A Single Feather
A family-friendly adventure for characters 1st to 4th levels
This adventure is intended for up to 4 characters of 1st to 4th level. This adventure relies on role play, exploration, problem-solving and a skill challenge. There is the opportunity for combat at several stages of the adventure.
This adventure was inspired by the artwork of Devin Elle Kurtz.
Special thanks Devin for permission to use the beautify pieces shown in this adventure. Please visit Devin’s website at https://www.devinellekurtz.com/ to see more of her fantastic work.
The headmaster of the wizard college, Broadrell Pradler, is in need of a single feather from a legendary beast known as the peacock leopard to remove an evil enchantment. It seems the school has been surrounded by a giant ant-magic bubble and all of the students and teachers are trapped inside.
The players must find the guardian of the forest where the peacock leopard lives. If they can pass her test, and convince the leopard that their cause is just and their hearts are pure, they will be rewarded with a single feather.
It is a race against time because the enchantment can only be broken during the first blue moon of the century. If the player characters do not return with the feather before the next full moon sets, everyone inside the enchanted area will be trapped for one-hundred years.
The party must speak with the magic school’s headmaster, Broadrell Pradler. He is trapped inside the dome, but the characters can speak to him through the dome wall. Pradler will tell the characters that the last known peacock leopard lives in a forest valley two days march to the north of the city. The forest is protected by a forest spirit named Devin.
The characters must return with the feather of the peacock leopard before the next full moon. I recommend that this is two weeks away to allow for travel time and the hex-crawl exploration.
The characters must explore (hex crawl) the forest (wilderness survival) in search of the guardian and the leopard.
Complications & Opportunities
- Your campaign’s BBEG wants to capture the peacock leopard. A party of hunters (NPC’s below) have been hired to follow the party and capture the guardian and the leopard.
- The peacock leopard is sick. Devin, the forest spirit, has been trying to heal it with her magic, but nothing she tries is working. In order to save the leopard and prove their worthiness, the party must travel to an ancient ruined temple and recover a healing stone deep inside. Once inside the temple, the jungle will come to life and try to stop the party from exploring and retrieving the gem of healing.
If your party has a ranger in the party, this is their time to shine. Take the time to let them use their skills and lead the party. If you don’t have any rangers or just don’t think your party will enjoy this type of adventuring, just narrate this portion of the game as a “cut scene.”
How to Hex Crawl
Finding the guardian of the forest and the peacock leopard is a hunt in the form of a hex crawl. I recommend printing some hex map pieces, cutting them out, and lay them down on the table as the players explore. Each hex is an opportunity for an encounter or discovery.
Don’t think of a hex crawl as real-time, movement-by-movement game play. A typical in-game day will allow 3 to 4 hex moves per day. The turn cycle works like this:
- DM asks what the player(s) are doing or which direction they are exploring
- Players describe what they want to happen on their 4-hour turn duration
- DM rolls for events like random encounters and events
- DM describes the results of the player’s actions and the events that occur based on dice rolls. If combat is involved, switch into 6-second combat turns for the combat then roll play out any follow-up that is needed.
- Rinse and Repeat
This is a very simplified version of the process, but it shows you how you can get through a HUGE map in a reasonable time.
Running the Gauntlet
Retrieving the healing gem from the jungle temple requires characters to complete a skill challenge. For inspiration on how this works, I recommend Matt Colville’s video Skill Challenges! Running the Game #21, which is provided below.
The characters must pass 5 of 8 skill challenges. Each round, one player chooses a skill they have not already used and they roll using that skill bonus against a DC of 10. Feel free to increase or decrease the DC depending on the level of the characters. Each character gets one helping action during the gauntlet, which they can use to give another character advantage on their skill check.
The DM will describe how the character’s choice of skill and the result of the dice roll impact them in their race to the center of the temple and back out again with the gem. Listen to the beginning of Matt’s video for inspiration on how he uses description to convey the excitement of a skill challenge.
This skill challenge uses the “fail forward” method. Regardless of the success or failure of any individual sill check, the party will advance on their goal. The consequences of too many failures are that the temple will collapse, and the gem will become impossible to recover.
Skill Check Descriptions
Here are some example descriptions for various skill check successes and failures.
Before the Roll: Running full speed, a thick root that suddenly erupts from the ground. You try to leap and dive over it.
Success: You nimbly jump over the thick root.
Fail: You try to leap over the root only to find yourself face down in the dirt. Glancing back as you pick yourself up you see the thick tree root reaching out to grab your leg.
Before The Roll: You see a jaguar is running through the bushes, keeping pace as you dodge and leap over the vines. Catching the cat’s eye you are sure it winked at you. You turn suddenly as a large pile of vines fall from the tree limbs above you. You turn quickly and run straight at the cat. To your surprise, you find the jaguar understands your plan.
Success: You slide on the ground and the jaguar leaps over you, the vines tangle around it and you see it ripping and tearing at the vines with its sharp claws and teeth.
Fail: You leap into the air, intending to jump over the jaguar, but you smash headlong into the giant cat. Both of you tumble for several feet before you are able to get back up and resume running.
Before the Roll: The ancient stone walls of the temple grow ever closer with every step you take. As you dodge and weave around the tangled vines you recall a story you once read about a farmer who used salt to rid his fields of a magical vine. You realize with glee that you still have the small bag of salt from your food kit in your pocket. As the next large vine reaches out to grab you, you throw the bag of salt at it.
Success: The bag explodes and salt flies all over the vine causing it to shrivel and retreat away from you.
Fail: The bag explodes and salt flies all over the vine, but it has no effect. You are forced to change direction to avoid being tangled in the vines.
Before the Roll: Seeing a clearing in the vines, you begin to sprint at top speed in hopes you can get through before the thick jungle vines can close the gap.
Success: Running faster than you thought possible, you easily make it through the clearing.
Fail: You push yourself and begin to run as fast as you can only to feel a cramp in your leg. A mussel in your leg contracts painfully and you are forced to slow down. You barely make it through the gap ahead of the vines closing in on you.
Before the Roll: There is no other way around. The only way forward is through the vines and they are piling higher by the second. Trusting in your skills and your boots, you push forward. You are reminded of the time you went hunting for blackberries as a child and got stuck in the thorny bushes.
Success: The lessons learned that day come in handy as you pick your way through the patch of thorny vines.
Fail: You regret the fact that you did not learn your lesson from the blackberry bushes. You move slowly and cautiously, losing precious time.
Success or Failure
Should the party fail to retrieve the healing gem from the ruins, they will return to find that the peacock leopard has fallen unconscious. Devin will explain that her only hope now is for one of the party members to donate some of their life to the leopard. If they agree, the character will age 1d10 percent of their life expectancy.
Saving the life of the leopard will be enough to convince it to donate a feather to the party.
Appendix: Random Encounters
The following encounter table is to be used for the road, woods, and grounds of the castle. The creatures will use hit-and-run tactics in an attempt to distract and lead the party away from the castle. They are in telepathic communication with the beast, who will guide and command them. The creatures are transformed residents of the castle and they have no interest in dying. They will flee combat when injured.
|2D10||Qty||Name||Award XP Each||Total Award XP|
|2||1||Devin The Forest Spirit|
|6||5||Giant Poisonous Snake||50||250|
All creatures are also taken from the basic rules and/or Monster Manual.
Appendix: Treasure / Magic Items
I do not recommend using maps for this adventure. Doing so will slow down gameplay. I recommend using images from the Pinterest boards above as visual aids. If you must use a map, check out my Pinterest map board below.