The Clearing - A Surprisingly Benign EncounterWrote this a while back and have been meaning to get it up on the blog.
|Kinda like this but with more tigers, magic and outdoors|
Image: Roger Fenton
The ClearingThis encounter would be best used when the players find themselves needing to pass through a dark forest or tree filled mountain valley that will take several days to cross. Before entering the forest, players should hear that it is haunted or cursed. Alternatively, the PCs could discover that a small village on the outskirts of this area is missing all of its young people aged 18-24.
The woods are ancient, foreboding and hushed. Very little light penetrates the canopy of oak and pine, and a gentle breeze, damp and cool, carries the smell of leaves, freshly dug earth, and something else. Something unplaceable. About six hours into the forest the players should begin to realize that something is not right. Their animals should become skittish, and the hair on the back of the PCs necks should stand up.
If henchmen are in the party, morale checks should become more frequent and the first henchman to fail a check will run back down the path, away from the direction the party is heading. When the fleeing henchman is out of sight the party should hear a scream, followed by a popping and snapping as if bones are being crunched. Should the players investigate they will find nothing but a few drops of blood and maybe a finger or toe in the area.
Detect Evil will reveal overpowering evil of an extra-planar nature, but the source will be exceedingly difficult to pinpoint. If the source is spotted it will be the size of a gnat, and will be flying very rapidly away from the party.
As the players continue through the woods, they should begin to occasionally hear low, rolling, growls coming from off the path. Often the growling will come first from one side, then another. The growling doesn't exactly sound malicious, but it sounds big, and close. Some members of the party may glimpse shining eyes in the dark off the path, but they only last for half a second and never appear in the same area twice.
Should the party camp for the night, strange things will be found missing when they awake in the morning. Only items of beauty, and quality, will be missing. Think, silk cloth, or a brocade tapestry they've been hauling to a "real city", or a small statue that the wizard thinks might be an example of art from an ancient and lost culture. Some of the things missing may be parts of items. For example: The adventurers found a painting in their last dungeon, but now the frame has gone missing and the canvas is neatly rolled up by the fire. Or perhaps a ring is gone, but the large "diamond" in it has been left. Any items left will be discovered to contain minor defects if closely inspected.
The Game Master should choose one member of the party to be the target of this entire encounter. This player (and only this player) should start seeing things to lure them off the path as they progress through the forest. What they see should be things of exceptional quality, that appeal greatly to them. Additionally whenever the opportunity presents itself, this player should feel compelled (as Suggestion) to volunteer to do things like stand middle watch, go refill water skins in the creek just off the path, go investigate that strange noise, etc.
Should the Suggestions not work, or should the opportunity for them never arise, after the first night camping in the woods, the targeted player will begin being hit by Charm type spells every couple of hours. Should a spell be successful, the targeted player will walk into the woods. Their mind will retain its full function under this effect, but their body will be compelled to walk off the path, into the woods, and into a clearing (extra-dimensional space) of breath taking beauty. The player can cry out, and the party can follow them into this space.
Festive lanterns of different shapes and size are strung across the clearing. Colorful silk canopies stand above piles of brightly colored cushions or tables laden in exotic fruit and tiny cakes with pies inside them. A raised stone dais, holding a red velvet chaise lounge and a large easel, stands in the center of the clearing. Sprawled across the couch, and puffing from a hookah reeking of cinnamon, reclines a twelve foot long Tiger Rakshasa of immense power, bedecked in jewels and silks.
Upon seeing the targeted player, the Rakshasa will growl throatily and exclaim, "[PLAYER NAME] as soon as you entered this forest I knew I had to have you. You're so beautiful. Please... I must draw you."
The Rakshasa will insist on drawing the player in the nude, and the process will take roughly 6 hours. Upon completion the Rakshasa will pay the player in gold, jewels or objects of art, and direct them (and the party) to leave through a second entrance in the clearing. Leaving in this manner will drop the players at the point where they intended to exit to the forest.