The party arrives at a quaint village at the base of a dormant volcano. The town has prospered as a result of its proximity to the volcano, and the overall atmosphere is peaceful: farmers are tilling fertile soil, visitors are lounging in soothing hot springs, vendors sell dazzling jewelry made from the region’s many precious gems and ores.
However, this peace is suddenly disturbed by what sounds like a shouting match. Some villagers are even running toward the direction of the commotion, excited to get a front row seat to the action.
The party sees two characters, each standing outside the front door of their respective shop, hurling insults at each other, disparaging the other’s goods, and warning onlookers to never purchase anything from so disgusting an establishment.
Major Azer – A retired military man who is half-Azer, half-dwarf. When angered, his Azer roots show because his wild hair and unkempt beard begin to glow with fiery embers. He is the no-nonsense owner of Azer’s Blazers, a shop that exclusively sells fire-resistant clothing.
Sir Izaak Newton – A Firenewt who once gained knighthood (amongst lizard-kind) for his abilities in battle. He’s cunning, sharp-minded, and not above to using trickery to help seal a deal. He is the proprietor of Newt’s Suits, a shop that (you guessed it) exclusively sells fire-resistant clothing.
The Flame War is On
If the party asks one of the villagers about what’s going on, they will learn the following details:
- Both shop owners had the same idea to sell fire-resistant garments
- Both shop owners purchased land and built their shops on opposite sides of the same street (unbeknownst of the other)
- Both shop owners opened their shops on the same day
- Now, not only is there intense competition to corner the market on flame-resistant clothing, but there is barely a market to corner; despite the proximity of a dormant volcano, everyone in the village is blissful and believes they have no need for fire protection
Players have the option of either intervening and attempting to make peace between the insult-hurling business rivals, or they can wait out the verbal-altercation until both parties return to their respective shops, each slamming his door at the exact same time as the other.
Regardless of which shop the players choose to enter, be it Azer’s Blazers or Newt’s Suits, it’s important to note that the shops are practically identical save for their owners: they each have the same assortment of fire-resistant jackets, they each sell items at identical prices, and they each have organized the layout of their shops in the same way.
Despite these obvious similarities, the two shop keepers will only speak awful things about their competition, claiming that they have nothing in common:
- Major Azer complains that firenewts can’t be trusted and are sneaky manipulators, swindling shoppers out of coin any chance they get.
- Sir Izaak complains that azers are short-tempered and try to intimidate shoppers into buying products that they don’t need.
Players may first choose to play diplomat and attempt to bring the two business rivals together (through persuasion checks). If they do this, then it will double their reward at the end of the encounter. If not, then the players will primarily be working alongside just one of the two shop keepers with the other possibly trying to thwart/speak out against his rival in the future.
“I started this business because I can sense trouble,” Major Azer tells the party. “Perhaps it’s my dwarven roots, but I’m sensing disturbances in the ground. If there is a danger, I’m ready to be here to provide protection for the people of this city…for a nominal fee, of course.”
“Same here,” Izaak Newton says, “I’ve lived near volcanic vents all of my life, and something is not right here. There are…unexpected vibrations. I was looking to capitalize on any upcoming catastrophes.”
Both shopkeepers ask the players to help with an investigation in the mountains: namely, to see if the dormant volcano is really not so dormant after all. If there is a clear-and-present danger, then Azer/Newton request that the party bring back some sort of clue that fire/lava might be a threat to the people of the village in the future (and that the locals should therefore purchase an entire wardrobe of flame-resistant gear).
If the party agrees, they will be given a full set of fire-resistant jackets to wear (halves any fire damage taken by the player). These are simply on loan, however, for the purposes of investigating safely and, as an added bonus, walking around town showing off the merchandise like a living billboard.
The Sleeping Summit
If the party befriended, and established a ceasefire between, both shopkeepers, then they can try a persuasion check (DC 12) to convince one of the two to join them on this part of the adventure; whoever stays behind will volunteer to operate/oversee both of the stores.
The climb should be kept fairly uneventful: just like when the party first strolled into the village, the surrounding countryside is equally serene and beautiful. Any animals that the party runs into are non-threatening and simply frolic away as players get closer.
Eventually, however, players with a decent passing perception begin to smell smoke and molten rock. Entering into a cavern opening near the summit, the players can ease their way past some gently bubbling lava pools (nothing too alarming just yet). There is also some clear seismic activity, although part of the rumbling feels too rhythmic to be natural.
Upon entering one opening of a cave, they find the reason: a fire giant is there, swinging his massive great sword around, blow after blow, striking at various rocky formations inside the cavern. As DM, you can also give him some enslaved magmin who rush round to set up new targets of piled rocks for the giant to strike. A perception check reveals etchings on the cave walls, depicting what looks like detailed battle plans with arrows and X’s, showing various routes to attack what looks like a crude drawing of the pleasant mountain village.
The giant wipes his brow before setting his sword down and having a seat on an outcrop of stone. At this point, Azer/Izaak will note the obvious: that this fire giant is the one causing the tremors and, if he keeps this up, he might trigger more destructive volcanic activity.
The party has a few options here:
- Defeat the fire giant and the magmin here before they put the town in any danger (either through a direct attack, as the battle plans allude to, or inadvertently through causing an eruption). Fire giants are excellent military commanders, so he will bark orders in Ignan for any magmin minions (or “mag-minions”) to follow during the battle.
- Return to the city with some evidence of the threat of eruptions/attacks by volcanic creatures. This might involve somehow stealthily swiping something that belongs to the fire giant. If players go this route, you might wish to have a war horn blow before the fire giant, alongside his magmin, descends the mountain to wage an attack on the village.
Here are some potential stat blocks to use with the NPCs (depending on whether you have one/both of the merchants assisting you):
Once the threat has been taken care of, the villagers will be newly awakened to the potential dangers that surround them and the fragility of their bliss. They happily purchase various articles of fire-resistant clothing from the two vendors, just to play it on the safe side.
As a reward for your help, Azer/Izaak will give you a cut of their earnings (depending on whether you befriend both of them or just one of them). DM Note: with all the hot springs, you can paint the village as a successful resort town that attracts tourists; this would help explain how the villagers are loaded enough to buy specialized gear like fire-resistant jackets.
Additionally, they will also let you continue to indefinitely wear their jackets (and advertise across the realm) or offer a better fire-resistance-granting alternative that is a bit smaller and easier to layer with the party’s existing armor/clothing choices: belt, vest, headband, etc.