Dungeons & Dragons Online

Welcome to the Wayward Inn: Free Single-Session Adventure based on Hotel California

Hi all, this is my first ever adventure submission. Feel free to include critiques or suggestions below.

*Deep within the Imperial Forest, a group of adventurers, exhausted from their travels, stumbles across an unassuming Inn along the road. Full of delicious food, festive parties, and enough ale to intoxicate the most alcoholic of dwarfs; the adventurers decide to stay for a while. This place seems to have everything they could ever need. Why would they ever want to leave?*

  • Target Party and Level: 3 to 4 Level 6 Players
  • Expected Playtime: 2 to 3 Hours
  • Tone: Psychological Mystery

I would like to make a PDF at some point, but I struggle using Homebrewery. If this gains any traction, I'll try to put one out.


General Overview

This quest is heavily based on Hotel California by The Eagles. If you haven't heard it, give it a listen before reading on. The quest is full of references to the lyrics and band members. In short, this quest is a shorter adventure that a DM can use as 'filler' for when the players are covering a long distance. Rather than focus on combat, this adventure relies more on player-to-player role-play, as well as player-to-npc role-play. On top of this, the story is very, well, story-heavy. Its current form doesn't include a ton of dice rolling. Instead, your party's interactions, and your roleplaying, should drive the story. The adventure will follow your players who find themselves sucked into another realm localized entirely within the Wayward Inn. Unknown magical forces work behind the scenes to ensnare your party, keeping them trapped as food for a malicious being.


Setting

A rough-layout, not to scale, can be found here: https://imgur.com/rcWNbO4

The entirety of the adventure will take place in the Wayward Inn. At first glance, the Inn is rather normal. It is a one-story, primarily light-wood structure. It features six bedrooms, a tavern and ballroom. The Inn itself smells of baked goods, roasting meats, and damp wood. Windows dot the exterior in a uniform fashion, with small window gardens hanging from them. There is also a small covered porch at the front, where patrons will go to smoke or eat if the weather is nice.

The interior is much nicer than the outside would imply. Deep red and purple carpets cover the floor. Fine wooden furniture is arranged in the reception area. Paintings hang from the walls. Torch sconces provide interior lighting. It is a simple entrance, but quite homely and welcoming. The tavern is rather standard. A card table can be found across the bar. Several round tables sit out for patrons to sit at. A painting of a comically fat dwarf hangs on the wall opposite the entrance. There is all sort of scents fusing together within the tavern, creating a uniquely unoriginal tavern smell. Behind the bar is a door which leads to a small kitchen.

A long hallway with 3 doors spread evenly along either wall leads towards the ballroom. Behind each door is a bedroom. The rooms are quite comfortable in both size and furnishing. Each feature a queen-sized mattress, a large desk, chest and closets, as well as a coffee table and chairs.

The ballroom is la crème de la crème. Featuring several glass chandeliers, deep red carpets, tall ceilings, lots of artificial lights, standing tables, a large opening in the middle for gathering or dancing, and a stage on the left wall for the in-house string quartet to perform. Beside the stage is a door to a small janitorial closet. And on the far-corner of the right wall is a door to the Captain's quarters.

The Captain's quarters is a room much larger than the other patron's rooms. It features a large banquet style table, detailed arts, lots of windows and houseplants, as well as a small personal library and desk, among the usual decorations that would come with such a room. Strangely enough, however, is the collection of mirrors which line the walls. *Weird…*


NPCS

The cast for this adventure is rather small, however, I leave some of the more unessential NPCs to you. I would encourage you to make them npcs who fit into your worlds lore a bit. Yes, these names are references to members of the Eagles. If a player knows this, you've got to give them inspiration!

  • The Captain: The Captain is the owner of the Wayward Inn, and will only ever be referred to as such. He is an older human, probably in his mid-60s, though he would say late 50s. Physically, he is bald and aged, though he carries himself in a manner which implies prior military service. Though he is friendly, he should appear somewhat distracted and tired. He'll frequently end conversations early to "attend to other business," before vanishing to his chambers.
  • Cilinda Ronstadt: Cilinda parallels the women from the song. She is incredibly beautiful, though a bit old (think 40s). She wears a rather valuable emerald necklace. She is a flirt who is very popular with the other guests. She was drawn to the Inn after hearing about the parties that they threw. She will be the main NPC the party interacts with, and should become more cryptic as the party starts to learn more. She was a former alchemist, whose life went on a downward spiral following the death of her family at the hands of several bandits.
  • Josiah Walsh: A large and older human with a pencil mustache. He is very friendly. He stays at the Inn to relive his youthful days. He had a lover that died in child-birth. Whatever song the quartet is playing at the moment, will happen to be his former lovers favorite track. *Josiah represents the patrons that dance to remember*
  • Donovan Felder: Younger man with the same tired expression worn by the Captain. He stays at the Wayward Inn to drink and forget his mistakes. I keep that a bit mysterious, but you can be specific if you feel like it. *Donovan represents the patrons who dance to forget*

Beyond these main four, there are 7 other patrons, 4 quartet members, 1 barkeep, 1 chef and 1 night man. This totals 18 npcs; however, only Cilinda and The Captain really matter to the progression of the story. The rest serve as interaction and world-building opportunities. On top of this, every character carries a similar empty-look in their eyes the party can find on a skill check. You can use these npcs to really dump some lore on your players (lore which could kick-start future adventures).

Very important: All NPCS should suffer from a terrible grief in their backstory. The more of this that you can include, the better. You want the players to notice this connection between all patrons.


Prep

No real set-up or prep is required for this adventure. If you wish, you can have the players hear rumors of the Wayward Inn while on their travels, but that is definitely not necessary. Like I mentioned earlier, this adventure is meant to be used as something to do while players cover a huge distance. However, you can use it wherever you feel convenient. I would avoid sticking the Inn in a city or town, and instead, plant it away from civilization, just so the players feel all the more isolated.


Theory

Ideally, you'll want the players to go into this adventure without knowing that they are going into an adventure. That is to say, they should think the Inn is completely normal at first. When I used it, the Party arrived at the Inn on Day 3 of a 6-day journey, with a small flavor encounter ending Days 1 and 2. I wanted them in the mindset that this would be another small flavor encounter, as to create that much more surprise and dread when they found that something was actually terribly wrong.

This leads me to preface the entire quest explanation with this thought: Be careful in not rushing the drama. Let the players enjoy the initial role-play with Cilinda and the Captain. Let them gamble and converse at the night's party, and do whatever else, *before* you start turning up the heat. If you rush it, the quest may break down and lose its impact.


Act 1: Wayward Inn

Ideally, the players will have some small encounters before the adventure starts. Remember, you want to take them off their guard before you trap them. During the day, allude to a shift in the weather, as the Party feels some *cool wind in their hair.* Yes, you're going to casually drop/allude to the lyrics during the campaign, and if your players are observant, they'll go crazy at the end.

When the party begins looking for a place to settle down for the night, let the road lead them to an open clearing with a singular well in the road. The well is operational, if they need water. As they approach the well, allude to the *smell of baked bread and meats in the air* (I would avoid saying colitas, as they may Google out of curiosity, and they may find the song, spoiling the fun). Across the clearing, roughly 600 yards out, will be a *shimmering light.* As they approach the light, have them roll a Con. Saving Throw (DC 16). On a fail, they gain a point of exhaustion, as *their heads grow heavy, and their sight grows dim.* Approaching the light, they'll find a single lantern swaying in the wind outside the Wayward Inn. Cilinda *will be standing in the doorway*, having a smoke. Point out her beauty and all that. You want to really make the party like her. Don't lay on it so hard that they grow suspicious of her, though. She'll invite them into the Wayward Inn. The party will meet the night man, who will tell them that *they have plenty of room at the Wayward Inn.* They'll be charged 5 gold per night, however, this covers the cost of food and drink as well. What a deal!

Once they settle in to their room, Cilinda will invite them for a drink in the tavern. If they refuse, have her come back later, and invite them to the party that is starting, if they still refuse, *wake them up in the middle of the night* to the sounds of paryting coming from the ballroom. If they refuse to investigate, check the Appendices at the bottom. I can't imagine a party not wanting to be involved, but who really knows.

Assuming they go to drink with her, she'll reveal information about herself and some information about the Wayward Inn. In her own words, "*It's such a lovely place.*

ALSO: If they go to drink, have them request a specific drink order. You want them to remember the name of a specific beverage.

  • The Wayward Inn is a popular travel destination for people all over the continent. Known for its parties and sense of revelry.
  • Cilinda sought out these parties. She is somewhat of a free spirit, looking for fun.
  • She has been at the Inn for, what she thinks, is 2 weeks or so. She has made a lot of friends since she has arrived. Use this as a pretext to introduce the party to another patron or two. Perhaps they are invited to play a dice game.
  • Not a lot of people show up, but people do occasionally leave (more on that later).
  • She should reference her background as an alchemist, but should avoid bringing up her grief.

Towards the end of this conversation, have her invite them to the party happening later. Depending on what time you had the party arrive at the Wayward Inn should influence how much down-time they have. Parties typically start around 11 pm, but the sounds of revelerey will let them know when exactly.

FIRST BIT OF STRANGENESS: Anytime a party member drinks any alcohol, have them roll a Wisdom Saving Throw (DC 15). If they fail, they are now charmed by *something,* and will no longer want to leave the Wayward Inn. Note, that this only means they won't want to leave the Inn. This doesn't affect anything else about their character. This gets to the fun role-play part where characters have to start reconciling with previous committments, now being overruled by a desire to stay at the Inn, and the potential for unaffected players to try and talk them out of it. The charm is nearly indefinite, and the player will not know that they are charmed, nor should they act in a bizarre manner. They just really enjoy being at the inn. Do not bring this up until the charmed player suggest they want to leave the Inn. Intervene, and tell them that, no, their character doesn't want to leave. It should come as a bit of surprise. And besides, isn't it a bit unnerving when a DM asks you to role, but doesn't tell you what happens.

Assuming the party complies, and heads to the Party later, use this as a chance to introduce them to some other patrons and, namely, to the Captain. The Captain, recognizing them to be adventurers, will tell them of a beast stalking that woods nearby, and will ask that they hunt the beast in the morning. He will promise gold in return.


Act 2: The Hunt

This act really serves 2 important purposes.

  1. To tempt uncharmed party members to stay at the Inn a bit longer. Potentially giving you more chances to charm them if they are not already charmed. Though, charming them is not necessary. Read the appendices if your curious what happens when a player tries to leave.
  2. To provide a break from the role-playing with some casual combat.

And before you ask, charmed players will leave the Inn and go on the hunt. They are operating under the assumption that they will return to it after the hunt, so they are fine.

The hunt itself should be fairly standard. I follow the Witcher 3 formula when creating monster hunters. Have some clues (claw marks, attacks, blood trails, foot prints, etc.), that they can use to track the beast. I won't give a specific beast, as it doesn't matter too much what they are fighting, and should be determined by party level, composition and location.

The party will return after the hunt, probably expecting their reward. However, turns out the Captain is not very liquid at the moment, and can't pay them *yet.* He will assure them that he has some coin coming in from the sale of old furniture, and that they can have it, but they'll need to wait a day or so. An insight check (DC 14) will suggest that he is being dishonest.

Naturally, there are many ways this can go. At the end of the day though, your goal is to keep them there, as them trying to leave escalates the tension rather dramatically. You want them to figure out what is going on through deduction, not through trying to leave, in my opinion.


Act 3: Mirrors on the Ceiling

If the players go for a drink, ask them specifically what drink they'd like. Hope that they'll remember their drink, so you can hit them with the infamous line *We haven't had that drink here since 1969.* Naturally, you want to change the date for whatever date system you are using.

At this point, your players should be thoroughly suspicious, if not concerned. They will feel as though they've been there for only a day, but in actuality, have been there for years now. If your campaign includes minted coins, include a bit about the dating on the coins being many years ahead of what it should be. Include political or economic information that conflicts with what they know to be true (XYZ is no longer the king, he has been dead for over a decade now, blah blah country conquered ABC country years ago, etc.) At this point, I also threw in some mind-games with my player, by telling some players that they remembered certain npcs that other players didn't remember (implying that, over there many years there, they had met a lot of people, and while some players remember some of them, others do not). Any insight checks made against npcs should suggest that they all believe they are being honest.

Later that night, Cilinda should seek them out, and invite them to the Captain's annual feast. While having this conversation, her hand should extend out, holding several small vials of liquid. If the party inquires, she'll make no comment about them, unaware of what they are talking about. Her eyes should be completely dead (Insight DC 12), and tears should start to roll down her face, though she won't react to them.

Assuming they haven't broken into his room, the feast should be the first time they enter his bedroom. Upon entering, a perception roll (DC 13, PP may make a player auto-notice this) made by a player will notice a slight, unnatural shift in the reflection of the mirrors. Spread out across the dining table will be a rather impressive feast, and most of the patrons will be present. During the feast, the Captain will congratulate everyone on another succesful year of business for the Wayward Inn, before the horrifying phantom of a decomposing, female corpse crawls from the mirror and begins drawing on the energy within the Captain, dementor style. No one will seem to care in the slightest.

If a player has either:

  1. Not been charmed by the Inn
  2. Drank some of the liquid in the vial Cilinda gave them

Then that player will be able to engage the Phantom normally. The Phantom will agro instantly. If a player is still charmed, then they will not be able to engage the Phantom. The party members who are charmed will still role iniative. At the start of their turn, they can make a Wisdom Saving Throw (DC 14) to break free of their charm.

Phantom Stat Block: https://imgur.com/ZYPScXd

Whether the party 'defeats' the Phantom, or 'loses' to the Phantom, they'll suddenly find themselves back in their rooms, with vivid memories up to the end of the fight. The party can speak to Cilinda again, who, in a moment of lucidity following the encounter with the Phantom, will tell them, among other things, "*We're all just prisoners here, of our own device.*" She will then reveal her theory on the Wayward Inn (below), mention how she has been there for hundreds of years, and encourage them to destroy the beast, thereby saving the souls of the patrons.

Explanation for how the Inn works: The Inn pulls in individuals who either stumble across it (like the Party), or those who are trying to escape from some immeasurable grief. The patrons are all people who have suffered greatly, and use the parties and feasts to forget, or remember. This grief is what the Phantom feeds on. Because the Party members do not suffer this same grief, they are able to snap out of the curse in the presence of the Phantom.

From here on out, every patron will cease to be active, and will only stand and watch the party. They will refuse to speak or act. Clearly, something is up…

If they return to the Captain's room, they will encounter the Phantom again. Everytime they defeat the Phantom, it will "restart" the day, sending them back to their room. The only dicernable difference will be the mirrors. Every destroyed mirror will stay destroyed. By destroying all the mirrors, they will be able to kill the Phantom. There are 10 mirrors in total. A Dexterity or Strength check (DC 14) will destroy the mirror.


Closing

–For added difficulty, you can choose to deny the players long rests. They can no longer sleep in the Wayward Inn, and thus, the fight becomes a battle of attrition. Will they find out how to kill the Phantom before succumbing to exhaustion?–

Once the party defeats the Phantom, the reality they are in will begin to crumble. The outside terrain, and structure itself, will begin to fade into a blank void, and the only way out will be to reach the front door in time. Skill checks I include:

  • Hands emerging from the walls and floors trying to grab players as they flee towards the exit (DEX/STR Saving Throw DC 12)
  • Floor in front of them falls out, and they have to make a running jump (DC 12)
  • Dodge the collapse of the ballroom chandelier (DEX Saving Throw DC 12)

Add more or subtract at your discretion. Clearly, if they take too long or miss a jump, they fall to the void. The result of this is explained in the appendicee.

Note: While the escape is happening, make sure to play Hotel California at the culmination of the adventure.

Once they reach the door, they then all find themselves waking up again. This time though, they will be back at the well, with their camping gear all set in place. Begs the question if any of it was real. They will find that there is no Inn. An investigation of the where the Inn should be will reveal the remnants of an old foundation, on top of this an investigation check (DC 10), will find an aged grave near the edge of the foundation marked "Cilinda Ronstadt," as well as the Emerald Necklace she wore (gp 120).

–End–


Appendicees

  • If a player ever tries to leave the Wayward Inn, they will find that they can walk out of the building freely. However, as they travel further and further from the Inn, the detail in the world starts to deteriorate. If they go too far, they'll find themselves at the edge of an eternal void, similar to the end of the adventure. Upon returning to the Inn, the night man will hit them with the iconic line: *You can check out anytime you'd like, but you can never leave.*
    • As mentioned, this obviously blows the adventure wide open. That's why I prefer having the party mostly charmed or busy, so they slowly figure out what is going on.
  • I also understand that the statblock for the Phantom of the Wayward Inn might not be clear, or balanced. It may need adjustment or balancing. It ran well enough for my party, but I understand that it may not translate perfectly over text.
    • Its powers revolve around its control over the patrons and its ability to phase in and out of mirrors.
  • The effect for falling into the void is not set in place. For my campaign, a party member did fall in. Now, he always carried a stone with a face on it. After falling in, his soul entered the stone, and so he became a talking stone. The party had to find a way in the following session to return his soul to his lifeless body.
    • I do not think falling in should result in death however.
  • Have fun! I am by no means an expert, and if you can think of changes that make it better, then please do tell me about it.

Links

Phantom Statblock: https://imgur.com/ZYPScXd

Rough map of Inn: https://imgur.com/rcWNbO4

Source

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