So, as anyone who has GMed HoH knows, there is not a lot of Ravengro Trust to go around for the PCs. So, before my group began, I sat down and made up a bunch of side-quests for them to do to help build their trust. Some of them are very...side-questy. What I mean is that they feel like side-quests and not really "natural" to the story; they're just sort of tacked on. I admit to being an MMO (WoW) player so it was hard for me to come up with quests that didn't feel too forced, but I think a couple of them were (and will be, since they haven't done them all yet) very, very interesting and added a lot to my game.
While the party was exploring Ravengro the day after the Professor's funeral, I had them overhear a couple of townsfolk talking about how Jorfa (the dwarf blacksmith) wasn't contributing to the local food pantry lately. Curious, the party went to the blacksmith and asked Jorfa about it. Naturally, she wouldn't talk to them but they bribed one of her apprentices enough to learn that she has a large garden and that she normally donates a lot of vegetables to the church, but that lately she hadn't been because supposedly something had been destroying her garden.
The PCs talked to Jorfa again and with a couple decent Diplomacy checks, managed to get her to agree to let them examine her garden. The Ranger successfully identified Brownie footprints so the group decided to stake out the garden over-night. They got Kendra to bake a pie and left it in the middle of the garden saying something like, "We mean you no harm, we wish to talk to you, please take this pie as a peace offering." They waited a little ways outside the garden that night and saw two brownies come out from under Jorfa's porch and find the pie and the note, and the party managed to talk to them. They found out that the brownies used to live in an old hollowed out tree outside of town, but that something had driven them away from their home and they holed up under Jorfa's house because she had an excellent garden. And they didn't talk to her or offer her anything in return because they were afraid she would kick them out, so they stayed hidden and came out only at night to take food from her garden. The PCs convinced the brownies to help Jorfa restore her garden and talk to her, and then told Jorfa the next morning about the brownies and now they all get along.
Meanwhile, the PCs went to find the brownies' old home and saw evidence of undead in the area. They tracked footprints to a nearby highway connecting Ravengro with the next town over, where they found a small cemetery and a bunch of risen skeletons/zombies. They also found an abandoned wagon along side the road that was FULL of a ton of useful items for them (a +1 mace, various potions and scrolls, a partially charged Wand of CLW, etc.) The ranger determined that there were horse tracks leading away from the wagon toward Ravengro and that they weren't very old, probably only a few days. The paladin and a few other members of the party thought that the owner of the wagon might have escaped to Ravengro but had to leave his wagon behind when the undead attacked; the CN barbarian was convinced that the owner of the wagon was one of the zombies they had to kill to get to it, and that all of the loot inside was rightfully theirs, even without checking in town for the owner. The roleplaying was excellent and I kind of thought the paladin and barbarian would come to blows, but the rest of the party convinced the barbarian to at least go back to town and see if they could find out anything about the wagon. They found an inventory list with the name of the merchant who owned the wagon so they at least had that.
Well, as it turns out the merchant was still alive. He got attacked on his way to Ravengro and managed to escape by cutting his horse free from the wagon an riding into town, but had to leave the wagon behind. He offered them 1 moderately priced item for free (they got a piece of MW armor) and 20% off anything else he had. The barbarian was kind of pissed, but I had plans that if they kept the merchant's stuff even after finding him, their trust would drop so low that they would get railroaded out of town. Of course, she didn't know that...but I hinted at it out of character after that session.
Back to Jorfa. I specifically picked her for the brownie incident because I wanted the PCs to get to know her a little bit, because I am planning a pretty big encounter involving her soon. It hasn't come up yet, but...I am planning for a party of dwarves to come looking for her for the crimes she committed in the past. In her description in the book, it says she abandoned a patrol when she was part of a dwarven army and fled into Ustalov and ended up in Ravengro, but it never really gets any more detailed than that, and I didn't want to leave it at that. So I am planning for the brother of one of the other dwarves in her patrol, who was killed when she abandoned her post, to finally track her down and demand she return with him to their homelands to stand trial. Of course, the citizens of Ravengro (and probably at least a few of the PCs) will have a big problem with this. But, if they stand up for her and end up fighting the dwarves, they could have a bounty on their heads later on (and my paladin may have some code of conduct issues if he fights a band of lawful dwarves.) I am eager to see how the situation will go down and if the group can come up with a diplomatic solution to appease everyone (I honestly am not sure what that solution would be, but my group is very inventive so I would not be surprised if they come up with something on the spot.)
The whole brownie/abandoned wagon side story went really, really well and flowed smoothly into my game. My group had done a couple of other little side-quests before that, which were obviously side-quests and my players knew I had tacked them on, but my husband (the paladin) was very surprised when I told him that the brownie/abandoned wagon quests were ones I had made up. He thought they were part of the module. They played them out well enough too, to earn some trust from the townsfolk. Jorfa stood up for them during the town hall meeting and helped them evacuate everyone when the building caught on fire, and I might even have her become an NPC hireling for them if they either defend her from the dwarven party, or find a diplomatic solution to avoid her getting arrested.
|baron arem heshvaun|
When my players encountered their former friend and mentor, the now deceased and 3
HD zombie Professor I had his rotting and foul smelling insides covered with maggots. As the Cleric took swing with his battle axe at the abomination and scored a hit, I described how much of the vermin fell to the floor (along with chunks of the professor).
No mechanical stats for the mass of worms (although I ruled they could be used as spell components for some 1st level Necromancy spells), just a real traumatizing moment for Kendra, and cleaning up for the party after they put the professor 'to rest' yet again.
My thing for gaining trust? The townhall text mentions a cooking contest... the PCs get asked to be judges. Refuse? -1 trust. Participate (in good faith without making a mockery out of it etc) +1 trust. Going the extra mile to be good judges and showing expertise or care in judging? +2 trust.
Another? A missing child - Everyone is organised to help... refuse? -1 trust. Participate +1 trust... run a series of skill challenges. The child will be found (nothing sinister) but it shows the town folk if the party are good guys or not.
Also another GOOD thing about these side quests? Keeping the players OUT of Harrowstone. Its like good cheese or wine and needs time to mature - and Ravengro is a personality all of its own and the players need time and encouragement to invest there rather than doing a 3 day dungeon delve.