Traps & Hazards: The Sword in the Stone

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 19, 2010

What do you do when you discover an ancient red dragon living in your neighbourhood? You get adventurers to kill it, of course. But what happens if the adventurers don’t kill the dragon? It will be angry that you tried to kill it and it will likely destroy your village. If only there was a way to keep sending adventurers against the dragon while avoiding the dragon’s wrath after each failed attempt. The inhabitants of Burrow’s Scar have come up with just such a plan. Unfortunately for your PCs, they are likely to be the next heroes tricked into face the dragon.

Hazard: The Sword in the Stone

Adventurer’s Background

A red dragon has awoken after a century of sleep. The unfortunate townsfolk of Burrow’s Scar have unknowingly settled near its lair. The village is made up of simple folk, mostly farmers and trades folk. Should the dragon go on a destructive rampage across the countryside, Burrow’s Scar would be first in the path of destruction. But the town is not competently defenseless. There is a legend of a magical sword embedded in a stone that has the power to slay dragons. Should a truly worthy hero draw the sword from the stone he shall be granted power to defeat the great wyrm.

Setup

The party arrives in the village of Burrow’s Scar. They might be here because they’ve heard of the legend and want to see if one of them will fulfill the prophecy. Or perhaps Burrow’s Scar was just the next town on their travels. In either scenario, the villagers welcome the PCs with open arms and assume that one of them is the hero who will slay the dragon.

The villagers throw a feast in honour of the party’s arrival. They explain that according to legend that only a truly worthy hero can draw the sword form the stone. If any of the PCs are interested in testing there mettle they are welcome to do so at dawn. Until the appointed hour the PCs are given the royal treatment. All the food and beverage they can consume is provided at no charge.

The following morning as dawn approaches, the PCs are brought to the sword in the stone. The village elders perform a traditional ceremony before anyone can attempt to draw the sword. The first PC attempting to draw the sword is unsuccessful. The second PC draws the sword without difficulty. They are the chosen one. With the enchanted blade in their hand they will surely be able to defeat the dragon. The villagers provide the PCs with a map to the dragon’s lair and wish them good luck.

What’s Really Happening

The community of Burrow’s Scar finds itself in a strange arrangement with a red dragon living nearby. The dragon was recently awakened from a century-long slumber. The villagers spotted the dragon flying through the night sky when it first left its lair in search of food. Fortunately the dragon did not attack the village that first night. So the village elders decided to try and negotiate with the dragon before it got hungry again and attacked Burrow’s Scar. The town’s most experienced Ranger found the dragon’s lair and made the pitch. The Ranger returned to the village with the terms for an alliance.

The dragon just gorged itself on a tribe of orcs, so its appetite has been satisfied temporarily. If the villagers send sacrifices regularly to the dragon it agreed not to attack the village. In fact, it would rather not leave its lair so this arrangement will make it very happy (always a good thing when dealing with dragons).

The townsfolk being simple, honest folk couldn’t bear to send any of their own people as sacrifices to feed a hungry dragon, but if they didn’t feed it they were likely to be eaten anyway. So they decided to trick adventurers into sacrificing themselves. If the adventurers were eaten, then the villagers believed they were simply fulfilling their end of the bargain. If the adventurers were somehow able to defeat the dragon then the village would be free of its dragon problem. Win-win.

The villagers of Burrow’s Scar created a “legend” about a magical sword in the stone capable of slaying a dragon. With the help of a powerful and reclusive Artificer (Wizard) who lived on the fringe of Burrow’s Scar, they created a magical sword that suited their need.

The sword is a Dragonslayer Weapon (it has to be a sword, but the exact type is up to the PC who pulls it free). A permanent ritual was placed on the stone. The ritual keeps the sword firmly embedded in the stone. The ritual can be suppressed long enough to draw the sword free if the proper words are spoken and gestures made.

The “ceremony” the villagers performed covered the verbal requirements and most of the semantics. One designated representative performs the final gesture when the second PCs attempts to draw the sword from the stone.

Outcome

The villagers have been doing this for a few years now. Every month or so, a new group of adventurers shows up. One of them draws the sword form the stone and they head off to slay the dragon. So far none have returned.

The magic sword has a minor secondary enchantment on it. If the dragon is still alive at dawn on the day after the sword is drawn from the stone, the blade magically teleports back into the stone and the ritual once again imprisons the sword.

If the PCs manage to defeat the dragon they get to keep the Dragonslayer Weapon in addition to any other treasure they find in the dragon’s lair.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Phaezen May 19, 2010 at 10:06 am

Scuse me while I pilfer this, nothing to see here.

PS. Seriously nice idea.
.-= Phaezen´s last blog ..Game Inspiration – Creatures =-.

2 DarkTouch May 19, 2010 at 11:14 am

I totally want that sword… even knowing it is a trap. Too bad my half-orc is more of an axe type.
.-= DarkTouch´s last blog ..Doing Bad Bad things to the PCs =-.

3 Ameron May 19, 2010 at 1:03 pm

@Phaezen
If I didn’t want you to “borrow” this idea I wouldn’t have posted it. If you do end up using it against your PCs, please post again and let us know how things turned out.

@DarkTouch
I find that as a DM it’s sometime fun to give the PCs access to an item that they may not normally use and see what they do with it. If you axeman already has a +1 axe and the Dragonslayer Sword is +2 or even +3 would you consider using it just this once for the fight against the dragon? How would his ego handle the idea of being the “chosen” hero? So much so that he’d refuse to let anyone else wield the Dragonslayer Sword? All make for interesting role-playing opportunities.

4 Begindnd May 19, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I think I would have prefered a double edged sword. I just think they look a lot cooler…it would be difficult to pull of a stone though and there is a risk of injury!
I like the story, the twist is very good as well — What do the PCs do if they find out they’ve been tricked? Well we can leave it up to them!
.-= Begindnd´s last blog ..5 ways Dungeons and Dragons could help you survive a zombie outbreak! =-.

5 surfbored May 19, 2010 at 11:23 pm

VERY NICE. I will do my best to sneak this into my current campaign. A few of my PC’s will likely attempt to pull the sword just to walk away with it — having it teleport back to the stone is a clever way to stop this!

6 Dungeon Newbie May 20, 2010 at 4:18 am

Do you mind if I change your idea? When I first saw the title, I thought the Sword itself was a trap and would slay the PCs. Hehehe. “You see a Titan Runesword+8 in front of you, embedded in a rock…. What do you do? ” “I grab it!” “It flies out and strikes you in the heart. Make a death save. If you survive, you are bloodied.” *PC facepalms*

7 Ameron May 25, 2010 at 1:05 pm

@Begindnd
I’m only suggesting that the weapon in the stone be a sword. It’s up to the DM to use whatever he thinks will most entice the PCs.

I was originally going to include a full skill challenge to discover the treachery, but the article was already getting pretty long. If the PCs seem suspicious then I’d give them some opportunity to make skill checks. I wouldn’t reveal everything, but they may realize that something bigger is going on here. There’s enough truth in the words of the townsfolk that the PCs should have a difficult time discerning the complete truth.

@surfbored
I’ve played with PCs who would likewise just pull the sword and walk away. Having it teleport back would anger them just enough to kill the dragon out of spite. If you want PCs to do something just tell them they can’t. :)

@Dungeon Newbie
Believe it or not, I’ve used a very similar idea to yours in a previous game. The PCs found a magical sword buried under rubble. When they dug it free it turned out to be intelligent (and cursed) and attacked the first one to pick it up. If your group hasn’t had the fun of fighting a cursed animate weapon then by all means, go for it.

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