In the deep forest there is a glade that contains a single flower. It looks tranquil, but who knows what nasty surprises that flower may hold?
In the deepest and wildest parts of the forest is a peaceful-looking glade. A fine carpet of moss covers the nearly-circular open space in a verdant blanket. In the middle of the glade is a wide flat rock, upon which a waist-high cairn is built. Vines cover the cairn, and at the top a single blood-red orchid grows. Sunlight hangs heavy in the air, the glade fills all who see it with a feeling of peace.
But not everything is as it seems. The blood orchid has a powerful alluring effect that is capable of drawing creatures close and then sending them into a murderous frenzy. What’s more, the moss that carpets the glade floor is not actually moss, but a thick carpet of watercress that conceals a chilly pond about 20 feet deep. Beneath the waters, a huge dire crab lurks in wait.
When the characters draw close, the first thing they notice is the flower. While they all notice the natural beauty of the glade, characters that pass a DC 15 Perception or Insight check know that something is wrong with this situation (clue ideas: no birds singing nearby, the smell of iron underneath the natural scent of the forest, a shimmering in the air around the flower). Characters who roll higher than 20 on that same check also notice that the moss is actually plants that grow on the water’s surface, and the “glade” is actually a pond (give a ranger with appropriate Favored Terrain an auto-pass on this check). Characters who look under the water will see that the pond is deep and the bottom is littered with bones.
Characters who approach the water’s edge will be affected by the blood orchid (see sidebar). Notice that the orchid’s effect changes when its prey gets close enough. Characters that step into the glade without realizing it is a concealed pond must pass a DC 15 DEX save or fall into the water and begin swimming.
The dire crab under the water will not attack unless someone enters the water. Each encounter below has a different setup for why that might happen, but the crab attacks whoever enters first in each encounter. The cairn contains treasure that adapts to the goals of your party.
The Blood Orchid
When a creature first comes within 30 feet of the blood orchid, it must make a WIS saving throw (DC 15). On a failure, the creature feels compelled to move towards the flower. If they don’t move to within 15 feet of the flower in the next minute after being affected, a great feeling of anxiety and longing comes over them, reducing their AC and all their saving throws by 2 until they move to within 15 feet of the flower. Creatures that are immune to being charmed gain advantage on the save against this effect. On a success, the creature is immune to this effect for 24 hours (but not to the closer-range effects).
When a creature first comes within 15 feet of the blood orchid, it must make a WIS saving throw (DC 20). On a failure, the creature must use its move action to move towards the blood orchid as the entrancing pollen of the flower draws it in. If the creature does not come within 5 feet of the flower on its turn, it is affected by a great feeling of anxiety and longing, reducing its AC and all its saving throws by 2 until it moves to within 5 feet of the flower. Creatures that are immune to being charmed gain advantage on the save against this effect. On a success, the creature is immune to this effect for 24 hours (but not to the closer-range effects).
When a creature first comes within 5 feet of the blood orchid, it must make a WIS saving throw (DC 20). On a failure, the creature becomes blood-frenzied. Blood-frenzied creatures must use their actions during combat to attack the closest creature, regardless of if that creature is a friend or foe. At the end of their turn, if the blood-frenzied creature dealt damage to another creature, they may roll the DC 20 WIS save again. If the blood-frenzied creature dealt at least 20 damage to another creature, reduce the DC of the WIS save to 15 instead. On a success, the effect ends and the creature is immune for 24 hours. The effect wears off on its own after five minutes or after dropping an ally to 0 hp, whichever comes first.
Careful and crafty creatures who are immune to the effects of the orchid can try to extract the pollen to use as a poison. On a successful INT check (Nature or arguably Arcana can work here) of DC 20, they manage to extract pollen that can be weaponized as one dose of an aerosol. This poison applied the blood-frenzied effect (WIS saves, DC 20) to anyone who inhales it, up to a 10-ft cube. If the extracting creature fails the save, they are immediately affected by the blood-frenzied effect, even if they were immune for the rest of the day.
This encounter mostly involves natural forces of the forest and not social factions from your game. If you run one of the encounters that involves another faction (B or C), you’ll have to decide what their goals are before running the encounter. Before you roll dice, decide how strongly they want to achieve their goals, so you know how they’ll react to the deadly flower and crab combo (will they run? try to turn the situation to their advantage? run headlong into danger? rely on their gods to protect them?)
- The Blood Orchid: Spill the blood of any living being that draws close to feed its submerged roots. It does this by driving them to attack and kill each other, though if one drowns in the pond that’s not terrible, either.
- The Dire Crab: Gorge itself on the bodies of the orchid’s prey. It won’t hesitate to attack anything that enters its pool, either. The crab lives in a symbiotic relationship with the orchid and protects it instinctively.
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 just looking for some loot or need a powerful magical tool to grant them an edge in a fight, run Encounter A.
- If you want to run an encounter where your party is chasing someone through the woods, run Encounter B to break it up and force a confrontation.
- If you want to run an encounter where the party is being chased instead, run Encounter C.
At the edge of a forest glade, a neatly folded pile of adventurer’s clothes and backpack have been abandoned. Where did the owner go?
Setting up this Encounter
When the characters catch sight of the glade and the orchid through the trees, play up the peaceful and calm vibes of the area. Mention the afternoon sunlight or the slight warmth. At the edge of the glade, the party finds a neatly folded pile of clothes, a traveler’s cloak, a pair of boots, and a backpack. The backpack is a dungeoneer’s pack and also contains a level-appropriate healing potion. There is a weapon belt inside, but no weapons.
A DC 10 Investigation or Nature check reveals that the belongings have been here for about a week. A DC 15 check also reveals that no insects have gotten into the rations inside the pack, which is unusual for this place and time. If you have a faction your characters are currently involved with that employs adventurers, consider having an item or insignia that ties the missing adventurer to that faction.
Characters who get close enough to see the backpack also notice that the cairn on the rock in the middle of the glade is built around a weapon. Decide on a weapon type that suits your party (I used a longsword) and describe how it is choked in vines and the orchid grows from the place where the weapon meets the cairn.
Any character who gets close enough to go through the pack is affected by the blood orchid (see the setup for information). They must move towards the flower, but can take their time (if they realize the glade is a pond, they might choose to prepare for a swim, like the missing adventurer did).
If anyone enters the water, either purposefully or by accident (failing their check and walking into the pond as if it were a glade), the dire crab attacks with surprise. If the crab was spotted first, roll initiative as normal. The crab is immune to the effects of the orchid, but remember that the orchid’s effect gets stronger as creatures get closer, so if the crab pulls a character deeper into the pond, they may become affected by the next tier of the orchid’s enchantment.
Resolving this Encounter
Blood Orchid Blessing
The critical range of this weapon expands by 1 (its wielder scores a critical hit on a natural die roll of one fewer than normal, so usually a 19+). When its wielder scores a critical hit, they gain the blood-frenzied effect as described above. If they lose the blood-frenzied effect, the Blood Orchid Blessing fades and cannot be used again until the next dusk.
Describe the aftermath of the encounter and how each of the goals mentioned above could be advanced. Make rewards clear.
Drawing the weapon from the cairn will destroy the blood orchid (though its ongoing effects persist), something which is clear to anyone who examines the cairn. A destroyed orchid cannot be harvested (see the setup for information on harvesting the potent pollen). The weapon is a +1 weapon of your choice, with the “Blood Orchid Blessing” ability.
The cairn contains the bones of an unidentified humanoid, but no further treasure. Consider having the bones belong to an important figure from your game, or associate them with a faction involved in an ongoing plotline.
Parties who manage to defeat the dire crab find the bottom of the pond strewn with the bones of previous victims. This includes the body of the adventurer, whose weapons are buried in the muck at the bottom. They are mundane but well-made, allowing party members who need an extra to pick one up. Characters who look hard enough find a ruptured pouch that has scattered 600 gp worth of gems across the bottom of the pond.
A thrilling chase through the woods ends at the edge of a mysterious glade. The party finds their quarry entranced by a blood-red orchid in the middle of the glade.
Setting up this Encounter
Use this encounter when you have the party tracking or pursuing someone through a woodland. You can use it to end the hunt in a fight or a skill challenge, based on how the party reacts.
When the characters arrive by following the tracks or catching up to their quarry, they discover their quarry standing still at the edge of the glade. The quarry is looking at the mysterious flower and seems to be drawn to it. Describe the surroundings fully and make appropriate checks before proceeding.
The quarry is close enough to be affected by the blood orchid, so have them roll their WIS save to resist the effect. This is a good roll to fudge if you have an outcome that you’d like to happen, or if you think the quarry would or would not be affected by the orchid’s power. Proceed accordingly, with the quarry either trying to get closer to the flower or trying to get around the glade without getting closer (and therefore being confronted by the party).
The dire crab attacks anyone who enters the water for any reason. This can turn this into a three-way fight that may be deadly for the party, so consider who the crab will attack carefully if you don’t want a TPK (or if you do!).
If the party is hanging back and watching to see what will happen, and you wish they’d get a little more involved, expand the range of the blood orchid’s power to reach the party. Drawing one or more of them into the fray will get the action started.
This encounter is most effective when the party’s goal isn’t just to kill their quarry, but to capture them or take an item from them, since they’ll need to get past the crab and the orchid to do so.
Resolving this Encounter
Whether the party completes their main goal depends on how they handle the situation with the crab. The quarry might get away if the party is too entranced by the orchid, which could mean a resounding failure if they aren’t careful.
In addition to the completion of their goal in catching their quarry, parties who defeat the crab can claim the belongings of its past meals. If they sift through the muck at the bottom of the pond, the party will find 600 gp worth of gems and coins.
A breathless escape through the woods ends at the edge of a picturesque glade. The party may be able to use the lure of the blood orchid to escape their pursuers, but only if they are exceedingly careful.
Setting up this Encounter
Use this encounter when the party is fleeing through the woods from something or someone pursuing them. This could be a frantic chase scene, but it doesn’t have to be—there are plenty of times when a group might want to sneak through the woods and evade those tracking them. Use this encounter when you want the party to be caught (such as when they’ve failed rolls to evade capture) and force a confrontation.
This encounter also works well as a revisiting of the glade and the blood orchid, if the party left it intact last time. A clever party who knows how the flower works might turn this glade into a trap for their pursuers. If the dire crab has been slain, replace it with another aquatic monster for a similar effect (a hydra works well).
When the characters arrive, describe the situation and have them affected by the farthest-range ability of the flower right away, instead of when they get close. They should be aware of the flower and its effects as early as possible, so they have time to decide how (and if) they’ll use it to their advantage in their escape plans.
When this encounter starts and the party makes their first saves against the blood orchid, create a clock with six segments. When this clock is full, their pursuers arrive. Advance the clock by one segment each time a character fails a check against the blood orchid, or at the end of each round of combat, if combat breaks out.
Once the characters are aware of the power of the blood orchid, they’ll either need to deal with it or use it to their advantage. You can have the dire crab attack anyone who enters the water, as usual, or you can start a confrontation early by having it burst out of the glade and use a spray attack if you think that is better for your situation. The spray will slow characters down, making getting away much tougher and forcing a confrontation with their pursuers.
When the pursuers arrive, don’t forget to have them make a save against the orchid as well. The flower’s power affects everything except the pond-dweller.
Resolving this Encounter
Whatever happens in the glade, have the outcome be decisive. If the party gets away, have them get away cleanly. If they don’t, keep them nearby until the conflict they have with their pursuers is resolved. You can use the outcome of this encounter to determine the outcome of that chase, replacing a skill check challenge (which can end anti-climactically) with a dramatic battle.
Whoever the victor is, if the crab (or hydra, if you’re using that variant) is slain can claim the lost treasures at the bottom of the pond. If this is the first time the party has visited this glade, that’s 600 gp of gems and coins. If this is the second time, then the party is probably proficient at using the glade’s power against their enemies: lower the DC needed to safely extract the orchid’s pollen into a poison to 10 (down from 20).