While the party is walking around the market of [Town Name], they spot a middle-aged female dragonborn shouting at young half-elf. She’s speaking so loudly that various bystanders can’t help but glance over to see what all the fuss is about.
“What do you mean you don’t who I’m talking about!? His name is Va-rik Kel-quen.” she says, speaking the name slowly and in a condescending tone.
“I heard the name the first three times, ma’am,” the half-elf sighs, “I just don’t know who your son is. The campus at [University Name] is huge. If we aren’t in the same classes, we aren’t going to cross paths.”
“Uuugggghh,” she says, brushing her hair from her eyes, “For how much I’m spending on that university, I’d expect their employees to have a few more answers.”
“For the last time, ma’am,” the half-elf says, now running a hand through his own hair in frustration, “I don’t work for the university. I’m here passing out flyers for prospective students as part of community service hours. I hit the ale a little too hard last week, and now I’m being reprimanded.”
The dragonborn mother gasps, “Oh no…you don’t think that my little Varik has also gotten involved in…ale, do you??” At this point, she starts bawling. The half-elf looks very uncomfortable, unsure of what to do or say. He glances over at the party with wide eyes, as if to ask “a little help here?”
If the party decides to venture over to console the emotional dragonborn, she will begin to explain the situation after giving her nose a good blow and dabbing the tears from her eyes.
Mother Knows Best
She introduce herself as Karenth Kelquin, a dragonborn whose grandfather started a successful beach resort/spa which she has now inherited.
“Varik Kelquin, my son, never liked the family business”, Karenth says, “he thought it was too easy to just lounge on pristine white beaches and pocket money from wealthy tourists.”
Karenth takes out a small mirror and fixes her makeup beneath her eyes.
“Personally”, she says, “I think he’s being unappreciative of how good our family has it, but still…I love my son, and I want him to be happy, so I paid his way to attend [University Name] to ‘find himself’, but he hasn’t called me in months.”
Her eyes start to well up with tears again, but she takes a deep breath and composes herself.
“When he was a little boy, we called him ‘Clawclinger’ because he would never let go of my hand. Such a sweet little mama’s boy. Why do they have to grow up so fast?”
Karenth stands up straight and adopts a more authoritative business tone.
“I need someone to go to the university and check up on him for me. I’d go myself, but even I understand how embarrassing that would be for a boy his age.”
She reaches into her jacket and pulls out a sending stone. “If you can just check that he’s alright and contact me with this sending stone, I will happily pay for your travel expenses as well as reward you with 100 gold. Or…”
Karenth removes the purse slung over her shoulder and begins rummaging through it. She pulls out 3 items: a conch shell, a container of freshly-baked cookies, and a dragon plushie called “My Little Bahamut.”
“Or you can help me by stealthily planting these items so that my son stumbles upon them. Put them in unique places. They should remind him of home, prompting him to want to reach out to me. If you do this for me, then I will reward you with 100 gold each, as well as provide you with an all-expense paid weekend trip to our beach resort.”
If the party agrees to help (either the simpler Plan A or the more complicated, and lucrative, Plan B), they can take the 3 childhood mementos and the sending stone and head out for the university.
Back to School
Once at [University Name], the party will find a campus that’s crawling with young people, all from a variety of races and backgrounds. In order to locate Varik Kelquen, players need to ask around for some details and try to track him down. Gathering information, from Varik’s peers or professors, requires persuasion checks and/or deception checks (if your players try to pass as Varik’s visiting friends or classmates wanting his help on an assignment).
Once the party locates Varik, they should continue stealthing and eavesdropping on him to learn his schedule for the day. Approaching him directly will make it obvious that his mother hired the party, causing him to immediately and completely close off from the idea of calling home. Here are some places where he could be/end up (determined via investigation and stealthily eavesdropping/tailing him):
- A tree in the quad (his favorite spot to sit and study)
- His dorm room in Drakeheart Hall (this will be locked and require breaking in or swiping a key from the Drakeheart RA’s office)
- His desk in his class for Enchanted Herbology (his last scheduled class for the day)
Obviously, think about which item would be best suited for each location. Just the aroma of the cookies will make him think fondly of his mother/home, but leaving them out in, say, a classroom, would likely encourage hungry college students to consume them all before Varik even gets the chance to notice them.
The other two mementos are simpler: the plushie resembles one he had as a child and the shell reminds him of the resort beaches where he was raised. If the party can think of ways to organically place these items, then that will have a greater impact. Otherwise, he might start to get suspicious and think something strange is going on.
If the party succeeds in encouraging Varik to call home, he will dig around in his backpack and retrieve his own sending stone (one that his mother must have given him before he left for school). He activates the stone and says, “hey, mom…”
Karenth calls the party a little later (once she finishes talking to her son) and informs them that their reward money is waiting for them at [Bank Name] in the university town. She also tells them the location of the resort and welcomes them to drop in whenever.
The Afterlife of the Party (Alternative Ending)
DM Note: The encounter above is primarily geared for quirky roleplaying and stealthing. However, if you want a more combative climactic finish to this encounter, consider the following:
Varik realizes that he misses/appreciates his mother and needs to call home.
“I totally get that, man” his roommate/friend says, “but take care of it tomorrow. Tonight, we have that party over at [NPC Name’s] place, remember? I hear they have a Ouija Board, and we are going to try summoning some things. Pretty cool, right?”
The players can then continue tailing Varik to the party, maybe even posing as students themselves, in an attempt to ensure his well-being.
Obviously, the Ouija Board works a little too well, summoning a ghost that the party will need to work with Varik to defeat (the other party-goers, perhaps a little too inebriated from their ale, will flee the house or attempt to hide). In the DnD universe, ghosts are often motivated by unfinished business; to really tie everything together thematically, consider having the ghost bemoan and regret not calling its parents enough while alive.
After the ghost is defeated, Varik feels confident in himself and his abilities. He excitedly calls home to his mother, no longer fearful of her judgement or condescension, to share his accomplishments; he finally feels like a strong, independent young dragonborn.