Thursday, October 8, 2015

Steal This: Honey, I Shrunk the PCs

Did your players just ditch tonight's adventure hook?  Need something to throw at them quick? Well, you're in luck!   

I call this one, "Honey, I Shrunk the PCs."


I inflicted this lil' bit of awfulness on the players last week in my Neverwinter Nights "cloud" game, and it was quite a hit. 

The Setup...

An NPC wizard (preferably someone who has sold the PCs potions or other magical goodies in the past) needs adventurers to test out some new potion recipes.  He'll pay good money - either in potions, magic, or coin, whatever the PCs prefer - if they will come to his tower, drink a few potions, and see what the results are.

In my game, the PCs responded to this "want ad" from their friendly, neighborhood potion dealer...


Once the PCs take the bait, the wizard will walk them a bit away from his tower, and plunk down a chest full of random potions.  To earn their pay, all they have to do is drink 1 potion and answer a few questions.  

For my own game, I used this table to randomly determine the effect of drinking a potion. 

Random Potion Effects - Roll 1d20

1-6, Potion is a "dud."  No effect at all, beyond a bit of mild stomach discomfort and some gas.

7-8, Bioluminescence.  The drinker's body glows with an unhealthy orange light.  Not painful, but grants Disadvantage (in D&D 5e) or a penalty of the GM's choice (in other systems) on all Stealth checks.  The effects last 1 day.

9, Speak with Animals.  The drinker naturally understands and can communicate with any natural animal or insect.  This doesn't make the animals or insects any smarter, but crude communication and rudimentary bargaining is possible.  The effects last 1 day.

10, Philter of Hair Regrowth.  If the drinker suffers from baldness, this is permanently cured.  Either way, all of the drinker's hair immediately grows 2d6 inches, and another 2d6 inches each hour.  The cure for baldness is permanent, the other effects fade after 1 day. 

11, Philter of the Rake. The drinker becomes incredibly handsome or beautiful and nigh-irresistible in the romance department. Gain Advantage on all social rolls with anyone attracted to the drinker's sex.  The effects last 1 day.

12, Draught of Absolute Honesty.  No apparent effect, but the drinker becomes unable to tell lies, or say anything but the absolute, complete truth.  Attempts to lie or mislead in any way wrack the drinker with choking fits and agonizing pain (1d6 hp per attempt).  The effects last 1 day.

13, Potion of Rhyming.  The drinker becomes unable to speak except in rhyming couplets.  If the drinker affirmatively tries to speak without rhyming (such as trying to cast a spell), he or she takes 1d6 hp and the attempt fails.

14, Potion of Premature Aging.  The drinker suddenly advances to incredible old age, and gains Disadvantage on all physical ability or skill checks (including attacks).  The effects last 1 day.

15-16, Treant's Draught.  The drinker's skin becomes as tough as bark, and he or she gains an inherent +2 to AC. The effects last 1 day.

17-18, Potion of Partial Invisibility.  The drinker's body (but not his or her equipment) fades into invisibility.  No game effect (but may weird some people out and impose penalties on social checks).  If the character sheds all clothing and equipment, he or she gains the benefits of the Improved Invisibility spell.  The effects last 1 day.

19-20, Trollblood Potion.  The drinker suddenly begins regenerating, as per a Troll.  Even death will not stop the drinker from regenerating and returning to life.  The effects last 1 day.

It's a Small World After All

After the PCs finish drinking their potions, the NPC wizard happily pays them their reward and takes his leave - walking back to his tower nearby. 

A few minutes after that, all of the PCs who drank a potion begin to feel a bit light-headed.  And, one by one, they begin "vanishing" in a flash of light, as each one shrinks down to 1 inch tall - about the same size as a D&D mini...

"Is it just me, or did the grass get really tall all of the sudden..."

Now, if the PCs want to return to their normal size, they need to trek back to the NPC Wizard's tower, get his attention, and persuade him to reverse the effect.

GM NOTE ON SMART OR PARANOID PLAYERS:  You should really push all of the PCs to sample the potions.  Feel free to keep upping the rewards until it becomes too tempting to resist.  Or, if a player is particularly stubborn, have the NPC wizard elect him to help clean up the vials or hold some of the potions - and then just accidentally slop a little potion on him that way.  Of course, very paranoid or clever PCs may be able to avoid this adventure entirely - but that's the breaks. Give him a Spot check to find his "vanished" fellows and, if he fails it, I guess he spends  this game back at the tavern wondering where they went...

Miniature Terrors!

The PCs will quickly discover that their "tiny adventure" is no picnic.  Normal animals and bugs will find the PCs to be a delectable and "bite sized" feast! 

Trekking through the woods, they may face hungry frogs...



A pixie that is eager to get a little payback on the stupid humans who normally torment her (she's several times their size, and excited to be the big bully for once...)


A stray cat is the size of a dragon, but not as nice...


Hordes of pigeons or hungry seagulls can peck the PCs to death...


And, once the PCs manage to get back into the NPC wizard's tower, more danger awaits!  Of course there are plenty of spiders in the tower, eager for a meal...


The PCs may "need a hand" with the NPC Wizard's Crawling Claw...


The wizard's dog seemed cute and friendly before, but not so much now...


And every old tower has plenty of mice...


And roaches...


And even the bookworm infestation in the wizard's library poses deadly peril...


Of course, getting the wizard's attention won't be easy, and he won't watch where he is stepping... 


But, ultimately, if the PCs can get his attention, the NPC wizard will eventually be able to restore them to their normal size.

Some Twists

Here are a few more ideas for spicing up your "small world" adventure...

(1)  Maybe the NPC wizard did not shrink the PCs by accident, and instead has a sinister agenda.  Is he working for one of their enemies?  Does he want some rare and powerful magical items they are carrying?  Or is he just a greedy opportunist, who will happily extort the PCs before agreeing to reverse the potions' effects?

(2)  Were their other test subjects who suffered the same fate?  Maybe the NPC wizard's lab has been contaminated, and he has now unwittingly shrunk down several bands of adventurers.

(3) Maybe a jealous rival purposely contaminated the NPC wizard's lab.  Now, if the PCs don't act quickly, their one hope of returning to normal size will find himself dead.

(4)  Maybe the NPC wizard will shrink himself down too.  Now, the PCs have to figure out some way to manipulate a massive set of alchemical equipment to brew a cure.

Fun Ideas for Miniatures

This turned out to be a *great* game to run a few weeks before Halloween.  Stores are packed with rubber bugs, bats, spiders, and other goodies that you can use as miniatures for your game.

My favorite was a severed hand that worked perfectly for the Crawling Claw in the Wizard's tower...

 Hope you enjoy. And if you are looking for a "players' eye view" of this adventure, be sure to check out the session write-up my buddy T20s grunt posted over at Throwing Twenties here

- Balthazar