TRIAL BY FIRE

A one-shot adventure designed to provide as much Rpg fun as possible
in three hours, to new and veteran players

Trial by Fire: Aim and Philosophy

This one-shot adventure is designed to be completed in about three hours, allowing even inexperienced players (and Game Masters), despite its short duration, to experience various aspects of a role-playing game, such as social interactions, combat and out-of-combat challenges. Veterans will hopefully enjoy its plot too: it’s simple, but has a few twists and turns.

Three hours (or more) of Rpg fun

The adventures tries to involve and empower players with a pressing pace, minimizing downtime and creating situations that will hopefully engage each one of them. Above all, the players will be able to complete a narrative arc, giving them the satisfaction of ending their adventure. To reconcile the need to show many aspects of role play gaming and its short duration, the adventure has been divided into separate chapters, or scenes, each with a precise objective and a direct and unique path to the next one.

To make the adventure work, especially with more experienced players, an agreement must be created between players and DM: those who play know that the adventure is made of a series of scenes linked to each other by the DM’s narration. Full freedom of action is possible only within each of them.

The material provided here is designed with this aim, but the adventure can be transformed into a "classic" adventure by expanding the connecting parts between one scene and the next, giving the go-ahead to possible alternative choices, and anticipating or improvising the consequent behavior of NPCs and opponents.

Premade material for an easy start

Five pre-made, 2nd-level, System Reference Document compliant characters have been included, as well as guidelines for running it with 3, 4 or 5 players, but the adventure can be easily adapted for other characters and levels as well, following a few guidelines provided below. Also included are combat maps, that can be printed or used online during fights.

Don't be discouraged by the page count of this adventure, compared to its duration: we tried to provide many explanations on the setting's context, detailed to-do indications and quite rich descriptions, allowing even more inexperienced DMs to guide the adventure and react correctly to the PCs' initiative. You can use these guidelines as they are, if you find them suited to your taste, or abandon them for improvisation if you feel safe, but in any case we recommend reading the adventure from cover to cover at least once before playing it.

Enjoy reading and have fun!

Team Chimaera


Team Chimaera

Team Chimaera is an association of Italian RPGs enthusiasts devoted to spreading RPGs, and the world's most popular one in particular, in Italy and beyond. Over the course of our 15+ years of history we created over 30 adventures (this is one of them) and involved thousands of players during demos, tournaments and many other events.

Introduction

Short Synopsis

The Duke of Welmar is interested in negotiating a truce with the humanoids known as "Ferals" who live close to his Duchy. He’s not particularly keen on the PCs, but they are the most suitable group for the task of escorting his envoy, Mikalion, to the Flamerock Volcano, where a meeting that brings together all the Ferals tribes will be held, so he reluctantly hires them for the job. After defeating a group of robbers (an optional battle, a "tutorial" of sorts, that can be removed for time reasons) the PCs will arrive at the meeting, but there the Duke's messenger will be put under arrest for no apparent reason.

The PCs will have to negotiate in his place on behalf of the Duke, bearing in mind that the Ferals culture is very different from their own; furthermore, they will have to work for the liberation of the diplomat, who seems destined to be sacrificed to the volcano. What’s really happening is that the Feral shamans have been deceived by a self-styled “deity”, who claims to be the "Spirit of the Volcano" and who wants to use the ambassador as a bargaining chip with the Duke: the PCs will have to defeat him.

Full background

Arestor Welmar I was once a general, skilled enough to create and expand the Duchy that bears his name from lands partly uninhabited, partly populated by local humanoids. Some of them were immediately hostile to the Duchy: in fact, the first wars fought by the Duke were in self-defence, without the possibility of diplomacy.

Afterwards, Welmar got carried away and led several expansion expeditions. Regrettably, he often equated hostile goblins, orcs and gnolls tribes with members of more peaceful races, such as Lizardfolks, Dwarves and Ferals, who were mainly interested in being left alone but were instead attacked in more than one occasion.

As he aged, the tough Duke softened a bit, and he has recently decided to come to terms with the most honorable and trustworthy humanoid races.

In the last year the relationship with the Dwarves has improved a lot, while the "Beastmen" (as the Ferals are called in the Duchy) and Lizardfolks are sometimes still involved in small skirmishes against pioneer villages.

The Duke was very pleased to receive an invitation letter, informing him of an important meeting between all the Feral tribes, during which alliances, marriages and celebrations would take place. One or more emissaries of the Duke were invited to this meeting. The message, delivered through merchants contacted by the Ferals, explicitly requested that only diplomats should be sent, not soldiers. Wishing to take advantage of the opportunity, but also to protect his envoy, the Duke decided to contact the PCs.

If you use the premade characters, the PCs are a group of adventurers (heroes to some) known for having opposed the most brutal actions of the Duke, acting as mediators between the Duchy and the natives, and resorting to violence only in extreme cases. Although they are not really outlaws, they are not very well regarded by the Duchy, but they are greatly respected by the people of the borderlands and the majority of humanoid races, for their fairness. They are also skilled scouts and trackers.

The Duke has therefore chosen them as escorts, hoping that the Ferals will consider them better than his men. However, the PCs have actually had only sporadic interactions with the Ferals. None of them has been in their territories or knows their current political situation; nevertheless, the PCs are certainly better known and respected than the soldiers of the Duke. Even if the Duke wants only his diplomat to speak on behalf of the Duchy, the PCs are more than willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that everything runs smoothly, and that no one makes foolish moves.

What no one in the Duchy knows is that the actions of the Ferals have been influenced for years by a vicious master: a renegade Azer, named Akrask, who proclaimed himself "God/Spirit of Flamerock". The Ferals have always considered the Flamerock Volcano a holy site, and Akrask has exploited their superstitions: a charismatic sorcerer, he managed to pass himself off as a divine being. Now the shamans of the Ferals consider him an avatar of the Volcano, angry with them, and every year when they meet for their celebrations they pay him a tribute of food and slaves.

When Akrask learned that the Duke was offering peace to the Ferals, he devised a plan to benefit from the situation: he asked the Ferals to invite a diplomat from the Duchy, with the intention of kidnapping him. He hopes to demand a ransom, or to put the blame on his "followers" and trigger an open war that would weaken both the Feral tribes and the Duchy of Welmar: Akrask has several allies of diabolical origin who have much to gain from the weakness of the Duchy, and while not yet willing to expose themselves, such sinister figures are ready to support and reward him if his plans were successful.


Managing Player Characters

Included here are five premade PCs, designed for the tone and challenges of the adventure. Born in (or long time inhabitants of) the Duchy, they are known for having opposed the most brutal actions of Duke Welmar, trying to act as mediators between the Duchy and its rivals. The personality descriptions of the premade characters are deliberately minimalist, to allow players to master them quickly, but their background can be expanded at will.

If you’d rather not use these characters, but prefer that the players create their own, they should still have a common background similar to the one proposed here: they should be locals, and with personalities congruent with the themes, motivations and behaviours foreseen in the adventure.

If you want to link this one-shot adventure to your regular campaign, it is also possible to play PCs with no ties within the Duchy, nor knowledge of the wilderness beyond it: in this case, however, you will have to change the parts of the adventure describing the relationship between the PCs and the Duke, the fact that they know some of the Ferals, and the ending. A good compromise could be having at least one of the characters as a native from the Duchy.

The challenges are designed for a group of 2nd-level PCs. You can increase the difficulty of the challenges and encounters for higher level characters, but we suggest not to play this adventure with characters beyond 5th-6th level.

It is also possible to play it with 1st-level PCs: in this case, only a few modifications are needed. We recommend to weaken Akrask in the last fight, taking as an example its version for 3 2nd-level PCs as an ideal challenge for a group of 5 1st-level PCs. The PCs were actually made second level specifically to reduce the mortality of this fight. Finally, should you wish to add a sixth PC, our recommendation is to add 20-25 HP to Akrask's 5 PCs versions.

Preparation and PC selection (30 min.)

  1. Read the group background to the players.
  2. Read the individual backgrounds to all of them as well, since the PCs know each other already. Then, give them the character sheets, letting each player choose which character to play. If they are inexperienced players, briefly explain them what their characters can do.
  3. Next, read the information about the Beastmen/Ferals.
  4. Finally, answer any questions from the group.

Group Background

Arestor Welmar I was once a general, skilled enough to create (30 years ago) and expand the Duchy that now bears his name, obtained from lands partly uninhabited, partly inhabited by humanoid populations. Your families were among the first to set in the Duchy, which was initially a tolerant place, welcoming to members of different races, even the ones hated by most, such as Tiefling and Half Orcs.

This was the place most of you were born and raised in. You love your people, but in recent years things have taken a turn for the worse and the Duchy, from the place of freedom and tolerance it once was, has turned into an oppressor. Often the hostile goblins, orcs and gnolls have been equated with members of more noble races, such as Lizardfolks, Dwarves and Ferals. The latter humanoid tribes were only interested in being left alone, but have nevertheless been attacked by the Duke’s soldiers on more than one occasion. Some of you have deserted the army, others have left their studies and their homes in the capital to live in the wilderness, opposing the most brutal actions of Duke Welmar.

You have tried above all to act as mediators between the Duchy and the natives, resorting to violence only in extreme situations and in virtually all cases against orcs, goblinoids and duergars who took advantage of the chaos created by the conflictual situation to harass both the subjects of the Duke and the peaceful communities of humanoids, putting the blame on one side or the other. Although you are not really considered outlaws, you are not very well regarded by the Duke, but are respected by most good-willed humanoids as well as by the settlers living near the borders of the Duchy.

The tough Duke, however, in the very last period has softened up a bit, and since a few months now has decided to come to terms with the most honourable and trustworthy humanoids. Relations with the Dwarves have improved considerably, while the "beast men" (as the Ferals are called in the Duchy) and the Lizardfolks sometimes still launch small skirmishes, and sometimes defend themselves, against pioneers.


If you have time, you can postpone the following section, assigning the PCs now and later roleplaying the Duke inviting the PCs to one of his holdings, explaining the current situation and hiring them. If you plan to end the adventure within 3 hours, just read the next part.

The Duke recently received a letter of invitation, informing him of an important meeting between all the tribes of Ferals, called the "Gathering", where marriages and celebrations take place... and alliances are forged. One or more emissaries of the Duchy were invited to this meeting, to negotiate a truce; the message, delivered through merchants contacted by the Ferals, made however clear that no soldier would be allowed to the Gathering, only diplomats and ambassadors. The Duke did not want to send a military contingent, but also couldn't expose his diplomat in this way: for this reason, even with many uncertainties, he decided to contact you.

In one of his holdings outside the capital he explained the situation with a little embarrassment, asking for your help as escorts, and stating that getting the diplomat safely to his destination would be in the interest of all.

In fact, you have only had sporadic relations with the Ferals and you do not know their tribes in depth, but you have sometimes spoken to and traveled with some of them, and learned a little bit about their customs: certainly, you are much more considered and respected than the Ducal soldiers. The Duke's plan, in short, seems good for once, and after briefly thinking about it, you decide to accept. The Duke is clear: only the emissary will be allowed to speak during the Gathering, and you will only have to protect him if necessary. Nevertheless, you are more than willing to make sure that everything runs smoothly from every point of view, and that neither side makes any dumb move.

Individual backgrounds

Erdel, Half Elf Rogue

Capricious, eccentric, astute, a little crazy, she loves joking and enjoying the little pleasures of life: an orphan, since she was a child she could never really bear someone telling her what to do. This led her to choose a lifestyle and skills not entirely recommendable, but by extension she developed the philosophy that no one should force others to do anything they wouldn’t want to do.

Damakos,Tiefling Bard

Very open, he gives great importance to personal freedom, having experienced on his own prejudice and distrust: always being at the center of conflicts has made him an expert diplomat. He tries to bring dialogue wherever there is a potential conflict, showing how much both sides have to lose in a violent confrontation.

Perrin, Halfling Ranger

An explorer who loves frontier life, he has settled in the Duchy for years and considers it his home, even if he cannot stand the interference of the Duchy in the settlers’ lives. He is full of resources, sometimes impulsive and led to action and to take calculated risks: he simply does not like sitting back while things happen around him. He is a skilled rider.

Ilikan, Half Orc Fighter

A robust fellow who loves simple things like drinking, dancing, eating and fighting; but he's also always ready to take the floor to defend the rights of oppressed people (even if speaking is not his forte). He deserted from Welmar's army in disagreement with the brutality of his captain, and he has been living outside the Duchy since.

Caelynna, Human Wizard

Competent, endowed with a great culture, she loves to learn new things not only by studying them but above all by verifying first hand what she has studied. She was an intellectual who opposed the cultural manipulations of the Duchy, which led to wars and discredit of enemies, until she gave up her comfortable lifestyle in the capital for a life as a vagabond.

Information about the Ferals

  • They prefer to be called Ferals, not Beastmen: this derogatory nickname, used in the Duchy, derives from the wild aspect of this people that share a bond with wolves. Be it as it may, the Ferals are not at all werewolves, but a race very similar to humans, with feral somatic and character traits, such as fur, bigger ears and love for hunting and nature.

  • The value of the individual (military, as a guide, horseman, shaman and wise man, etc.) demonstrated by facts, has a fundamental weight in defining one’s role in society, infinitely more important than political and kinship calculations. Clan meetings like the Gathering are excellent opportunities to prove one's worth in non-violent competitions of various kinds.

  • Ferals are also known for the great bond they have with their "steeds", i.e. direwolves; and being a good "horseman" is considered one of the greatest honours among them.

  • They are extremely proud, and very unlikely to admit they problems, both to foreigners and to their own people; on the other hand, they react very badly to threats and limitations of their personal freedom.

  • They are divided into tribes and do not have a single leader, but you have heard that during meetings such as the Gathering they rely on the mediation of residing shamans.

  • Attempting to convert them to a single religion (something that the clerics of the Duchy have repeatedly tried to do) is considered a serious offence. On the other hand, they are syncretic and willing to follow the dictates of various deities, as long as they do not feel obliged to worship a single one.

  • Nature is seen as something sacred: the Ferals believe that natural spirits pervade every tree, mountain and living and inanimate being. For this reason, they have great respect for those who demonstrate that they know and care for the flora and fauna of a given place.

  • They have a very strong sense of hospitality towards those who present themselves as friends, although this changes if they feel they are at war.

  • They love music and dance with unearthly grace.

  • You haven't met many Ferals during your travels, but you have spent time with a couple of them in the past. You think you'd be able to recognize them if you saw them at the Gathering.

In the remaining time, answer any questions from the players. But keep in mind that the PCs have never been to the Gathering, that they have only been able to talk to Ferals on rare occasions, and that all they know about them, in general and in particular, is mentioned above.

To Adventure!

The five-day journey is narrated by the DM and is only interrupted, during the third night, by an optional combat encounter. This fight doesn't add much to the adventure narratively, and another fight (the final one) can be used to show players the combat mechanics. However, this first clash, simple and likely to be quickly resolved, is ideal as a "tutorial" on combat. So you can play it or remove it, depending on the time available.

After the last recommendations of the Duke to adhere strictly to your duty, you go (in great secrecy) to his stables. There you find some of the best Ducal horses, which you know to be very fast, as you’ve been sometimes been chased by soldiers riding them. The thought of you riding on the Duke's steeds instead is so much fun that it cheers you up for a long time, while you exchange jests in which you call yourself "baronets" or "butlers".

When you think you're exaggerating, however, you just have to take a look at the Duke's messenger and you lose any whim to smile. Mikalion, this is his name, rides rigidly like a mannequin, and the opportunities to talk with him are limited to legislative and philosophical considerations on the best way to expand the influence of the Duchy.

Needless to say, the following days pass very slowly and soon Mikalion begins to ignore you, considering you unsuitable for civil conversation. One evening you even come to think that he prefers to talk to himself, rather than to you, when you see him secluded and mumbling alone; then, you realize that he must be using some magical ritual to keep in touch with the Duke

If a character wants to understand what spell is in effect, an Intelligence (Arcana) check (DC 18) is needed to understand that a Sending spell is being being cast by someone, presumably one of the Duke's wizards, on Mikalion.

Easy Fight [30 Mins]

The only truly heated discussion you had with the messenger occurs during lunch on the third day: he complains about the poor training received by the soldiers of the Duchy, since they have never managed to catch you. You pledge to change his mind. And that very night, the opportunity you've been waiting for comes! Suddenly, during your watch (point to the PC with the highest Passive Perception) a noise alerts you and your companions! Seeing themselves discovered, a group of enemies charge at you with war cries mixed with curses. You realize that they are orc robbers, a population with which dialogue has so far proved to be impossible: the only possible way out is combat.

After placing the characters on the map (see below), keep reading:

With the corner of your eye, you see a movement in Mikalion's refined tent, and you realize that he is watching the whole scene from the inside. This seems to be the best opportunity to demonstrate both your military expertise and your loyalty to the Duchy.

Map Placement

Place the enemies in the red area and let the PCs choose their placement in the blue area.

We provide a printable battlemap below: if you need the map in PNG Format instead, here it is: https://i.imgur.com/cukBGEU.png

During this fight, in addition to PCs and enemies, Mikalion is also theoretically present: however, he will not fight because he is utterly scared. He will stay in his tent (unless the situation becomes really dramatic, which should not happen). Not even the enemies will attack him, considering him too weak to worry about, and perhaps speculating on keeping him alive to ask for a ransom. If it becomes inevitable to involve Mikalion in a fight, use the statistics below.

Mikalion

Medium humanoid (human), lawful neutral


  • Armor Class 14 (chain shirt)
  • Hit Points 11 (2d8 + 2) )
  • Speed 30ft.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
12 (+1) 12 (+1) 12 (+1) 13 (+1) 11 (+0) 12 (+1)

  • Skills Persuasion +3, Insight +2
  • Senses passive Perception 10
  • Languages Elf, Common
  • Challenge 1/8 (25 XP)

Actions

Shortsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5ft., one target. Hit 4 (1d6 + 1)

Tactics and statistics of the enemies

There will be a number of Orcs Tribal Warriors (using SRD's Tribal Warrior statistics) equal to the number of characters -1, and an additional Orc Chieftain (using SRD's Orc statistics).

Roll Initiative for each of them normally.

Both kind of Orcs will use their first action for a ranged attack with their spears, each targeting a different PC, then they will move towards the PCs. In the second round, the Orcs will move again to engage the PCs in melee (if they are not in melee already).

Orc Chieftain

Medium humanoid (orc), Chaotic Evil


  • Armor Class 13 (Hide Armor)
  • Hit Points 15 (2d8 + 6)
  • Speed 30ft.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
16 (+3) 12 (+1) 16 (+3) 7 (-2) 11 (+0) 10 (+0)

  • Senses passive Perception 10
  • Languages Common, Orc
  • Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)

  • Aggressive As a bonus action, the orc can move up to its speed toward a hostile creature that it can see.

    Actions

    Greataxe Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d12 + 3) slashing damage.

Javelin. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) piercing damage.

ENnding the fight

At the end of the fight, read this:

While you rest from the battle with the orcs, you notice that Mikalion finally seems to look at you with different eyes, impressed by your display of skill. He nods and seems to share in your victory. The following days, the atmosphere becomes more relaxed and in a magical communication with the Duke you even hear Mikalion praise you.

For the next stages of the adventure, consider the wounds of the characters fully healed and their spell slots restored.


Orc Tribal Warrior

Medium humanoid (orc), Chaotic Evil


  • Armor Class 12 (Hide Armor)
  • Hit Points 11 (2d8 + 2)
  • Speed 30ft.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
13 (+1) 11 (+0) 12 (+1) 8 (-1) 11 (+0) 8 (-1)

  • Senses passive Perception 10
  • Languages Orcish
  • Challenge 1/8 (25 XP)

  • Pack Tactics. The warrior has advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of the warrior's allies is within 5 feet of the creature and the ally isn't incapacitated.

    Actions

    Spear Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6 + 1) piercing damage if thrown, or 5 (1d8 + 1) piercing damage if used with two hands to make a melee attack.

If you are using the premade PCs, if they, in coherence with their beliefs, managed to spare some or all of the enemies, award the PC or PCs who had this idea with an Inspiration token.

If the PCs spare their enemies, don’t lose time in roleplaying an interrogation, just narrate that the orcs if questioned admit of being just raiders, not looking for them in particular. Mikalion will suggest to leave them tied up: the following day he will communicate their position to the Duke with the Sending spell and the Duke will send soldiers from a nearby outpost to capture and process them (the penalty for assault is jail, and not death, in the Duchy).

The Will of the Spirit (45 mins)

It is not necessary to read this part fully, or exactly as it is, to the players. The important point is that all the mentioned facts must happen, and that the NPCs behave as described. If you want to make the players interact more with the Ferals right away, you can turn their sentences into a dialogue with them.

Your journey continues smoothly, and in the morning of the fifth day of travel you finally get to your destination. The scene in front of you is something unique. A meadow gives way to a hilly area, from which pinnacles of red rock rise: in front of you, in the middle of the scene, there is a conical mountain, from which a cloud of smoke rises. On a natural terrace on the ridge of this mountain, you can see dozens and dozens of colored tents, around which a multitude of individuals dressed in leather are busy: you have reached the sacred meeting place of the Ferals.

You approach trotting, but when you are on the slopes of the mountain you notice about twenty Ferals coming towards you. They are males and females, all young and moving with grace and strength. Many are unarmed, but have claws and sharp fangs; others carry spears and bows. You continue in their direction; at your greeting they seem quite tense. They come towards you, widening as if to surround you; then, from behind a peak of red rock to your left, about ten direwolf riders emerge, closing your eventual retreat. They don't attack you, but they don't seem friendly either. Nobody talks.

Give the PCs a moment to talk to each other and describe what they do: they may start talking to each other and try to establish a dialogue with the Ferals, but they won't say or do anything until their most important Shaman arrives. Discourage any attempt at attack or escape, the Ferals are clearly too many and too well placed.

The tension grows even more with the arrival of a Feral dressing in more elaborate, richer clothes; he carries bird feathers in his hair, numerous pendants and earrings are attached to his ears and nose, and he leans on a large walking stick, while walking towards you. The other Ferals show him respect, moving away from his passage: he is probably a shaman.

When you turn to him, Mikalion seems to be catching up. As he beckons you to let him act, he advances his horse about thirty feet ahead and in a monotonous voice he says: "Good Beastmen, we come here in the name of the Duke of Welmar to spread civilization and discuss with you about..." He doesn't have time to add anything else: the shaman makes a nod and immediately a group of Ferals surround Mikalion, forcing him off the horse (despite his protests) and secures him, grabbing him by the arms.

The shaman raises his rod, and says: "You, follower of the Duchy, have been chosen to appease the Flamerock Volcano, so that it does not pour its wrath on our people. This very night, you will be handed over to the Spirit of the Volcano!" At these words, all the Ferals turn to the mountain and make a kind of bow, accompanied by the gesture of raising their hands.

Now the shaman turns to you. "The Spirit of Flamerock told us to keep every soldier of the Duchy out of our Assembly and our decisions, even by force. Your clothes and your attitude, however, tell me that, even if you accompany their messenger, you are neither diplomats, nor soldiers of the Duchy. So who are you and why are you here?"

At this point, the description ends. The PCs can roleplay according to the guidelines below.

Social Challenge

The PCs should wish to help Mikalion, but they will not be able to act directly to free him; he will be taken away immediately without giving them the time to react. Mikalion will then be guarded with great care, making it impossible to free him without starting a fight against the whole Feral camp (the DM should make it clear that this line of action would be suicidal).

The PCs should then have two main objectives. On the one hand, gather information to better understand the situation and the reasoning behind the arrest of Mikalion; on the other hand, help him and defend the reputation of the Duchy. After a while, it should also be hinted that, in order to improve their position and assert their reasons, the PCs should be admitted to the Ferals' Gathering.

This section of the adventure is meant to show an example of social interaction with NPCs. The authors believe that, in defining the outcome of ability checks related to social situations, the arguments presented by the PCs should have a weight as important as the dice rolls and the characters' skills. Consequently, we suggest to let the dialogue flow for a few minutes, and then to allow the PCs Persuasion, Deception, Intimidate, etc. checks only when the characters bring to the table concrete points in favor of freeing Mikalion, of improving the Ferals' relationship with the Duchy, and/or having the Ferals welcome them to the Gathering.

The quality of the motivations must therefore clearly influence, with heavy bonuses, the result of the ability checks. If the PCs have carefully read the description of the Ferals culture, they should have a fairly precise idea of the arguments to use with them.

For all these reasons, we offer rather specific guidelines here; novice DMs can use them as they are, while those who feel confident in their improvisation ability and want to modify something are welcome to do so.

The PCs will mostly interact with the shaman, called Grakos Sharpfangs: the warriors will let him do the talking, limiting themself to show their appreciation when he says something they particularly agree on. In general, the Ferals start out firmly believing that the PCs are slimy diplomats or obtuse mercenaries of the Duchy, and they won't change their mind easily.

During the dialogue, you can insert the following comments from the Ferals towards the PCs:

  • "We do not listen to worthless people in a position of power, but only to mighty leaders and wise shamans."

  • "Do you think you are as learned as our healers? Or that you can judge the truth like our wise men and women?"

  • "You travel on the back of donkeys, but the only true knight is the one who rides a wolf! In the wolves' races held at the Gathering, you would not last a moment"!

  • "As empty words flow here, the Gathering proceeds without us. Let's end this quickly and return to enjoy the party and show what we are capable of!"

Gathering Information

The Ferals, both Grakos and the others, will generally be honest and willing to share information, but you must make sure that neither in this dialogue nor in the next Skill Challenge, they will describe Akrask in precise terms, if the PCs (as it is reasonable to assume) will ask them for explanations.

In fact, the presence of a humanoid manifestation of the Volcano is not known to many, but only to the most important shamans and leaders: and even they do not consider the being as a natural creature, but as an avatar of the Volcano, which behaves angrily because of their military failures, or for other unknown reasons.

Play on the confusion derived from the dichotomy Volcano - Spirit of the Volcano (for them the Spirit is only one aspect of the Volcano) making the Ferals (in particular the shaman) say that it is the Volcano itself that requested the diplomat, and that it's to the Volcano itself that they will deliver him to.

At this point the PCs might think that the Ferals will throw the emissary in the lava: such confusion is desired at the beginning but in the course of the dialogue it must be clear to the PCs that this will not happen immediately and that to influence the decision of the Spirit the best thing to do is to participate in the Gathering.

Here below are some possible questions from the PCs and the Ferals' corresponding answers, about the Spirit of the Volcano and the current state of affairs with the Duchy; it is possible to carry out Insight checks to understand if they are lying, but in reality they will always tell (what they believe to be) the truth. The PCs do not need Persuasion rolls to get these answers.

  • What will you do to Mikalion? He will be handed over to the Flamerock Volcano and he will decide whether to burn him or save his life. We are waiting for the sunset to bring him to the Volcano.

  • Do you want to burn him alive/will you throw him into the lava? We will only bring him, tied up, close to the lava. It will be the Volcano who will decide whether to advance the lava or save him. Sometimes, the Volcano talks to prisoners for hours or days, then loosens their laces with its flame and makes them run away; sometimes he burns them alive and other times he keeps them with him.

  • But who asked you for the messenger? The Spirit of the Volcano spoke to the shamans, asking them for the messenger of the kingdom of Welmar to purify him.

  • Didn't the Spirit tell you about us? He told us that he expected the envoy to be accompanied by soldiers from the Duchy, dressed in bright uniforms and easily angered, and to turn them away and fight them if necessary. You don't seem that way, and that's why we're still talking.

  • Is the Spirit a living being? What does he look like? It is not good to ask questions about these holy things. The Spirit has a thousand voices: he may appear as a man, or a giant wrapped in flames, but he often speaks through the hissing of gases, the sound of thunder from the bowels of the world, or the form that ash clouds take up. The way he spoke to us yesterday is not for you to know.

  • When did he ask you for the envoy? Last night we were told that the messenger is impure and we were asked to deliver him to the Volcano at sunset. A few weeks ago, however, the Spirit has only asked us to call for an ambassador of the Duchy to join the Gathering for us to talk to him, so I sent a letter to the Duke.

  • What happens if you don't hand him over? The Volcano will send lava and fire against us while we are gathered here. We must not let this happen!

  • Can't you get out of here? No, this meeting is sacred for us. We must accept the wrath of the Volcano if it is to be so.

  • Is this retaliation against the Duchy? Not at all. We don't particularly love the Duchy, but we would have liked to talk to its envoys, and we would have been happy to have the envoy to the Gathering, to witness his skills in our trials. But then the Spirit commanded us to deliver him to the Volcano at sunset instead, and to keep him prisoner until then, without talking to him at all. It's nothing personal: had the Spirit asked us to deliver one of our people like he sometimes did in past years, we would have delivered him or her anyway.

  • But can the Spirit of the Volcano change his mind/ How can we appease him? Of course he can change his mind, and indeed in the past he has done so several times, even in the space of a few hours. But, for the moment, we have to do what he tells us to do. The demands of mortals, Feral or foreigners, have never pierced his wishes: but he has always rewarded those who respect his will and live according to our rules. He observes our value in battle; our behavior here at the Assembly is also very important to him. He will know how we behave in ritual competitions, how we treat our wounded and how we deal with each other.

Persuading the Ferals to trust the PCs

The Ferals will not be hostile, but very suspicious towards the PCs at first. Grakos Sharpfangs started by asking the purpose of their presence, since he had been ordered by the Spirit of the Volcano to prevent soldiers from attending the Gathering, so that's a good starting point. During the following discussion, he will point out that the members of the Duchy often crossed over into their zones of influence without permission, and that they drove several Ferals away from their usual hunting grounds to settle there.

The characters will have to defend themselves from the accusations, making it clear that they are sensible people, and representatives of the part of the Duchy that wants to negotiate better conditions for everyone. The goal here is that the Ferals form a good opinion of the PCs, to allow them access to the Gathering.

When the PCs try to influence the Ferals' position regarding Mikalion or the Duchy, the following arguments will or will not convince them (from the most to the least convincing) allowing the talking PC to perform ability checks with a base DC of 15, whose success will lead to one diplomatic success in this interaction. We do not suggest, in this case, to allow the Help action to get Advantage, letting the quality of the arguments to play the most important role.

Whatever happens, the Ferals will never release Mikalion.

  1. The PCs can look around to see if they recognize one of the Ferals they met in the past. If they ask so, they will automatically identify a hunter, called Krezal Skyslicer, that they camped with on a previous trip to the wilderness. If contacted, he will remember them (he had truthfully forgotten their faces, since they had only briefly met each other a couple years earlier). At this point he will talk about his former meeting with the PCs saying that they had in fact spent time together and that they seemed to be trustworthy individuals, and the situation will relax a lot. This argument will lead to an automatic success.

  2. Reminding the Ferals of their well-known hospitality towards the guests, towards the messenger and/or towards them will bring a veil of embarrassment to all those in attendance. The shaman will say that it is true that the customs of the Ferals do not usually involve a treatment like the one reserved for Mikalion or the PCs, but unfortunately the will of the Spirit of the Volcano takes priority. However, the Ferals will be very softened, and some will propose to invite the foreigners to the Gathering. This argument allows for a Charisma (Persuasion) check with Advantage. If successful, this (as any of the other checks described below) leads to a success.

  3. Saying that the characters want to take part in the Gathering to prove their worth and/or to discuss how to improve relations between Duchy and Ferals for the sake of all people will favorably impress the Ferals. This argument allows for a Charisma (Persuasion) check with +2 to the roll.

  4. Noting that a discourtesy like Mikalion's kidnapping would slow down the peace process that Welmar sincerely wanted to pursue will make many Ferals reflect, even if, again, the will of the Spirit of the Volcano takes precedence over the liberation of Mikalion. This argument allows for a Charisma (Persuasion) check without bonuses or penalties.

  5. Saying that the way in which they captured the messenger was not honorable (treacherously, without giving him the opportunity to fight nor to show what he would have had to say) will anger many Ferals, but a greater number will shake their head in consent. On the other hand, the messenger looked like he would not have been able to defend himself even one against one, if not using words. Thus, the Ferals will propose to the PCs to take his place and prove their worth at the Gathering. This argument allows for a Charisma (Persuasion) or Charisma (Intimidation) check without bonuses or penalties.

  6. Claiming to be friends with Ferals and other people such as Dwarves and Lizardfolks is not too helpful without evidence. This argument does not allow the PCs to perform a check, unless the PCs try to get a Feral’s approval (see point 1).

  7. Generically saying that the messenger was a good person, that he was supposed to be neutral, talking in general terms about the need to make peace between species only makes relative sense, since the Ferals are not in good terms with the Duchy. Good PC rhetoric can improve the result obtained with this strategy, but not too much. This argument allows for a Charisma (Persuasion or Deception) check with a -2 penalty to the roll.

  8. Threatening the Ferals with retaliation from the Duchy to obtain Mikalion's freedom, or to push for peace, is a terrible idea: the brave Ferals do not welcome threats. This argument allows for an Intimidate (if the PCs threaten long-term retaliation) or Deception (if they mention something specific they know is a lie, such as to the presence of additional forces of the Duchy nearby) check, but these checks have Disadvantage.

Ending the Social Challenge

The PCs cannot obtain Mikalion’s release in this phase: for the Ferals, the will of the Spirit of the Volcano is sacred, and he said very clearly to hand over the envoy. Negotiating a truce in their current position is also not an option: it should be clear to the PCs, after a while, that the Ferals only listen to those who show some degree of skill, and that the best way to grab their sympathies seems to attend the Gathering.

Apart from a few initial resistances, however, if the PCs prove to be reasonable people, or if they directly challenge the Ferals, or ask to talk to their leaders, sooner or later they will be invited to join the Gathering.

Consider the social challenge fully overcome as soon as the PCs obtain at least 3 successes (no matter the number of failures). At this point, Grakos Sharpteeth will say that he has found more common sense and worth in the PCs than in most other people from the Duchy, and will invite them to the Gathering. He will explicitly suggest that they can and should participate in Ferals' competitions and discuss with the tribal sages.

Even after the first 3 successes, you can still keep roleplaying if you have time; conversely, if you want to finish the adventure in the scheduled time, the invitation to the Gathering must be forced, event without the 3 successes required, after the 30 minutes reserved for this section.

The only way this should not happen is if the PCs have attacked the Ferals or insulted them so insistently that any positive development is out of the picture, which would lead to a premature conclusion of the adventure ahead of time, with a negative outcome.

This section of the adventure is not particularly punishing, but if you think the performance of the PCs in the Social Challenge has been abysmally bad, you can give them Disadvantage for the first (or the first two-three) Social Activities in the following Skill Challenge.

In a longer adventure, there could be many other ways of solving things (for example, by entering the Feral’s camp during night or wearing a disguise, by reaching Akrask after exploring the Volcano, and so on). Here we will suppose that the PCs can only enter the Gathering as the Ferals’ guests, to proceed with the following Skill Challenge, and provide material for this situation, but you're obviously free to develop your own material for a different outcome.


The Gathering (45 mins)

After a short ride, you finally reach the actual site of the Ferals’ Gathering. Over a hundred tents have been set on a huge natural terrace: they are divided into a dozen different areas, probably belonging to various tribes, judging by the different colors and symbols painted on the curtains. You carry out a quick tour of the area: you are certainly seen as strangers, and at the beginning even stopped and questioned, but the rumors spread fast, and after hearing that you are here under the protection of the shaman, the Ferals accept you among them and seem willing to talk to you. Mikalion is ushered into a hut in a well-visible open space; four large and strong Ferals stand guard around it, not allowing anyone to come close. It is obvious that freeing him during daytime, with these guardians and dozens of other people around, would be practically impossible.

You are pondering on what to do next, when you hear an indistinct whisper around you, which gradually becomes a clear, disembodied, voice. You hear this:

Welmar talking. Mikalion says he was kidnapped to be sacrificed, you're free. What’s going on, what are you doing? Free him! Answer, twenty-five words!

It’s the Sending spell cast by the Duke’s wizards, through which Welmar got in touch with his messenger and that, after talking to him while he was imprisoned, he cast again on the PCs. If they desire so, the PCs can reply using 25 words or less (the limit of the spell).

What the PCs will or will not say has relatively little importance, since the Duke will always reply:

Last message today. You must help Mikalion, bargain his release, make a good impression with Beastmen: you are the Duchy’s envoys. Don't disappoint me.

It should be clear at this point that the PCs must show their worth to the Ferals’ eyes.

Skill Challenge (40 mins)

A cheerful, engaging music pervades the whole area: you can see Ferals dancing or playing wind instruments and drums in a nearby space.
In the central area, many elderly people are gathering: the discussion seem to be centered on the location of the best hunting grounds and how to share them among different tribes. Some wise men and women are teaching the properties of medicinal herbs to young ones, while others narrate moral stories and myths about how the Spirits expects the Feral people to behave.
Nearby, you notice a cave opening on the side of the volcano, from which a reddish light emerges: in front of it a few warriors stand on guard, and a short distance away a handful of Ferals dressed in a way similar to the shaman you already met are intent on helping a number of wounded people, each one patiently waiting for their turn.

Beyond the perimeter of the tents, a large clearing has been used as a training ground: dozens of Ferals are gathering there, challenging each other to competitions of strength or agility. A little further on there's a big crowd around some sort of race track, perhaps created for direwolves races.

At this point, let the PCs know that a Skill Challenge will start, to let them show their worth during the Ferals' Gathering, with the objective to obtain respect from the Ferals and more influence with them.

HOW TO CONDUCT A SKILL CHALLENGE?

Originating from the Fourth Edition of the world's most popular RPG, Skill Challenges were a rule framework used to simulate the simultaneous intervention of different characters, with different capabilities, towards a common goal. This is a slightly different version of that framework, sharing the same objectives.

In this Skill Challenge the PCs will take turns attempting actions that will result in Ability Checks (mostly linked to a Skill), depending on the activities they will want to spend time on at the Gathering. The description above should give the PCs some ideas; they can propose to use a skill they're proficient in, or otherwise just describe what they want to do and you, the DM, will have to make what they try fit in some of the activities described below, or improvise using them as guidelines.

The PCs will succeed or fail as a group, but the Skill Challenge is used to "force" each player to contribute to the collective fate of the group, sharing the spotlight and narratively empowering each PC.

You as the DM should avoid the pitfall of letting the players perform their checks just rolling dice, without adding descriptions: that’s not fun! You and your players should instead cooperate in describing what each PCs is attempting to do and how they are trying to do it (experience, ingenuity, guile, motivations, luck and bad luck can all play a role) for the entertainment of everyone.

Let the PCs freely discuss together on the best use of each other’s skills, but don't let more charismatic and expert (as in both RPG and real-life expert) players fully dictate the actions of others.

If someone has no ideas at all or is very passive, you can encourage them and offer suggestions by reading some of the descriptions below.

Reassure inexperienced players that are afraid to "fail" or to be unable to play right: the true spirit of Role Playing Games, in the authors’ opinion, is that the PCs can succeed or fail, but it doesn't matter, as long as the players and the DM have fun narrating their adventures.


SKILL CHALLENGE’S MECHANICS

  • In a Skill Challenge the PCs attempt different Ability Checks (mostly linked to specific Skills) to achieve as many "successes" as possible. Each of the PCs will have to describe, in turn, what he tries to do and/or which skill he wants to use. You, the DM, will adjudicate if this fits with the examples described below.
  • Each PC will have 2 opportunities, and so 2 different skill checks to attempt, to impress the Gathering. At the end of 10, 8 or 6 checks (for 5, 4 or 3 PCs respectively), the Challenge will be over, with the outcome described at the end of this section, based on the PCs’ performance.
  • During this skill challenge, each PC will be allowed to use the Help action only once, only for ability checks where this is possible (marked with an asterisk), and only if the helping PC is proficient in the corresponding skill.
  • Ability checks marked with an asterisk are also the only ones in which two (at most two, to provide variety) different characters can try two separate checks to accumulate 2 successes, but in this case the PC that wants to attempt a check on his own will not be able to use the Help action to help another PC with that skill, and vice versa. No PC can use the same skill twice.
  • A Bard can grant Bardic Inspiration (+1d6 to an ability check) to up yo two other PCs and to himself, but he cannot also use the Help action if he uses Bardic Inspiration on them. If a Cleric is present, the Guidance cantrip can be used in the same way (just twice and without using the Help action).
  • Brilliant behaviors, motivations and attitudes, described before the roll and in line with the alignment and beliefs of the character rolling, may grant Inspiration and thus Advantage to their checks, or even automatic successes (again, DM’s choice). The examples detailed below should provide a detailed guideline, so you will probably be able to fit most of the PCs’ actions to the situations described, but reward ideas not considered here if they are creative, realistic and bring fun to the table.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES

These Strenght or Dexterity ability checks are individual and can only have one winner, so the PCs can’t help each other nor collect 2 different successes from the same ability check; winning gives the PC Advantage in every subsequent Charisma check carried out by that PC in the Skill Challenge.

  • Strength (Athletics) DC 15 In a field bordered by ropes, the Ferals are lifting huge tree trunks, trying to throw them as far as possible.

  • Dexterity (Acrobatics) DC 17 Exploiting trees and shrubs, joined together by ropes, a precarious suspended bridge has been created, on which several Ferals try their hand. Just a few of them are able to finish it without falling.

  • Riding (Special DC, see below) You make your way through a crowd to reach a sort of race track, created by levelling out the rough terrain and inserting a series of tree trunks, fences and rods. Several snarling Direwolves are led by Ferals, waiting to try their hand at the difficult, rough path, which is definitely not ideal for the hooves of a horse.

This riding race is a special check. A PC that wants to attempt it must first of all choose whether to use his horse (not suitable for the rough terrain on which the path is built) or try to ride one of the direwolves the Ferals will lend him.

If he rides his own horse, he simply has to do an Animal Handling check (using Dexterity and not Wisdom for this check) with a DC of 18. If the PC chooses to ride a direwolf, he must first try to tame it. For this, they will need to succeed in an Animal Handling check (using Wisdom) with a DC of 14.

If such a check fails, it does not count as a failure in the Skill challenge, but the PC will have issues controlling the wolf, which translates to having Disadvantage in the following Animal Handling check (always DC 18 using Dexterity and not Wisdom); on the contrary, the PC will have Advantage on the same check if the previous Animal Handling check was successful.

The riding competition is the most prestigious event of the Gathering, and winning it guarantees 2 successes instead of one in the skill challenge, as well as Advantage in every subsequent Social Activity carried out by that PC.

INTELLECTUAL ACTIVITIES

These tests require Intelligence or Wisdom ability checks.

  • Wisdom (Medicine)* (DC 14) Ferals dressed in shamans' robes are administering herbs and ointments to a line of seemingly weak and wounded people approaching them. Using a 1st-level slot to cast a healing spell guarantees an automatic success, without having to roll the dice; for this check it is possible to obtain a total of two successes, but only once with a Medicine check and once by using a spell slot. A success obtained either way provides a +2 bonus to any subsequent Persuasion check carried out by the PC during this challenge.

  • Intelligence (Nature)* (DC 14) A groups of shamans is discussing the healing properties of medicinal plants with each other, while others are talking about the weather that will come in the next few days. Talking about plants, animals and climate of the area, showing knowledge and respect for nature, as Ferals do. Note that a Ranger with favored terrain "forest" or "grassland" has their proficiency bonus doubled (this does not apply to the premade ranger Perrin because he has no proficiency in the Nature skill). A success also provides a +2 bonus to any subsequent Medicine checks carried out by this PC during the challenge.

  • Wisdom (Survival)* (DC 15) Elderly Ferals are discussing the migration of game to the surrounding areas, and how to share the hunting grounds for next year. Note that a Ranger with favored terrain "forest" or "grassland" has his or her proficiency bonus doubled (the premade ranger Perrin should add a +2 to this check). A success gives a +2 bonus to the following Persuasion checks carried out by that PC during this challenge.

  • Intelligence (Religion)* (DC 15) You see a number of older Ferals narrating stories and myths about the Spirits inhabiting the world, and how to appease them by behaving like a true warrior of the tribe should. Talking about one’s beliefs and how they could be akin to those of the Ferals, without attempting any kind of conversion but focusing on syncretism. Asking for more information about the Spirit of the Volcano, as well as trying to convince the Ferals to release MIkalion has no effect: it does not count as failure, but it does not bear any fruit since the Ferals believe the PC to be in good faith, but ignorant. A success will give a +2 bonus to the subsequent Charisma skill checks carried out by that PC during the Skill Challenge. Convincing the Ferals to convert to another religion, or heavily insulting the Spirit of the Volcano counts as automatic failure and gives a -2 penalty to any Charisma check the PC attempts from that moment on.

SOCIAL ACTIVITIES

These tests require Charisma ability checks.

To have some reference on how the Ferals could react to each argument, refer to the previous section. You could modify the DCs provided here based on the PC's arguments: the base DCs however already reflects how it's easier to persuade the Ferals with diplomacy than it is to deceive or intimidate them.

Many Ferals are dancing or playing wind instruments and drums in a nearby space. As an engaging music permeates the air, you see many chiefs and leaders talking to each other: alliances among tribes are made and unmade, while deals and bargains are struck.

  • Charisma (Persuasion) DC 14 Speaking well of the Duchy and the positive outlook that peace would bring, or speaking to the members gathered in council trying to help them mediate with the land distribution (possibly promising that the Duchy could offer them more lands); seducing or impressing some Ferals with one's presence. If the PCs have achieved 3 successes and less than 2 failures in the previous section (immediately after the kidnapping of Mikalion), they have already proved to be excellent diplomats, so attribute the first PC trying this check an automatic success.
  • Charisma (Deception) (DC 16) This covers any believable lie, for example about what the duke would do if he knew that his messenger would not return, or what kind of rewards the Spirit of Flamerock could offer the Ferals if peace would be made with the Duchy; this also covers trying to convince the Ferals that a PC has notions of Nature, Medicine, Survival or Religion as if using the corresponding skills, etc... A success will give the PC Advantage over any related social or intellectual activity tried later, while a failure will prevent the character from performing further physical activity (he will be considered a cheater) and will give disadvantage to any Charisma check tried during the Skill Challenge.

  • Charisma (Intimidation) (DC 18) It is very difficult to intimidate the brave Ferals, but one can always try. The PCs can only gain a single success from this skill and the PCs cannot help each other: a failure forces the PC to roll checks with Disadvantage on all the subsequent social and intellectual activities tried during the Challenge, as the Ferals no longer willingly accept his presence.

  • Charisma (Performance)* (DC 13) Singing, dancing, etc. for and with the Ferals. An helping PC should have proficiency in Performance, or at least in a musical instrument.

SUPPORTING SKILLS

Wisdom (Insight), Wisdom (Perception) and Intelligence (Investigation) checks do not allow a PC to achieve a success in the Skill Challenge, nor do they generate failures if used, but you can allow PCs to use them to grant themselves or another PC Advantage in a check, if the skills are used adequately (eg: attempting an Insight check to understand which Ferals look easier to Intimidate; or trying a Perception check to understand the best way to move one’s hands during the Acrobatics check). This requires a DC 15 check.

History and Arcana do not provide special bonuses nor attribute successes, because the oral traditions handed down by the Ferals do not have anything to do with the theoretical notions PCs with these skills have developed, so if a PC insists on using these skills, we suggest informing the PC that the action attempted requires another kind of skill check (possibly one among Persuasion, Nature or Religion) asking them if they are ok with attempting the new skill check.

Learning more about the Spirit

In addition to the Skill Challenge, the PCs may wish to gather information on the nature of the Spirit of the Volcano, or inquire about the safety of Mikalion. You can have the PCs perform checks outside of the Skill Challenge, even though the PCs cannot obtain anything relevant from the Ferals. The leaders will send the PCs back to the shamans, and they will always say, perhaps with regret, that they can only bring the envoy in the volcano. They will affirm that the Spirit may not require a sacrifice: his ways are mysterious, and often he takes “victims” with him to live in his underground world to "teach him the right ways of the Ferals", as happened to some of their fellow countrymen (they really believe it, one of the reasons why they are so calm).


The PCs may then want to inspect the Volcano: if it is so tell them that they can only make a short tour around it and (regardless of any rolled ability check or spell used) tell them that they find nothing relevant: they will only guess that the volcano is partially active but they will not find any particular entrance except the one guarded by the Ferals.

Every time the PCs will try to get close to Mikalion's tent, it will be an automatic failure.

SKILL CHALLENGE OUTCOME

Just before sunset, the PCs will end the Skill Challenge. According to its outcome, the Ferals will be more or less prone to entertain diplomatic relationships with the Duchy and to help Mikalion.

Read one of the following outcomes based on the PCs' results:

SKILL CHALLENGE OUTCOME TABLE
NUMBER OF PCS FULL SUCCESS PARTIAL SUCCESS PARTIAL FAILURE TOTAL FAILURE
5 8 or more successes 6-7 successes 4-5 successes 3 or less successes
4 6 or more successes 4-5 successes 2-3 successes 1 or 0 successes
3 5 or more successes 3-4 successes 2 successes 1 or 0 successes

FULL SUCCESS

The Ferals are amazed: you embody all the best qualities of their kin, and from their looks you realize that you are now regarded as heroes. The Ferals invite you into their tents and what you say is held in the highest regard; the Duchy is now seen as a powerful ally to be associated with. The shaman Grakos Sharpfangs tells you that you are trustworthy people, and that when the Spirit of the Volcano will contact him, he will explicitly intercede and ask him to free the messenger.

PARTIAL SUCCESS

The Ferals are pleased with you: despite some minor inconvenience you have proven to have good qualities, and from their looks you realize that you are now well respected. The Ferals accept you among themselves and what you say is listened to carefully; the Duchy is now seen as a possible ally, or at least as a state with which to remain at peace. The shaman Grakos Sharpfangs informs you that he hopes that the Volcano will save the life of the messenger, but he will ultimately have to accept his decisions.

PARTIAL FAILURE

The Ferals do not fully trust you: although you have proven to have some qualities, too many inconveniences have penalized you and from their looks you realize that some suspicion about your talents and intentions remains; the duchy is now confirmed as an ambiguous state that is difficult to trust. The Ferals do not really accept you as part of their people, and when you speak they listen to you only for the respect that is due to guests. The shaman Grakos Sharpfangs tells you that you must accept the verdict of the Volcano, even if you do not like it.

TOTAL FAILURE

The Ferals hate you: the few positive qualities you've shown are nothing compared to the offenses you inflicted on your guests, and the occasions when you didn't live up to their expectations. From their looks, you realize that they would like to kick you out, and are only held back by their rules on hospitality. When you try to talk, they turn around and leave; the duchy is now seen as an enemy state. The shaman Grakos Sharpfangs tells you that never before has he been more convinced that the judgment of the Spirit of the Volcano is right, and that he thinks that the messenger will certainly be burned and purified by the flames; he hopes that you will understand the lesson so as not to end up like that.

The Godfall (30 mins)

At dusk, regardless of what the players may have accomplished until that moment, Akrask will show himself in the Ferals' camp, to claim Mikalion.

The creature has been rarely seen among the common Ferals, so much so that the great majority of the population has never met him, shamans aside: however, in this case, Akrask wants to reveal himself to everyone, since he is aware that the kidnapping of the envoy will change the relationship of the Ferals with the Duchy, and he wants to consolidate his grip on them.

As soon as he becomes aware of the presence of the PCs from the Duchy he realizes that, since they're in small numbers, the best way to show his power and authority to the Ferals is to single-handedly defeat them. There is nothing the PCs can do to prevent his arrival or the clash that will follow.

Read the following:

It's dusk now, and you're beginning to wonder where to spend the night and especially when and if the mysterious Spirit of the Volcano will decide to call Mikalion. Your doubts, however, are soon dispelled when you hear the earth tremble: it sounds like a small seismic shock, but then you see a creature coming out of a cave. It has a gigantic and powerful build, standing over ten feet tall. He has reddish skin, and his long hair and thick beard are tongues of burning fire. His entire body seems to emit heat, like a furnace: he dons a shield and wields a mighty incandescent hammer.

If the PCs ask what kind of creature it is, let them check Intelligence (Arcana). To anyone who has passed a DC of 15, read:

The hair and fiery beard betray the nature of the creature: it is probably an Azer, an elemental spirit native to the Elemental Plane of Fire.The most known feature of these beings is the strong heat that surrounds them, able to burn those who approach them enough to hit them or be hit in close combat. However, these beings are usually shorter than human beings, while this one is twice as tall. While it surely is an unusual extraplanar being, you do not believe that he has a divine origin as the Ferals seem to think.

Then have them perform an Intelligence (Arcana) check with DC 17. A wizard or sorcerer has an advantage in this check. If anyone is successful, read: You sense that the being is under the effect of an Enlarge spell. It is a spell that doubles the size of the beneficiary, and requires concentration to be maintained.

The creature advances toward you, while several Ferals throw themselves to the ground on their knees. "The Spirit! The Volcano has decided to punish us! He is the God of Flamerock" they says. The being then screams in a thundering voice, when he is less than 60 feets from you: "Ferals! I, your god, have come among you to take the vile emissary of the Duchy of Welmar and purify his soul in my flames!" The being then looks at you with a question, asking out loud to the Shaman: "Who are these people?"

The shaman Grakos Sharpteeth will take the floor. His words now and his behaviour in the following fight will depend on what the PCs did in the Skill Challenge.

If PCs have been fully successful in the Skill Challenge, he will say:

"Spirit, these folks have honored us with their presence here. They are fair and capable people, and they have shown us that the Duchy also has valiant men and women in it. We would like to ask you to free the messenger who came with them". The other Ferals nod.

If the PCs have been partially successful or if they partially failed in the Skill Challenge, the shaman will say:

"Spirit, these people came here to negotiate a truce. They showed us what they are capable of, even if they aren't Ferals, and they make us wonder whether the Duchy is a better place than it seems. What are you going to do with their messenger?"

If the PCs totally failed in the Skill Challenge, he will say:

"Spirit, these people came here to negotiate a truce, but do not seem trustworthy: they didn't impress us at all during the Gathering, confirming that the Duchy will not be a good ally. We give you their envoy: let him burn in your fires!"

In any case, Akrask will say this:

"Ferals, why did you host these people here? Didn't I tell you to keep the Duchy's soldiers out? " the creature shouts "They are evil enemies! Stand aside and watch the power of Flamerock crush them!"

These last words are uttered as the being already rushes toward you.

Final Challenge

Positioning on the map and terrain

Barrels, crates and rocks are difficult terrain, while tents are impassable terrain. The PCs won't be able to go beyond the boundaries of the map, occupied by the multitude of Ferals gathered. Place Akrask in the box just below the fiery cave (to the right side of the road) and the PCs in a position of their choice within the blue section. If you need the map in PNG Format: https://i.imgur.com/r5Bgk7n.png

Enemy Tactics and Statistics

Akrask has slightly different powers and uses different tactics (see after each stat block) depending on the PCs' number.

To reduce the variability of combat, with less experienced PCs it is advisable to use the average damage for Akrask's attacks instead of rolling it; this should allow most PCs to withstand one strike from Akrask, while still forcing those in close combat to be careful because of the fire damage they will suffer when they hit. If you choose not to roll for damage, to counterbalance we recommend not rolling Initiative for this fight, but to have Akrask going first, knowing that he will not be able to take down any PC on the first hit (except on a critical hit).

The Ferals in combat

The Ferals will remain on the sidelines for the duration of the battle. The only Feral who can play a role in the fight is Grakos Sharpfangs, who as chief shaman may feel compelled to intervene to help or hinder the PCs depending on their outcome in the Skill Challenge.

Grakos won't intervene in the first round of combat, too amazed by Akrask's sudden attack.
But in the second round, if the PCs obtained a full success in the Skill Challenge, he'll say: "How could the Flamerock Spirit fight against brave people? That's not fair! May the Spirits of our Ancestors protect you, strangers!"

From now on, for 3 rounds at initiative 12, the shaman will cast the Healing Word spell on the most injured PC, healing 1d4+3 (5) PF. He will not intervene otherwise, it is not reachable by PCs nor will he be attacked by Akrask.

If instead the PCs have suffered a total failure in the Skill Challenge, he will say: "Strangers, don't you dare raise your hand against the Spirit! May the wrath of the Volcano fall on you!"

From now on, at initiative 12, the shaman will cast the Produce Flame cantrip on the healthiest PC. This is a +5 ranged spell attack, inflicting 4 (1d8) fire damage on a hit. The shaman will not intervene otherwise and is not reachable by the PCs (being protected by dozens of Ferals). There are no statistics for him: if the PCs attempt to attack him from a distance, dissuade them from doing so.

If the PCs obtained a partial success or a partial failure in the Skill Challenge, Grakos, unsure whether or not to trust the PCs, will not intervene.

STATS for 3 PCs

Akrask, Tyrant of Flamerock

Medium elemental, Lawful Evil


  • Armor Class 16 (Natural Armor, Shield)
  • Hit Points 46 (6d8 + 6+3d6+3)
  • Speed 30ft.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
14 (+2) 12 (+1) 12 (+1) 12 (+1) 12 (+1) 16 (+3)

  • Saving Throws Con +3, Wis +3, Cha +5
  • Skills Deception +5, Persuasion +5, Intimidate +5
  • Damage Immunities passive Perception 11
  • Senses passive Perception 13
  • Languages Common, Ignan, Infernal
  • Challenge 3 (700 XP)

  • Tyrant's Endurance. Akrask has advantage on all saving throws.
  • Heated Body. A creature that touches Akrask or hits it with a melee attack while within 5 ft. of it takes 5 (1d10) fire damage.
  • Heated Weapons. When Akrask hits with a metal melee weapon, it deals an extra 3 (1d6) fire damage (included in his attack).
  • Illumination. Akrask sheds bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 ft.
  • Spellcasting. Akrask is a 3rd-level spellcaster. His spell casting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 13, +5 to hit with spell attacks). He has the following sorcerer spells known:
  • Cantrips (at will): Fire Bolt, Message, Minor Illusion, Prestidigitation, Detect Magic.
  • 1st level (3 slots): Disguise Self, Silent Image, Fog
  • 2nd level (2 slots): Enlarge/Reduce*, Detect Thoughts

    Actions

    Warhammer Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d8 +1d4+ 2) bludgeoning damage plus 3 (1d6) fire damage. One handed

Akrask starts the fight with the spell Enlarge already cast and active. This increases his damage by 1d4 (already considered in his stat block). Since this spell requires Concentration, every time Akrask suffers damage he has to make a Constitution saving throw or he will shrink down to Medium size, reducing his weapon damage to 6 (1d8+2) plus 3 fire damage. He won’t cast the spell again if it fades away. Akrask will start his turn by approaching the PCs and coming into melee with the strongest of them, and will continue to hammer them mercilessly, without finishing up dying enemies but passing on to those still standing.

STATS for 4 PCs

Akrask, Tyrant of Flamerock

Medium elemental, Lawful Evil


  • Armor Class 17 (Natural Armor, Shield)
  • Hit Points 61 (6d8+12+4d6+8)
  • Speed 30ft.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
16 (+3) 12 (+1) 14 (+2) 12 (+1) 12 (+1) 16 (+3)

  • Saving Throws Con +5, Wis +4, Cha +6
  • Skills Deception +6, Persuasion +6, Intimidate +6
  • Damage Immunities Fire, Poison
  • Condition Immunities Poisoned
  • Senses passive Perception 13
  • Languages Common, Ignan, Infernal
  • Challenge 4 (1100 XP)

  • Tyrant's Endurance. Akrask has advantage on all saving throws.
  • Heated Body. A creature that touches Akrask or hits it with a melee attack while within 5 ft. of it takes 5 (1d10) fire damage.
  • Heated Weapons. When Akrask hits with a metal melee weapon, it deals an extra 3 (1d6) fire damage (included in his attack).
  • Illumination. Akrask sheds bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 ft.
  • Spellcasting. Akrask is a 4th-level spellcaster. His spell casting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 14, +6 to hit with spell attacks).. He has the following sorcerer spells known:
  • Cantrips (at will): Fire Bolt, Message, Minor Illusion, Prestidigitation, Detect Magic.
  • 1st level (4 slots): Disguise Self, Silent Image, Fog Cloud
  • 2nd level (2 slots): Enlarge/Reduce*, Scorching Ray, Detect Thoughts

    Actions

    Warhammer Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (1d8 +1d4+ 3) bludgeoning damage plus 3 (1d6) fire damage. One handed

Akrask starts the fight with the spell Enlarge on. This increases his damage by 1d4 (already considerer in his stat block). Since this spell requires Concentration, everytime Akrask suffers damage he has to make a Constitution saving throw with DC 10 or half the damage taken (whichever is higer) or he will shrink to medium size, reducing his weapon damage to 7 (1d8+3) plus 3 fire damage. He won’t cast the spell again if it fades away.

Against 4 PCs, Akrask will start the fight casting the spell Scorching Ray, aimed at three different targets. He will then approach the PCs to engage in melee with the strongest of them (if impossible, with the closest one) on his next turn, and will continue to hammer them mercilessly, without finishing up dying enemies but passing on to those still standing.

Stats for 5 PCs

Akrask, Tyrant of Flamerock

Medium elemental, Lawful Evil


  • Armor Class 17 (Natural Armor, Shield)
  • Hit Points 61 (6d8+12+4d6+8) + 8 temprary HPs
  • Speed 30ft.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
16 (+3) 12 (+1) 14 (+2) 12 (+1) 12 (+1) 16 (+3)

  • Saving Throws Con +5, Wis +4, Cha +6
  • Skills Deception +6, Persuasion +6, Intimidate +6
  • Damage Immunities Fire, Poison
  • Condition Immunities Poisoned
  • Senses passive Perception 13
  • Languages Common, Ignan, Infernal
  • Challenge 4 (1100 XP)

  • Tyrant's Endurance. Akrask has advantage on all saving throws.
  • Heated Body. A creature that touches Akrask or hits it with a melee attack while within 5 ft. of it takes 5 (1d10) fire damage.
  • Heated Weapons. When Akrask hits with a metal melee weapon, it deals an extra 3 (1d6) fire damage (included in his attack).
  • Illumination. Akrask sheds bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 ft.
  • Spellcasting. Akrask is a 4th-level spellcaster. His spell casting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 14, +6 to hit with spell attacks). He has the following sorcerer spells known:
  • Cantrips (at will): Fire Bolt, Message, Minor Illusion, Prestidigitation, Detect Magic.
  • 1st level (4 slots): Disguise Self, Silent Image, Fog Cloud
  • 2nd level (2 slots): Enlarge/Reduce*, Scorching Ray, Detect Thoughts
  • Quickened spells: Akrask can quicken 3 spells (see below).

    Actions

    Warhammer Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (1d8 +1d4+ 3) bludgeoning damage plus 3 (1d6) fire damage. One handed

Akrask starts the fight with the spell Enlarge already cast and active. This increases his damage by 1d4 (already considered in his stat block). Since this spell requires Concentration, everytime Akrask suffers damage he has to make a Constitution saving throw with DC 10 or half the damage taken (whichever is higher) or he will shrink to medium size, reducing his weapon damage to 7 (1d8+3) plus 3 fire damage.

Against 5 PCs, Akrask will start the fight by quickening the spell Scorching Ray (see below) aiming it at three different targets. He will then move towards the PCs, trying to engage the strongest fighter among them and attacking him or her in the same round. He will then use the quickened spells Enlarge and False Life as described below; otherwise, he will just continue to hammer the PCs mercilessly, without finishing up dying enemies but passing on to those still standing.

QUICKENED SPELLS: Akrask can quicken the following spells, once per spell, using them as a Bonus Action. He will thus be able to cast a spell, move and make a weapon attack in the same turn.

  • Scorching Ray: he will start the fight by quickening it.
  • Enlarge/Reduce: if he fails his Concentration check and returns to normal size, his priorirty will be casting the spell again and re-enlarging himself in his following turn.
  • False Life: as soon as he loses the 8 temporary HPs he has from the start, he will cast it again once in the following turn.

End of the Adventure

At the end of the fight, if the PCs win, Akrask will fall noisily to the ground, remaining motionless. If his Enlarge spell hasn't been cancelled yet, it will be now, and everybody will see the gigantic being blatantly reduced to humanoid size. At this sight, the shaman Grakos Sharpfangs will first appear amazed, then his expression will become dark and, after a brief council with other shamans, he will take the floor:

"My people, the other shamans and, first of all, I believed in sincere good faith this being to be the Spirit of the Flamerock Volcano.

He knew our thoughts; fires did not touch him, and he could change his shape at will; he seemed untouchable and indestructible. These seemed the marks of a Spirit to me, but a Spirit does not bleed like a mortal, and would not fall in battle... and now I see that the protector of our tribes would have never asked for something as cowardly as abducting a diplomat, nor would he have asked for the tributes that he instead asked of us every year.

I was fearful and naive, and I misinterpreted the signs created by his diabolical magic, handing over our tribes to an impostor. I apologize and, from this moment on, I leave my position as Shaman of Flamerock: the Council gathered here can choose my successor, I will just help him and our people from now on.

The last thing I ask of you before this happens is to free the envoy of the Duchy, and to consider and hail as Friends of our People those brave heroes who have freed us from the impostor".

The Ferals will applaud the PCs and thank them, apologizing for what happened. They will free Mikalion at once; ht exploring the abode of Akrask the Ferals will find several of their fellow people reduced to slavery over the years and will free them too. The Duchy will now be able to deal with the Ferals (with difficulty or more easily, depending on the impression made by the PCs at the Gathering): the PCs will however be able to leave aware of having had a great weight in the peace process, and with the eternal gratitude of Mikalion.

What if the PCs lose the fight?

This event is definitely possible: even if they should have a slight advantage this can be a tough fight, in particular if Akrask places some critical hits and if the PCs don't use their healing powers to counter his Heated Body ability.

If you want to save the PCs, you may have them regain conscience after being defeated, thanks to Grakos' healing powers; though badly hurt, their courageous fight has inspired the Shamans, showing them that Akrask couldn't really be a divine and just being. Grakos Sharpfangs will tell them that the Ferals have rebelled against the flase God, and after defeating him it was clear to them they had been deceived all along.

Conclusion

The Duke of Welmar, after your feats at the Gathering, considers you among his most trustworthy associates; even in the capital of the Duchy, finally, people recognize and openly appreciate your deeds. But above all, you are happy to have helped improving the relations between members of a friendly race and your people.

Life is good, even though you are growing a bit bored of city life, until one evening you are summoned to the Duke's house. He tells you that he needs your diplomatic advice on a matter related to Lizardfolks; it seems that they would like to ally with the Duchy on a pact.

When you ask him what is this pact about, the Duke smiles and says: "They just want you to help them with a ‘little problem’ in their swamps, nothing serious. By the way... have you ever seen a Troll?"

But that's another story.

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System Reference Document 5.1 Copyright 2016,
Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Mike Mearls,
Jeremy Crawford, Chris Perkins, Rodney Thompson,
Peter Lee, James Wyatt, Robert J. Schwalb, Bruce R.
Cordell, Chris Sims, and Steve Townshend, based on
original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

Trial by Fire: Team Chimaera, Copyright 2019

CREDITS

  • Original Concept: D.F. (Team Chimaera)
  • Development: D.F. (Team Chimaera)
  • Proofreading: Sol'kanar (Team Chimaera)
  • Cover Illustration: Egoron (Team Chimaera)
  • Premade characters created with the ORCPUB character builder
  • Maps created with Dungeon Painter online
  • Text formatted on The Homebrewery website
;
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