Adventure 2: GM Notes:

Basic plot

The PCs decided to take a job to go into the forest to act as a distraction while a major deforestation effort is underway elsewhere on the border. They are one of many such groups, and freely chose to do this in return for a large payment of money. I want them to regret this, and to learn that the Forest is a terrible, terrible place that they should fear and hate. They will go into the forest, catch the attention of a Witch, and be tormented and hunted by the Witch and its children (though they will not realize this is happening at first). Almost by default they will have accomplished their mission of distracting the Forest, but at what cost? The Witch, a spider archetype, will spy on them with its children, while using illusions to draw them further into the forest and prolong their mission, ideally drawing one or more PCs off to their doom On the plus side! A great chance to engage with PCs backstory, as the Witch shapes illusions to entrap them. So - head into the Forest, events, find ray's love, track down stag, try to be led further from there *** - at night, will meet Twitch's mirror twin and will try to draw him off - main spider - roses, oils, fabrics, webs, arrogant, lies, ***


Tobruk: member of the merchant cartel, assigned to keep an eye on the mission. large man, about 30, suspicious and used to giving orders. Wants to see the mission done well, can be used as an excuse to try and keep them in the Forest 4 guards/porters: assigned to help Torbruk, carry oil in their heavy backpacks along with everything else. There to die

Encounters on the way out:

- on entering the forest, find and stomp on a (1 inch) spider. Is black, with light-pink rose-petal pattern on its back. This is one of Kathryn's children, and is one of the 2 types of baby spiders encountered in this adventure. - at night, attacked by horders of sneaky antler-spiders. they will try to eat some of the NPCs without anyone noticing. maybe set one of them on fire - at night, doppelganger will try to draw off and de-glove some of the porters. Definitely set one of them on fire - at night, rose-spiders will try to crawl on people, in order to act as a psychic conduit so that Selath can read their thoughts - come across ray's boyfriend, laying against a tree, badly gored & dying, with chitin eggs growing to fullness out of his entrails "the stag! the stag! you must ... you must ... it has the key ... if healed, pustule redirect the healign & pop, releasing spider swarms find the stag's bloody footprints there after

Encounters on the way back:

Goal is to keep the PCs in the Forest for as long as possible. Main attractions: - a large glade where it is always night, centered around a pond that shows a million stars. The druid will read a great disaster in the stars (actually true!). This one is not an illusion, though it will cause delay to do the reading, and it will always seem like with just a little more effort the full reading can be completed. Can find out the town of the disaster (Orsiano), the nature of it (giantantic ivory ball teeming with monsters), and the time of it (3 weeks hence). Will not be able to find out the true secret to stopping it, that will just be tantalizing. Goal of this is to make the PCs delay in the Forest. - glade has somnolent properties, difficult not to fall asleep there - 3 High Elves, keeping a cottage in the woods. Will hear their harp playing. Named L-andriel, L-ominiel, and L-insweele. Studying the forest, making observations at the Star-well. Much to learn from the forest, its infectious properties do not effect the advanced races so much as the lower ones. They are of course a web-illusion of Selath. If stay with them, will have someone disappear during the night (smothered by silks). Wield longswords in a fight, but will die at the first hit. - A stream, where Tobruk will find a gold nugget (100GP). Can find more gold nuggets (40G) at the rate of about 1 per hour. A mix of real and illusory, the real ones coming from Selath's treasure. Her Sapphire can also be found in the stream on a critical success, or when the PC's attention is wandering. - A Dream, of their brother, for Ray. "The stag! the body of the stag holds the key. You must go back. It holds the key to defeating all Witches, if only you can bring it back with you" (lies, get them further into the Forest) - A glass tree, full of light-streams in prismatic colors. This is a spike of wild magic, containing unformed spirits. Grew up while the PCs were traveling, will disappear in a similar number of days. Difficult to use, could grant boons (stat boost + aspect of the thing), or just set the PC on fire. - Tobruk will smell the perfum of Fela, his dead wife. Will see her in the distance, being dragged off by Antler-spiders. If that fails, tries again with the rest of his family - Greasy the Bear - man cursed into bear form. Will try to trade them food and water and magic items for money. Is intelligent, but cannot talk except for in vague bear noises. Bring him out if PCs are desperate for supplies. Or for magic item? Has an archaic silver badge, used to be an army commander. Lost several hundred years ago. - Spider attack! a silk, chinese dragon approaches with a click-clack click-clack sound (as of many people in clogs or the like). The dragon is full of antler spiders. Will rush in and engage, while others try to web & drag off another one of the pcs or retainers. pretty much it. - Antler charge: 4 of the juvenile stags on a hill, will try to "herd" the PCs away. 4 more that are just web illusions. - A promise of safety: the rose petal spiders promise to introduce Didi to their big friend. Don't want the others to come along, they are not as nice. Will introduce to Selath and her cottage, a fine marble palace (illusion), with water wheel, gardens, pools with coins in them, fine fruit bearing trees (watched over by spiders), silks, meat, places to rest. Selath actually is curious about finding another psychic, and will, within her means, try to make a partnership work. Could let her stay for allowing the others to leave. Scrying pond will show the other PCs, surrounded by hidden antler spiders

Ongoing events:

- Rose-petal spiders crawl over everything and everyone, like grains of sand at the beach. - Twitch disappears on the next night - Bad dream: one of the guards runs screaming out of the encampment at night. In his nightmare, his family is eaten by monsters, over and over and over again. Can be be brought around if restrained and cared for, but will be squirrelly and depressed for the rest of adventure. As PCs head into the night to help out, other monsters (spiders, baby stags) attack those remaining in camp. - increasing delusions, as spiders psychically penetrate further into their minds. Main focus is on disabling the tracker in order to get them lost. Will cause piercing headaches, double vision, intermittent blindness, steadily growing illusionary visions.

What actually happened

In this case what I planned to happen actually happened, but I'm not sure this was actually a great thing. In retrospect the scenario is a bit too rail-roady and not free from enough, since it requires the PCs being misled by illusions in the first, outward-bound half of the journey and then realizing the truth in the second half. If either of those things do not happen, the scenario does not work. The PCs ended up asking any number of intelligent and perceptive questions on the way out, and to my shame I had to fudge a bit about the illusions to keep the adventure on track at all. On the way back a decent fraction of the PCs did a good job of realizing that they really needed to get out of the Forest, and then they had zero interest in interacting with any of the various encounters laid out before them. So over and over I would tell them about some neat thing I had made, and they would go "nope! get that content away from me!" It did not help that Kiril, the star-druid, who I created all sorts of astrology and star-stuff and druid-stuff for, could not make it to the game for 2 weeks. So all of his stuff had to happen with me as a stand in and he missed out on it. Oh right, the other (ludicrous) problem was that I had an overall villain (Selath) who was controlling the spiders and creating the illusions, but I didn't really think of any way for the PCs to really find her or fight her? Like there were ways for some of the PCs to follow side-paths and encounter her, but there wasn't really any GM option I had in my back pocket to force or make more likely an encounter, or for them to even really know that she was there. So to their best knowledge they went into the Forest, killed something real (and not an illusion), and then came out. Anyway! I will bring Selath back for another adventure so she's not wasted. On the postive side, I would single out for praise the black-crystal-eggs, which suck up healing in order to explosively accelerate their growth. These led to several moments that were extremely funny (for me), as PCs that were infected with the eggs desperately run away from any potential healing, or other PCs remembering at the last minute that they absolutely must *not* do their typical action and heal their compadres.