The Forest of Fear

After a few missed sessions, the home-based D&D campaign had another session last Friday. For the second time I opted to use the “5 Room Dungeon” model for the adventure, even though the session had neither rooms nor dungeons. For those who are not familiar, the model has the DM have the PC’s experience roughly five encounters, each with a unique purpose, usually in order, and composed a fairly typical narrative arc. The five encounter types are “Guardian”, “Roleplaying”, “Puzzle or Setback”, “Boss Fight”, and “Treasure or Twist.”

The backstory of this adventure deals with two factions that have been regulars in my campaign “The Hunger”: the invading gnoll army and the similar incursion of hobgoblins. The gnolls have been encountered frequently, including the siege at Fort Kellum, while the PC’s pre-emptively attacked the hobgoblins who had taken up residence at Citadel Gallax. In previous sessions there had been rumors that the two factions had met in an ongoing open battle to the north of where the PC’s had been operating, and it is to that location that the PC’s had been dispatched to do some reconnaissance and report back on what was happening.

In the introductory scene, the heroes find the remnants of the battle, quickly ascertaining that the gnolls have overwhelmed the hobgoblins and their forces are still nearby, while the few hobgoblins that remain have fled into nearby woods. Not wanting to attract the attention of a gnoll army, the PC’s decide to pursue the hobgoblins into the forest to get an estimate of their size and strength.

Encounter One: Guardians
The heroes quickly realize that the forest is in some ways supernatural. They are drawn by the sounds of combat and discover a single hobgoblin losing a battle to a pack of shadowy hounds. The enter the fray, slay the hounds, and rescue the badly wounded hobgoblin.

Encounter Two: Roleplaying
The lone hobgoblin, a devastator named Gurkarg, tells his rescuers that he is the last of his unit to survive the forest, whose enchantments prevent people from escaping while they are constantly attacked by the shadow mastiffs. He promises that, should the PC’s find a way out, he will reveal to them some critical information they might need regarding the gnoll invasion.

Encounter Three: Puzzle or Setback
After failing to find a way out through traditional means, the PC’s slowly decode the methodology of the magical trees’ facial expressions to conclude which direction the source of the enchantment is, as well as some clues to his or her identity (but not all the clues–the PC’s quit this thread early once they figured out the way to go).

Encounter Four: Boss Battle
The trees lead the heroes to a night hag and her undead paramour (actually estranged and controlled by her magic, but the PC’s fail to discover that), as well as a shadow mastiff alpha protecting them. Combat ensues, and the PC’s are victorious. The hag’s death restores the forest to normal.

Encounter Five: Treasure or Twist
The thankful hobgoblin tells that heroes that during the battle with the gnolls a captured gnoll leader revealed under interrogation that the gnolls had established a cult of Yeenoghu among the human citizens of the nearby town of Chesterton. The cult is called the Banquet Rouge, and is working to sabotage the defenses of the duchy of Aestel from within.

All told, a solid adventure with plenty of variety but compacted down into a single two- to three-hour gaming session.

Comments welcome!

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