Vicious Venues12/28/2005

Oakheart Lodge

Oakheart Lodge contains an encounter of level 6-8
and is suitable for use with any D&D campaign.

Oakheart Lodge appears to be nothing more than a charming hunting lodge, newly built and ready to host a weary traveler or a party of fun-seeking nobility. Still the lodge has a reputation for being a perilous house to visit. Perhaps it is a place best avoided, or perhaps its secrets are well worth plumbing.

Background for the DM

The lodge appeared in its clearing almost overnight, like a mushroom in the fall. A young nobleman, Enikki du Orinwood, had the place built. Enikki is a half-elf and a member of a minor noble family that is well entangled in the human politics in the region where Enikki lives. He is the product of a diplomatic marriage that helped cement ties between the du Orinwoods and the local elven nobility. Enikki spent most of his early years being groomed for life in both human and elven courts, but he always had a yearning to return to nature. Upon the death of his human parent (the DM is free to decide whether that was his mother or his father), Enikki received a modest inheritance, which he promptly spent on the lodge.

Oakheart Lodge is Enikki's retreat from court life, and the young nobleman has settled in for a long stay -- a vacation of sorts.

The Setup

Oakheart Lodge was built for hunting, so DMs can place it anywhere wild game can be found. Most likely, it's in a deep forest, but it also could be located in a hilly or mountainous region, or perhaps on a riverbank or in an area of badlands. In any case, tall trees surround the lodge's site.

The lodge has been deliberately built off the beaten track, though it is most likely within a day's ride of a human town or an elven settlement with a population of 2,000 or less. (The town should be big enough to provide basic supplies, but not so big that the surrounding area is overrun with people.) Unless the PCs are hunting or searching for something else in the vicinity, they aren't likely to stumble on the lodge by accident (but it's possible, especially if the PCs become lost while traveling in the wilderness).

More likely, some task or rumor will draw the PCs to the lodge's neighborhood. Here are some possibilities:

  • A plane-hopping wizard has brought an entire palace to the countryside nearby, and he has many vicious guards who attack anyone approaching the place. Nobody knows why the wizard has come. Some say he seeks an ancient treasure; others say he seeks blood and souls for an awful experiment. No matter what the wizard's reasons for coming, his arrival does not bode well for the area.

This is nothing but a wild rumor spurred by the lodge's rapid construction -- and Enikki's bad habit of shooting at anything that moves (see below). If the PCs ask around, they can find some local workers who helped build the lodge. The workers most likely encourage the PCs to pay "the young lord" a visit, but perhaps they don't warn them about Enikki's overzealous hunting.

  • A green dragon (or other dragon appropriate to the terrain) has begun raiding and laying waste to towns and settlements. If the PCs seek out this dragon, they might find the lodge first. Enikki probably has at least seen the dragon and could offer the PCs vital help in tracking it down -- in return for being in on the kill and getting a cut of the loot.

  • Someone has built a dwelling on the site of an ancient burial mound and set the dead walking. The unfortunate owner was quickly killed, but the dead still haunt the night. Doom surely will follow if the situation isn't set right.

This one could be true, or it could just be a wild rumor. In the former case, Enikki is happy to hunt undead; he's also more than happy to help the PCs delve beneath the lodge and destroy the undead or put them to rest again.

  • A crisis has arisen in the human or elven courts (or both), and the PCs have been dispatched to retrieve Enikki from his wilderness retreat so that he can help deal with the problem. It's also likely that some third party is on hand trying to assassinate Enikki -- or at least keep the PCs from reaching him.

Visiting the Lodge (EL 6-8)

The lodge is a picture of bucolic elegance -- at least until Enikki begins shooting.

A wooded slope gives way to a broad clearing, perhaps a bowshot across, at the top. Tall grass and weeds make it difficult to see, but many trampled paths cross the thicket, as though many people or animals have visited the place recently. A rambling log home about two stories tall, with a roof of shiny black slate and bright green shutters, is just visible over the tops of the weeds. At least four tall trees shade the dwelling.

The clearing is 200 yards across, with the lodge roughly in the middle. The grass provides partial concealment (20% miss chance) if the viewer must look through 10 to 20 feet of grass, and total concealment beyond 20 feet.

Enikki maintains blinds in four trees around the lodge. Creatures moving through the grass have a partial concealment (20% miss chance) at best when viewed from a blind, and no concealment at all when within 50 feet of one.

The blinds have walls made from wooden slats spaced to let Enikki shoot out. The blind gives anyone in it total concealment (50% miss chance) as well as cover (+4 AC bonus), against anyone outside the blind. A character in the blind can be seen as a dim outline from outside the blind, so the character isn't exactly invisible, but the viewer cannot clearly see the character, hence the miss chance.

It's possible to hide in the blind. The character inside makes a normal Hide check and anyone viewing the blind makes a Spot check (with appropriate penalties for distance) to notice the hidden character. A successful Spot check reveals the hidden character's outline, but does not really see the character noted above.

Blind Walls: 2 in. thick; hardness 5; hp 20; break DC 16.

Creatures: Enikki spends most of his time within one of the blinds, watching for game to shoot. At any given time, up to five servants (all 1st-level elf warriors) may be in the lodge, or it may have no servants at all.

Enikki du Orinwood CR 6
Male half-elf aristocrat 6/ranger 1
CG Medium humanoid
Init +7; Senses low-light vision 60 ft., Listen +11, Spot +11
Languages Common, Sylvan

AC 17, touch 13, flat-footed 14
hp 35 (7 HD)
Immune sleep
Fort +4, Ref +7, Will +5 (+7 against enchantments)

Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee mwk longsword +7 (1d8+1) or
Melee dagger +6 (1d4+1) or
Ranged mwk composite longbow +9 (1d8+1) or
Ranged dagger +8 (1d4+1) or
Base Atk +5; Grp +6
Atk Options favored enemy animals +2
Combat Gearpotion of heroism, 2 potions ofcure light wounds, 3 potions of endure elements

Abilities Str 13, Dex 16, Con 10, Int 13, Wis 11, Cha 10
SQ wild empathy +1 (-3 magical beasts)
Feats Alertness, Improved Initiative, Toughness, Track
Skills Bluff +8, Diplomacy +6, Gather Information +2, Handle Animal +7, Hide +8, Intimidate +2, Listen +11, Move Silently +10, Ride +5, Search +2, Sense Motive +7, Spot +11, Survival +7
Possessions combat gear plus masterwork longsword, masterwork (+1) composite longbow, dagger, 10 arrows, 10 +1 true aim arrows, +1 studded leather, cloak of elvenkind, silver brooch with a bloodstone (20 gp), 8 gp

Hook "Oh, so sorry about that." Enikki tends to shoot at whatever moves.

Elven warriors (0-5): hp 4 each; see Monster Manual page 102.

Tactics: As noted earlier, Enikki spends most of his time in one of the tree blinds, hiding and waiting for prey. Unfortunately, Enikki is an overeager hunter, and he often doesn't wait to be sure what he's shooting at. (He has injured several servants already -- a fact that explains why the lodge occasionally has problems with help.) If Enikki has difficulty hitting, he uses his arrows of true aim. Should a foe yell or shoot back, the young half-elf breaks off the attack and apologizes profusely. Should a foe counterattack, Enikki fights back as well as he can. He prefers his bow, so he tends to shoot at spellcasters and foes with ranged weapons before shooting at others.

Once Enikki begins firing at what he thinks is a target (namely, anything that disturbs the vegetation even slightly or makes a noise), he continues until a shout or attack warns him that he's not shooting at an animal. In that case, he stops immediately and attempts to apologize to the injured character.

"Sorry!" comes a voice from one of the nearby trees. "I'm so sorry, really!" says a young half-elf dressed in the hunting garb of the nobility, emerging from behind a hunting blind. "I thought you were a squirrel!" The half-elf sprints forward, bow clutched in his left hand. "Are you hurt? You sit right down; I'll run up to the lodge and get some salve and bandages. Really, though, you shouldn't walk around these woods looking like a squirrel. You could get hurt that way!"

Enikki truly intends to go back to the lodge and get supplies to see to the injured character, but he gets distracted along the way and begins shooting at some other real or imagined creature unless someone goes with him. If not, he forgets about the incident and is surprised (and pleased) to see the PCs if they track him down or visit the lodge.

"Oh, how nice to see you!" says the half-elf. "I'm Enikki. Do come on up to the lodge where we can talk. Do you hunt too? Have you seen any game? Deer, elk, dragons? I do so love to hunt. I got an 8-point buck the other day. Want to see it? I mounted the head over my fireplace. And I've winged a couple of bigger creatures too. A dragon and an owlbear."

Weapon of True Aim

The true aim property can be applied to any ammunition or ranged weapon. A true aim weapon literally homes in on its target.

Description: True aim weapons look much like their normal counterparts, though they may sport some kind of telltale decoration. For example, true aim ammunition often has feathers from giant eagles or giant owls, and a true aim bow or crossbow might feature a pair of eyes.

Activation: The true aim property is activated when you fire the weapon.

Effect: When a character firing a true aim weapon misses because of concealment, the weapon allows the shooter to reroll the percentile dice one time to determine whether the shot actually hits. A true aim weapon also grants an additional +1 enhancement bonus (over and above whatever the weapon's basic enhancement happens to be) on attack rolls whenever the target has cover. A target with total cover remains impossible to hit, however.

Aura/Caster Level: Moderate divination, CL 7th.
Construction: Requires Craft Magic Arms and Armor, true strike spell, as +1 bonus.
Weight: As weapon.
Cost: As +1 bonus.

About the Authors

Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies and was the Sage of Dragon Magazine for 18 years. Skip is a co-designer of the D&D 3rd Edition game and the chief architect of the Monster Manual. When not devising swift and cruel deaths for player characters, Skip putters in his kitchen or garden (rabbits and deer are not Skip's friends) or works on repairing and improving the century-old farmhouse that he shares with his wife, Penny, and a growing menagerie of pets.

Penny Williams joined the roleplaying game industry as Game Questions Expert for TSR, Inc. in the 1980s. Since then, she has served as RPGA Network Coordinator, PolyhedronNewszine editor, and Senior Editor and Coordinating Editor for the RPG R&D Department at Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Now a busy freelancer, Penny edits for several game companies and runs the online playtesting program for Wizards products. When not enhancing the cruelty of the deaths PCs will suffer at the hands of designers, Penny puts up jam, works jigsaw puzzles, and tutors students in math and science.

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