Note: This plot does have a lot of backstory, but the players do not need to know all of the details. The information is here to help the GM portray the families and to answer any player questions.
Over 150 years ago, two adventurers decided to settle down and make a family. They gave birth to two daughters: Arlessa and Mina. Arlessa and Mina fought constantly and competed over every little thing. The only time they got along was during their annual family trip to Gytham Wood. The daughters grew up and each married, still and always competing. The competition turned bitter, however, when their parents fell prey to bandits and died. The sisters each received a letter from their parents, but disagreed on the division of nearly every other item. Of particular interest was a music box that played the family lullaby. One of the Vandal sons slipped the music box into a sack one evening and the entire family left the next morning before the Fox family awoke. They would have disappeared entirely, but Arlessa Vandal read her parents’ letter and realized one very important thing: her parents had hidden a treasure near Gytham Wood.
When the Vandal family traveled to Gytham Wood, they found, not only the Fox family waiting for them, but a small, nascent town beginning to flourish. The leaders of the town, Anna and Bart Fletcher, invited the two families to settle down and encouraged them to set aside their dispute. Though the families agreed, both were lying. Each family wanted to get the treasure before the other family could. Not to mention, the Fox family wanted the music box back.
One night, Adelaide Fox snuck into Arlessa Vandal’s home to steal back the music box. Rian Vandal caught her. They fought. He died. The Foxes claim it was an accident: Rian fell and hit his head on a table corner. The Vandals insist it was not: he was clearly bashed over the head. The Fletchers, after investigating, determined it had been an accident. Lula Vandal, Rian’s sister, thinking the thief and murderer had been Phyllida Fox, decided to get her own justice by slipping a poison into Phyllida’s whisky. Phyllida died, but the Fox family could not prove it had been the Vandals who killed her.
From that point on the family feud raged. The families played nice in public, but took every opportunity to undermine and harm the other. Occasionally one family goes too far and someone dies. Sometimes the murderer is imprisoned and sometimes not.
Also of note, Adelaide eventually married a werewolf and now around half of the Fox family are born lycanthropes.
Neither family knows what the treasure is, but both families want it. Each sister received a letter from their parents exhorting them to work together to protect the family secret in Gytham Wood. In the envelope was also half of a key and a poem. When stealing the music box back, the families also search for the other’s key and poem.
Arlessa received the left half and the following poem:
From the intertwined trees
With the sun at your back
One hundred feet
Twice and then turn
Walk about a fifty feet more
One-quarter to your right
The tree with wide leaves
Hides a little
Danger. Guard the
Puzzle. Beware the
Mina received the right half and the following poem:
At summer’s first light
Move into the trees
Until you cross the stream
Let the sun warm your left cheek
And when you see the broken stone
Stop and look closely
Door protecting a
Box locked with both key and
Moon. Touch only the
Brightest of stars.
Gytham Wood is roughly north of Fletcher’s Perch. Arlessa’s poem gives distances, but Mina’s gives direction and landmark. The poem isn’t precise, but the parents did not want to risk precise directions being found by their enemies.
Twenty Years Ago
About 20 years ago, Madelyn Fletcher, who was only 17 at the time, fell in love with Tomas Fox. Tomas was studying under Klaus Undertree to become a scribe. As a way to practice his calligraphy, he started a family newsletter. Amid family gossip and town news were also articles and rumors denigrating the Vandal family. Tomas never meant for the Vandals to read the Fox family newsletter, but some of the Vandal family did get their hands on a copy and were incensed. Two of the Vandal brothers decided to beat Tomas up just to teach him a lesson about spreading lies about their family. Just as they started beating Tomas, Madelyn found them. She ran to her older brother, Anthony, and begged him to intervene. Anthony, a decade older than Madelyn, had often felt responsible toward his little sister, especially after their parents died in a fire when she was only 9.
Anthony sprinted across town and threw himself into the fight, trying to keep Tomas from being even more beat up. The Vandals turned on him as well. They left Tomas and Anthony, beaten and bloodied, in the street. Madelyn found them and screamed for help, but it was too late. The town had no healing temple and called on the doctor from a town over if anything serious came up. Anthony, at least, was able to say good-bye to his wife and son before succumbing to his injuries. Tomas never awoke.
Beatrice, Anthony’s wife, blamed Madelyn for getting Anthony involved and the Vandals for killing him. She imprisoned the brothers and then sent out a half dozen letters to friends and family members to find a doctor for the town; Anthony’s fate would not be repeated. She also decreed that any fights between the Fox and Vandal families would result in jail, whether serious or not. The family feud, she declared, was over. Of course, if it could end so easily, it would have decades prior. Instead, the feud grew more bitterly polite and the physical aggression found an outlet in a secret fight club.
Madelyn, full of shame and fury, left Fletcher’s Perch, determined to become stronger so that she would never endanger anyone again. She also decided to discover the magic needed to bring someone back to life so that she could undo her mistake.
Now Madelyn has returned and she is ready to raise the dead and a little hell against both families. Their family feud is the reason Tomas and Anthony are dead and now it is time for them to pay.
What’s Going On?
This family feud plot has four sides involved: The Foxes, the Vandals, Beatrice Fletcher, and Madelyn Fletcher. In town, residents who aren’t a member of one family or the other have sided with a family–often due to intermarriage or business, lean toward one family, or are truly neutral. Beatrice and the Fletchers are neutral. The Grovers, who rely on Fox alcohol for their inn, lean toward the Foxes but keep the inn mostly neutral. The Hilts who get a lot of their wool and other fiber from the Vandal farms lean toward the Vandals. Gwyneth Frieder was Gwyneth Vandal before she married and the Dyer sisters’ mother was a Fox. Even people who don’t associate with the Fox or Vandal families have at least a vague awareness of the family feud. An idiom for disaster is “like Foxes and Vandals” or “the way of Foxes and Vandals.” “They’ll get on like Foxes and Vandals.” “That party went the way of Foxes and Vandals”
Note: This section has a lot of names. That can be very intimidating. The point, though, is so that the GM doesn’t have to generate names on the fly if they don’t want to. The most important names to remember are Elias Fox, Tomas Fox, Nefyn Vandal, Weyla Vandal, Nolan Frieder, Beatrice Fletcher, Madelyn Fletcher, and Lisbeth “Lissy” Dyer.
The Fox Family
The People. The descendants of the younger sister, Mina Fox née Coyle. The current patriarch is Elias Fox, though his wife, Portia, also holds considerable sway. Elias had a sister, who married Harris Dyer, and an older brother, who left town shortly after his son, Tomas, died. His cousin, Henry, is Elias’ age. Henry has three sisters, all married and none of whom pay too much attention these days to perpetuating the feud. If something big happens, they’ll get angry, but for the day-to-day, it isn’t that important. Elias has three children: Josiah, Jeremy, and Jenny. Josiah and his wife, Isabel, are the primary brewers in town and provide booze to the Grover’s tavern-inn. Henry has four children, all of whom participate in the family feud: Dylan, Rachel, Weston, and Colleen. Most of Josiah and Henry’s children have children. This is an incomplete accounting of people; feel free to create more.
Their Side. Mina’s mother left the music box to her. In fact, in the letter Mina received, her mother even wrote that she hoped Mina would pass down the lullaby to her own children and grandchildren. The Vandals knew they had no right to the music box, which is why they stole it and fled in the night. As for the treasure, the family deserves it as just payment for all of the pain the Vandal family has caused over the years. Like with poor Tomas who was no fighter and did not deserve to be beat to death just because he published some jokes in a family newsletter. As for Beatrice Fletcher, she certainly means well, but she should keep her nose out of Fox family business.
Most Recent Grievances. A Vandal stole the music box a month ago and then had the gall to invite Elias and Portia over for tea to show off the music box on their mantle. Also, Weyla Vandal was recently hired to teach at the school, which means a Vandal is going to be teaching Fox children how to read and write. Who knows what sorts of lies she’ll teach the children, if she even attempts to treat them fairly. Also, the accusation that a Fox destroyed Vandal land is ridiculous. They poisoned one row of wheat, not an entire field.
Their Goals. (1) Unrelated to the family feud, the Foxes want Vivian Pike out of Fletcher’s Perch. Not all werewolves in Fletcher’s Perch belong to the Fox family, but the Foxes are a powerful voice in the lycanthropic community within the town. Vivian poses a danger both to the werewolves in the town and to their influence over the community. (2) The Foxes want to steal the music box back. They also want to teach the Vandals a lesson for their daring. (3) They want to find the treasure before the Vandals can.
The Vandal Family
The People. The descendants of the older sister, Arlessa Vandal née Coyle. The current matriarch is Nefyn Vandal. She is the eldest of five and never married. Her siblings are Caian, Morys, Caris Lister, and Gwyneth Frieder. Caian has five children with his wife, Noelle: Nora, Aoife, Eilyn, Sean, and Bran. Morys is unmarried, but helps Asa Murphy with his children since his wife left. Caris Lister has a set of triplets: Gideon, Cyrus, and Joy. Gwyneth has one daughter, Violet. Most of the Vandals run a large grain and vegetable farm. They are the source of many residents’ grain for flour. Again, this is an incomplete listing. Add more people to the family.
Their Side. Arlessa’s father left the music box to her. In fact, in the letter Arlessa received, her father even talked about how they used to tinker with the music box together and explore its mechanisms. He said he hoped she would teach her children and grandchildren the same curiosity. Mina always tried to steal Arlessa’s things though, as any younger sister does, and when Arlessa tried to lay claim to her own property, Mina would just throw a fit. The Vandals only left suddenly because they didn’t want to deal with Mina’s false tears again. As for the treasure, the Foxes only care about money and getting what they assume to be theirs, they have no appreciation for the amount of effort Arlessa and Mina’s parents put into hiding and protecting whatever the treasure is. As for Tomas and Anthony, that issue was an honest mistake. Tomas had been printing lies saying the Vandals engaged in incest; that wasn’t just ‘some joke.’ Caian and Morys had just wanted to scare him, but then Tomas turned into a monster and Caian and Morys were honestly afraid for their lives. Then Anthony barged in and took some hits to the head not meant for him. As for Beatrice Fletcher, they are deeply sorry for the death of her husband, but that doesn’t give her a right to interfere in Vandal family business.
Most Recent Grievances. Nefyn invited Elias and Portia Fox over for tea to discuss putting aside their conflict and working together to find the lost family treasure. When Elias noticed the music box on Nefyn’s mantle, he accused her of gloating and threw one of her decorative clay bowls Caris had made against the wall. He had no right to destroy Nefyn’s property. Also, a Fox recently snuck onto Vandal farmland and poisoned the earth, destroying many rows of crops. Winter will be leaner now thanks to them.
Their Goals. (1) Unrelated to the family feud, convince Weyla to stop exploring the forest and chasing after strange music. She has a respectable job now as a teacher; she can’t skive off after new melodies all the time. (2) They need to protect the music box so that it isn’t stolen again. (3) They want to find the treasure before the Foxes can.
The People. Beatrice Fletcher married into the Fletcher family. Her husband, Anthony, often treated his younger sister, Madelyn, almost like a daughter since he was a decade older and had raised her since she was 9. Beatrice and Anthony had planned on having a large family, but Anthony died before they could have a second child. Gabriel is Beatrice’s son. He is married to Lydia and they have two children: Nico and Zoe.
Her Side. The family feud between the Foxes and Vandals has gone on long enough. Too many people have suffered because of that damn music box and supposed treasure. No more.
Most Recent Grievance. Beatrice has heard that someone has set up a fight club in Fletcher’s Perch, primarily so that the Foxes and Vandals can get their aggression out in an official, supposedly safer manner. While Beatrice doesn’t really care if two idiots want to whale on each other, she refuses to support anything that perpetuates that ridiculous feud. She wants the fight club found and shut down immediately.
Her Goals. (1) Shut down the fight club. (2) Force Elias Fox and Nefyn Vandal to the peace table.
The People. Madelyn Fletcher left Fletcher’s Perch after Tomas and Anthony died. She has returned to restore her lover and brother to life. When she tried to resurrect Tomas, however, he refused to return. He told her that he was happy in his afterlife and urged Madelyn to enjoy her life as well. Besides, she’s so much older than he would be if he returned; they’d probably fall apart in time. While Madelyn was crying and cursing at his grave, Lisbeth “Lissy” Dyer found her. Lissy, the daughter of a Fox daughter, greatly resembles Tomas in her coloring. After learning that Lissy was still grieving her father, Madelyn showed her the other diamond. She promised to resurrect Lissy’s father if Lissy helped her get revenge. Lissy and Madelyn meet in the cemetery to plan what to do next.
Her Side. Madelyn has honed her grief, shame, and rage into a blistering sharp knife. She blames both the Foxes and the Vandals for perpetuating the feud that killed Tomas rather than coming to peace decades ago. She finds both sides extremely petty and wants to destroy them both. Madelyn is unaware of Beatrice’s efforts as she has been away.
Most Recent Grievance. Tomas refused to return to life.
Her Goals. (1) Obtain the music box and then destroy it. Display the pieces in the center of town so that everyone sees them. (2) Let the Vandals and Foxes blame one another for the music box’s destruction. (3) Reignite the family feud by spread rumors in town that each family is planning a big retaliation and engaging in some targeted destruction: wreck Nefyn’s clay bowl collection and burn down Elias’ craft shed. (4) Lead the families to destroy one another. (5) Find and steal the treasure poems and keys from each family to find the treasure before either the Foxes or Vandals can.
The last possible bit of information to note is that Charley Grover is hosting the secret fight club in the basement of his and Anice’s tavern-inn. Normally the fights don’t get too out of hand because Dr. Pierce refuses to treat fight club injuries with anything more than the most basic of care. She doesn’t want to support the fighting by doing more.
However, Charley has learned Dr. Pierce’s greatest secret: Caitlyn Pierce cannot die. She is human, but she is cursed and nothing short of a Wish will release her. The Unchained Stars, through Rufus, recognized her. Dr. Pierce once helped bind the Unchained Stars into its current state. It is very pleased that she is unwittingly helping birth its key to return.
Note: Feel free to give Dr. Pierce a different secret. Perhaps she is actually the one who accidentally released a great plague on the land decades ago and has been living quietly to atone ever since. Maybe she is secretly an adult golden dragon disguised as a human (the only reason she hasn’t gotten Tabitha’s medicine is that she doesn’t want to risk getting caught.) Maybe she is actually an eldritch being or Archfey playing at human. Maybe she is actually a vampire or a wizard’s familiar turned human through a Wish.
What Can the Players Do?
The players may encounter the feud plot through following Lissy to the cemetery and meeting Madelyn, investigating Nolan’s disappearance, or by tracking down the secret fight club. The family feud may also come up in casual conversation around town, though only those related to either family knows about the treasure (Tomas told Madelyn, which is how she knows).
The possible actions they can take are the following:
- Find and either stop or join the fight club.
- Help Madelyn and Lissy steal, destroy, and display the music box, or stop them from doing so.
- Resurrect Lissy’s father without Madelyn’s help.
- Help or stop Madelyn from re-igniting the family feud (Note: Madelyn uses Mage stats, but she is able to perform Resurrection as well).
- Obtain both treasure poems and keys and then find the long-lost treasure.
- Help Dr. Pierce by removing Charley’s memory of her curse and/or breaking the curse for her.
- Find a way to end the family feud.
Probably the most intriguing of these myriad options is #5: the treasure. The treasure offers little value, however. As the poem suggests, the poems lead to danger, not wealth. The Coyles, Arlessa and Mina’s parents, were former adventurers who fought in a great battle against a powerful foe. They and the rest of their party were unable to defeat their foe, but they did have an iron flask. Here the GM can choose. Either the parents trapped the foe (likely a powerful devil such as an erinyes or pit fiend) or they abducted someone important to the foe and trapped them as a hostage.
The iron flask is within Gytham Wood, but in the opposite direction as the stone circle Weyla found. The players must start at the intertwined trees and go west (the sun at their back in the morning). They then follow the directions of the two poems. The flask is hidden within a box inside a tree. The tree has a door in its trunk, but the door is hidden by a permanent illusion and the tree is warded with a suggestion spell to ignore the tree. Those holding a key half or who are immune to being charmed are not affected.
The key halves, once combined, open the door. Inside the tree is a puzzle box. Using the combined key in the obvious lock on the top of the box reveals a panel of nine textured, wooden buttons: three moons, three stars, and three suns. For each set, one button is small, one is medium-sized, and one is large. Only pressing the largest (and, therefore, the brightest) of the suns unlocks the box. Every other button is a trap. A successful DC 16 Intelligence (Investigation) check notices that each button has a small hole hidden within the textures. Pressing the wrong button shoots out a puff of poison. The trap can be disabled by plugging the holes or by pressing the buttons from a distance, such as with mage hand or unseen servant. When the wrong button is pressed, everyone within 5 feet of the box must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or else be poisoned for 1 hour. If someone is poisoned a second time, they also start to hallucinate that the tree is trying to kill them and become frightened of the tree for one hour.
Once players find the iron flask, they can use the identify spell to determine what type of creature is within. If the creature is released, it will be friendly and follow the commands of whoever released it for one hour, but woe to those who dare remain close when the hour ends. If a monster is trapped and one of the families released it, they may be tempted to use it against the other family. The monster will likely want to harm both families. The players may need to find a way to get the monster to leave the families alone or to kill the monster.
If a hostage is trapped, then that is a great campaign hook for some previously unknown big bad that has been long held in check by their missing loved one. The hostage will, of course, tell the players only one side of the story and may sway them to support the big bad before they’re fully aware of the situation.