Today’s encounter is the second guest contribution from Lxi! We can’t thank him enough for sending this along. More on Lxi:
Lxi is a dedicated DM and a father, crafting dynamic and exciting D&D adventures for family and friends. His goal is to minimize repetition and avoid slogfests, ensuring each encounter is as engaging as possible. (But to be honest, some of his ideas are dumb.)
Recommended Party Level: any (this adventure is not so much about combat)
The One with the Biggest Nose
The adventuring party stumbles upon a hidden valley that houses a small but rich gnomish dominion. There’s something funny about the place and they seem to be unable to find their way out. After hours of going in circles, they meet a gnomish guard patrol and ask for instructions. “You have trespassed in the Forbidden Valley, and to be granted freedom to leave, you must do a service to our sovereign, King Bignose.” Deciding amongst themselves that they have no choice, the heroes agree to be escorted to see the king.
King Bignose is in his garden. His servants explain the situation to him as they take away his garden tools and gloves, hand him his Royal Scepter, set the massive Royal Crown on his head, and drape the Royal Fur-lined Mantle over his shoulders. Then, the King ascends a stool to stand a tad taller, turns to face the adventurers and speaks with a squeaky voice: “Trespassers! You are the answer to my prayers. I am very sorry about the inconvenience, but the Enchantment of the Forbidden Valley requires you to do me, the sovereign of the Dominion, a service and I really need one. Actually, I will offer you a handsome reward as well for completing this mission.”
He continues, “I will now reveal to you a Confidential Issue. Our Dominion was recently targeted by thieves! The Royal Vault was hit by a skillful heist crew and 34% of our gold was replaced with chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. Normally, this would not be a problem at all, you see, in a land where gold is as common as dirt, chocolate holds the greater value. But to our misfortune, the Dragon does not see it that way.” All the servants and guards gasp as the King mentions the Dragon.
He goes on, “The Dragon’s greed is endless, and she wants nothing but gold! And three days ago it was Annual Dragon Tax Solstice, and we unknowingly carried 10,000 chocolate coins to her hoard. She slept through the whole thing, as usual, but if the Dragon finds out we paid in chocolate, she deems us traitors for not holding up to the Ancient Pact and most likely will burn our cities down, eat our cattle, and take what’s left in the Vault.”
“To gain my reward and permission to leave the Forbidden Valley, you must take 10,000 gold coins and sneak them into the Dragon’s hoard while she sleeps. Furthermore, you must remove the 10,000 chocolate coins from the hoard without awakening the beast.”
“And let me be clear. If you believe you can explain all this to the Dragon, you are mistaken. The Ancient Pact forbids anyone from setting foot inside the dragon’s den on any day other than the Annual Dragon Tax Solstice. Should the Dragon awaken, she will incinerate you without a moment’s hesitation. Do you understand?”
So What’s Really Going On (Note for the DM)
The dragon’s name is Nachtmusik and she is fed up with the ancient pact. Eons ago she imposed the deal on the Dominion: to pay her an annual tax in gold, and in return, she promised to not leave the den. At the time, a long nap on the hoard was the only thing Nachtmusik longed for. But the charm of such an existence has worn thin over the centuries. Now she has realized she doesn’t have any use for all the gold, and all that she wants, is to go out and stretch her wings. However, Nachtmusik is extremely proud, and it would embarrass her to admit that the pact was not perfect in every way. So, instead of breaking the pact openly, she devised a clever plan. She contracted a skilful team to rob the Vault and replace the tax gold with chocolate. Now the dragon could accuse the Kingdom of breaking the pact, and be free.
And oh, why is the dragon sleeping? Narcolepsy. She might fall asleep and start dreaming in the middle of a sentence.
Sneaking into Dragon’s Den
The heroes are given a heavy cart full of gold coins and pointed at the direction of the Dragon’s Den, which has an entrance in the mountainside. Before they leave, King Bignose gives a final warning: “Be warned! If you attempt to abscond with my gold, a terrible curse will befall you and your kin for eternity. Furthermore, your efforts would be largely in vain, as all the gold from the Forbidden Valley transmutes into copper when taken beyond the border.” (If the players decide to split anyway, that’s their choice. The DM has offered them an adventure, but if they use their agency to not engage, so be it.)
If the players accept the challenge, they will enter the dungeon leading to the Dragon’s Den, where the loud snoring of the dragon can be heard. The dungeon itself is filled with things that potentially cause a lot of noise. The challenge is about trying to be silent and the difficulty increases to a ridiculous level towards the end, because the dragon waking up is all part of the story. Well, the players might be able to not wake her up, and that’s cool too.
Room 1: The Trap of the Chaos Monkey
The entrance to the dungeon leads to a wide corridor passing two pairs of statues of large apes holding apart two cymbals. Each statue base has a hole, one foot above the ground, and a tight rope is stretched across the corridor from statue to the other, looking very much like a trap. Pulling or cutting the rope will trigger the trap and the monkey statues start crashing the cymbals together and do it for 1 minute. (If this happens, the dragon’s snoring pauses for a while, but then continues. The players can’t be sure if the dragon still sleeps or if it’s faking it. If they send familiars, arcane eyes or wild shaped druids to investigate, the dragon seems to continue its slumber. But as soon as the heroes reach her chamber she will rise.)
Skipping over the ropes is easy, but the problem is the cart with a ton of gold in it. If the players empty the cart, they can lift the empty cart together in the air and cross the ropes. This is a viable solution, although it takes a lot of time. Crossing the ropes while carrying the empty cart requires a group check where players can choose either Athletics (Str) or Acrobatics (Dex), but at least two of them are required to use a strength based check. The DC is 11 and 50% or more of the group needs to succeed to cross without touching the ropes.
Disabling the mechanism might be possible if the players can explain how they do it, and pass a Sleight of Hand (Dex) check DC 13 for each attempt. To not trigger the trap, the rope needs to maintain a steady pull, so maybe it can be tied to something and then cut. (I don’t know! The DM’s job is to make the problems, not the solutions!)
The alarm of the trap can be bypassed by casting Silence, the 20-foot radius area is enough to silence all the four statues.
Room 2: The Fields of Zzap
The next section of the dungeon is another wide corridor, which passes two 5-foot wide areas where the floor, walls, and ceiling resemble a spike strip. Detect Magic will reveal that these areas are enchanted with evocation magic and an audible hum and crackling sound of electricity emanates from them. Casting Dispel Magic will remove the enchantment from one of these zones.
Any living thing moving across these fields will get zapped by an arc of lightning. They can choose to try and skip through swiftly, or walk through sternly, hardening themselves to endure the pain.
Skipping (or running and jumping through): make a Dex Save DC13 for half of 2d6 lightning damage. (If the characters are low level, make it d6 and Save to avoid.) To stay silent, roll a Stealth check DC 13 or you will yelp out loud. If the saving throw failed, you have disadvantage to the Stealth check.
Enduring: make a Con Save DC15 for half of 2d6 (or d6 for low level characters) lightning damage. If you make the save, you will not make a sound as you harden yourself against the pain. But if you fail, you will let out a cry of pain.
If someone makes a sound, the dragon’s snoring will momentarily pause before continuing. The dragon has awakened, but pretends to continue sleeping.
Casting Silence solves the issue of making noise here as well.
Room 3: The Dragon’s Den
A great church bell is hung in the middle of this enormous chamber, and a massive adult brass dragon is sleeping in the back, atop its hoard of treasure. Two heavy dumbbells hang from chains affixed to the walls, positioned so that if they were released, they would swing across and strike the bell.
While moving in the chamber everyone needs to roll Stealth against the dragon’s passive perception 21, but with advantage, because she is asleep. 50% or more of the party needs to succeed, otherwise the dragon will awaken. (If she is already awake, she will feign sleep, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce.)
The bell trap is activated if any spell is cast within the chamber. Silence, Pass without Trace, Mage Hand… any spell fizzles and its energy is visually sucked into the dumbbells and they are released. With an Acrobatics (Dex) DC 17 check a character can throw themselves in the path of a dumbbell, stopping it from striking the bell. They will take 2d6 bludgeoning damage and need to roll a Stealth check against the dragon’s passive perception 21 to not awaken her. Normally there would be a disadvantage, but the dragon’s sleep state cancels this out, making it a straight roll.
(If the players, against all odds, manage to not wake up the dragon and swap the gold coins and carry out the chocolate, do let them. The King will reward them. On the way out from the valley, at the enchanted border, they will meet the Master Thief who was responsible for the chocolate heist in the first place. They have a cart full of copper coins, and are cursing the dragon who hired them. The players have thwarted Nachtmusik’s plans, but will they ever learn what was really going on?)
Facing the Dragon
With a roar the dragon takes up on its wings and simultaneously uses its Frightful Presence. The great church bell falls down with a resounding boom and the dragon lands on top of it. “Who are you and what on earth are you doing in my lair?” the dragon bellows as she attacks. Roll initiative. If the players want to explain themselves to the dragon, they will have to do it on their turn in combat. While talking, ensure that players with characters affected by the ‘frightened’ condition roleplay it accordingly.
Nachtmusik is an Adult Brass Dragon. She does not want to kill the party, but will fight until one of the PCs is unconscious or until she has lost half of her Hit Points. If the players are on low level, she will only use Sleep Breath and not fire. On each of her turns she continues to interrogate the heroes. The dragon wants to know what they are doing. If they lie, she is proficient in Insight and will roll with a +6 against the player’s Deception check. If the dragon wins, she guesses what’s going on. If not, the players might be able to lead them to believe something else.
If the heroes are winning and continue hurting the dragon, she will try to parley and offers gold (or chocolate) in exchange for truce. If they still continue fighting and threaten her life, she will use her burrowing speed to escape through her hoard and escape in a rain of gold coins that fill up her escape tunnel.
When the fight ends, the dragon will reveal the secret: she replaced the gold with chocolate in the first place. She wants the pact to be broken and get away from the Valley. The dragon wanted the gnome dominion to break the pact, and now they have, with two accounts: by paying in chocolate and also, by trespassing the lair.
The dragon wants to send the heroes back with a message: “Tell the gnomes the pact has been broken. Nachtmusik the Dragon is free and will move elsewhere. They can keep their fey gold, I know it turns into copper anywhere except their valley anyway.”
If the heroes were defeated in combat, agree to leave and deliver the message, the dragon lowers her head close to the heroes, allowing them to feel her hot breath and the sting of smoke in their eyes as she whispers, “But if you ever tell them I was the one who swapped the gold for chocolate, I will hunt you down and eat you, wherever you may try to hide. On this matter, silence is golden.”
King Bignose will regard the mission as a great success. The Dragon leaving and getting back all the gold is all he ever wanted. If asked what he will do with all the gold, he begins to muse about a golden palace or massive golden statues of his nose.
The heroes are granted permission to leave the Forbidden Valley and, as a reward, they receive 10,000 gold coins (that turn into copper outside the enchanted border) and the following Dragon Defenses of the Bignose Dominion, which are now deemed redundant.
Boots of Stealthy Noise. Supposedly made by the valley’s best cobblers, these boots are meant for stealth. However, whenever the wearer attempts to move silently, the boots produce a range of comedic sounds, such as a duck’s quack or a honking horn.
Hush-Gold Powder: This golden powder, when thrown into the air, creates a temporary zone of glittery silence in its vicinity.
Goggles of Hindsight. These goggles allow the wearer to see clearly anything that happened in the past, but only things they have personally experienced.