The Player Characters are tasked with stopping a minor menace to the forest. A short Adventure for PCs of 2nd level with at least one member of the party being 3rd level.
On a forest path the PCs hear squeals of terror. "Oh no ! Please don't eat us! Please No ! Heeeeelp !!"
If the Characters step off the main path to investigate they find a narrow animal trail among the thick undergrowth and densely packed trees. Following the trail a short distance towards the squeals the lead character must make a roll for surprise, with a -2 penalty unless they are an Elf or Ranger. Hidden in the foliage is an ambush hunter, a huge Praying Mantis which lashes out ferociously.
Giant Praying Mantis (1)
HD: 6 hp: 40
Attacks: 3 (claws + bite)
Size: M (6' tall)
Tactics: The Preying Mantis is a fearless killer. The creature will maintain its attack on the lead character until it has less than 5 hit points before withdrawing. In the cramped pathway among the trees only one PC can attack although the front rank can be switched as one PC withdraws and another comes to the front. [The fearful voices coming from this direction were placed here thanks to a Ventriloquism spell - see below.]
Wow, You Passed!
As soon as the Mantis is defeated you notice two very short elf-like forest creatures emerge onto the trail a short distance away. They are wearing clothes of varying shades of green and have small short swords at their sides. Both have huge smiles. The lead creature beams and claps his hands as he speaks.
"Wow, You Passed our little test! This is just fantastic! If you can defeat old green legs here then you MUST be able to get rid of our other little problem! Well done heroes !!"
The second creature continues: "Let me introduce ourselves. We are the bothers Thanadar and we've been looking for some brave warriors to drive off this nasty Gnome spellcaster who's been playing around in our forest. We don't really want to see anyone harmed in all this so you'll have to use clubs or sticks."
MV: 12 AC: 3 HD: 1/2 THACO: 20 Attacks: 1 Damage 1d4 (Short Sword) or *Spell. Size: T (2' tall) Xp: 175
*Once per day: protection from evil, ventriloquism, dancing lights, continual light, mirror image (3 images), confusion, and dimension door at 9th level.
The Brownies lead the PCs along the grassy trail for some distance into the forest until a clearing is reached. Hidden in brambles are an assortment of clubs and poles that the Characters can use if they don't have any, or enough, of their own. There are 4 Clubs (1d6), 1 Quarterstaff (1d6), 3 Thin Poles (1d3), and 4 Solid Short Sticks (1d3). Damage from clubbing weapons causes 25% temporary damage (with fractions rounded up) - this does not apply to warhammers or maces. Note, penalties for non-proficiency will likely occur during subsequent melee actions.
When the PCs are ready one of the Brownies points towards a path leading out of the clearing.
"Following this grassy way you will eventually, after some hours, get to the Gnome Wizard. Pull some tricks on that tramp and get him to go away. He's not welcome. And watch out for his guards - he knows we don't want him here! Remember, no killing from now on."
PCs can be informed, if they ask, that the Guards are also forest creatures - giant animals of various sizes. The Brownies are not exactly sure what creatures will be encountered since they've kept away from the Gnome over the last few weeks. In fact the Brownies will stay behind in the clearing until the PCs have finished their quest. They are actually very afraid of the Gnome Wizard and his power over the various forest creatures -although they won't admit it. They think this power might extend to themselves so will not venture anywhere near him. Their excuse is they promised an old friend they would not fight in this part of the forest.
The Grassy Way
Following the trail through the forest the PCs will travel for 3 hours until their first encounter. The PCs can still only fight in single file but there is more space. At each point of battle a Giant Mammal(s) crashes out of the dense forest onto the trail in front of the lead character.
Giant Ferrets (2)
MV: 12 AC: 6 HD: 2 hp: 12 THACO: 19 Attacks: 1 Damage: 1d4 (bite) Size: S (4' long) Xp: 65
The Ferrets can slink past and arch over each other to attack the lead character with their bites allowing each to attack once per round. A few minutes journey after this battle the characters encounter the second forest guardian.
Giant Skunk (1)
MV: 9 AC: 6 HD: 2 hp: 16 THACO: 19 Attack: 1 Bite or Stink Cloud (10x10x10) Damage: 1d3 or Save vs Poison or suffer Nausea for 1d4 +10 rounds: 1/2 Str & Dex. Size: M (4' long) Xp: 120
The Forest Clearing
Not long after the previous encounters, after 5 more minutes walking, the PCs come to the end of the trail where there is a grassy clearing 100 feet across. At the far side of this open space is a small smokey campfire built in front of a large tree that has a hollow at its base. Dressed in brown robes, with a pointed hat of the same colour is a short, grey-bearded Gnome. He appears to be hunched over and working on a number of stick-like dolls that are propped up a few feet from the fire. He doesn't notice you. Suddenly the bushes erupt and two Giant Badgers attack from either side. Roll for initiative.
Giant Badgers (2)
MV: 9 AC: 5 HD: 3 hp: 20 THACO: 17 Attacks: 3 Damage: 1d4/1d4 1d6 Size: M (5' long) Xp: 180
As the battle begins the Gnome jumps up and begins casting a spell as he moves behind the big tree. In the second round the stick-dolls, that are bundles of various plant materials, become animated. They arrive to fight in the battle at the start of the 3rd round. After 2d4 + 5 rounds the stick-dolls collapse.
Stick Animations (10)
MV: 12 AC: 7 HD: 1+1 hp: 6 Attack: 1 Damage: 1d3 (claw) Xp: 25
*Blunt weapons do half damage.
*Active for 2d4 + 5 rounds.
The Gnome does not fight. He watches the battle from behind the tree.
If the PCs are victorious he proclaims, "Okay Okay ... the Brownies win. I'll leave. hhhhmmmffphh !" and he begins packing up. He leaves behind the now broken stick-dolls but takes his cooking pot and a backpack. He will not reveal his name.
Gnome Wizard (1)
AC: 6 (Dex 16, Ring of Protection +2) HD: 5 hp: 22 Attacks: 1 or Spell Alignment: CN
*Ring of Enthralling and Commanding Mammals.
When the PCs return to where they left the Brownies they find the area deserted.
PCs that succeed in this quest receive 120 experience points.
Ideas for an expanded campaign.
DMs might want to make this adventure more challenging for higher level PCs with the Gnome building a small army (40) of the stick animations that can be controlled so long as he maintains concentration. An Evil Warrior Gnome and a band of five (1) Mercenaries can accompany the Wizard in this situation. Double the numbers of Giant Mammals.