A manticore has made herself a lair in the mountainous region called Jacktooth Pass. She has disrupted trade so much that the local mercantile guild is offering a sizable reward for her slaying.
This is a stand-alone adventure intended for you to work into your campaign if you are experiencing writer's block or if your players go somewhere unexpected. Feel free change names and other details around to best suit your world. This adventure works best if the party is low on funds and looking for work, but could also be used a series of random encounters on a journey through hilly or mountainous terrain.
This adventure is designed for three or more level 3 characters. Creatures from the Monster Manual (abbreviated MM) are used. Many of these creatures are listed in a range of numbers. Use the largest number for groups of five or more players, the smallest number for groups of three players, and the average for groups of four.
Searching Jacktooth Pass
Abita Veruc, a female elf and local leader of the mercantile guild, approaches the party and offers them a job. She is willing to pay 500 gp for the slaying of the manticore known as Dreadwing that lives near Jacktooth Pass. She is firm on price, but may be able to negotiate on discounted prices for goods once the monstrosity is killed.
Jacktooth Pass is a wide area of rock hills and the players should expect that it could take several days to search the area. During this time, there are several groups of possible friends and foes in the area that they may encounter. Every 8 hours of game time— twice during the day and once at night— roll a number of d6s (explained below) and consult the chart below to see if the party encounters another group. Once a group has been encountered, treat subsequent results of that roll as "no encounter."
Random Encounter Chart
1-6 No encounter
7-8 Damaged wagon
9-10 Circus troupe
11-12 Aarakocra scouts
13-14 Wolf pack
15-16 Goblin slaves
17-18 Dreadwing on the hunt
19+ Dreadwing's lair
Before rolling for the first encounter of the first day in Jacktooth Pass, have one of the characters (of the party's choice) make a Wisdom (Survival) check. If they get 15 or higher, roll 2d6 on the Random Encounter Chart for each check that day. If not, roll 1d6 (a guarantee of no encounters, but there is no need to let the players know that). Repeat this Survival check at the start of each subsequent day, adding a d6 to the random encounter checks each time there is a success. This represents the party getting closer and closer to Dreadwing's lair, increasing their chance of finding it.
A wagon pulled by a pair of tired-looking horses slowly makes its way through the broken terrain. An equally tired pair of armored guards (MM pg. 347) walk alongside it. Mona, a female gnome merchant (noble MM pg. 348) is driving the wagon, which contains 160 square yards of cotton (worth 80 gp) and 0-2 additional guards.
Mona and her escorts will react defensively if they see the party approach, yelling to leave them alone, but not making a first attack. If placated, Mona will explain that they were attacked by a group of bandits disguised as a circus performers and barely managed to drive them off and escape.
A group of travelers wearing brightly-colored costumes. Their troupe consists of a male human barker/spokesman named Brytoc, male human(?) strongman, two female dwarf jugglers, a female human clown, and 0-4 human tumblers. The strongman is a half-ogre (MM pg. 238) while everyone else is a bandit (MM pg. 343). Brytoc has a pouch containing 20 gp, while everyone else carries only 1d20 cp.
This group of thieves has been working their way back and forth through the pass, posing as entertainers and then attacking unsuspecting merchants. Brytoc will do most of the talking (he has +3 on Deception checks). He will offer to entertain the party for a small fee (the bandits are not actually very good performers) and otherwise leave them alone during the day. The group will try and track the party and then attack them in the night.
1-3 aarakocra (MM pg. 12) are patrolling the pass along with a giant eagle (MM pg. 324). They are scouts from a nearby aarakocra village built into the side of a mountain. Any travelers will be investigated, especially if armed. Note that the aarakocra only speak Auran, and the giant eagle can understand but not speak Common. They each carry 1d20 cp.
There is a pack of 6-8 wolves (MM pg. 341) hunting in the area. They are hungry enough to attack armed humanoids, but will attempt to flee if more than half of their number are killed.
Dreadwing attacked a group of goblins and kept some of them as slaves to serve her. She has sent 4-6 of these goblins (MM pg. 166) out to hunt in her stead. They are cowardly under the best of circumstances, and will not dare attack during daylight. Each goblin carries 1d20 cp.
If defeated, their tracks can be followed back to the manticore's lair, granting advantage on the daily Survival check. If at least one of the goblins is used as a guide, they add an additional d6 to the random encounter roll.
Dreadwing on the hunt
If encountered outside her lair, Dreadwing the manticore (MM pg. 213) will be on the hunt, attacking anyone she encounters. However, if reduced to under half her hit points, she will attempt to fly back to her lair.
A large cave with goblin tracks leading in and out in all directions. The first chamber is where the goblin slaves dwell and is covered in their simple bedding and garbage. If they haven't already been encountered, 4-6 goblins (MM pg. 166) will be here under orders to defend the cave against attackers (see Goblin slaves encounter).
The larger inner chamber has a 40 foot high ceiling and several outcroppings 20 feet above the ground that Dreadwing uses as perches. While in her lair, the manticore (MM pg. 213) is accompanied in this room by 0-2 goblin attendants.