Fall weather ushers in all manner of changes. The migrations of animals are of high importance to those that live off the land. While it can be difficult to see herds of deer or the like on the move, even the untrained eye is usually familiar with the airborne migrations of birds, especially ducks and geese. Learning to hunt fowl is often a rite of passage for many, especially those that rely on hunting. Heroes fight all manner of dangerous and deadly creatures, usually ones that are trying to kill them back. A simple duck hunt should be a simple matter of a Downtime roll, right?
Location Background The southern farmlands are a common stopping point for many migrating birds. After a nice cool, long rain, flooded fields are especially inviting to various waterfowl (ducks, geese, swans). It is rather common for hunters or rangers to have relationships with farmers in the region, going back generations, relationships that provide hunting privileges in exchange for goods or services. These goods are usually just a portion of the prey while the services are often a bit of training or help with trapping critters. Local adventurers know that this time of year is not a good time to practice their archery for fear of making a hunter paranoid that they might have lost their access. Many bar fights have been started over adventurers simply passing through that carried bows. In recent years, signs posted outside farming communities have included large messages warning adventurers to stow their bows.
Quest Background It is a rite that in the fall of their 10th year children, are taken on a hunt by a parent and local hunter to kill their first migrating bird. Duck is the usual target, but geese are considered to bring the child luck in their life while killing swans are said to be bad omens. Due to the long standing relationships and superstitions that have been built around this tradition, there are codes for each of the communities that the farmlands fall under that must be followed to protect against poaching a child’s first kill. While killing a swan is considered bad luck, it is even worse for a child to not even attempt a hunt during his tenth year.
While locals swear this rumor has been around as long as the hunts themselves, a woman by the name of Charlie is living proof. In her eighth year, her oldest brother went out on his hunt and against all tradition killed a swan. That winter he died of pneumonia. During her ninth year, her family was unable to secure a hunter for the now oldest boy due to their misfortune the year prior. But her determined father contracted with an adventurer to ensure he got to hunt. This adventurer didn’t believe in the superstition and convinced the boy to kill a swan to prove it was all a sham. The boy was killed the next week by a freak accident with farm equipment. To ensure that the family’s misfortune didn’t spread, the community hired adventurers to follow the family’s oldest girl during the fall of her tenth year and make sure she didn’t touch a bow and arrow.
Eighteen years later and Charlene’s life has been the most outrageous series of bad luck that anybody can imagine, so bad, in fact, the locals nicknamed her No Duck Chuck. Passing bards scoff at the mere idea that her life story is even plausible, that no one person could experience such a poor treatment from the gods over the death of two swans and no duck. Her bad luck is generally minor, such as a stitch popping the first time she puts on a shirt she just finished sewing, but it these minor events happen to her almost daily.
Quest Giver It is now the fall of Charlie’s oldest daughter Pettany’s tenth year. In addition to a life of minor bad luck affecting Charlie, the months leading up to this fall have grown more dangerous. Pettany’s hair began falling out a month ago. Her husband Jaten had a freak accident similar to one that took her brother all those years ago and can no longer walk. The hunter that they have worked with for years now, Kamber, came down with goblin pox and blamed the family curse, telling all the other families and hunters to steer clear. After breaking her arm the week before the hunt, Charlie is desperate and seeks out passing adventurers to take her daughter on a hunt … this time ensuring that they know all of the rules. She is desperate, and jaded, but not stupid. She knew this was coming and has set aside a sum of coins that is double the going rate for Downtime work like this. If that is not enough, she is willing to give up her home and land if it means her daughter is spared the curse that she has endured.
Quest Progress They have two weeks left in the season before Pettany loses her chance to avoid her mother’s fate. Because nobody is willing to work with the family, the party will need to rely on their own knowledge of hunting and the area to find a good place to have a duck hunt. To avoid any conflict with neighboring families and hunters over hunting grounds, they will need to make 3 Very Hard checks (Survival or a Lore skill related to the hunting ducks or the local region), at a rate of one check a day. A failure indicates they came into conflict with an angry farmer or hunter. This can be mitigated by simply leaving and losing that day. If this check was not a critical failure, it might be possible to bribe them with an Incredibly Hard Diplomacy check that requires a week’s worth of Income be paid to the person they encounter. The money is spent on a success or a failure, with a success counting towards their 3 required successes and a failure wasting their time and money. A critical failure on this check imposes a -2 penalty on all further checks as rumor of their bullying gets around.
Once they have found their hunting grounds, it is a “simple” matter of helping a ten year old girl shoot a duck or a goose with a shortbow. The thing is, there does seem to be some sort of misfortune following the family and every check they party makes and every shot the girl makes requires them to roll twice and take the lower result (a misfortune effect). For each hour she is hunting, each PC can make a Trained Survival check to line her up on a target, with a critical success indicating a goose and a critical failure indicating a swan. She gets only one shot at each target, requiring a flat check with a DC of 15. Critical failures should cause some sort of incident, such as a broken bow string or the like.
Quest Resolution The party is welcome to try and teach her to hunt and shoot, and to apply magics to enhance her skill or negate her misfortune, but they are not to touch her or the bow when she is taking a shot at her first kill. The winds of fortune will know, as will the half dozen locals that are keeping an eye on them to ensure that no malarky takes place. Every time a misfortune effect causes a failure, it should be something absurdly silly and embarrassing to the PC, such as slipping in mud and landing face first in a dung. Play it up to really build an air of bizarre coincidence.
If they are able to successfully help Pettany they will become legends to the locals for overturning twenty years of bad luck. Charlie and her family will be forever grateful, and should the party not ask for any (substantial) payment (such as bartering for the land), they will forever be in their debt. Wether there truly is a curse or not is entirely up to you. The misfortune could be entirely a state of mind or paranoia brought on by the weight of the stories told. Her daily accidents could just be that she is clumsy and terrible at making clothes. It could be the anger of a witch over the death of a favorite swan all those years ago. The true cause is ultimately irrelevant. The story told is the key.
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