As your party meanders through the plains of [INSERT LOCATION HERE], they see smoke off in the distance. Investigating the source of the smoke reveals a farm with sprawling fields and an old halfling doing his best to douse what appears to be flames ravaging his crops.
Approaching the farmer as he puts out the final flame, he drops to his knees and says, “take what you want, just please leave my fields alone!”
Once you explain who you are, he introduces himself as Tom Muckdung and tells you about his recent troubles with the townsfolk of nearby [TOWN NAME]. They are convinced that, because he built his fields on top of an ancient mass grave from a land war, his vegetables are cursed. The townsfolk believe if allowed to become fully ripe, the vegetables will become animated and take over the town.
An Insight check of 15+ reveals that there have been a few strange instances of some of his crop wandering off, but he chalked that up to bandits or townsfolk stealing from him.
He begs you to stop the townsfolk, which can be accomplished in several ways:
- Protect the farm at all costs.
- Convince the townsfolk nothing is wrong with the crops by taking ripe produce into town and showing it off, perhaps posing as professional traveling vegetable health inspectors.
- Confront the townsfolk and intimidate or persuade them to stay away from the farm because it is cursed and the magic is so powerful they can’t handle it. Consider using illusions to make your party appeared scarred with curse markings in the shape of turnips.
- Other; your party is creative, so they may come up with something even better.
A key element here is that the crops are 100% fine, not haunted, not evil, just basic produce that’s slightly larger than usual because of the added nutrients of hundreds of decomposing corpses under the field. You can add your own DM flavor and make the produce animate, but we’ll let your good brain come up with that part.
[Option] Protecting the farm
If they take Tom’s word for it, they may opt to defend the farm. The farm has a lot of equipment to build pseudo-barricades, traps, etc, so let the party run wild with ways to protect the farm. Maybe the farmer can help you strategize ways to create veggie-based weaponry crafted/cobbled together from the various farm equipment and surplus produce.
As night falls, the party will see torches coming from the town toward the farm in a mob-style march similar to that of Gaston and the townspeople in Beauty and the Beast.
The townsfolk are easily spooked but have reached a point of fear where they’d rather die than live with the thought of evil vegetables uprooting and taking over their town.
They will come in waves, all with standard commoner stats and shouldn’t be too tough to hold off. The party will have Tom’s thanks, but lose reputation with the townsfolk who might be back later on.
Convincing the townsfolk
If they opt to head into town and convince, persuade, or intimidate the townsfolk, Tom will send you along with some of his prized potatoes.
When the party approaches the townsfolk and does whatever it is they are planning, the townsfolk will likely reveal the story of pets disappearing near the farm and the only logical answer is the mutant crops that Muckdung has wrought upon the town. They believe him to be an evil sorcerer, harnessing the power of those who died in battle to fertilize the vegetables, which contain the souls of those who helped with the growth.
Presenting a potato does not help things. The selected spud seems to have the appearance of a haunted face on it, sending the townsfolk spiraling.
A 15+ Persuasion check can likely get the townsfolk to calm down, but they will not fully chill until you take them to the farm and show off the ripe produce.
Investigating the Disappearances
If you are informed of pet disappearances, the party can investigate those. It’s not a super-complicated side quest overall, but they can bring townsfolk with them (they are very scared people and worthless in battle) if desired. Trudging back to the farm, the party will find tracks in the road leading into the crops, with pet tracks dragging into the crops with them.
As they approach the crops where the tracks end, they hear/see rustling within the crops. Leaping with force out of the fields come two adolescent Owlbears, with bits of some recently devoured animal hanging from their jaws.
The townsfolk shriek and run away, leaving the party to deal with the Owlbears who appeared to have made a home in one of the stumps that sits in the middle of the field.
Depending on the party strength, you can halve the Owlbear stats as they are not fully grown, or keep them full strength, after all, you are invading their territory and deserve to have your limbs ripped off.
You can also consider something more persuasive (although much more challenging), and try to ween the Owlbears onto a vegetarian diet by feeding them (i.e. launching into their open maws) some of Muckdung’s tastiest sweet potatoes. The Owlbears are surprisingly satisfied and, being young, will start to warm up to your party and maybe even cease combat.
If there is a Druid in the party or someone with high Animal Handling, a check of 18+ can fully calm the Owlbears, allowing you to rub their bellies and transfer them over to Muckdung. As long as he continues feeding them, he is able to raise the Owlbears as protectors.
Possible too that the party will want to revisit the townsfolk to make sure they know to stay away from the farm (and the owlbears if spared), as no further harm will come to them.
Let us know if you have any suggestions on how to make this idea better or worse!