This week’s encounter is titled Danger in Daggerford, and continues the loosely connected “road trip” encounter series known as On the Road to Baldur’s Gate. This encounter features an overzealous paladin who, in his divine fury, won’t accept that he might have erred in his judgment. In this series, a group of adventurers will travel down the Sword Coast for nearly two months over road and wilderness, from the gates of Waterdeep to the threshold of Baldur’s Gate. You may use this series as an introduction to the upcoming D&D storyline Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, as an expansion to the caravan sequence in the first D&D storyline adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen, or piecemeal as standalone encounters.
You can keep track of this journey on this massive map of the Sword Coast, originally presented in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. The trip from Waterdeep to Baldur’s Gate covers about 750 miles of both road and off-road wilderness. A small party on horseback can cover about 24 miles per day at a casual pace, with just under two days off for rest per tenday of travel. All in all, this journey takes about a 45 days to complete for a small party of adventurers—assuming they’re well-prepared and no serious complications arise. And note, not every day of travel needs to be represented by an encounter; the characters may go for days with only minor encounters with passing merchants or travelers.
This is the third encounter along this journey. The previous encounters are:
Combat Encounter: Danger in Daggerford
This combat encounter is suitable for characters of 2nd level. A character can turn this combat encounter into a social one by succeeding on an extremely difficult Charisma check.
After traveling just over one hundred miles southeast along the Trade Way—over the course of about four days—the characters arrive at the gates of Daggerford, the first city they have seen since departing the metropolis of Waterdeep. For more information on Daggerford, see its section in chapter 2 of the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, and its section in chapter 3 of Storm King’s Thunder. As such, Daggerford is the first chance they’ve had since departing Waterdeep to sleep in an inn with a truly soft bed and to relieve their aching muscles a hot bath. Little do the characters know, however, that they have been followed.
An unknown consequence of their meeting with Pip Kip (in the last encounter in this series), was catching the attention of an overzealous paladin of Torm. This knight, known as Sir Demiyen Ardor, is a holy warrior of Elturel sent to scour the lands near Waterdeep for villainy at the behest of Elturel’s High Overseer, Thavius Kreeg. Sir Ardor carries a spyglass with him at all times, and observed the characters consorting with an imp from afar, and decided he had seen enough. To even speak with an imp without immediately attempting to slay the beast is sufficient proof of evil to him.
Demiyen Ardor followed the characters at a distance and spied upon them as they entered Daggerford. After the characters have purchased rooms for the night at an inn but before they go to sleep, Ardor surreptitiously enters the taproom and pays the innkeeper a sum of 100 gold pieces and convinces her that unholy devils have taken up residence in his inn, and asks her to evacuate the building, so that it can be burned down and cleansed. The innkeeper ruefully evacuates the building—but Ardor pulls the characters aside and asks them to stay in order to help with the cleansing.
Once the building is evacuated and the characters are alone, Ardor hurls a lantern to the oil-soaked floor and draws his blade upon the adventurers.
The characters arrive at the gates of Daggerford at sundown. Read or paraphrase the following:
Huge, heavy raindrops pelt your skin. After days of easy travel, the heavens have opened up and turned the roads to sludge. The timing is fortunate, at least: you stand just outside the first town you’ve seen since departing Waterdeep, a riverside burgh known as Daggerford. A handful of ramshackle houses and a fine, three-story inn sit in the shadow of the town’s keep.
Use the rain as a way to prod the characters towards the inn. They can feel the chill and wetness of the rain soaking through their bodies, and at the end of each hour they travel in the rain, each character must make a successful a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or gain one level of exhaustion. If they visit Castle Daggerford, they are turned away and told to find lodging in the inn.
The River Shining Tavern
One of the better-known inns in Daggerford is the River Shining Tavern, which offers comfortable lodgings and meals at a rate of 1 gp per night and 8 sp per meal. The inn’s reputation was recently dragged through the mud after locals learned of its collaboration with Zhentarim thugs, but its innkeeper isn’t concerned about attracting locals. The clientele of the inn are mostly travelers, adventurers, and would-be treasure hunters. The inn is owned by a chaotic neutral human woman named Dirgleh Cross, who cares more about making a quick buck than her reputation.
This inn is a good location to introduce the adventurers to new encounters, NPCs, and adventures of your own creation, before the events of this encounter get underway. If Pip Kip (the imp from the last encounter, Devil in the Details) is either traveling with them or secretly following them, he surreptitiously tells the characters that someone has been following them since their meeting a few days ago. Mere moments after the imp alerts them to their mysterious follower, Ardor enters the tavern.
Sir Ardor’s Intrusion
Just before the characters head upstairs to rest for the night, a knight enters the inn. He doesn’t draw attention to himself, but anyone in heavy plate armor and wearing a tabard emblazoned with the symbol of Torm naturally turns heads. He saunters up to the innkeeper and whispers something to her, hands over a clinking satchel filled with coin, and stands aside as she raises her voice. “Everyone,” she bellows. “I’ve been informed that an evil spirit has taken up residence in this inn. The generous Sir Ardor has offered to exorcise it, and requests that you leave at once.” The innkeeper smirks in surprise and finally says, “He’s even offered to refund your rooms for the night. Come up and get your coin.”
About two dozen patrons rush up to the innkeeper, each receiving a gold coin as a refund for their night’s stay. As the characters come up to receive their refund, Sir Ardor approaches them and mutters, “You lot, please stay with me. All of you.”
Sir Ardor stalls until all of the other patrons—those he considers innocent of the crime of consorting with devils—have filed out of the inn. As he does so, he shares with the characters a completely fabricated tale of an evil spirit that took residence in the inn, and asks the characters for their aid in exorcising it. A character that makes a successful DC 16 Wisdom (Insight) check notices Ardor pausing to think just a little too long whenever he’s asked a question.
Once everyone has left, he asks that the innkeeper leave as well, and he closes the door behind her and bars it. The door can only be opened if the bar is destroyed (AC 12, 10 hp) or a character forces it open with a successful DC 19 Strength check. He then turns to the characters and lights an oil lamp. He walks slowly towards them, and speaks in vague terms about the evil of devils.
“As an acolyte of Torm in the city of Elturel, I was told that there existed evil beyond that of mortals. I learned that nine kingdoms of cruelty roiled and burned in the everlasting darkness beyond our plane. I learned that beings of such evil are only prevented from overrunning our realm by one cosmic law: they cannot open doorways across the planes on their own. Fiends… demons… devils… they can only be called to this realm by mortals.
“Mortals who consort with devils are evil. And evil is to be purged!” As he roars in anger, Ardor hurls his oil lamp to the wooden floor of the inn and the lamp explodes in a cloud of oily flame. All characters within 10 feet of Ardor must succeed on a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw or take 3 (1d6) fire damage. This 10-foot-square patch of flame continues burning, and expands by 5 feet in all directions on initiative count 20 in each round of combat. A creature that starts its turn in the fire or enters it for the first time on a turn takes 3 (1d6) points of fire damage. A creature can put out 10-foot-square patch of flame by smothering it with cloth. Hurling water on this oily flame only causes it to flare and grow another 5 feet in all directions.
Ardor is a knight with a +1 longsword (be sure to add 1 to his attack rolls and damage rolls), and focuses his attacks on spellcasters—particularly wizards and sorcerers. He sees spellcasters as manipulative and the most likely to force weak-minded people into doing their bidding. All throughout the combat, he shouts to the other characters to turn upon their evil, magic-wielding allies—claiming that they can only be saved from the grip of evil if they repent and aid him in destroying the fiend-conjurer amidst them. If the characters ask why he’s attacking them, he explains what he saw (see the introduction to this encounter, above). His mind is made up, and only a successful DC 25 Charisma (Deception or Persuasion) check can urge him to lower his blade. In the unlikely event that a character manages to succeed on this challenging check, he hesitates, and allows the characters to explain how he is mistaken. If the characters present a reasonable case and succeed on a successful DC 15 Charisma (Deception or Persuasion) check, he casts aside his blade and begs their help in smothering the fire before the entire inn burns to the ground.
If the fire is allowed to burn for at least 1 minute, the entire inn catches aflame. Though the heavy rain outside prevents the inn from burning completely, the building nevertheless collapses after the fire blazes internally for at least 10 minutes. If the characters manage to put out the fire before 1 minute has passed, the damage is limited to the taproom, and Dirgleh Cross, the innkeeper, offers them each 25 gp as thanks. She offers them an additional 1 gp per day if they help fix the burnt-out taproom over the next three tendays, but acknowledges that they’re adventurers, not carpenters.
Sir Ardor’s magical longsword bears an inscription in Celestial that reads: “Follow the light of the Companion.” The sword can be taken as treasure, as well as Ardor's plate armor—which is marked with the crest of Elturgard. However, unless the character wearing it is of similar build to him (a broad shouldered human male weighing about 200 pounds and standing just under six feet tall), the character must pay a blacksmith to have the armor fitted. See the "Variant: Equipment Sizes" sidebar in chapter 5 of the Player's Handbook.
Did you like this encounter? If you want to read more adventures, take a look at the other encounters in the Encounter of the Week series! If you're looking for full adventures instead of short encounters, you can pick up the adventures I've written on the DMs Guild, such as The Temple of Shattered Minds, a suspenseful eldritch mystery with a mind flayer villain (for 3rd level characters). My most recent adventures are included in the Gold Best Seller Tactical Maps: Adventure Atlas, a collection of 88 unique encounters created by the Guild Adepts, which can be paired with the beautiful tactical poster maps in Tactical Maps Reincarnated, recently published by Wizards of the Coast.
James Haeck is the lead writer for D&D Beyond, the co-author of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and the Critical Role Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, the DM of Worlds Apart, and a freelance writer for Wizards of the Coast, the D&D Adventurers League, and Kobold Press. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his partner Hannah and their feline adventurers Mei and Marzipan. You can usually find him wasting time on Twitter at @jamesjhaeck.