Friday, 8 June 2018

The Postbox in the Woods (An Adventure)


Every child in the village knew the legends of Taro-Taro. Half human and half spirit, a boy born of a peach pit that hatched on a mountaintop, he was a hero who bridged our world and the spirit world. When there was trouble with mischievous ghosts, or the forest gods grew angry, Taro-Taro performed feats of cunning and strength to restore harmony.

There was a shrine to Taro-Taro, long ago, in what is now the Old Town Forest. Priests tended the holy ground, and there was a sacred wooden box containing the wishes of children, scrawled on paper leaves. For Taro-Taro had sworn an oath to answer any honest request by the pure of heart.

However, the oath of a spirit is binding, and Taro-Taro soon began to grow weary. Every child is pure of heart, and their prayers came in great number at each festival and blessed day. While many were impossible requests or fell outside the hero’s purview, he still found himself forced by his own word to deal with every spiritual problem the locals had, no matter how inconsequential.

Before long, Taro-Taro had had enough. In a tantrum, he grew a forest around the postbox overnight, enveloping the old town and forcing the villagers to leave. They settled the new town by the forest’s edge, cursing Taro-Taro. The once lauded hero, now left in peace, rested within the trunk of an old tree, paying the monkey god twelve gold coins to guard him as he slept.


The Adventure

The players are travellers from a nearby town, which is suffering under a spirit’s curse. They hear the old legend and travel to Old Town Forest to try and find Taro-Taro’s mailbox, and get the legendary spirit-boy to help them.

If a message is written down and posted inside the box, Taro-Taro appears, bleary eyed. He begrudgingly agrees to do what he is asked, on the condition that the players smash the postbox to pieces.

Rumours

1: Taro-Taro is dead.
2:
Hide your swords from the wooden priests! They hate the glint of coin, too. Offends them.
3:
If you find the old monkey statue, give it a gold offering. The spirits might leave you be.
4:
Oh, you’re going into the forest? Sweet… Could you get me some of those mushrooms?
5:
Some have gone wandering those woods, never to return. Maybe the monkey god cursed ‘em.
6:
The forest is magic… It feels. Don’t hurt it. In fact, don’t hurt anything in there. It’ll get angry.

The Map

Cut out the crossword from a free newspaper. This is your map of Old Town Forest.

White squares are natural paths, littered with occasional undergrowth and rubble. Black squares are “walls” formed of the crumbled buildings of the old town, overgrown with dense foliage.

The central square is where the old shrine is, and within it the mailbox.

Encounters

Roll 1d4 on the table below each time the players enter a crossword square with a number in it.
Whenever an encounter ends in violence or wanton destruction of the forest, increase the die rolled for the next encounter (1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10).

1: Butterflies.
2:
1d4 deer.
3:
A wild boar, angry.
4:
Wooden priests. Make hollow knocking noises. Love quiet, hate metal.
5:
A cursed monkey-man. Tells lies to get someone close enough to bite. The bitten grow tails.
6:
A monkey who has found a cloak of invisibility. Harmless but annoying.
7:
1d4 savage, sharp-toothed apes.
8:
Animated sap monsters, dripping from the trees.
9:
Monkey mages. Mischievous. Can cast spells to cause deafness, blindness or muteness.
10:
An animus of the forest, shambling piles of dirt and plant matter. Angry.

Features

Roll a die that encompasses as many of the numbers on the crossword squares as possible (probably a d20). Cross out the number you roll, and put a symbol in that square instead.

The symbol corresponds to one of the following features. Keep rolling until you’ve added all four.

1: A small, stagnant pond.
2:
A stone totem of a fat monkey. Put a gold coin in its mouth and primates won’t bother you here.
3:
Mushrooms grow here that cause a happy, light-headed haze when eaten. Monkeys love them.
4:
A termite mound, the remains of its last victim cleaned to the bone. Best to find another route.

Remnants

If the players search the ruined and overgrown buildings of the old town, they find:

1: Insects living in the dark corners.
2:
1d4 copper coins.
3:
A doll. There is an old man in the village who will recognise it from his youth.
4:
A beehive.
5:
Mushrooms growing from a dank patch of filth.
6:
A child’s letter, intended for the postbox at the shrine. It asks Taro-Taro for a baby brother.
7:
An old lucky charm, whittled into the shape of a monkey.
8:
A gold coin.

Old Magic

If the bodies of a boar, deer and butterfly are offered upon a desecrated shrine, a powerful demon will appear to offer magic in exchange for gold. He can grant one person a spell that lets them exhale a cold and mighty wind, and teach the secret commands that all mountain birds heed.

The players learn of this ritual later in their adventures, and recall the broken shrine to Taro-Taro, deep in the forest they visited all those weeks ago.

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