I can’t speak for every table, but a touch of the ridiculous can often turn a normally staid affair into one
that hooks players into memorable encounters. Even darker humor is often better than none. If you can add a description to that moment that earns you a “hunh?” expression, all the better.
“Counting Sheep” is intended along that line of thinking. It takes what would normally be a simple and straight forward encounter, but adds a touch of the ridiculous and the curious. How you run with those ideas is up to you.
Suggested level: 5
Traveling down what would normally be a very busy route, the players may notice (Intelligence, DC: 14) that traffic on this route has been unusually sparse. This route normally sees more carts, wagons, oxen and the like as farmers transport their wares, travel to fields, or otherwise frequent their crops. The players have been the only travel on this route for a whole day. That is very unusual.
Perhaps as they break camp, or end a short rest, one or more may notice (Perception, DC:15) the distant sounds of animals in alarm. Should someone notice this (and succeed in a Wisdom/Animal Handling DC: 12), they may even ascertain that it is the sound of sheep or goats in serious distress or fear. If the entire party fail to pick up on this clue, feel free to reduce the DC by one for every 10 minutes they continue to travel, as they are getting closer to the source. Once all of them succeed, have them arrive at the entrance of what would be a cart path toward a farmstead. The path cuts through high wheat or other applicable grain crops (even tall grass if you wish), and winds slowly for about 300’.
A successful Wisdom/Survival (DC:15) check will discover very large footprints running parallel to the path toward the farmhouse, hidden in the tall crops or grass. The footprints are 18-24” long and are humanoid in nature. If they veer off the path even 20’ once they make this discovery, they will find, hidden in the tall crops or grass, the body of a massive female humanoid (Nature, DC: 12 – Hill Giant). Investigating further, they wll see that the back of her head has been broken open. Either or a successful Investigation or Medicine roll (an easier DC:10) of the head will discover that her brain is missing.
At the end of the path, the crops open into a simple and rustic property. A mud brick farmhouse, 20’
square, with a thatched roof that stands maybe 12’ at it’s peak. Two windows in the front are shuttered in wood and the simple wooden door in the front is ajar. No light comes from within.
The closer they get to the farmstead, the louder the cries of alarm from the livestock get. If the characters walk around the farmhouse, they will see a small fenced-in area. It is adjoined to the farmhouse, and spans 40’ outward, making for a fenced in area of 20’x40’. A small sheltered area, which used to be 20’x10, sits outside the fence and along it’s far wall. It used to. Now it’s flattened as if struck by a mighty blow through the roof.
The reason for the alarm and the crushed animal shed becomes clear as the characters view the fenced-in animal pen.
A large humanoid figure in skins and other savage accoutrements sits in the pen. Even seated, he’s easily 8’ tall, and likely stands a good 16’ on two feet. He holds one sheep in his two hands, and four more shudder at the far end of the pen. Two more other sheep appear to have been torn in two. Their remains are discarded into the pen, uneaten.
If the players choose to watch what the Giant is doing, perhaps hidden from the tall grass, the following will occur. The Hill Giant (”Grunk”) is looking at the sheep in an odd manner. He holds it close to his face, examining it all over. After perhaps 15 seconds, he tears the sheep in two like a loaf of bread. He then continues to examine the sheep’s two halves for another 15 seconds.(Successful Wisdom/Insight, DC:13 will reveal he is obviously looking for something. And he’s confused.)
When he does not find anything, he grunts or snorts, throws the sheep carcass halves away, and gets another sheep – then repeats the process. This whole affair, left uninterrupted, will last about 5 minutes. Once he has annihilated al the sheep, he will then fly into a fury and begin destroying the farm house with his great club.
If the players attack at range, they will have surprise for the first round, so long as they do nothing rash (like yell or scream before attacking). Grunk will respond with ranged combat as well. He might (50%) throw the sheep in his hands instead of a boulder or rock. If he does so, alter the damage from 3d10+5 to 3d8+5. If he throws that sheep, just for fun, make him throw the rest of the sheep first before ripping mud bricks from the farm house for normal damage. If pressed in melee combat, he will, of course, use his greatclub. He will be ranting in Giant, in case someone speaks the tongue. “Where it go?!?”
If the players still haven’t attacked by the time Grunk has begun attacking the house, note the following. This will be very important if other players are inside investigating the house while Grunk is attacking the structure. For each round Grunk attacks the farm house, roll 1d10. If the result is equal to or less than the number of rounds that the giant has been attacking the structure, the house collapses. Anyone caught inside the house when it collapses must succeed in a Dexterity saving throw (DC:15) to dodge out of the door. Those who fail will take 3d10 Bludgeoning damage. Any trapped souls will need to succeed
in a Strength check (DC: 15) to escape.
Should the farmhouse remain intact and not be destroyed, the players can determine (Intelligence/Investigation DC: 12) that the home was abandoned in a hurry. A hearth has only warm embers left, and a half-eaten apple lay on the floor. No valuables remain. A few simple cups and bowls of wood and clay remain behind – some of which were knocked over and broken during a hasty escape.
If, for some reason, the party chooses to somehow Charm the Giant, or use Detect Thoughts or other means of non-violent or telepathic investigation, they might find out (DM’s discretion) that his mate, Urga, flew into an unknown rage and attacked him. In defending himself, he killed Urga. When she fell, something “came out of” Urga and fled into the fields toward the farm house. Grunk has been looking for it in the sheep.
If the DM wishes to continue this line of investigation and Urga’s body has not been found, the DM may elect to allow the players to back-track Grunk’s footprints backward from the farmhouse to the site of the body with a reduced Wisdom/Survival check of DC:10 (since they have Grunk’s footprints at the farmstead site).
Monsters: “Grunk”, Hill Giant (p.155, Monster Manual)
Carries in a very large sack made from several animal skins – 1400cp, 50sp, a human hand wearing a ring worth 100gp. Also, if you have it available, roll twice on the “Storm Kings Thunder: Items in a Giant Bag” PDF available- Here
The most obvious complication would be the collapse of the farm house with players inside, as stated above. The reasoning for Grunk tearing apart the sheep can be altered by the DM as they see fit. However, should the DM wish to continue this line of investigation, further information is coming in “Out of The Box #22 – The Passenger”. >:)