A few years ago, the Shortfoot family of traveling halfling tinkers happened upon a clutch of giant lizard eggs (left behind when a group of adventurers attacked a family of giant lizards and both groups perished). They cared for them, hatched them, and turned them into a small traveling circus, which can be used either as a friendly faction that sends the PCs on quests or a foe faction that the PCs need to fight.
As a friendly faction, the Shortfoots have a problem: the magic wand they used to control the lizards has been getting less and less effective over the past few months. They need someone to find a spellcaster powerful enough to restore it to normal working order. Unfortunately, this spellcaster will reveal that the wand can only be restored by the sorcerer who made it: Miralon, who has retreated to her remote tower on the coast, which is itself surrounded by many dangers.
Plot hook: Cyril Shortfoot, the family’s flamboyant patriarch, approaches the PCs and offers them a monetary reward for retrieving the wand.
Plot hook 2: The PCs are tasked to retrieve a different artifact from Miralon, but arrive near Miralons’ tower to find three halflings in the clutches of a pack of monsters (goblins, kobolds, orcs, etc.). Once freed, the halflings will introduce themselves as enterprising members of the Shortfoot family attempting to retrieve the wand themselves. They’ll volunteer to pay the party to escort them into Miralon’s tower and let them have the wand.
As a foe faction, the Shortfoot family are secretly members of a cult to Tharrash, a minor god of wounds and healing. The group requires occasional victims, whom the family members ritually cut in gruesome ways, then patch up and mind-wipe. The victim goes home believing he or she fell into an unusually nasty briar patch, was discovered by the Shortfoots, and healed by them.
Plot hook: The party is in town for a performance by the Shortfoots. They notice one quiet, cloaked figure in the back, not responding to the performance. This individual will eventually introduce herself to the party as Nagi, the 18-year-old daughter of a man who fell victim to the Shortfoot’s foul ritual a few months ago. She was suspicious of the nature of her father’s wounds and has been following the caravan ever since, living off the land. She asks the PCs to help her get into the caravan (perhaps through a distraction) and find out what’s going on.
Investigative PCs will find a small, curved, blood-stained dagger hidden somewhere in each sleeping caravan, and Cyril’s wagon will contain a large chest filled with pages of dark ritual notes and a black orb that absorbs blood.