“Moonlit Glade” is designed for 2-4 level 3 players, trapped in an ever-shrinking glade, players must solve a complex puzzle to appease forest spirits and escape before being crushed by the encroaching trees.

As twilight falls, you enter a serene glade bathed in moonlight. Suddenly, the trees begin to close in, their branches creaking ominously. A gentle voice, like leaves rustling, whispers a plea for help. Glowing orbs flicker in the shadows, their intentions unclear. You realize you’re trapped, the glade shrinking with each passing moment.

From between the trees, a woman appears briefly, her song echoing softly in the air:

‘In the glade under the moon’s soft gaze,
Four stones lie hidden, ensnared in nature’s maze.
Earth below, where roots entwine,
Air above, dancing with the divine.
Water flows where life is found,
Fire’s fury in the sun is bound.
Align the elements where they may rest,
Solve this enigma, pass nature’s test.’

DM Information

  • Location: An ancient, secluded glade deep within a mystical forest.
  • Atmosphere: The area radiates a surreal, enchanting aura, blending natural beauty with a sense of otherworldly mystery. Ethereal lights and strange, melodic sounds add to the ambiance.
  • Features: The glade is circular, with ancient trees forming a natural barrier. In the center lies a stone altar, covered in arcane symbols.
  • Enemies: A helpful Dryad and malevolent Will-o’-the-Wisps.
  • Challenges: A central puzzle involving natural elements, riddles, and avoiding traps set by the Wisps.

DM Tips

  • Maintain suspense with the encroaching trees.
  • Use the Dryad to provide hints and the Wisps for misdirection.
  • Balance the puzzle’s complexity with the urgency of the situation.

Tactics

Dryad

  1. Charm Person Spell: The Dryad will primarily use her powerful charm person ability to control and manipulate intruders. She may charm players who get too close, using them to protect the glade or perform tasks aligned with her goals.
  2. Avoidance of Direct Combat: In line with her shy and non-violent nature, the Dryad will avoid direct combat. If threatened, she will attempt to use charm to defuse the situation or lead adversaries away from her tree and the glade.
  3. Retreat to the Tree: If combat seems inevitable and charm attempts fail, the Dryad will retreat into her tree, effectively removing herself from the encounter until she deems it safe to reemerge.
  4. Use of the Environment: The Dryad will use the natural environment of the glade to her advantage, possibly manipulating the terrain or using illusions to confuse and disorient intruders.
  5. Strategic Engagement: In scenarios where she chooses to engage, the Dryad will do so strategically, prioritizing her safety and the protection of her tree, which is vital for her survival.

Will-o’-the-Wisps

  1. Luring Tactics: Will-o’-the-Wisps are known to lure victims to their doom. In your encounter, they could use their glowing appearance to mislead players into traps or away from their intended path​​.
  2. Group Dynamics: While they are usually solitary, in groups, they coordinate using color-changing and lighting effects to disorient and confuse victims. This could be used to create a dynamic where the Wisps work together to manipulate the players’ movement within the glade​​.
  3. Combat Engagement: When necessary, Will-o’-the-Wisps can engage in combat using small electric charges, causing shock damage. They are also immune to most spells, except for a few specific types, adding a layer of complexity to combat encounters with them​

Primary Puzzle

Players must find and place four enchanted stones at specific points in the glade, corresponding to the elements mentioned in the riddle:

  • Earth Stone: Place it near the base of a large tree or a patch of rich soil.
  • Air Stone: Position it higher, possibly in a tree branch or a windy spot.
  • Water Stone: Locate it near a water source in the glade, like a small pond or stream.
  • Fire Stone: This stone aligns towards the direction of the sunset or a place that receives the most sunlight.

Solving the puzzle deactivates the traps, stops the encroaching trees, and opens a path out of the glade.

Specific Traps and Mechanics

  1. Illusory Paths:
    • Mechanism: Paths that seem to lead out of the glade but magically loop back to the center.
    • Detection: Requires a successful Wisdom (Perception) check (DC 15) to notice subtle environmental cues or inconsistencies.
    • Consequence: Wastes time, causing the trees to close in faster.
  2. Hidden Pits:
    • Mechanism: Covered with leaves and branches, these pits are difficult to spot.
    • Detection: Requires a successful Intelligence (Investigation) check (DC 13).
    • Consequence: Falling in causes 1d6 bludgeoning damage and delays the player, tightening the tree circle.
  3. Snares Set by Wisps:
    • Mechanism: Thin, almost invisible threads that trigger when stepped on.
    • Detection: Requires a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (DC 14) to avoid.
    • Consequence: Entangles the player, requiring a Strength (Athletics) check (DC 12) to escape.
  4. Wisp Attacks:
    • Mechanism: Wisps use their shock attack on players who stray too close to their lairs or make incorrect puzzle choices.
    • Consequence: 2d8 shock damage per attack.

Managing Tension

To maintain suspense with the encroaching trees in “Moonlit Glade,” the Tension Pool concept from The Angry DM can be effectively utilized. This method adds a sense of urgency and unpredictability to the encounter.

Tension Pool Mechanics for “Moonlit Glade”:

  • Pool Setup: Start with an empty pool. For each turn that passes, add one d6 to the dice pool.
  • Triggering Complications: After the 6th turn, roll all the dice in the pool. The total determines the complication that occurs, based on a pre-determined Complications Table kept private by the DM.

Sample Complications Table for “Moonlit Glade”:

Total RollComplication
24 or lessNo additional effect. The trees continue to encroach slowly.
25-30A Will-o’-the-Wisp launches a surprise attack or sets a new trap.
31A part of the glade becomes hazardous (e.g., a hidden pit or quicksand).
32An eerie fog rolls in, reducing visibility.
33A helpful animal or spirit appears, offering a clue or assistance.
34A sudden shift in the glade’s layout, altering the puzzle or path.
35A tree branch falls, creating an obstacle or revealing a hidden element.
36The Dryad intervenes directly, either aiding or hindering progress based on player actions.

This method adds dynamic challenges to the encounter, keeping players on edge and emphasizing the need for efficient decision-making as the situation in the glade becomes increasingly perilous.

Further Ideas

  • Solving the puzzle reveals an ancient secret or a gateway to another realm
  • The Dryad could become a recurring ally or guide in the forest.
  • Druid players are offered guardianship of the glade, with responsibilities and benefits, such as access to rare herbs and magical resources.
  • The Dryad seeks help to cure a corruption spreading through the forest, leading to a series of environmental restoration missions.
  • If the Wisps are defeated or outsmarted, they seek revenge, haunting the players in subsequent adventures.

Treasure Ideas

  • Ring of Forest Whispers: Allows the wearer to communicate with plants and trees once per day.
  • Enchanted Seeds: When planted, these seeds grow into plants with various magical properties or effects.
  • Blessed Water of the Glade: A vial of water from the glade’s stream, capable of curing minor curses or ailments.
  • Exotic Spices and Herbs: Rare herbs and spices not commonly found, valuable for culinary or medicinal use.
  • Artisan Crafted Jewelry: Exquisite necklaces or bracelets made from natural materials like wood, bone, or stone.
  • Antique Map: An old map depicting the region or a route to a hidden location.

Experience Points

  • Award 750 XP for successfully escaping the glade and an additional 250 XP for clever puzzle solving or non-violent solutions.

Looking for additional encounters and adventures? Visit the Adventures page for a complete list.

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