A fabled chosen one who was defeated by a dark lord long ago has been hurled through time by a dark ritual. The hero appears in the time of your party and believes that the prophecy they set out to fulfill can still be achieved, but it’s a pretty vague prophecy, and the hero isn’t…
In an age long past, a chosen one (no name suggestions this time, see below for why) rose from the people to confront the dark lord and bring an end to the calamity. In the process of fighting this villain, whether the Hero won or lost, they were affected by a terrible spell and cast through the currents of time. After tumbling through those currents and perhaps going on adventures in other times and places, the Hero ends up at the time and place of your game, still seeking to fulfill an ancient prophecy.
To run this encounter, choose a hero from the history of your game. This works best if it’s someone your party has heard of, and possible even someone they admire (or hate, or a past character, or their warlock patron, or the human form of their god, etc). Decide who the Hero was cast through time by: an ancient villain that the group has heard of works best, especially if that villain is resurgent. Many classic high fantasy games involve the resurrection of an ancient dead power, so if you’ve got one of those, use that one.
The Hero can be anyone, depending on how classic you want the encounter to feel. Human fighter is the most common chosen one in fantasy, so you could lean into that and have a farmhand-turned-king, or you could push the envelope and switch it up. There are two facts central to the encounter that we don’t think you should mess with: first, the Hero isn’t too bright, and second, the Hero doesn’t wield magic.
The Hero seeks out the player characters when they are nearing their confrontation with a great evil. You can use the encounter with the Hero to provide them an ally, some information, or a weapon to use in their fight against that great evil. Each of these situations is explored in an encounter below. Regardless of where you set the encounter, the Hero should approach the party and know who they are, having heard rumors of them and gathered information before confronting them.
The Hero has memorized a prophecy they believe to be about themselves, the same prophecy which drove them to adventure and glory in their own time. The problem is that this prophecy is quite vague, and the Hero’s literary abilities are mid at best. Whichever encounter you run, the Hero is unsure of exactly what the prophecy means. They’re happy to share the words of the prophecy with the party and open to other interpretations—they just want to meet their destiny, and they’re convinced that their banishment through time is just a temporary setback.
That’s because the Hero, whatever form they take and whichever prophecy you use, is perfectly confident. It’s the kind of confidence that only comes from rising to meet every single challenge they’re ever encountered, and it’s backed by an unshakeable belief that they are the Chosen One and destined for greatness. You can play this as calm and reassuring or as obnoxious and pathetic, depending on your game. The only constants of the Hero is that they are very physically powerful, they are not very smart, and they are absolutely assured of their own abilities and destiny.
There are two factions involved in the Hero’s journey to meet your party:
- The Hero themselves is not a faction, but powerful and influential enough to count as one. They have the knowledge of ages, are personally powerful, and everyone’s heard of them. The Hero is seeking a way to still fulfill the prophecy and meet their destiny.
- The Dark Lord is the Hero’s ancient enemy, and ideally a modern-day enemy of the party. The Dark Lord is pursuing whatever villainous goal they’re already up to in your campaign (world domination, probably), but also sees the Hero as a very real threat to their plans and aims to destroy them for good this time.
The intersection of these goals is very straightforward, and the way they will play out depends heavily on exactly what your party is looking for in their confrontation with the Dark Lord. The Hero represents a chance at a powerful ally for the party, a crucial piece of information (such as a weakness or a location), or a weapon that can be used against the Dark Lord (a literal weapon, such as a legendary blade).
Using These Encounters
What do your player characters want? What are their best and worst qualities? What goals are they pursuing? Read through a few of the examples below, then choose the encounter that best suits your situation.
- If your players are headed into a tough fight and need an ally, run Encounter A. If they can stand on their own and you want to soften them up before an encounter with the Dark Lord, run Encounter C.
- If the party is seeking knowledge about the Dark Lord, run Encounter B. If they’re seeking a weapon to use against the Dark Lord, run Encounter C.
- If the players want to rescue someone from the Dark Lord, run Encounter A. If a party member is pursuing a personal grudge against the Dark Lord, run Encounter B.
- If the party has a stronghold or fort of their own, run Encounter C.
The party comes across the Hero slaying some powerful monsters sent by the Dark Lord to attack the party. The Hero believes the prophecy refers to a member of the party.
Setting up this Encounter
Place this encounter on a wilderness trip or during downtime, not in the middle of a dungeon. The attack of the Dark Lord’s creatures should be disruptive to the party. The Hero remembers this prophecy from their own time:
A child of two worlds, with a heart full of fire,
Shall face the dark god and never tire.
With the strength of the righteous and the will to survive,
The hero shall end the dark god’s wicked reign alive.
The Hero believes the prophecy refers to themselves when it references “the hero”, but in a recent fight against of the the Dark Lord’s lieutenants (pick a relevant minor character from your campaign if possible), learned of a party member that could be referred to by “a child of two worlds”. The Hero now believes that the party member plays a second, minor role in the ancient prophecy: the “face the dark god and never tire”, AKA act as a distraction while the Hero swoops in to deliver a killing blow. Decide which party member could be interpreted as a “child of two worlds”, even if its tenuous. The Hero is convinced of this association, but open to other ideas.
While the PCs are resting, they hear the sound of commotion nearby, including demonic shrieks and the loud booming voice of someone using archaic battle cries and catch-phrases. If they don’t investigate, the Hero approaches them after 1d4 minutes, but if they do, they come across the Hero battling minions of the Dark Lord. A character with a successful History check (DC 20) should be able to identify the Hero on sight.
The battle is fierce, and the minions sent to slay the party are no joke. Use two ice devils if you don’t have a better minion lined up. The Hero acts on Initiative 20. It’s best to use the Hero as a narrative foil in this battle, dealing a few dozen damage each round and serving to draw the enemies attacks. If you’re worried about the lethality of the encounter, have the Hero soften up the enemies first.
After the fight, the Hero approaches the party and introduces themselves. They expect the party to have heard of them. They explain that they are searching for the party because they’ve finally figured out the meaning of a prophecy, and recites it for them. The Hero’s goal is to convince the party, specifically the party member the Hero believes is mentioned in the prophecy, to come face the Dark Lord directly with them, and to act as bait while the Hero attacks. Telegraph that the prophecy is subject to heavy interpretation by having the Hero explain that they thought “child of two worlds” referred to themselves before learning of the party member.
Resolving this Encounter
Based on how the party reacts to the prophecy and if they know any other information that might influence their decision, the Hero might be swayed to another position on it. If the party needs an ally in a fight, the Hero is willing to aid them in exchange for their help fulfilling the prophecy. If the party wants to rescue someone from the Dark Lord, the Hero helps them without any expectation of aid in return.
Consult the Hero’s social stat block and the goals in particular to determine how the Hero reacts to the group’s actions.
When the party delves deep into a dungeon related to the Dark Lord, they come across the Hero searching for answers in ancient texts. While the Hero has no problem finding those ancient texts, reading and understanding them is another matter.
Setting up this Encounter
Use this encounter to introduce information or an advantage against the Dark Lord. Set this encounter inside a dangerous dungeon location that is related in some way to the Dark Lord: their servants are here, or the location is associated with them, or belongs to a faction that opposes them, etc. The Hero is here seeking ancient texts that might help them understand the prophecy they’re trying to fulfill. The prophecy reads:
A place uncharted, unknown to all but one,
The hero shall come and bring forth the sun.
Then where the land ends and the sea meets the sky,
There the dark god shall let out a final cry.
The Hero’s current interpretation is that the dungeon they are exploring is the “place uncharted, unknown to all but one”, and that the knowledge found there is how they will “bring forth the sun”. The Hero doesn’t know what that knowledge is, but expects it to be an important location, secret, or weakness they can use in their confrontation with the Dark Lord.
As for what it actually is, that is up to you. If the players speculate, listen to their ideas and steal the best one. If there is important knowledge the players are seeking, such as a location or a weakness, that is a good choice, too. If you’re not sure, interpret the lines “where the land ends and the sea meets the sky” to be an important location in your campaign and have the information be a secret about that location that will give the Hero (and the party, if they choose) the upper hand in a confrontation, such as a secret passage or a hidden weapon.
If anyone in the party is pursuing a personal grudge against the Dark Lord, the Hero is pursuing a similar grudge.
When the party comes across the Hero, they are sitting cross-legged in a chamber deep in the dangerous location, poring over ancient texts. Optionally, have them be surrounded by slain enemies. The texts have been looted from the surrounding rooms, and the Hero is trying to make sense of them. The Hero isn’t looking for a fight and will try to talk first.
The Hero explains who they are and expects the group has heard of them. The show the group the texts and explain they’re trying to understand a prophecy that it is their sacred duty to fulfill. They’re happy to tell the group about the prophecy, even if the group doesn’t want to hear. Telegraph that the Hero is impressionable and has trouble with reading by narrating their difficulty with the texts they are reading and several different interpretations of the “sun” they are looking for.
To kick start some action, have the Hero suggest that the “sun” they are looking for is a powerful spell to use against the Dark Lord.
Resolving this Encounter
If the players decide that the prophecy does refer to hidden knowledge, decide what that knowledge is and where it can be found. If they convince the Hero that the prophecy means something else, settle on your own interpretation of that.
If players are seeking knowledge about the Dark Lord and either discovered the secrets of the texts the Hero found (with an appropriate skill challenge) or convinced the Hero the prophecy meant something else (with an appropriate social and role playing encounter), reward them with the discovery of the useful knowledge you decided in “Setting up This Encounter”.
If a party member is pursuing a personal grudge against the Dark Lord, have the Hero reveal their own personal grudge against the Dark Lord. If the social encounter or role playing ended positively, have the Hero offer to help the player settle their grudge.
After this fated meeting in the depths of the dungeon, the Hero continues trying to understand the prophecy and fulfill it.
The Hero believes that one of the party members is in possession of a powerful weapon fated to slay the Dark Lord, and has come to claim it in the name of the common good.
Setting up this Encounter
The prophecies state that the Hero needs a specific magic weapon to defeat the Dark Lord, and has memorized the prophecy beneath the image below on it.
Since their arrival in this time, the Hero has been seeking this weapon, and they believe they lost their last confrontation with the Dark Lord because they didn’t have it. After gathering information and learning of the party, the Hero decides that “a weapon forged from starlight and shadows” refers to a certain magic weapon belonging to a party member. Decide ahead of time which party member and which weapon the Hero believes the prophecy refers to. The Hero also believes that they need to wield the weapon to awaken its true power.
A weapon forged from starlight and shadows,
Borne by one whose heart beats true and hallowed.
The dark god’s heart shall be pierced by its might,
And the hero shall bring forth eternal light.
This encounter should take place when the Hero approaches the party and formally requests they hand over the magic weapon. Since this is a matter of saving the world, the Hero arrives armed, though will try to talk before resorting to violence.
If the party has a stronghold or other base, the Hero shows up there unannounced. Otherwise, have the Hero approach the party in a place they like to spend time and are likely to defend. If you want to soften the party up before a tough encounter, make the Hero more aggressive than you otherwise might and prepare to scrap with the party a little.
When the Hero arrives, they loudly announce their presence and intentions. If anyone other than the party confronts them, the Hero laughs and refuses to engage in violence. If those others attack anyway, the Hero responds with swift and overwhelming non-lethal damage. They insist on speaking to the party and making their case.
Their case is simple: they explain who they are and why they are important for saving the world. They then relate the prophecy and explain that they’ve figured out that it refers to the certain party member’s weapon. If pressed on why, reveal that its just a strong feeling, which they state to have “never let me down before”.
Given that this is a matter of saving the world, the Hero is firmly insistent that the PC hand over their weapon and let the Hero empower it, then use it to slay the Dark Lord. They can have it back after, the Hero explains. Unless the party can talk them into another interpretation of the prophecy, the Hero is willing to do violence to see that weapon in the proper hands.
Your role playing of the Hero here will determine if this encounter turns violent or not. Make the Hero annoying and pompous if you want a fight, or earnest and misguided if you want to point the party towards a particular objective.
If things turn ugly, use the combat stat block for the Hero printed here. Beware that this is a tough encounter for lower-level parties, so telegraph the Hero’s resistance to magic and vulnerability to psychic damage if the group needs an advantage.
Tactics: The Hero just wants to get the weapon and get out. They will try to grapple or otherwise engage an Athletics contest with the wielder, then make their escape. They would prefer not to hurt anyone too badly, but won’t hesitate to use lethal force if it is used against them.
The Hero has an unusually high amount of hit points. Adjust this number to reflect the narrative purpose of the Hero in your game.
Resolving this Encounter
If you’d like the destined magic weapon to be real, this is when you’d point the group in that direction. If the group is able to identify another candidate for the destined magic weapon, you can latch onto that and pretend you planned it that way, or you can redirect them (through the mouthpiece of the Hero or otherwise) towards your plan. With the Hero’s help, the latent power of the magic weapon is awakened and it gains the Shadows of Fate ability.
Shadows of Fate: When this weapon gains this ability, choose an individual. When this weapon deals damage against that individual, it deals +3d6 damage. When this weapon deals critical damage to that individual, it deals the maximum possible damage from the dice rolled. If this weapon reduces that individual to zero hit points, their fate is severed and they are destroyed permanently.
If the party confronts and defeats the Hero, they can claim the Hero’s magical cloak, which provides a +1 to AC and grants the wearer advantage on a saving throw against a magical effect once per encounter.