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Danger in the Wilderness - Steal This Hook

The D&D website said this about the forthcoming 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons : "Civilized folk live in small, isolated points of light scattered across a big, dark, dangerous world. Most of the world is monster-haunted wilderness." Even in the 3rd Edition of the game, the wilderness is generally a monster-filled treasure house of fun for adventurers. A hydra looms out of the mountain pass to snap up several victims at once. A dragon swoops down on a caravan that has no way to stave it off. Undead crawl out of crypts or dark places in the forest. The wilderness is again the focus of Steal This Hook, as this month we look at some ideas involving the conflict between nature and civilization.

Wolf at the Door -- Forgotten Realms

Thesk straddles the western end of the Golden Way, the trade road that connects far-off Kara-Tur with the main part of Faerûn. Because of this, Thesk is a very wealthy nation and handles a lot of trade. "I want you to go to Two Stars," says the woman seated across from you. "I have a certain property coming in on a caravan from Shou Lung, and I would like to have it 'diverted' from the Golden Way before it reaches Telflamm and gets taxed. All you have to do is meet with a merchant named Beavom Tastald and give him this, and he will give my package into your keeping. Take it south on the Cold Road into Nethentir and meet the Spry Jewel of the Sea. The captain will take it off your hands."

Assuming they agree, the PCs find themselves traveling the Golden Way toward Two Stars in very wintry weather. It is unseasonably cold, so much so that trade has been slowed on the Golden Way through Thesk and Rashemen. The farmers curse the weather because crops have been ruined (assuming you place this adventure in a season other than winter). And to top off everything, reports of monsters in the wilderness increase as one travels eastward from Phsant.

About a day's journey from Two Stars, the PCs come across the remains of six people and two large wolflike creatures. The people have been eaten to the bone, their possessions lie scattered around and hidden underneath the snow; to their credit, they apparently took down two of the wolves before succumbing to the rest of the pack.

In Two Stars, the PCs find that the caravan they are waiting for has been delayed, or at least that it has not arrived yet. While they wait, they may encounter the following possibilities:

d100 Adventure Directions

00-50 At the Crossroads Tavern, a member of the Gallidy family sees the PCs and tries to hire them to determine where the monsters are coming from. Monsters are bad for business.

51-80 Beavom Tastald notes the PCs' interest in the delayed caravan, and he offers to pay them to travel the Golden Way and find it, or at least discover what happened to it. This leads the PCs into Rashemen, where they are attacked by winter wolves.

81-00 A farmer in Two Stars, or encountered along the road, could ask the PCs to find a missing relative (who has been mauled by winter wolves).

d100 Story Elements

Choose or randomly generate story elements from the table below, or make up your own.

00-40 Winter wolves from the Sunrise Mountains in Rashemen have expanded their range into Thesk because of the unusually strong winter storms. Packs of them ravage the countryside and eat farmer and merchant alike. If the winter subsides, the wolves would retreat to their normal range.

41-55 The storms center in northern Rashemen and are not natural. Wizards are causing them, and the spread of winter wolves is an accidental side effect.

56-70 Winter wolves are not the only monsters to spread into Thesk. Remorhazes, cold worms, frost giants, and other fell creatures pose dangers to the residents of Thesk and Rashemen.

71-95 The caravan carrying the package the PCs are to pick up has been attacked by ravaging winter monsters, and the package has been taken by frost giants into the Sunrise Mountains.

96-00 The winter has brought a trio of white dragons out of the northern Sunrise Mountains, and they have taken to attacking Mulsantir on a regular basis. The PCs could be asked to solve this problem too, and the dragons might be in league with the wizards causing the storms.

Campaign Adaptation

Frostburn is probably your best friend for this adventure, since it involves an area that has become a frostfell area.

Eberron: The Talenta Plains and eastern Karrnath are good for this adventure, since the winter wolves probably live in the mountains of the Mror Holds. Winter in the Talenta Plains could be a cause of considerable problems with the dinosaurs.

Greyhawk: The Duchy of Tenh is a natural place for this adventure, but Geoff or the March of Sterich could work too. The wolves (and weather) could even spread as far as the Hold of the Sea Princes.

Besieged -- Eberron

The land of Darguun is now a rougher place than it was when it was part of Cyre, chiefly because of its new masters. But the Mournland's presence on the northeastern border also contributes, since strange monsters stumble out of that ruined land and lay waste to whatever they find. The goblins at Gorgonhorn do their best to stop these incursions. But others are also concerned.

About three years ago, Oressny, a druid of the Warden of the Wood sect, established a small grove at the foothills of the small mountain range to the north of Gorgonhorn. She hopes to save the land from the Mournland, which she believes will grow slowly and engulf all of Khorvaire. She protects the land and the animals, and studies the blighting effects of the Mournland. She claims the whole mountain range as her grove, though her core grove is much smaller and on the southern side of the range. Her presence is not welcomed by all. The PCs receive, by means of animal messenger, a plea for help from Oressny.

d100 Story Elements

Select or randomly generate story elements from the table below.

00-55 Goblins are divided as to Oressny's presence. The goblins of Gorgonhorn welcome an ally of sorts that will help defend against the monsters of the Mournland, but some goblins like to hunt wyverns and other creatures in those mountains, and Oressny opposes them as well. They are gathering a force to attack the grove and remove the threat to their recreation.

56-90 Oressny has established her grove on a secret node of power, and even she is not aware of it. The node can be harnessed for evil, and a group of goblins dedicated to the overthrow of the Darguun government (in their favor) want to use that power. To do so, they must remove Oressny.

91-00 Oressny claims the whole mountain area, but others in that area don't recognize her claim. Specifically, a goblin druid living deeper in the mountains has his own grove. This goblin wants to eliminate the competition, and he musters a force of beasts and goblin allies to deal with Oressny's grove.

Campaign Adaptation

When inserting this adventure into campaign worlds, you may find Races of the Wild useful, or Complete Divine, or even Masters of the Wild if you want to convert some stuff.

Forgotten Realms: Try somewhere near the Reaching Wood and the nearby hills.

Greyhawk: This adventure could work in the Flinty Hills, with the goblins coming from a tribe in the hills rather than a nation nearby.

Bats and Snakes -- Forgotten Realms

The High Moor and the Serpent Hills are well known for being the haunts of monsters, and both are wisely avoided by the prudent traveler. But danger does not always stay contained. Monsters enlarge their territory or move into new areas when forced.

Traveling near Scornubel, the PCs hear of yuan-ti attacks on local residents near Soubar, Triel, and Hill's Edge. Specifically, reports come of massive attacks across the region by roving yuan-ti bands that were thought to live in relative isolation in the Serpent Hills. The PCs receive a message to come to Elturel, where High Rider Dhelt wants to meet with competent mercenaries. Lord Dhelt explains that the spread of the yuan-ti will soon reach his area of control, and he has insufficient soldiers to repel them and provide the normal level of protection to travelers that he guarantees. Lord Dhelt would like to hire mercenaries (the PCs) to go north and stop the yuan-ti raids by whatever means are necessary. He is willing to pay handsomely for this service, and he has access to somewhat rare magic items because of the volume of trade that passes through Elturel. He is willing to see what he can acquire that the PCs might be looking for but be unable to find.

d100 Motivations

00-60 Lord Dhelt is sincere; he really wants to head this problem off at the pass, so to speak.

61-85 The yuan-ti, if captured, are interested in getting help in removing the threat in their homeland that has driven them south.

86-00 A local wannabe warlord, Darkal Ish, has rallied the roving yuan-ti to his banner with the promise of solving their problem if they'll slay a few humans for him. He wants the PCs dead and puts out a price on their heads as soon as they are involved.

d100 Story Elements

Choose or randomly generate story elements from this table.

00-30 The yuan-ti have been driven out of the Serpent Hills by massive swarms of stirges. The yuan-ti are raiding in the area to gain equipment so they can return and reclaim their homelands.

31-50 Untold thousands of stirges are streaming from a portal in the High Moor at the edge of the Serpent Hills. They are moving southward too, and will cover the lands of the Western Heartlands like a blight if the portal is not closed. There may even be fiendish stirges from a gate to the Abyss.

51-75 There are a relatively small number of stirges, but a yuan-ti vampire controls them and hopes to drive out its fellow yuan-ti in an attempt to claim the Serpent Hills for its own. It plans to amass an army of minion creatures and overrun the lands to the south. The yuan-ti vampire has used the stirges strategically to create the impression that far more of them exist.

76-00 The stirges themselves are vampires (monstrous vampires from Ghostwalk) and thus even more dangerous than normal. They have claimed the whole of the Serpent Hills and even driven away the less powerful dragons (imagine fifty creatures attaching themselves to you and doing 1d4 Con damage or a negative level per round).

Campaign Adaptation

This adventure fits into any campaign world with yuan-ti living in a remote place. Since stirges are magical beasts, there are no sourcebooks to help flesh them out, but you could use Ghostwalk for monstrous vampire stirges or apply templates to make them more interesting. Yuan-ti are described in numerous sources, but Serpent Kingdoms is probably the best.

Eberron: This adventure would be great in Xen'drik somewhere, since there is a lot of wilderness. The yuan-ti would be driven toward Stormreach or harass explorers penetrating the surface. On Khorvaire, the stirges could come from the Demon Wastes and drive yuan-ti of the Eldeen Forest into western Aundair.

Greyhawk: Stirges might come out of the lands of Iuz and infest the Vesve Forest, and thus drive yuan-ti down into Furyondy and Highfolk.

About the Author

Robert Wiese has been playing D&D since 1978 after he watched a game played in the car on the way home from a Boy Scouts meeting. He was fascinated, and delved into this strange world of dragons and magic and sourcebooks. Years later, he was hired to edit tournaments for the RPGA Network, and from there progressed to running the network after his boss was assassinated in the great Christmas purge of 1996. Times were tough, but he persevered and brought the RPGA into a shining new era. Eventually he met a girl who liked to play D&D too, and he left Renton for the warmth and casinos of Reno, Nevada. Now, he works in the Pharmacology department of UNR studying mouse foot muscles and the effects of RF emissions on same. He spends as much time as possible with his wife Rhonda, son Owen, and newborn daughter Rebecca.


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