In town, the party hears a great commotion. A crowd has gathered around a massive cage affixed to a wagon. Through the bars, they can see four enormous golden-haired apes. Despite the loud hooting and hollering from the excited townsfolk, the apes seem surprisingly calm, maybe even a little pleased by all the attention.
Unfortunately for the enthusiastic crowd, a woman dressed in safari-styled khakis is shutting the whole thing down.
“That’s enough!” she shouts, attempting to push the audience back with a long walking stick. “These girallons are now officially retired, and they are done performing for all of you!”
The crowd boos her in response.
“But they’ve been my idols since I was a wee lad!” one man cries out imploringly.
“I have seen their performances every summer for a decade now!” another exclaims.
One particularly rowdy individual attempts to fling a cabbage at the young safari-clad woman. Luckily, just before the vegetable makes contact, one of the girallons reaches an arm through the cage bars, plucking the produce mid-air before shredding it apart for a snack.
The party can, at this point, help the young woman try to calm/disperse the crowd with a persuasion or intimidation check.
Once the street has been cleared and peace is restored, the young woman will prioritize the girallons, ensuring that they were not hurt or upset by all that commotion. After her examination, she turns to face the party.
“Thank you for your help,” she says, “My name is Jane Goodsome. I’m a primatologist and wildlife conservationist by trade. These beautiful girls,” she says, looking back over her shoulder at the apes, “certainly need no introduction.”
Obviously, the players will have no idea what she’s talking about, so she will gladly elaborate if they ask about the apes. In fact, she should seem a bit relieved at your obliviousness, now reassured that you aren’t also crazed girallon fans.
“These four beautiful girls are Branch, Rosebud, Sophie, and Dora. They spent the majority of their young girallon lives as stars in a traveling theatre troupe. For decades, they performed quirky scenes of situational comedy that were beloved by thousands across the continent.”
The girallons behind her yawn and begin to play with various toys scattered about the floor of their cage.
“They’re very old now, as you can see,” Jane continues, reaching a hand in and gently stroking the golden fur on Rosebud’s arm. “Now that they’re retired from show business, it is my mission to get them to St. Olaf’s Animal Sanctuary safely, fending off poachers and others who wish to do them harm. These girls have brought so much happiness to the continent. Now, they deserve to enjoy their golden years in peace and on their terms.
“You know,” Jane continues, “seeing the way you dispersed that crowd just now…I think you could be of great assistance in this transport. I don’t know if you’re busy with other things but, if not, would you consider helping me escort these golden girallons to safety? I don’t have much, but my research in the field has allowed me to receive various grants and endowments. I will happily reward you with whatever I can.”
If the party agrees to help Jane Goodsome, then she will say there is not a moment to spare and insist the party prepare to leave the city immediately.
Get the Show on the Road
While traveling along the road, the party hears various animal noises from the surrounding jungles, some particularly unsettling; Jane and the girallons, however, seem relatively unfazed. As the journey continues, the path gets progressively more challenging to see amidst the underbrush, but Jane’s astute sense of direction and navigation always keep them on track.
Eventually, the otherwise peaceful and pleasant girallons, who up until this point have been staring with wide-eyed wonder at the surrounding nature, will start to look unsettled. Have players roll a perception check to determine if they notice this change in behavior.
If the players stop the caravan and investigate the surrounding tree line, they might spot their soon-to-be attackers and call them out. Otherwise, they are ambushed by 3 poachers. The poachers plan on stealing the girallons and selling their majestic golden pelts on the black market.
“Not only are the coats themselves rare,” one says, licking his lips, “but the fact that they’re celebrities means we’re going to get a boat-load for ’em!
To proceed, the party needs to help Jane defeat the attacking poachers. Although girallons themselves are strong beasts sporting a CR 4, it should be noted that the Golden Girallons have been performers their whole lives and are elderly. They will do everything in their power to avoid fighting in the battle. If their cage gets opened for any reason during combat, the DM should roll a D4. This roll determines how many of the four girallons use the opportunity to flee into the surrounding jungles rather than cower in their cage.
Jane remains close to the cage during combat, firing on enemies from a distance with her longbow.
Once the poachers have been disposed of, the journey may continue. If players loot their bodies, they won’t find much of value: some travel provisions, knives, netting, shackles, etc.
DM Note: If you would like to extend this journey, consider having one of the players roll a d8. This roll determines a second possible obstacle that Jane/the party will need to overcome together. Here are some suggestions:
- A wheel breaks on the wagon, stopping it in its tracks
- A large, heavy tree has fallen in the path and blocks the way forward
- The path is blocked by a spider web, occupied by various giant spiders
- A sudden rainstorm hits, obscuring vision and forcing the party to take cover in the surrounding trees (allowing for a variety of mischievous fey activity)
- Each player rolls a Dex save or begins sinking in quicksand
- The caravan is being stalked by hungry jungle predators (e.g. tigers)
- The path weaves into some cursed jungle ruins, causing players to hallucinate and roll wisdom saving throws to avoid being cursed
- A group of regular apes see the caged girallons and, misjudging the situation, attempt to attack the party and free their (much larger) sisters from their “imprisonment.”
Escape or Encore?
As the sun begins to set, casting everything in a gentle golden light, Jane Goodsome explains that they are very close to St. Olaf’s now. Suddenly, faint music is heard from deep within the surrounding jungles. Then, the music gets louder…and louder. Before long, the entire party can hear what sounds like a joyous theme song blasting at full volume from the overgrowth.
“Oh no,” Jane says, getting her longbow ready and nocked. “That’s the theme song from The Golden Girallons show.”
A bard appears from the tree line and will continue to play the song on his lute. It seems to have an almost hypnotic effect on the girallons themselves. The large docile apes sit, enchanted by the music, with dilated pupils and enormous, almost mechanical, smiles on their faces. An insight check reveals that this was likely part of their conditioning when they were performers.
Another man appears from the treeline, accompanied by two bounty hunters, one flanking each of his sides. The man looks to be middle-aged and is heavyset. He’s wearing rather fanciful attire that is clearly unsuited for jungle climate. He has a sunburned face and mosquito-bitten arms.
“About time you showed up,” he grumbles, “I can’t take another day camping out in this miserable place.”
During this encounter, the party learns that this man is the owner/manager of the traveling theatre troupe that features the Golden Girallons.
“She’s been lying to you, you know,” the manager says, crossing his arms before dropping them again because of the bug-bite irritations, “I have lifetime contracts with these creatures, and they are still legally my property. This ‘scientist’, if one can even call her that, stole them from right under my nose, in the dead of night, like some common thief.”
“These animals couldn’t sign any contracts and had no say in what you did to them,” Jane interjects.
“Regardless, I paid for them fair and square. Also, look! They love their theme song; those beasts were born to perform!
Optional “Bad” Ending: The manager looks at the players and offers to double whatever Jane was going to pay provided that they immediately relinquish the Golden Girallons to him. Doing so, however, engages Jane in battle (she would gladly give up her own life to protect these noble creatures). The party will need to defeat her while the manager and his bodyguards watch, unamused and impatient, from the sidelines.
This encounter has two very different endings.
If the party agrees to ally themselves with the troupe leader (as noted above in the optional ending), then he will pay them a generous amount of gold (at DM’s discretion) as well as give them free lifetime tickets to any future Golden Girallon performances.
If the the party fends off the troupe leader by defeating his bard and two bounty hunters (the manager himself is a coward and won’t directly fight himself), then the journey can continue. Not too long after, Jane Goodsome and the party arrive at the edge of the nature preserve: St. Olaf’s Animal Sanctuary.
As they release the girallons, there is a heartfelt moment between the apes and Jane as they share a final embrace.
Rosebud will also come over to the players and hold out an item.
“Oh, she must have made that for you while we were on the road,” Jane comments, “I think you’ve definitely earned it. She’s saying…thank you for being a friend.”
This wearable item is called the BFF Bracelet (Beast Friends Forever).
Wearing the bracelet grants the following effects:
- Advantage on nature and survival checks when exploring the jungle
- Protection against attacks from apes, girallons, or other primates
- The ability to cast “Animal Friendship” or “Speak with Animals” once per long rest
After the girallons are released, the party is invited to stay in the ranger’s/warden’s hut at the edge of the preserve. In the morning, they are offered an escort back to civilization via riverboat (so the journey back is faster and allows for some different potential encounters/scenery).