The second adventure in Tales From Wilderland is Of Leaves and Stewed Hobbit, in which the PCs are invited to rescue a hobbit from goblins on the High Pass of the Misty Mountains. I am entirely of the opinion that the choices the players face, and the consequences of what they choose, is the most important part of adventure design. As a consequence, while Of Leaves and Stewed Hobbit offers more player choices than Don’t Leave the Path, I am going to suggest that the judge increases the number and quality of choices available when converting this adventure.
Part One – The Easterly Inn
The first part of the adventure describes how it came to pass that a Hobbit opened an inn in the middle of the Wild, the history of the Brandybuck brothers, and the fate of the missing Dinodas. The Easterly Inn is described in detail, as the company may return here again and again on their travels.
The Easterly Inn is described well enough to use in play, but is not described in the same detail as, say, the Inn of the Welcome Wench in The Village of Hommlet. No map of the Inn is included. There is a great deal of background, which may be useful for the judge when framing the Inn and its inhabitants within the game milieu.
The one thing that the judge should change in this section is the adventure hook. Variable levels of success is great, but I would not tie this directly to skill checks. Or, rather, the judge should determine how much Dodinas trusts the adventurers based on their conduct, and then roll a Personality check using a die (from 1d8 to 1d30) based on that determination.
In the last post of this series, I suggested setting 1 point of treasure at approximately 10 gp. I feel that still works well enough for this adventure. This might not be enough recompense to motivate your players, and that is okay. The real treasure is the friends the PCs make along the way – a safe base of operations. The real danger is that the PCs’ refusal sours their reputation. Judges should take into account their PCs’ previous actions when role-playing NPCs, for good or ill.
Another thing the prospective judge might do is have the Easerly Inn appear in previous game sessions. If the PCs know the halflings – conversion to DCC, remember? – they might be a lot more willing to help. A note of caution here: players who believe sympathetic NPCs only exist to pull their characters into danger will generally resist becoming too attached to anyone. Use this type of plot hook sparingly!
Part Two – Searching the High Pass
This section deals with the journey across Wilderland to the foothills of the Misty Mountains and the High Pass. The company encounter several dangers on this journey, and pass through the ruins of a town built many centuries ago. They find signs that the caravan was attacked.
As with the first adventure in this volume, there is nothing inherently wrong with the encounters suggested herein, but they are linked to GM whims and resolved via die rolls, and they could be made more meaningful. For example, Summer Storm catches the company in unexpected weather, where a check is used to determine whether they find shelter or suffer an increased chance of fatigue. Instead, a judge could allow the PCs to find shelter in exchange for a lost day of travel, or travel while taking a -1d penalty to all rolls until they gain a proper rest. With a random encounter table and a consequence for delay, the choice becomes meaningful. This also makes the Beornings encounter potentially meaningful.
The judge will need statistics for the Eager Feet encounter, and probably for A Stranger on the Road. The judge is directed to A Stranger in the Road as an encounter resolved almost entirely based on PC choices. In DCC, an Intelligence check (DC 12) can recognize Longbottom Leaf – smokers and halflings roll 1d20; all others roll 1d10.
Most of the creatures in this adventure either appear in the core rulebook, or are easily extrapolated therefrom. The Night-Wight in this section is the most interesting creature in the adventure, and that is what we will be converting to DCC.
Remembering that monsters don’t have to play by the rules, we need to deal with this bit of text and turn into DCC goodness:
The company’s Look-out Men must make Awareness tests; the Target Number for this roll is determined using the table on 168 of The One Ring Roleplaying Game, and ranges between TN 14 and TN 18 depending on how wary the characters are. If the roll fails, then the Night-Wight automatically places one of the company in an enchanted slumber and carries him off to its lair. The Look-out men must then make more Awareness tests, dropping the TN by 2 each time. For each failed check, another member of the company is taken by the Wight.
And a bit later:
Those kidnapped by the Wight are dragged away to the brook nearby. There, the wight submerges them in the muddy banks of the river, pushing them into boggy graves so that only the victims’ faces remain at the surface. They are entombed alive in the clinging mud.
Once battle is joined with the Wight, the victims may make a Valour test every round to awaken (starting at TN 16, and dropping by 2 each round of battle). Once awake, escaping from the mud needs a successful Athletics test. A hero who was buried in the mud is considered to be temporarily Weary, until he is able to wash away the clinging dirt.
In DCC terms, we can say that the Night-Wight has a special ability we will call “Enchant and Submerge”. Anyone on watch may make an Intelligence check (DC 18; cumulative -2 to DC per failed check), or the Night-Wight steals away a companion (lowest Luck first). The stolen companion is placed in an enchanted slumber (no save) and submerged in the river mud with only their faces above the surface. Once combat is joined, an enchanted PC may attempt a Will save (DC 16, cumulative -2 per failed save) to awaken. The round after they awaken, a PC may act with a -4d penalty to all die rolls, which decreases by 1d per round thereafter until the PC is rolling normally.
Init: “The Night-Wight is a thing of shadow, haunting the remains of a warrior who once fell into corruption. It attacks using a wicked spear with a barbed head, and will resort to using its claws if disarmed. Let’s say it was a level 2 warrior in life, and give it a +2. But wait…Fell Speed. Let’s say +5.
Atk: A spear does 1d8 and claws 1d3, but we can also take the warrior’s deed die (from life) into account and grant a +2 attack and damage bonus. Spear +2 melee (1d8+2) or claw +2 melee (1d3+2).
AC: The monster has Parry 7 and 4d Armour, based on the difficulty of harming its semi-corporeal shadow form. Let’s make it AC 18.
HD: Endurance 54 is again indicated as a result of the Night-Wight being difficult to damage with corporeal weapons. The design suggests to me that driving it off with fire is the best option, so I will happily say that the creature has 8d12 Hit Dice, and also say that it only takes half damage from any non-magical source.
MV: The creature has Movement 3 and “Fell Speed”, which I am going to interpret as giving it MV 50’.
Act: 1d20 seems right to me.
SP: In addition to the things already described, the Night-Wight has Fear of Fire. From the text, “Hate” appears to indicate a creature’s motivation (and hence willingness) to fight. “Based on its special abilities, the Night-Wight loses 1 point of Hate at the end of the first round of combat for each companion wielding a torch (Fear of Fire) but still profits from its enhanced power at night (Denizen of the Dark). When reduced to 0 Hate, the Night-Wight flies away into the night shrieking in frustration (Craven).
We can say that the Night-Wight must make a Morale check at the end of each round it faces an enemy armed with fire. It takes a -1 penalty for each fire-wielder it faces, and an additional -2 for each successful save it has already made.
Let’s also give it a good bonus to Stealth. +10 seems right to me.
SV: Reflexes are important for a creature with “Fell Speed”, but Fortitude less so. A craven creature probably has a low Will, but as we are dropping save bonuses due to fire, choosing a high Will bonus is better. Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +12.
Crit: Following the table on page 385 of the core rulebook, we get a result of U/1d12.
Put altogether, our statblock looks like this:
Night-Wight: Init +5; Atk spear +2 melee (1d8+2) or claw +2 melee (1d3+3); AC 18; HD 8d12; hp 54; MV 50’; Act 1d20; SP Un-dead, enchant and submerge (see below), stealth +10, half damage from non-magical sources, fear of fire (see below); SV Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +12; AL C; Crit U/1d12.
Enchant and Submerge: Anyone on watch may make an Intelligence check (DC 18; cumulative -2 to DC per failed check), or the Night-Wight steals away a companion (lowest Luck first). The stolen companion is placed in an enchanted slumber (no save) and submerged in the river mud with only their faces above the surface. Once combat is joined, an enchanted PC may attempt a Will save (DC 16, cumulative -2 per failed save) to awaken. The round after they awaken, a PC may act with a -4d penalty to all die rolls, which decreases by 1d per round thereafter until the PC is rolling normally.
Fear of Fire: The Night-Wight must make a Morale check at the end of each round it faces an enemy armed with fire. It takes a -1 penalty for each fire-wielder it faces, and an additional -2 for each successful save it has already made.
Of course, if the PCs just sleep with no one on watch, it is time to either roll up some new characters or pick up the action in hell.
Part Three – Battle at the Ringfort
The company comes upon the survivors of the caravan, and aid them in a desperate battle against a Goblin host. The company is victorious (or else perish in the battle!), but discover that the Goblins carried off Dinodas as they fled.
For the most part, this section can be run as presented. Statistics for goblins, orcs, and men-at-arms can be found in the core rulebook, and judges should find this fairly easy to adapt. The difficult part is allowing players full agency, as the adventure assumes the kidnapping of Dinodas. There is even a sidebar acknowledging this!
My personal recommendation is to try to distract the PCs with attacks on the ringfort – which is, after all, the goblin’s plan – but allow the PCs to prevent the kidnapping if they keep their wits about them. There is nothing worse than having a brilliant plan and having it thwarted because the plot has plot armor!
It should be noted that the Allies in Battle table (and similar) can be reformatted as a normal d12 table – there is no requirement for special dice! Likewise, the benefit of the defensive fortifications can be described as a +4 bonus to AC as long as the defensive ramparts are held.
– Under the Hills
Following the Goblin kidnappers brings the adventurers into the tunnels under the Misty Mountains. After braving these dark passages, they find that the Goblins have imprisoned Dinodas with an unbreakable chain.
Spend the time to draw up even a basic map, and know the way that the goblins have gone. Most of the potential hazards should be consequences for choosing the wrong path; many of these make no sense in terms of hazards along a regular route. Consider a long curving route where the PCs can risk hazards to get ahead of the goblins. And don’t regard this in terms of ten-foot squares – the goblin tunnels run for miles.
Part Five – The Goblin Feast
The reputation of Hobbit cooking has reached even the caves of the Goblins, and they demand that Dinodas cook them a feast. The adventurers can use this feast to trick the Goblins into fighting amongst themselves, or to steal the key and free Dinodas from his bonds.
The situation and map as the PCs first discover it is fine. The goblins owning an unbreakable chain with an unpickable lock? Once the PCs are on the scene, don’t try to force a particular outcome. In the case of an escape, you still have a potential running battle in the goblin tunnels (look to The Hobbit for inspiration). Besides, this is DCC – a high enough roll on sleep or charm person can resolve this part, as can knock.
Remember, as a judge, it is your job to discover what happens along with your players. It is not your job to force what you deem is most dramatic to be what happens. Dice and system will create drama. Let your players have their moment!
(Another way to look at this is that players going through early adventures, such as The Keep on the Borderlands, faced situations. When they talked to other players, how they faced those situations and what happened as a result made for lively conversation. Of Leaves and Stewed Hobbit attempts to narrow the potential solutions so that the situation can only be resolved in one way – by acquiring the key to Dinodas’ chains. There may be a small range of options within the only possible resolution, but the PCs are very much following a path laid out by the writer’s plot. This is not great design.)
Epilogue - Back to the Inn
After rescuing Dinodas, the company returns to the Easterly Inn for their reward.
There is nothing wrong with this section, but you should consider how it is changed if thieves attacked the inn while the PCs were away. There is, after all, a potential encounter pointing in that direction. The judge may also want to include one or more encounters on the return journey. Even if these are only flavor encounters, they provide an opportunity to lay new adventure hooks!