by Anthony W. Roberson
Art by Shea Ryan
As an introduction to GURPS (and perhaps roleplaying games in general), GURPS Lite is unparalleled. It is lacking, however, an introductory adventure. "A Small Task" is a short scenario created for just that purpose. It is based in a fantasy setting and designed for 4-6 players and a Game Master. You should be able to play through it in one evening and it is appropriate for new players and gamemasters alike.
If you want to run "A Small Task" for fewer players than the suggested 4-6, you can reduce the number of goblins in the ruined tower and/or replace the shaman with a leader that has the same stats as the other goblins.
If you want to run the adventure for a larger group, you can add goblins. You should also have them act as intelligently as possible in combat. They will use cover, retreat when appropriate and pursue fleeing foes. Simply treating them as intelligent opponents and not just as targets for the players' weapons will go a long way toward increasing the challenge level of the adventure.
If things go horribly awry for the players, remember that a character must be reduced to at least -HT before being in danger of actually dying. Also, a healer in the village can heal 1d-3 hits per character with her First Aid skill. The goblins will also keep any unconscious characters alive (at least for awhile) in order to ransom them or sell them as slaves.
The players' characters are all residents of Fairvale, a small farming village. One sunny day, they are called before the village leader:
"Greetings and welcome. I asked you here today for the purpose of undertaking a service for our good hamlet. It seems as though sheep have been disappearing from the north field. I want you to find out what has been happening to them and either return the sheep or destroy the danger to them. Do you accept my small task?"
If the players accept the village leader's task (and they should or this will be a short adventure), he congratulates them on their heroism and wishes them good luck on their task.
The players will probably want to start their investigation in the village, gather any information about the disappearances that they can and interview any possible witnesses. The village leader can tell them that the last sheep were discovered missing two days ago and the shepherd that was guarding them at that time is named Jonus.
The players can locate Jonus in the village's only tavern. He tells them that two sheep were taken. They went missing over night. He noticed nothing out of the ordinary. If they press him further, he will say that he did feel sort of dizzy and disoriented at one point and almost forgot where he was. He says, "it was almost like I lost me head for a bit. I felt plumb odd, I did."
The players can pick up several other pieces of information in the village. A total of twelve sheep have disappeared over the past month. All were taken at night and none of the other shepherds ever noticed anything out of the ordinary. They can also find out from several of the older residents that ten or fifteen years ago, a vicious troll stole several sheep from the same area and even killed a shepherd. A band of adventurers eventually tracked him to a cave that lies in the forest about half a day's walk west of the north field and killed him.
The North Field
Old Ben is a rather pathetic specimen of a troll. He is almost toothless and missing his left eye. He is also crippled with arthritis and moves only with great difficulty. He has lived in the cave alone since a group of adventurers killed his mate many years ago. He hid in the woods until they left and now only rarely ventures out to hunt small game with crude snares and traps. He has nothing of value to the players and wishes only to be left alone.
Speed: 7.5 Move: 7
Dodge: 7 Parry: 5
Advantages: Toughness (DR 2)
Skills: Club-10, Traps-10
Equipment: Big Club (cr 3d+2)
If the players want to explore the north field, Jonus can easily direct them to the spot where the last two sheep were taken. If any player wants to try his Tracking skill and makes his Success Roll, he discovers several sets of booted footprints leading off to the north.
Once located, the tracks are easy to follow and require no more Tracking rolls. They lead into a group of low hills about two hours' walk north of the field. The trail disappears as the players reach the rocky ground at the edge of the hills, but the players immediately spot a small ruined tower situated on top of the largest hill.
Gamemaster's Note: If you want to make the players' task easier, you can simply rule that they locate the tracks without a roll.
The Old Cave
If the players wish to explore the old cave, they easily locate it just inside the large wooded area to the west of the North Field. If they cautiously approach and everyone makes his Stealth roll, they hear the sound of someone or something snoring loudly as they approach the entrance to the cave. If they enter, they find an old Stone Troll sleeping soundly on a pile of filthy rags and furs. If the players attack the troll and do not kill him immediately, he will beg for his life and will not attack, only defending himself and backing into the corner of the cave.
If the players do not approach cautiously or fail their Stealth rolls, a voice will boom out of the cave: "Go away. Me not want hurt you. Leave Old Ben alone. Go away." If the players enter anyway, Old Ben will again only defend himself.
If the players spare Old Ben's life, he will tell them that he has not stolen any sheep. This is backed up by the fact that the only bones in the cave are of small forest animals like squirrels and rabbits. He can tell them though that someone has moved into the Ruined Tower that lies in the hills to the northeast and they might want to check there. He got this information from a talking raven that knows the area well. He does not know who or what has taken up residence in the tower.
The Ruined Tower
Speed: 5.5 Move: 5
Block: 6 Dodge: 5 Parry: 6
Advantages: Toughness (DR 2)
Skills: Bow-13, Shortsword-12, Shield-12, Stealth-13
Equipment: Short bow (imp 1d-1), Shortsword (cut 1d+1), Small shield and Light leather armor (PD 3, DR 1)
The shaman is quite smart for a goblin and she has brought her little band to the ruined tower in order to try and set up her own tribe. She has been leading the raids on the North Field. The goblins sneak close to the flock and she uses her Daze spell on the shepherds so that the others can steal sheep for food. She has carefully avoided confrontations with villagers so far in order to keep the goblin's presence a secret. Once the goblins have a base established, she intends to try and attract more followers and eventually attack the village itself.
Speed: 5.25 Move: 5
Dodge: 5 Parry: 5
Skills: Staff-11, Tactics-12
Spells: Daze-13, Haste-13, Lend Strength-13, Lend Health-13, Minor Healing-13
Equipment: Staff (1d)
The goblin shaman wears a necklace that is strung with large gold nuggets. It would be worth $5,000 to the right buyer.
The tower sits alone on top of a large hill. There is little vegetation surrounding it and it appears that any approach would be easy to spot. The tower itself is largely tumbled down and it appears that only the bottom floor and a small portion of the upper floor are intact.
A group of eight goblins led by a shaman has taken up residence in the tower. During the day, all the goblins will be located in the tower with one stationed on the remains of the upper floor to act as a sentry. At night, half of the goblins and the shaman will head south to steal sheep, while the rest remain to guard the tower.
If the players try to approach the tower in daylight, they make their Stealth rolls at a -4 penalty. Failure indicates that the goblin sentry spots their approach. If they wait until nightfall, there is no modifier to the rolls. If they approach at night, they will also see flickering light from inside the tower and smell a wood fire.
If the sentry spots the players' approach, he will sound the alarm and the other goblins will quickly take up defensive positions on the first floor. The goblins will take the time to flip over tables for cover, bar the door and fire their bows from the tower's arrow slits. The player's should have a very tough time of it if they try a frontal assault.
If the players decide to wait some distance away from the tower and watch, they will notice no activity during the day. About two hours after nightfall, however, they will see a group of five goblins leave the tower and head south. This group can be surprised and ambushed with a good plan.
In battle the goblins will rely on their bows as long as possible. They will also concentrate their attacks on the most lightly armored characters. The shaman will use her Daze and Haste spells to good effect.
If the battle is going poorly for the goblins and at least half have been killed, the shaman will attempt to parley with the players. She will promise to leave the area and not return in exchange for their lives. If the players agree, she will leave for the time being, but the players may very well run into her again in the future!
Once the goblins have been destroyed or forced to leave the area, the players are free to search the tower. They will find four sheep still alive in a small pen on the first floor. The goblins have no treasure other than what the shaman carries.
The village leader will be greatly pleased if the players manage to drive off or kill the goblins and return the stolen sheep. He will congratulate them in a ceremony before the entire village and hold a feast in their honor. He will also present each with a fine riding horse in exchange for their deed of service.
Each character should be awarded 2 character points if the players successfully return the sheep and deal with the goblins. 1 point should be deducted if they needlessly killed Old Ben. A maximum of 2 additional points should be awarded for exceptional play and/or clever ideas.
If the players want to continue adventuring with Fairvale as their base, here are some adventure hooks that you can use as the basis for future scenarios.
- A giant wanders into the area and decides to stay for awhile. He eats sheep, tramples crops and basically does as he pleases. He is so big, however, that simply attacking him would be very difficult and probably fatal. The players are going to have to find some other way to convince or force him to leave.
- A villager's plow breaks open the roof of a long forgotten tomb. The players can explore it to discover the riches (and dangers) that lie inside.
- If the goblin shaman escaped or the players allowed her to leave, she returns with another band of followers. This time, in addition to terrorizing the village, she is seeking revenge on the players' characters for her earlier defeat.
Article publication date: September 1, 2000
Copyright © 2000 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to email@example.com.