Hackendale is a valley between to low mountain ridges. It contains several hamlets, one of which was Westvale. “Was”, because a monster appeared out of the wooded flanks of the valley, scattered the herds, devoured those that dared to face it and left Westvale in shambles. The peasants have send for help, but the next manor is far from here and the populace of the valley in the grasp of terror, for nobody knows where this abomination so suddenly appeared from nor when it will strike again.
This blog post is a LotFP(tm) compatible side quest for a group of four or five 2nd level characters or three of 3rd level. Above this, the group could contain magic-users or fighters that may be able to deal with the Wyrm “head on”, which would turn this side quest into a toothless tiger. The map is Briarthorne Caves from Sleeping Griffon Productions, a pay-what-you-want title used with permission and copyright by Sleeping Griffon Productions.
If you are not the GM of your group, but your GM might need some fodder, do not read further but provide the link to your GM.
Okay, you are either an GM or just interested in reading this post for mere avocation (which is both fine with me).
Background: a hermit that is known as “ol´Joshua” by the folks of Westvale happens to be a wizard and summoner, who sought mastery over beings from beyond. His attempts left him mad, but this did not stopped his study nor his attempts to bring strange creatures under his control. Living in a small cottage in the woods, miles away from Westvale, he spend his days hunting, gathering, trapping, meditating and devising new spells and summonings. Recently, he was more successful than ever before and summoned a monstrous wyrm that is not only stable in this world but under his complete control. In his insane mind, this success meant that he is to destroy the hamlets in Hackendale and drive off everyone, to rule over the valley. So much, so typical and pleasent.
Joshua, the Mad Summoner (4th Level Magic-User)
Hit Points: 9
Weapons: Spear (1d6) or iron dagger (1d4)
Of the spells he knows, Joshua will have memorized the Enlarge spell two times as well as Phantasmal Force when encountered. Continual Light he had already cast (on a section of the cave he and his wyrm currently lair in).
The Wyrm: the creature´s body resembles a green millipede with a length of 12´ and a diameter of 3´. Its feet are yellow, its lower body is white and its head is covered in a thick shell akin to emerald (AC:19 against all attacks from the front). In its center, one red eye sits deep within the emerald encasing.
Its mandibles look like polished steel and both of its flanks are lined with a row of neon blue feathers. Its bite is venomous (Save vs. Poison; on a failure the victim is wrecked by seizures, drops everything in hand and counts as helpless for 1d4 rounds). When it attacked Westvale it was under the effect of an Enlarge spell (by the Mad Summoner) and thereby next to twice its size. In its enlarged form the creature has better stats (marked with ***), but the poison bite remains the same. Furthermore, it may swallow a target whole on a natural 19 or 20 on the attack roll.
Start of the Adventure:
The PC (hopefully!) get involved when they travel through Hackendale on their route from A to B. In Crosshill (the only hamlet with an inn in all Hackendale, located at the foot of a hill with a 10´high stone cross on it) the characters will find the whole populace on the small square in front of the inn (the Halfway House). In fact, it is more than twice the hamlet´s population, which is 67 souls, as they are accompanied by the 49 of now-razed Westvale refugees. The fugitives and the inhabitants argue about what to do now. Some say that all should wait “till help and men arrive from the manor”, others point out that it will take at least another day till this happens and claim that “we have not time to wait!”. If the characters do not show interest, the GM now needs something else to do this evening.
Otherwise, the refuges will give a terrifying description of the beast (and make it a little larger than it actually was at that time, see above), how it killed a man by biting him in twain and another one by swallowing him whole (both true), and tore down the cottages. If the characters inquire about strange happenings they will hear about “ol´Joshua, the strange hermit in the woods”. Those from Crosshill will be quick to call out that it “must been HIM that brought this monster upon us all!!!” while some of Westvale will speak out against it, as “he lived in the woods for DECADES by now! He is strange, yes, and maybe even out of his mind. But what shall HE have to do with the appearance of such an abomination??” At this point a small blond girl, perhaps 8 years, makes her way boldly onto the square… only to stop in front of the PC, looking up in silence and with her eyes showing her inner turmoil and unease. The girl, whose name is Maria, will only speak when a character talks to her first. If they don´t, her mother will catch up to pull her away and back into the crowd. The girl´s message is very simple “Joshua is my friend. He is not evil”
At some point, the PC will either offer to take care of the matter out of altruism or are going to ask for a reward. The people of Westvale were able to rescue their golden altar cross (a fine work of actual gold coating over silver, worth 20gp to those who value it as an item of faith/craftsmanship, and 10gp if sold for precious metal alone). If the characters bring back the head of the monster, it shall be theirs. If this is not enough, the widow of one of those who died will offer her mule and her wedding band (15sp) as well before she breaks into tears and BEGS the PC on her knees to “Kill it! KILL IT!!! KILL!! …” before her voice breaks down in tears.
On to Westvale
Their is little else the group may learn from the denizens of Hackenvale: there are three further hamlets (one of which the characters have passed already, one the characters will pass when they continue their original journey). Westvale consisted of simple cottages, a wooden church, a well, pasture and the surrounding fields. There are wolves in the woods, but aside from those the people of Westvale have never encountered any beast that would be a danger to a grown man.
In Crosshile, the characters may purchase simple supplies (food, rope, torches, etc) but no other weapons than spears, hatchets, bows and arrows. They will be given a description of the way (easy to follow, since the dirt trail connecting the hamlets is neatly ined with stones on both sides). Eight miles later, the group will arrive in the ruins of Westvale.
(What is left of )Westvale
The monstrosity left the place in shambles. Neither the cottages nor the church remained standing. The fences to keep in the life stock (swine and sheep) have partially been torn down, and animals can be seen scattered all around in the distance. A few chicken walk around in the ruins and half a dozen startled geese squawk loudly and flee in panic as the characters approach. When the PC search the place, they may find common household items in the ruins (the denizens escaped with only their life and perhaps a dog or mule they could pull along), a few large blood splatters and near those a broken spear and 2d6 scattered, non-broken arrows (but no corpses). The trail of the monster is obvious and matches the description that the characters got in Crosshill: it leads straight into the woods, towards the mountain ridge.
Anyone who follows the trail will notice that it becomes smaller after a while, just as if the creature would be shrinking. PC that pass a skill test for Bushcraft will also recognize the tracks of a human pairing up with that of the monster a little deeper in the woods.. It is not clear if the person followed the trail or walked at the side of the monster. Following the track is easy, it leads straight through the woods for perhaps 6 miles before it reaches the steep flank of the mountain ridge, and the entry to a cave found within it.
The Lair (see map; a hex is 3 feet)
 This entrance is so overgrown with thorny thickets that it cannot be recognized as such at first. A successful Search test (+2 bonus) will reveal this fact. Characters that want to push through must pass a test for Force Doors. The thorns are wicked, but neither are they poisonous nor will they cause enough damage to reduce a character´s hit points. Hacking through takes 20 rounds, reduced by one for every additional character involved and by another round for every positive STB point. This will startle Joshua, who will hide in the bat´s cave (see below).
 The tracks lead right to this entrance, but end on the stony floor of the cave. Those with a keen ear [1 in 6 base chance) may hear a voice deeper inside the cave (Joshua). When any human(!) but Joshua reaches the small ledge that leads deeper into the cave a Magic Mouth will form and laugh mockingly in Joshua´s voice. This will startle the bats (see below) and Joshua (for whom a reaction is now rolled).
 The cave forms a junction here, and a man can be heard clearly (and perhaps seen) to walk about in a cave further ahead  that seems to be sparsely lit.
 This small cave was used as an abort by Joshua in the last two days.
 The age-old and brittle skeleton of a bear can be found in this niche.
 Joshua can be found here, walking about aimlessly while rambling to himself in a lowered voice. Light shines from a niche in the corner (where Continual Light had been cast on a fist-sized rock. Next to it lie a bedroll, a backpack with rations and personal belongings, a waterskin, a spear, some gathered firewood and a small locked chest (inside is the spellbook of Joshua, he wears the key around his neck, along with that for the padlock on his cottage in the wood). When the PC did not draw attention to themselves by now they may surprise him (2 out of 6 chance; or a successful Stealth check). Unless the characters mention Maria at the start of the conversation, a d6 is rolled to determine the mad summoners reaction.
#1 Laughs madly, but flees in panic (to the wyrm lair, while the bats from the cave begin to “attack” the characters.
#2 Spurts forth some nonsense and garbled sentences while glaring at each character in turn with wild eyes. He will laugh hysterically as soon as the characters touch his stuff or him, which summons the bats from 7. The next round, he will cast “enlarge” on himself and attack the PC on the following round.
#3 Completely ignores the PC and meanders about the area, rambling to himself about “my kingdom”, “laying the land” and “erecting a haven for my minions”
#4 Smiles and beckons the characters to follow him. If they try to talk to him, he will say “you must see it…yes, must see it!” He will walk towards , but will not interfere when the wyrm begins to attack the PC.
#5-6 Joshua has a clear moment and begins to question the PC (“Who are you?” “What are you doing here?”). He will admit to being Joshua, and asked about a monster he will slowly admit that he has seen one and followed it till here, but is at loss what to do about it. If the characters go towards the wyrm lair, he will stay where he is. When the battle begins, he will cast Enlarge on himself, so that the PC are trapped between his creature and himself. If attacked, he will give a shrieking laugh and try to escape toward the wyrm lair as soon as the bats swarm out of their cave.
If Maria is mentioned, Joshua will freeze in shock and repeat the name in whisper, then again with despair in his voice before he falls to his knees crying. In a fleeting moment of sanity he explains that he summoned the wyrm and that it is down there in the cave. If he is asked if it was him who ordered it to destroy the village he will roll up into a fetal position on the floor, rocks back and forth but will otherwise be unresponsive for 1d4 turns. Afterwards, a reaction is rolled (see above). From that point on, all sanity is gone from him.
 A small descent leads into another large cave which floor is two foot deeper and its ceiling about a yard higher than the that of the main cave. The pungent stench of the feces on the ground as well as the agitated chirping and movement at the ceiling quickly make it clear that this is the roost of a swarm of bats: 54 of the small creatures nest here. They will “attack” anyone but Joshua or the wyrm as soon as somebody enters their cave or a signal is given: Joshua used Speak with Animals to “befriend” them, and explained that neither him nor the wyrm would mean any harm to them, but other creatures would. The bats attack by swarming and harassment, which will have a Confusion effect on every character that does not pass a Saving Throw vs. Devices (which renders a character immune for 1d6 +INTB rounds). Being feeble and meekly, the bats must pass a Moral Check every time one of them is killed (every hit kills one bat) or when they are attacked with fire. A failed check means that the swarm leaves the cave and disperses outside, till it seems save to return.
Confusion Effects (d6)
1# Attacks a random nearby target by accident (attack roll without any bonus)
2# Fights “Blind”
3# Stumbles backwards in defense (¼ move, no further action)
4# Attacks the bat swarm
5-6# May act as usual
 A natural recess has formed at this end of the cave, about 2´ deeper than the main cave. An opening in the wall connects it with a smaller cave (that is connected to long tunnel).
 Water drops from the ceiling of this long, winding tunnel that leads steadily downward.
 The wyrm creature lairs in this cave. It will attack anyone but Joshua on sight, follow those who flee and fight till its death.