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Free Level 9 D&D Encounter: Grim Tidings

Free Level 9 D&D Encounter: Grim Tidings

Goblinoids get a bad rap in most D&D games. Goblins mostly exist as fodder for low-level dungeons or expendable minions for more powerful creatures. Bugbears are typically seen as back-stabbing layabouts who are content to steal whatever they find. Hobgoblins are war-like and honorable to a fault, with little other redeeming qualities to their society. It’s unfortunate that these creatures don’t get much of a chance to shine beyond their evil portrayal within the source books. However, I ran a Patreon poll recently to determine the next Side Quest adventure level. Our lovely patrons decided on a Tier 2 adventure, and since the goblinoids deserve some love (and can be nicely slotted into a higher tier encounter), I felt it was time to write up a free level 9 D&D Encounter for them. I hope you all enjoy Grim Tidings! 

For those of you who are new to our blog, Welcome! We post a monthly Side Quest, which are short, free TTRPG encounters with corresponding maps that can be easily threaded into an ongoing or one shot campaign, allowing busy DMs to throw in a random encounter at the drop of a hat. Our Adventurer Level 2 tier allows our Patrons to pick the game system, theme, and name a character or two in an upcoming Side Quest. We create a free adventure around their idea, and now everyone gets to enjoy this free spooky D&D one-shot! Plus, Patrons receive a downloadable version of all our Side Quests.

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Reference Resources Needed

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Free Level 9 D&D Encounter: Grim Tidings

Background

The free settlement of Lorachtinar is home to hundreds of members of the goblinoid species. These people maintain lives of peace, free from the strife and violence common among others of their kind. Hobgoblins work side-by-side with bugbears to plow fields; goblins harvest wheat to make bread, and together they work towards a future without the shackles of their past. The peoples of Lorachtinar have even begun the process of building relations with other nearby towns, much to the surprise of all.

However, not all is well within Lorachtinar. An upstart hobgoblin warlord called Vokol the Grim has his sights on the people of Lorachtinar to fill his army. Lorachtinar refused to be led down an old familiar path, but this did not stop Vokol. Setting camp up outside of town, Vokol uses his forces to attack nearby villages and ruin the reputation Lorachtinar has built for itself in hopes that they relent to his will. The leadership of Lorachtinar is desperate for help, and has sent envoys in search of willing adventurers who will help unseat Vokol, by any means necessary.

Plot Hooks

  • A tired and beaten goblin runs up to the adventurers without any fear. Within their hands is a note requesting the aid of any mercenaries to come to the settlement of Lorachtinar. 
  • The adventurers find a ransacked merchant wagon out in the wilderness. Signs reveal that a host of goblinoids attacked, and their tracks lead in the direction of Lorachtinar. 
  • News comes in that a community of peaceful goblinoids is under siege by a hobgoblin war party, though no city is willing to send troops to save the beleaguered settlement.

Reaching Lorachtinar

Finding Lorachtinar requires three to five days of travel towards a large swath of land that was originally believed to be uninhabited. Upon arriving, the adventurers spy the village of Lorachtinar sitting near the edge of a small lake. Sturdy log bulwarks stand in between the village and open plain, with a few farming settlements scattered nearby. Smoke rises over a mile to the east, signifying a large encampment nearby. 

Upon reaching the main gate situated in the southern wall, a mix of five goblinoid guards quickly open for the adventurers, recognizing them as potential help. Inside the walls stand many simple homes and structures, with multiple types of goblinoid citizens going about their day. Children run around and play before their parents quickly bring them in, while a member of the guard directs the party to the largest building in the center of town.

The Village of Lorachtinar

The village is home to over 1000 goblinoid inhabitants, with a few individuals of other monstrous races, such as kobolds and orcs mixed in. Notable structures include:

  • The Chipped Cup: A bugbear-run tavern that acts as a communal meeting place. Services include a hot meal and a small but tasty drink menu. Rooms are limited, as the residents of Lorachtinar rarely see newcomers in town.
  • Market Square: A collection of stalls that sells a number of trade goods made locally as well as a few odds and ends collected elsewhere.
  • Morgar’s Hammer: A hobgoblin-owned smith that has a handful of weapons and armor available for purchase.

The adventurers are led to a council of notable members of Lorachtinar’s community. They include:

  • Poril: A neutral goblin miller who owns the water mill on the edge of town. An old injury forces Poril to use a cane at all times, but they are proudly independent. They use the stats of a goblin boss, but they do not wield armor or weapons. 
  • Morgar Oakstride: A lawful neutral hobgoblin who owns Morgar’s Hammer near the center of town. His expression is dour, but he cares about everyone in town. He uses the stats of a hobgoblin captain but only holds a smith’s hammer as equipment (mace).
  • Bon Thin: A neutral good bugbear who is a co-owner of the Chipped Cup. Her laugh fills the room with cheer. She uses the stats of a noble, but does not wield armor or weapons.

The three council members greet the adventurers, and quickly inform them of their plight. They explain that Vokol the Grim recently moved into the region searching for goblinoid clans to join in his warband. The people of Lorachtinar rebuffed Vokol, and rather than leave, he called upon the old “rights of conquest”. Vokol then commandeered an old lookout tower east of the village and wages guerilla war on neighboring settlements in an attempt to ruin Lorachtinar’s reputation. 

The council is at a loss at how to remove Vokol, and want to do so without an open battle. They believe that, if given a chance, Vokol’s current army would lay down their arms for a chance at a peaceful life. Morgar recalls an old hobgoblin custom known as the “Kur-en-tar”, or “First blood”. The hobgoblin code demands that any challenger who enacts the Kur-en-tar before blood is spilled in combat may fight in a one-on-one duel with the defender for control of the goblinoid forces. The only conditions to enacting this challenge are to avoid all combat with Vokol’s forces and to invoke the Kur-en-tar to the warlord directly. All three council members honestly answer any further questions the adventurers have, but ultimately offer a reward of 7,500 gold plus land nearby if they are able to remove Vokol.

Wandering Patrol

A patrol of Vokol’s soldiers enter the village as the adventurers leave the councilors. One hobgoblin captain, five bugbears, and three worgs question civilians if they’ve seen anyone coming into town. If spotted, they attack on sight, but attempt to flee if overwhelmed. Lorachtinar locals are hesitant to hide the adventurers, but will do so on a successful DC 15 Charisma (Persuasion) check.

Vokol’s War Camp

The war camp resides about a mile and a half to the east of Lorachtinar. Three patrols consisting of six goblins riding worgs travel around the plains. Grass within the plains grows tall enough to hide within, allowing stealthy characters to move by unnoticed. 

Upon arrival, the adventurers spy the goblinoid encampment situated at the base of a hill. Rows of sharpened wood palisades line the campground, and a single gate leading in from the west. The remnants of a stone tower is visible atop the hill in the center of the camp. Adventurers succeeding on a DC 14 Wisdom (Perception) check notice a weakened section of wood fence large enough for a medium-sized creature or smaller to squeeze through. If the adventurers miss the opening, a patrol of worg riders arrive shortly escorting a stolen wagon full of valuables. The gates open for a brief period as the wagon enters, thus allowing the adventurers a chance to enter. 

Dozens of armed bugbears, hobgoblins, goblins and the occasional worg convene within the lower perimeter of the camp performing daily tasks. Simple wood buildings serve as barracks and other functions within the interior. One building near the north holds six kegs worth of an experimental explosive compound created by Vokol’s goblin engineers. A DC 16 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals the black powder to be explosive, and thus may be used to cause a distraction. Setting fire to a container full of gunpowder can cause it to explode, dealing fire damage to creatures within 10 feet of it (7d6 for a keg). A successful DC 12 Dexterity saving throw halves the damage. Setting fire to an ounce of gunpowder causes it to flare for 1 round, shedding bright light in a 30-foot radius and dim light for an additional 30 feet.

Inner Camp Overview

The inner camp rises eight feet taller than the surrounding areas and is protected by a second barrier of logs. Three fifteen-foot high towers manned by goblins watch from behind the walls at each of the three entryways. 

Camp Exterior

Dried mud and dead grass fill the upper camp area, as hundreds of pairs of feet march among the hill daily. Spartan tents set into neat rows line the walls. A handful of campfires sit and smolder among the tents, though few soldiers are around to tend to them during the day. At night each tent sleeps two inhabitants. Searching the tents for valuables yields a handful of coins of various types and the occasional trinket. At any given time a single patrol of three bugbears and four goblins led by a bugbear veteran make a lazy path around the camp. 

C1. Storage

This L-shaped building holds a majority of Vokol’s supplies, including dry food and water. A goblin boss and two hobgoblin soldiers remain inside to manage incoming inventory. 

Treasure. Searching the crates reveals enough food and water to last an army, three bolts of linen worth 500 gp each, and a 5 lb. box of rare spices worth 250 gp.

C2. Blacksmith

A hastily-installed kiln sits in the side of this rickety wooden shack acting as Vokol’s armory. A bugbear chief works the forge alongside a goblin assistant as they continually produce equipment for the army. 

Treasure. The armory contains fifty steel-tipped javelins, ten longswords, fifteen spears, and two wooden shields. Other supplies include five crates containing 75 lbs. of iron worth 75 silver each and a set of smith’s tools.

Upper Camp

A narrow dirt path leads up an additional ten feet towards the summit of the hill. Only four structures stand at the top, two of which are spacious canvas tents. 

Large Tents

Both of the large tents belong to Vokol’s lieutenants: a hobgoblin devastator named Burning Kholdrud, known for his proclivity towards fire, and a goblin cult fanatic named Miefog who provides spiritual guidance for Vokol. They most frequently spend time with Vokol in the tower, and their tents remain empty during the day. Kholdrud keeps a case containing six bottles of alchemist fire within his tent, while Miefog hides a packet of dust of disappearance beneath her cot.

C3. Private Quarters

Vokol’s quarters are within an abandoned shed that stood empty upon the hill. The space is kept clear as befitting Vokol’s spartan nature, though some personal effects reside within. An armor stand holds an antique hobgoblin cuirass (scale mail), while a locked metal chest sits at the edge of a plain bed. 

Treasure. Unlocking the chest requires the key Vokol holds or by succeeding on a DC 22 Dexterity check using thieves’ tools. Inside is a pouch containing 300 platinum pieces and a potion of mind reading.

C4. Ruined Tower

Vokor and his lieutenants have set up their war room in the remains of an old watch tower. A handful of faded tapestries hang from the walls, while a huge strategy table occupies the center of the room. A wooden staircase leads to the second floor above, though nature and time has reduced the roof to rubble, and little remains above. Vokol (see statblock below), along with Kholdrud and Miefog, strategize within the structure.

Vokol uses the stats of a Hobgoblin warlord with the following changes:

  • Vokol speaks Common, Goblin, and Giant.
  • He has an average of 115 hit points.
  • Vokol wields a sword of wounding (longsword) and wears a pair of boots of striding and springing.

Kur-en-tar

If the adventurers make it to the building without killing anyone within Vokol’s army and declare a right of Kur-en-tar, Vokor angrily agrees to the challenge. The Kur-en-tar challenge is a one-on-one fight between two individuals. Any outside interference is strictly prohibited, and fights continue until one side falls or yields. 

  • If Vokol wins, he takes a trophy from the challenger (something magical) and gives them a scar across a cheek to mark them. They now belong to Vokol’s army, and are honor-bound to act in his service. Rejecting this causes Vokol and his lieutenants to attack. 
  • If Vokol loses, he yields before the superior opponent. He offers his sword to the victor, and submits to any mandate that the adventurers dictate, even if they demand he disband the army.
  • If the Adventurers invoke the Kur-en-tar but kill any of Vokor’s army in the process, he refuses the challenge and attacks.

Epilogue

There are a number of outcomes depending on the actions of the adventurers:

  • If Vokol is beaten in Kur-en-tar and lives — he leaves the army with a small number of followers to find a new way elsewhere. Most of the remaining goblinoid forces integrate with Lorachtinar.
  • If Vokol is beaten in Kur-en-tar but dies — The adventurer who beat Vokol takes charge of the goblinoid army in accordance to the challenge. They are reluctant to follow their new leader and quietly disband over the course of weeks. Some small groups find their way to Lorachtinar. 
  • If Vokol wins in Kur-en-tar — He forces the adventurers to join his army, and eventually forces the inhabitants of Lorachtinar to join as well. His numbers swell, and he continues to be a threat to the realms at large. 
  • If Vokol is slain — The remaining goblinoid force is scattered into the wilderness, though a handful of individuals integrate with Lorachtinar.

As a reward for ending Vokol’s siege, the citizens of Lorachtinar award the adventurers the promised amount of gold, plus a plot of land up in the hills that sits upon a small cave network that once belonged to a clan of goblins.

Wrap up

That’s all for this week’s Free Level 9 D&D Encounter! I hope you enjoyed the town of Lorachtinar and its inhabitants, and had a chance to participate in the Kur-en-tar. Feel free to leave a comment below or drop a comment on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Discord to let us know how it went! If you’d like access to more maps and content, including downloadable PDFs of our adventures, check out our Patreon. We’re able to do what we do because of all our amazing Patrons!

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