowing trail leading to a hidden location or an important discovery.

Standing watch. Art by: © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.

19-20. Time Warp: Sleeping characters experience a temporary time distortion, witnessing events from the past or glimpses into the future.

21-22. Shifting Shadows: The campsite becomes a gateway to a pocket dimension or a parallel reality, where familiar places are twisted and distorted.

23-24. Animal Messenger: An intelligent animal approaches the camp, bearing a message or a warning from a distant ally or foe.

25-26. Flickering Flames: The campfire dances and morphs into mesmerizing shapes, revealing cryptic symbols or visions to those who observe it.

27-28. Enchanted Sleep: Characters on watch drift off to sleep. When the party wakes, they find themselves in a different location, seemingly transported during their slumber.

29-30. Nature’s Blessing: A light rain starts out of nowhere. As it lets up, the characters wake up to find their wounds healed, their supplies replenished, and a sense of rejuvenation.

31-32. Moonlit Ritual: A secretive group performs a ritual under the moonlight, offering the characters on watch a chance to witness or interrupt their proceedings.

33-34. Nighttime Market: A mysterious bazaar materializes near the campsite, offering exotic goods, rare ingredients, or peculiar services.

35-36. The Invisible Hand: The characters wake up to find objects around the campsite rearranged or tidied up by an unseen helpful presence.

37-38. Luminescent Guardian: A gentle spirit of light takes on the role of protecting the characters during the night, guiding them away from harm.

39-40. The Shadow’s Beckoning: Shadows in the surrounding area come to life, swirling and forming shapes, hinting at hidden paths or secrets.

41-42. Portentous Clouds: Strange cloud formations gather above the campsite, revealing foreboding symbols or images that foreshadow future events.

43-44. The Whisperer: A mysterious figure emerges from the darkness, claiming to possess ancient knowledge and offering cryptic advice.

45-46. Trapped in a Dream: One of the characters becomes trapped in a vivid, lifelike dream, requiring the others to find a way to wake them.

47-48. Phantasmal Menagerie: A collection of spectral animals gathers around the campsite, observing the characters with curious, ethereal eyes.

49-50. Nighttime Companion: A loyal and intelligent creature approaches the characters, seeking companionship or offering assistance during their travels.

51-52. Veil of Illusion: The characters wake up to find themselves in an illusionary realm, where reality bends and shifts, requiring them to solve puzzles to escape.

53-54. Elemental Reverie: The elements around the campsite come to life, dancing and swirling in a mesmerizing display of elemental harmony.

55-56. Echoes of the Past: The characters witness ghostly echoes of historical events or significant moments that occurred in the area, gaining insights into its hidden history.

A cozy campfire as the party prepares to turn in for the night. Art by:© 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.

57-58. Feywild Crossing: The campsite becomes a temporary gateway to the Feywild, where the characters encounter mischievous fey creatures and experience the whimsical nature of the plane.

59-60. Shadow Puppetry: Shadows cast by the campfire take on a life of their own, performing a silent and captivating shadow play that tells a mysterious story.

61-62. Whispering Trees: The trees surrounding the campsite whisper ancient secrets or foretell future events to those who listen closely, providing valuable information or warnings.

63-64. Elemental Balance: The characters are visited by an elemental spirit that offers them a unique and temporary boon related to one of the four elements—earth, air, fire, or water.

65-66. Vanishing Act: The campsite suddenly disappears, leaving the characters in an otherworldly realm or plane for a short time before reappearing in a different location.

67-68. Illusory Menace: Characters on watch are plagued by illusory creatures or illusions that mimic dangerous foes, testing their wits and abilities.

69-70. Spirit Guide: The characters encounter a wise spirit guide who provides guidance and cryptic advice, leading them to hidden treasures or revealing important information.

71-72. Ephemeral Guardians: Ethereal and translucent guardians appear around the campsite, protecting the characters from harm during the night.

73-74. Haunted Dreams: Sleeping characters share a collective dream haunted by the spirits of the past, requiring them to confront and resolve a forgotten tragedy.

75-76. Luminous Dew: The morning reveals that the campsite is covered in sparkling and magical dew, which can be collected and used for various enchanting purposes.

77-78. Aurora’s Embrace: The sky fills with vibrant auroras, and the characters are enveloped in their mesmerizing glow, temporarily granting them supernatural abilities or insights.

79-80. Time Loop: Characters on watch drift off to sleep. Then the night repeats itself, with the characters reliving the same events and encounters until they discover the cause and find a way to break the loop.

81-82. Feywild Market: A bustling Feywild market manifests near the campsite, offering strange and exotic goods, curious trinkets, and intriguing bargains.

83-84. Cursed Relic: Characters on watch stumble upon a cursed object that brings misfortune or strange effects until they find a way to cleanse or dispose of it.

85-86. Lunar Serenade: The moon’s radiant light fills the campsite, soothing and invigorating the characters, granting them temporary bonuses to their abilities.

Adventurer catching a few winks. Art by Diego Castro. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

87-88. Guiding Stars: A constellation forms in the night sky, providing guidance and navigation aid to the characters, helping them find their way or revealing hidden paths.

89-90. Feywild Poltergeist: A playful and mischievous fey creature infiltrates the campsite, pulling harmless pranks and challenges the characters to a game or contest.

91-92. Arcane Nexus: Characters on watch discover a site of potent magical energy, where spells behave unexpectedly, wild magic surges, and magical phenomena occur.

93-94. Shadow Gate: Characters on watch discover a hidden portal to a plane of darkness and gloom, where they must navigate treacherous shadows and confront shadow creatures.

95-96. Ethereal Visitors: Ethereal beings or spirits from another plane temporarily materialize at the campsite, seeking assistance, guidance, or redemption.

97-98. Starfall: A shower of shooting stars rains down upon the campsite, each carrying a mysterious and magical effect when collected or interacted with.

99-100. Night’s Blessing: The night bestows a temporary boon upon the characters, enhancing their abilities, granting them insight, or imbuing them with a sense of profound luck and fortune.

That is all for now. I hope these additions bring a bit of wonder to your party’s overnight experiences. Thanks for stopping by. If you have any suggestions for other encounters, please leave a note in the comments.

If you would like to see my other random lists, you may find them here. My maps with plot hooks are collected here. Have a great week!

The Shadowhaven Crypt

Real life responsibilities pulled me reluctantly away from tabletop role-playing games at some point in the late 1990s. It wasn’t until 2014 that I dusted myself off and started to participate in the hobby again. I wasn’t completely without an escape during this time. I started playing World of Warcraft about four months after launch and I played regularly until the end of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.

While my WoW days are well behind me, something about working on my map for this week’s post kept bringing me back to the venerable video game that will be turning 20 next year. If you have fond memories of the Warcraft universe, enjoy this silly escape. If not, please allow me this indulgence and I’ll be back to regular posts soon enough.  

The Shadowhaven Crypt

In Duskwood, hidden away just south of the Tranquil Gardens Cemetery lies the entrance to the Shadowhaven Crypt. Barnabas Shadowhaven was a wealthy Stormwind merchant who had retired to this region back in the days when it was still known as Brightwood. Whispers had circulated about Shadowhaven being involved in questionable practices. Some claimed that he dabbled in forbidden magics, while others believed he had dealings with unsavory entities from the shadowy realms. The exact nature of these rumors remained nebulous, but they were enough to create an air of suspicion and mistrust around him.

Tranquil Garden Cemetery.

Such it was that there wasn’t a great deal of fanfare surrounding his passing. His estate in Grand Hamlet had been boarded up and razed some years later as the town expanded. By the time of Medivh’s passing and the change of the town’s name to Darkshire, Barnabas Shadowhaven was long since forgotten.

With the recall of the Stormwind army to other parts of the realm, the situation in Duskwood is turning grim. Their resources already stretched thin, the Night Watch has asked the party to investigate strange occurrences near the Shadowhaven Crypt and put to rest whatever dwells there.

Entrance – 1

The entrance to the crypt is marked by a massive, banded iron door embossed with the name Shadowhaven. Its aged surface bears signs of wear, hinting at the passage of time and the mysteries that lie beyond. While the door appears quite old and the surrounding area is overgrown, it pulls open easily.

Upon opening the door, the party will immediately be attacked by 3 Skeletal Warriors, and 2 Skeletal Ghouls. If defeated, these mobs will yield the following: 20 silver pieces, 10 wool cloth, 2 delicious cave mold, a brocade cloak, & 3 moonberry juice.

Oddly, a lit torch a placed in a sconce on either side of the entrance. Opposite the door, the hall leads south to a staircase going down.

Rickety Swing Bridge – 2

A rickety swing bridge spans a 10-foot chasm here. It stretches precariously between 4 wooden stakes. As the party steps onto the bridge, they can hear the distant rush of water echoing from about 30 feet below. The bridge sways with each step, testing their balance and nerve as they carefully make their way across the gap. While this looks dangerous, the party has nothing to fear here unless they do anything crazy.

Dining Room – 3

While certainly an odd thing to be found within a crypt, this large room appears to be a dining room. 2 Restless Spirits are busily setting the table when the party arrives. Upon entering the room, both will crossly scold the party and inform them that “supper is not ready yet!”


If the party closes the door and does not enter the room, the spirits will go back to their work. Otherwise, they will attack. If defeated, the spirits will drop the following: 12 silver pieces, 6 copper pieces, 4 Silk Cloth, 1 Healing Potion, & a bludgeoning cudgel.

The Larder – 4

This room is empty save for an assortment of crates and barrels. The contents of most of these has long since rotted away. However, a thorough search turns up some old herbs and spices, along with oil & vinegar in earthenware containers.

Bone Chamber – 5

Skeletal Raider

This small room is littered with bones and a cage toward the eastern edge of the room. If the part simply crosses through the room and exits via the door on the other side, nothing will happen. However, if the party disturbs any of the piles of bones or tampers with the cage, a chill wind will blow through the room and 3 Skeletal Raiders will form from the bones and attack.

If defeated, the following loot may be recovered from the room: 28 silver pieces, 8 pieces of Silk Cloth, & a broken mirror.

Natural Cavern – 6

This cave’s irregular walls bear the marks of untamed nature. Within this chamber, a natural spring emerges from a hole in the western wall, creating a small tranquil pool in the center of the room. The soothing sound of water echoes as it spills over a small waterfall and flows out through the eastern wall, lending an atmosphere of serenity amidst the crypt’s mysterious ambience.

While this cavern may seem calm, a nest of 4 Black Widow Hatchlings has made a nest in the opposite corner. Once any characters venture to the center of the room, they will scurry from their nest and attack! A thorough search of the nest will yield the following items: 1 Widow Venom Sac, 2 pieces of Spider’s Silk, and a pair of inscribed leather spaulders.

Burial Chamber – 7

This small, dimly lit cavern holds a stone sarcophagus at its heart. The stone surface is etched with intricate carvings and the room exudes an aura of reverence.

In death, Barnabas Shadowhaven has become a Rotted One. He will rise from his final rest to attack the party as soon as they enter the chamber. Joining in the attack will be d12 Plague Rats who scurry from the walls.

Following the fight, surviving party members will discover a small chest within the sarcophagus. Contained withing are papers indicating that Shadowhaven had dabbled in necromancy prior to his death. Apparently he fancied the idea of becoming a lich but must have met his end prior to mastering the art. Also located within the chest are 32 silver pieces, a moss agate, a jade, and a cobalt ring.

Final Thoughts

I’ve kicked around the idea of a Warcraft themed campaign from time to time. My players tend to be folks with very little gaming experience (tabletop or otherwise), so it would allow me with a lore-rich setting to run a West Marches style campaign. Love it or hate it, I know I could do a session zero with a group of friends and play them the original World of Warcraft cinematic trailer to generate a great deal of excitement.

Thanks for stopping by. What experience if any have you had with World of Warcraft? Have you ever dabbled with the setting along with your ttrpgs? Have you played Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game or World of Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game. I’d be curious to hear about either, as they each were released while I was away from the hobby.

Over the years I’ve stumbled across some folks who have put quite a bit of work into some Warcraft resources for 5e. I’m thinking of going in another direction but if this sort of thing interests you, check out:

The WC5e Project

Champions of Azeroth

That’s all for this week. Thanks again & have a great week. If you’d like to see some other maps with plot hooks, here you go.

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The Beast of Zarechka – Part 3

This week I’m going to get to the bottom of things and expose the beast who has been terrorizing the village of Zarechka. With all of that aside I will wrap up by providing a number of suggestions and unanswered questions to hopefully spur ideas that you can use in your own games. For those of you who are just finding me, here are links to Part 1 & Part 2 respectively.

Up to this point the party’s investigations will point them toward the ruins of Kelthura. The remains of this ancient city are nestled at the foot of the mountains to the northeast. Little is known of the peoples who once lived there, though local legends claim that they were practitioners of dark magic. The ruins themselves are largely shunned by the locals and have gradually been swallowed up by the marsh over the years.

For the GM

It’s for good reason that all signs point toward the ruins of Kelthura. Unknown to the rest of the villagers, the young seamstress Anya Ivanova would sometimes visit the marshy area to gather mushrooms and enjoy the solitude. Six weeks ago, on a day when the foraging was particularly fruitful, she ventured deep enough into the marsh to actually come face to face with some of the Kelthurian structures that still stand.

Something compelled the young woman to continue exploring until she came to a crumbling wall covered with crude paintings. The scene on the wall seemed to portray a wizard dealing with what seemed to be a creature that was part man but yet part beast. She was inexplicably fascinated with the paintings and followed them until the came to a pedestal upon which rested a large ruby. Mesmerized by the beauty of the jewel, Anya snatched up the gemstone and took it back to her modest home.

There was no way for the young seamstress to know what calamity this simple act would unleash. You see, ages ago, the city of Kelthura was home to practitioners of dark magic. One such magic user had summoned into the world a terrible creature, bent on carnage. The wizard had bound the beast to his will and used it to put an end to his enemies. However, when the creature became too much too control, the thaumaturge performed a ritual that placed the beast in stasis, as long as the ruby was undisturbed. Removing the ruby had ended that and deep within the marsh, an unspeakable evil awoke.

While Anya arrived safely home to her cottage that day, the beast had been awakened. From that day forward its unsatiable hunger drove it to venture out from the ruins in order to feed.

Through the first couple of attacks, she remained completely unaware that the creature preying on villagers had anything to do with the ruins. However, on the terrible day that she finally came face to face with beast, she immediately recalled the crude paintings on the walls in Kelthura. With her dying act she attempted to scrawl out a message to warn whoever might find her body.

The Beast of Zarechka

I wanted the creature terrorizing Zarechka to be something different altogether. When I first sat down to write this I was picturing a werewolf as being the culprit. From there I went to a barghest and even something as simple as a giant wolf. Instead, I settled on a custom creature that combines wolf and humanoid features. As I often do in my home games, I wanted to maintain an air of mystery that would make the adventure more engaging and memorable.  

Since my posts are designed to simply provide little plot hooks and ideas for my readers, I’ll leave to true nature of the beast up to you. I suggest that you try to keep your players on their toes. Our players are frequently well-versed all of the different monsters in the published game books. The meta knowledge can really detract from what should be a chilling encounter.

The Beast of Zarechka. Artwork © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.

The Beast of Zarechka is a terrifying creature that appears to be a hybrid of a wolf and a human. Standing 9 feet tall on its hind legs, the creature weighs nearly 400 pounds. Having olive colored skin, a well-muscled physique is visible from a frontal view.  However, its back is covered from head to toe in jet black fur.

The monster has pointed ears and a mouth full of sharp, bestial teeth. Glowing red eyes seem to pierce through anyone who looks into them. Its hands are large and possess long, sharp claws, capable of tearing through flesh with ease. The creature’s legs are powerful and built like those of a great wolf. It moves with a grace and agility that belies its size and can seamlessly switch between sprinting on all fours and standing on two legs to fight or intimidate its prey.

Having spent an age in the ruins of Kelthura, the beast is still bound to the location. Whether this is due to some magical means or simply from a sense of familiarity, I will leave up to you. It ventures out to feed, ranging far enough to locate suitable prey but always returns to the ruins once sated. As such, it is likely that it will be in the marsh surrounding the ruins that the party will ultimately encounter the beast.

The Marsh

The villagers in Zarechka will gladly provide detailed directions to the marsh. As the party makes their way through the dense undergrowth, anyone with tracking or survival skills will pick up a trail. If the party investigated Dimitri Kozlov’s Farm, they would recognize these as being the same tracks. With the hind feet of a great wolf and occasional impressions of large, clawed human hands, they are indeed unique.

The ground beneath the party’s feet will gradually soften and the tracks will be easier to follow as they approach the marsh and the ruins of Kelthura. A broken stone bridge leads out into the stagnant water. Only a foot deep at the bank, the tracks clearly show that the beast passed through this way recently.

On the opposite bank, roughly 70’ away, the party will be able to make out some man-made structures. While crumbling and overgrown, these are the first signs of the ruins of Kelthura. If any of the party members set foot into the water, a piercing howl will ring out from across the way. Venturing forward, the party will find that the water is only 2’ deep, even at its deepest. Unfortunately, the water depth is not the problem. The same telltale mud that helped to direct the party here in the first place is also quite a hindrance. Consider this to be difficult terrain and movement speed will be halved.

After spending 1 full round in the water, characters will start to sink in the mud. At this point, to move through the mud, each party member must make a Strength check or Athletics check (whichever is higher). The DC will start at 12 for the lighter areas on the map and increase to 15 for the darker, more treacherous areas. If a party member fails this check, they become mired in the mud. They are restrained and unable to move until they are freed. A mired party member can be assisted by another party member who is not mired. The assisting character must use their action to make a successful Strength check or Athletics check against the same DC. If successful, they can pull their ally free from the mud.

As the party struggles through the treacherous mud, a chilling silence settles over the marsh. It’s at that point that the beast will attack. With a bestial howl, the beast rises from beneath the remnants of the bridge, on the small patch of dry land ahead.

As a lair action, I allow the beast to move through the water and mud while ignoring the penalties faced by the characters. In this manner I maintain some of the terror of the situation. Let’s face it, in real life (or even a movie) an encounter like this would be scary business. However, often in TTRPGs, the party can feel like a group of superheroes and a single foe is hardly intimidating. I opted for this as a way to ratchet up the tension. It allows this primal creature to move gracefully and attack where it will have the greatest impact. As with deciding upon the nature of the beast itself, choose its abilities based on what will best fit your game.

The Outcome

Assuming the party defeats the beast, they will surely want to return to Zarechka to claim their reward from mayor Russoff. However, there are quite a few other twists and turns that you could build on from here.

  • The ruins of Kelthura themselves could certainly be expanded upon. What mysteries and treasures lie deeper within the ruins? Certainly, the grateful people of Zarechka would be more that happy to allow the party to use the village as their base of operations for further exploration.
  • Will the party ever fi the ruby that Anya Ivanova discovered? If so, will they be able to puzzle out that the beast had been held in stasis for years? Are there other being held in a similar state?
  • While it didn’t come into play for this adventure, one of the rumors mentioned that old man Igor believed the attacks were the result of a curse brought upon the village by a witch who had been banished years ago. Is she still out there and will all of the recent commotion bring her around?

Closing Thoughts

This one got away from me a bit. My intention has always been to focus on “bite-sized” source material and I don’t think a 3-parter fits well within that framework.

Depending on the system that you are running, this will require some work on your part (particularly in terms of the nature of the beast and the mechanics of the marsh battle). That said, please understand that I’m merely trying to provide snippets of ideas for you to build on. Remember, everything can be tailored to fit your party’s power level and preferences. Feel free to adapt and modify everything to suit your game and create an exciting and memorable encounter. Take what you want and leave the rest.

I appreciate you taking the time to stop by. If you’ve found any of this useful, please drop a note in the comments and if you’d like to see some of my other creations, I’ve listed them here. Thanks and have a great week!

The Beast of Zarechka – Part 2

The week I’m going to continue the adventure. I had hoped to be able to knock this out in two posts but it looks like it’s going to be 3. If you missed part 1, you may find it here.

I will pick up were we left off last week with covering the remaining areas that the party may want to visit. As a result of their investigations, it is likely the adventurers will zero in on the ruins of Kelthura as a likely location to search for the beast.

Kelthura was an ancient city nestled at the foot of the mountains to the northeast. Little is known of the peoples who once lived there, though local legends claim that they were practitioners of dark magic. The ruins themselves are largely shunned by the locals and have gradually been swallowed up by the marsh over the years.

Location #3 Anya Ivanova’s Foraging Spot

If the party should inquire about Anya Ivanova, the villagers will be able to direct them to where her body was found.  The most recent victim, her remains were recovered 3 days ago. She was found in the woods, a little over two miles from the village and across a small stream. Luckily she was known to often forage for mushrooms and herbs in the area or it may have taken much longer to find her.

Arriving on the scene, the party will note signs of a recent disturbance at the location (marked with a #3 on the map). The earth is upturned and a few broken twigs and crushed leaves are scattered around. The area is surrounded by tall trees, their branches creating a canopy overhead, filtering the sunlight, and casting the forest floor in a dappled light.

Off to the side of the clearing, the party spots a large, flat rock. As they approach, they see that it’s been defaced with a chilling message. Scrawled in a deep red color, clearly blood, are the letters “Kel…” before the message trails off. It is possible that villagers may provide the party with this clue without them venturing out to the location themselves. However, without any of the other clues, none of the villagers will be able to speculate as to what it means.

Location #4 The Berry Patch

The berry patch is where Valentyna Russoff caught a glimpse of the beast. Alongside Alexi’s farm, this area is well-maintained. Rows of trees and bushes are neatly arranged in the fertile soil. The air is thick with the sweet scent of ripe berries, and the sounds of buzzing bees and chirping birds can be heard all around.

As the party arrives on the scene they will notice a group of rough-looking men milling about in the patch. This is the group of outsiders who arrived in town last week. They brought with them the carcass of a giant wolf and attempted to claim the reward for killing the beast. When the mayor refused to pay, the group became disgruntled and unruly.

There is some room here to play this out at you like. It is certainly possible that this group of 5 ruffians won’t take kindly to the fact that the party has been “snooping” around town and possibly honing in on their quarry. If you need to kill some time, the outsiders could become belligerent and end up fighting the party right in the berry patch.

In the event that a fight does break out, the group will surrender as soon as the party starts to get the upper hand. This is just a group of random thugs and they will not be prepared to go toe to toe with an equipped adventuring party.

Whether there is an altercation or not, this encounter is here to give you the ability to pass extra information on to the party as needed. If you are short on time and need to keep things clipping along, these fellows could pass along the clues found at any of the other sites. This could be done as an apology for getting involved in a skirmish or in hope of getting a few coins from the thankful adventurers.

Back to the Village?

To keep this as simple as possible there are 3 main clues the party might uncover while they investigate sites related to the attacks. Any other these on their own aren’t going to be enough to tip the party off in any particular direction. However, should the party inquire about the clues with the villagers, a clear picture will start to form that it would be wise to head to the ruins of Kelthura.

Villagers will recognize the rune on the pendant as being similar to those found in the ruins of Kelthura. Artwork © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.
  • The reddish mud found at location #1: Villagers with outdoorsy type occupations will be able to point out that mud resembling this is common in the marshy areas at the foot of the mountains to the northeast.
  • The pendant with the strange rune found at location #2: Old-timers will recognize the rune as coming from an ancient people who resided in a city named “Kelthura”. The ruins of Kelthura are actually located roughly 5 miles to the northeast. What they won’t realize is the fact that the pendant had been around the beast’s neck. Lawrence managed to rip it off during the struggle.
  • “Kel…”: The letters that Anya scrawled won’t mean much to anyone on their own. However, combined with either of the other two clues, the connection may be made that perhaps she was trying to write “Kelthura”. As someone who would often lose herself in her forest wanderings, Anya was known to sometimes venture to the ruins. Why she would choose to communicate the name of these ancient ruins would still be a bit of a mystery.

Armed with these bits of information it is likely that the party will want to know more about the ruins of Kelthura. If they conclude their investigations and are still not drawn to the ruins, I suggest having the beast make another attack on one of the outlying villagers. This will allow the adventurers to get to the scene while it is still fresh and find fresh tracks that will lead them to Kelthura.

To be continued!

That’s going to do it for me for this week. In my next post I’ll uncover the beast itself, describe the ruins of Kelthura, and provide a number of unanswered questions to hopefully spark ideas for your campaign.

In the meantime if you’d like to check out any other maps with plot hooks I’ve collected them here.

Hello future people! I’ve completed part 3 and you may find it here!

Thank you for reading and have a great week!

The Beast of Zarechka – Part 1

Darkness looms over the quiet village of Zarechka and rumors of a fearsome beast spread through the countryside. For weeks now, the villagers have lived in terror as a malevolent creature strikes without warning, leaving behind only death and destruction in its wake.

The mayor has put out a call for brave adventurers to come forth and hunt down the beast. But as the party begins their investigation, they soon discover that there may be more to this mystery than meets the eye. Will they uncover the truth behind the terror, or fall prey to the same fate as those who came before them?

This week I’m back with another plot-hook to get your creative juice flowing. As always, I’ll try to keep this as system agnostic as possible. Rather than provide a complete adventure, I’ll set the stage and let you fill in the blanks in the manner that would best suit your table. This week’s will be a three-parter. I’ll set the stage today and then follow up with the rest.


Zarechka is a small village nestled at the foot of a range of forested hills, in a remote corner of Borea. The village is situated near a small river, which provides water for the villagers’ crops and animals.

Houses in the village are made of wood and stone, with thatched roofs and small gardens. The villagers are mostly farmers and craftsmen, and they lead simple lives, working hard to make a living in the rugged wilderness that surrounds them.

Despite its peaceful and welcoming appearance, Zarechka has been terrorized by a series of brutal assaults over the past month. The attacks have been gruesome and concentrated on those outside of the village, including farmers, travelers, and livestock. The villagers have heard haunting howls and strange noises emanating from the nearby forest at night and are certain that a savage beast is responsible.

The village’s mayor, Jacob Russoff, has grown desperate for a solution and has turned to the party for help. Upon arriving in Zarechka, they will feel the palpable tension and fear that grips the village. Folk look at them with a mixture of hope and desperation, praying that they are the ones who will put an end to the reign of terror that has befallen their town.

I’ve included a basic map for the village of Zarechka. Feel free to use it or simply swap in a village from your existing campaign. In terms of the availability of good and services, keep in mind that Zarechka is located in a remote area, so characters will not have access to everything that they might expect to find in a large city.

The Attacks

The attacks started nearly a month ago with the brutal killing of a farmer named Dimitri Kozlov, who lived in a remote cabin near the edge of the forest. Since then, there have been similar attacks with livestock being taken and people being killed. Villagers have also heard haunting howls and strange noises emanating from the forest at night. Despite their efforts to defend themselves, the attacks have become more frequent in recent weeks, and the villagers are now living in constant fear.

Mayor Russoff may be able to provide valuable information. © J Lonnee, 2011. Licensed by Nevermet Press, LLC. Used by permission.

The party will surely want to ask the mayor for any information that he can provide regarding the attacks. It is also likely that they will spend some time gathering information from the villagers. Anyone within the village or outlying area will be able to also tell the party will be able to tell the party about the other two victims.

The second victim was a shepherd named Lawrence Talbot, who was found dead in the early morning hours by his fellow shepherds. A young woman named Anya Ivanova was the third. She was a local seamstress who was found dead in the woods, after venturing out to forage for herbs and mushrooms.

Below are a number additional rumors that the party is likely to uncover. (A “T” will indicate that there is at least some truth to the rumor while an “F” will indicate that it is entirely false.)

  • (T) The mayor’s daughter claims to have seen the creature in the forest while she was out picking berries. Valentyna Russoff actually did catch a glimpse of the creature in broad daylight and should be able to provide a basic description. She would also be able to direct the party to the location of the berry patch.
  • (F) Old man Igor believes the attacks are the result of a curse brought upon the village by a witch who was banished many years ago.
  • (T) A group of outsiders passing through town claim to have killed the beast and are looking for a reward for their services. This group arrived in the village last week, with the carcass of a large wolf. They demanded a reward for slaying “the beast”. However, the mayor did not believe that their claim was true and refused to pay. The group left the village, clearly upset and vowing their revenge for having been wronged.
  • (T) A farmer named Alexei saw the beast dragging off one of his cows in the middle of the night. Alexi’s farm is not far from where Valentyna Russoff saw the beast. Unfortunately, he saw it at night and from the back, so while he can describe it, his description would be similar to that of a great bear.
  • (F) A visiting scholar from the city believes the attacks are the result of a rogue experiment conducted by a mad scientist who lives in the area.
  • (T) A blacksmith named Mikhail claims to have found large, clawed footprints near the scene of one of the attacks. Mikhail made a bronze cast of the tracks, and they seem to resemble those of an incredibly large wolf.
  • (F) A young woman named Katerina believes the attacks are the result of a vengeful spirit seeking revenge for an old injustice.
  • (F) A hunter named Sergei claims to have seen the beast with his own eyes while he was out tracking a bear. If asked, he will provide the description of an owlbear.
  • (F) A traveling merchant believes the attacks are the result of a group of bandits who are using the cover of the beast to mask their activities.
  • (T) A farmer named Vlad claims to have heard the beast howling in the woods at night, and the howls were unlike anything he had ever heard before. Vlad is well-acquainted with the sound of wolves, and he can assure the party that this was no wolf.

These rumors are a little homage to B2 The Keep on the Borderlands and something that I come back to in many of my adventures. Use them at your discretion and according to what need from the adventure. If you’re tight on time and just using this as a one-shot, you might eliminate the false rumors altogether. On the other hand, if you’re needing to kill time while you work on other parts of your campaign, some red herrings might keep your party tied up for a while.

I’m going to be fleshing out some of the areas that the party is likely to want to explore. I will not be adding information for any of the false leads that they may receive from the villagers. That bit I’ll leave up to you. For instance, there was a witch who was banished years ago, and a mad scientist does reside in the area. However, since neither of them has anything to do with the beast of Zarechka, I will not be discussing them here.

The Investigation

After having had a chance to speak with mayor Russoff and other villagers, there are 4 main locations that the party is likely to want to investigate. I’ve marked these as #1- #4 on the local area map and will describe them.

Location #1 Dimitri Kozlov’s Farm

Dimitri’s farm lies just over a mile north of Zarechka. Arriving on the scene, the party will find that the fields have not been tended to in quite some time and the animals have already been removed by other villagers.

The farmer was taken from inside his cabin, which sits at the edge of the forest. The door has been shattered and the splintered wood around the latch suggests that whatever broke in was large and powerful. The door is slightly ajar, creaking back and forth in the breeze.

The cabin is in a state of disarray, with furniture overturned and personal belongings strewn about. Blood stains the walls and floor, and scattered furniture indicates that something grisly occurred here. There is no body or any form of substantial remains, aside from the splatters of blood. Villagers will be able to confirm that the scene remains exactly as it was originally found.

A keen eye will notice reddish mud or clay tracks on the floor. Rangers or characters with appropriate nature skills will recognize these as resembling those of a great wolf, but only for the hind feet. They will also note that they have not seen this reddish mud anywhere else in the area. As they inspect the scene further, they will also spot large human handprints alongside the wolf tracks. Something terrible has happened here.

As this was the first attack and occurred nearly a month ago, tracking the beast outside of the cabin will be fruitless. The key clues here will be the types of tracks, as well as the reddish mud. Once they are back in Zarechka, the villagers may be able to provide some insight into the mud. I will cover that in part 2.

Location # 2 Lawrence Talbot’s Shepherd Post

This field, situated at the foot of a gentle slope, can be found about two miles north of the village. The grass here is lush and green, and the occasional wildflower can be seen swaying in the breeze. The air is filled with the gentle sound of bleating sheep and the rustling of leaves in the wind.

It is in this idyllic setting that Lawrence Talbot tended his flock before his grisly demise. Though his remains have long since been removed, the rocks at the foot of the hills still bear stains of his blood. A sense of unease lingers in the air, as if some dark force still haunts this peaceful field.

Other shepherds in the area will be able to point the party to where Lawrence’s remains were found. Aside from the blood on the rocks, nothing else is immediately evident. However, a thorough search of the area will turn up a broken leather thong on which rests a pendant engraved with a strange rune. Villagers back in Zarechka may be able to shed some light on the nature of the rune but I will cover that in part 2 next week.

To be continued!

I truly appreciate you taking the time to stop by. If you are enjoying yourself, I encourage you to please say hello in the comments below. Part 2 has already been posted and you may find it here. Part 3 has also now been posted and you may find it here.

I’ve dropped a few Easter eggs into this one and I took inspiration for this adventure from the story of the Beast of Gévaudan. If you’d rather listen to something than read, I’d suggest checking out the Stuff You Missed In History Class episode.

Finally, if you’d just like to see more of my maps with plot hooks, you may find them here. That’s all for now. Have a great week and good gaming!

The Trident of Mareen

This week I am picking up where I left off with The Chapel of St. Sigmund & the Grotto of Mareen. The followers of the Cult of Mareen have grown increasingly concerned about the encroachment of the Graun Empire on their way of life. With the rise of the church of Aunul, the traditional worship of traditional deities like Mareen has been deemed unacceptable by the empire and its religious advisors.

Having encountered followers of Mareen in their travels, my party was tasked with recovering an ancient relic. A few years ago, the church of Aunul raided a seaside shrine to Mareen and stole a sacred golden trident that was said to have been blessed by the queen of the seas herself.

The Trident of Mareen has since been kept in the nearby town of Marion, at the Archive of St. Sigmund. Established by the church of Aunul, the archive is a museum and library that houses relics and documents related to the faith of Aunul. The archive serves as a museum and library devoted to the faith of Aunul. While the party’s contact was unsure of the trident’s exact location, they seemed fairly certain that it was being held on the 2nd floor of the building.

The party is offered a handsome sum of gold if they are able to retrieve the trident from the archive and return it to the cult of Mareen.

The Archive of St. Sigmund

The Archive of St. Sigmund is a two-story wooden building located on the outskirts of the seaside city of Marion. The structure is adorned with intricately carved wooden panels and boasts a large set of double doors at the public entrance on the south side of the building. The building is also equipped with a set of double doors on the north side, which appears to be used primarily for bringing in large items and collections.

The Archive’s façade is punctuated by numerous windows of varying sizes and shapes that allow natural light to flood the interior during the day. The windows are fitted with shutters and sturdy iron bars to prevent unauthorized entry from the outside. A large, weathered sign hangs over the main entrance, with the words “Archive of St. Sigmund” inscribed in ornate script.

The Golden Trident of Mareen

In order to recover the trident, the party will first need to locate it. While it’s not an armed camp by any means, it would not be wise for the party to storm the Archive of St. Sigmund by force. I would paint a picture to the party that the best chance of success would involve coming up with a plan to steal back the trident with as little commotion as possible. A wise party will not want to make an enemy of the church of Aunul if it can be avoided.

A subtle approach will be necessary to locate and retrieve the golden trident. Perhaps a stealthy infiltration under the cover of night, or even a cunning ruse to distract or deceive the guards would be a more suitable plan. The party will need to proceed with caution and avoid unnecessary violence if they wish to avoid attention and successfully complete their mission.

Upon close inspection of the building, the party will notice that the northernmost window on the east side of the building (leading into location #4) seems to have a rotted frame. With some effort, it may be possible to remove the bars and gain access to the building. However, caution must be taken, as any loud noises or damage to the window could alert the guards.


The entrance to the Archive of St. Sigmund is guarded by two Inquisitors of Aunul around the clock. The pair is swapped out following 4-hour shifts. They spend the majority of their shift posted at the front entrance, though every so often one will circle the building.

Inquisitor of Aunul. Artwork © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.

Guests are permitted to visit the archive without appointment during daylight hours. The party would be able to learn this fact from other townspeople without raising any alarm. When entering during regular business hours, visitors would be greeted by an acolyte in the cozy entranceway. This cleric would ask visitors what business they have at the archive and ask them to sign-in for their visit. Visitors would then be ushered up the stairs directly opposite the entrance, in order to view the library and exhibit rooms.

During a daytime visit like this, there will be other visitors and staff members milling about. The party will need to be cautious about attracting attention. People will be keeping an eye on the exhibits and the staff will be watching to make sure that nothing is damaged or stolen.


The office is neatly organized, with a sturdy wooden desk in the center of the room and a simple chair behind it. An inkwell and quill adorn the desk.  Shelves on the walls display scrolls, tomes, and various knick-knacks. The room is tidy, and the air is filled with the faint scent of aged paper and ink.

If the party spends any time reading through the documents here, they will find that it consists mostly of boring information regarding items comings and goings of objects from the archive.

The Laboratory

The laboratory is a cluttered room with various scientific equipment and specimens, including alchemical items. There are shelves filled with jars of preserved creatures and a large dissecting table.

The Storage Room

This is clearly a storage area. Items not on display in the exhibit space, as well as those being shipped off to other parts of the empire are stored here. The space is filled with bookshelves, crates, and boxes of various sizes.

The party should have been advised by their contact with the Cult of Mareen that the trident is believed to be hidden on the 2nd floor of the building. If they do not heed this advice, they could easily waste a great deal of time rummaging through items in this area.

While there would not be any magical items stored in this room, there certainly are a number of interesting objects. Feel free to allow the party to find some useful items as you see fit.

Research Room

This appears to be a research room. Oil lamps hang from the ceiling of this spacious room. The walls are lined with bookshelves and two large tables are pushed together in the center of this room. Tomes on the shelves are largely contain information on religious history and folklore. The wooden tables in the center of the room are cluttered with parchment scrolls, inkwells, and quills. The chairs are sturdy and comfortable.

If any amount of time is spent digging through the parchment on the tables, a handwritten note will be discovered mentioning that followers of St. Sigmund’s believe uneven numbers to be unlucky. It seems to hint at a hidden significance of odd numbers in the religious practices of the order.

The Library

The library is filled with shelves of old books that stretch up to the ceiling. The shelves are made of dark, polished wood, and the books themselves are covered in leather bindings, many of which are worn and faded with age. There are several wooden chairs placed throughout the library, each one sturdy and well-worn from years of use.

Do what works for your game but whenever my players happen to have access to a library like this I like to make it worth their while. Obviously it would be impossible for me to rattle off the name of every title present in the library, let along what they contain. However, if I have a player asks about something specific I’ll often consider it and at least come up with a percentile chance that they will find what they are looking for.

For instance, if they party happened to be planning future travel to the country of Kosantia, a player might inquire whether there are any books about Kosantia present. I might decide that the party finds one such book and if they take it along, I’d be willing to allow for some reasonable bonuses to skill or knowledge-based checks pertaining to the area.

The Exhibit Room

The exhibit room is a spacious chamber filled with various artifacts from the church’s history. The room has several display cases arranged around the room and along the walls, containing items such as ancient manuscripts, ceremonial armor, and textiles.

In the southwestern corner of the room is a stone statue of St. Sigmund himself, standing at a height of 7 feet. Holding a great mace in its hands, the statue is finely crafted and appears to radiate a sense of power and authority.

On the eastern wall, hangs a large painting of St. Sigmund, surrounded by a golden frame adorned with 5 golden roses. The space for the sixth rose is noticeably empty. Players who searched the Research Room (area #4) may recall that followers of St. Sigmund believe odd numbers to be unlucky or they may simply decide to look for the missing rose on their own. At any rate, if the party spends any time actually looking for the missing rose, they should be able to easily find it within d4 rounds.

Placing the rose into the empty slot on the picture frame will cause the eastern wall to shift, revealing the secret room beyond.

Secret Room

The small secret room is cramped, with a low ceiling and dusty walls. The air inside is musty and stale. The room is empty except for a small table and a cot containing a mummified body. The Trident of Mareen rests on top of the body. The body appears to be ancient and is wrapped in tattered, brown linen bandages. It is impossible to tell the gender or race of the person from the remains. What, or rather who, the body is will be a secret that I’ll leave up to the GM. The identity and reason for the remains to be here could be completely inconsequential or it could be another plot hook altogether.

One round after the party enters the secret room, they will hear a loud, grinding sound coming from the exhibit room. The statue of St. Sigmund in the Exhibit room is actually a living statue and will move to attack once the secret room has been breached!


Since I’m merely trying to spark ideas, I’ll leave the rest up to you.

  • Will the fight with the statue draw the inquisitor’s attention?
  • Could even more reinforcements arrive?
  • What’s up with the mummified body in the secret room?
  • Does the Trident of Mareen have any magical properties?
  • Did the Cult of Mareen have any ulterior motives in hiring the party to retrieve it?

That’s all I’ve got for this week. Thank you for stopping by. Please take a minute to say hello and if you’d like to read some more, here are some convenient links

All of my posts detailing the locations in Cross Tree are located here.

For a list of all of my adventure hooks with maps, click here.

My random tables are collected here.

Finally, I’ve stuck everything else here.

Good Gaming!

Consider a Who’s Who for Your Campaign

Whether we are running published adventures or using a world of our own creation, I suspect most gamemasters want to feel that their players are invested in the game. There is nothing quite as nice as wrapping up a session and listening to players discussing how they can’t wait to get together next week. Ever have a player tell you that they were daydreaming about the game while stuck in a meeting or commuting to work? It’s the best.

Does your party know these people? Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art @ Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games. http://www.fatgoblingames.com

I believe that populating your game with interesting and believable characters is key to hooking your players. That’s not to say that every character in your world needs to have a dossier complete with birthdate, star chart, and defined goals. Sometimes Wilbur the fish monger, is simply Wilbur the fish monger. Having said that, the more fleshed out your NPCs appear to be, the easier it will be for your players to escape into your imaginary world.

Who’s Who?

I believe that creating a “Who’s Who” for your campaign is a great tool for building rich NPCs that your players will want to engage with. I’ve been doing this for over 40 years and the practice has served me well. The process is simple enough and until recently I just assumed that everyone did it.

While I’m doing my prep for each session, I just keep a notebook or Word document open. Whenever I come to an NPC who the players are likely to meet, I jot down their name and maybe a line or two. If you want to go crazy, you can do this for places as well.

If you’re someone who struggles with names, there are countless name generators floating around online. Just plug in what you’re looking for and you’ll have something in a pinch.

A sample Who’s Who from a recent campaign.

By adding no more than 10 minutes to my prep time, my players no longer meet the dockmaster, city guard, and innkeeper. Instead, armed with this information they encounter Buckeye Crabcracker the halfling wharf-keeper, Sgt. Atheld of the city watch, & Suleiman the Kosantian owner of the Blushing Siren Inn.

Coming up with names for NPCs is pretty basic but it’s only the first step in creating a Who’s Who for your campaign. The next part is up to the players. I visit this after every few sessions, at the end of an arc, or whenever it seems convenient.

Our game nights usually start with players arriving one by one. It can be a bit chaotic. Everyone is usually chit-chatting and I need to get them to switch gears and focus on the game. During this time I announce that we’re going to update the Who’s Who.

I go around the table and ask all of the players who their characters have met during the sessions since we last updated the list. At this point everyone chimes in with the names of NPCs that they remember, as well as what they remember about them. I document all of this as they do, including only what the players themselves remember. The whole process takes no more than 10 minutes but it serves to both center the players on the game, as well as offer an interactive recap of recent sessions.

Is this fellow simply the “ship captain” or is he Ebeneezer Bellows, captain of the Tiburon? Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art @ Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games. http://www.fatgoblingames.com

I will usually reward the player who contributes the most with some small boon. For OSR games this might be an XP bonus, 5e players might get Inspiration, Savage Worlds players get a benny, and so on. I find that this really helps to get everyone to participate.

After every session, I send the revised document out to all players. However, I only share the version with the names of people and places that the group remembered. If the group as a whole missed any NPCs, those do not get passed along.

Over the course of time, I find that having access to this reference document really engages my players. When your cities feel like they are populated with living and breathing people, it increases the chances that your players will interact with them.

It’s satisfying to see the group break out with the Who’s Who as they are heading back to town following an adventure. Often each player will be flipping through the pages, deciding who they want to go see first. Maybe they know the perfect buyer for a piece of loot or perhaps they’ll seek out an old contact for important information.

On the flipside, the document acts as a tool for me during session prep. I can briefly scan through and pick different NPCs to drop into different scenes. Do I need someone to pass along a juicy tip? That sounds like the perfect job for young Jacob, who the party saved on their first adventure. Do I need a victim for the big bad evil guy? Hearing that Fletcher Orlem was slain while out hunting will ratchet up the tension more than some nameless villager.  

An old text editor Who’s Who from my friend Mike’s game, going back to the early 1990s.

Since we update entries for NPCs after every time the players mention them, they really start to take on a life of their own. Over the years, some of my most mundane NPCs (like Wilbur the fish monger) have ended up playing important roles in my games.

Finally, the Who’s Who gives me a nice souvenir from each campaign. Whether we run for years or a handful of sessions, having this document gives me something fun to look back on. Sometimes names and sub-plots get recycled and that’s all part of the fun.


That’s it for this week. Thank you for stopping by. If you do something akin to this or even something more elaborate, please drop a note below and let me know. Have a great week!

The Lost Children of Tollengard

Children had started disappearing from the frigid Borean city of Tollengard since the season’s first snowfall. By the turn of the new year, a total of 6 had gone missing. Each had vanished, seemingly without a trace.

In the beginning, this would simply occur overnight, with cribs being found empty in the light of the morning. However, as the winter wore on, the final pair were apparently snatched when their distraught mothers had simply turned their backs.

No direct ties could be found between the victims’ families and no apparent clues were left behind at the scenes of any of the abductions. There were no tracks nor signs of forced entry. The stricken families seemed to come from all walks of life.

The effect on the morale of the city was notable. Citizens of Tollengard were typically a stoic lot, who suffered through the long winters without complaint. However, the passions rose in even these long-suffering folk as they demanded answers as to what had happened to their children.  

The lord mayor, Pavel Ivanov, was feeling the heat. People demanded answers; demanded that he act. Even with doubling the city watch, it was feared that citizens would riot or break down into mobs seeking vigilante justice.

Many speculated that a wood witch had taken up residence on the outskirts of the town and was luring the children away. Others claimed that some ghostly wolf would come and snap the children up in its terrible maw. The theories were numerous, and some made little sense. People simply wanted their children back; they wanted justice.

Borea in the northern reaches.

This was the state of things in Tollengard on one sunny winter morning, when things changed forever. Parishioners arrived at the Abbey of Ladina as they did daily. They came to beseech the goddess, patron of the city, for help in returning their children. On this day though, something was not right.

Normally the three monks who tended the church were up an around, welcoming citizens as they came to pray. However, no torches were lit, and no incense burned in the braziers. It was not like the pious brothers to shirk their duties. Clearly something was wrong.

Concerned citizens made their way downstairs to the rectory, to see if perhaps a member of the order had fallen ill. Accessing the monks’ living quarters via the northern staircase, they were greeted by a queer sight.

The foyer at the foot of the stairs was in a state of disarray. In numbers of spots the stone floor was cracked and broken, exposing the earth underneath. It looked as if some great plow had churned through the masonry itself, yet what could have caused this?

The floor of the mess hall to the east was flooded with murky water. This was found later to also be the case with the storeroom further to the south.

There was no sign of the brothers in the sleeping quarters. In fact, all three of their beds were still made. It appeared to the crowd investigating the rectory that all of their modest belongings were also in place.

Coming at last to the sanctuary in the westernmost room of the rectory, the citizens beheld a sight that will vex Tollengard for the rest of its days. The statue there of Ladina appeared to have been desecrated. Some type of viscous green liquid had been splattered about it.

The mysterious sarcophagus. Artwork © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.

Resting at the foot of the stature, a large stone sarcophagus lay partially open. All assembled knew that this was out of place here. The vessel was empty and obviously ancient, though none of the stone crafters in the city were able recognize its point of origin. On its lid was carved a macabre likeness of a human skeleton, lying under a thin shift.

As bizarre as all of these sights were, they paled in comparison to the final discovery of that chilly morning. For there, snuggled together on the floor of the abandoned rectory of Tollengard, were found the six missing children. All were in good health and appeared unmolested. Being of various ages, all too young to speak, there was no hope of receiving any answers from the babes.

Grateful parents recovered their sons and daughters. In the following days, townsfolk turned both the abbey and the rectory upside down, looking for something to explain the mysterious occurrences. Nothing else of note was ever found, and the missing monks of the Abbey of Ladina were never seen or heard from again.

Final Notes

Thank you so much for taking the time to stop and read this. I hope you find some spark here that you might find useful for a future game. Please drop me a note below if you have any thoughts or suggestions. If you’d like to browse through all of my other maps with plot hooks, you can find them all collected here. Have a great week!

The Emerald Eye of Aramjapur

My basic D&D group has been continuing their adventures in my re-imagining of The Isle of Dread. Having spent their initial couple of sessions striking out from the village of Taranoa, the party opted to leave the relative safety of the peninsula and explore the island.

Following a successful hunt with the tribe’s Hawk Clan, party members heard legends of a great treasure hidden in one of the volcanic mountains to the west. The story claimed that an ancient race had lived on the mountain and worshipped a one-eyed god in a cavern temple. Aramjapur, as the deity was called, was said to be all-knowing. His followers prayed to a giant statue of the cyclops featuring an eye cut from an emerald that was the size of a human head.

Traveling cautiously, it took the party 4 days to make their way to the twin volcanos to the west. While they managed to avoid combat, the trip was not without incident.

Just before dusk on the first day, the party spied an allosaurus in the swampland to the north. This caused them to veer to the west and hug the coast.

In the afternoon of the 2nd day, the party stumbled across their first “pylon”. In my previous post I mentioned that I planned to borrow liberally from the old Land of the Lost television series for this adventure. Both this metallic obelisk-shaped booth and the strange tracks (Sleestak) that were found in the area were directly inspired by the show.

On the 3rd day, the party entered the broken lands surrounding the volcanos. A small river meandered between the twin mountains and the party took advantage to replenish their water supply. It took the better part of a day but the party found signs along the northern slope that matched descriptions provided to the by members of the Taranoa Hawk Clan.

Crossing the shallow waterway, the party confirmed that they were on the right track when they identified the crude handholds carved into the rock, leading up the side of the mountain. While hair-raising at times, this allowed even the party’s magic-user to ascend with relative ease.

Natural shelves in the rock were present along the way up, allowing for convenient resting areas during the climb. On the first of these the party discovered the desiccated corpse of what appeared to be a previous adventurer. This was of no great surprise, as the Taranoa had mentioned meeting other outsiders before. However, this did worry the party that perhaps the Eye of Aramjapur had already been claimed by others.

Outfitted in old chainmail, the corpse consisted of not much more than a skeleton. Nothing of value was found on the poor soul, though the party did uncover a sealed scroll case and a discarded short sword. Within the scroll case was a piece of parchment bearing instructions to “beware the children of Aramjapur.”

After encountering 3 resting shelves and covering about a 1000’ climb, the party arrived at a much larger shelf with some vegetation and a fairly obvious cave entrance (map location #1).

Map Locations

#1 Shelf

Occurring roughly three quarters of the way up the side of the mountain, this is a fairly large outcropping. A few trees seem to thrive up here and a pair of billitri bushes grow alongside a cave opening. Large cobwebs adorn the trees.

#2 Cave Entrance

Characters entering the caves here will notice that the air is quite warm from volcanic activity. One passage leads to the northwest, while another leads more due north. To the east, another passage leads back outdoors to a smaller mountain shelf, also covered with large cobwebs.

Giant Spider © Jeremy Mohler 2023. Standard Stock Art: Issue by Outland Entertainment.

#3 Spider Lair

A good deal of debris is piled up in this room. It also serves as the lair for 3 giant spiders who have taken up residence along the side of the mountain. The spiders will attack as soon as the party enters the cave. Digging through the debris will yield a silver dagger and an old coin purse containing 50 gp.

#4 Temple

The large cavern is the old temple to Aramjapur. The room is dimly lit from the lava pool, as well as a bit of sunlight coming in from both of the entrances to the east. Along the northern wall a 30’ tall bust of Aramjapur is ringed by the lava pool. True to the legend, the statue of the cyclops is adorned with a giant emerald eye. In the center of the room, a crude altar sits upon a raised pedestal. The room is otherwise empty, aside from rocks of various sizes and a number of patches of fungus growing about the room.

The lava pool radiates 5’ – 10’ out from the statue, depending on the location. Unless the party has the ability to fly, it appears that they will need to devise some way to safely cross the lava, if they wish to gain the emerald as a prize.

The party could gather sufficient debris from location #3 to build a makeshift ramp across the lava. However, this option would only be sturdy enough to support a character weighting 100 lbs. or less. The only other readily available option would be to cut down a tree outside of area #1 or #5. Assuming the party has a proper axe and goes this route, it will take them approximately 10 minutes to cut down a sufficient tree.

Whichever course of action the party chooses, it will be important to keep track of time. Any party members with applicable skills (or even any who specifically mention that they are looking) will notice numbers of dusty footprints coming and going from this central cavern. Roughly 15 minutes after the party first enters the cave (or earlier if they make a great deal of noise) the “Children of Aramjapur” will start coming to investigate (see location #6).

Children of Aramjapur. Artwork © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.

If a party member is able to access the statue, the Eye of Aramjapur may be pried loose in one round.

#5 Shelf

This tunnel leads out to another mountain shelf similar to the one to the south that the party entered from. The only thing of note out here are 3 stikricki bushes along the side of the cliff.

#6 Exit

3 of the “Children of Aramjapur” lounge in the shade outside of these 3 cavern entrances. These protohumans descended from those who lived on the twin volcanoes for centuries. Standing at roughly 7′ tall, these brutes have a heavy brow and somewhat resemble a cross between a man and an ape. Lacking any verbal language, they will defend their home and the cave system to their death. For my game, I used a reskinned troglodyte stat block (minus the special abilities) but you do what works for you.

Once they detect the party, they will attack immediately and make a great deal of noise. Their grunts and shrieks will soon draw others, so the party will have to act quickly. The “children” will focus their attacks on any party member visibly attempting to acquire the Eye of Aramjapur or approach the statue.


How things play out from here is largely up to you. This encounter takes the place of the “Caves of the Rock Baboons” from the original adventure, which seemed rather bland. I created the Emerald Eye of Aramjapur to give things a bit more depth.

There were 15 rock baboons listed in the original adventure and they have similar stats to the troglodytes that I modeled my children of Aramjapur after. Therefore, I surmised that there could be a settlement of roughly 15 of them inhabiting this part of the mountain.

For my game I turned it into a bit of a moral conundrum for my players. The Children of Aramjapur are not evil beings but they will keep coming and defending their home. 4 rounds after the initial 3 attacked and were dispatched, I sent in another 3. The waves of attackers made it increasingly difficult for the party to cross the lava and secure the emerald. At that point one of my players started to question whether this was a noble cause, while another worried that a whole village of the brutes might appear in the next wave. Ultimately my party ended up beating a hasty retreat back down the side of the mountain, leaving the Eye of Aramjapur safely behind.

That is all for now. Thank you for stopping by. If you’d like to browse through all of my other maps with plot hooks, you can find them all collected here. Please take a minute to say hello in the comments below. Have a great week!

The Isle of Dread is owned by Wizards of the Coast. All of my work on this post is strictly non-commercial, on a voluntary basis as unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Wizards Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

The Hall of Tentacles

This week I am focusing on an individual encounter. Our basic D&D group was nearing the end of their second arc of adventures, and I put The Hall of Tentacles together to give them a challenging boss fight.

My villain was initially a lone spellcaster. This presented me with a challenge in terms of how to set up the fight and make it entertaining for my players. I wanted to avoid an anti-climactic fight, where the 5 party members simply rushed the antagonist and beat her into submission. On the other hand, if I built her strong enough to take a beating, my fear was that she would be too deadly.

I settled on using a bit of DM fiat and making up some special mechanics & creatures specifically for this fight. While my players are fairly new to the hobby, I wanted to keep them on their toes. Rather than pulling directly from the Rules Cyclopedia or Creature Catalog, I created some things of my own. If you are a stickler for RAW, this type of thing might not be for you. That said, my group was really engaged for the duration of the fight and at times you could cut the tension with a knife.

As always, I will keep this system agnostic and refrain from any specific stats. Instead, I’ll simply lay out what worked from me. Hopefully it will be useful to spark some ideas for your own games. From there it should be an easy matter of dialing things up or down to suit your needs.

The Setup

A Kosantian witch named D’Sara Shahari has been the driving force behind a number of the party’s early adventures. Hoping to impress her patron, she has been on a streak of dastardly deeds. D’Sara has recently taken up residence in Rohrbach Castle, on the outskirts of the small village of Brindle.

Baron August Rohrbach has always dabbled in the dark arts. Never able to obtain any real power, he leapt at the chance to offer shelter to the witch and hopefully learn her ways. Unfortunately for the nobleman, he learned too late that D’Sara had no desire to take on a pupil but rather was interested in something sinister below the castle.

Over the past few weeks, the witch has effectively taken control of Rohrbach Castle. Most of the staff have run off and the baron has been reduced to being her mindless thrall. Gaining access to the laboratory in the catacombs under the keep, she summoned a tentacled horror from the murky waters below. Having kidnapped two young children from the nearby village, she plans to sacrifice the youths in a gesture to honor her patron.

The party tracked D’Sara to Brindle, where they learned of the missing children and gathered enough intel to believe that the witch was residing within the castle walls. After surveilling the structure, the party discovered a cave entrance along the riverbank.

Wading through ankle-deep water and catching occasional glances of something slithering on the periphery, the party made their way through the caverns below the castle. Finally coming to higher ground, they saw light coming from the passageway to the north. This ultimately lead them to location #13, the entrance to the laboratory cavern.

The wicked D’Sara Shahari. Artwork © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.

The Laboratory Cavern

This large room is well lit with torches around its circumference. Tables with various jars, bottles, and equipment will make it immediately clear to the party that this is some type of laboratory.

Already aware of the party’s presence, D’Sara will be waiting for them at the top of the stairs (location #14). Baron Rohrbach stands nearby (location #15) awaiting the bidding of his master.

Interspersed about the room are 12 pools, open to the water below. Each is circled with a bronze band featuring strange runes. The reflection of the torchlight on the water gives the cavern’s ceiling a queer look, as if it is undulating.

Suspended 10’ over the pool at location #3 is an iron cage holding Ulli & Greta Stoll (the children from the village). The cage is held by a rope that goes up to the ceiling and then over to the far wall (location #16) where it is tied off.

The Fight

When the party enters the room, allow them a moment to take in their surroundings. Unless immediately rushed, D’Sara will deliver a villainous soliloquy and the children will call out for help. As soon as any of the party members start to close the distance to either the children or D’Sara, roll for initiative and the encounter will begin in earnest.

The crone has no intention of going toe to toe with a party of adventurers. She will hold her position and hurl spells at the do-gooders when they come within range. If things start to go poorly for her she will not be averse to the concept of turning and attempting to flee.

Baron August Rohrbach. Art by Bartek Blaszczec.

Baron August Rohrbach has been under the witch’s spell for weeks and is barely clinging to his humanity. Gaunt from lack of food, he could easily be mistaken for some type of undead. At this point he is really no more than an automaton mindlessly following orders. Dressed in his family’s ceremonial plate armor and carrying a longsword, the baron moves at 50% of the speed of a normal human.

His ensorcelled state will leave him immune to charm or fear effects. He should have fairly high HP but only dish out moderate damage. He will ignore ranged attacks but will immediately turn and engage anyone who enters into melee with him

With a word from his mistress at the start of the fight, Baron Rohrbach will shamble to location #16 and start hacking at the rope that holds the children’s cage over the pool. Unless interrupted by the party, he will succeed in cutting the rope in 3 rounds and the cage will splash into the pool below.

If the rope is cut and the cage hits the water, it will be fully submerged within 2 rounds. The combination of cage and children weigh a total of 190 lbs. The water under the cavern is shallow enough that the cage may be reached even if fully under water. The children will perish if they are underwater for more than 3 rounds.

If the evil witch, her mesmerized lackey, and the trapped children were not enough, the party will face one final peril. D’Sara chose this location because she wanted to make a sacrifice honoring her patron. She knew of an unspeakable horror residing in the river that runs alongside the castle. This tentacled monstrosity is lurking and waiting for an opportunity to strike.

Grid/No labels

I never had any intention of having my group face some giant beastie here. However this served to build the tension while also making the encounter more interesting. At the top of every round, roll a d12. A hideous pink tentacle will then burst out or the corresponding pool. The tentacles have a reach of 5’ from their point of origin and will attack the closest party member that they can reach.

Play with the tentacle mechanics as you see fit, based on the level and capabilities of your party. For my group, I kept things easy and avoided bogging things down. I had a hit indicate that a tentacle had grabbed the party member. A grabbed party member would suffer 1d4 points of damage from being constricted each round that they were grabbed. They could not move and made attacks with a -1 penalty. Grabbed party members are freed either through destroying the tenacle (I made this relatively easy, giving each tentacle only 4 HP) or after making a successful “Open Doors” check.

The tentacled creature itself will never make a full appearance. Once D’Sara has been dealt with or fled, the tenacles will retreat into the murky depths.


This yielded a fun encounter for our group. I realize it is a bit unorthodox, but it gives you a number of variables to tune as needed in order to challenge your party. The abilities for D’Sara & Baron Rohrbach are obviously wide open for you to play with. The tentacles themselves could easily be tweaked by adding greater frequency, longer reach, or more damage.

No grid/No labels

I purposely strayed from known creatures and tried to focus on mechanics that would make for an exciting evening around the table. Thinking back to Robert E. Howard or HP Lovecraft stories, I always enjoyed how the abilities and origins of magic users or eldritch horrors were left very vague. While it may be blasphemy to some, I think it avoids a lot of meta gaming on the player side to keep them on their toes a bit and show them something that they have not seen before.

Thank you for stopping by. Please take a minute to say hello and if you’d like to read some more, here are some convenient links

All of my posts detailing the locations in Cross Tree are located here.

For a list of all of my adventure hooks with maps, click here.

My random tables are collected here.

Finally, I’ve stuck everything else here.

Good Gaming!