Thursday, July 30, 2015

Thursday Adventure Idea #4 - Ms. Ugly's Trolly Hills

INTRODUCTION

On the Sword Coast, in the Forgotten Realms there is a small hill range called the Troll Hills. This adventure was inspired by those hills, but any area in your campaign would work. Besides the characters referring to the locale as "The Trolly Hills" there is no reason it even needs to take place in a hilly region. The only important landmarks are caves and trees. As with all of the Master of Dungeons adventures, please change this as much as you need. This is more of a jumping off point than a set of rules, use it to improvise and (hopefully) inspire. 

All of the encounters were built for a party of 5 level 5 adventurers in 5th edition D&D. The party is quite strong for their level, and many of these encounters are technically above deadly, however there are not many encounters per day and it is very easy for your players to rest in between. However if things get a little too hairy make sure to dial it back. Particularly when fighting the dinosaurs in the cave.


Ms. Ugly's Trolly Hills


BACKGROUND


This is knowledge for the DM, and should only be presented to players as they find this out, major spoilers for the adventure.

Trolls don't often band together in large groups, but rumour has it that a nearby group of hills is crawling with a large number of them. A group of trolls calling themselves "Da Fightin' Trolls" have dug out a large pit inside of a large cave. They spend their days fighting in vicious tourneys, (usually against other trolls, but they're always excited to find any strong adventurer or monster to test their might against). Their troll regeneration abilities make them particularly well-suited for a fight club, as their wounds heal very quickly, and severed arms, legs, and even heads can be easily be reattached, or grow back if needed.

Normally trolls would not have the spare time to spend leisurely severing arms and legs from their fellow trolls, as their substantial appetite and preference for humanoid meat means that most trolls have to spend the majority of their time hunting and ambushing humanoid prey. These trolls have recently been taught more civilized "farming" practices by their caretaker, Ms. Ugly.

None of the trolls know how long they've been under the protection and guidance of Ms. Ugly, but they know it has been a very long time. She is a green hag that often disguises herself as an incredibly beautiful elven woman. When she arrived, she saw in the trolls the potential for a personal army. Until meeting her the trolls had spent most of their time raiding small villages and laying ambushes on the nearby highway. Thinking this a waste of time, she taught the trolls how to ensure they always have a steady supply of meat by "farming" it. When a large travelling group of halflings passed by the hills, she saw the opportunity and sent the trolls out to capture them. For generations the halflings have been captives of the trolls, slaughtered for food like animals.

These trolls are not particularly evil creatures. They are, however, particularly stupid creatures. Ms. Ugly has convinced them that these brutal "farming" practices have made them civilized, and they think that they are doing a good thing by ceasing their raids on villages and eating of travelers. Their nature means they hunger especially for humanoid meat, and they see this as a very kind way of them to get it. They see the halflings as animals, and treat them as such.

One month ago, a group of young halflings, who were all born within the cave, escaped the trolls. They were led by Bart Halthorn, a young halfling with a gift for building machines and contraptions out of anything he can get his hands on. He was able to build some tools to open the cage holding the young halflings, and escaped to a deeper part of the cave. To keep the trolls from coming looking for them and recapturing them, Bart left large footprints to trick the trolls into believing that something big and strong had kidnapped them.

The trolls grew to believe that some sort of Scary Super Trolls stole the halflings. Bart built on this belief by creating cut out puppets of trolls that the young halflings used to cast large shadows on the walls of the cave. Tools to make loud noises and flaming javelins convinced the real trolls that the Scary Super Trolls were far too powerful to be messed with. The Trolls slaughtered the remainder of their "animals" believing that the meat would be easier to protect. The halflings are unaware of this, and are preparing a plan to rescue their elders, and seek vengeance on the trolls.

SETUP

The adventure begins as the party reaches side road with a nice stone bridge perpendicular to the highway they are traveling on, going over a steep gorge, entering a hill region known as the Troll Hills. They have been traveling for many uneventful days and are starting to get bored. They hear a voice shouting from the direction of the bridge.

"Oy, softskins, ova here why don' ya? Ya's lookin' like ya's in need of a contest, a tourneyment, a fights, ones with a sort of, whatdya call it, Grand Prize? Come ova to me bridge and I'll give ya what ya need ta know"

If the party ignore the voice it shouts louder and louder, calling them cowards, and reiterating that there is a huge reward on the line. The voice continues to call the party forward until they are on the bridge. As soon as anything is placed on the bridge, the stone pressure plate sinks in, similar to a trap. After a few tense seconds a troll head peeks out from under the bridge, the players can only see the head but he must be very large to reach the bridge.

Unbeknownst to the players, the troll is only a head, mounted on a spear that swings up whenever someone steps on the bridge, (built by a very clever halfling slave named Bart Halthorn). He attempts to hide this fact. Trolls can often survive after having their head cut off for a short time, but Ms. Ugly's magic was able to keep him alive as only a head indefinitely. The other trolls were annoyed by his constant talking, so they sent him to "guard" the bridge.

The troll introduces himself as Heddy, guardian of the bridge to the Trolly Hills. He assures them that he isn't going to ask them some sort of corny riddle, but that he was simply bored, and looking for entrants in the next tourney of Da Fightin' Trolls. Players suspect that he is hiding something from them, and a very easy investigation check will show that Heddy is only a head on a spear. Once they know his secret Heddy is very truthful with them about everything, happy to have someone to talk to again. The only thing he will not tell them about is the "animals" of the trolls being halflings. If anyone inquires as to what sort of animal they are he says he doesn't know, just that they are animals for eating according to Ms. Ugly, which is true.

Heddy will mention at some point that Da Fightin' Trolls aren't ordinary trolls, but they're civilized due to Ms. Ugly and learning how to farm. He points them in the direction of the fighting caves, about a four hour walk from the bridge. If asked where Ms. Ugly lives, or any questions about her, he just says she is a person who takes care of the trolls, and she lives in a smaller cave near the fighting cave. He doesn't mention what she looks like, besides saying that she is very ugly, at least to trolls, he doesn't mention that she is a Green Hag, mostly because he doesn't know what that means.

In the highly likely event that the party learn that Heddy is nothing but a troll head on a spear, he asks that they take him along, since he has been alone on this bridge for a very long time. If they choose to take him along it is very easy to lift his head up the side of the bridge, bringing the spear with it. Heddy will consider everyone in the party a very good friend of his, and is always nice and as helpful as he can be with his limited knowledge. He is very annoying and doesn't understand when to shut up, even when told to. 

TRAVEL TO THE CAVES

The party is likely traveling to the cave holding Da Fightin' Trolls, however this section will be the same if they are traveling to meet Ms. Ugly. As they are traveling, it starts to pour rain. They get very cold walking, and tired with the mud sticking to their boots. As they get closer to the caves, trees and other plants begin to look more blighted and dead. The landscape switches from bright green to grey and dark.

This fight is optional, feel free to skip it, but it can be useful if your players really enjoy combat or are getting bored from the roleplay on the bridge

An angry troll comes running out of the trees, he is shouting gibberish at the top of his lungs so he doesn't surprise them. If Heddy is traveling with the party he mentions that this is a particularly mean troll named Jango. Heddy tries to talk some sense into the troll, saying they are supposed to be civilized trolls now, but it doesn't work. Jango keeps muttering to himself about being tired of farm animals, and he wants to hunt his own meat.

Jango tries to kill the party. He is a Troll. Use the variant rule for Jango, and any subsequent troll fights that allows for limbs to be severed by slashing damage. This fight should be fairly easy for your party, if a little long because of his regenerative properties (if they don't realize to use fire or acid damage). Use how well they do during this fight to balance the future encounters.

Immediately after the fight with Jango (or instead if you chose to skip that fight) the party notices a quaint forest house. The trees and plants directly around the house are bright green and healthy, unlike the other blighted plants that have been getting worse as the party travels. The rain is picking up even more, and as the party passes it, the door opens and a beautiful elf woman shouts for the party to come in to get out of the rain or they will catch a terrible sickness.

The party doesn't know but this woman is the Green Hag Ms. Ugly disguised by illusion magic. In fact, the entire house is an illusion. She serves the adventurers delicious sandwiches, warm tea, and good ale. She is very charismatic and seems very kind-hearted. If asked about what she is doing in the troll hills, she says she has lived here for many years, and the trolls tend to leave her alone. She doesn't go into any more detail than that. Heddy has never seen her before, or heard anything about her, but admits he rarely left the cave before going to the bridge, so there is much he doesn't know about. If there is one or more male party members Ms. Ugly will attempt to sleep with them, taking preference for half-elves, humans, or elves, in that order.

If Ms. Ugly sleeps with a member of the party, or if they discover her true identity, she drops the illusion and  the party finds themselves sitting in the mud, covered in rain looking at an incredibly ugly Green Hag. Even the green trees around the house turn back to their dead, blighted look. She quickly turns invisible, and escapes to her home, her invisibility as a green hag works in such a way that she can only be tracked by magical means. If she slept with a party member, she becomes pregnant, knowing it immediately, and will give birth to a girl of the race of the father in 6 days, as is the case with hags. She will try to plant the girl with a family in a nearby village, where she will grow up normally until her 13th birthday, where she will try to kill her adoptive parents and join her mother in the troll hills. (Standard hag procreation and child rearing practices).

The party may choose to enter Ms. Ugly's cave first after this.

MS. UGLY'S CAVE

Ms. Ugly's cave is very small, consisting of one room, a cauldron with bubbling contents of unknown origin, and two large trolls. When the adventurers enter she taunts them, especially if she slept with one of them in the house. It is now that she reveals that she is pregnant, and that it will only take 6 days to give birth. (This will open many roleplay opportunities, some characters might not believe her, or might not want to slay a pregnant woman, no matter how evil. They may not have the knowledge necessary to know that a hag's child always seems normal until puberty, where it becomes as evil as it's mother, regardless of how it was raised, if Ms. Ugly escapes they may want to chase after her to save the baby. Be prepared to improvise as you see fit.)

After some taunting Ms. Ugly and her two trolls attack. If she thinks she is losing the battle she will turn invisible and try to escape again. She knows when she has been defeated and will leave the troll hills to join her sisters in a forest a few days travel away. She will likely try to take revenge at some point on the party for ruining her plans, likely with the aid of a hag coven, formed by her sisters.

DA FIGHTIN' TROLLS

Trolls are very afraid of fire. In this cave any damage, through sword, bow, magic or something else, is met with cheers and excitement. But, anything involving fire is met with screams and fear. 

The entrance to this cave has a large, tacky rug in the center of the opening. A DC 13 perception check will find that this is a trap, or it is obvious if the players lift up part of the rug. There is enough room to walk around it. If the trap is triggered a Dexterity saving throw of 15 is needed to jump out of the way. Players take 3d6 piercing damage as they fall onto the spikes underneath.

Around the corner from the entrance are two trolls guarding the door. They immediately attack anyone on sight. They surrender when near death, laugh, and welcome the worthy combatants to Da Fightin' Trolls' cave. Full xp is rewarded as if the trolls died. If any of the trolls die in combat, there are no hard feelings, and Heddy or the surviving troll just laughs it off and continues on their way.

After fighting the trolls at the entrance, they follow the cave and come to a big opening with a large pit dug out in the center. There is a tunnel going deeper into the cave from the other side of the room. Half of the pit is covered with a curtain. There are two large treasure chests against the wall outside of the pit. Around twenty to thirty trolls are watching two trolls spar in the pit, cheering and laughing.

Heddy points the party to the a big troll who seems to be the leader. His name is Dugdug and he is very excited to have strangers to join in the festivities. He mentions that most fights are usually one on one, troll against troll, but since they seem like a group that fights better as a team, he has a better idea. He wants them to try the ultimate challenge, and if they win they will receive an amazing prize. He won't explain what the challenge is except to say it's a fight in the pit.

Assuming the party agrees to the challenge, ( if they don't they are teased relentlessly, called plant eaters, and spat on) they are instructed to climb down into the pit, and defeat whatever monsters come at them. A rope is pulled from under the curtained part of the pit, and the party can hear two cages being opened, and some growling.

Two Allosaurus and two Anklyosaurus dinosaurs run out of the curtain. All of the trolls hoot and holler. If no one remembered to leave Heddy outside of the pit before the fight he complains relentlessly that he has no business being here. This is a good opportunity to practice roleplaying during combat.

If the adventurers seem to be faring well against the four dinosaurs, when they are dead or getting close to death the lead troll pulls a second rope and another cage swings open. An incredibly loud roar is heard through the cave. After one round, a Tyrannosaurus Rex throw off the curtain, and joins the fight against the players. The trolls are working themselves into a frenzy by this point. Cheering any amazing moves the party pulls, clearly hoping the dinosaurs will lose, even if that means they lose their most prized pets. The pets were received by sending raiding parties into the underdark, when they were bored between fights, and looking for new monsters to fight against. They'd found them as eggs and Ms. Ugly had helped them to raise them.

If the adventurers survive, they are slapped on the back and cheered for by everyone in the cave. They are awarded the titles: Honorary Troll, and Troll-friend, and told they are welcome in the cave any time.

Dugdug asks them if they'd like the amazing, valuable prize first, or the boring no-fun prize first. Regardless of what they pick, they get both. Trolls have a slightly warped view of what is valuable.


  • Valuable Prize: 50 pounds of "animal" meat. This is all they have left, they absolutely insist the party take it, and refuse to let them give it back. At least they don't force anyone to eat it. It is obvious to anyone who looks at it that something is off about this meat, if asked Dugdug explains that their animals were halflings.
  • No-Fun Prize: 1000 gold coins and a Signal Tome

SCARY SUPER TROLLS

After the fighting, Dugdug discusses the Scary Super Trolls, explaining how they stole their "animals", and they are so scary no one has ever seen one face to face and survived. He explains how they use fire as their main weapon, which is strange for a troll. The players at this point have no reason to believe that they are the escaped halflings, but they might suspect that they aren't trolls. Dugdug asks them to go drive them off, since the party is so powerful, and they are friends of trolls.

If the party decides to leave, perhaps because they've learned the trolls were farming halflings, have this encounter occur outside of the cave.

The party is pointed deeper into the cave, loud noises are heard. Shouting is heard, and large shadows of trolls appear on the walls as they get closer. If the party keeps walking Bart Halthorn steps out from the darkness and asks the party what they are doing in this cave.

Bart explains how he led the young halflings to escape, how they were all raised in captivity by the trolls, his skill with building things that kept them safe from a counter attack. How the young halflings have been planning their next attack, to save the older halflings. He doesn't know yet that all of the halflings left with the trolls have been slaughtered, and their remains are likely carved up in a bag held by the party.

If the party has Heddy with them, Bart demands they hand him over to pay for his crimes, and the crimes of his people. Heddy is very confused by all of this talk, and what the "animals" are doing but he begs for his friends to not hand him over. If Heddy is handed over, Bart stabs a small knife into his eye, then hands him to one of the others, telling him to "make sure this one dies slowly, he will be our first act of revenge, make it memorable".

Bart wants the party to help them get their revenge on the trolls. He is especially vocal if he finds out that the elders are all dead. He explains that they've got a way to get revenge against the trolls all at once, that he needs the party to convince the trolls that the "Scary Super Trolls" are coming, and to all hide in the fighting pit. He says the halflings will take care of the rest. The halflings have no valuables and are able to offer no reward.

Both the trolls and the halflings likely seem reprehensible to the players. If the trolls are convinced to enter the pit, the halflings sneak in and place a cover on the pit that traps them inside like a cage. They poke at the trolls with flaming spears and try to slowly burn them to death. Bart reminds them to not kill them all because they need some to torture.


This is probably a pretty strange adventure. It doesn't end with a lot of resolution, and is designed to leave the adventurers wondering if they did the right thing, and whether they could have stopped this. Your party will likely think of things I haven't covered, do whatever feels right and what you think the NPCs would do. Let me know how it goes, or if this inspires you to do anything similar.