While on the road, the party is approached by a young woman; she looks distraught and desperate for help.
“I’m sorry to trouble you all,” she says, “but my brother is being held somewhere against his will, and no one in the town wants to help me rescue him.”
If the party chooses to hear out the woman’s plight, she will elaborate on the situation.
“My brother’s name is Steven Durman. He’s an artificer who has mastered the skill Fabricate.” The young woman pauses, rethinking her words. “Well, not ‘mastered’ exactly. You see, he can cast Fabricate at will. He literally needs to only look at a pile of raw materials and, in an instant, poof! He uses his mind to craft them into something else.”
The issue, the party learns, is in what that “something else” is.
“The problem is he can only make cubes. Give him a pile of rubble, he can magically fabricate stone cubes out of them. Trees? He can make them into cubes of wooden planks. Obviously, as impressive as this skill was, our hometown didn’t find it terribly practical or useful. That is…until the hill giants showed up.”
She then continues on by explaining the following:
- The hill giants approached the town looking to cause havoc and destruction because they’re bored (and breaking things is just what hill giants do).
- The town decided to send Steven Durman up to the hilltops where the hill giants made their camp.
- There, he was forced to live in exile, fabricating blocks of stone, wood, wool, etc., in an effort to keep the simple-minded hill giants entertained.
“So long as the hill giants can stack and knock over towers of building blocks, they seem to leave the village alone. However, this isn’t fair to my brother. Please rescue him for me.”
If the party agrees to help (or at the very least to seek out and speak with Steven), his sister will direct them into the nearby hills.
The trip along the winding hill path is largely uneventful. However, as the party closes in on their destination, they begin to hear what sounds like a rockslide followed by deep baritone cheering. Getting closer still, they begin to smell the foul scent of hill giant.
Eventually, they reach a small makeshift cabin. Sitting on a stone alongside the cabin is a young man, bored, who is fabricating stone blocks, one at a time, and then tossing them down off a ledge and into a shallow valley.
“Oh…are you all from the village with my weekly rations?” He asks wearily. The young man gestures to a mound of nearby dirt, fabricates it into a 5’ x 5’ dense-packed block of clay, and hurls it down into the valley.
If the party tells Steven that they have been sent by his sister, his eyes will light up with a glimmer of hope for the first time in the conversation.
“That’s very kind of her to send you all,” he says with a weak smile, “but I don’t know how I can just leave this post. The longer I’ve had to sit here to think, the more I realize that this is just my fate. I should suck it up and be grateful that I’ve found some purpose in my life…even if I’m miserable.”
At this point, the players are faced with an ethical dilemma:
- Abandon Steven, thereby continuing to protect the village (the guy seems pretty resigned to his fate, after all)
- Rescue Steven, risking sending the bored hill giants to attack the village.
Of course, there are other, better solutions that your players can come up with, but they will involve dealing with the hill giants themselves. It won’t take much convincing to have Steven realize how unsustainable this system really is.
A Big Problem
Looking down off the ledge, the party can see the hill giants below. There are only two in total, and they are laughing and stomping around like giant destructive toddlers. At their feet, lying strewn about, are blocks fashioned from various materials: stone, wood, dirt, etc. They take turns setting up towers of blocks and knocking them all down again, each time giggling excitedly at their wanton destruction.
Possible solutions your party can try:
- Slay the hill giants: The party starts the encounter on Steven’s cliff edge, meaning that they would begin the battle with a geographical advantage and a possible sneak attack. However, hill giants can pack a wallop, so tread carefully.
- Distract the giants with a new play thing: The hill giants like novelty, so if you can find a toy/game for them that doesn’t involve something as easily destructible as Steven’s blocks, that could keep them occupied. Of course, hill giant’s language limitations and inability to understand games with complex rules could make this option tricky. If they get frustrated, they may turn their destructive behaviors on Steven and the party.
- Intimidate the giants and force them out of the area: Hill giants defer to creatures that are bigger and stronger than they are. If the party, through illusory means or other strategies, can prove their size and strength, they may succeed on intimidating the giants enough to run them off into the sunset.
- Create a deadly block: Although Steven has been sticking with harmless materials, the party could gather him things like wood/gun powder (maybe from an abandoned mine in the surrounding mountains/hills) that he could fashion into TNT blocks. The giants could foolishly play with these until the party decides to detonate them.
If the party chooses combat (or finds themself in combat unintentionally), use the following stat block for the hill giants:
If the party finds a new solution to the giant problem that doesn’t involve Steven, and returns the young artificer to his sister, then the siblings will be incredibly grateful.
“I don’t have much,” Steven says, “but you can have this. The village gave it to me in the off chance that the giants tried to eat me or destroy my cabin. Thankfully, I won’t have to worry about needing to use it anymore.”
The item he gives the party is called the Enchanted Gilded Apple.
The player can use an action to consume the apple. This action destroys the item but allows the player to recover 4d4+4 HP and grants the following bonuses for the next minute:
- Gain 4d4 temporary HP
- Gain resistance to fire damage
- Gain +2 to AC