As the party approaches the small town, they are greeted with a relentless and earsplitting scream, broken only by the occasional loud, guttural sob.
“WELCOME TO TOWN!” a local man yells overtop the constant backdrop of wailing. He winces his eyes and presses his earmuffs firmly against the sides of his head. “Totally understand if you won’t stay very long! We’ve got ourselves a banshee who lives in the forest! Sweet enough spirit, but she’s inconsolable! Day, night, it doesn’t matter; she’s crying her eyes out and screaming her head off!”
If players offer to help with the banshee problem, the man continues. “Well, we don’t want to destroy the poor creature. Besides, any time someone gets fed up and ‘eliminates’ her, she just fades away for a few days before coming back, sobbing even harder, and whining about no one liking her. It just doesn’t work…”
An old woman steps forward and hands the party a crumpled piece of paper. “There’s only one way to ease her pain, but none of us in town have the guts to do it.”
If the players unfold the wad of paper, they discover that it’s an invitation to a party, decorated with bright, festive colors yet dotted with tear stains.
Minerva the Miserable cordially invites you to:
Where: House in the woods (directions below)
When: Any time (if you’re not too busy*)
*Actually, you don’t have to bother coming. It probably wouldn’t be fun anyway, and you probably have other more important things to do and people to see.
**Also, sorry for making you read this. You can just throw it away. I spent about an hour coloring it myself, but it’s okay. I’m not very artsy, so it probably belongs in the trash anyway.
“We think her soul can finally be laid to rest if only someone listens to her tales of woe and shows her genuine pity,” the old woman says, “we haven’t done it ourselves because, well, it’s just really depressing listening to her talk, you know? We can’t bring ourselves to endure that and play along.”
If the players decide to help the village with the banshee problem, they can take the invitation and follow the directions into the nearby woods (or honestly just follow the sound of the incessant wailing…that works too).
When the players arrive, the banshee momentarily pauses her screams and looks over at the guests with a small pathetic smile.
“Are…are you here…for my party?” She asks, a twinkle of hope in her undead eyes.
She invites the party into her home, which is decorated with a few droopy streamers, some sun-faded banners, and a sloppily decorated cake; the entire scene is very sad. If the players try to be complimentary of everything, the banshee is emotionally unfazed. Strangely though, if the players comment on how sad/miserable her life is and how sorry they feel for her, Minerva will love it, agreeing with you and soaking up all of your pity/sympathy.
Minerva offers the party some slices of flavorless cake and mugs of muddy coffee. If the players comment on this or refuse, the banshee will sigh and complain about how hard it is for her to find good baking ingredients and coffee beans in the middle of a forest. “I’m just stuck roughing it out here,” she says, slumping her ghostly body in a chair and looking exhausted, “it’s so hard.”
If any players can relate to her struggles and share their own pain, they can win even more points in her eyes. They can also always invent stories in an effort to relate to the banshee’s woes, but the effectiveness of such lies will be dependent on a deception ability check passing a DC 12.
DM’s should play this interaction by ear. Here are some events that can give players opportunities to properly pity Minerva and show her how much they feel sorry for her.
- Share a story that relates to some miserable event from Minerva’s life. She could talk about how a friend betrayed her once, how she embarrassed herself in front of a big audience, how she failed at getting her dream job, or how her family disowned her.
- Help her clean up around the house, straighten up the decorations, or even bake a better cake, expressing just how sorry you feel for her.
- Play party games like “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.” When Minerva is blindfolded, cause her to miss the mark so that, after she sees how poorly she does, the party can say, “Aww, that’s too bad, Minerva. We are so sorry. It must be so hard to lose a game at your own party…”
- Play “Never Have I Ever”, but Minerva has not done anything exciting or interesting (which is sad) and all of her turns are things like “Never have I ever…felt appreciated by my community.”
- Put on a play that Minerva wrote during her life but never got to see performed because it was turned down by every theatre company in the realm (and for good reason: the play is literally terrible). After performing it, compliment her on the show and mourn how the rest of the world never got the chance to see it.
- Fashion some makeshift jewelry to dress up Minerva’s corpse: her nearby grave was sadly robbed shortly after her burial, and she just watched tragically while her modest accessories were stolen, not even putting up a fight because “yeah, this would happen to me…”
Once the banshee feels that the players have given her enough pity and have earned her appreciation, she will say, “See? I knew as soon as you all walked up to my house…I said, ‘Minerva, old girl, these people get you. They understand how hard of a life you’ve lived.’ In fact, because you get me so well, maybe you could help me out with just one more thing…”
Till Death Do Us…Start?
“Of all the regrets and disappointments of my life, which are many” Minerva says, “the one that I regret most is never telling Humphrey how much I loved him. He was my ‘one that got away’ but, maybe, there’s still a chance…”
If the party agrees to help, Minerva will explain that Humphrey, like her, died many years ago, and was buried in a now defunct cemetery on the opposite end of the forest.
“I was never brave enough to head over there alone, but now that I have my friends, I’m not so afraid of another failure. If this doesn’t work out, then I know you’ll all have my back and comfort me.”
During this trek through the woods, the banshee will occasionally get choked up and cry a little (force of habit, or maybe a nearby spindly tree reminds her of the wiry frame of her beloved Humphrey, getting her momentarily emotional). On one of these occasions, the party is startled by the sound of another high-pitched shriek coming from some other corner of the dark forest.
“Oh, no,” Minerva says, “I forgot to mention that we have owlbears out here. They shriek to defend their territory so, obviously, they and I haven’t been getting along well over these years…”
Suddenly, an owlbear comes barreling into the forest clearing, first trying to swipe at the banshee but falling straight through her intangible form. Now, the beast turns its attention on the players, who it feels are trying to start a battle over its turf.
After the players have defeated the owlbear or found some clever way to scare the creature away (Minerva will just go transparent and attempt to hide), the players continue through the forest.
Upon arriving at the long-forgotten cemetery on the other side of the woods, Minerva floats over to a gravestone that’s inscribed name has long since been worn away by the elements.
After an awkward exchange with the crumbled rock, and casting nervous looks to the players for emotional support, she tells the gravesite of her unrequited lover that she was sorry she never said how she felt in life and that she regrets getting so caught up in her own misery that she never tried to achieve her own happiness.
Suddenly, there is a ghostly glimmer of light. A spectral form of a middle-aged farmer appears and holds out a glowing hand to Minerva. The banshee gets choked up again, but this time, tears of joy flow down her pale, ghostly cheeks.
“Oh, Humphrey!” she cries ecstatically, taking his hand. In a matter of seconds, the two apparitions fade away before the players’ eyes, presumably to start a happy afterlife together in whatever lay beyond this mortal coil.
As the banshee dematerializes, she leaves behind a ghostly strip of linen. The bandage, at first glance, appears pretty insignificant, but it does clearly radiate some magical, spectral properties.
Once identified, the players learn that this item is called the Sympathy Sling.
When a player dons the sling and tucks their arm into it, they immediately look particularly pitiful and pathetic. Any attempts by this player to persuade/deceive an NPC for the purpose of garnering sympathy will have advantage on that ability check. The effects of this deception remain so long as the character is wearing the sling; however, during this time, they cannot use that arm, preventing them from casting certain spells or using double-handed weapons, bows, etc.
Returning to town will also net the players some rewards. The villagers will be so relieved that the insistent wailing has ceased, that they provide special discounts on items in the locals shops and smithies.