Dungeons & Dragons Online

Dark and Comedic Radiant Encounters to Steal

The Toll

While making a crossing, a troll demands the toll for the upkeep of his bridge. The troll inherited the responsibility of the upkeep for this bridge and lives in a hovel nearby. Because it doesn’t technically fall into any city’s province no municipality is responsible. The troll demands very little, merely one gold piece. It is willing to accept food, particularly of the fey kind as payment for its work. The troll may speak giant or very broken common depending on the party’s language loadout. There are no significant consequences for either paying ignoring or attacking the troll it’s just a stand alone moral choice.

Give me a good death

An old paladin hobgoblin wants his ‘good death’. The hobgoblin has been looking for this death for quite some time in order to get into their order’s afterlife. They might phrase their proposal with the implication that the players should kill it. But in truth a self actualised hobgoblin of this obscure faction must only be killed by the one who knows them the most, themselves. Cut to the dilemma: the hobgoblin has rigged up some very elaborate means to commit suicide, it could be a Rube Goldberg Saw trap which ritualistically cuts the individual open seppuku style or a simple cliff edge with lots of spiritual meaning to the paladin; the problem is the hobgoblin needs an audience for its death or it doesn’t count. Though they might explain this in so many words, the players may still not be able to shake the feeling they are being tricked into an ambush.

Tell my wife…

The players have arrived just in time to witness a grizzly scene. Two travellers have met with an unfortunate accident. Their carriage flew too fast down a hill and has crashed into a fallen tree. One of the travellers who was manning the horse was flung forwards and has been impaled on one of the trees many sharp branches. The other who was riding in the car has been partially crushed by the carriage. Both are still alive, though minutes from death. However importantly they happen to be just out ears reach from each other. Cut to the scene: the pair, whatever their relationship, it’s up to you, each have some final words to impart on their long time travel companion. The trick here is to make it seem like they have a lot of history together, and the more humanity comes across the better. Try to elicit either some humour or tragedy from the dramatic irony of their messages to one another with the players as intermediaries. One has a message of love the other a message of hatred and annoyance. Or perhaps one has a message for the other while the other has a message for their homeland without a thought for their partner at all. Three or so exchanges should do it before one tragically dies never to hear the final message.

Nomadic metamorphosis

The approach of a satyr, a faun and a pair of half elves can be heard from quite some distance. They are a band of pagan nomadic revellers who promote ‘the old ways’ and insist the world used to be so much more connected. They simply want to have a good time and don’t recognise things like ‘taxation laws’ or owning the land. They insist that the players join them, have a drink and enjoy their cantus. This is a chance for your session to get musical. Find the lyrics to an old folk song and you can even post them in the chat. If the revellers really get the party engaged they might start to look a little concerned and then offer the party some stronger drink. In reality it is a potion to accentuate the players Druidic power, and will temporarily turn them into deer. This is just as well as there shortly after (for those who do not drink the stronger stuff) will the players encounter a patrol of highway guardsmen who are tracking paganists who are outlaws as they contribute nothing to society and live their lives differently. Those who don’t drink the potion will be asked where the paganists went and if they tell them about the changing into deer they may successfully hunt them down, even if half the party turned into deer themselves.

Stillborn

A high elf and their wife have been travelling from their countryside homestead to the nearest city because the travelling matron who was to birth their child has not yet showed and the wife has gone into labour a month early. They can’t possibly reach the town in time to visit a clinic, but who they do encounter in time are the players. What follows is an unnecessarily graphic series of medicine checks constitution saving throws and roleplaying, which can be adjusted for the less squeamish if the mother is, say, a tiefling. Like the title suggests, the infant will be born dead but also the mother will go into shock. She may still be saved if one of the players uses any sort of healing magic on her or does anything else approvably clever. Now if you don’t want your campaign to be horrendously dark (read the tone of the room), the high elf may turn out to be something of a necromancer and be able to cast one Ressurection spell on either the mother or the infant in that order of priority. Personally in my campaign necromancy has been outlawed and is extremely uncommon which adds an extra layer of complication such that the players to make a choice as to how they feel about this. The alive infant might remain cold to the touch to add a bit more intrigue. Like many of these encounters this need not be the last time these folk are encountered.

What’s on the menu?

The gang discovers a separate party of adventurers. In many ways they resemble themselves, you might even create foils for each of the PCs, individuals who are similar to the player characters but have got over some fatal flaw which somehow makes them drastically different – and not necessarily in a good way. Ed Sheehan’s there for some reason. This other party politely offers the players to sit with them and share their meal. They won’t necessarily be quite forthcoming with what the meat is unless the players ask: veal they might tell them, or at a push the truth: it’s the goblin caravan the PCs passed a few miles back. Goblin makes for a delicacy if you cook it right, these new spurious allies will allege, at least where they come from. The trick is to make sure the meat doesn’t feel stressed when it dies. Now it’s up to the players how they react. Doubtless, they may have had many an encounter with goblins who were naturally evil. But at the end of the day they are perfectly sentient creatures and in no need of butchering…

I’m sorry, he’s just confused…

An old human of well over 80 years accosts the players with a dangerous looking knife. As severe as his weapon looks, this man is evidently a non-threat – for starters he is one alone against however many people you set him against (although this one could work well when an individual is separated from the group). The old man is senile, he’s been out of the bandit game for decades now and evidently made a success of it but still desperately has something to prove to himself. All of this may be determined by a simple perception check or involved roleplay. The man has a shoddy stance and quivers as if it pains him to even hold the weapon. He has scars on his face indicating he may once have been a fearsome highwayman. But now he is so evidently out of his depth it would take a surely cruel PC to take him on and kill him. If someone tries after the first hit he may drop his weapon with fright, and become quite the pitiful sight. If you’re lacking for a cohesive way out of this one his twenty or so year old grandson might enter the scene and profusely apologise, explaining his grandfather doesn’t really understand what he’s doing or where he is. This is one of my favourites for restoring a bit of humanity to the players after a bit of murdering or to sustain the somber tone if the narrative has become a bit tragic (can you say pathetic fallacy?). It’s important to remind the players that they live in a nuanced living world, where people care about their lives and those of loved ones.

It’s not that way.

I love having my players interact with Karens. This encounter isn’t quite a Karen but may certainly be an uppity posh person. It might also work better in large urban environments. The scene is a random traveler journeying alone by foot asks the players for a location they should know, usually the town they just came from. The npc will thank them and head off in a direction. Then a few moments later (adjust for comedic timing) the players will encounter the npc again, who evidently didn’t take their advice. They, (perhaps deliberately) not recognising the players they just asked for directions, will ask for directions again preferably this time directing their enquiry at another player. If that player gives the same directions the npc will smile, thank them and start walking off in a completely different direction to where they were told, preferably the same direction as the players. The truth is the npc thinks they have some idea of where they’re going and strongly believes the direction isn’t the direction the players have told them. They are either too polite or too awkward to say. They might explain the situation or they might double down on their pride, it’s up to you. This can easily be played for laughs, but be aware it will frustrate your players a little bit. What it probably needs is a punchline to relieve the tension. But I have yet to find one.

The Road not Taken

On their journey the players must journey through a yellow wood. In it to their dismay and lack of direction the path splits in two before them and two roads diverge. Upon a perception check, the best one can know about one, looking as far down it they can, is that it ultimately disappears into the undergrowth. The other is patched grassier and worn through. Then again, the other might be worn about the same. No matter how well players roll or what they do the roads will always resist being known fully. And since each player is but one traveller and hardly able to split themselves in two, they will have to make some decision, knowing that it might be they never come back. Will it make all the difference? No.

Wishing Well

On the road the players pass a gnome with a bucket full of gold pieces. A little further down the way the players find a well kept wishing well. If they don’t immediately throw some money in there and try to leave, the ‘well’ will start talking to them in an impressive mystical voice, promising it can grant wishes. This is an obvious scam – two cunning gnomes making the best of travellers’ superstitions. The well is dry and has a crawl space near the crank the other gnome is hiding.

Tribute

If a bard isn’t almost a necessity for this one, musical instruments absolutely are. Once again, you won’t get very far if your players aren’t very down to get musical or understand the blatant reference. The PCs are hiking down a long and lonesome road. When all of a sudden there shines a shining demon in the middle of the road. He says “Play the best song in the world, or I’ll eat your souls”. Whatever the players do will just so happen to be considered the best song in the world, although a short while after they will barely remember what they played. The demon will ask “be you angels?” The players are obliged to answer “nay, we are but men, rock! Aaaaaaaaaah-“.

It’s the end of the world

A sky leviathan passes overhead, even at its immense altitude in the upper atmosphere it is a dreadful sight to behold, soon not even requiring a perception check. For a moment it eclipses the sun. The players encounter a group of fanatics, perhaps they aren’t such before heralding this experience, but the calamitous titan streaks across the sky like a comet sinister as an omen of death. The fanatics, one of whom is a seer, are certain this signals the completion of a prophecy foretelling of Armageddon. What makes these fellas so dangerous is their newly acquired lack of inhibitions at this frantic certainty. It can be played for laughs or lead to combat. Put the feelers out. My players took the piss and stirred them up

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