It's ostensibly called the Dirt Monster adventure. Some of my players might remember running it though to be honest it has been a long time.
The game is set up for low level Players.
A very simple, cliche set up.
Players are in a town , hear a rumour of a local who is having trouble with what little live stock he keeps.
Livestock mostly pigs are showing up dead but uneaten, stocks of bagged up walnuts ransacked.
So here is the backstory.
These things can be found out by talking to the farmer.
The farmer a year ago expanded his far to include new grazing lands. In doing so he cleared out some of his old and overgrown walnut trees. The trees have always been there but are not as productive or as profitable as pigs, so down they came. What nutts he could harvest were bagged and put in the barns basement (which has a floor made of large flagstones) for sale at market latter in the month.
The only physical evidence around the dead pigs are shallow 3 foot wide and several feet long furrows of turned up earth.
The only evidence in the barn is a disturbed flagstone and some dirt scattered around.
The farmer does not know the following things:
Unbeknownst to the farmer there is a creature that lives in the soil on this property. A lesser kind of earth elemental in fact. The elemental has always lived in the walnut grove perfectly happy eating walnuts and leaving everyone alone.
Now the walnuts are gone and there are pigs rooting around in it's soil.
So it kills the pigs, sniffs out the stashed walnuts, pushes up a loose flagstone in the barns floor, and eats some.
The monster:I gave the thing all kinds of nasty but not deadly attacks. Knock back, rooting people in place, creating sinkholes, and regenerating HP as long as it had contact to soil. I let it's physical attack do enough damage to be an obvious "I CAN KILL YOU" threat without it being a one shot = one player kill situation. I also made it easy enough to hit that players could see that their attacks were not getting the job done.
So what makes this adventure different?
The players can't beat the earth elemental. Being low level and not yet in possession of abilities which might just babish the thing, they simply can't beat it in a fair fight. Further I never wrote anything about how to get rid of the bugger.
What have players done?
Normally the wallnutt connection is made pretty quickly.
usually they also figure out quite quickly that something is coming out of the ground.*
- Players have put bags of walnuts out in the field to lure it out for a fight, gotten knocked around and given that idea up.
- Players have lured it to the basement then slid the field stone floor back into place cutting it off from the ground and effectively dispelling it. ( I had the creature dry out in front of them, while they were fighting, in the end an elemental wisp finally dissipated back to it's own plane.)
- By far my favorite solution was the group which lured the creature near a water tank. Doused the thing for a few rounds until it was just a wet slurry, collected it into a barrel, and relocated it to a new walnut grove.. AWESOME! ... LEVEL UP.
Why am I telling you this?
I am of the mind that new players or at least newer players should be given tasks where the solution is not right in their face early and often. If D&D and RPG's in particular are set up so that combat seems the best answer to any situation then new player may miss out on the nuances that make RPG's what they are.
I think that once it clicks in a new player that solutions to a problems in this type of game are up to them (the players) and not necessarily defined by the setting, GM, or even the rules, you will have a player for life.
Thanks for reading
*(One time they assumed it was an Ankheg and got very nervous, raised a posse and never did figure out what was going on..In this case I suppose the farmer moved? Who knows. I put the Ankheg in a different adventure latter on so their time was not 100% wasted.)