Hooked on Adventure — Too Many Gnolls
In this fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure a party catches wind of villagers gone missing. If you’ve played D&D for any length of time this scenario arises fairly commonly — someone or groups of people often need rescuing — with perilous circumstances on both sides. In this case a Demon Priest of Yeenoghu orchestrates a diabolical plan to swell the ranks of gnolls in the area. Thankfully adventurers take up the cause to put a stop to the demonic designs.
This encounter takes place in a heavy forested camp. Typically gnolls pillage and move on, preferring the slaughter, but the Demon Priest of Yeenoghu leads them and these gnolls do as he commands.
6 — Hard
- Gnolls (4)
- Hyenas (2)
- Demon Priest of Yeenoghu
Chain of Yeenoghu, Tome of Yeenoghu
If the characters are successful, and return the transformed villagers back as people, then beyond getting the loot from the encounter, they will never again have to pay for food or lodging in the town. They will be accredited heroes of the town. The town might even craft a statue of them. The gnolls will have a spellbook with a number of useful spells as well as handful of dark rituals. The priest also wears a suit of magic chainmail and carries a magic flail.
In one of many small villages dotting the countryside adventurers arrive near dusk and find villagers aggressively pleading for their help. They explain how people have gone missing. Some disappear in the night with nothing more than large canine tracks found in the loose soil and others who went off off to hunt or fish in the nearby stream never returned. The villagers fear any who leave the village may never return. These villagers are scared and suffering with little to offer in return but gratitude.
One of the villagers, a retired knight named Baronet Beade Breeda, presents herself and acts as a spokesperson for the villagers. In her day she served the crown with distinction and now in her retirement acts as a sort of steward for the village where she planned to spend her retirement in idyllic peace. Beade won’t join the party for any excursions out of the village but she offers her modest home as a place to stay and brings the party to the location of the freshest tracks.
A character who succeeds on a DC 14 Wisdom (Survival) check can recognize and follow the doglike tracks. Locating the gnoll camp requires three consecutive successful Survival checks. This DC increases to 19 on the following day. If the adventurers choose not to follow the tracks right away, the trail is much more difficult to pick up and follow after the time passes.
Sneaky gnolls creep into the village under cover of moonlight when their eyesight is superior to humans and kidnap anyone found alone, or ambush any villagers discovered outside the small community. A Demon Priest of Yeenoghu holds captured villagers in cages and each night the foul servant of the Beast of Butchery uses demonic power to permanently transform the villagers into gnolls. The cruel ritual destroys their humanity inside and out, resulting in savage new soldiers ready to slaughter in the name of their demon lord.
Optionally, the priest’s ritual tome also holds a process for reversing change. If you are looking to extend this adventure out into a campaign, they could seek another god’s or powerful entity’s advice for how to undo the changes and then they would need to seek out those ingredients to enact this ritual.
Adventurers must find the enemy gnoll encampment in the woods several miles from the village, find the way into the camp and release as many prisoners as they can. There are 1d6 commoners kept in loosely made cages constructed of branches and small felled trees. These captives are scared and will not fight the gnolls.
In addition there are 1d8 villagers already transformed into gnolls. These gnolls remain in their cages while the demon priest of Yeenoghu breaks their minds. The gnolls are less active during the day, leaving one gnoll and one hyena as a watch while the others sleep in crude animal skin tents. The demon priest of Yeenoghu sleeps in its own text and if a commotion arises the priest of resting gnolls rouse to repel intruders.
The first complication is a party experiencing a hard time finding the encampment. They may fail their Survival checks to follow the tracks and get lost in the deep woods, possibly with a random encounter if you want to spice things up.
Each night that passes 1d4 townsfolk disappear in the night. If the party is setting a watch at night they might be able to spot the intruders and either follow them back to the lair or follow their tracks back after they kill them. The gnolls get +1 to Dexterity (Stealth) checks. All four gnolls from the camp approach the village with utmost Stealth in the small hours of the night.
A party that storms the gnoll camp without a plan may find themselves captives of the demon priest of Yeenoghu who plans to transform them into new, mightier gnolls to swell their ranks. Even if the adventurers kills the entire gnoll party at the camp, those villagers recently transformed and still in cages will react with hostility. They are gnolls now, through and though. During a battle at camp if things turn desperate for the gnolls they may release these new ones from their cages and turn them loose on the adventurers, goading them towards their first slaughter.
In addition to the properties listed below the demon priest’s tome of Yeenoghu hold many secrets of dark spellcasting. It is filled with dark rituals, one of which give the secrets of transforming animals and people into gnolls. A character who succeeds on a DC 16 Intelligence (Religion) check while studying the book discovers this ritual, which takes three hours to complete and reverses the transformation process. If a character indicates they are specifically looking for a means to reverse the transformation, they can make this check with advantage.
Demon Priest of Yeenoghu
Special Equipment. The demon priest of Yeenoghu wears chain of Yeenoghu and carries a tome of Yeenoghu. The gnoll wields a +1 flail.
Spellcasting. The demon priest of Yeenoghu is a 7th-level spellcaster. His spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 15, +7 to hit with spell attacks). He has the following cleric spells prepared:
Cantrips (at will): Guidance, mending, sacred flame, thaumaturgy
1st level (4 slots): Bless, cure wounds, inflict wounds, shield of faith, Tasha’s hideous laughter
2nd level (3 slots): Crown of madness, hold person
3rd level (3 slots): Bestow curse, fear
4th level (2 slots): Death ward, freedom of movement
Aura of Bloodthirst. If the demon priest of Yeenoghu isn’t incapacitated, any creature with the Rampage trait can make its Gnashing Jaws attack as a bonus action while within 10 feet of this creature.
Flail. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) bludgeoning damage.
Tome of Yeenoghu
Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement by an evil spellcaster)
To receive the benefits of this profane book bound in the bloody stitched flesh of sacrifices made to the demon lord Yeenoghu you must read from it at least 1 hour each day. While holding this tome you gain a +1 bonus to the saving throw DCs of your spells.
Chain of Yeenoghu
Armor (chainmail), rare (requires attunement)
This suit of +1 chain mail hardly looks like a suit of armor. While you wear this series of chains wrapped around your body you have resistance to fire and cold damage. Your appearance takes on a demonic quality while you wear this armor, and your thoughts grow more savage and cunning.
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