Oh, yes. I nearly forgot that moving off of my hosted WordPress site of yore to a newer-fangled one means none of my old content is here anymore. Going to try to transfer things over! Here’s the hook that got me on my whole “I could make a D&D zine probably” obsession. In the Vast Forest was almost the title of the zine, but I didn’t want to wind up with a “Bad Company by Bad Company off the album Bad Company” situation. Anyhow, here’s the new and improved version of my first written-to-be-consumed adventure hook!
As you explore the dense woods, you and your party come across a hunter propped against a tree. He is gaunt and pale and does not stir as you approach him, nor does he respond to your call.
Upon closer inspection, his clothes are in tatters, and an empty waterskin rests at his feet. When awoken, he introduces himself as Gerardo and–on the verge of tears–begs your help.
Gerardo claims to have been separated from his boar hunting party some days back, and asks that you might spare some of your rations and water so that he can build his strength and rejoin them. Though his story rings false to an insightful listener, any cursory inspection to his well-being shows that he is dehydrated, malnourished, and ill.
In truth, he is a criminal in exile from a nearby town, sent into the forest with a spear, shield, waterskin, and naught else. If pressed, he will confess to his crime–burglarizing a temple to the god of charity–and express deep remorse for his actions (and their consequences). Should the party decide to share a meal or aid Gerardo in any way, he becomes a lifelong ally, and reveals the location of a secret cache containing the spoils of his crime.
While the group rests, they are beset by scavengers (large cats, a medium bear and cubs, or birds of prey), who have been hunting Gerardo. The animals are easily dispatched by the full party, though if the group elects to not assist him, they will later discover a slashed shield and broken spear near a pile of his picked-clean bones.
In the Vast Forest engraving by Andrew Varick Stout Anthony, illustration by Mary Hallock Foote, fittingly retrieved from Old Book Illustrations. Inspiration for this sort of thing from Philip Reed at gamemaster.guide.