Players must protect a village’s surrounding farms from a young (and very hungry) roc that keeps swooping down and snatching up livestock. The party can choose to destroy the roc if they’re feeling prepared for a tough fight, or they can resort to a more stealthy approach: sneakily chaining large jingle bells to the roc’s talons so it always gives warning when it’s drawing near.
The party sees a large shadow quickly pass over them. Looking up, they might catch sight of a feathery silhouette or a flapping wing before the creature disappears into cloud cover. Have a player roll a d20. If it’s a d6 or above, then the roc swoops down and snags a very unsuspecting sheep in its talons before carrying it away. If it’s a d5 or lower, then it’s one of the players that the roc attempts to divebomb and pluck from the ground…
Regardless of how this plays out, a panicked shepherd/farmhand will come running out from his hiding spot, complaining “not again!” before ushering the players inside to explain his ongoing dilemma.
- Hank Garland – A shepherd who is frustrated with the village’s livestock being stolen, especially as the town braces for a particularly long and cold winter.
- Robert Helms – A stocky dwarf who works as village blacksmith; he creates the large iron sleighbells and chains needed to put their bizarre (yet festive) plan into action.
Roc the Night Away
Once the party is somewhere safe from any (more) surprise divebombs, Hank opens up about the situation.
“I think it has to do with this persistent chill we’ve been experiencing,” he says, rubbing his hands to keep them warm. “It’s probably impacted that monster’s food supply, and now he’s flying down over here for some easy pickings. Sure, I feel a little bad for the creature. I love animals of all sizes and dietary preferences. But if we don’t do something soon, our village won’t have what it needs to make it through winter.”
Hank goes on to say that the village refers to this particular young roc as “Dawain.”
If the players agree to help with the situation, Hank will walk them into town and introduce them to a cranky dwarf working at a forge. The stranger lifts a visor as the group approaches and gives a large toothy smile.
“Are these the ones for Operation: Jingle Bell?” he asks, wiping sweat from his brow.
Hank nods. The dwarf smiles approvingly as he appraise the party, shaking their hands and introduced himself as the local blacksmith, Robert “Bobby” Helms.
Next, he removes his smithing apron and gloves before stepping into a side room. A few moments later, the dwarf rolls out four large metal sleigh bells, each with an iron chain and lock attached. They appear fairly heavy, even for the muscular dwarf, and they make a baritone jingly sound as they travel across the uneven cobblestone floor.
“Take these up to ol’ Dawain’s nest tonight.” Robert says. “He’s roosting up the mountainside in some ruined watchtower of sorts. If you can sneak in there without waking the monster, you can get these jingle bells strapped to him in a jiffy and be out before he’s the wiser.”
DM Note: You can increase the likelihood of a successful stealth mission by having Hank suggest gathering herbs for a sleeping potion. This potion could be administered (through vaporization, maybe?) once the players arrive at the roc’s nest, OR they could do something more elaborate like dousing a decoy sheep in the stuff and luring the roc out to snatch up/consume the “prey.”
While traveling, players will need to carry the massive sleigh bells. Strong characters can opt to strap them to their bodies or carry them in their arms (although this means they can be caught off guard without a weapon drawn if suddenly attacked). Physically weaker characters might opt to strap them to horses/mounts or roll them around/drag them behind them.
Upon reaching the ruined building, players observe how the sun has already set, and stars fill the sky. Dawain the Roc is, as expected, nestled comfortably in his nest, asleep. In order to successfully tie a jingle bell (2 are needed per leg), players must roll a stealth check on their approach to avoid waking the bird (DC 12) and then roll a Dexterity/Sleight of Hand check (DC 12) to determine if the chain is fastened securely.
If a roll in the chaining process fails, that player may try again, but consider having the roc begin to wake up, thereby triggering a battle. If the roc does wake up, it will be very unhappy with its new unwanted Christmas accessories and begin to thrash at the players.
If you want to really challenge your players, you can use the full Roc stat block for a scary CR 11 monster. However, we suggest making the challenge a bit more approachable by using our provided “adolescent” roc stat block below.
Once Dawain has been properly taken care of through completing “Operation: Jingle Bell”, slaying him completely, or taming him/befriending him (if you have that kind of party), the village will reward the players with gold as well as offer Robert Helms’s blacksmithing services at little to no cost.