This is an upcoming adventure for my current campaign. As I haven't run it yet, everything here should be taken with a grain of salt -- it might need adjustments, enhancements, or any number of other things to flow smoothly. Any and all suggestions for improvement will be warmly received.
Introduction: A Cryptic Request
One morning, a cryptic note is found tacked onto the town message board, and no one knows from whence it came. The townsfolk have taken it down and brought it into the inn (or wherever the PCs are staying), and a crowd is discussing it in loud, excited voices. If the PCs request to see the note, this is what it contains:
Seeking: a party of no fewer than < INSERT PARTY NUMBER HERE > trained professionals to deliver a series of messages to three volatile and highly dangerous individuals.
Requirements: applicants MUST be able to parlay in pleasingly poetic prose
Rewards: very rich
Interested persons should endeavor to meet me at the location indicated on the accompanying map. If you manage to arrive within three days, the job is yours.
If asked, there is no one in town by the initials of “C.C.”. Furthermore, the location on the map is smack dab in the middle of a dangerous forest, one that the locals eschew for fear of the wild beasts living within.
Challenge 1: Getting through the forest
The party’s mystery patron knows full well the dangers that lie within the untamed forest, and intends to use them as a test of the heroes’ worth. Ferocious beasts, sudden cliffs and other hazards lie in their path, though these will taper off as the party nears its destination. There are very few trails here, so going will be slow. The GM should use this opportunity to challenge his or her players with inclement weather, rough terrain, landslides, and various difficulties with securing food, shelter, fire, etc.
Possible combat encounters: bears, cougars, wolf packs, or any monsters/magical beasts appropriate to your setting.
Act I: Meet the Bachelor
When the party finally reaches their destination they will be confronted by a large, boulder-strewn hill that sports several mammoth stone cairns, arranged in such a way as to make the whole hillside look like a crude castle or fortress. A yawning maw faces the heroes, and the sound of a deep voice muttering to itself drifts from within it. When the heroes approach, the muttering will cut off abruptly. The voice will issue a challenge, asking the party their business, before delightedly greeting them and asking that they step inside . . .
“Cockathewalk” Cornelius is an unremarkable adult dragon, his scales shining duly in the well-lit antechamber of his lair. He prefers to lounge upon his untidy bed of loose coins and jewels, which compromise the bulk of his hoard. There are, however, piles of assorted other valuables strewn here and there around the cave, and several full suits of armor (slightly charred) that stand against the walls in a crude attempt at decoration. The cavern itself is cloaked in layers of illusion, transforming this simple cave into a richly furnished bachelor pad, complete with an illusionary female dragon shaking her tail and making eyes at him from one corner of the room.
After pleasantries have been exchanged, Cornelius will answer the following questions:
Q. What’s the job?
A. The job! Yes, well, I’ve run into a bit of a snag in my love life recently. Nothing serious, I assure you, but I just cannot get any female to give me the time of day anymore. This year, however, I have written some poetry that is simply exquisite, and I know that the ladies will be impressed. Your job is simply to memorize my verses and deliver them to the lucky girls in my stead.
Q. Why don’t you do this yourself?
A. Ah ha, well, funny you would mention that. It seems that I have developed something of a reputation with the female population in these parts. I can’t imagine why. In recent years, the girls have gone all coy, and have taken to flying off as soon as they catch wind of me.
He will then give the party a list of three lady dragons that he has had his eye on for some time, describing them each in florid detail:
Zaulphiria -- “. . . long, comely tail and juicy hindquarters . . .”
Shadrevaen -- “. . . shapely neck and immaculately polished scales . . .”
Tjamaladara -- “. . . high head-frill and glittering claws . . .”
The party is given general directions to the territories of each female. Their job is to convince at least one of them to meet Cornelius in a glade near a distinctive mountain, on the night of the new moon (which is about a month hence). The heroes are NOT to tell the lucky lady whom she will be seeing, for that will likely scare her off (or “make her shy”, as Cornelius prefers to say). Instead, they are to deliver the poem and regale her with tales of the male dragon’s majesty, his power, his good looks (etc, etc, etc) thereby convincing her to agree to the mystery midnight tryst. If the party is successful, Cornelius will reward each of them with one item from his hoard, but only AFTER he has mated with one of the females. He urges them to hurry, for the dragon breeding season is as brief as it is sweet . . .
Challenge 2: The Poem
Cornelius will require that the PCs take down or memorize the following poem, and recite it word-perfect a few times just to make sure. Pointers to improve his verses will not be well-received.
THE SUNRISE OF OUR LOVE
Before I first saw you, the sun looked like an egg.
Now the sun looks like a mass of flames.
Like the heat of the flames
Of my lust for you.
My sweet, will you fan those flames to new heights?
Allow me to scour thy tender flower?
Desire me as I have desired you from afar?
And bring a little light to my lonely life
By saying you want me too?
Although you probably don't want me,
(Because nobody ever has)
I pray that you are The One who will freely
Entwine with me most passionately.
Act II: Meet the Ladies
The journey to each female’s lair should take between three and seven days to complete, depending on the hazards you choose to throw in the party’s way. In addition, each female will allow the party between two and four days to make their case to her, before she dismisses them entirely (using force, if necessary).
Challenge 3: Parlay with the females and convince one of them to mate with Cornelius
Each dragon has a very different personality, so the PCs will have to tailor their game plan based on observation of the dragon’s surroundings and lair. To this end, I have devised a points system that will help the GM monitor the party’s progress and chance of success with a given female. When a party first encounters the dragon, they will be at -5 points with her.
Conditions for Success: If the heroes manage to raise their score to +10 before the female dismisses them, it will count as a success. She will agree to go meet her mystery suitor at the agreed-upon location, upon the next new moon.
Conditions for Failure: If the party gains a -10 reputation with a female, she will chase them away. If they flee, she will be unlikely to chase them for very long, but she *will* try to kill them if they don’t leave. Additionally, if the party has NOT raised their reputation with her to +10 before their time with her is up, she will gently but firmly end negotiations with them.
Note of Caution: As is to be expected, Cornelius’ poetry is so bad that reciting it will practically guarantee a failure of negotiations with the current female. The party will have to come up with something better, or leave the poetry out altogether.
An “mature” adult dragon, Zaulphiria is doing the best she can to maintain her looks under the weight of her years. She is incredibly vain, and spends her days gazing into the clear, still pools that surround her lair. Gems are favored by her, especially emeralds, and she has a large collection of jewelry. Her horns have been gilded, her breath sweetened with large quantities of mint, and a huge emerald is embedded in her breast. Zaulphiria’s lair is immaculately kept, with the most prominent decoration being a wide assortment of mirrors and other reflective surfaces.
- Praise her looks (+5)
- Give her a gift (preferably expensive, one-of-a-kind, or jewelry) (+4, +3 for the next, +1 for subsequent)
- Tell her how much her would-be suitor thinks of her beauty (+3)
- Exaggerating Cornelius’ good looks (+2)
- Any other praise of Zaulphiria (+2)
- Any other convincing praise of Cornelius (+1)
- Bad poetry (Cornelius’, especially) (-3)
- Disrespectful behavior (-3)
A young adult dragon, Shadrevaen loves art and music and has a very high opinion of her own artistic ability. When the party first encounters her, she is likely to be singing to herself, the birds, or anything else that she can get to listen. Her lair is found next to the conjunction of two streams, mostly so that she can hear the lovely tinkling sound that the water makes. Wind chimes are hung en masse in the trees outside her lair, and she even has a “doorbell” of sorts (a selection of favorite songs will start playing when anyone crosses the threshold). Her hoard consists of many, many musical instruments, original transcripts of now-famous ballads, paintings, sculpture and other works of art. If the party performs for her, beware that she may begin “dancing”, and may accidentally crush the unwary.
- Good poetry, love songs, etc (+4, +2 for the next, +1 for each additional)
- Musically themed or artsy gifts (instruments, artwork, sculpture, etc) (+2, +1 for each additional)
- Praising her voice, poetic skills, etc (+5)
- Exaggerating Cornelius’ creative genius (+2)
- Any other praise of Shadrevaen (+2)
- Any other convincing praise of Cornelius (+1)
- Bad poetry (Cornelius’) (-4)
- Disrespectful behavior (-1)
- Insulting her voice or artistic sensibilities (-3)
An adult dragon in her prime, Tjamaladara is not one to rest upon her laurels. She places physical prowess above all other considerations, and is incredibly competitive in hunting and other sports. Her lair is decorated with the stuffed and preserved heads of her more impressive kills, and she loves to relate stories of her victories to all those that will listen. Her collection of military hardware is truly unparalleled, and adorns every inch of wall that is not taken up by her trophies. She rests upon a bed of helms, shields, animal and monster skins. When she is not out hunting, she spends her time cleaning and sharpening all of her natural weapons, and practicing using her tail as a whip.
- Listening (with rapt attention) to her long-winded hunting stories (+2)
- A gift of big game, a hunting trophy, a finely-crafted weapon, etc. (+3, +2, +1 for each subsequent)
- Praising her strength, hunting prowess, grace, agility, etc (+4)
- Exaggerating Cornelius’ power and “manliness” (+2)
- Any other praise of Tjamaladara (+2)
- Any other convincing praise of Cornelius (+1)
- Bad poetry (Cornelius’) (-2)
- Disrespectful behavior (-2)
- Insulting her hunting skills or physical attributes (-3)
If the party has convinced at least one female to meet with Cornelius, they will return to his cave to find him sated and very grateful. And, surprise! The lady dragon has decided to stay with him for the long haul. (The illusionary female dragon is gone, by the way). She will be swooning at him the whole time the party is there, commenting on how she “never expected such prowess” from dear old Cornelius.
Cornelius will be in a hurry to finish the picking and choosing from his hoard, and will therefore be more likely to part with items that he would normally have thought long and hard about. Once the party has selected their reward, he will shoo them gently but firmly from his cave, and the party will hear giggles, then moans issuing from his lair almost as soon as they depart.
Cornelius will, of course, be very disappointed if the party does not manage to secure a female for him, but may still reward them with a modest amount of coin for information about each female’s preferences and personality.