The party finds a Balor sitting at the edge of a university campus, face buried in his large clawed hands. As he cries, his tears immediately evaporate due to his body’s radiating heat.
“Oh, don’t mind me,” he says, “I’m just thinking about dropping out of university. I wanted to be a first-generation college grad, you know? The first balor in my family that wasn’t all about destroying things and causing chaos; I wanted to create things and make the world better.”
He digs out a textbook from his school bag and sighs longingly at it. Almost immediately, the edges of the pages begin to smolder and smoke, prompting him to cast the volume aside; the cover reads: Fundamentals of Civil Engineering. “For my final project,” the balor continues, “I tried to build a bridge, but it wasn’t good enough. It completely collapsed when I showed it to my teacher, Professor Randolph the Red. He was so disappointed in me… told me to ‘go back to the shadow’ and ‘YOU SHALL NOT PASS.’ I felt so crestfallen…I don’t think anyone, including myself, thinks I can get this degree anymore…”
If the party gives the balor an encouraging pep talk, they can boost his confidence, prompting the demon to request the players’ assistance with completing his final capstone project.
One Does Not Simply Earn a Degree
The balor introduces himself as Balthazar and invites the party back to his “dorm room.” Due to the balor’s enormous size, student housing refurbished a barn for him to use as his sleeping/studying quarters; they also did their best to paint the walls with a flame-resistant coating to keep the whole structure from burning to the ground.
Inside, the barn is fairly messy and decorated like a typical college dorm room: posters of famous heroes decorate the walls, empty whiskey bottles line the top of a cabinet, and papers and books are strewn everywhere. Some of these papers are blueprints, detailing various build ideas.
“I think I’ve narrowed it down to these three possible machines that I would like to build,” Balthazar says, “I’m open to other suggestions though too, so long as they’re for something that can help people. I really want to use this opportunity to not only graduate but also to prove to people that we demons are capable of doing good.”
- Option #1: Watermill
- Repair the old abandoned watermill near the college town and provide hydropower for the campus and community.
- (Optional) Clear out the infestation of diseased giant rats that have taken over the abandoned building, unless this encounter challenge rating is too far beneath your party.
- Rebuild the wheel by gathering materials (strength checks to tote them to the site) and assembling all the pieces correctly (survival checks or something similar). Since Balthazar has already drafted blueprints, players can have advantage when they roll the survival check to actually build the machine.
- Find a way to turn the wheel. The small river bed is incredibly shallow and has largely dried up over the years. Players can dig deep and find an underwater reservoir (and possibly disturb whatever creatures lie in wait down there), terraform a nearby lake to divert some of its water into the riverbed (Balthazar can help by using his massive clawed hands to scoop), or overpower/strike a deal with a water elemental to provide continuously looping water for the wheel.
- Option #2: Windmill
- Convert an abandoned stone watchtower into a fully functional windmill, giving the community wind power.
- Clear out the ghosts of fallen soldiers that haunt the old fortification, or somehow strike a deal with them and use them in the operation of the windmill.
- As done above with the watermill option, gather the wood, metal, and linen needed to create the mechanisms and sails for the windmill; roll strength to carry supplies without damaging them and survival to determine how well you can build based based on Balthazar’s plans.
- Find a way to ensure there’s consistent wind by overpowering/striking a deal with an air elemental. Players might also think of other creative ways, like gathering a bunch of birds to flap their wings and, maybe, building assorted bird houses to keep them roosting near the windmill. DM Note: Encourage creative, outside-the-box thinking!
- Option #3: Automated Farming
- Help the elderly farmers of the community plow their fields by building a harvester combine.
- Gather old swords, maybe abandoned weapons from a nearby dungeon, for the blades of the harvester.
- Entering the dungeon could also trigger combat with some security constructs; if players defeat the machines, they can collect their various internal machinations to repurpose in the building of the combine.
- Find a means of powering the combine, perhaps overpowering or striking a deal with a fire elemental. Since Balthazar hails from the Nine Hells originally, maybe he has a fire elemental buddy and wants to offer him this new position as a job (so long as the players can find a way to ensure that the elemental is fairly compensated for his work).
Once the party has helped Balthazar the balor build his final project, the demon will use his teleport ability to disappear momentarily and reappear with his professor (and evaluator): Randolph the Red.
The professor closely inspects the machine and begins jotting down notes on a clipboard. Once the machine is activated, have a player roll a d20 to determine how successful this run of the machine goes. If players rolled well earlier when they gathered the materials and assembled everything, the DC can be low (7); if the players struggled earlier, the DC should be higher (14).
Failure results in something going wrong, requiring quick-thinking on the part of the players. Some possibilities are:
- If watermill, the wheel begins to come loose and starts to roll away, requiring a group strength saving throw to grab it and hoist it back in place.
- If windmill, a sail gets punctured and needs some quick patching (dexterity/acrobatics check to climb the windmill and hold onto the still-moving sail while the repairs are made).
- If combine, a belt breaks and the machine begins sinking into the mud, maybe even grinding its way underground, kicking up stones and dirt everywhere.
If the exam goes well (or if the exam goes awry but the players “save the day”), Randolph will smile, apologize for having ever lost faith in the abilities/goodness of Balthazar, and award the balor with his long-sought-after diploma.
To thank the party, Balthazar can offer to design/engineer something for them in the future. If the party has a ship, he could outfit it with some new, special piece of equipment: add a motor to allow for faster travel, build an apparatus to allow the ship to fly like an air ship (so long as the party gives him enough time and helps pay the bill for any raw materials), etc.