Hooked on Adventure — Reversal of Fortune
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted roll some funny shaped dice and talk about all the ways a fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons character can become a dice master. Between the halfling Lucky trait, Lucky and Bountiful Luck feats and a slew of class features the probability of creating a fun, effective dice master character for 5E D&D is quite high. These characters step beyond inexplicable good fortune to begin actively manipulating chance. Call it fate, destiny, karma or kismet the dice master character sees the cascade of cause and effect and inserts themselves into the process. Pretty heady stuff! Dungeon Masters can certainly get in on the action too, and odds bending creatures, areas or magic items can be weal for DMs and woe for adventurers. In Fat of the Land a Rural Pig Sty became a low level adventure for 5E D&D giving adventurers a chance to investigate strange goings on leading back to a small family farm. In this encounter unusual behavior spreads through a town to the misfortune of all.
Village Market Fountain 5E D&D encounter
The campaign worlds of 5E D&D are lousy with goblins. Lurking in hidey holes, swelling the ranks of goblinoid hordes, kidnapping villagers, assaulting travelers on the road and any number of other cruel, evil or selfish acts occupy a typical day in the life of a goblin. For all the misfortune goblins cause and experience in their own history. Their god even got beat up by Maglubiyet, and I bet no small number of you reading this ever heard of the original goblin deity. I was today years old the first time I came across Khurgorbaeyag and that’s only because I searched very specifically to find out about the OG goblin god.
But there’s an absolutely fantastic way to shake things up for goblins and the worse off a host of goblins’ situation the better chances of a reversal of fortune for them. If you think goblins are nasty buggers, wait until you get a load of the nilbog. Adventurers can bring all the dice manipulation to this low level adventure they want. When it comes to these classic D&D monsters a party’s luck might run out.
A nilbog’s wonderful combination of a very unusual feature, rich storytelling potential and frankly serendipitously named Reversal of Fortune reaction came together with the theme of the video and inspiration from the Village Market Fountain terrain set piece. This can be an low level adventure to introduce the party to a campaign uncovering the cause behind a series of unfortunate events, or continue adventures from previous encounters Cultivating Chaos and Fat of the Land.
So many low level adventures focus on typical threats like orcs and mindless undead. Sometimes it is nice to have a bit of mystery especially when the characters are low level. They are new to the world and they are still trying to figure out their characters both mechanically and as individuals. But this is for players to work out in their own time, right? When it is game time the Dungeon Master should be free even at low levels to make up a new monster and show the players something they have never encountered before.
So I’ll create a new monster here, and I’ll take inspiration from the Rural Pig Sty terrain set piece. This can be an introductory adventure to get the party investigating a small town to uncover secrets currently going on and circumstances from generations past.
This is a town adventure centered around the village market
1 — Medium
This is a low level adventure designed for four 1st level characters. To scale it up for higher level characters, Otto is accompanied by several goblins. Or a whole lots of goblins. Pile on the goblins! Throw a bugbear or two in there. Maybe hobgoblins get in on the scheme. See where this is going?
Otto, a nilbog
Stone of Good Luck (Luckstone) … or a Stone of Bad Luck
Adventurers traveling a well trod dirt road alongside a swiftly moving river approach a small town just ahead. Perhaps they are returning to town from the Jethras farm from an earlier adventure, exploring the countryside on their way somewhere or maybe this is their very first session and the campaign opens here. The road cuts through the handful of modest buildings built around a town square. People mill about in the midday, with merchant carts and market stalls dotting the square. In the center of the square, a fountain statue depicts a robed figure pouring water into the hexagonal basic adorned with gargoyles.
As characters approach nearer to the town square, or from a distance for characters who succeed on a DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check, strange behavior becomes evident. Some of the people stand stock still in awkward positions. Others run full speed in one direction only to turn and run elsewhere at random. Some people strike out at others nearby and in at least one case two people stand face to face repeatedly slapping each other in the face.
Crouched in some bushes along the back side of a house near the road leading into the town square, an elderly human is startled by the appearance of the adventurers. The old man, Rory, is a fisherman and he’ll explain to adventurers what happened earlier in the day. Rory came to town this morning with his daughter Glenda bringing their catch to market. But everything turned upside down when a goblin dressed in jester’s garb tromped right into the middle of the square! The bizarre goblin climbed atop the fountain statue, held a Fool’s Scepter aloft and demanded respect and praise. A few folk laughed at the ridiculous creature, until the sheriff came to run the goblin out of town. There was a brief scuffle and a flash of light when the sheriff knocked the goblin off the statue and into the fountain, and then the sheriff started praising the nasty creature and instructing everyone else to, too.
The goblin called himself Otto and the sheriff, along with a few other townspeople began following his commands. They escorted him up to the Merchant’s Manor where Otto and his new posse ousted the wealthy merchant and threatened further misfortune if the people didn’t bring all their best food and valuables up to the manor house. Everyone else started acting crazy, and they’ve been that way for a few hours. The elderly fisherman is clearly frightened and unsure what to do. The small rural town has always enjoyed good fortune but lately their luck has changed for the worse after a series of troublesome events.
Built into the base of the Village Market Fountain is a stone of good luck placed there by the founders of the town a few decades past. When Otto scuffled with the sheriff and fell into the fountain he cast confusion and the nilbogism spirit took the opportunity to cause a great deal of mischief. The stone of good luck became a stone of bad luck and the confusion effect enlarged to encompass the entire village square, persisting long past the 1 minute duration.
As long as the nilbog lives the stone of bad luck emanates a confusion effect in a 30 foot radius. Finding and removing the stone from the fountain requires navigating the market square, where 3d6 commoners suffer the unfortunate circumstances. The stone is lodged at the base of the fountain statue, beneath the water. It can be removed with a successful DC 13 Strength or mason’s tools check. Once a creature is no longer in the area of confusion the effect wears off at the start of their next turn. If Otto is killed, the nilbogism’s effect on the stone ends and it becomes a stone of good luck again. If the nilbog is driven off more than a mile away for at least 24 hours the effect fades too.
Not long after the characters arrive in town, Otto tromps down to the village market square from the manor, furious at the lack of tribute coming up to the house. Seeing the mass confusion delights the nilbog, but seeing meddlesome adventurers does not. And that’s probably about the time everyone rolls initiative.
The first thing coming to mind involves all the townsfolk between adventurers and the fountain. Because of the confusion none of them have their wits and may attack characters passing by. The village market square is 60 foot on a side and the fountain is in the center, so the effect covers half the square. Reaching the fountain means navigating the chaotic throng. For every 10 feet a character moves in the square, have the player roll a d10:
- 1-2: A commoner runs smack dab into you and attempts to shove you out of the way.
- 3-6: A commoner stands unmoving in your path and you must move around them.
- 7-8: A commoner makes an unarmed strike against you (nonlethal damage).
- 9-10: A commoner attempts to grapple you.
Note the commoners deal nonlethal damage and basically impede characters progress to reach the fountain. There is of course the complication of characters who proactively or reactively inflict violence upon the townspeople. It’s important to make it clear these people are confused and rowdy but do not seek to cause serious harm to each other or the adventurers.
Characters might decide to head directly to the manor and deal with this goblin menace. The townspeople can make this difficult, and their chaotic behavior and movements can conceal your efforts as DM to corral and herd the characters around. But players are crafty and characters are talented and any number of sensible or outrageous plans may emerge. Any time you feel the encounter spinning out of control is a terrific moment for Otto to come see what’s the hold up.
Nilbogs are powerful pranksters, and the invisible spirit can leave its host any time but only for a new nearby host goblin. The appearance of such an entity might signal a growing goblinoid host, leading to further adventures, or could be a singular phenomenon.
Players can certainly seek to resolve this matter through roleplaying, and depending how much you want to develop the idea Otto could become a recurring NPC. Maybe the party exorcises the nilbogism and Otto becomes a fixture in town where he is treated much better than he was among the goblinoid host. He may divulge info about a growing threat in the wilds.
Stone of Bad Luck
Wondrous Item, uncommon (requires attunement)
This polished agate appears to be a stone of good luck to anyone who tries to identify it, and it confers that item’s property while on your person.
Curse. This item is cursed. While it is on your person, any time you make an attack roll or ability check the Dungeon Master can ask you to reroll the die and take the lower result. Once this feature is used, the DM cannot use it again until the next dawn. You are unwilling to part with the stone until the curse is broken with remove curse or similar magic.
Build your own town
In our Hooked on Adventure series adventurers uncover issues at the Jethras family farm and now we’re exploring the nearby town. If you’re interested in developing the town and creating your own set piece you can start with the Village Market Fountain featured in Reversal of Fortune and expand from there. Here’s a few items to help make your town come to life on the tabletop. You can use the promo code HOOKED for 10% off your entire cart.
- Village Market Fountain
- Long Market Table w/ 5 Interchangeable Tops
- Stall Wooden with Short Market Table w/ 7 Interchangeable Tops
- Cart – Market
- Stall Short with Short Market Table w/ 7 Interchangeable Tops
- Short Market Table w/ 7 Interchangeable Tops
- Merchant’s Manor