Morbus 1 – The Attack on Furrowcross

I’m currently running a campaign of Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition that I have dubbed Morbus, for reasons not yet disclosed to the players. I’ve decided to share my campaign planning with the readers of this blog, for those who are curious to see how Fourth Edition encounters work, or for GMs who are interested in an adventure to run.

I intend to make each adventure “episode” wrap up a little story as well as being part of the larger campaign plot. For the players in my campaign, each adventure will take their characters up a single experience level, but I’m doubling experience point rewards in my game. Normally, it takes ten encounters of the party’s level to level up, but I’m aiming for just five. Because of that, if any GMs are following along with my campaign, they will need to add more encounters to keep the PCs at an appropriate level for these adventures. On this blog, I will report the normal, non-doubled experience rewards for encounters. The adventures will, however, dispense all of the appropriate treasure parcels for a four-person party, so you may want to change that.

I’ll try to present each adventure independently of the larger plot. I’ll tie them together periodically with summary posts explaining their larger context. This particular adventure, The Attack on Furrowcross, is appropriate for four first-level characters who have not yet formed a party with each other. It features a goblin raid on a market town. The details, with full spoilers, are after the break.

All encounter maps were created with the free program Dungeon Forge (requires free registration).

Background

The PCs are visiting the trade town of Furrowcross. Furrowcross is a town that serves as the marketplace for the farms and small villages in the surrounding areas, as well as a place for those farmers to get crafted and imported goods. It has a population of about 2,000 people, counting the farm in the immediate area. The population is mostly human, with significant minorities of halflings, dwarves, and half-elves, and a few each of the other player races. There is a large, dense forest a bit west of town that is rumored to contain monsters.

The mayor of Furrowcross is a halfling named Shasta. He is in charge of the town guard, who are really for preventing theft and locking up drunks; they are not prepared to handle raiding goblins or angry adventurers (they are all Human Rabble). The master blacksmith is a dwarf named Tharix Brickshand. There are many other blacksmiths and craftsmen in town, but Brickshand is considered the representative of them all in city matters. There is only one temple in town, the Temple of All Gods. It contains shrines to most of the good and unaligned dieties, although the largest and most well-appointed shrine is to Erathis. The Priest of Erathis, a human named Dane Lavi, is the head of the temple. The most skilled magic user in town is a ritual mage named Tark, who works for the temple and the mayor, providing them with spells. He is willing to perform rituals for player characters for a 10% markup of their component cost; he knows Animal Messenger, Magic Mouth, Make Whole, Arcane Lock, Enchant Magic Item, Hand of Fate, Brew Potion, and Sending. He casts as if he was a 6th level character with relevant skill bonuses of +10, but has no powers.

The PCs begin in the market square, which is the center of life in Furrowcross. The local tavern, Brickshand’s smithy, the general store, the temple, and the town hall all overlook this square. When the PCs arrive, six carts are set up by various farmers and merchants, bearing produce, meats, grains, and knickknacks from other towns. Provide the PCs with a few minutes to browse the market before:

Market Encounter Map

Encounter A: The Market

Level 1 combat encounter; 325xp total

Suddenly, high voices can be heard yelling taunts and battle cries in Goblin and broken Common. Five goblins rush into the market square from the northwest bearing makeshift weapons, and three of them shove over one of the carts, its contents spilling onto the grass. They shout and brandish their weapons at the shoppers, who flee in panic. The leader (the Warrior) shouts to the others to start grabbing fruit.

Enemies:

  • C: 4 Goblin Cutters (Level 1 Minions)
  • W: 1 Goblin Warrior (Level 1 Skirmisher)
  • SS: 1 Goblin Sharpshooter (Level 2 Artillery)

The initial assault happens too quickly for the PCs to react. If the PCs take any action other than running away, the goblins attack them, using the carts for cover. The seven squares covered in spilled wares are difficult terrain. The PCs can tip over other carts, creating similar patches of difficult terrain and knocking any goblins in the affected area prone.

Once the goblins flee or are killed, an injured man runs into the square, begging the party to help his wife, who’s being held hostage in the warehouse they own by some “horrible monsters.” This warehouse is the same building marked on the Market encounter map. The man has been cut with knives and burned. DC10 Healing: The burns are from a strong electric shock.

Warehouse Encounter Map

Encounter B: The Warehouse

Level 1 combat encounter; 400xp total

Inside the warehouse, the PCs find a frightened woman being held hostage by a hobgoblin in robes with a knife to her throat. More goblins are loading up a cart (hitched to two mules) with spices, fruit, and gold while one holds a fire beetle on a leash. Portions of the warehouse are packed high with crates, which block movement and line of sight.

Enemies:

  • C: 2 Goblin Cutters (Level 1 Minions)
  • W: 1 Hobgoblin Warcaster (Level 3 Controller (Leader))
  • BB: 1 Goblin Blackblade (Level 1 Lurker)
  • FB: 1 Fire Beetle (Level 1 Brute)

Allies:

  • H: 1 Human Hostage (treat as a minion, all defenses 10, Initiative 0, no attacks)

The warcaster is watching the front (south) doors, and has grabbed the hostage, with a prepared action to slit the woman’s throat (which will kill her) if the PCs ignore his demands to stay out of the warehouse. He is not watching the windows, which are large enough to enter or shoot through. If he is attacked from the windows or snuck up upon from the sides (by stealth or teleportation), he will release the woman in surprise. She in turn has a prepared action to shift away from him when released, and will seek to escape the warehouse via the front doors on her initiative.

Whether the woman is killed or escapes, the goblins will attack whoever is responsible. The fire beetle’s keeper will release it, and the blackblade will head for the aisles between the crates to hide and wait for an opportunity to backstab a PC. If the hobgoblin is badly damaged (below 10 hp) he will call for a retreat, at which point he and the surviving goblins will attempt to escape in the cart.

It takes the cart’s driver a full-round action each turn to goad the mules into movement, and they pull the cart 5 squares on their initiative in any turn in which they are being goaded.

Treasure (parcels 1, 4, and 5): The warcaster is wearing a Cloak of Resistance +1, and the cloak is held closed by two removable clasps, each with a 100gp pearl attached. If the PC party contains a staff-using wizard, the warcaster also has a Staff of Storms +1; otherwise, his staff is a normal implement and he has a Bag of Holding on his belt.

After the fight, when the party leaves the warehouse, the bystanders from the market have returned to the square. They applaud the party, a shopkeeper steps forward to thank them for the rescue with 2 potions of healing (perhaps offering them to the most injured PC), and the stallowners pool their cash to offer 200gp among them. (parcels 6 and 7)

Afterward, a bystander announces that the goblins came from west of town, and that there were more of them attacking the farms in that direction. If the PCs don’t immediately leap to the rescue, they are begged to do so, and it is suggested that the mayor is sure to reward them handsomely if they bring back whatever is being stolen.

Encounter C: The Chase

Level 1 Skill Challenge; 400xp total on full success

The PCs must find and follow the raiders in a complexity 4 skill challenge: 10 successes before 3 failures. If they succeed, they find the raiders’ camp and get the experience for this challenge; if they fail, they will eventually be lost in the forest and face the optional encounter, E. This challenge proceeds in three phases, and moves on to the next phase when the specified number of successes have been reached.

If the players get three failures before the end of the second phase, they find the riders in Encounter D waiting for them along the way to the forest and experience Encounter E inside the forest. If the players get three failures during the third phase, they experience encounter E inside the forest. If they succeed, they skip encounter E.

The PCs start out in the middle of town, some distance from the fields. During this time, the raiders are herding sheep and loading stuff onto a wagon pulled by stolen mules. The raiders consist of 2 goblin warriors riding dire rats, 1 goblin with a bone headdress driving the wagon, 3 goblins herding sheep, and the leader, a larger goblin wearing the skull of some sort of drake as a helmet and riding a wolf. Throughout the challenge, the bulk of the raiders herd the sheep with them.

First Phase: Around Town (first 3 successes)

Example checks:

  • Acrobatics DC15: Climb a building to spot the raiders attacking the farm
  • Athletics DC15: Get to the edge of town fast enough to spot the raiders actively attacking a farm.
  • Diplomacy DC10: Calm a bystander enough to find out where the raiders were stealing from.
  • Perception DC10: Spot a ribbon of smoke from a burning farmhouse

Once the party has made three successes, they reach the edge of town. At this point, the raiders will make a break for it, herding the sheep by yelling and beating them to make them go faster. The terrain is mostly farmland with large clusters of trees. Rough roads, barely more than ruts, head west. Throughout the chase, the raiders stay out of range of the PCs’ attacks.

Second Phase: In the Open (next 4 successes)

Example checks:

  • At least one Endurance DC10 check to keep up
  • Athletics DC10: Keep up with the raiders as they flee.
  • Perception DC10: Spot a shortcut
  • Stealth DC10: Stay out of sight

Once the players get four more successes, the skull-wearing goblin will order the two rat-riders to split off and attack the group, putting the skill challenge on hold until after the combat.

Hilltop Encounter Map

Encounter D: The Hilltop

Level 1 combat encounter; 400xp total

Enemies:

  • 2 Goblin Warriors (Level 1 Skirmisher), riding
  • 2 Dire Rats (Level 1 Brute)

The riders enter from the east side of the map. The center of the map is the top of a hill, which is not steep enough to grant a noticeable benefit to those with high ground. All darker squares and squares occupied by trees are difficult terrain, and the riders may not enter those squares at all while mounted.

The riders stay mounted until either the rider or the mount is killed, at which point the survivor fights on alone. The mounts give no benefits to the riders other than coolness. Generally, the riders will move and attack with javelins, and the rats will charge the closest PC if their rider is killed. The riders and the mounts must be targeted separately.

After the fight, the rest of the raiders are just entering the forest west of town, but if the PCs are quick, they can catch up by finishing the skill challenge. The raiders navigate a series of branching paths.

Third Phase: The Forest (final 3 successes)

Example checks:

  • Athletics DC15: Gain ground on the raiders through sheer speed or climb a tree for a better view.
  • Acrobatics DC15: Take shortcuts between trees or swing from branch to branch.
  • Nature DC10: Spot tracks and disturbances in the forest to determine the raiders’ path.
  • Perception DC10: Hear sheep’s bleating, spot goblins through the foliage, or see the smoke of their cooking fire.

If the PCs fail the skill challenge, they become lost in the forest and come across a small clearing with a dead tree and some bushes. If they succeed at the challenge, skip this encounter.

Clearing Encounter Map

Optional Encounter E: The Clearing

Level 2 combat encounter; 500xp total

Enemies:

  • R: 3 Giant Rats (Level 1 Minion)
  • SD: 3 Spiretop Drakes (Level 1 Skirmisher)
  • S: 1 Needlefang Drake Swarm (Level 2 Soldier)

The clearing appears quiet and empty. A DC 15 Perception check allows a PC to notice a pile of animal bones in the middle of the clearing, hidden by grass. If all PCs fail the check, they are surprised.

All fully-shadowed squares grant concealment. The center square of the dead tree in the clearing blocks movement and line of sight. The three squares of bushes in the clearing are difficult terrain. The spiretop drakes fly across the clearing, stealing anything shiny that the PCs have on their belts or packs. They do not attack unless one of their own is attacked. The rats and the swarm, however, use their best tactics to kill and consume the party.

After this fight, the party hears the baaing of stolen sheep coming from the goblin camp and can follow the sound there.

Regardless of how they arrive there, the PCs end up outside the camp. Depending on the tactics used during the challenge, the goblins may or may not know they are there. Also, if the players failed no rolls during the skill challenge, the front gate is open, as the goblins had no time to close it.

The trees outside the camp provide cover. The fences around the camp are a loosely-spaced palisade. Climbing over the fences or gate is a DC 10 Climb check. The gates are unlocked, but are deliberately left squeaky, so opening one will alert the goblins. The sheep are contained in the paddock. One goblin is playing tug-of-war with the wolf using a deer bone. Two goblins are out of sight inside two of the three tents. The large tent has an entrance on each end; the two small tents have a single entrance each on their exposed ends. The mule cart sits inside the fence with the mules still hitched.

Goblin Camp Encounter Map

Encounter F: The Goblin Camp

Level 3 combat encounter; 600xp total

Enemies:

  • C: 2 Goblin Cutters (Level 1 Minion)
  • SC: 1 Goblin Skullcleaver (Level 3 Brute)
  • SS: 1 Goblin Sharpshooter (Level 2 Artillery)
  • H: 1 Goblin Hexer (Level 3 Controller (Leader))
  • W: 1 Gray Wolf (Level 2 Skirmisher)

The sheep paddock is full of sheep, and is difficult terrain. Additionally, the sheep grant cover to someone amongst them. The fire deals 1d10 + 3 fire damage to anyone who enters or ends their turn in its space. The tents may only be entered or exited via the center square in their ends.

When combat begins, the sharpshooter runs to stand beside the hexer, allowing her to use her Lead from the Rear ability while they both benefit from her Vexing Cloud and make ranged attacks. The rest of the enemies rush the party. The goblins all fight to the death (or unconsciousness), as they are defending their homes.

When the goblins are defeated, the party may search the tents and bodies. The skullcleaver is wearing Darkleaf Armor +1 of a type that is useful to the party (Parcel 2). Note that it does not change the skullcleaver’s AC. The armor is small, but Tark in town will resize it with the Enchant Magic Item ritual for 10 gp. PCs may notice that the hexer is a woman.

In the large tent, there is a chest containing a bone statuette of a wolf, worth 100gp, and 200sp of foreign silver, obviously not from town (Parcel 8). There is also a rocking crib containing a sleeping goblin baby. PCs may deal with this situation as they see fit; one possibility is giving it to the temple in Furrowcross to care for. The players may also choose to find a goblin home for the baby, which could be a new adventure. Of course, if the players chose to knock the goblins unconscious instead of killing them, the baby will be fine once they wake up. Finally, as a last resort, killing a goblin baby is so easy as to not require a skill check.

Upon bringing the cart of stolen goods and the sheep back to town, the mayor will reward the party with 100gp (Parcels 9 & 10).

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3 thoughts on “Morbus 1 – The Attack on Furrowcross

  1. Wow really good adventure. I’m going to use it to introduce 4th edition to some guys. But about the monster info are they in the monster manual or another file somewhere?

    1. Yes, the monsters are straight out of the first Monster Manual. I didn’t include stat blocks here because I wasn’t sure of Wizards’s feelings about reprinting that stuff.

  2. Thanks for sharing this! I love playing this one coz it’s really a great adventure! Are there any other strategies to be able to encounter such monsters?

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