The king is having a new wine celler dug when they find a ancient opening to a hidden dungeon. The king sent his head guard, the local wizard, and some handpicked royal guards to investigate. That was four days ago and still nobody emerged. He then sent in a few more guards to find out what happened and they came out with the dead wizard as well as most of the original royal guards.
Fearing to loose more of his faithfuls he hires some local adventurers to do the dirty work.
1) The head guard could be corrupt. They found a large stash of money/magic left by previous era or perhaps it was once the basement of a rich church. Local clergy may know. Either way it is obvious that the tracks show a great deal of things being taken from a room and out a different path. Find the loot or tell the king...or both.
2) The head guard found the stash but released a great demon that destroyed his group in the process. Now the demon is free and trying to release other demons that were trapped in the same situation. The demon was released on accident and the head gueard doesn't know how he did it. The demon keeps him alive and tries to find out anyway.
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? Responses (5)-6
Maybe there was a vamp in the dungeon & while the players are busy cleaning the dungeon ('give me 3 good reasons why I shouldn't use a broom....') the wizard (who is now a vamp) & the dead guards (vampire spawn) are busy cleaning the castle.
Maybe there's something in the wine which permeates through the barrels into the atmosphere and gradually overpowers those nearby. The barrels could be leaking this substance into a river which supplies the local peasants with water. At the same time as the strange goings on in the cellar the peasants are experiencing a hitherto unheard-of plague.
Encounters in the cellars could then be with mutated creatures which had been contaminated by the substance in the wine.
You could also have your generic cursed item being responsible for the misbehavior - or not, simple greed is already a good enough reason.
I think I have even used this at some point... the local baron was really digging for the wine cellar, and an opening was found. Sending guards in, they didn't return, so promptly were some adventurers recruited. On the spot was a little crowd of workers, looking as if they were paid for doing nothing (and they were), and eager to tell some horror stories to the chumps going in ("He was but an inch from getting out, but then a giant hand pulled him back!" - "Yeah, and it had claws THIS big!" - "And he screamed as if they were tearing the very soul out of him!")
Truth is, it was a forgotten part of the castle's secret corridors, and the guards really deserted after finding a wealth in treasure. Tramping around might reveal more, but also a few family secrets... like that one black sheep, who worshipped a dark cult, complete with a little unholy temple. Or the little ghostly girl, that was lost long ago, actually neglected by her caretaker who didn't want to share the inheritance. Watch your steps, in this dungeon, and when you are out of it.
It is an oldie, but is still a useful plot hook.
Another nice basic starter idea - of course lots of detail for the GM to work up, but this is a great starting point.