The Night's Sun Festival One-Shot

In the age before the Fall, shining cities lay scattered across the land, full of wonder and magic. Their buildings soared to great heights of finely detailed architecture. Their homes and streets were host to machines of gears and pistons powered by arcane energy. But those days are long passed; the war of the Titan saw the destruction of great swaths of the mortal civilizations and extinguished much of the magic in the world. Now the gods are in a constant struggle to keep the darkness of the Titan at bay.   You live in the small town of Blackthorn Dale. Whether by birth or migration, your family has settled in this quiet region nestled in the Silver Mist hills. It is a trade and farm town on the edge of the unclaimed lands, sleepy and predictable. Yet the reminders of the age of wonder can be seen in the thick woods and surrounding hills; ruins of ancient cities lie deep in redwood forests and half-buried statues preside over sheep fields. Life in the dale may be boring, but the wilds offer far more than lost cities and buried treasure, for there are many creatures that haunt the untamed lands. Magic is rare and often treated with suspicion and fear, and those who dare to venture too far into the wilderness are viewed as either very brave or insane.   Something that all locals look forward to which helps break the monotony of small-town life is the god festivals. The most loved festival, the Night's Sun festival, has come to the dale. Early spring marks the lunar eclipse, signifying the time when Eanna and Aldanoc come together as husband and wife. Thus the festival seeks to draw the attention of the Titan all over the world so the sun goddess and the moon god can be together without fear of attack. Bonfires, candles, and lanterns are lit, flooding towns and cities with so much light that it seems as if the sun has risen, and music is played throughout the night to ensure the Titan's gaze is drawn everywhere but up. This is the beginning.  

What is this Adventure?

This a one-shot adventure for a party of level three characters with the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition ruleset. The adventure starts in the rustic town of Blackthorn Dale during one of the most important and beloved festivals of the year; the Night's Sun festival. Set during the lunar eclipse, this celestial event is marked by the people of Ior as the time when the sun goddess, Eanna, and the moon god, Aldanoc, come together as husband and wife. To ensure that the gods are not attacked by the Titan during this time, people the world over celebrate with light and music throughout the whole night, distracting the Titan with his hatred of both and drawing his attention to everything but the divine couple.   The player characters are locals who have lived most, if not all, of their lives in the Dale or its surrounding region of the Silver Mist Hills. They are familiar with the town and its inhabitants at least on a basic level. This celebration, however, is marked with strange visitors to the Dale and rumors of banditry on the roads through the hills. As the festival progresses, events take a dire turn and Blackthorn Dale is attacked by a band of minotaurs. There is a running battle through the streets and where the PCs choose to defend will affect the survival of certain NPCs.   Once the battle is won and the dead have been numbered, it is quickly discovered that the fleeing minotaurs have taken all of the children from the town. Panicked parents turn to the PCs to help track down the minotaurs and see the children safely returned. The path of the enemies leads through the wilds of the surrounding hills and to a sprawling ruin of an ancient city.   The Rose City was likely the capital of a long-forgotten kingdom but has been abandoned for thousands of years. Now it is the home of shadows and haunts. There will be random encounters available for the wilds and the ruins, or the party can head straight towards the crumbling arena where the Minotaur warchief is holding the children.   This minotaur band are working with a mysterious being who is looking for a key. This key, which can open portals between realms, is in actual fact a child. The minotaur shaman works a ritual to contact their master while the warchief guards the children with his enthralled manticore. There are several ways the PCs can approach this encounter such as using stealth and distraction to free the children, a frontal attack, or even taking control of the entralled manticore by its controlling chain and turning it against its master. In any case, the shaman's ritual will fail at the end, consuming the shaman with its burst of arcane energy. The only thing to escape this ritual is the furious roar of the thwarted being from another realm.   With the children rescued and safely returned to Blackthorn Dale, this is the end of the adventure. The child who is the key, however, still remains and this can be expanded into a whole campaign if desired.  
Silver Mist Hills
The region of the Silver Mist Hills exists in the unclaimed and independent lands of Kresla on Ior. The handful of small towns, farms, and ranches have formed a union of mutual trade and protection but they do not owe fealty to any lord or king and manage their own population and taxes.

The Festival

Blackthorn Dale is filled with sound and light. Every available surface is covered in candles, lanterns, market goods, and food. Crowds move about the central square, dancing, strolling, or browsing the stalls. The air is filled with wondrous smells like spiced meat, honeyed wine, incense, and blackthorn berries.   Light shines from every window. There are lanterns of colored glass, candles in all shapes and sizes, bonfires filled with sweetgrass, and even the occasional crystal faintly glowing with dying magic. As the festival officially starts, the townsfolk release paper lanterns into the sky.
  Blackthorn Dale is a small town surrounded by sheep farms, wheat fields, and blackthorn berry vineyards. Primarily populated by humans, wood elves, and half-elves, its residents are rustic but honest people. There are several NPCs who can be interacted with and the festival offers many events the PCs can participate in.  

Goat Racing

There is a track which runs around the entire market square of the town. Children are able to ride and race the goats around this track, and the winner gets a ribbon, a pie, and the special title of "Goat Champion." This event is intended for children but adult dwarves or particularly small PCs can participate. They likely won't be looked too kindly on by the parents of the other racers but it is an option nonetheless.  

Pie Eating

There is a platform set up near the market tents which hosts a blackthorn berry pie eating contest. PCs can participate and roll a d12 + their Constitution modifier to determine how many pies they can eat. The prize is a small keg of wine or blackthorn berry mead, a ribbon, and a bronze pie-shaped trophy worth 2 gold pieces.   NPC participant scores
  • Lida, Elf - 9
  • Mera, Human - 8
  • Rose, Human - 5
  • Hammond, Dwarf - 12
  • Eitrig, Human - 11
  • Catch the Pig

    Indeed, there is a competition to catch a greased pig set loose in the town. This is a simple succession of Athletics or Acrobatics checks to catch the pig, the winner receives a small purse of 20 gold, a full keg of ale, and the pig.  

    The Attack

    At the zenith of the lunar eclipse, minotaurs attack the town with the goal of taking the children. There are two primary routes the PCs can take in defending the town; the market square or the temple. They can, of course, choose a different method or split the party, but these two locations are the primary combat encounters. Depending on which place the PCs choose to defend, different residents of the town are at risk of injury or death. Those chances are laid out in the table below.  
    The sounds of merriment suddenly shift to shouts of confusion and then screams of fear as the glittering lights of the town are overtaken in a wash of fire. The market tents set ablaze as the thunder of hooves fills the square. The hulking forms of minotaur bandits charge through the smoke, attacking townsfolk indiscriminately. The bells of the temple ring out through the din as the chaos of battle engulfs Blackthorn Dale.
      Judging by the movement of the festival-goers and Perception checks, the PCs can determine that the largest conflicts are centered around the market and the temple. Both locations will be under attack by Minotaur warriors. The recommended number is 6 but this can be adjusted based on the party's strength.

    Minotaur

    Large monstrosity, chaotic evil
    Armor Class 14 (natural armour)
    Hit Points 76 ( 9d10+27 )
    Speed 40ft

    STR
    18 +4
    DEX
    11 0
    CON
    16 +3
    INT
    6 -2
    WIS
    16 +3
    CHA
    9 -1

    Skills Perception +7
    Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 17
    Languages Abyssal
    Challenge 3


    Charge. If the minotaur moves at least 10 ft. straight toward a target and then hits it with a gore attack on the same turn, the target takes an extra 9 ([roll:2d8}) piercing damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 14 Strength saving throw or be pushed up to 10 ft. away and knocked prone.
    Labyrinthine Recall. The minotaur can perfectly recall any path it has traveled.
    Reckless. At the start of its turn, the minotaur can gain advantage on all melee weapon attack rolls it makes during that turn, but attack rolls against it have advantage until the start of its next turn.


    Actions

    Greataxe. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 17 (2d12+4) slashing damage.
    Gore. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d8+4) piercing damage.


     
     
    Temple NPCs and their chance of injury or death.
    NPC Chance of Injury Chance of Death
    Vaga 30% 10%
    Sandor 50% 5%
    Shava 30% 30%
    Sasha 20% 10%
    Market NPCs and their chance of injury and death.
    NPC Chance of Injury Chance of Death
    Bjark 30% 20%
    Augustus 50% 5%
    Brigid 50% 10%
    Elwenlod 30% 10%
     
    A deep, resonant horn sounds from the forest edge and the remaining minotaurs retreat back into the wilds. Fires still blaze in stalls and homes, and the wooden statues of the gods in the temple burn. As the citizens and festival-goers take stock of the damage, the injured, and the dead a pained scream rips through the shaken town. "My daughter! They've taken my daughter! Please, someone help!"
      The people of the town ask the PCs to follow the obvious trail of the Minotaurs through the forests and bring back the children. They have to travel through the surrounding forests, which will take about a day. You can use the random encounters or simply move to the next phase of the adventure.      

    The Rose City

    The walls rise through the mist like a tired ghost, pink marble and covered in crimson moss. Ancient gates, obviously once great and imposing, lay shattered before the gatehouse. Here and there, hints of greatness still shimmer through the grime like jewel-toned constellations still clinging to the stone. An ancient king, his name long forgotten, stands in silent, headless vigil. His head rests in a crater of dirt, eyes glaring blankly into the sky. The way is open, yet still, it feels as if the very air warns of danger beyond the gates. An oppressive concoction of grave loam, dust, and decay tingles in your nose, and a heavy gloom makes it impossible to see too far into the city without going further. Tread with caution, for there are many dark things that dwell in these ruins.
      This city was once a metropolis before the Fall, but is now a ruin ruled by shadows, monsters, and the undead. The trail of the Minotaurs leads through the safest paths but those may be watched. Should the PCs venture off that path, however, the risk of encountering a hungering shadow or roving band of undead guards becomes much more likely.   You may have random encounters with skeletal warriors or singular shadows if you wish, or simply describe the faded glamour of the ruined city and the ever-present feeling of being watched from the shadows. A sample shadow can be found below.

    Shadow Creature 1

    Medium aberration, shadow monster, chaotic evil
    Armor Class 15
    Hit Points 44
    Speed 30ft Hover: 30ft

    STR
    16 +3
    DEX
    20 +5
    CON
    18 +4
    INT
    12 +1
    WIS
    10 0
    CHA
    4 -3

    Saving Throws Con
    Damage Vulnerabilities Radiant Damage
    Damage Resistances Psychic
    Condition Immunities cannot be frightened
    Senses Dark vision
    Challenge 2

    1/day: Darkness (Evocation) Fear (Illusion)

    2/day: Slow (Transmutation)

    3/day: Dissonant Whispers (Enchantment)



     

    Regional Effects

    Any creature within 15 ft radius at the start of its turn will role a wisdom saving throw against the creature or get 1d6 psychic damage.


    A strange goo like monster with wisps of black smoke coming off of it

    Inside nightmares

     

    The Arena

    The enormous, tiered arena is carved from the same pink stone as the walls of the city. It is mostly intact, however, the alcoves that once held elaborate statues of monsters and warriors are empty and hollow. The sounds of the minotaur warriors can be heard echoing from within.   Inside the arena, the leader of the minotaurs, Isran Steadyhorn, questions the captured children as his shaman works to contact their mysterious benefactor. Several minotaur warriors, the number can vary between 4 and 8 based on the level of difficulty you prefer, stand guard around the arena. Over all this, perched on the crumbling noble's booth, is Silverclaw, Isran's bound manticore.   It will take several rounds for the shaman to finish the spell which will call The Huntmaster, the powerful, god-like being who instigated this event. The Huntmaster is well and truly too powerful to fight and if the portal is opened, the children will be given over to him and the quest will fail. Luckily, this is a complicated spell and the party can interrupt it. The players can see this spell being cast and can try several options to slow or stop it. Be that stealth, countermagic, or direct attack, as soon as the players act against the shaman, or any other minotaur, the battle begins.   This can be a pure combat encounter, or you may use the Skill Challenge rules below. In either case, the party must overcome the minotaurs and stop the spell within 5-10 rounds, depending on your preferred difficulty.   Skill Challenge Three successes are needed to complete the challenge. These can be done in any order. The DC for each challenge should be based on a reasonable difficulty for your specific party.  
  • Precarious Column: There is a weathered column near the front of the arena. A particularly agile or athletic member of the party may be able to reach it and topple it, taking out a few minotaurs and possibly distracting the shaman.
  • Helpful Child: One of the children, a slightly older teen, has slipped their bonds and sees the party coming. They can be persuaded to get the other children free and out of immediate danger.
  • Silverclaw: The manticore fights for Isran, but a player knowledgeable about magic or skilled in handling animals will notice the enchanted collar around the creature's neck. The lead dangles beneath the beast and if the players can grasp it, they will gain control of Silverclaw.
  • Shadowed Path: A mostly hidden path, swathed in shadow, runs through the ruined walls of the arena. An investigation of this path will show it goes around the entire central stage of the arena and a stealthy character may be able to use it to navigate to the far side quickly once the guard minotaurs are engaged.
  • Unsure Guard: One of the guards near the children hesitates to join the battle. This minotaur seems unsure whether they should stay near the children or rush into battle with the others. They can be taunted into battle or intimidated to stay back by charismatic characters.
  •   Once the party has three successes, Isran realizes he's been routed and attempts to flee. If the shaman is still alive and casting the spell, Isran is stunned by a bolt of energy originating from the ritual circle. If the shaman is dead, Isran tries to take Silverclaw and fly away. In either case, read the following:  
    A pillar of dark flame erupts from the remains of the ritual circle. It strikes Isran, engulfing him. The mighty bellows of the minotaur king shake dust from the surrounding ruins and a thick, rumbling voice echoes through the arena. "This is the price of failure. I will come for her myself." Silence rings as the last word falls away and the cinders of Isran Steadyhorn are carried away on a cool breeze.
     

    Home Again

    The journey back is largely uneventful as the party guides the children back to Blackthorn Dale. The residents are elated to have everyone returned safely, though the weight of the night's events will leave scars. This is the official end of this one-shot adventure. However, there is more to the story. The party may want to know who the Huntmaster was, what he wanted, and why he is seeking a child. The child in question is, in fact, among those who were captured. She goes by the name of Wynn, a stranger who came to town before the festival, and the answers to these questions lie with her.

    Residents of Blackthorn Dale

      Many of these people have lived in the town of Blackthorn Dale for many years or even for generations. As members of the town, you know these people at least in passing, if not as close friends and neighbors.   Vaga Gabor: Tribal Human, Female, Priestess of Tarsaralei. Vaga is short, with swarthy skin, raven black hair, and pale green eyes. She came to Blackthorn Dale as a young woman. When asked about her life before, she merely says she was a traveler who wanted to settle down. Her many scars suggest this is not the whole truth. She is warm, kind, and has a spitfire temper.   Sandor Kjarr: North Island Human, Male, Priest of Settraes. Sandor is tall, broad-chested and heavily muscled. He has dark red hair, deep-set silver eyes heavily squinted by constant sun, and chiseled jaw and cheekbones. He came into town with a group of foreign soldiers. He had a huge two-handed sword with him and bore many scars of war. Soon after arriving, some townsfolk witnessed him burying his sword and armor at the edge of the woods. The next day, he joined the temple and has refused to speak of his past with anyone. He is a pleasant person, who laughs easily, but his eyes are often shadowed.    Bjark Granatehead: Hill Dwarf, Male, Stable and Kennel Master. Bjark has been in Blackthorn Dale for several hundred years. It's said he simply rode into town one day with a herd of pups in his wagon and a train of horses behind him, without much of a word, simply began building his home and stables. Since then, he has sold workhorses, mules, herding and hunting dogs to multiple generations of townsfolk. He has long white hair, an impressively braided beard, and leathery skin. His right eye is a mass of scars, and his left is piercing blue. He walks with a limp but is still strong enough to throw bales of hay over one shoulder. He is gruff but kind, he loves children (and considers half the town to be children even though they are adults), and he enjoys telling stories.   Ochon: Kingdom Human, Male, Herb merchant, and healer. Ochon is an elderly man who has lived in Blackthorn Dale his entire life. His Herb shop has been well established in the area for decades, and his ointments, poultices, and brews have helped locals for just as long. Though bent-backed and milky-eyed, his wit is as sharp as any man half his age. He is kind and generous, and as accepted Tyrfinas as his apprentice.   Shava: Wood Elf, Female, Huntress, and Merchant. Shava has hunted the surrounding woods of Blackthorn Dale for many years, her furs and meats a well-established trade in the market square. Though she spends considerable time in the wilderness, she is a familiar member of the town, well-liked by most.    Hartwin and Daireann Bethara: Humans, Millers. The Bethara family has owned the local mill for nearly a century and has become a staple in the lives of Blackthorn Dale's farmers. Before the mill was built, farmers would have to drive their wheat and barley miles south or east to other towns and pay outrageous prices to mill their goods. That has not been the case for many years, now that the Bethara Mill has been established, and the family members are well known and liked throughout the town. Their children are frequently seen about town.   Brigid Lithgow: North Island Human, Female, Smith. Brigid came into town with her husband twenty years ago. The previous smith was an aging half-elf who agreed to sell the forge to her so he could retire. Since then, Brigid has been the established smith for the entire region. She is tall and stoutly built. Her skin is pale with many scattered freckles; she has a broad nose, fair features, long braided strawberry blonde hair, and bright silver eyes. She towers over her husband, a half-elven scribe, and her arms are thickly muscled. She laughs deeply and often, has a love of stories and adventures, and is a shrewd trader.   Cile (SEA-le) Lithgow: Half-Wood Elf, Male, Scribe. Cile was born and raised in Blackthorn Dale, and in his youth, he was considered somewhat of a menace. He had a mind for adventure and travel, though not the build, and would frequently range too far into dangerous wilderness. He disappeared for several years and many locals feared he had finally met his death in some far-flung ruin. He did not, however, and he returned home with an impressive wife. They settled down, she as the smith, and he the local scribe. He took her last name, and though they are clearly in love, some locals joke that she saved him and his repayment was marriage.    Elwenlod: Wood Elf, Male, Guard Captain. A middling fighter of some skill, Elwenlod's true skill is with the longbow. He could have been a highly skilled hunter or warrior, but he has an unfortunate fear of blood. So he took command of the Ranged Guard, which allows him to make use of his skills without coming in close contact with blood. He has an attractive face, lithe build, dark blond hair, and sparkling emerald eyes. He is mild-tempered but a little timid.    Nimrielye Sothiel: Deep Elf, Female, Merchant. Nim, as she prefers to be called, has been in the region most of her 200 years. Though she spent some time traveling abroad, she has run the local bakery for at least 50 years. She specializes in exotic spices and delicately decorated pastries. She has long silver hair, lilac eyes, small ram-like horns, and a short, curvy build. She is sweet, funny, and a little flighty.    Augustus: South Island Human, Male, Handy-man. During a heavy storm, a man, heavily bleeding and wearing southern-style armor, rode into town. As he reached the center square, he fell from his horse. He was nursed back to health by a local woman, Tara, whom he later married and had two children with. Though he limped badly, Augustus was still able to teach the sword to anyone who wished to learn, and complete odd jobs around town. He works well with wood, making furniture and various goods. When a plague ravaged the town, Tara was lost, and Augustus was left raising their children alone. A few months ago, Tara's twin sister returned to the village, and learning of her sister's death, has made frequent visits to Augustus and his children, Alena and Tycho. He is tall, with a soldier's build, olive complexion, short-cropped brown hair, and brown eyes. He is quiet, serious, and often a bit too dour.    Sasha: Tribal Human, Female, Ranger Captain. Though her twin sister, Tara, was identical to Sasha in every physical way, the two sisters could not have been more different. Tara preferred the comforts of home and hearth, always dreaming of a family she could dote on. Sasha joined the Rangers at her first opportunity, and never really looked back. Gruff, loud, and as crude as any male soldier in her company, Sasha loved the open wilderness and the heat of combat. She would occasionally visit her sister in town, but never stayed long. Eventually, she climbed the ranks and gained the captaincy of the Silver Mist Rangers. She is a hard captain, constantly driving her men to be as strong and able as they possibly can. It was several years before she made it back to town, and when she did, it was to discover her sister had fallen to a plague, leaving a husband and children behind. Sasha may not have been the housewife Augustus loved, but as a soldier, she knew him. They bonded quickly, and Sasha has been seen around town more frequently than ever. She has dark skin with several visible scars. She is slightly taller than average and has an athletic build. Her hair is dark brown, silky, and long, and her eyes are bright amber.    Imladreth Vellain: Wood Elf, Male, Aristocrat. Imladreth has been the mayor of Blackthorn Dale for several hundred years. He is a man of nobility who loves the comfort of the finer things of life. He knows everyone in the town by first and last name, many of them for several generations. Though he is mostly a good person, and the townspeople mostly like him, he tends to hold grudges. He will often bring up the transgressions of one's ancestors in arguments, and he has a rivalry with the mayor of Blackroot Vale, whom he believes has purposely been copying him to steal trade from the town. He is tall, very pale, with bright violet eyes, white-blond hair, and an impressive rack of caribou antlers.   Elarig Kerdaniel: Kingdom Human, Male, Hunter and Town Drunk. Elarig came to town many years ago, with his young son in tow. He occasionally does odd jobs, but generally just enough to fund his drinking habit. Otherwise, he can most often be found at the tavern or being thrown out of the tavern. He is not exactly pleasant company, and most people tend to avoid him.   Enid and Olam Monsea (MON-shay): Kingdom Humans, Merchants. The owners of the tavern and inn in Blackthorn Dale. They have lived in the town their entire lives, were childhood sweethearts, and have one daughter. They are both extremely friendly and they treat every customer as if they were part of their family. Olam is the cook at the inn, his stews are legendary, and Enid makes sweet mead from honey and the local blackthorn berries. Their daughter, Clara, serves food and drinks to customers, or at least as much as a ten-year-old girl can.   Ellioch: Wood Elf, Female, Merchant. The owner of the clothing and leather tanning shop. She is known to drag people into the shop by their ears and force them to get new, better-fitting clothes. She means well, but she's more than a little pushy.

    Cover image: by Pablo Fernandez

    Comments

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    Forgemaster Janet
    Janet Forbes
    11 Feb, 2022 14:17

    Just wanted to say that I absolutely ADORED this one-shot! <3

  • Janet Forbes (Founder of World Anvil, author, RPG designer, streamer)
  • Grab your hammer and GO WORLDBUILD!
    11 Feb, 2022 17:54

    <3<3<3 Thank you! My husband and I have run this a couple of times and I'm really proud of it. So I'm happy that other people liked it too! :D

    WorldEmber is COMING! Check out my pledge for WorldEmber 2022 here!
    3 Mar, 2022 03:49

    Great article. plan to add a modified version of it to my game. great job.