Call to Adventure: “Brand of the Scorpion”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Bug Hunt, Dungeon Crawl

System: Pathfinder or D&D 5th Edition

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Levels: 2-3

Concept

This dungeon crawl tasks a group of rookie adventurers with clearing out a scorpion-infested den that secretly houses the remnants of a malicious cult! If the players survive, they will find glorious treasure as well as the seeds for more quests!

This adventure assumes that the campaign world is advanced enough to allow for the usage and distribution of black powder (or its alchemical equivalent) and simple firearms such as flintlocks.

Introduction

Read the following flavor text to the PCs at the beginning of the quest:

There has been a recent infestation of large scorpions plaguing the area. Travelers have been found dead from the poison stings and partially devoured. The source of the abrupt arthropod scourge was traced back to to a den located at the base of the mountains. Peculiarly, the cavern entrance appeared to be carved by unknown stonemasons, and bears the mark of a golden pincer.

Setup

The vermin-infested cavern is actually a two-level subterranean dungeon that once housed an evil tribe of scorpionfolk. These abominable half-scorpion, half-humanoid hybrids were religious fanatics of a lesser dark deity simply known as “The Scorpion Queen”, whose unholy symbol was the golden pincer mentioned before. Most of the cultists have perished and the rest fled long ago.

The clan once raided the area, capturing slaves and taking them back to perform their nefarious rituals. These included sacrifice to their pets and gods, as well as forced labour in excavating the Scorpion Queen’s shattered and buried temples. But eventually, the slaves revolted and blasted their way to freedom. All survivors vanished into the surrounding wilderness, eventually forming their own elusive societies.

Structurally, the scorpionfolk dungeon contains a worshipping chamber, quarters for the occupying cultists, a pit for housing captured slaves, a vault housing additional weapons, provisions, and treasure, as a path towards an unfinished excavation site for the Scorpion Queen’s temple.

Development

[OPTIONAL] Supply Run

Before they begin the quest, there is an option to purchase antivenom from nearby vendors, but they will drastically overcharge them. Any savvy characters proficient in poisons, herbalism, or alchemy should be allowed to craft antivenom out of samples harvested from the scorpions they slay.

The cavern is also entirely dark inside, so any characters that do not possess darkvision will need to acquire some means of creating light or they will be left fumbling in the void.

The Brood

The dungeon is occupied by six to eight medium-sized scorpions (Bestiary 2 pg. 240 or this link). Initially, they are scattered and wandering in different chambers; they are not outwardly hostile unless provoked or enticed by the promise of a decent meal. Multiple creatures can also be drawn to a location by loud noises.

The slaves were kept in locked chamber on the second level whenever they are not being tormented by their captors. This locked door was blasted apart during the revolt with smuggled black powder, which triggered a partial cavern collapse. The cramped corridors of this pit houses a mated pair of giant scorpions (Bestiary 1 pg. 242, this link, or MM pg. 327). These creatures are the source of the infestation. If left alive, they will easily repopulate the region with another vicious brood. The female scorpion has an outer shell striped with solid golden plates. This has no mechanical effect on the creature’s health, defenses, and damage output, but hints at the creatures otherworldly origin.

If the players are having a difficult time with the dungeon and you wish to be merciful, consider eliminating one of the giant creatures with the justification: “after a particularly intense mating session, the larger and more powerful female scorpion wanted a meal.”

Treasure

There are several corpses of slavers and escapees strewn about the den. Most of them do not possess anything of value. A keen inspection (Perception/Investigation DC 18) will yield a necklace from a slain manscorpion. It looks like a gilded pincer, similar to the symbol at the entrance, suspended by a golden chain. This is an unholy relic that can be used to tap into dark powers if the PCs are brave enough to invoke its magic. A thorough search (Perception/Investigation DC 20) will discover a broken dragon pistol wielded by a slave that didn’t survive the rebellion. This item must be repaired before it can function again.

Looting the vault, which requires clearing away (Strength DC 18) or squeezing through (Acrobatics DC 16) a partial ceiling collapse, yields a chest containing 500 gold pieces worth of jewelry, trinkets, and knick-knacks amassed from the slaves when they were stripped of their belongings. There are also additional slavers equipment such as bolas, snares, nets, whips, chains, and manacles.

The harvested exoskeleton from the mother scorpion will fetch a large sum of money and can also be used to craft specialized armor and weapons.

Conclusion

Beyond the dungeon, the adventurers can find the ruins of the Scorpion Queen’s temple. The rock had been initially blasted away to unearth the structure and gradually picked away with more finesse as the rubble cleared. The excavation was abandoned ever since the slaves escaped, for obvious reasons. But if the PCs are interested, they can dig deeper and further uncover the secrets of the golden pincer.

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