Continuing 25 (horror) adventures in 25 days of September...
Horror Adventure 2 - My Elves Are Different
On the edge of the forsaken wilds, the characters meet an unusual patron at the tavern.
SETTING THE SCENE
The dark village huddles at the edge of a foreboding forest; peasants bars their doors at night and firmly close their shutters; only the rustic tavern offers any warmth against the night. In the tavern, the characters find the villagers are withdrawn and insular, closemouthed to outsiders. It's well known, even to outsiders, that elves live deep in the forests, and they have no love for the humans squatting on their doorstep.
If you need a reason for the adventurers to be in a remote village, offer to have them hired by the mayor to accompany him from the nearest town back to his village, escorting a wagon of valuables. The pay is excellent for the risk, and no bandits attack. On the road, they make friends with the mayor, as well as the mayor's daughter. Perhaps the characters are staying in the inn attached to the tavern, leaving tomorrow.
The tavern falls deathly silent when a stranger enters from out of the dark, removes his hood, and reveals the haughty but noble features of an elf.
The elf lets his gaze wander around the room. "I know you villager won't help me, as you're just a bunch of useless farmers and woodsmen; you cut our trees and trespass where you're not welcome." There are grumbles from the crowd as some of the men curse under their breath. "I'm looking for outsiders", says the elf…" adventurers. The elves needs outside help."
He'll go on and describe a sacred island, on a lake, deep in the elven forest, where a monster has taken up residence over the winter. The island is important for the upcoming rites of spring, and the elves will pay well in gold, craft goods, and magic to have it cleared. (Pick a tough but level appropriate monster that will intrigue the PCs, as well as offer an attractive reward - like a magic wand). Perhaps the bar keep tries to dissuade the characters from trusting the elves, but the elf patron does everything to reassure them that unlike the disgusting villagers, they'll be treated well.
There will be a long walk through the forest, to the lake, and then a misty canoe ride across the lake at dawn. An elf patrol meets them in the deep woods along the way, and wishes the adventurers good hunting. The island itself is dominated by a massive gnarled oak tree, the largest any of the characters has seen. There's a group of standing stones on the island, with a stair case leading downward. Its in the dark hole beneath the ground that the patron directs them - that is where the beast lairs.
Note: there are a number of well camouflaged canoes on the far side of the island, in case the characters conduct a thorough search of the shore.
Down beneath the ground is a series of ancient caves, with the heavy roots of the massive oak coming down through the roof. Bones and skulls jut from the earth of the cave floor. There are also a dozen Level 1 Elves, with Sleep spells ready, waiting in the deep shadows for the party to descend. They Sleep the adventurers immediately. (If the group finds the canoes, this ambush happens on the surface). The patron elf is a Level 3 Elf, and carries Sleep, Charm Person, and Web.
When the party wakes up, their gear has been stripped. Each one of the characters has been pushed up into the root structure, suspended in place by tree roots that coil and constrict every limb, preventing all movement. Worse, the characters can feel root tendrils from the mighty oak under their skin, worming their way deeper, draining their life energies.
What's going on?
The elves of the forest worship the great oak and feed it people. This lets it grow to extraordinary size and produce a handful of oversized acorns each year. These blood acorns are used by the elves in their rites; consumed directly, they have the magical properties of longevity potions.
Generations ago, the villagers learned that by working with the elves to lure some outsiders to the village once a year, the elves sacrificed the outsiders and left the villagers alone. All of the villagers are in on the trick; the hatred between elves and villagers is (mostly) a ruse - the villagers live in fear of the elves and honor the Covenant. The mayor's youthful daughter is having second thoughts now that she's seen the world outside the village.
What if the PC's don't go with the elf patron?
That's fine - the barkeep will try to slip them drugs, and if that fails, the villagers in the tavern will try and club them to unconsciousness. They're all basically zero-level humans, so professional adventurers should make short work of them, and be able to fight their way out of town. The patron elf is level 3.
What happens if they're all slept by the elves?
The characters will be at half hit points and groggy from the anesthetics the plant is injecting into them while its roots crawl under their skin and drain their juices (treat as a Slow Spell and Weakness effect). Characters might attempt a poison save to throw off the drowsiness long enough to make an open doors chance to break out before lapsing back asleep, forever.
If a character worked on being friends with the mayor's daughter, perhaps she tracks them to the island surreptitiously and swoops in after the elves leave, to cut them free before they die. She'll want to leave the village with them, forever.
If the group somehow breaks free, they're not "out of the woods"; there may not be canoes left on the island; their gear was taken by the elves; if they stumble back to the village, remember that the villagers are allies of the elves. What a pickle!
What happens if the PC's are too high level to be slept?
It should be a quick fight against a bunch of wicked 1st level elves. The PCs would be justified in wanting to go back to the elf village and get a little payback there, too - especially if they need to get their gear and equipment! The elves have been doing this for a long time, and probably have a good collection of minor treasures and mundane gear. Have fun!
Note: I'm going to strive for shorter, more concise, less fluff, etc; these are fun but turning out a bit longer than I hoped!
Locales: a remote village, an elven wood, a sacred island
NPCs: a patron elf, village mayor, mayor's daughter, tavern folks
Monsters: Elves! And a monstrous root system
Artifacts: Blood acorns