Megalos Ellada: Stealing the Apples of the Hesperides (D&D 5E Bonus Content for ‘In the Footsteps of Hercules’)

Michael O. Varhola
Following are D&D 5E rules that can be used to adjudicate attempts by characters to votively replicate Hercules’ eleventh labor, which included finding the goddesses of the sunset at the western end of the world, defeating their guardian dragon, and stealing their golden apples. This challenge takes place at Megalos Ellada, a large farm on the Peloponnesian Peninsula of mainland Greece and one of the places that appears in Skirmisher Publishing’s “In the Footsteps of Hercules” universal sourcebook. It is most suitable for characters of 1st to 4th level. Note that this is not supposed to be a combat encounter and that if it turns into one proprietors and staff of the farm, as well as any pilgrims able and so inclined, will step in against troublemakers. 
 
Daughters of the Hesperides
Each of these women — Aigle, Erytheia, and Hesperia — is indeed a descendant of the original Hesperides, can cast spells as a 4th-level Cleric, and does not require material components or holy symbols for any spells involving light or radiance. In the presence of others each always appears to have a large apple floating in front of her face, making it hard to see exactly what she looks like and causing ability checks like Intelligence (Insight) to be made at disadvantage (an enhanced effect achieved with their Thaumaturgy). In conversation they tend to speak collectively and all contribute to the same sentences. If anyone attacks the Daughters of the Hesperides they will defend themselves, call for help, and attempt to retreat to an area where others are present.
 
Daughter of the Hesperides (Divine Domain: Light)
Medium Fey, neutral
 
Armor Class: 11
Hit Points: 22 (4d8+4)
Speed: 30 ft.
 
STR             DEX             CON             INT               WIS              CHA
11 (+0)         13 (+1)         12 (+1)         10 (+0)         16 (+3)         18 (+4)
 
Saving Throws: Wisdom +5, Charisma +6
Skills: Insight +5, Nature +2, Persuasion +6, Religion +2
Tools: Farmer’s Tools
Senses: Passive Perception 13
Languages: Common (Greek)
Challenge: 4 (1,100 XP)
 
Warding Flare (3/long rest). A Daughter of the Hesperides can interpose divine light between herself and an attacking enemy. When she is attacked by a creature within 30 feet of her that she can see, she can use her reaction to impose disadvantage on the attack roll, causing light to flare in front of the attacker before it hits or misses. An attacker that cannot be blinded is immune to this feature.
 
Channel Divinity (1/short or long rest; Turn Undead, Preserve Life)
          Turn Undead: As an action, a Daughter of the Hesperides can present her holy symbol and speak a prayer censuring the undead (with effects as described in the Player’s Handbook).
          Radiance of the Setting Sun: As an action, a Daughter of the Hesperides can use her Channel Divinity to harness sunlight, banishing darkness and dealing radiant damage to her foes. Any magical darkness within 30 feet of her is dispelled and each hostile creature within 30 feet of her must make a Constitution saving throw, taking 15 (2d10+4) radiant damage on a failed saving throw and half as much on a successful one. A creature that has total cover from her is not affected.
 
Spellcasting. A Daughter of the Hesperides is a 4th-level divine spellcaster. Her spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 13, +5 to hit with spell attacks). She has the following Cleric spells prepared:
 
          Cantrips (at will): Light, Sacred Flame, Resistance, Thaumaturgy
          1st-level spells (4 slots): Cure Wounds, Guiding Bolt, Sanctuary, Shield of Faith
          2nd-level spells (3 slots): Augury, Continual Flame, Enhance Ability
 
Actions
Sickle. Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 2 (1d4) slashing damage.
 
Sacred Flame. Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, range 60 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d8) radiant damage (Dexterity save DC 13 for none).
 
 
Serpent of the Hesperides
This giant poisonous snake is an animal companion of the three Hesperides and will generally lurk in or around whatever tree their magical apples manifest in. Anyone who makes a successful Dexterity (Stealth) check at DC 14 can steal an apple without arousing it, but anyone who fails will be attacked by the monster. It will strike at thieves but will not pursue any as long as there are any apples for it to defend. If anyone attacks the snake the Daughters of the Hesperides will intervene to protect it and call for help.
 
Serpent of the Hesperides
Medium beast, unaligned
 
Armor Class: 14
Hit Points: 13 (2d8+4)
Speed: 30 ft., climb 30 ft.
 
STR             DEX             CON             INT               WIS              CHA
12 (+1)         18 (+4)         14 (+2)         2 (-4)            10 (+0)         3 (-4)
 
Skills: Perception +4
Senses: Passive Perception 14
Languages:
Challenge: 1 (200 XP)
 
ACTIONS
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d4+6) piercing damage, and the target must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw, taking 12 (3d6+2) poison damage on a failed save or none on a successful one. A creature that fails its saving throw will also be poisoned, suffering disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws, until it takes a long rest or this condition is otherwise removed (e.g., with Lesser Restoration). 
***

On the second day of the monthly festival held at the farm, visitors will be allowed late in the afternoon to venture out into the orchards of the farm to seek a grove of apple trees grown from seeds taken from the apples brought back by Hercules. This grove is not actually in a fixed spot, however, and instead manifests near where three sisters known as the Daughters of the Hesperides happen to be working in the orchard on any given day.

There are a number of ways characters can find the Daughters of the Hesperides and their apples. One is to search the randomly-determined quarter of the orchards that they happen to be in that day (roll 1d4: 1) Northwest, 2) Northeast, 3) Southeast, 4) Southwest), but they will only have time to search one and would thus be leaving a lot to chance. If characters do find the correct quarter then a successful DC 14 Intelligence (Investigation) or Wisdom (Survival) check there will lead them to the priestesses, and a successful check in an incorrect quarter will lead them to one of the mundane groves of apple trees hidden throughout the orchard. These have all been augmented in various appropriately evocative ways, such as with props like models of dragons that have been enhanced with simple illusions.

Divination magic of various sorts can be used to determine the quarter which the apples can be found (e.g., clever use of Augury). Any such spells used to directly find the apples or priestesses themselves, however (e.g., Locate Animals or Plants, Locate Object), will guide characters to the statue of Atlas at the intersection of the two roads the bisect the orchard.

Lifting the sphere upon the back of Atlas requires a successful DC 25 Strength check. Up to four characters can participate and the check is made by the one with the highest Strength score, with each additional one adding either +2 or their Strength modifier, whichever is higher. If four characters participate the check will also be at advantage. If the check is successful, the statue will rotate on its dais and its eyes will snap open and face directly toward wherever the priestesses happen to be (some 1d6+1 x 100 feet away). Characters who fail must make a DC 20 Constitution check or acquire a level of exhaustion, which can affect further attempts and possibly lead them to becoming even more exhausted.

If the priestesses are found they will be congenial and willingly offer characters glowing fruit they carry in their satchels and present them as true Apples of the Hesperides. Characters who successfully make DC 14 Wisdom (Insight) checks will sense that they are lying. Such checks will, however, be at disadvantage because of the illusory apples that float in front of their faces and obscure their expressions. A successful DC 13 Intelligence (Investigation) check will, however, allow a character to see through this illusion and avoid such disadvantage.

A DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) check will allow anyone interacting with the priestesses to see the tree beyond them where the snake and true apples are, and this will go down to DC 15 and can also be accomplished with an Intelligence (Investigation) check once the priestesses leave if characters search the area.

Apples accepted as gifts will stay fresh and to glow indefinitely (as per Continual Flame), and if eaten will grant the person doing so advantage on Charisma checks for an hour.

True apples stolen from the tree can be used a total of three times to Channel Divinity as a 4th-level Cleric and each time to either Turn Undead or, as per the Light domain, use an effect identical to that of Radiance of the Dawn. Characters who can already use Channel Divinity can use these effects as if they were four levels higher than their own.