The party stumbles across a farmstead that is surrounded by warning signs reading “Caution: Explosive Fowl” and “Beware of Powder-Keg Poultry!”
Walking farther down the fenced-off field, the party sees a figure struggling in a full suit of plate armor. They are dragging their feet in the dirt and attempting to sweep with a broom in their heavy gauntleted hands. If the players confront the person, the armor-clad figure will be startled, unable to see anyone approaching through their full helm’s limited field-of-view.
When she lifts the visor, the party sees the very sweaty face of a young woman. If asked for her name, she will introduce herself as Henrietta Cooper.
“I know I must look ridiculous,” she says, lifting her arm to wipe the sweat from her brow, only to find that her range of motion, like her vision, is extremely limited. “I don’t have any other choice though! The yard has gotten so dangerous ever since my chickens have started spontaneously combusting. I can’t even do trade with anyone because merchants don’t want to come anywhere near me. They’re calling the event the Great Chick-a-Boom and see it as some divine moral reckoning.”
At this point, the party can offer to take a look in the yard and see what’s going on.
From Roost to Roast
As the party explores the field, they see about 10 or so chickens milling about, pecking and scratching at the ground and behaving like typical chickens; nothing seems outright suspicious.
If a player chooses to pick up a chicken or touch it in any way, the chicken will not react in a frightened or vicious way but simply begin to glow ominously with a red light. Have that player, and any other players standing within 15 feet of the chicken, roll a DC 12 dexterity saving throw. If they fail the roll, the player must take 1d8 bludgeoning damage and 1d8 fire damage as the chicken explodes into a ball of flames. Any players who saved only take half as much damage. Additionally, the affected characters will be showered with feathers and greeted with the delicious smell of roasted chicken. If this explosion happens to strike another chicken, that chicken will simply be destroyed (no chain reactions here unless you really want that, but it could lead to a lot of death and a very upset Henrietta).
Any other chickens standing within 30 feet of the now-exploded chicken will become frightened by the player, using their movement to keep away for the next minute.
If a player investigates the remains of the chicken, they discover a small polished stone carved with a single glyph. The stone is entirely harmless now and has no magical properties, but a high DC history check from a knowledgeable player would reveal that this is a magical runestone; this particular glyph, written in ancient Dwarven, appropriately says “Combust!” If no one in the family speaks Dwarven, Henrietta could offer a hand, referring back to some dusty family tomes passed down from some of her Dwarven-blooded ancestors.
At this point in the encounter, the party has a couple of potential tasks to complete:
- Help the current chickens pass their runestones safely
- Find out where the chickens are finding the runestones in the first place
Thou Shalt Pass
Although your party can certainly try more creative methods, informing Henrietta of the chickens’ poor dietary choices gives her an idea. She hands the party a list of local herbs, namely “Grease Root” and “Slippery Elm bark”, that can be brewed into an animal laxative.
No one quite likes a “fetch quest”, but a stroll in the surrounding forests allows for chance combat with various beasts. If your party has a druid, perception checks to find the necessary ingredients can have advantage and take significantly less time.
To keep the “boom” theme going, players can be attacked by a few exploding foxes: creatures that crept into the barnyard at night and ate yet-to-be-detonated chickens.
Here’s a potential statblock for those enemies:
After finding the two ingredients, the party returns to Henrietta, who happily takes the natural roughage and blends in into a mash with some of the chickenfeed.
She then goes out back to administer the feed, suggesting that the party waits inside the farmhouse until the process is done because it’s “going to get explosive in a different way.”
After waiting for about 30 minutes, Henrietta returns with a basket of (thankfully) washed runestones, now safely passed through the chickens’ digestive tracts. She offers them to the players and, depending on how many of the 10 original chickens remain in the field, the party can add that many Explosive Runestones to their inventory. As an action, these stones can be thrown up to 60 feet, causing an explosion that, on a failed DC 12 dex save, deals 1d8 fire damage and 1d8 bludgeoning damage (1/2 damage on successful save) to any creatures within 15 feet of the stone’s target. Once used, the runestone loses its magical properties.
“I also found this stone,” Henrietta says, looking at it concernedly, “It doesn’t quite match the others.”
She hands the players a stone that, indeed, has a very different sigil. If anyone can read the old Dwarven, they see that the stone says “Find!” Unlike the other stones, this one can be activated limitless times. When held out flat in the palm of a hand, the stone glows with a soft blue light, spins, and stops abruptly, pointing into a specific direction.
If the players follow this compass runestone, they will be led to a specific corner of the barnyard. The dirt beneath their feet is covered in small chicken tracks and scratches. Investigating further reveals that there is something buried here beneath the ground.
The party can borrow various tools, like shovels and hoes, from Henrietta to begin their excavation. As they start to dig, have everyone holding a tool and actively involved in the process roll a dexterity saving throw (DC 12). If anyone fails their roll, that person strikes a buried explosive runestone, activating it and dealing 1d8 fire and 1d8 bludgeoning damage to themself.
Eventually, the players will find a stone chest, carved with more ancient Dwarven runes. The chest itself is not booby-trapped, but opening the lid unveils a sparkling, mysterious dagger. Any “Detect Magic” spells indicate that there is a great deal of magical energy emanating from this blade. Attempting to remove the blade in any way triggers the final trap. The blade begins to glow red and floats ominously into the air. Suddenly, three beams of light blast out from the dagger, striking three innocent chickens in the barnyard. These unfortunate fowl release a shrill cry before transforming into monstrous cockatrices.
Roll for initiative and begin the battle.
Henrietta tries to assist you and protect her poultry. Given her high AC from the plate armor, she is pretty well-protected. However, her movement speed should be very slow (10 feet) since she is not accustomed to such armor. Additionally, she is only wielding a shovel, pitchfork, or some other piece of farming equipment, so any damage she deals will be very limited as well.
The cockatrices will only attack the players and Henrietta. The other chickens in the barnyard will act completely unaffected and unperturbed by the sudden arrival of these monstrosities.
Once the battle is over, the dagger ceases its ominous glowing and falls harmlessly back down out of the air. As a DM, consider having the cockatrices polymorph back into blissfully oblivious chickens once their HP hits 0 (no need to hurt any more animals unnecessarily in this encounter).
As the dust settles, Henrietta thanks the party for their help. She promises to fence off this area until it can be fully excavated by professionals, thereby keeping her chickens from digging up any more trouble. She walks over, picks up the dagger, and offers it to the players.
“Honestly, I’m a simple woman just trying to live a peaceful life here with my chickens. I have no need for anything like this, and it’s probably better if it’s not on my property.”
This dagger is an ancient artifact, sealed away by its ancestral owners; it’s called the Bawk-Bawk Blade.
- Deals 1d4 piercing
- The blade is light and grants +1 to attack rolls
- As a reaction, the blade can trigger the Feather Fall spell on command.
- As a reaction, once per day, the blade can release a loud and shrill “cock-a-doodle-doo!”, awakening all creatures within 20 feet.