So, I've now got my first three adventures done, and they do sort of what I wanted when I outlined this; the heroes are getting their first taste of troubles, and relying on NPCs a lot (in particular, the scholar Gendal). I ended that by pointing to a place called the Wailing Grove, and someone named Nelthek Sharpleaf (which isn't a very viking-themed name, so I'm already planning to change it to Njoln).

Looking back at my outline, I see that levels 4 to 7 were the ones where I want the heroes to learn what's at stake, fight some of their first demon foes, and maybe introduce the devil plot that shows the heroes devils are working against Treerazer. I know I can't wrap this devil plot up too quickly--my 16th-level adventure is all about putting a stop to that, and the 17th level adventure is probably where they'll do so. What I need to do here is set up the urban devil thread (which I called the cult of Red Crown, thinking that "Red Crown" is a pit fiend the heroes will face, so that cult should show up here). 

With all that in mind, let me dig into Chapter 4, the 4th-level adventure. That's going to set up a couple of different narrative threads, and I can put each thread into its own part (and create its own foes). I like using changeling druids and arboreals--they're great at this level--and perhaps some other wilderness-based foes like hags and ogres would be helpful for the other parts. Here's the 4th-level adventure I put together!

Chapter 4: Three Circles (4th level)

The heroes learned that evil fey seeking to destroy the town of Fallinghollow were working for someone named Njoln Sharpleaf in Wailing Grove. The sage Gendal does some research and reveals that Wailing Grove is several days south of Fallinghollow.

Gendal doesn’t know that Wailing Grove is a site sacred to ancient druids. It is contested by three groups, all of them evil: the Circle of the Pruning Hook is a group of changeling druids who have allied themselves with Treerazer’s forces. The Circle of Stumphome is a coven of three hags whose senior member, the night hag Kesenna, left on her own mysterious errand. Finally, the Plucked Eye is a band of mercenary ogres who lair near the grove. Their symbol is a circle with a tail on it, like a disembodied eyeball. The heroes step into the middle of these foes.


Part 1: Jannasthorpe

The settlement closest to the Wailing Grove is Jannasthorpe, a community of no more than two dozen hunters, trappers, and their families. Mayor Sigrid Truebow warns the heroes against approaching the Wailing Grove; it’s a place of old, hard magic and often the focus of evil forces looking to control its power. Chief among these is the Circle of the Pruning Hook, a group of druids whose leader, Njoln Sharpleaf, is responsible for poisoning animals and trees around Jannasthorpe. Mayor Truebow encourages the heroes to go after Njoln, providing them with two lesser healing potions to aid them.

Encounter 1a (Moderate 4)

As the heroes travel to the Wailing Grove, they encounter a dwarf trapper named Dag caught in the branches of a tree. Dag tries to warn them away, but the evil awakened tree hurls the dwarf to the ground and strides forward to attack. Dag was coming to Jannasthorpe with urgent news: ogres occupy a crumbling keep nearby, and he spotted hooded, human-sized figures meeting with them. He wonders whether the Circle of the Pruning Hook has hired ogres, which would be a marked increase in strength, and encourages the heroes to scout out the fortress while he reports to Mayor Truebow. If the heroes check out the keep, go to Part 2. If they press on to the Wailing Grove, go to Part 3.


Part 2: The Plucked Eye

The ogres of the Plucked Eye occupy the crumbling keep, as Dag said, but they’re no allies of the Circle of the Pruning Hook. In fact, the corpses of two changelings hang from gibbets just outside the keep, their broken sickles embedded in their heads. This is the biggest clue that the ogres and the changelings aren’t allies. The ogres aren’t very attentive, more interested in feasting on a herd of elk they recently killed. Smoke from cooking fires rises from the keep’s yard. Most surfaces the ogres can reach bear crude graffiti of a great circle with a dangling tail. Any keep map works well for this encounter,

Encounter 2a (Moderate 4)

Three ogre warriors hang out in the shadow of the keep’s exterior, arguing. They’re supposed to be keeping guard, but there’s a good chance the heroes spot them first and might be able to trick or ambush them. They’re fighting over a fear gem.

Encounter 2b (Moderate 4)

The only passage into the keep leads past a stable on its way to the courtyard. An ogre glutton and her two pet boars live in the stable; the ogre is force-feeding scraps to the boars to fatten them up and eventually eat them.

Encounter 2c (Moderate 4)

The center courtyard of the keep is the site of a big bonfire, with two full-grown elks roasting on spits make of stripped tree trunks. Two ogre gluttons tend to the meat and rush to attack anyone the think might be intruding on their feast. A high window in the courtyard leads to the lord’s chamber, and the ogres here shout up to “Boss Gristle” to warn of attacks. A passage on the other side of the courtyard leads up to it, past the barracks and the armory, but if the heroes scale the courtyard wall (Athletics DC 20), they can enter the staircase to lord’s chamber (Encounter 2f) to fight Boss Gristle.

Encounter 2d (Moderate 4)

Three tiefling adepts from Velkendir are staying in the keep’s barracks. These are the hooded figures the trapper Dag saw. They have come to commission the ogres in an attack against their city. They know the attack is doomed to fail, but the tieflings’ cult, which follows a powerful devil called Red Crown, plans to use the distraction to tighten their hold over Velkendir. Although the tieflings fight intruders to the death if able, the heroes might capture and question one, or might find this information among the notes they’ve brought with them. The tieflings also have a wand of manifold missiles among their traveling gear.

Encounter 2e

The keeps armory has a few weapons the ogres considered too small to be useful: a fine silver dagger worth 12 gp and a +1 striking rapier

Encounter 2f (Moderate 4)

The stairs leading up to the lord’s bedchamber are painted with elaborate abstract designs. An open window here looks out into the courtyard below. A circular pattern at the top of the upper landing is a wheel of misery hazard that is still dangerous despite its age.

Encounter 2g (Severe 4)

The former lord’s bedchamber of the keep is a squalid mess, mostly due to the disgusting habits of Boss Gristle, the ogre boss in charge of the Plucked Eye ogres. He rouses himself to fight any intruders. His treasure includes a cask of fine wine worth 40 gp, a +1 striking battle axe, and a brass cage worth 35 gp containing a terrified grig named Felvin. Boss Gristle kept Felvin for his musical skills, threatening to eat the grig if he ever played a sour note. Felvin overheard the conversations between the tieflings and Boss Gristle. He knows the Cult of the Red Crown has infiltrated the city of Velkendir and are using devils in a ritual to overthrow the city somehow. Felvin doesn’t much care about the city, but he’s very invested in being set free. He agrees to whatever conditions the heroes place on him, if any, but almost certainly forgets about them once he’s loose.


Part 3: The Pruning Hook

Wailing Grove is an ominous place, surrounded by standing stones that continually emit obscuring mist within 10 feet of them. Any forest glade map works well for this.

Encounter 3a (Moderate 4)

The edge of the Wailing Grove is misty and packed tightly with gnarled trees. As the heroes approach, two of these trees step forward to strike; they are evil arboreal wardens allied with the Circle of the Pruning Hook who fight until destroyed.

Encounter 3b (Moderate 4)

When the heroes get near the Wailing Grove, they are attacked by two changeling exiles and a sod hound. These foes duck in and out of the mist around the standing stones to obscure their position and their numbers as they fight. The changeling exiles each carry a silver sickle with a partially straightened blade. These sickles are worth 20 gp each and are the symbols of the Circle of the Pruning Hook.

Encounter 3c (Severe 4)

As the heroes approach the center of Wailing Grove, the fog reflects strange, lean shadows dozens of feet long and carries strange voices. A deep, inhuman voice like bark grating on bark says, “Njoln, your redcaps have failed. Our master doesn’t brook failure lightly, and the cataclysmic blight we seek may soon be visited upon you.” The responding voice—pleading and near—responds with, “Long are your boughs, my liege, may your pity shelter me. Please, another chance.” The inhuman voice chuckles gratingly and says, “Your chance is nigh. Defeat the trespassers who creep into your sacred grove like wood lice.” The shadows vanish along with the fog, and Njoln, an elite changeling exile, zealously attacks. His first action in combat is to utter a phrase in Druidic that causes one of the trees at the edge of the grove to animate as an awakened tree. Both of these foes fight to the death. Njoln carries a verdant staff and a silver sickle with a partially straightened blade worth 20 gp.

Encounter 3d

Near the center of the Wailing Grove is Njoln’s campsite. Apart from expected amenities, it includes a pouch with 240 sp, an emerald grasshopper, and a large folded leaf marked with a strange rune that resemble an axe covered with diseased mushrooms. This is a symbol of the demon lord Treerazer, although the symbol is rare enough that the heroes can’t learn this without significant research.


Part 4: Stumphome

As the heroes return from the Wailing Grove, they hear shouts for help coming from over a nearby hill. Investigating heroes see a hut built in a truly enormous stump. This is the home of the Circle of Stumphome, a coven of hags that captured the dwarf Dag before he managed to return to Jannasthorpe. With Kassena’s departure, the remaining hags have become desperate enough to hunt for victims closer to Jannasthorpe than usual.

Encounter 4a (Moderate 4)

As the heroes approach, the cries for help coming from inside the hut cease and two old crones hobble out. They attempt to convince the heroes that nothing is wrong and to be on their way; if pressed about trouble, these two disguised green hags attack.

Encounter 4b (Moderate 4)

Inside the hut, an annis hag is boiling water in a cauldron with Dag inside. The hag attacks, intending to capture more victims for her stew-pot. Once freed, Dag is sheepish to have to be rescued twice. He says the hags were bemoaning the loss of one of their coven, Kesenna. Kesenna told the other hags that she had to leave because the arboreals had taken over Wailing Grove and its sister site in the Heartwood, but this didn’t mean anything to the other hags—or to Dag, for that matter. When Kesenna left, she apparently took much of the hags’ power with them, and the coven was broken. The trappings in the hut include a scroll of heroism, a bloodseeker beak, and a single diamond earring worth 45 gp.



At the end of this adventure, the heroes know of the missing hag Kesenna, the evil arboreals in the woods, and ogres receiving directions from a powerful devil cult in the city of Velkendir. The sage Gendal will look into the arboreals associated with the Circle of the Pruning Hook and the symbol among Njoln’s belongings. For now, though, the clearest lead takes the heroes to Velkendir to find out more about the Cult of Red Crown.