While walking through town, you notice a city guard tearing down wanted posters for an evil warlock named “The Great Young One.” Before stuffing the poster into his satchel, the city guard studies the printed face carefully, scratching his head and looking very troubled and confused.
When asked about the man in the poster, the guard proudly proclaims that the wanted man has just been brought in this morning and will now face justice for his crimes.
“However,” he says, squinting yet again at the face on the paper, “we are having a bit of a dilemma. See, not only was the criminal brought in this morning, but he was brought in this morning three times.”
The guard will explain how three bounty hunters, literally minutes apart, came parading into the local jail with the spitting image of “The Great Young One” in tow. For now, all three of the warlocks are locked up, but the bounty hunters are getting feisty, each demanding their reward money. The city guard’s grand inquisitor, whose methods of magical manipulation and interrogative “encouragement” have a 99% success rate, is sadly away at a special seminar: “Is It Really Torture If Everybody’s Laughing?”
The party can, at this point, offer their services in an effort to suss out the real warlock.
As the party is escorted into the room of holding cells, the three bounty hunters approach the group. All three are decked out in leather light armor that’s suitable for travel and carry with them an assortment of weapons, magical tracking devices (note that they will “light up” if anyone tries to Detect Magic), ropes and nets.
“Well!? We’ve been standing here waiting for an hour,” one of them roars, stepping up to the city guard.
“I know, and we are very sorry,” the guard says, doing what he can to deescalate the situation. “These people are here to help shed some light on this mystery and get to the bottom of it.”
Looking over at the holding cells, the party observes three young men, all identical in appearance save for some slight variation of their clothing, sitting on a bench and staring menacingly. They have their wrists bound and mouths covered to prevent unwanted spellcasting.
Your party can use a variety of means to uncover the truth and reveal what’s going on. Consider trying a combination of persuasion, insight, and intimidation checks (or maybe try a different one for each of the three prisoners). In order to hear them out, they will likely need to be ungagged one at a time. Spells, like Divine Sense and Detect Thoughts, could also be very helpful if the party wants to try a less direct approach. Regardless, here is the situation for each of the “warlocks.” Do note that they will all act like they are, in fact, “The Great Young One”, mimicking his sinister laugh and adopting an air of arrogance as they speak.
- Option #1: The first warlock is actually a Doppelganger that has used its shapechanger ability to sound/look like the notorious “Great Young One.” The corresponding bounty hunter has no idea of this and will be just as surprised as you when/if this truth is revealed. If asked questions, especially about his past, the Doppelganger will clearly struggle and need to roll history checks at disadvantage, trying to artfully lie about memories he doesn’t have. Revealing his identity will have him laughing and explaining how he just wanted to have a bit of fun with everyone.
- Option #2: The second warlock is actually an old sorcerer who is the biggest fan of “The Great Young One.” In an effort to help his beloved idol, he has Polymorphed (using Extended Spell) to become the spitting image of the warlock for 2 hours. In 30 minutes, this spell will drop, and he will return to his true form (unless the party forces him to turn back sooner). Unlike the Doppelganger, the sorcerer knows everything about “The Great Young One” (being his biggest fan and all), but will slip up and refer to to “The Great Young One” as “he” (rather than “I”, blowing his cover) if he gets overly emotional or feels that “The Great Young One’s” name is being slandered or mocked. When he does revert back, the party can see, tattooed on the man’s chest, a large heart that says “Forever Young Fan Club.”
- Option #3: The third warlock is remarkably convincing. However, it can be revealed that he’s just another bounty hunter who has been put under the Geas spell, charming him for 30 days by none other than the actual “Great Young One.” After being charmed, the man was instructed to wear a Hat of Disguise Self and act/speak exactly like the warlock, allowing himself to get caught, tried, and (ideally) executed before the 30 days are concluded. If he’s changed back to his normal self, the party notices that he looks remarkably similar to the hunter who brought him in…one of the hunters who, remember, is standing just behind them.
Only after all three of these prisoners have been exonerated will the bounty hunters react differently. Two of them still demand some payment before leaving, for both their effort and having their time wasted. The last hunter, the “Great Young One” in disguise, will see that his plan to send a patsy to jail in his stead has failed. He will pull his cowl down over his head (to hide that he has disguised himself as the Geas-ified bounty hunter) and try to slip out of the room amidst the commotion.
Confronting him and breaking his concentration will reveal that he is, in fact, the real “Great Young One”, under the Disguise Self spell. The young warlock confesses that he has grown tired of causing mayhem and wanted to get some hapless innocent caught so that he could go off and start his life anew, not pursued by guardsmen.
The guard in the room, of course, will not allow this at all. The bounty hunters don’t care much what happens to the warlock, as they are only motivated by gold.
The party is faced with a choice:
- Release “The Great Young One” to, allegedly, start a new, honest life. If you choose this path, he will use Modify Memory on the city guard long enough to escape. As a token of gratitude, he will give you his “Hat of Disguise Self” but could, potentially, return as a character to either help or, more likely, stir up some trouble for the party.
- Fight “The Great Young One.” This battle will be challenging, but the other two bounty hunters and the city guard can join the fray as well (provided that you, as DM, want to play that many NPCs). He should begin the battle by using Mirror Image, just to keep the whole “too many warlocks” theme going. If the cell is open, the Doppelganger will make his escape, the recently-uncharmed and confused bounty hunter will fearfully take cover, and the sorcerer will simply be starstruck watching his hero in action (he could also interrupt the flow of battle by trying to get “The Great Young One’s” signature on his chest). Defeating the warlock will result in the party earning the GP from the wanted poster reward as well as being given one of the “Hats of Disguise Self” by the city guard.