Design 01 – The MacGuffin

Our party of intrepid adventurers is on a mission, heading to our small, as-yet unnamed village or town (more on that later).  A few hours before they reach the village they spot a large raven flying overhead.

As you watch, the raven circles about as if searching for something, flying around in small circles.  All at once the raven changes direction, having clearly spotted whatever it was searching for.  It flies down towards a large tree about thirty yards away, landing on one of the branches.

Have the party members make rolls to spot something (Perception rolls are a likely choice).  Pass a note to the party member who makes the highest adjusted roll to let them notice that the raven has dropped something sparkly into a nest near the end of the branch.  Pass notes to the next two highest rolls telling the players that the raven landed close to a nest near the end of the branch.  The other players should get a note that the raven appears at first to be solid black, but they notice a slight purple hue on the wings.  The party should role-play dealing with what they noticed (and it’s totally up to each player if they tell the rest of the party anything).

The raven then spreads its wings, looks around furtively, caws out loudly, and flies off in the direction it came from, moving quickly out of sight.

If the party heads in the direction of the raven’s tree, they will find a large oak tree that is about four feet wide and thirty feet tall.  Closer to the tree it is easy for everybody to spot the nest.  The branch with the nest is about twenty feet off the ground, and the branch that it is on looks sturdy, but not necessarily sturdy enough to support the weight of any of the larger characters.  All the branches of the tree are at least 10 feet off the ground.

There are two squirrels (or maybe chipmunks; up to you!) that have been storing acorns in a hole just above the branch the nest is on. If a player tries to climb up the tree the critters will come out on the branch and squawk at them; if any harm is done to the tree (such as hammering or cutting footholds) they will start making a lot of noise and try dropping acorns on the offender.  Their noise will attract a woodland creature or collection of creatures that will not take kindly to the invaders of their forest.  Combat and/or merriment will ensue.

If the party manages to reach the nest, inside they will find a small green gem.  If the gem is held up to the sunlight there appears to be a small, three dimensional caricature of a bear inside the gem.  The gem will detect as magical if players have some way to test it, but they will not be able to determine exactly what it can do.  The nest also contains two copper coins, one silver coin, an amber-colored piece of glass with the letters E-E-R etched into it, a small tin belt-buckle, and a torn piece of parchment that has some smeared silver ink and a small piece of sealing wax on it.

The party can continue on its way.  The gem is one of six gems that fit onto a broach that they will encounter in town.  More on that after they get to town.  For now, it’s enough for the GM to know that the raven was actually an NPC dropping the gem where the party will  see it so that the party will get involved in finding four more gems that the NPC does not have!

If the party chooses to ignore the raven and the tree they can simply continue off to town; later on they will have need to return to the tree.  They will be able to find that tree again, but only after a great deal of searching and an encounter with a creature that is probably looking for a quick meal (our adventure will have a selection of random encounters at the end for the GM to refer to as needed).

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