While walking on the campus of [CITY’S UNIVERISTY], run into one of the university advisors/public relations personnel. She looks flustered and panicked, scattering papers and books. If you ask her what’s wrong, she will lament that their visiting lecturer (a famous scholar who is presenting on his obscure scientific discoveries in a distant jungle) has gotten cold feet and disappeared, even going so far as to leave his suitcase, presentation materials, and copies of his journals/notes behind.
She looks at your party, noting how you look like impressive, well-traveled adventurers and asks if you would pose as the researcher (and his team) and give the presentation in his stead. She assures you that the presentation will be low-stress, only lightly attended, and that it really just needs to happen so that the university can save face and not look disorganized/incompetent.
If you agree, she will hand you the papers and notebooks (all of which are filled with technical jargon, mathematical equations, and very confusing sketches) and walk you to the lecture hall. While you’re walking, you can try to read clues on the notes, but keep the ability checks (history, nature) really high so that the presentation later is truly improvised. On the way, she stops in her office to grab a “Hat of Disguise Self” to put on your head and transform you into the Indiana Jones-esque adventuring scientist (think dressed in khaki with an open-style adventurer’s fedora).
When you enter the lecture hall, you will see that the room is surprisingly packed with eager attendees. The university employee looks at you with apologetic eyes as she ushers you forward.
The crowd applauds as you and your ‘“research team” reach the front of the lecture hall and begin. At the front, you see a box on a table covered with a sheet of sorts, a satchel on the front desk that’s clearly filled with something, and an easel loaded with 5 boards of information. The first board vaguely says the title of the presentation “Dr. Edmund Brand — Scientific Revelations from the Lost World of the Deep Jungles.”
As you present, you must move the cards aside one at a time (the fun comes with not knowing what the next card will say until it is revealed; your players must think on their toes).
Here are the presentation boards:
- “Dr. Edmund Brand —- Scientific Revelations from the Lost World of the Deep Jungles”
- A map of the jungle. There are two distinct rivers. One of the rivers is marked with a skull while the other is marked with a gold star. The rivers both end up in a lake, deep in the jungle. Beside the lake is a large symbol of 5 concentric squares (this is meant to sort of be an aerial view of a ziggurat /step pyramid, but your PCs can explain this and the other symbols however they’d like). The presentation is better if they share personal anecdotes about their own experiences exploring/traversing these places rather than just identifying things and moving on.
- An image of what looks like a red ore inside a stony surface. Next to the stone, there are 3 red tools (seemingly carved from the stone) with the title “Tools of the Ancients”: one is a knife, one is a large hook, and one is a sphere. Your presenter should explain what each of these tools was used for.
- This board is simply a pie chart. There are three colors: yellow takes up 60% of the pie chart, blue takes up 30%, whereas red takes up only 10% (there’s also a small sad face scrawled beside it). Your party will have to explain, convincingly, what this data is meant to show about their findings.
- The final poster simply says “Behold: Newly Discovered Creature” coupled with a picture of the presenter whisking off a sheet and opening a cage with a pair of glowing red eyes inside.
At this point, the party will need to remove the sheet if they have not already prematurely done so. If they don’t understand that they should do this, indicate that there is a rustling coming from the covered box. Inside the cage, is a green/brown furry creature (the size of a basketball) with large red eyes, a big mouth with little sharp yellow teeth, and four little clawed feet). Despite its frightening appearance, the creature coos and mews like a kitten.
Opening the cage will allow the creature to spring out. At this point, the DM can decide the creature’s behaviors or simply ask for animal handling checks to determine the success of this show-and-tell portion. This presentation can be further helped by using the red apple-like fruits in the satchel to appease the beast and keep it from scampering around chaotically, nipping at people’s feet, and trying to scale curtains and such (note: although these creatures LOVE these fruits and are very fond of those who feed them, if your party or anyone else snacks on these fruits, they will cause these individuals to become violently ill with explosive gastrointestinal results).
The presentation ends when the beast is returned to its cage. You can also choose to end with a Q+A session from the audience. As the DM, ask questions that are open-ended like:
- What were you most afraid of on your journey?
- What was your favorite discovery?
- Where will you explore next?
- What do you hope humanity learns/takes from your discoveries?
- If you could have done one thing differently in your last adventure, what would it have been?
Depending on how well the presentation goes, the university can award the party various gifts or money. If you, as the DM, are really impressed with their improvised B.S., you can even offer to give them the “Hat of Disguise Self.”