Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Golden Oldie Surprise (Encounter/Plot Hook)

Written by Justin Mason

While traversing across a high mountain plateau, the characters come across the remnants of what appears to have been a very violent battle. There are several dead bodies of armored humans strewn about. These dead bodies wear full plate armor emblazoned with the sigil of a known warlord or evil overseer of the region. There are also the remains of several wagons, shattered and dashed to splintered pieces. The bodies have nothing of real value upon them other than non-magical full plate armor and a normal longswords (perhaps a few hundred copper pieces among them all).

While the party is searching over the area, they will come across the body of a severely injured elderly human man dressed in tattered rags.

Though badly hurt, he is conscious. The man will tell the characters that he woke up here with his injuries and has no recollection of how or why he is here. He will beg them to help him return to his home in the village, where his children can tend to his wounds. He will also insist that the bodies of the soldiers be given proper burial rights, even if they may be the cause of his current predicament, stating, "It's the right thing to do."

In reality, the man is a wounded (1/4 hp) Old Gold Dragon. He was injured and exhausted during the battle, and fell into unconsciousness not long after assuming his human form. He was surprised to awaken to find people stumbling across the wrecked remnants of the dark soldiers attempt to capture him for their master.

His wounds are not so severe that he actually requires the assistance of the adventurers, but he has decided to perform this test of character upon them to determine whether or not he should kill them as well.

The dragon has taken up residence with the humans of a small village a short distance to the south (located at the base of the mountain). He has taken a particular liking to one of the village’s women who was widowed by one of the many past raids on the village. The dragon has taken the woman as his wife and adopted her children as his own.

All of the villagers know his true form, but keep his identity a closely guarded secret, and in return the dragon protects their village from raiding bandits, warlords and other such dangers.

If the characters escort the old man back to his village, nothing will seem out of the ordinary as several of the villagers will openly greet him by name. Once returned to his home he will invite the characters in for dinner, where he will eventually reveal his true form to them. For their kindness, he will also reward each of the characters with a (random) magical item from his horde, which he keeps in a cavern beneath his home.

Note: This encounter opens the opportunity to introduce additional storyline elements. Perhaps the dragon was testing the characters to determine if they were worthy being given a task of some sort. Maybe some artifact the dragon is in need of, but doesn’t feel safe obtaining himself while leaving his village and family unprotected.

However, if the characters refuse to escort, or otherwise purposefully endanger the old man, the dragon will immediately assume his natural form on the mountain plateau, and attack the characters. If they surrender or refuse to fight a gold dragon, he will allow them to live, but will have no further interaction with them, flying away to the north. If the characters make any attempt at this point to follow him, and are detected, then he will again engage in combat, this time to the death.

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