Author’s Note: This introductory scenario is written for Level 1-3 characters and takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting using Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition rules.
WHAT’S GOING ON
Whether they were local residents looking for a night out or just travelers on a caravan passing through, the previous night each of the characters visited The Lost Cause, a seedy gambling joint where the bartender gave them each a smile and a glass of the best moonshine they’d had in a long time. That’s the last thing they remember.
While the characters have no knowledge of this, the drinks from The Lost Cause had a little something extra in them. After the characters were rendered unconscious, some “helpful friends” offered to make sure they “got home safely.” Instead of ending up in their beds, the characters were thrown on a train and are now on their way to be sold to a cannibalistic gang living on the outskirts of the settlement.
Trains are uncommon in this setting, and most characters would not have traveled by rail before today.
Due to their situation, characters start with nothing but the clothes they were wearing the previous night.
SCENE 1: WAKEUP CALL!
Read the following aloud:
“Just a few more minutes,” you think to yourself sleepily. Your eyelids are too heavy to bother opening. You wish you could just go back to sleep…
But that clacking noise. Some damned, endless clacking noise drags you back to consciousness. You blink and the whole room seems to sway. You rub your eyes and blink again. This time you’re certain. It’s not just you. The floor actually IS rocking. Disoriented, you force yourself to sit up and look around.
The rough wood-plank walls have no windows, but a sliver of sunlight leaks between two of the worn boards making it possible the see, at least a little bit. You’re certain that you don’t know this place. It’s not a large room, and it’s mostly empty, aside from a few other poor souls who seem to be in about the same state you are. To your discomfort, you notice a set of rusty manacles in a heap in the corner. A single door stands at the far end of the room, streaked with stains of rust… or is that blood?
Stop reading aloud.
Have all players immediately make a DC 17 Insight check. Characters who succeed on this Insight check immediately realize that the characters are on a train.
Let the players introduce their characters and decide how they react to the present situation. It is up to the players to decide whether their characters are strangers, knew each other previously, or perhaps met at The Lost Cause the night before.
Once everyone is ready to proceed, have all players roll a DC 15 Wisdom save. Characters that succeed recall hearing a rumor at The Lost Cause stating that certain parties are paying exceptionally well for “fresh meat” and don’t much care where it comes from.
Any character who succeeds on a DC 12 Investigation of the manacles notices that they are functional but compromised by rust. Once the manacles are locked, they can be broken open with a DC 15 Strength check or unlocked with a DC 20 Dexterity check.
Any character who succeeds on a DC 16 Investigation of the walls notices several loose nails that can be pried free and used as Thieves’ Tools to open locks.
Read the following aloud to any player who looks through the crack in the wall:
Sunlight streams through a crack between the worn boards. You put your eye to the gap, straining to see through. The brightness is painful after the relative darkness of… wherever you are. As you try to force your eyes to adjust, you see blurs of green whizzing past you. This thing you’re in must be traveling faster than any caravan you’ve ever taken. You search for familiar landmarks, but all you can make out are leafy green blurs speeding past.
Stop reading aloud.
Read the following aloud to any player who inspects the door:
The old door is held in place by a rusted lock and ancient hinges, but a light shake of the handle reveals it to be surprisingly secure. The lock appears simple enough. A deft hand could likely open it, but a good shoulder to the door might do the trick as well.
Stop reading aloud.
The lock can be picked with a DC 18 Dexterity check or broken with a DC 15 Strength check.
When the players successfully open or break the lock, read the following:
The door swings wide open, banging against the wall beside you. Fresh air hits you in the face like one of those cold baths you tried so hard to avoid as a child. To either side of you, the wastes zoom past you. You are struck with a single thought – people were NOT intended to travel at such speeds. You have no doubt that a fall from a contraption such as this would be a one-way ticket to a long talk with your maker. You grip the door frame to steady yourself.
In front of you, a narrow plank leads to another closed door about five feet away. It looks much like the door you just opened, except that this one bears the faint memory of a blue coat of paint. You don’t see a lock. To the right of the closed door, a rusted ladder leads to the roof above.
Over the constant clacking of the wheels below, you can just make out the sound of muffled voices ahead.
Stop reading aloud.
Any character who succeeds on a DC 15 Perception check hears two distinct voices ahead. Any character who succeeds on a DC 18 Perception check clearly hears the two people ahead discussing what they intend to do with their profits from “this run.”
Author’s Closing Note: At this point, players should be presented with both stealth and combat options to continue moving around the train. Upon reaching the engine, the characters would be presented an opportunity to disable the incomprehensible conglomeration of mechanical parts and green glow that powers the train. Regardless of the options the players choose, successful completion of this module ends with the train (or at least a few cars) coasting to a halt in the middle of nowhere, setting the stage for further adventure in the post-apocalyptic wilderness.