A tutorial adventure for new players
In this adventure, the heroes are hired to travel to a castle and help round up a bunch of monsters that have broken free. Most of what’s written here is intended for the narrator, but sections highlighted in gray can be read aloud to the players. Any time a skill roll is called for, it will appear in bold text, sometimes along with the difficulty number, like this: dexterity 4. The exact layout and obstacles in each scene are up to the narrator.
One day, while stopping to have dinner in a small town in the countryside, the heroes are approached by a young woman. She tells them that her father, the lord of a nearby castle, is in trouble. He’s been locking up monsters to keep the town safe, but they’ve broken loose. She needs the heroes to follow her back there and deal with the situation before the monsters attack the town.
As you sit around the table enjoying your dinner, a young woman enters the tavern and looks around nervously. She’s obviously in a hurry, but her eyes light up when she sees all of you. “Hello,” she says, stepping closer, “you look like good people. I wonder if you’d be willing to help me. My name is Mara and my father, Rodvick, is the lord of a nearby castle. Over the years, he’s protected these lands my locking up any monsters so they don’t hurt anyone.”
She looks like she’s about to break down crying before continuing, “but something terrible happened today: The monsters have gotten out! They’re running around and smashing everything in the castle and it won’t be long until they get out and start causing trouble here in town. Would you come back to the castle with me? Maybe together we can stop them before it’s too late!
If the heroes need further convincing, she tells them that her father also keeps a lot of treasure in the castle and, if they help her, they’ll get a huge reward. The heroes can try to get more information out of Mara using their social skills. The difficulty to succeed is 5, but failing while attempting to use deception or intimidation causes her to become angry and impatient with them, refusing to answer any more questions. Success causes Mara to remember that she narrowly avoided getting ambushed by bandits on her way to the village.
Though she insists on leaving right away, Mara will wait for the heroes to do any shopping they need. Just about anything they want is available in the town, from weapons and armor to kits for various skills.
On their way to the castle, which is only a day’s walk away, the heroes are ambushed by bandits. They spring from forest on both sides of the path and demand the heroes give them everything they have. There are a number of bandits equal to the heroes. Mara hides during the battle, but afterward offers to help any wounded heroes (gives them advantage on their wisdom roll to heal wounds). If the heroes talked Mara into mentioning the bandits while they were back in town, they are prepared for the ambush and automatically win initiative.
Just a few hours into your journey to the castle, while walking along a path through the forest, a bunch of filthy bandits leap out of the bushes, weapons drawn. “Your gold or your life,” one of them snarls, but when the other bandits start shouting at him, he says, “never mind, these guys haven’t had a good fight in a while. On second thought, we’ll just take your gold and your lives!”
The first thing that should happen when the battle begins is initiative. This is a teamwork roll, which means all the heroes roll the same skill, in this case, empathy 3. This means that every player rolls the empathy skill; take the highest number rolled, add any additional 1s, and if the total is greater than 3, the heroes win. If the bandits win, they are all +1 difficulty during the first round of battle.
From there, each combat round alternates between the heroes and bandits taking turns. When the bandits attack, they’ll try to attack each hero one-on-one, with the initial range being “nearby.” This means participants must spend their actions moving to get close to their targets.
Bandit: 3, 4 against intimidation
The heroes have two options after the battle: continue on their way to the castle or track the bandits to their camp. If the bandits defeat them, they wake up at the bandit camp anyway, as prisoners locked in iron cages. All of their belongings will have been removed, but Mara turns out to be a skilled locksmith and opens the doors once they're all awake.
Scene: Bandit Camp
Just a short distance from the ambush site, the heroes find a small, walled encampment with more bandits. They can attack outright or try to sneak in using stealth 4 or by climbing over the walls with strength 4. Sneaking in gives them automatic success on initiative during the first round of battle. There are a number of bandits equal to the heroes, plus the bandit leader and his two attack dogs.
Bandit: 3, 4 against intimidation
Bandit Leader (elite): 4, makes all nearby bandits 4 against all social skills
Dog: 3, 2 against empathy and intimidation, 4 against stealth
Once the bandits are defeated, the heroes find a few imprisoned townsfolk they can release. Also, in the bandit leader’s tent, they find a treasure chest (roll to increase wealth). There’s also a wide variety of one-handed weapons if any of the heroes need them.
Even from a distance, the heroes can tell the castle is in distress. Some of the walls have been knocked down and there are at least a few fires burning inside. Only now does Mara admit that there might be additional complications.
As you emerge from the forest, you see the castle atop a grassy hill. Thick plumes of black smoke rise up from several places, indicating fires still burning, while a few parts of the outer wall have collapsed, leaving big chunks of carved white blocks on the ground.
Upon seeing the castle, Mara stops and takes a deep breath. She turns to you and says, “Well, I guess it’s time to come clean. Things are even worse than I told you they were back in town. Sorry, but I needed you to come with me!”
“It’s been more than a few days since the monsters broke out, actually. At first, we thought our guards could get them back in their cages, but the guards stopped working!” When she sees the confusion on your faces, she goes on. “They’re constructs, mechanical men made of metal and clockwork gears, built to watch over the monsters. About a week ago, they all shut down and no one could figure out why. Then the monsters started getting out. That’s when my father sent me to look for help; we’re desperate!”
“We’re going to have to split up. I’ll go find my father and see if we can fix the clockwork guards with some parts I bought in town. I need you to go through the castle and take care of any monsters you find. You might be able to get some of them back into their cages, but if you have to fight them, be careful!
“You’ll have to clear out the courtyard to get to the tower, then go all the way up to get the keys to the dungeon. Most of the monsters are down there, but if you down the back hallway, you might be able to surprise them. Good luck!” With that, she dashes off through one of the holes in the wall toward the keep.
Just inside one of the ruined walls of the castle, the courtyard is wide and full of debris like fallen stone, overturned carts, and small fires. There are a few orcs wandering around, tossing things into the fire. When they see the heroes, they begin shouting and goblins come running out to join in the attack.
There’s one goblin for each hero, plus a few orcs who acts as taskmasters, shouting orders to the goblins in their crude language.
Goblin: 3, 2 against social skills
Orc: 4, fights on for one round after knocked out
When the brutes are defeated, the players will notice a large treasure chest off to the side of the courtyard, under an arch of crumbling stone. While they might think it’s full of treasure, it’s easy to figure out that it’s a trap; brutes aren’t very smart. The chest is tied to the arch in such a way that if it’s moved or if the lid is opened, the rocks above will fall. A dexterity 4 roll allows a hero to get whatever’s inside out of it without triggering the trap. If the trap is triggered, whoever did it has to roll reflexes 4 or suffer a wound (fortitude 4 can also be rolled if the hero is wearing armor). Inside the chest is a single healing potion.
If the heroes lose this fight, they wake up without their weapons (but with their armor) in a pile of dead animals waiting to be cooked in a bonfire later that night. From there, they can either flee the castle to find new equipment or ambush the orcs, who think they're all dead, and find their gear in another pile nearby.
The tower is round on the outside and has a spiral staircase leading all the way to the top. Along the way, they’re harassed by little flying monsters, vicious vampire bats, that try to bite them. There are three of them.
Vampire Bat: 3, 5 against melee weapons
At the top of the tower, the heroes see two basilisks crawling around, chewing on the drapes and generally making a mess of what would otherwise be a very nice girl’s bedroom. Any hero who rolls awareness 5 spots a locket hanging on the dresser that looks very special. It’s got a small picture of a bearded old man inside.
Basilisk: 4, wounds also stun targets
Once the battle is over, the heroes will easily notice a large iron key hanging from a hook on the wall. Other than that and the locket, everything else in the room has been ruined by the basilisks.
Losing either of these fights results in the heroes waking up in the room at the top of the tower, in a pile of basilisk eggs. The intent is for their young to devour the hapless humans when they hatch, but the heroes wake up first. They can either resume the fight against the basilisks or, through clever use of social skills, threaten the eggs and be allowed to leave peacefully.
With the key in hand, the heroes can head back down the stairs and unlock the door to the dungeon, which is located back out in the courtyard. Down a musty old stone staircase, the dungeon is creepy and dark, with skeletons lying around on the ground. Before long, they begin to move, stand up, and attack the heroes! There are twice as many of them as there are heroes and they surround them in a small underground chamber.
Skeleton: 3, not affected by social skills or ranged weapons
After the last skeleton is defeated, the heroes must succeed on awareness 6 or be surprised by a tiger. They notice that it’s already wounded (only has 2 of its 5 wounds remaining), probably by the skeletons. If they give it a chance to escape, or use any social skill against it, it will take the opportunity and disappear up the main stairs out into the wilderness. Otherwise, if cornered and engaged, it will fight to the death.
Tiger (elite, only 2/5 wounds left): 5, can move and attack in one action, 6 against awareness
Now that the dungeons have been cleared, the castle seems safe, but Mara runs into the room, out of breath and wounded. However, if the heroes lost either of the battles in the dungeon, they wake up in one of the cells. Fortunately, Mara arrives and releases them, though they might still have to deal with the tiger or any remaining skeletons first.
Mara appears at the entrance of the dungeon and shouts, “I’m glad you’re all still alive! I’ve got some bad news. My father and I managed to get the clockwork guardians working again, but something’s wrong with them. They’ve gone crazy! They’ve got my father trapped in his chambers there. Please, come quick!”
She has a few healing potions, one for each hero, to help them recover before the final battle. There’s nothing of value left in the dungeons, so the heroes are free to proceed to the throne room.
The throne room is huge, lined with thick stone columns and alcoves where it looks like statues are supposed to stand. However, the statues are all walking around, sounding like huge clocks as they stomp around, searching for enemies. When the heroes enter, they turn to face them.
Scene: Throne Room
The castle’s mechanical guards attack the heroes while Mara screams and hides behind one of the columns. There are a number of guards equal to the heroes, plus a clockwork warden. Just before the fight starts, Mara calls out a warning.
Just before the battle begins, with the mechanical guards approaching, Mara ducks behind a column and warns you, “that big one, the warden, you won’t be able to hurt it with your weapons. You need to use something magical, like an artifact.” She thinks for a second, then her eyes light up as she points to a crest hanging on the back wall over the throne. “My father’s sword! It just might work!”
Getting the sword down off the crest requires a bit of climbing using strength 4 or some other clever way of getting the weapon down. The sword offers no other benefit other than being a magical artifact, capable of harming certain monsters immune to normal weapons.
Clockwork Guards: 3, not affected by social skills
Clockwork Warden: 5, not affected by social skills, immune to normal weapons
Once the guardians are defeated, King Rodvick emerges from his chambers behind the throne, relieved and unharmed. “You have my eternal thanks, heroes,” King Rodvick says, shaking each of your hands. “I don’t know what we would have done without you!” Smiling at his daughter, Mara, he adds, “you’ve more than earned your reward.” He waves his hand to two servants, who run back into the royal chambers and emerge a moment later with a small chest full of gold! “You can also keep that magical sword if you want. Know that you are always welcome here in my castle, and furthermore, I’ll pay you for any dangerous monsters you capture during your adventures.”
If the players lose this final battle, they're woken up by King Rodvick and Mara some time later and are informed that the rebuilt clockwork guards wandered out of the castle after the battle. With all the monsters defeated, they've gone out into the wilderness in search of more, though their programming is obviously flawed and they now pose a threat to the local town. They should expect to encounter them in their future adventures.
And with that, the adventure is over. The heroes can stay in the castle as long as they like and the king holds true to his word: He locks up any dangerous enemies they manage to capture and pays the heroes a bounty for them.
Each player’s wealth increase by 1. They should also advance, adding 1 to any skill they want, including those from other classes.