Written by: Giles Penfold, creator of The Vynestra Collection
This mini-adventure is written using the illustrious, high fantasy, Rome-inspired world of The Vynestra Collection which is live on Kickstarter right now! It is designed for Level 1 or 2 characters to help start off their voyage into the Romanesque capital city of Deveros at the heart of the Aldarin Empire, all whilst learning the lore around how curse tablets work and diving into one of Czepeku’s gorgeous arena maps.
Soil To The Sun
There is one thing that the Aldarins love above their wars, their gladiatorial arenas, their politics. And that is a good dose of revenge, preferably delivered in a very public way. Citizens may have curse tablets written and buried, inflicting some prolonged misfortune upon those who have wronged them. The folk who live within Agrizzo, the rural district of Deveros, are no different from their city dwelling brethren in this regard. Even the smallest slight is enough to push them to appeal to the gods in the entwining of a curse. And that is where this story begins.
The party has been tasked with delivering a curse to its recipient on behalf of a cultist of Meliam (Goddess of Curses, Protection, and Warding) called Gaius Princeps Ferro (LG he/him Aldarin). Ferro has been hired by a wealthy patrician, who’s identity he will not disclose, to place a curse of misfortune upon a competitor within the vintner community: Damascus Lothero Commodus (CN he/him Aldarin). Commodus is well-known for being hot-headed and openly disdainful of newer families trying to edge into the vintner trade.
The curse itself causes Commodus to uncontrollably spend their gold. Whatever coinage comes into his possession very quickly leaves again, passed off to the nearest merchant or taberna owner, regardless of if he requires their services or not. Ferro has constructed the curse tablet and has buried it, for the destruction of the tablet would break the curse. A fragment of the tablet has been taken and ground into a fine powder, which needs to be either consumed by or placed on the person of Commodus for the curse to take effect. Ferro has pushed for the consumption of the powder so that the effects last longer. Unfortunately, Ferro has had little success in this avenue of delivering the curse and has hired the players to take on the job.
Delivering The Powder
Commodus is attending the gladiatorial fights of Agrizzo Arena this afternoon and has been invited as a special guest to sit in the VIP box overlooking the central area of the arena. Gladiators who win their fights are invited to the VIP box to receive a reward from Dwa’hlin Deosia (TN she/they[NB] half high elf), the patrician funding the day’s games. The players have been entered into one of the fights that afternoon by Ferro and must deliver the powder into Commodus’s drink after winning their fight and being invited to the VIP box of the arena. As a reward for doing so, the players shall be granted 150 gold plus whatever reward they are given for winning their fight.
The players are told to turn up at the rear entrance of the arena just before dusk. As dusk sets in, they are greeted by two servants who usher them into one of the armouries under the stalls. The players are registered in a scroll by one of the servants and told to prepare for their fight coming up. The sounds of a boisterous crowd rumbles from above, intermingled with cheers, screams, and the stamping of feet. A handful of professional gladiators relax in the armoury as well, either waiting their fight or having just finished.
When it is time for the players to enter into the arena, they are led up a set of dusty steps to a gate, which leads through into the sandy, blood-soaked ring above. The noise of the crowds and the banging of drums only intensifies as they are guided to the arena. Dwa’hlin welcomes the newcomers to the arena and wishes them luck in their fight against “devils of the divide” as the opposing gate opens.
Two slipbeasts (or three if the party is Level 2) emerge from the entrance, their dozen eyes each fixated on the party. Slipbeasts are intelligent creatures from the rifts between the planes and are known to hunt in small packs. These slipbeasts are weakened from having been kept on the Medial Plane for so long, and as such only deal 8 (2d4 + 3) damage with their Bite attack. The slipbeasts will focus in on whichever player character is either most lightly armoured or a spellcaster, rushing in to grapple them and then using their Slip ability to drag them away from the rest of the party. They will then focus on killing that player character before turning on whoever they deem to be the next weakest target.
Placing The Curse
After conquering the slipbeasts, the crowd goes wild, throwing flowers and copper coinage into the arena. The players are invited up to the VIP box to accept their reward for winning the fight. PCs with a 12 Passive Perception or who succeed on a DC 12 Wisdom (Perception) check will see Commodus sitting on the table next to Dwa’hlin’s as they enter into the box, having been given his description by Ferro. He has a clay cup of wine in front of him and seems to be distracted in conversation with the person next to him. A successful DC 13 Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check will allow a PC to slip the powder into his drink unnoticed. Advantage may be provided on this check should a distraction be created by one of the other players.
Dwa’hlin shall congratulate the players on their successful fight and award them with flower crowns created by the children of the surrounding vineyards, woven with the vines of the grapes. They shall each be handed an amphora (clay flask) filled with Silver Sola Reserve wine (worth 15 gp each) and a writ for a full night’s stay, meals included, at Nuper Nocte: a nearby inn. They are then invited to sit and watch the rest of the games in the nearby stalls, which run late into the evening.
Should the players stick around after successfully placing the curse on Commodus, they will see him idly swinging about his coin pouch, which eventually slips from his fingers into the stalls nearby. Commodus doesn’t seem concerned about retrieving it in the slightest. A successful DC 13 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check allows the PCs to get to the coin pouch before it is snatched up by another audience member. Inside are 1 decima (10 gold piece coin), 2 quintae (5 gold piece coins), 8 argentum (1 silver piece coins), and 17 aeris (1 copper piece coins).
If you enjoyed this encounter, consider pledging to support The Vynestra Collection on Kickstarter for plenty more arena-oriented fights and rulesets, plus a wealth of lore to explore!
About The Vynestra Collection
The Vynestra Collection is a love letter to both Venice and ancient Rome, featuring a high fantasy blend with classical culture over five gorgeously illustrated books for DnD 5th Edition. There are 1,000 pages of fresh new content such as a 600+ location city setting of Deveros with hundreds of diverse NPCs, events, plot hooks, adventures, encounters, spells, monsters, rulesets, and so much more! Walk the path of the gods with Vynestra's Ember system, taking on immense divine powers that you can use to crush your foes and bolster your allies, before eventually ascending as a demigod. Embers allow players and NPCs alike to be customised far beyond the breadth of RAW 5th Edition, granting a plethora of options to explore and flourish with. And the best part? It's all done! Vynestra is ready to ship beta PDFs to backers in the month following the campaign close with physical copies arriving early in 2024.
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