EGD Adventures: The Hangman's Woods Part 1 (The Druid’s Trap)
Written by: Nicholas Uster
Running The Adventure
The Hangman's Woods is a short adventure for 4 to 5 characters of 7th level. The adventure takes place just outside of the city of Black Spinel, aka “The Sugar Bush,” contained within The Dark Plains region.
Everything you need to know about the setting is contained within this article. All information for important creatures, people, or items are included within the body of the article. This article will contain part 1 of the 3-part adventure.
Campaign Setting: The Dark Plains
The Dark Plains is a remote reservation of settlements hedged by withered forests that shroud a harsh wilderness. Farmers, tradesmen, and adventurers were able to find refuge amongst the once fertile forests that blanketed the land. Some time ago an arcane tempest erupted throughout the hills and valleys of the realm, corrupting the lush soil. The earth turned black, leaves turned to ash, and animals turned to beasts. The realm was plunged into chaos as neighbors turned against neighbors to survive.
The few settlements that remain have adapted to enduring the perilous wilds that surround them. Few traverse far into the withered forests today, as depraved denizens lurk amidst the crude forest paths. Harbored by the shadows are prowling beasts, lawless encampments, and decaying vestiges of the past. Frigid nights are followed by tepid days. Exposure to the products of this sullied soil is rumored to drive any man mad.
After an arcane tempest erupted through the Dark Plains, the enchanted springs in the heart of the forest were tainted, driving out the spirit of the springs. As she left, the celestial pools became a noxious bog. Dark fey, like hags and other beasts, flocked to the unhallowed area using the magic from the springs for their nefarious purposes. The Snagwood hag coven, run by the infamous hag Auntie Bloodthorn, torture all living beings in their stretch of the forest, using their dreams as a weapon against them. Also taking advantage of scarce resources in the area, the hags aim to force desperate townsfolk into corrupt deals.
Most religious beings in this region of the woods pray to the spirit of the springs, who was believed to grant fertility to the nature and people of the forest. They believe their prayers will draw her back to the realm.
The Hangman’s Woods is a 3 part adventure. This is part 1 “The Druid’s Trap”
The adventurers arrive to the colony of Black Spinel at the desperate request of their former adventuring buddy Rex. Braving the dangers of the Hangman’s Woods, they set out to confront the Snagwood hag coven for cursing his wife, and must fight their way through a corrupted druid’s encampment along the way.
The colony of Black Spinel, aka “The Sugarbush,” is one of the oldest settlements to remain in The Dark Plains. The heart of syrup production for the realm, it is placed by a peculiarly productive woodland.
After the arcane tempest withered the land, the settlement was thrown into chaos, but soon came together, finding hope in the psychedelic properties of the arcanely-altered tree sap. Some view the sap’s properties as proof that the spirit of the springs will return, and some simply exploit it to suppress their fears of the surrounding forest. With only scare visits from the occasional barge, most goods are in short supply.
The characters are beckoned to the city of Black Spinel by their old friend and adventuring buddy Rhexyn Teak (Rex), who left the party some time ago to raise his daughter Anne. He is in desperate need of the party’s assistance to save the life of his beloved wife. After his daughter was poisoned by the bite of a creature in the night, Rex was forced to contact his old patron, Auntie Bloodthorn. In exchange for her assistance, Bloodthorn required Rex to deliver her a spell scroll of clone. When he was unable to deliver on time, Bloodthorn cursed his wife, turning her into a plant. If the scroll is not delivered to the hag coven by the next full moon (3 days) his wife will be trapped as a plant forever.
What Rex does not know is that Bloodthorn requires the spell scroll to clone a fellow hag within the coven before she dies by the next full moon. The party may deliver the spell scroll and complete the hag’s terms, or murder the coven and break the hag’s magic. Either way, it will be an arduous journey for the party.
When introducing the adventure hook to the players, keep their characters’ motivations in mind.
Will they do the job because it is altruistic? Should they be offered a magical item, money, other riches? Maybe there can be rare artifacts in the hag’s coven. Would the glory of surviving the forest and facing a hag coven be enough? Adjust the hook as needed to best suit the characters’ motivations.
Part 1: The Druid’s Trap
The adventure begins as the player characters arrive in the city of Black Spinel.
“You are beckoned to the city of Black Spinel by your old friend and adventuring buddy Rhexyn Teak, who left the party some time ago to raise his daughter Anne. He claimed to be in desperate need of your assistance to save the life of his beloved wife. He has paid the fare for your transport and is eagerly awaiting your arrival to the colony. You’ve spent the last week traveling by ship, and have just entered the city from the port of Black Spinel. So far it has been a safe journey, but this realm is known to harbor untold horrors. As you approach Rex’s home, you see a chiseled sign that reads ‘Teak’ hanging above a pristine plum-colored door.”
The Teak Home
The Teak home is a small, one-story, square house. Not much is inside, aside from cobbled child’s toys and the Teak’s meager possessions. On the mantle is a modest painting of the Teak family. Rex’s daughter Anne sits in the corner playing with her dolls.
Upon seeing the party, Rex wipes away his tears and greets them kindly. He then hastily says that they are short on time, and quickly explains the adventure in full.
While Rex is happy to see the party, he does not want to waste much time reminiscing. Focus on Rex explaining the main points of the adventure hook to the party and fill in the rest as the characters converse with Rex. Taking the character’s motivations in mind, adjust his explanation and rewards to best motivate the party. Rex can not assist the party on their quest due to his lack of powers and the well-being of his daughter. He recommends for the party to acquire a guide to assist them in their journey through the treacherous forest, mentioning the names of the 3 guides listed below. Have him encourage the party to explore the town and gather some supplies before heading out on their quest (This way the party can meet the various NPCs and learn more about the setting).
Brin - Artificer Alchemist (Sea Elf).
Daughter of the general goods trader, Angler. She has been here forever and always wanted to be a good alchemist, but if she wants to learn more she will need a teacher. She has heard rumors of a powerful alchemist that lives in the woods. She will go with you and guide you through the woods if you help her find the alchemist. She can also offer potions. Can be found with the general goods trader by the lighthouse.
Cyrus Ironblood - Wild Magic Barbarian (Dwarf).
The only dwarf in town and one of the craziest members of the hunting guild.
He has the most kills, but also he is the only one who keeps track. He wears an old rum barrel as armor, with cutouts for his arms and face. He stole a cursed rune from some alter in the forest and now has magic surges. He wants the sheer glory of killing whatever beasts lurk in the forest, and has some experience doing so.
He would also like a cut of the rewards for his assistance. Can be found in the Sugar House Tavern. He is eager to challenge the party to a drinking contest, and will honorably reduce his cut of the rewards if they can out-drink him.
Basil - Ranger (Firbolg).
A middle-aged man who is highly wise, but is still young enough to hold his own. He knows about the forest because he survived it. He escaped and found himself in Black Spinel, and found faith with the help of the priest. He feels that the hag coven needs to die and he will help you if you help him kill them. Amazing at tracking and finding his way through nature. Can be found in the church.
Listed below are some of the most important NPCs in Black Spinel and their relevance to the adventure.
Rhexyn (Rex) Teak (Elf) - Former member of the party with a quest for the party.
Veldana (Elf) - Owner of the sugar house, comes from a long line of druids that keep the trees and soil fertile. Most of the other druids were lost during the tempest from death or fleeing. She is among the last left. She runs the tavern, you’ll see her at the front of the bar. She is gentle and patient, but strong-willed.
Augys (Satyr, but disguised as Human) - The blacksmith in town. He has an enchanted iron belt that keeps him disguised as a human, but he is really a satyr. He has a tough persona, hiding that he is a kind-hearted and anxious guy.
Cervyn (Elf) - Head of the hunting guild. He killed a massive beast years ago and earned his position for it. Stern and serious, but often displays inappropriate humor. If the party tells him of their quest, he will beg them to kill the hags and will offer great rewards, as his son is tortured by nightmares which he believes are due to the hags.
Father Arndell (Human) - Priest of the church. Calm, cool, and collective. Spreads the word of the spirit of the springs, a god of fertility and purity. Always looking to share his wisdom, or a piece of his homemade flatbread.
Angler (Sea Elf) - General goods trader. She has a passion for crafts like knots and loves when people take an interest in her little trinkets. Loves to talk and meet with new people.
If statistics become necessary for ordinary townsfolk, use the stat block below to represent an adult NPC of any race.
The Sugar House
A large tavern and gathering place for the town. They store, process, and serve the syrup here. There is no alcohol on tap, only sap. There is a giant pot of water in the back that is always boiling to process the sap into syrup. The steam from this process helps to heat the tavern and causes it to smell sweet like syrup. Veldana the druid also lives upstairs and has her garden in the back. Her small garden holds the only healthy plants in the colony.
If the party decides to drink some of the syrup on tap, consult the rules below:
For each "drink" of syrup (pint/shot) a character must make a DC 15 constitution save. Each time the player fails, the effects of the syrup advance.
1. Colors seem much more vibrant and food tastes incredible.
2. It is difficult to walk or stand, your senses are distorted.
3. You begin to sweat and you feel very hot. You feel like throwing up.
4. You begin to hallucinate, seeing vivid visions that cause you paranoia.
5. You pass out for 1d4 hours.
Augys does his work in a small building attached to the hunting guild. He mostly specializes in tools like sap taps, but he can also make simple weapons. He can do reasonable repairs on weapons, and also do light repairs on cloth or leather items. On sale is basic adventuring gear like ball bearings or manacles, and some simple weapons.
His enchanted iron belt keeps him disguised as a human. If a party member tries to touch him or investigates his appearance, have them make a DC 20 investigation check. Upon a success, they are able to discern that Augys' true appearance is not what it seems. If they fail he appears as normal and holds up to physical inspection.
Filling this two-story building are random able-bodied townsfolk (mostly Sea Elves and Humans) that participate in the guild. Lining the walls are weapon racks, fishing equipment, and animal furs. Upstairs the party can find Cervyn in the "command center," filled with crude maps of the area and information about local creatures.
The church is quiet and peaceful, often filled with the smell of toasted bread. A small stone structure that looks like a miniature spring sits in the center of the church.
General goods trader/shipping dock
Angler and her daughter Brin can be found by the shipping docks, just inside of the lighthouse. On sale are nets, fishing equipment, and assorted items that have been collected from past sailors. Also available are some of Angler's crafts like fancy knots. She may even teach you a knot or two if you show her interest.
Where the party begins the adventure.
Beginning The Journey
Before the players set out on the trail, take a few minutes to have them explain the party’s marching order or how their characters are traveling. Which characters are navigating, and who is watching the party’s rear?
Throughout the characters’ journey into the Hangman’s Woods, feel free to include some random encounters from the table available at the end of the document.
The Druid's Trap Encounter
"You’ve been travelling down a crude forest path for most of the day. Just as dusk approaches you reach the top of a steep hill and the path becomes hedged in dense, thorny thicket. Just ahead on the path you see a clearing with a seemingly-abandoned campfire and some scattered supplies.”
Running the encounter
Surrounding the area is extremely difficult terrain (thicket) that is secretly ridden with thorns and obstacles. It seems that the party will need to walk on the path, as the thicket is too dense to traverse.
Have them all make dexterity saving throws (DC 15 dex). They are about to walk into a well-made pit trap. The pit is 20 feet deep and a square 10 feet on each side. The bottom is littered with dry brush and thistle.
Once someone in the party falls in the trap or the party avoids the trap, have everyone roll initiative.
If a creature is trapped in the pit they will need to make a DC 16 athletics check to climb out without assistance, like rope, because of the steep and brittle walls. If a party member assists with a rope or other means they will make the check with advantage.
Once initiative is rolled, have the wolves go first for a surprise round since they were waiting for prey to walk through and were hiding. The three corrupted wolves will storm the party and attempt to push them into the pit.
Seeing the Wolves:
“Bursting from the thicket are three snarling beasts. Spiders and centipedes crawl through their knotted pelts as they bare their green-stained, rotting gums.”
The wolves will continue attempting to keep the party in the pit, as they are waiting for a large creature to come along and feed.
After one round of combat, have the Druid leave cover and join the combat, after hearing the commotion.
Seeing the Druid:
“Appearing from the brush is a gaunt elf wearing a patchwork cloak of soiled rags. As she raises her cragged fingers she mumbles to herself with a dreamy, ghastly smile.”
After 2 rounds of combat, the worm beast will burst through the side of the pit and begin attacking party members.
Seeing the Worm:
“Erupting from the pit is a serpentine monstrosity. Oozing down its rows of distended ribs drips a viscous, murky, slime. As droplets touch the soil, the earth steams and froths.”
Off to the side, obscured by the thicket is a small, cobbled shack where the druid presumably resides. It is a square, ten feet long on each side. Outside are stacks of basic items and supplies like simple weapons. Inside the Druid’s shack is a chest with a few magic items:
Ring - The ring has 3 Charges. While wearing it, you can use a bonus action to expend 1 of its charges to cast the Protection from Evil and Good spell on yourself. The ring regains 3 expended charges daily at dawn.
Weapon - The weapon can be any martial melee weapon (requires attunement). You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.
As a bonus action you can invoke the dark magic of the weapon (1/ long rest), enveloping yourself in darkness for 1 minute. Once during each of your turns, when you hit a creature with an attack, you can force it to make a Wisdom saving throw (DC 15), and if the saving throw fails, the target is frightened of you until the end of your next turn. You are also immune to the frightened condition.
This weapon is cursed, and becoming attuned to it extends the curse to you. As long as you remain cursed, you are unwilling to part with the weapon, keeping it within reach at all times. You also have disadvantage on attack rolls with weapons other than this one.
Whenever a hostile creature damages you while the weapon is in your possession, you must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or suffer the effects of the confusion spell.
Potion - When you drink this potion, you gain the “enlarge” effect of the enlarge/reduce spell for 1d4 hours (no concentration required).
More Roleplay tips
When describing the fight, talk about how the terrain provides the druid cover. Include how she is using the environment to her advantage to encourage the party to do the same. When the party arrives have the wolves be out of sight to surprise them. Also, don’t necessarily tell the party that the wolves are wolves, leaving it vague will likely stir up their imagination, and increase their fear and excitement during the battle.
Spell names are linked for quick reference
5th level: tree stride
1.) As the party is walking through dense brush, they happen upon some overturned, rotting crates. If they decide to approach they must make a DC15 dexterity saving throw or step into a patch of littered caltrops. If they step onto the caltrops they stop moving and take 1 piercing damage. Until an affected creature regains at least 1 hit point, its walking speed is reduced by 10 feet.
With a DC 18 perception check, they are able to find a case of 20 crossbow bolts/arrows, a healer’s kit, and 3 clay flasks of oil. With a DC 20 perception check, they are able to find a withering map of the nearby area, which grants them advantage on all survival checks made while traveling for the next day.
2.) The party comes across a fresh pool of blood. A DC 20 nature/survival check reveals that the blood is likely from a humanoid. A DC 18 perception check also reveals a bloody sickle in nearby brush. If a player touches the sickle in any way, they become cursed. Whenever the sufferer takes piercing or slashing damage, they begin to bleed profusely. They must spend an action to make a DC14 medicine check to close the wound, or take an additional 5 points of bleed damage each round the wound remains open. The curse can only affect one humanoid at a time, and any creature that does not have blood is immune to the curse.
3.) In a small clearing, the party comes across what appears to be a decaying shrine to a god. On three of the small, cylindrical, stone altars lie random trinkets. The fourth altar lies bare. If the party leaves something behind on the 4th altar as an offering, they will all receive one point of inspiration.
4.) The party can hear labored breathing and whimpers coming from something a short distance off of the path. When they approach they see a large wolf with bloody, matted fur. Upon further inspection, the party comes to find that the wolf is actually a druid that is near death and barely able to keep up their wild shape.
The earth around the party begins to rumble as the beast that presumably attacked the druid emerges from the dirt. Roll for initiative.
If the party is able to heal the druid, they will thank the party, speaking in broken common. They will also gift the party with a ring that provides the wearer resistance to acid damage.
5.) The party comes across a small, murky, black pond. Standing next to it is a human child with a wistful look in his eyes. If a party member tries to touch the child, have them make a DC 18 investigation check. Upon a success, they are able to discern that the child is actually an apparition. If they fail he appears as normal and holds up to physical inspection.
The boy is holding a bucket of water, similar to the dark murky water in the pond next to him. He mournfully tells the party that he is so thirsty, and stares at the murky water. If the party gives him clean drinking water or uses a spell to clean the water in his bucket he will give a small smile and disappear.
Laying on the ground where he stood will be a small stuffed animal. The stuffed animal is magic and has 3 Charges. While holding it, you can use an action to expend 1 of its charges to cast the Calm Emotions spell from it. The stuffed animal regains 3 expended charges daily at dawn.
6.) The party comes across a small, cobbled shack in the woods. It looks abandoned and overgrown like it has lied bare for decades. It is also missing a front door. If the party ventures into the shack, it is 20 feet long and 10 feet wide. They can see decaying furniture like a nightstand, a sleeping platform, and a chest/crate.
In the nightstand is a brittle journal that seems to have been a log of dreams. It is written in Elven. A few pages are still intact enough to read.
“Last night I ran an awful fever… I tossed and turned in agony, begging the spirit for her grace. Alas, I was greeted not by a spirit but a demon as I slept. Drab clouds hung low over the village square… and my gaze was drawn to a clamor. The girl fell to her hands and knees, her hair falling around her like sheafs of straw. Caustic sores scorched their way through her apron as she shrieked in deafening anguish. Her neck snapped towards me… as her infernal stare gagged my breath. Dark tendrils dragged me as the square turned black… I could feel her splintering nails draw blood from my cheek. My eyes were met with only one, as squirming worms filled the hole in her skull. She climbed onto my chest and wailed, YOU DID THIS TO ME as she aged into a wicked crone. Why god may I never rest?”
This is a nightmare from the hags, and the girl is specifically Auntie Bloodthorn. In the chest is a matted blanket, 10 wax candles, a tinderbox, and remnants of other supplies.
7.) The party finds a random mule. No amount of investigation reveals anything of significance about the mule or where it came from. It can be mounted or touched with a successful DC 18 animal handling check, or if offered food. Otherwise, it is not hostile, but it will mildly kick or bite at a character that tries to touch it.
8.) The party comes across a clearing, seeing what seems like a very small camp or settlement. There is a fire burning, and some tents made of animal skin. However, it seems that no one is here at the moment. If the party checks around the area, there is no one to be found. In one of the tents, there is a chest with some common clothes. With a successful DC 20 perception check, a pair of finely-crafted boots stand out.
For the wearer, difficult terrain doesn't cost them extra movement. In addition, magic can not cause them to be restrained. They require attunement.