Their guidelines went as follows:
We have provided a brief summary of the adventure we want you to write. We wat you to use the elements to bring the adventure to life, and expand the plot into a unique and interesting adventure.
W3: The Flight of the Red Raven
A priceless object has vanished and the PC's must retrieve it. Starting in the small community of Azurestone, their quarry has fled into the wilderness toward the distant Fog Peak Mountains. The chase is on to retrieve the object before the oncoming snow erases the culprit's trail. This is an adventure for 4th-level characters. Then they asked us to answer five questions.
It looks like I made some of the same default decisions some others made, but I did some things differently. I tried for a light-hearted, fun adventure.
After I sent mine in, I did some tinkering and fleshing-out. Here's the post-tinker version.
Initial Hook: The PC’s are hired in the town of Crookston for a day’s work: a hare-like humanoid courier named Jarak is leaving to retrieve a shipment of valuables from the mining outpost of Azurestone, and the merchant in Crookston would like Jarak to have a small armed guard for security.
What is the object that vanished, and why is it important to retrieve it? Azurestone is a wilderness community that mines, cuts, and enchants Ioun Stones (blue spheres, blue rhomboids, some blue-and-red spheres; and occasionally odd, whimsical Ioun stones which don’t sell well).
One of the Azurestone locals is happy to show the PC’s around while they wait for Jarak, but during a tour of the enchantment facilities, the magical energies become dangerously unstable. After the party shuts down the process, the guide notices that something is missing.
The object is a small focusing mirror, an essential widget which the wizards of Azurestone use in the enchanting process. So far as anyone knows, the mirror is a specialized part of the assembly, unusable by most mages
The costs in time and gold to create a replacement mirror are prohibitive.
what are two of the obstacles the PC's must overcome while chasing down the culprit? As well, Jarak and the shipment of Ioun Stones have come up missing. Jarak’s trail is recent and easy to pick up. It seems he left, at a lope, into the wilderness.
One part of the adventure details pursuit through lightly-populated temperate forests, plains, and eventually rolling hills; with the party repeatedly losing and regaining Jarak’s trail. (Azurestone can provide a “blue-and-gold stellated octahedron” Ioun Stone, which grants the Scent ability, to augment the party’s tracking skills) The PC’s also have access to a wagon that grants limited powers of flight to horses pulling it, dubbed the “Red Raven.” Flight allows them to close the distance to their quarry if they’re willing to (a) draw attention to themselves and (b) lose the chance to track for a while.
Many of the wilderness encounters depend on whether the PC’s are airborne or on-ground. If they elect to fly over an area of broken woods, they draw the attention of a spoiled young noble who sends his “very proper” serving man to obtain the miraculous vehicle. The servant is polite when he catches up to the party the next morning, but, begging their pardon, he really must either pay the PC’s for their magic wagon or else abscond with it despite their wishes. He has brought along two small clay golems, and an unseen servant with a half-dozen flasks of sovereign glue, as back up.
Jarak was ambushed and waylaid before he got to the Fog Peak Mountains, by people who were expecting him. He is being held prisoner by the Blackcloaks – rival wizards to the guild at Azurestone – in an extra-dimensional hiding space, accessed through a roadside shrine. The PC’s must realize they’ve lost the quarry’s path – hopefully before they get too far into the ghoul-infested mountains – and double-back. Once they figure out that Jarak’s trail leads to the shrine, it’s a simple matter to locate the doorway to the Blackcloaks’ lair.
Who took the object, and why? Jarak did indeed leave with the mirror in his courier’s pouch, but (1) it was a dishonest gemcutter / acolyte who actually stole the mirror and hid it in the pouch, expecting fellow thieves in Crookston to recover it from the middleman’s shop, and (2) one of the wizards at Azurestone is working with the Blackcloaks, and it was she who planted a suggestion in Jarak’s mind that Crookston was in the Fog Peak Mountains. Jarak left for the mountains, and was captured by the Blackcloaks, who knew he was coming. They got their Ioun Stones, and a bonus they weren’t expecting.
What will the final showdown with the villains look like? There are two dénouements . The PC’s will raid the Blackcloaks’ hiding space (the interiors of which look like an elegant, eight-room apartment, decorated in rich jade and alabaster, decorated with silk pillows and colored incense burners), defeat four wizard-rogues, and recover Jarak and his parcels. But the space isn’t intended to hold so many people, and every round they remain causes more of the lair to dissolve into the trackless Ethereal plane.
Either before the PC’s leave to track Jarak, or after they recover the mirror and return it to Azurestone, they will need to unravel the mystery of who stole the mirror, and expose the community’s traitors.
What new monster do you plan to include in this adventure? The “monster” will be Jarak’s race, the bunyan, a small hare-like humanoid people charged by the gods Desna and Irori to act as couriers and messengers among all peoples. Bunyan personalities tend towards mischief, and those who have agreed to serve the gods as messengers are swift, hardy, and inherently resistant to divination magics. The write-up would focus on the habitat and society of the creatures, who are born knowing how they’re expected to fit into the gods’ plans.
And it was only well after I submitted the adventure that I realized that, if the party failed to get out of the villains' lair in time, the courier was going to be the (sigh) ether bunny.