Skill Challenge: Tavern Treachery

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on February 10, 2010

It’s well known that the PCs bring vast amounts of wealth back to town after a weekend plundering the local ruins. However, the citizens of a local town are tired of catering to the needs of spoiled, holier-than-thou adventurers. The town isn’t getting rich from the adventurers and no monsters ever attack. Add on the property damage that drunken adventurers cause and something needed to be done. A plan is hatched, when the PCs return to town the locals will take advantage of their need for rest. As the PCs enjoy a meal the locals will poison their food and drink.


The PCs have just returned from adventuring and will be spending their new found wealth. They will also be bragging about their newly acquired magic items. The locals have grown tired of countless adventurers coming through town and have decided to take out their anger on the next group to come through. This skill challenge is ideal for low powered PCs (level 1 – 4) and may be most interesting to play with a first level group who have just had their first adventure. As the DM it is very easy to add some evil elements to the town allowing it to become part of a larger adventure.

This skill challenge has no difficulty setting, and uses the model presented in Ameron in his article on Skill Challenges and Rewards. The PCs may realize what is occurring after 4 successes or it may take them 12. As the DM your task is to determine how long you might like the challenge to continue and provide the relevant information to keep the PCs guessing. Provided below are the skills relevant to the challenge and some idea’s for information that you can provide to the PCs.

While skills can be used multiple times to gain successes, you may not want to award a success if the usage is a duplication of an earlier skill check. The list below covers the skills checks required to both avoid succumbing to the poison and convince the NPCs to stop their actions.

Suggested Primary Skills

Bluff, Diplomacy, Endurance, Heal, Insight, Intimidate, Nature, Perception

Bluff (moderate DC)

A PC attempts to convince the NPCs that he is more intoxicated than he actually appears. This DC gets more difficult the drunker the PC gets.

Diplomacy (hard DC)

If a PC realizes what’s happening he can attempt to talk the locals out of their course of action.

Endurance (variable DC)

Make a secret Endurance check each round for the PCs to see how the poisons are affecting them. As the challenge progresses this DC will become more difficult. If a PC fails a hard DC skill check for Endurance they fall unconscious.

Heal (hard DC)

If a PC realizes what’s happening he can attempt to slow the effects of the poison. This lowers the DC for the next Endurance check made. A PC may not make this check on themselves.

Insight (moderate DC)

A PC realizes the locals are up to something fishy.

Insight (variable DC)

The PC realizes that one of his fellow party members is unduly effected by the food and drink. This DC will change base on how intoxicated the PCs are.

Intimidate (easy DC)

You force an NPC to reveal what is occurring.

Nature (hard DC)

You happen to have some herbs that will counteract the effects of the poison the locals are using.

Perception (moderate to hard DC)

You catch the NPCs in the act of poisoning your food. The DC for this skill check will vary depending on how intoxicated the PC is.

Perception (easy DC)

You see a fellow party member trip over their own feet. Depending on your own state of mind you might find this funny or disturbing.

Perception (hard DC)

A PC with a discernable pallet realizes that something about the way the food tastes is off.


The PCs figure out that the NPCs have been trying to poison them. The question is why and what are you going to do about it? Combat or some hard questions are required.


The PCs have succumbed to the poison. Will the NPCs be content to simple rob them of a few gold and items or is there are greater evil at work?

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1 Marcelo Dior February 10, 2010 at 8:06 pm

OMG. I’ve just started a 1st level campaign with newcomers to 4e and this will be great for teaching them about Skill Challenges!

2 Wimwick February 10, 2010 at 10:04 pm

@ Marcelo
Welcome to Dungeon’s Master!
I’m glad you liked the challenge and I hope your players enjoy it as well. Let me know how it turns out if you end up using it in your game.

3 Punning Pundit February 12, 2010 at 2:56 pm

When I do a dungeon, I like to give them 2-5 combat encounters, and one set of skill challenges. I once put them in a room where the trick to getting out was believing that there was an exit.

For last night’s game, I took this tavern and placed it in the middle of the dungeon. The tavern (“Happy Harry’s”) was full of the ghosts of every adventurer who had died in the trap. If the PCs ate or drank anything while there, they’d have to roll a will check to get back up.

My players loved it. Thanks for the idea! I look forward to seeing more lootable content from this site.
.-= Punning Pundit´s last blog ..Ubi to gamers: Drop dead =-.

4 Wildwood February 16, 2010 at 4:57 am

If the village population is all (or nearly all) human, you could have them target adventuring parties that have a lot of non-human characters, getting back to the ‘role-playing race’ discussion. Or, as another twist, you could have the villagers only poison the non-human party members, assuming that the human party members will be more loyal to their race than to their party.

It’s the uglier side of roleplaying character race, but if the players with non-human characters get in the habit of checking the racial mix whenever they walk into an inn, you’ll know that they are at least remembering that their characters aren’t human.

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