This is the one I got the closest to actually running, so I’ve got more than just a handful of ideas. It was meant to be an introduction to D20 games, as well as an exploration of the bard class. Bards get a bad rap. The bard is either found useless by people who haven’t read the class specs, or they’re admired by people who have but ultimately not used. This adventure was my idea to do fun things with bards. Bardy things, but even more than that, demonstrate that they’re a versatile class.
First, you need four bards. I pre-rolled four 10th level bards with different focuses. A fighting bard, a spell casting bard, an sneaky bard, and a skills bard. Race doesn’t matter, but I tried to make each of them a different race that complemented their focus. They should each have a different perform skill as they’re all members of the same traveling troupe. They have a mobile wardrobe that is carried by two hirelings. The hirelings are worthless, as they’re not part of the story, but the wardrobe is important. The players should know that hirelings are not fighting anything and run at the sign of danger.
When the game starts, the bards should have to complete a series of skill checks. Perform, disguise, appraise, sense motive. From the results of these checks, the DM will relay how the bards are leaving the last town they performed in, and the disposition of the people and royalty they performed for. The idea is that they should be either ushered out, beloved by the city, or running for their lives because they’ve insulted the royalty. Something to get them out of town and moving on to their next destination.
On the Road
As the troupe is traveling, they will be ambushed by 12 goblins and 2 trolls. Being 10th level, the goblins are much less of a threat than the trolls, but these goblins are special. They’re sick. As in, they’ve got the goblin flu. But they still need to eat, so they’re still ambushing travelers with their charmed trolls.
The trolls are distractions. When combat starts, the hirelings (predictably) drop the wardrobe and run. While the party engages the trolls, the goblins engage the wardrobe. When the players figure out that goblins are rifling through their costumes and equipment, that’s when the fun starts.
The goblins are sick as hell, and they vomit everywhere. In the wardrobe, on the players, on each other. Make it real gross. The goblin flu isn’t contagious but it should certainly nauseate some of the players. The trolls are unfazed.
When the party wipes out the ambush, they should take inventory. Anything covered in goblin vomit should elicit a negative response from anyone else they come across until they can clean up. But it should be stressed that they need to keep moving to their next engagement.
A Stop at Larnwick
Larnwick is your standard tiny crossroads town. An inn and a couple dozen houses. Rural, but not unaccustomed to travelers. The bards should arrive at night, and go straight to the inn. The innkeeper, though disgusted, offers to give them free board and clean their wardrobe if they’ll find the macguffin. I didn’t have much plan here, except that it should be an opportunity to roleplay, and it should lead to a barn, where the bards should encounter a pair of mysterious, cloaked travelers.
These travelers will quickly reveal themselves to be nimblewrights, and engage the players in combat. Nimblewrights are quick, dexterous constructs from D&D 3rd edition Monster Manual 2. They’re cool as heck. They should fight until they’re badly injured and then attempt a hasty escape. No big deal if one dies, but one should get away. What are expensive, carefully crafted constructs doing in Larnwick? That should be a mystery for another day. But the bards recover the macguffin, and receive their free stay at the inn and clean costumes.
The Big Performance in Sorvong
The second leg of their trip should be fairly uneventful, until they arrive at Sorvong, their intended destination. Based on how they left their last town, this town’s royalty should either immediately capture them with overwhelming force and imprison them (bad exit from last town, mad royalty in this town), or they’re so thrilled to have them, they immediately put the bards up in the goldenest cages in the castle (good exit from last town, royalty so in love that they won’t let them go).
Regardless, the bards can win their freedom back in only one way: a spectacular performance. They’re going to perform The Saviors of Sorvong. It’s a musical well known by the town, but unknown to the players. They’re given some simple directions. They must perform, give a display of magic, fight, and have a big ending. None of this will require any forethought by the players; it’s all built into the musical.
This is where you give them their verses. They should read the verses out loud, and the crowd finishes it. That’s when the fighting begins, because the town was either prepared for this performance, or some royal wizard is a great summoner. Regardless, here’s verse one:
On the seventh of Moondawn, we looked to the stars.
From the mazes below, out came the _____
2x Minotaur fight
Though they trampled and crushed and destroyed all of our wares
We will never forget the hooting of the _____
2x Owl bear fight
But the worst of it came from an enemy who would accept no treaty
From out of the lamp came the fiery _____
1x Efreeti fight
At this point, the players should be made aware that dazzling pyrotechnics are available. If they think they’re going to survive the fight against the efreeti, the pyrotechnics make a spectacular finish. If the performance is going badly and they need to make a quick exit, the pyro makes an excellent distraction. If they stick around, they get the fourth verse:
Chaos reigned that night until the arrival
Of four brave heroes who ensured our survival
They fought the monsters with sword, spell, and song
And so we celebrated for the Saviors of Sorvong
The players, now the figurative and literal saviors of Sorvong, should be showered with praise, and gold. If they made a quick exit, at least they lived to play another day.