Updated: May 5, 2021
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 Part 1 of The Hangman’s Woods (click here). All information for important creatures, people, or items is included within the body of the article. This article will contain part 2 of the 3-part adventure.
The Hangman’s Woods is a 3 part adventure. This is part 2 “Dwellers Of The Dark”
The adventurers have just braved the Druid’s Trap, confronted with the first of many dangers of the forest. Continuing their journey, they may encounter Euphoria the alchemist, the Firbolg settlement of Cygnus, and Ancient Fey Catacombs.
Part 2: Dwellers Of The Dark
After The Druid’s Trap
If the party tries to take a short or long rest following the encounter, they will be plagued with nightmares. Any creature that finishes a short or long rest in the region must succeed on a DC 10 wisdom saving throw or gain no benefit for finishing the rest. Describe at least one of the nightmares to the party. They can include torturous beasts, the characters’ fears, or even taunts from Auntie Bloodthorn herself.
If the players take shifts for a night watch, those awake must make a DC 15 wisdom saving throw. If they fail, they suffer one of the effects on the table below, temporarily losing their sanity to the woods.
1.) They see a phantasmal image of their worst fears. They become frightened for 1 minute, and take the dash action in a random direction as determined by the DM.
2.) Their weapons or equipment begin to whisper to them in infernal, barking the names of loved ones.
3.) They hear someone desperately calling their name. The longer they take to approach the call, the louder and more desperate it grows.
4.) They are paralyzed with fear as they watch wraithlike creatures descend on other members of the party, seizing them in foul tentacles.
5.) Their nose begins to bleed profusely. Nothing they do can stop the bleeding.
6.) The sounds of the forest dwindle as they fall deaf. Their vision begins to fade as they become blind.
Continuing The Journey
This session is designed to allow the players a break from combat, if they so choose.
The party can come across Euphoria the alchemist, the Firbolg settlement of Cygnus, and the Ancient Fey Catacombs in any order, or skip the encounters altogether.
As the characters continue their journey through the Hangman’s Woods, feel free to include some random encounters from the table available at the end of the document.
“A putrid miasma begins to fill the air. The earth below your feet becomes spongy as you emerge from the dense woods. Just ahead is a large, waterlogged clearing. Dark mud surrounds the trees, and small beds of withered flora hover above the murky water. A small bed of what seems like stable land (30 ft by 30ft) rests just above the water’s surface, brimming with vibrant flowers. Tending to the plants seems to be a woman, obscured by her long, sleek hair.”
If a party member tries to touch Euphoria or investigates her appearance, have them make a DC 20 investigation check. Upon a success, they are able to discern that Euphoria’s true appearance is not what it seems. If they fail she appears as normal and holds up to physical inspection.
Investigating the flowers:
“You can see three distinct plants growing in this raised bed. One has heart-shaped green buds, with withered extensions that seem to produce lustrous red peas. Another has alluring plum leaves with amethyst-colored flowers which bear an ebony pearl. The last has a tall stem, shrouded by a perfectly spherical eruption of white flowers at its end.”
If a character does a nature check (DC 15) on a plant, they can discern it is poisonous.
If Brin is with the party, it quickly becomes apparent that Euphoria is the powerful alchemist rumored to live in the Hangman’s Woods.
Euphoria appears as a beautiful human woman, cloaking her true Lizardfolk form with a daily Disguise Self potion. Her home is her duty, and cultivating these cursed plants is her craft. Just like her, these plants conceal their caustic nature under the guise of vibrant beauty. She refuses to stray far from her burrow, lest occupants of this forest harm her only home. She sees little value in altruism, and only enters a deal if it serves her craft. Her past is of no concern to outsiders. A meager, but incredibly poisonous bird named Castor has befriended Euphoria. It is a gorgeous bright blue. It hides amongst the trees, waiting for Euphoria’s command.
Euphoria would detest a battle, especially one in her home. If she must fight, she will fight to kill. Euphoria and Castor's statistics are included at the end of this section.
Euphoria needs an old artifact, a ruby necklace with a claw attached to the chain. She claims it is rumored to hold life-giving magic, and is important to her so that she can enrich the nature surrounding her home. However, she lies to hide its true properties. The ruby necklace is actually a control gem, a magical gem that can command aberrations known as Slaads. Attached to the necklace hangs a claw that is infected with a disease called chaos phage. She seeks to infect a humanoid with this disease, turning them into a Slaad, and controlling them to protect her home and carry out her bidding.
Euphoria tells the party that this necklace is sealed within the tomb of a Satyr rogue who passed generations ago. His tomb resides inside an ancient Fey catacomb. All she knows is that his sarcophagus is adorned with a golden seal that depicts two deer straddling a dagger (Jump to section). If they are to retrieve the necklace and bring it to her unharmed, she will provide them with important information about the coven, some potions of their choice (DM’s discretion), and a magic oil that she claims will be essential to their quest (Oil of Slipperiness).
What Euphoria Can Offer:
Afflicted by the same nightmares that unite all in this realm, she shares the desire to eliminate the Snagwood hag coven. She has crafted a poison that will ravage the mind of any creature, and is determined to force it upon Auntie Bloodthorn. This poison would not cause Bloodthorn to die, but rather weaken her mind to prevent her nightmare hauntings.
Euphoria’s Mindfire Poison - This poison can be applied to weapons, ammunition, trap components, and other objects that deal piercing or slashing damage and remains potent until delivered through a wound or washed off. A creature that takes piercing or slashing damage from an object coated with the poison is exposed to its effects.
A creature exposed to the effects of the poison is inflicted with Mindfire. The creature's mind becomes feverish. The creature has disadvantage on intelligence checks and intelligence saving throws, and the creature behaves as if under the effects of the Confusion spell during combat.
At the end of each of the target's turns, it must make a constitution saving throw (DC 18). After succeeding on three of these saving throws, the creature recovers from the poison, and the effects end. After failing three of these saving throws, the disease's effects last indefinitely, and the creature stops making these saves. The creature can only be cured of the poison’s effects with a greater restoration spell or wish spell.
Euphoria will only offer the following rewards upon the completion of her short quest:
Euphoria has gathered information on the Snagwood hag coven from her time in the forest. She explains that the coven is rumored to have created a Banderhobb that carries the coven’s Hag Eye, a magical item that allows the coven to perceive through it. This allows their Banderhobb to do their dirty work, and carry out reconnaissance. She warns the party of its abilities, and advises them to expect it in a fight. She also tells the party that destroying the Hag Eye will weaken the hags.
Also, one of the coven’s hags has become weak, inhibiting the coven’s strength. But be warned, Auntie Bloodthorn and the other hags don’t exclusively fight with magic. Is it rumored that the other healthy hag in the coven can crush even the strongest adventurers with her bare hands. If the party mentions the spell scroll of clone, Euphoria will urge the party to destroy the scroll or kill the hags before they can use it.
Euphoria will give the party a small glass bottle, containing Oil of Slipperiness, which will help them to survive attacks from the hags. She will warn them to apply this oil to one of the party members before they encounter the hags.
If Brin is with the party, Euphoria will not offer her anything unless she helps to inflict Auntie Bloodthorn with her Mindfire Poison. She tells Brin that she can offer her the contents of a poisoner’s kit and a few months of training to learn about poisonous plants and potion brewing.
The Firbolg Settlement of Cygnus
The Firbolgs of Cygnus are a small clan whose ancestors have lived on this land for centuries. After the arcane tempest ravaged the forest, many died, including most of the clan’s elders. Mother Svane was the only elder to survive, destined to guide those who remained. She was dying, but was determined to live and guide her clan. The spirit of the springs had left, but she found the inner strength to fulfill her own prayers. She miraculously recovered and became a healer and teacher to the clan. She saved the Clan and brought life back to the land of the settlement. When she eventually passed, the clan prayed to her for 5 straight days. The next morning a great stone crashed into the center of the settlement, believed to be a gift from Mother Svane, sent from the heavens. Each night it gleamed with a cerulean light, and the Firbolgs of Cygnus began to study the stars and constellations in hopes of understanding the mystical gift. Thereafter, each child of the clan is named after a constellation. Each year, chips of the rock are shaved off and turned into ink, used to tattoo star maps onto young members of the clan. The markings glow just like the sacred rock. Youth are sent out to search for divine secrets, mapping the stars as they travel.
Entering The Area:
“Just as you pass through a break in the dense trees, the path steeply declines. In what seems like a modest crater, a humble, quiet settlement lies below.”
Unless the party has specifically taken measures to be quiet, such as casting pass without trace or silence around themselves, the Firbolgs of Cygnus are alerted to their arrival. Standing just ahead on the path, the party sees a lone Firbolg woman, covered head-to-toe in a tattooed map of the constellations. Sofya, the clan’s matriarch, will greet them and kindly question their purpose for traveling. 10 Firbolgs are using their hidden step to surround the party from all sides, and will respond to the party the same way that they respond to Sofya. Kindness with kindness and violence with violence.
If the party is kind to Sofya they will be greeted fondly and invited to join in the village’s youth ceremony, as a new child has been born.
The Youth Ceremony:
If the party stays for the ceremony, Sofya and the remaining members of the clan gather just outside of the settlement’s largest tent. Sofya gives a short speech about the clan’s history, including the information from above. A stone pillar about 5 feet tall stands just in front of a roaring fire. The baby’s mother presents the child to Sofya, who lays the child flat upon the top of the pillar. She then dips a finely-pointed chisel into a small stone bowl filled with the sacred ink, and tattoos a small star map on the child’s stomach.
If the party continues to talk with Sofya after the ceremony, she reveals that one of her passions is glassblowing. She uses the sullied sands of the surrounding land and shavings of the sacred rock to make unique glass art.
Sofya speaks giant, and is able to help the party to read the inscription on the weapon found in the catacombs. However, she will become uneasy once she reads the inscription, and will warn the party that she senses dark energy.
The Fey Catacombs
The Fey Catacombs served as the burial place for Fey that resided in the Hangman’s Woods before the arcane tempest. Groups of Fey, mostly Satyrs, crossed over to the Material Plane from the Feywild. Drawn to the celestial pools in the enchanted springs, these Fey assimilated with the groups amongst the once fertile forests. The now crumbling catacombs were dug into the sheer side of a hill, and are a straight tunnel about 120 feet long, 15 feet wide, and 15 feet tall. Some Fey are buried just inside the walls, and some have elaborate sarcophagi on display. The catacombs are located next to one of the largest trees in the forest, and although it still stands tall, its branches are dark and withered.
Entering The Area:
“Sitting at the end of a slanted path is a stone arch embedded into the sheer face of a hill. As you enter, you can see a straight, stone-lined tunnel covered in moss. The floors are littered with wild growth.”
Investigating The Catacombs:
If the players investigate the tunnel leading up to Gadys's Tomb for treasure, and they roll above a 20 for investigation/perception, they discover a finely crafted weapon inside the catacombs. Inscribed somewhere on the weapon is the phrase "Fomor need blood, hail Fomor" which is written in giant. If a party member is able to read the inscription, they must speak the words "hail Fomor" and coat the blade in any amount of blood.
Once awoken, the blade places a blood curse on the wielder. The weapon can never be removed from the wielder, and will always reappear unharmed within 5 feet of the wielder if it is discarded, destroyed, or stolen. The weapon deals force damage and has the light and thrown properties (with a normal range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet). If the weapon leaves the wielder's hand, or the wielder is disarmed, the weapon reappears in their hand at the end of the current turn.
The Tomb Of Gadys:
The tunnel ends, widening into a small chamber about 25 feet wide and 20 feet long. In the center of the room is a walled-off tomb with an opening about 3 feet wide. Through the small opening, the party can just barely see some chests and barrels filled with gold and trinkets. In the center of the tomb is Gadys’s sarcophagus, adorned with a golden seal that depicts two deer straddling a dagger. The sarcophagus stands vertically with the seal facing the opening of the tomb. It is about 5 feet wide and 8 feet tall.
An invisible, invincible, magical ward surrounds the tomb on all sides, and can not be dispelled. While the ward is active, no creature can willingly enter the tomb by nonmagical means (other than Gadys’s homunculus servant). If a creature tries to use teleportation or interplanar travel to do so, it must first succeed on a charisma saving throw (DC 20). It must also succeed on a charisma saving throw (DC 20) to leave the tomb, being trapped inside for 1d4 hours on a failure, before it can attempt the check again.
In front of the tomb’s opening are a crude, wooden table and 2 chairs. Sitting in the chair closest to the tomb’s opening is a homunculus servant created by Gadys to guard his tomb. The homunculus servant serves as a vessel for Gadys’s departed soul, and he is able to possess it for a brief time when necessary to interact with adventurers, sharing Gadys’s statistics. Gadys will allow any worthy adventurer to take one thing from his tomb. They must first, however, best him in some sort of contest or game. It can be a musical battle, a tavern game, or any other challenge aside from combat. The homunculus servant is able to enter into Gadys’s tomb and pull out whatever items are necessary for the challenge, like an instrument or some dice (within reason up to DM’s discretion.) If the party is able to best Gadys in a challenge, he will provide them with a password that dispels the magical ward surrounding his tomb for 5 minutes. The winner may take 1 item.
If any creature takes more than 1 item, and Gadys notices, they must succeed on a wisdom saving throw (DC 18) or become afflicted with Gadys curse of greed. While under the effects of this curse, a creature feels an insatiable compulsion to consume 3d20 worth of gold in gold, gems, or similar items each day, or suffer a level of exhaustion.
In the event a player infects themselves or someone else with chaos phage:
While infected, the target can't regain hit points, and its hit point maximum is reduced by 10 (3d6) every 24 hours. If the disease reduces the target's hit point maximum to 0, the target instantly transforms into a red slaad or, if it has the ability to cast spells of 3rd level or higher, a green slaad. Only a wish spell can reverse the transformation.
Stat Blocks And Random Encounters
Brin - Artificer Alchemist (Sea Elf).
Cyrus Ironblood - Wild Magic Barbarian (Dwarf).
Basil - Ranger (Firbolg).
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.