Upon entering the front gate of [City Name], the party crosses paths with another band of travelers that is just exiting.
“Hey!” the paladin of the other group says, “Are you folks new to town? If so, you need to check out William Makespeare’s place. He’s a combination blacksmith and, well, just see for yourself…”
The paladin unsheathes her sword which has been recently sharpened and reworked by a skilled professional. Additionally, the side of the blade is inscribed with a motivational message:
Let faith be a beacon to guide you
“William is also an amazing wordsmith, you see,” the paladin continues. “He inscribes these motivational messages onto weapons, and you can feel the difference that it makes. I don’t know how long you all will be in town, but do yourself a favor and stop by his smithy before you leave.”
This conversation opens up the possible encounter. The party can decide to visit the blacksmith immediately or delay to complete other tasks.
Once they do arrive at the smithy (call it “The Pen is Mightier” or “Can’t Spell Swords Without Words”), the party sees a warforged with a backpack beside him in the process of boarding up the windows.
“Apologies, good sirs and madams,” he says, as the party approaches, “but hark, I must withdraw from my shop henceforth. All of my weapons are being dissolved, and I doth dread that the same fate shall befall my metallic frame if I’m not careful.”
If the party asks about the situation, William will be happy to vent.
“I store most of my weapons in yonder basement. As you can imagine, reforging weapons and inscribing them doth take much time. But, alas, when I return to mine workstation with the morning light, I find many a weapon consumed, eaten away, and corroded.”
If the party agrees to investigate the basement for William, he will gladly hand them the key to the shop.
“I shall return henceforth,” he says, “I must deliver this last order to a client.” He opens his backpack to reveal a dagger that reads “Big Things Come in Small Packages”. “If thou chances upon the cause, prithee tell me once I’ve returned.”
Double, Double, Toil and Trouble
Entering the shop, the party sees that the first floor is largely cleared: empty shelves, empty display cases, etc. Descending into the basement, they find the main forging area where the fires have already been extinguished. Crates are stacked against walls, and the floor is littered with sword hilts and half-eaten blades.
If the party rolls a DC 12 investigation check or something similar, they will spot a fissure in the stone wall, half-concealed behind some crates. The inside of the fissure is completely dark, but there is clearly a tunnel that descends deeper underground.
If they listen closely (DC 15 perception check), they can hear the sound of gnawing and slurping somewhere presumably at the end of the tunnel.
If the party chooses to descend, they will need to stealthily advance if they hope to surprise the source of the slurping. After about 60 feet or so, the tunnel terminates into a large open room. The burrow is only lightly lit by some glow fungi on the walls and, in the center of the room, are two rust monsters. They are facing each other, gnawing at opposite ends of an iron javelin that reads “It Could Be Worse”, before they meet in the middle in a gross, faux buggy “kiss” a la the spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp.
At this point, the party needs to decide how best to handle these creatures:
- Destroy them. If the party decides to fight the creatures, the rust monsters should prioritize attacking any player who is armored in, or wielding a weapon made from, some nonmagical ferrous metal: iron, steel, adamantine, mithril, etc.
- Bury them. The rust monsters are finishing up their javelin pretty quickly and will be hungry for something else soon. If the party distracts the creatures with another tasty metal snack, they can find a way to cave-in the chamber, burying the monsters or, at the very least, sealing them away from the smithy.
- Domesticate them. This would, of course, involve earning their trust and training them, but rust monsters can be made into suitable pets if kept well-fed. Personally, I don’t see this being the best option for the encounter, but some parties just enjoying adopting creature companions.
Once the menace is taken care of, the party can ascend back up to the basement via the tunnel. They find William Makespeare on the first-floor, waiting patiently for a report.
With the rust monsters destroyed, disposed of, or domesticated, William is relieved that he can continue his business without risking his own life.
“I would like to tender my services to thee,” He says, his mechanical eyes already zooming in on and analyzing the equipment carried by the party. “If it so pleaseth thee, I can take a weapon from each of you and inscribe it with an inspired message. A token of gratitude that shall costeth nought.”
If a player agrees to turn over a weapon to William for 24 hours, they should roll a d8 (alternatively, you as the DM could give your party the choice, but I’ve always found surprises more interesting). After the 24-hour wait period, William will return each player’s selected weapon, now engraved with one of the following messages:
Note: the numbers indicate the d8 roll if you want to go the randomize route.
- “Beat, Slay, Shove”: +1 to melee attack rolls and can shove opponent 5’ away on successful strike.
- “Knowledge is Power”: +1 to intelligence-based rolls and saving throws
- “You are Stronger Than You Think”: +1 to strength-based ability checks and saving throws.
- “Inhale Courage, Exhale Fear”: Immunity to being frightened
- “Make Your Own Sunshine”: wielder can use an action to activate the cantrip Light on the weapon. Weapon deals an extra 1d4 radiant damage on successful melee strike when lit.
- “Embrace Change”: On a successful melee strike, roll a d20. If the roll is 16 or higher, the target polymorphs into a turtle.
- “Live Life in the Fast Lane”: +10 movement speed
- “Dream Big”: On a successful strike, the target rolls a constitution saving throw (DC 15) or else falls asleep.
DM Note: If these bonuses are too high for your players’ levels, then you can also make William’s “token of gratitude” ONE free engraving instead an engraving for everyone (probably easier to keep track of).
Any other ideas for cringey motivational/inspirational messages and the buffs that could come with them? Let us know in the comments below!