As the party traverses the countryside, they spot a farmer and his wife selling produce at a roadside stand.
“Can we interest you folks in a healthy snack for your travels?” the wife says, smiling warmly and brimming with country charm.
Upon looking at the options, the party sees a variety of delicious veggies: carrots, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes. Being sold directly farm-to-table, these tasty and nutritious treats can be bought in bulk for just a couple of copper pieces.
The only exception to this, however, is the corn, which is marked up to a price of 1 silver piece per ear.
If the party asks about this discrepancy in price, the couple will exchange uncomfortable looks, as though wondering if they should really tell strangers the truth for fear of being judged. Pending a successful persuasion check, the husband will speak up for the first time and share everything.
“It started happening about a week ago,” he says, holding his wife’s hand for support. “I got up at the crack of dawn to tend to our fields, and I found…circles.”
Shuddering at the thought as he stares at the basket of corn, the farmer carefully walks you through the following details about his bizarre situation:
- The field that’s been affected lies at the far end of the property alongside some thick forests.
- Every morning, the farmer finds more complex circles etched into the cornfield.
- The stalks of corn making up the circles have been completely flattened, although he’s not sure whether it’s by magical or mechanical means.
- Fearful that something is wrong with the corn in the field, he has left that particular crop entirely alone so as to not accidentally harm his customers with poisoned produce (hence the increase in price; supply is low).
- At night, he sees floating balls of light in the sky overtop the field, but he’s too worried to venture out there in case something nefarious might befall him, leaving his wife alone and unprotected.
If the party chooses to help this couple investigate what’s going on, the players will be invited back to the farmhouse and given a hot, home-cooked meal while they wait for nightfall.
Finding the Kernel of Truth
Once the sky is dark, the farmer hitches a cart to a pair of workhorses and offers the party a ride to the edge of the property.
Nearing the field in question, it doesn’t take long for the party to see dancing, glowing lights far in the distance.
The horses will begin to get spooked and refuse to go any farther. The farmer says he will stay back with them and have the cart ready in the event that the party needs a quick escape.
As the party walks through the field, it is eerily quiet. The sounds of crickets, locusts, and owls that were heard in abundance just minutes earlier have fallen completely silent.
If the party has any smaller creatures among them, have them roll a low-DC survival check to determine if they can keep up with the group or get lost in the high stalks of corn.
Once the party reaches the base of the lights, they will see someone who might be familiar to them: Neville Armstrong.
The elderly halfling tinkerer and wannabe astronaut is using a simple pressing tool to flatten stalks of corn, periodically pausing to consult a book he has tucked under his arm and squinting to read it beneath his “Dancing Lights” spell above.
Confronting him will startle the poor halfling, breaking his concentration and extinguishing the dancing lights, but there is still some faint moonlight illuminating the field. Based on the party’s previous encounters with Neville (or lack thereof), the following will happen:
- Familiar with Neville: He will be very excited to see you all again, claiming that he has just completed his greatest work yet. After failing to fly to the moon using bottled wind elementals and again with reverse gravity/fly spells, he will excitedly tell you of his improved plan of getting into space.
- Unfamiliar with Neville: The tinkerer will be very apologetic and not even aware that this cornfield was anyone’s private property (he’s a halfling, so he struggled to see beyond this field’s tall stalks and spot the farmhouse in the distance). Regardless, he will be largely unbothered at the moment, instead wanting to excitedly share what’s going on.
Neville holds up the book. “After repeat failures of building a space-faring vessel of my own, I stumbled upon this interesting book about Interplanetary Beings. Why should I continue to try and build spacecraft that crash shortly after lift-off when, instead, I can just make contact with some far-superior alien race? I’m hoping that we can have a sophisticated meeting of the minds, and they can share with me their advanced tech and teach me how to explore the cosmos!”
Even in the faint moonlight, the party can see as the dreamer stares upward that his eyes twinkle even brighter than the stars themselves; they shimmer with possibility and the call of adventure.
“Anyway,” he sighs, returning from his reverie. “I’ve just finished the final crop circle, so now we just sit back and wai—-”
Suddenly, the ground beneath the party begins to quake, and the arcing lines that make up the crop circle glow with faint red light.
“Don’t worry!” Neville exclaims, astonishingly calm given the circumstances. He offers them his book, “this is exactly how it’s supposed to happen. See?” Neville continues to turn his eyes skyward even as the earth beneath his feet begins to crumble and fissure more aggressively.
Examining the cover of the tome reveals that Neville, no doubt because of his aging eyesight, has misread the book title entirely: it is not about interplanetary creatures, but about interplanar creatures.
The center of the circle, which is about 60 feet from the party’s current location, momentarily erupts with intensely bright red light, summoning to the position an assortment of confused modron from the outerworld of Mechanus.
Corn on the Combat
The modron have darkvision of 60 feet and will be able to spot the party pretty easily (unless players took cover into the cornstalks at the first sign of trouble). Roll for initiative.
The number of summoned modron can be based on how challenging you want this encounter to be for your party. Note above that the move Steamshower, when activated in the cornfield, should cause ears of corn to explode loudly into popcorn, raining down delicious fluffy white goodness on the players.
The battle ends only after all the modron are destroyed or sent back to their plane of existence (the portal that brought them here closes right away, so teleporting them will need to happen through other magical means). It’s unlikely that anyone in the party speaks Modron or even identifies with the goals of these other-dimensional beings, so battle is likely the only option. Additionally, being pulled from their realm of order into such a chaotic scenario (popping corn, frightening horses neighing, creatures casting spells and launching attacks) will incite them immediately to battle in an attempt to eliminate all chaos.
Once the conflict has ended, the farmer is now more confused than ever but relieved that everyone is okay. Neville speak ups and apologizes profusely for, once again, causing unintended trouble with his grandiose dreams of exploring space. To make up for the destroyed field, now ruined from both the crop circles and the battle with the modrons, the halfling tinkerer offers his services to the farmer, claiming that he can use the mechanical parts strewn about from the broken modrons to create some state-of-the-art farming equipment for him.
“I might not be able to give you back your corn,” he says solemnly, “but I can make harvesting the rest of your crop so much easier.”
The farmer smiles, crouches down to Neville’s level, and shakes his hand warmly, saying that he’s got himself a deal.
“If there are some leftover parts,” the kindly farmer offers, “maybe we can even see about building that working spacecraft of yours.” He winks, reigniting the fire in Neville’s sparkling, optimistic eyes.
Note: If the battle resulted in producing popcorn, the farmer can also say something about how this new way to prepare/eat corn is delicious and set about marketing it with Neville’s assistance.
As a reward for your efforts, the farmer can’t offer much save for a bountiful selection of fruits and vegetables from his gardens and fields. If you decide to go “the popcorn route” above, he could also offer to brand his line of popcorn products in honor of your party, perhaps leading to some hilarious encounters later on when your party is recognized as “the faces on the popcorn box” and treated like minor celebrities.
Neville will look at his tome of interplanar creatures in embarrassment and give it, very willingly, to the party to do with as they please. The party can choose to sell this rare and powerful book or keep it for themselves to better identify and understand interplanar happenings in the future. This object could also be worked into your main story arc if other planes of reality are an important feature of your plot.