Without going into too much detail, I'm looking for help or examples for writing a 5th edition adventure / small-scale sandbox that will put the players in the role of defending a small village from a hostile lord. I'm hoping for a variety of encounters with both combat in the village and some exploration and perhaps a visit to a nearby "dungeon."

Any general pointers? Any similar adventures written for any edition of D&D that cover this sort of ground and I could draw inspiration from?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Have a look at our FAQ and whenever you have 20 reputation feel free to hop in the chat. Little advice: going into details is helpful. We highly encourage specific and will usually close questions that are too broad. You can edit your question and add more details. \$\endgroup\$ – user4000 Aug 12 '14 at 18:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess I wasn't terribly clear. I'm not actually looking to do a feudal-Japan setting. I just mean, a group of warriors are hired to save a town from an outside threat. These are good suggestions so far though! \$\endgroup\$ – redcartel Aug 12 '14 at 21:01

Some defense-oriented D&D adventures available in print &/or online:

Note: the Seven Samurai were veteran warriors (mostly), so you may want the PCs to gain some levels (and HP) before reaching your huge invasion scene (if any).

See also a previous discussion.

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I don't know about existing adventures, but this is one of my all time favorite films and I've considered running a game like this myself.

As is always my advice, begin by figuring out what will happen if the PCs do not come to the farmers aid. I'd expect it to go down like this:

The Bandit Leader wants to continue bleeding the farmers dry, leaving them with just enough food to live through the winter, but all else going to the bandits.

The Farmer Elders know they do not have enough food to survive the winter and have failed to hire any help, they really have no choice but to try to fight anyway. They have no skill in this so they are likely to do what is obvious: let the bandits come collect their tribute and attack them with farm equipment.

They might succeed in this initial fight, but it will draw the attention of the Bandit Leader for a counterattack. The Leader will send in scouts and spies to see what (if anything) the farmers are planning.

I think the Farmer Elders are smart enough to know that beating back the small group of bandits won't be the end of it. They'll probably set up some basic watch groups at the logical entry ways to the village and when they spot an attack they'll raise an alert and they will fight in a barbaric fashion in small groups very ineffectively.

The Bandit Leader will lose probably 1 man for every 10 farmers killed and will probably order his bandits to try to disarm and capture as many farmers as possible and re-enslave them to keep working the farms for them.

Enter the PCs

The Farmers have almost no way to pay the PCs. They will try, and let the PCs feast, but you should make it clear to them that while they are feasting the Farmers are eating scraps. Assuming your PCs are good, they should be willing to protect the Farmers for free (maybe for whatever the bandits carry) after that, seeing how miserable the Farmers really are.

From here, you need to be really flexible. Try to describe potential. Draw a map with obvious entry-ways and also less obvious ones (over the fields) and natural defenses like rivers and mountains. Describe what the Farmers have at hand (bamboo, farming sickles, rope, so on) and let the player's be creative with those items. Maybe they'll think to sharpen bamboo as pikes/spears or for making barriers. Maybe they'll think to dig ditches to trip horses in the fields.

Maybe the PCs deal with the scouts and spies. If they don't think about that possibility, nullify some of their traps with phrases like "The horsemen weave their way past each covered ditch, as if they already know the ditches are there" and have an NPC spy they trust try to backstab them.

If the PCs do a good job, they should be able to save many of the lives of the farmers and end many of the lives of the bandits and they should be able to hunt down and confront the Bandit Leader in his own camp.

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5e Resources

In the starter set is a decent setup with chapter two for the bandit gang that works in the city. It can be adapted, and the information in it can be used somewhat loosely for how a hostile lord might try to take control of a small town. The free printed materials for support of Tyranny of Dragons can be useful as an extended monster manual that includes details on things such as knights, guards, and commoners, and would therefore help produce quality encounters as well. A small amount of alteration to the knights to make them closer to dual-wielders would fit thematically if you truly want a more samurai feel. Both of these resources carry enough information to build encounters, and...

Small spoiler:

The starter set actually has a decent set up of the city that is besieged by, in this case, a bandit-gang looking to extort money from the town. They are being hired by an outside entity as well, and that can be a useful tactic to a rival lord trying to take control.

This is more to help you build your own, since your ideas are so specific. Samurai would translate in to 5th edition as either a med-heavy armored dual-wielding fighter, or a dual-wielding paladin (with an appropriate oath for the particular ideals of that Daimyo and Samurai). NPC's using the feats specific for dual-wielding will certainly be even more authentic, as it would allow someone to use larger swords while dual-wielding.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Some of this material might be helpful, but an important aspect of Seven Samurai is the fact that the bandits do not occupy the village. They have subdued several villages and come down into them to collect their tribute, but otherwise leave the farmers alone, giving the Samurai the chance to fortify the town. \$\endgroup\$ – DampeS8N Aug 12 '14 at 17:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DampeS8N Granted, and I love your answer, but I was offering it for a broad spectrum of tools currently available in 5e, some paid and some free, that fits the mold enough that it can be altered to fit better. It would be easy enough to state that the first few bandits can be dealt with the same way that the Starter Set describes, while the rest are on their way to the town (and I have used similar tactics in my games). \$\endgroup\$ – Aviose Aug 12 '14 at 18:03

Some additional ideas:

  • The DM should probably set up the background for the adventure. The PCs inhabit a war torn land. Bandits and thieves roam the land, preying on the weak. Local feudal lords, busy fighting their wars, are unable to defend their people - which is where the adventurers come in.
  • The village elders could approach the PCs in a typical tavern scene, filled with rowdy mercenaries and soldiers who have been ignoring attempts by the elders to recruit fighters in exchange for food.
  • Have the players train the peasants to fight in formation and build fortifications. A training montage! :)
  • A side adventure could take place before or after the main battle, where the PCs sneak in to the bandit's lair in nearby caves to rescue hostages taken from the village. This could be played out as a dungeon crawl where the PCs must face the bandit leader in a final confrontation.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just a note: there is no "above" (or "below") because different users see answers in a different order. If you want to refer to concepts in another answer, you should briefly write them yourself rather than assume that readers have seen the other answers (which might be deleted, or added to, or changed, or new answers written that contradict what you're agreeing with originally, or otherwise become different than when you wrote your own answer). \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 12 '14 at 19:05

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