As the party traverses the mountains, they come across a monastery. The complex is made up of a few buildings of stone, each dedicated to one of the typical responsibilities of monastic life: prayer, writing, gardening, etc.
However, as the players approach, they notice that the monks are not busy at the moment. Rather, the entire order is gathered in a small courtyard where they usually tend to fruits and vegetables. On this particular afternoon, the monks are crouched down, inspecting a fissure in the side of one of the buildings. They murmur amongst themselves, pointing into the dark opening and shaking their hooded heads in dismay.
“Should one of us go in there after him, Father?” one of the robed monks asks their abbot.
The elder tugs on his beard, mulling over his thoughts. “I don’t know, brother. If what he said before was true, I worry something dangerous is afoot.”
If the players approach and offer their assistance, the monks will outline the situation:
- The monks were doing some cleaning and repair work on the property
- Brother Coralon pushed some crates aside and found a sizable crack in the side of a building
- He crawled inside and disappeared into the darkness
- He returned, ten minutes later, eagerly telling everyone what he found on the other side of the fissure: an alternate reality where monastic life was actually fun and exciting.
“Brother Coralon often talked about being bored here,” the Father says, “he was no doubt drawn in by some devilish temptation. Fortunately, the rest of my men were not so easily pulled. They’re all happy spending out their years doing the pious, modest, and repetitive work of monks, isn’t that right?”
The other brothers exchange nervous looks before smiling and nodding (unconvincingly) in support of the abbot’s claim.
“Regardless, we want our prodigal son returned to us,” the abbot continues, “but we are pacifists. I doubt we are equipped for whatever evil might be waiting in that alternate world. Would you all take a look for us? You appear to be strong and battle-tested travelers. Without your help, we might never get our Brother Coralon safely home.”
If the party agrees, they can crouch down and enter the fissure.
The hole has the players crawling, on hands and knees, through a pitch-black tunnel for about 30 feet. As they progress, the party begins to hear the sounds of celebration, music, and raucous laughter.
When they finally reach the end and exit the tunnel, they find themselves in an exact copy of the same monastic courtyard they had just left. However, there are some significant differences:
- The sky is a deep dark, starless black, regardless of the time of day (the mountaintop and monastery appear to be floating in a shadowy void).
- The courtyard is illuminated by floating lights, decorating the space like it’s being lit with modern-day string lights.
- The monks gathered there are in fashionable robes (silk, fur, etc.), decked out in golden chains, and sporting giant gemstone rings.
- A table is laid with exquisite foods (fruits, meats, etc.), some of which are very luxurious and of endangered flora/fauna, served on silver platters. The aromas from the table entice the players.
- Another table, currently unoccupied, is laid with playing cards and stacks upon stacks of chips (evidence of gambling).
- The monks are taking turns chugging giant tankards of beer while cheering on one another.
Everyone seems to be having a great time. However, upon closer inspection, the players notice that these wild, partying monks have creepy buttons instead of eyes.
DM Note: If you don’t want to go full-on Coraline with the buttons, you can give the monks dark “black-eyed children” eyes instead.
Brother Coralon is the only one with real eyes. He throws back his mug of beer in a few quick gulps, and then allows his “friends” (who he affectionately refers to as his “Other Brothers”) to hoist him up on their shoulders, cheering him on in celebration of him finally cutting loose.
If the players try to convince Coralon that it’s time to come home, the Other Brothers will intervene with jeers, calling the party a bunch of “party poopers” and saying things like, “Geez, Coralon, I didn’t realize your friends were so lame. Don’t they know how to have a good time?”
It will require a high persuasion check to convince Coralon to return with the players. They might try to appeal to his emotions, saying that his real friends back home at the monastery miss him (they might even crawl back and find some object of sentimentality to grant themselves an advantage on this roll). Alternatively, they can try guilt-tripping him, reminding Coralon of his monastic vows (this would likely only have the chance of being successful if there is a devoutly religious/divine character in the party).
If the players succeed, Coralon reluctantly puts his empty beer mug done and agrees to leave with the party. This move makes the Other Brothers very angry. They will sober up instantaneously and turn on the party (and Coralon, for that matter, who is not prepared for a fight), triggering combat.
Sins of the Father
If the players fail to convince Coralon to leave with them, or if they just take too long to extract him/defeat the Other Brothers, then the door on one of the nearby buildings will fly open, revealing a button-eyed version of the abbot from earlier; he has a huge smile on his face. He’s not only double-fisting beer bottles, but he also carries two additional bottles in a pair of gloved hands on mechanical arms that extend from the back of his robes. He could also come out holding a lute and sing a song about how much he loves Coralon and is so thrilled that he’s there to “live life to the fullest” with all of them (you can base it off of this catchy tune from the Coraline movie).
If the players have already started combat, the Other Father’s smile will fade, and he will use a bonus action to whip the beer bottles at the players before also entering the fray.
After the Other Father and his Other Brothers are destroyed, the alternate world will begin to collapse: the black void above slowly descending and swallowing up the environment. The players escape through the same crack they entered, returning to the courtyard in the normal world. As soon as the last player is out, the tunnel closes; the crack remains in the wall, but the opening is now only a couple of feet deep and doesn’t radiate any magic.
Coralon is very embarrassed by his actions, and his brothers rush over to him, checking him over to make sure he’s okay. The misguided monk breaks down into tears, apologizing profusely, and earns the abbot’s forgiveness as he and the brothers share one big group hug.
As a reward, the abbot can offer the players a little coin as well as some spell scrolls (since monks are often responsible for copying scripts and writings). They could also provide small religious tokens, such as an expendable item that triggers a self-casting of “Bless” as soon as the player is next pulled into initiative.