So my current game is up to a rather significant narrative point and unfortunately I won't have a full group this week. Rather than continuing onwards without them I thought instead to stop and have a little fun with a one-shot. One-shots can be a great way to allow players who are engaged with a serious narrative and have been playing a certain character for a while, to let of a little steam, and it can allow you as the DM to perhaps engage in a little bit of relaxed silliness.
The one-shot I have thrown together was inspired by the cliches of traditional D&D. I have called it 'The Dungeons and The Dragons,' which is also a little wink to a joke Colville often makes. The players will have a choice of six diverse "hero" characters to select from. These characters then start out in a tavern (cliche) and are enticed to face a dreadful dragon. To reach the dragon they must pass through a serious of other challenges, including a mine-shaft full of gnolls (nod to D&D Beyond). I have included the one-shot here:
One Shot: Playing the Dungeons and the Dragons.
You are renowned adventures and one night at the tavern while boasting of your exploits a group of locals challenge you that if you were real heroes then you would have killed a dragon in a dungeon – and none of you have! Taking up the challenge you agree to pay the villagers your remaining gold and silver to be lead to their local famous dungeon and dragon that no adventurer has yet to defeat!
[Note: my players did not take up the challenge but wanted to check with the provider of the reward, which on the spot I made a wizard who lived in a wizard's tower with private security. A little negotiating at the gate and the players decided to set out into the forest to find a guide to the dragon - all completely unplanned for but was a lot of fun. They also wanted to do a little shopping as I had foolishly left them with some money on their sheets. The only shops available in this one cart town though were farming goods stores, but in retrospect I wish I had left them to make their own purchases, but we didn't really have time for a "shopping episode."]
They leave you at the entrance to the dungeon levels of an ancient keep, perched atop a craggy mountain where the dragon makes its lair below. The villagers assure you that you can’t just go in through the giant hole where the dragon lives, but that you need to go this way to sneak up on it.
Do you have any questions before the villagers depart?
Okay, before you is a ruined castle, a large hole in the central ground has been excavated out and seems to be relatively well kept. In the hole is a series of steps that lead down into a dark underground.
Looking down you see it is a long corridor, cobblestoned and dank, with ominous dripping water from an unseen source. PERC DC10 to notice that some of the cobblestones are slightly raised and relatively large holes are present on the side walls. INV DC10 to note that there is a pattern to the stones (numbered in dwarven, reduced DC to 5 if someone speaks Dwarven in your group) and a leaver on the other side near a door. INT DC10 to learn the pattern, DEX DC8 to follow the pattern and avoid tripping. If caught by the trap the tiny darts cause 1d4 piercing.
The door leads to a large room with a series of old cells that span out to the sides of the room. PERC DC10 to notice there is a stairwell at the other side and that the bars and locks on the cells are heavily rusted. INV DC10 to peer into the cells and see skeletons, torture devices and general debris (describe in spooky, traumatic detail).
If wanting to break into the cells it is lock DC15, and they notice the locks are actually in quite good condition. Gaining access to the cells INV DC8 to notice on close inspection that all of the items are somewhat realistic, but mismatched. The skeleton seems to be made from a collection of various bones, not all human and is propped up in a “displayed” position.
At the end of the room is a stone spiral staircase that leads down to another room.
The room at the bottom of the stairs is full of heavy crates, you can see an exit on the other side, but can’t get through without moving things around.
Sliding squares task:
[could not replicate this here, but get hold of one of these old school sliders and add new images over the top to depict a room full of crates. Make some unmoveable, identify the exit and include 3 open spaces.]
[also if the characters choose to break open the crates they will find them full of loose gravel]
STR DC10 to move crates.
Reaching the door at the exit you move through into a carved tunnel. It is quite unusual, a long fairly narrow tunnel with wooden brackets to hold up the roof and a set of narrow train rails running down the centre. To the sides are a number of stacked crates and barrels. At a glance one could almost believe that you had moved down into a mining shaft.
PERC DC15 to notice subtle movement at the top of the crates.
Exploding forth from the crates and barrels are furred dog like creatures - gnolls (8 with 4 on each side). They are dramatic and repetitive in their attacks (“You shall die to serve the kobold gods!” “Your blood shall quench my thirst!”) and even more over the top when dying (“Oh woe is me, here I die.” “Forsooth I have not lived long enough to see my future as a dentist.”)
AC 10, HP 6, Speed 25ft
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
13 (+1) 14 (+2) 14 (+1) 8 (-1) 10 (0) 8 (-1)
Rampage: When the gnoll reduces a creature to 0 Hit Points with a melee Attack on its turn, the gnoll can take a Bonus Action to move up to half its speed and make a bite Attack.
Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) piercing damage.
Spear: Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage, or 6 (1d8 + 2) piercing damage if used with two hands to make a melee Attack.
Longbow: Ranged Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, range 150/600 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d8 + 1) piercing damage.
[Courtesy of Roll 20: https://roll20.net/compendium/dnd5e/Monsters:Gnoll/#h-Gnoll]
INV DC10 to locate behind the crate walls a small crawl space cut into the wall. If crawl through you find that here and in some other little caves this is where the kobolds have made their home. INV DC10 will reveal some treasure. Each PC can roll on DMG (p. 144) Magic Item Table B.
At the end of the shaft is rough cut tunnel descending down.
As you begin down the weaving walkway another adventuring group is heading up, they are a similar sized party and seem to be arguing about someone sleeping with someone’s sister, and someone else being a useless liar. Passing you two of them begin a little scuffle, but the others break it up, and they storm on by arguing loudly.
[Note: expect your characters to want to talk with these guys, so consider in advance how to handle that - I didn't. But one of the great things about D&D is the improv. One of my players cast Charm Person and it worked, so they ended up with a guide for the next section that skipped a lot of the puzzle, but it was fun with the interactions anyway.]
At the base of the slope is a room that has been carved roughly out of the stone. The room is mostly rounded and the floor is lightly sanded. In the middle of the room are four square large stones that each have a bowl sitting on top.
INV DC10 The square stones are rough-hewn and seem only to serve the purpose of holding the bowls. Each bowl is a different colour with a different symbol inside. Blue with a teardrop, Red with a stylised flame, Brown with a rock, White with waves.
When each has the corresponding elements added to the bowl the offerings flare up into coloured mist and coalesce on the far wall forming into a rainbow covered door shape, which shimmers and reveals sloping italic words, “May only those of an honest heart pass.” If try to pass walk directly into a rocky wall (1 point bludgeoning damage). INT DC10 to know need to tell a truth, and then pass through. (Can attempt to lie DEC vs INSI+8)
Walking through you stand in a small antechamber with wooden benches to each side. Adorning the walls are painted murals of epic looking heroes doing battle with mighty, fierce dragons.
Before you is a huge room. Dangling from the ceiling are rounded cages with skeletons, to the side of the walls are chains, some with skeletons attached, and set up under wall sconces with torches are torture implements. For all intents and purpose it appears to be a very large dungeon. To the left you can see light drifting in from the opening in the mountain. Opposite you (60ft) is a large(ish) black (young) dragon.
Roll initiative. (First act of the dragon is to fly over, breath acid and land).
Young Black Dragon
AC 18, HP 50, Speed 40ft
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
19 (+4) 14 (+2) 17 (+3) 12 (+1) WIS (0) 15 (+2)
Multiattack. The dragon makes three attacks: one with its bite and two with its claws.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 15 (2d10 + 4) piercing damage plus 4 (1d8) acid damage.
Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6 + 4) slashing damage.
Acid Breath (Recharge 5–6). The dragon exhales acid in a 30-foot line that is 5 feet wide. Each creature in that line must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw, taking 49 (11d8) acid damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
[Courtesy of D&D Beyond: https://www.dndbeyond.com/monsters/young-black-dragon]
When defeated a cleric dressed in long dark purple robes, bespectacled and folding up a magazine he appeared to have been reading, appears and lauds your success, tells you to hang on and revives the dragon. The dragon sighs, “may as well get this going then, damn villagers, just want to eat my sheep stew and watch The Dragonesses of Waterdeep,” and leaves the room (a portculis cuts off anyone from following). The cleric hands you rolled up scrolls (certificate of participation), collects the magic items back off you, and directs you to exit the cavern via the mountain side where you will find the Adventure Store for souvenirs and the path back to town.
[Note: My players reacted in an unexpected way. When the cleric appeared they tried to initially attack him, but I set him up as a much higher level so it did not really matter. However, when they got to the shop they tried to burn it down and the shop keep had to summon the guards, one PC then fled to die with 4 spears in his back. Again all unplanned for, but hilarious, and ultimately the players were happy with the silly narrative, held onto their certificates and hung around asking questions about different things in the game, which they can't really do in an ongoing campaign. So it was a lot of fun to run and apparently a lot of fun to play.]