Adventure Locales07/07/2004

Despair on Tap

The Bird in Hand Inn exists anywhere on a road that people travel occasionally, but a remote spot in a forest is best for it. What happens at this place would not happen if the inn were too frequently patronized. This inn is a place to stop for the night -- one of many such places that dot the Realms. You can make it into a curiosity only, or use it to start an adventure. You may have to adjust some details to fit this into some locales. This sidetrek is suitable for four 7th-level player characters.

Many stops are along the road from point A to point B. A dilapidated inn standing a little off the road all by itself serves as one such stop. Located about an hour's travel from the end of the day (depending on which way you are going), the inn nonetheless entices the occasional traveler with the faint promises of a bed more comfortable than the ground, some hot food, and perhaps even ale. However, these promises are dicey at best given the inn's appearance.

The main building is about 50 or 60 feet square, with a peaked roof. It has the look of age -- as if it had been there since the fall of Netheril -- and seemingly time alone cannot destroy it. The stone chimney, which releases puffs of smoke slowly and reluctantly, leans in toward the building in a precarious way that leads one to believe it can fall at any time. The peaked roof has shingles missing but otherwise looks solid. Paint peels from the walls in places and is entirely missing in other places, and the walls have the look of really old weatherworn boards. Smoke comes from somewhere around the back as well. The door set in the center of the wall looks solid enough, and the sign swinging in the faint breeze proclaims this the "Bird in Hand."

What was once a stable now stands neglected and rundown in the shadows of the trees behind the inn. No one uses it anymore; animals are penned in a small paddock behind the stable and invisible from the road. At any time at least one old nag stands listlessly in the grass, and sometimes as many as nine or ten mounts mill about.

Inside, the dim glow from some candles illuminates a common room that seems to take up the whole ground floor. An open kitchen area in the back, behind the bar, boasts a small and sluggish fire that vents through the wall to the outside. The stone fireplace holds its own sputtering fire that is just hot enough to warm the room. The bar itself has several taps and a number of bottles, but the barkeep doesn't seem to keep it well stocked at all. If asked, the bartender always says that the supplier is late but should show up anytime.

A few patrons sit among the several tables that dot the room in an irregular pattern. During the evenings, some locals come to the Bird in Hand for cheap ale, good talk, and some games of chance. They come from a small farming community to the east (there are woods to the west) and are to all appearances normal people of mixed racial heritage (humans, elves, half-elves, a few halflings). Even the unobservant should notice a contrast between the demeanor of the regulars and the locals.

The regulars include the following:

Llargo (human male Warrior 3) is a man who seems to have lost everything worth living for. He has a generally sad expression on his face when he is not crying or staring at nothing with a dead and far-away look in his eyes. He tells anyone who asks that he and his wife stopped here for the night some time back, and during the night werewolves killed her. After the incident, he just lost the will to live. Now he stays here drinking away his memories and yet he cannot muster the courage to leave the last place he saw her.

Fousakahna (half-elf female Expert 6) is a caravan master who has been here for nearly six months now. She is drunk most of the time, and she complains bitterly about how life has given her a rotten turn. Six months ago, orcs attacked her caravan about a day's journey to the south (or whatever direction makes sense). Her entire company died at the hands of these orcs, and she herself was left for dead. Someone found her and brought her here, and by the time she felt well enough physically to travel, she had no desire to leave. Now she sees no point in living, but she doesn't really want to die either.

Koallar (dwarf or earth genasi Fighter 4) is a mercenary for hire. Koallar has stayed here for a couple months now, and he is not really looking for work. He is loud and grumpy, or quiet and grumpy, and he loves to play dice games. Unfortunately, he has bad luck and loses more than he wins. Further, he bemoans his luck as the reason he is still here. If asked, he says that he was traveling to the south to find work guarding caravans from orcs when he stopped here for the night. He let himself be lured into a dice game by a group of local boys, and he lost all his money. He then drank a lot. When he woke up the next morning, he didn't feel like leaving, though he did feel like winning his money back. He has been trying ever since, and he now owes a few hundred gold to the local farmers. They don't really expect him to pay, but they like playing against him so they stake him every night.

The Bird in Hand is owned by the bartender, Tilam (human male Expert 4/Warrior 2), a retired guardsman. He and his beautiful wife Eliia (elf female Commoner 5) established the inn here some nine years ago, having purchased the buildings from someone else. They first approached their business and the life to come with great enthusiasm, but in the last year or so they have lost their drive. Now they run the inn almost mechanically -- not really caring whether they do any business or not. Eliia cooks and Tilam watches over the common room. They originally planned to have children, but the desire to have a larger family has left them as well. They comply with requests easily, even unusual ones, but always in a listless manner. They know all the local news, but they report even the most interesting events with utter boredom in their voices.

Among the locals is a woman named Histenia (elf female Druid 9), a follower of Talona (or Loviatar if you prefer). She farms a small plot across the community from the Bird in Hand and does not really draw any attention to herself. She comes to the Bird in Hand every night for a little drink, and she seems to be a bit miserable. If asked, she says that her husband died of a plague a couple years ago, and that she has been working the farm alone ever since. She is very lonely, and yet she sees no real hope of changing her situation.

In truth, Histenia is the source of the despair felt by everyone else, and her own growing despair is merely an act. Histenia is experimenting with a despair-causing concoction that she uses on a select few individuals (for now). When ingested, it causes a lowering of spirits and an increased thirst. The poison has a cumulative effect, and it builds up in the body over time. She is quite pleased with the results of this draught, which she makes on her farm, and she has plans to slowly spread the effect throughout the region.

Histenia's Draught of Despair: One vial (which contains just a swallow) of this potent alchemical elixir is enough to send someone into a permanent state of despondency. When consumed by itself or mixed with another liquid, it forces the drinker to make a DC 18 Fortitude save. On a failed save, there is no immediate effect, but 1 minute later the drinker falls into a deep blue funk. The victim becomes unable to take an action without making a DC 18 Charisma check. On a failed check, the victim can take only a single standard or move action and also takes a -2 penalty on all attack rolls, saving throws, weapon damage rolls, ability checks, and skill checks. On a successful check, the victim can take actions normally, but still takes a -2 penalty on all attack rolls, saving throws, weapon damage rolls, ability checks, and skill checks. While affected, a character shows no enthusiasm for anything or inclination to do much of anything. The character feels an overwhelming urge to sit tight and bemoan the misfortunes of his life. The character can be motivated to act by obvious danger or urgings from allies.

The draught's effects are permanent once the victim consumes the draught and the effects begin. A heal spell frees a victim from the draught's effects, as does a vial of Histenia's despair antidote.

Craft (alchemy) DC 20; Price 2,500 gp.

Histenia's Despair Antidote: A vial of alchemical elixir removes the effects of Histenia's draught of despair from a character. If the drinker is not currently suffering from the effects of Histenia's draught of despair, the drink renders the subject immune to Histenia's draught of despair for 1 hour.

Craft (alchemy) DC 20; Price 500 gp.

Note: Player characters affected by the poison lose the desire to continue their lives. They would rather just sit and drink and stare than become interested in anything. In fact, others find it extremely hard to interest them in anything. Be careful using this in your campaign, since you don't want all the player characters stuck here forever.

If the player characters figure out that Histenia is the source of the problem, she fights them, but not to the death. If she is clearly going to lose, she uses her tree stride spell to move as far away as possible; she has scouted the area for many miles around just in case.

Histenia: Female human druid 9; CR 9; Medium humanoid; HD 9d8+9; hp 49; Init +1; Spd 30 ft.; AC 12, touch 12, flat-footed 11; Base Atk +6; Grp +6; Atk +6 melee (1d6, quarterstaff); Full Atk +6/+1 melee (1d6, quarterstaff); SQ animal companion (Silvershanks), nature sense, resist nature's lure, trackless step, venom immunity, wild empathy +11, wild shape (Small, Medium, or Large animal 3/day), woodland stride; AL NE; SV Fort +7, Ref +4, Will +9; Str 10, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 13, Wis 16, Cha 14. Height 5 ft. 7 in., weight 151 lbs.

Skills and Feats: Appraise +3, Concentration +8, Craft (alchemy) +11, Diplomacy +8, Handle Animal +9, Heal +11, Knowledge (nature) +10, Listen +11, Ride +7, Spellcraft +8, Spot +11, Survival +13; Alertness, Combat Casting, Natural Spell, Self-Sufficient, Track.

Animal Companion: Histenia has a heavy horse animal companion named Silvershanks as her animal companion. She gains the following benefits from it.

Link (Ex): Histenia can handle Silvershanks as a free action or push him as a move action. She gains a +4 bonus on all wild empathy checks and Handle Animal checks regarding her.

Share Spells (Ex): Histenia may have any spell she casts upon herself also affect Silvershanks if desired. Silvershanks must be within 5 feet of her at the time of casting to receive this benefit. If the spell has a duration other than instantaneous, it stops affecting Silvershanks if he moves more than 5 feet away and does not affect him again even if he returns before the duration expires. Histenia may also cast a spell with a target of "You" on Silvershanks (as a touch range spell) instead of on herself. Histenia and Silvershanks can even share spells that do not normally affect creatures of the animal type.

Nature Sense (Ex): Histenia gains a +2 bonus on Knowledge (nature) and Survival checks (included in the numbers given above).

Resist Nature's Lure (Ex): Starting at 4th level, a druid gains a +4 bonus on saving throws against the spell-like abilities of fey.

Trackless Step (Ex): Histenia leaves no trail in natural surroundings and cannot be tracked. She may choose to leave a trail if so desired.

Venom Immunity (Ex): Histenia is immune to all poisons.

Wild Empathy (Ex): Histenia can use body language, vocalizations, and demeanor to improve the attitude of an animal. This ability functions like a Diplomacy check made to improve the attitude of a person. She rolls 1d20 and adds +11 to determine the check result. The typical domestic animal has a starting attitude of indifferent, while wild animals are usually unfriendly. To use wild empthy, Histenia and the animal must be within 30 feet of each other. Influencing an animal in this way usually takes 1 minute. Histenia can also use this ability to influence a magical beast with an Intelligence score of 1 or 2, but she takes a -4 penalty on the check.

Wild Shape (Su): Once per day, Histenia can assume the form of any animal of Small, Medium, or Large size. This ability functions like the polymorph spell, except as noted here. The effect lasts for 9 hours, or until Histenia changes back. Changing form (to animal or back) is a standard action and doesn't provoke an attack of opportunity. The form chosen must be that of an animal Histenia is familiar with. Histenia loses her ability to speak while in animal form because she is limited to the sounds that a normal, untrained animal can make, but she can communicate normally with other animals of the same general grouping as her new form.

Woodland Stride (Ex): Histenia may move through natural thorns, briars, overgrown areas, and similar terrain at her normal speed and without taking damage or suffering some other impairment. However, thorns, briars, and overgrown areas that are magically manipulated to impede motion still affect him.

Druid Spells Prepared (6/5/5/4/2/1; save DC 13 + spell level): 0 -- create water, detect magic, detect poison (2), purify food and drink, read magic; 1st -- calm animals, cure light wounds, entangle, obscuring mist, speak with animals; 2nd -- barkskin, flaming sphere, fog cloud, resist energy, wood shape; 3rd -- contagion, cure moderate wounds, speak with plants, spike growth; 4th -- dispel magic, flame strike; 5th -- tree stride.

Possessions: Quarterstaff, ring of protection +1, tan bag of tricks, ring of counterspells.

Silvershanks: Male heavy warhorse animal companion; CR --; Large animal; HD 10d8+30; hp 75; Init +3; Spd 50 ft.; AC 22, touch 12, flat-footed 19; Base Atk +7; Grp +16; Atk +11 melee (1d8+5, hoof); Full Atk +11 melee (1d8+5, 2 hooves) and +9 melee (1d4+2, bite); Space/Reach 10 ft./5 ft.; SQ devotion, evasion, low-light vision, scent, tricks (attack, attack unnatural creatures, come, defend, down, guard, heel, seek, stay, track); AL N; SV Fort +10, Ref +10, Will +4; Str 21, Dex 16, Con 17, Int 2, Wis 13, Cha 6.

Skills and Feats: Hide -1, Jump +13, Listen +5, Spot +4, Survival +4; Dodge, Endurance, Improved Natural Attack (hoof), Multiattack, Run.

Devotion (Ex): Silvershanks' devotion to Histenia is so complete that he gains a +4 morale bonus on Will saves against enchantment spells and effects.

Evasion (Ex): If exposed to any effect that normally allows a character to attempt a Reflex saving throw for half damage, Silvershanks takes no damage with a successful saving throw.

Game Resources: To use the material in this article to its fullest, check out the following resources: Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, Player's Handbook, Monster Manual, Dungeon Master's Guide.

About the Author

Robert Wiese is a veteran of the RPGA offices, where he worked for seven years and has been a member since early 1991. In that time he has written over 60 adventure scenarios for the club, a couple of articles for Polyhedron, and the Living Force Campaign Guide (the last one with Morrie Mullins). He also got the Living Greyhawk and Living Force campaigns off the ground and into the hands of wonderful members to develop. Now he works at the University of Nevada at Reno in the Biochemistry department, proving that you never can tell where you'll end up.

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