While in a town that specializes in the logging trade, the party is approached by several villagers who tell a tale about a group of adventurers that were recently kidnapped by Krustin Rarrr, a Werebear hermit that lives deep in the woods to the north. They want the party to investigate, as the adventuring party was supposed to help them on a different side quest. Any of these Forest Encounters should work fine for your purposes.
Other villager rumors:
- Krustin Rarr is a 300-year-old recluse that kidnaps and eats adventuring parties that stray too deep into the forest in order to stay young
- Rarr lures villagers into the woods to murder with her incredible lute-playing, sometimes going on for sixty-minute lute solos
- The Werebear is also a witch, using her witchy powers to summon bear demons that protect her cabin
- She brews delicious tea that’s filled with paralyzing powders, rendering the drinker unable to move
- The local economy is struggling as they are running out of productive trees. Some magic of Krustin’s is causing the trees to rot and become unusable
Venturing through the forest to confront Krustin Rarr, the party is likely to encounter the following:
- Initially they pass by logging buildings, along with all races working together to fell trees and turn them into lumber or other carpentry materials
- The further in they go, the forest turns dark and dead, trees with no leaves, rotted trunks, and downed limbs
- Random traces of the adventuring party that went before them (ropes, ball bearings, stereotypical DnD party gear)
- Some random stick dolls, grotesquely put together from surrounding twigs and sticks
- Giant Spiders, Twig Blights, and Vine Blights (depending on how much combat you’re looking for)
Eventually coming to a thick circular wall of thorns. The thick overgrowth creates a barrier of sharp obstacles, making it difficult for the party to enter. Measuring 50 feet in diameter, the circle of thorns seems to be housing a cabin, which the party can scarcely make out from between the thorny vines. Some items from the missing adventuring party appear to go inside the circle, leading a reasonable party to assume that Krustin is inside.
Once inside the wall, the party sees lush vegetation, a lovely vegetable garden, and colorful blossoming trees. At the center of the area is a small, well-kept cabin with a nice little porch. A bear sits on the porch in a rocking chair, deep in a book.
If the party approaches with weapons drawn, Krustin will react defensively, using Plant Growth and Entangle to slow the party down. She will resort to using more intense Druidic magic if the party presses, like Moonbeam or Conjure Animals to summon two Brown Bears.
If the party approaches calmly, they will learn the real story.
The Real Story of Krustin Rarr
Krustin is not a witch, but a 5th-level Druid, using her powers to help restore the forest to its former beauty. Moving in several years ago, she found the forest in shambles due to heavy logging that the nearby town participates in. She holds no ill-will toward the individuals of the town as it is a necessary part of their commerce, but she does ask for the help of adventurers from time to time to fetch additional materials for her spells. Frequently she will request the adventurers bring her any tomes related to environmental disease as some strange evil is infecting the forest.
She’s close but needs a few more pieces of research before she can be sure she’s found the solution. One area of infection is to the northeast. Krustin asks the party to investigate.
If the party gives Krustin one of the stick dolls (assuming they picked one up), she will note that she’s seen a merchant in town selling these from time to time, but no one ever buys them, calling them gross and chintzy.
But What About The Other Adventurers?
The other adventuring party left Krustin’s place a few days ago after she requested they bring her some fur from a bloodhound for her research. She believes they went off to the east, and she was starting to wonder where they got off to, but she fears the worst.
Wicked Witch of the Northeast
If the party offers to explore the northeast section of the forest, they will find a path leading from Krustin’s and will find more signs of the previous party.
Venturing further, they begin to see signs for “Custom stick dolls” and “Exquisite quality, well-priced” that looks to be written in blood, with arrows pointing to continue following the path. If the party inspects the blood, they will find it is just red paint (DC10).
In a clearing at the end of the path, the party finds a one-story warehouse, with boarded up windows, and a rickety door. Near the warehouse, the party can see clear traces of the former adventuring party.
Inside, they’ll find walls full of crates, some badly damaged with the contents spilling out. It is more of the stick dolls, crudely constructed stick dolls.
They can hear some yelling coming from under the floor and without much issue will find a door to a simple staircase going down into a dark basement. Voices seem to be calling out for help from within.
Exploring the basement, the party finds no one and the voices abruptly stop. Any light source is extinguished and the party is cast into darkness. A raspy voice fills the air, “are you here to buy my dollies?”
The voice is that of a Green Hag named Heather Donutshoe that lives in the forest. Through exposition or from journals left around the basement and warehouse, the party learns that she the hag was hoping the dolls would be an inroads to be accepted by the townsfolk, but because they hated the dolls so much and were so rude, she holed up here in the warehouse.
She is in an insane amount of debt and found a way to focus her energy and hatred for the townsfolk into an expansive casting of Blight, which covered the forest and began to kill off all vegetation, leading to the dead trees mentioned earlier.
If the party is able to figure out a way to market and sell the dolls, it is possible that Heather will abandon the Blight casting and continue selling her dolls, maker worse and worse versions which she views to be better with each new model.
If the party decides to put an end to the hag, she will leverage Invisible Passage to evade the party, hiding in different areas of the warehouse and popping out when the party separates.
However the above is resolved, the party find a very scared group of adventurers squished into a small room behind a secret door in the basement. The Green Hag mimicked the noise of a group of bloodhounds, luring them in.
The exact source of the Blight magic is unclear, but if the party explains what happened to Krustin, she will investigate and ultimately be able to put a stop to the spread, giving her time to reverse the necrotic energies.