While exploring [City Name], a local tells the party that, while they’re in town, they need to check out a tavern called Bourbons & Ryes.
“It’s owned and operated by an old wizard named Bud the Wiser,” the townsperson says, giddy with the novelty, “His drinks are absolutely magical. He does all of his own brewing and distilling right there in the basement of the tavern, and folks come from far and wide to sample whatever seasonal brews he has on tap.”
If the party decides to check out Bourbons & Ryes, they will notice a tall tree planted alongside the swanky establishment. It’s massive and seems strangely out-of-place in the otherwise urban environment. The tree will begin to mumble to the players in Common:
“Hey. Can you come over here for a second?”
“I don’t mean you any harm,” the treant grumbles, clearly understanding how his size and appearance might be off-putting. “My name is Zeus the Spruce. As you can see, I am a far way from home. However, I came here…for this.” He points his gnarled-branch finger at the tavern.
If a player asks if Zeus is here to try the (supposedly) “magical” and world-renown beverages, the treant will scoff and spat a glob of tree sap down onto the ground. “Hardly.”
“You see,” he continues. “The proprietor of this tavern took two of my friends, and I would like to have them back so that we can all return to the forest together.”
These “friends” are treants like him, Zeus says, but he is not sure what state they might be in now. He only knows that he can still sense their life forces, and that’s what drew him to this place. “Centuries spent with your roots tangled together forms a kind of bond between treants, you see. We’re all connected.”
The party can now decide whether or not they want to help Zeus reclaim his friends.
Here to Meet a Friend
When the party enters the tavern, they find it bustling with people. Tables are packed with both locals and visiting travelers. They are sitting together, taking shots of spirits, sipping steins of ale, and generally having a delightful time. A bard stands in the corner, strumming his lute and singing a drinking song, which inspires a few inebriated gentlemen to join, wailing in off-key voices and disrupting the rhythm.
Suddenly, the wizard bar owner steps into the room from his back office. Everyone who notices the bearded fellow raises their glasses with a cheer and a toast.
“You’re all too kind,” Bud the Wiser says. “Here. The next round is on me!” With a wave of his hand, bottles dance off the back shelf and fill a row of shot glasses. These shot glasses, in turn, float through the air and into the hands of the thirsty patrons.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to check on things in the basement. We are working on a wonderful brandy right now that’s sure to knock everyone’s socks off. My partner, Anne Hizer,” he gestures to a middle-aged woman behind the bar who, in turn, gives a friendly wave to everyone, “will make sure that everyone is kept properly toasty and in good spirits.”
With that, the wizard descends a staircase in the back corner of the tavern and disappears behind an “employees only” door, locking it behind him.
Friend #1: Break a Leg
One of Zeus the Spruce’s friends has literally been whittled down into a table leg.
The party needs to stumble around the bar to try and find whatever leg is able to talk.
When they do find it, a small face manifests in the wood and talks to them. In order to hear it over the loud chatter, laughter, and music of the tavern, a player likely needs to find an organic reason (e.g. “Oops, my shoelaces have gotten untied”) to crouch down beside the table without looking suspicious.
“Oh, thank goodness you’ve come to my rescue,” the table leg says, “Everyone keeps slamming down mugs on the surface above me, and it gives me such a doozy of a headache. Get me out of here, would ya?”
To retrieve the leg, the party needs to break it free from the rest of the table. This is made more difficult because the table is currently occupied by a few shady gentlemen playing cards.
Of course, if a player just snaps the leg off, the party will be forcefully removed from the tavern (or arrested) for property damage.
The leg, however, can suggest “causing a scene.”
“If we can incite a bar fight, then maybe we can use the commotion and chaos to break me free without being noticed,” the table leg says eagerly.
Have the players decide how they want to start the bar fight, but a few ideas could be…
- Spilling drinks
- Flipping a table
- Cheating during a card game for some silver/gold pieces
- Casting a spell on someone and blaming someone else
- Releasing a small animal to run around and cause a scene
- Play a discordant melody to turn the patrons into angry hecklers
- Anything! Some of these patrons are very toasted and looking for an excuse to brawl
Once the players have broken the table leg free and participated in some light hand-to-hand fisticuffs (if necessary), Bud the Wiser reappears from the basement and snaps everyone to their senses with a thunderclap.
“That’s enough.” Bud roars with a magically amplified voice. “Settle down or get out.”
Bud walks over to check on his partner, Anne, behind the counter, giving the party a perfect opportunity to sneak down into the cellar and through the now-unlocked door.
Friend #2: A Barrel of Laughs
The basement is filed with rows of wine bottles, brewing/distilling setups, and barrels upon barrels of whiskey.
At the opposite end of the room, there is a singular barrel elevated on a pedestal.
If the party approaches the barrel, a face will manifest in the wood and start to speak.
“Heeeeey,” the barrel says, slurring his words and hiccupping, “I haven’t seen you folks around here before.”
Clearly, this particular treant was fashioned into a barrel and is now kept perpetually drunk by the whiskey being aged inside of it.
Unlike the table leg, the barrel is reluctant to go with the party, saying that it feels “sooooo gooood” here in the tavern. The party, one would hope, should still decide it’s in the barrel’s best interests to rescue it.
“Hold it!” roars a voice.
The party turns around to see Bud the Wiser standing at the base of the stairs.
“Uh ooooh…” whispers the barrel as it tries to suppress its giggles.
“You have taken advantage of my warm hospitality, caused a commotion upstairs [if that’s what the party did for Friend #1], and invaded my sanctum of spirits. What do you have to say for yourselves?”
If the party explains the situation to Bud, he will not be moved.
“A treant, you say?” he asks, stroking his beard. “Well, I’m afraid it would be financially irresponsible to let you walk away with that barrel. See how it sits atop a pedestal? That is because aging in that barrel is the rarest, most delicious whiskey this city…nay, this continent has ever savored. Removing the whiskey from that barrel now will ruin it, and the ingredients used in its preparation are all-but-impossible to come by.”
Bud the Wiser has a gleam in his eye. “I have an idea: lie to the treant. Tell him that only one of his friends was in my establishment. I can use all manner of magic to make that table leg of yours forget this conversation, and I can put up warding spells to block whatever energy drew that treant to my doorstep in the first place. He will be none the wiser.” Bud winks as he says the word “wiser.”
“Of course,” he continues. “I would reward your cooperation. You see how successful my brewery is? How does 200 gold sound for you to just walk back upstairs and out my door, hm?”
The party can either choose to accept or reject the offer. If they reject the offer and still plan on rescuing the barrel, Bud will say, “Pity…”
Bud is a powerful wizard and will put up quite the fight. However, he does value his merchandise and will, therefore, tend to avoid launching any ranged spell attacks at players who have taken partial cover behind his wine racks or whiskey barrels.
The table leg will shout things like “let me fight too! I can take this guy!” Whoever has the table leg can swing it as a quarterstaff for a bonus attack, dealing 1d6 bludgeoning damage.
Non-lethal damage would likely be best, unless your party wants to be marked as criminals for the murder of a local brewing celebrity.
Once Bud is knocked unconscious or defeated, players need to drain the whiskey from the barrel so that it’s light enough to carry back upstairs. They will also need to figure out a way to distract the patrons and Ann Hizer before smuggling it out the front door.
Once outside, Zeus the Spruce cries dewdrop tears as he holds the table leg and the barrel (now slowly sobering up) in a tight embrace.
“You have reunited us,” the treant sobs, “I can’t thank you enough.”
Just then, he reaches into a knot on his side where he stores various baubles and trinkets. He pulls out a small object wrapped in burlap.
“Please take this,” he says, carefully passing it to one of the players, “When my friends were first taken, this was used by the men who came to destroy our forest. I didn’t want it to ever fall into the wrong hands and be used for evil again, but I’m confident it will be safe with you.”
Unwrapping the small burlap parcel reveals a ring called The Withering Blights.
When worn, this ring allows the wearer to cast the spell Blight (at 4th level) as an action. The ring has 3 charges which are reset during a long rest.
However, if a player is wearing the ring while hiding in any bushes, trees, or undergrowth, the surrounding plants will begin to rattle in frightened anticipation. Any stealth rolls when hiding in these sorts of environments are, therefore, rolled at disadvantage.