How to Use an Ooze

Last week I asked Twitter what kind of Dungeons & Dragons monsters I should write about. I’ve been running Out of the Abyss most of this year, so I listed a few Underdark monsters I’ve used a lot. The clear winner was oozes.

One of the big limitations of oozes is that almost all of them are slower than most player characters. Most player characters can run away from an ooze. In order for an ooze to be a problem, you’ve often got to put your player characters in a tight spot where they can’t run, such as a tight dungeon. Since most oozes can squeeze trough small cracks you could have oozes coming out of the walls to attack and then disappearing back into tiny cracks where the player characters can’t attack them. You’re kind of treating them less like a ‘monster’ and more like a dungeon hazard – something the player characters have to get past in order to get to the business end of the dungeon. Hopefully it’s going to take off a chunk of their hit points, and maybe it will even ruin some of their armor or weapons, so they’re more vulnerable when they face the boss.

When you think about it, there are actually a lot of ways villains could make use of oozes. Oozes could be used in traps. There could be a trap that drops your players into a pit full of oozes. Or a trap that drops oozes on their heads. There could be a potion bottle that actually has a tiny ooze in it.

While we’re talking about bottles of ooze, maybe your villain could be an alchemist who throws vials with oozes in them at your player characters?

If you’re running an adventure that involves a murder investigation, maybe the villain has used an ooze to clean up the evidence like a slimy Roomba?

If the villain manages to capture a prisoner and is trying to get information out of them, maybe their interrogation involves an ooze? The torture could be dipping their hand in a container of corrosive ooze. Or it could be allowing an ooze to eat away at them until they provide answers.

If the player characters are searching a dungeon for an ancient artefact, you could have them find that it’s already been found by another adventurer – maybe a rival. If they take the time to search for clues, they discover a gelatinous cube that devoured the adventurer and the artefact. If the player characters want the artefact, they’ll need to get it out of the ooze.

Oozes aren’t normally sentient, but if your adventure features an intelligent ooze you’ll need to think about how to characterise your ooze non-player character. I’d suggest portraying an ooze as lethargic but ravenous.

If the ooze has consumed a lot of people, I’d have it talking with many different voices. I might even describe the faces of the ooze’s victims appearing briefly in its shifting form.

 

8 Reasons Mind Flayers Still Rule the Multiverse

You’ve heard it said that the mind flayers (a.k.a. illithids) once ruled the multiverse, until they were overthrown and decimated by their gith slaves. But what if I told you that they’re still in control, manipulating everything from behind the scenes?

1. Mind flayers (as presented in the Monster Manual) are too weak to have ever had a multiplanar empire.

Sure, they can use their psionics to cast dominate monster, but they can only do that once per day, and may not succeed. Even an elder brain can only cast it once per day.

2. That said, they might make smart use of guerrilla tactics.

A lone mind flayer who sneaks up on a victim to try and mind control them could planeshift away before being seen if they fail. The victim would just get a creepy feeling that something’s been probing their brain. Not empire-building material though.

3. It takes an illithid a day to make a thrall. 

Volo’s Guide to Monsters says that if they have the opportunity to spend 24 hours gently mindblasting another creature, they can eventually turn that creature into a thrall. But that’s still not exactly efficient. It’s no way to rule the planes.

4. These are fake mind flayers.

I suggest that the mind flayers I’m describing are just decoys, a distraction from more powerful mind flayers who are controlling things from behind the scenes. Making the world thing that your species is weak and close to extinction would be a perfect way of hiding.

5. The illithid empire never ended.

Volo’s Guide questions how the gith could have possibly overthrown their illithid masters, pointing out that no ruins of the illithid empire can be found in the Astral Plane they ruled from. Volo’s suggestion is that they may have transported their empire into the future. Maybe the illithid empire is just moments away?

6. You just don’t remember them when they’re out of sight.

Alternatively, maybe the real mind flayers have an ability similar to the Silence from Doctor Who, meaning that anyone who sees them is unable to remember them? Maybe they’re constantly present, but never remembered?

7. Perhaps the gith never actually liberated themselves?

Maybe the mind flayers noticed that their slaves were looking for opportunities to rebel and created false memories of a revolution? Maybe they sowed conflict among the gith so they would fight amongst themselves, not realising they are still enslaved? (Volo’s Guide says that when an elder brain infiltrates someone’s mind, it can alter their perception.) My theory is that the warring gith races are actually the same, but the mind flayers give the githyanki a higher dose of testosterone.

8. There are also clues that the mind flayers still control the duergar.

Volo’s Guide talks about the mind flayers giving their slaves metal implants (eg. flensing claws). In Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes we see that some of the duergar have new body mods. Maybe these are the result of continuing mind flayer experiments? We also see that the psionic abilities that the mindflayers gave them are continuing to develop…

A couple of months ago I ran Rrakkma!, an adventure that pits a party of gith against mind flayers, trying to stop them from enslaving the gith race again. My party of four gith ended up dying in the final stage of the adventure, and the mind flayers ended up enslaving the gith once again. This got me thinking about how it would be cool run an adventure where the rulers of the multiverse once again, and the gith have to stage another revolution. But then I thought, maybe the mind flayers would try to make the gith think they were free, while secretly pulling the puppet strings? If you wanted, you could run a campaign where everything seems normal, but players gradually figure out that the world is being secretly controlled by the mind flayers.

Call to Adventure: “Pursuit of Knowledge”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Dungeon, Puzzles, Riddles

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-6

Recommended Levels: 3-5

Introduction

There comes a time in every adventurer’s career when they simply do not possess the required facts in order to complete a quest. Perhaps a key factoid is considered strictly forbidden or the last person who would’ve known died centuries ago? Thankfully, sphinxes are known to acquire vast knowledge throughout their long and storied existences, and can even be persuaded to share that information with others. Unfortunately, these magical immortal beasts can also be fickle and ferocious. In this adventure, a party of experienced travelers gambles their lives in the pursuit of forbidden knowledge. To succeed, they must pass a series of devious riddles.

Setup

This mission is centered around a gynosphinx, which is the female variant of the mythical species. Physically, they are composed of a human woman’s head atop the body of a lion with falcon wings. For the D&D 5th Edition statistics, refer to page 282 of the Monster Manual or this link. For the Pathfinder version, consult page 257 of Bestiary #1 or this link.

The purpose of the adventure is to wrangle some plot-relevant information from their target, not slay it. (Although the PCs can certainly try and suffer the likely lethal consequences.) The specifics of the sphinx’s personality are subject to change at DM’s discretion, but at the very least they must be willing to parlay with the party after succeeding the cloister of trials.

Development

The sphinx’s lair is a four-level descending dungeon in which the party must overcome and solve a variety of challenges. Allow the PCs to try out solutions before feeding them clues. The goal is to help them solve the puzzles themselves, not give them the answer once they roll high enough. The following encounters can be easily modified or changed entirely in order to fit your campaign setting and game mastering style.

Level B1: Gate Guardian

In order to enter the sphinx’ lair, they must first request access, and then contend with the guardian. Within a sand-filled room there is single hole on the ceiling from which descends a pillar of light upon the carved marble statue of a gynosphinx. The eyes are missing; in their place there are a pair of circular indents. There are also words chiseled into the figure’s base which read:

“Knowledge is a double-edged sword. Do you seek it nonetheless?”

The players simply have to answer, “Yes” to begin the first challenge. The light will cease, shrouding the environment to complete darkness. Some hidden rooms will open, dumping additional sand into the room. And one of these spaces houses a creature composed of animated sand. This creature is based upon the amphisbaena, and is a snake with a head on each end. Here are the stats for the Pathfinder and homebrew D&D 5e versions.

The sand snake contains a red jewel within each of its two heads. Once defeated in combat, the slithering construct dissipates, leaving behind the two gems with which they can unlock the entrance. Place the gems into the sphinx statue’s eyeholes to continue.

Level B2: Welcoming Party

The path downward takes them to a hallway filled with undead. These can be simple skeletons (D&D/Pathfinder) and zombies (D&D/Pathfinder). Another statuesque sentinel stands before the PCs, but this time its base is inscribed with the words:

“Those with blood of red shall join the dead. Those of a different shade will not be delayed.”

The undead spring into action and begin swarming the party. The PCs can either defeat the large swarm through attrition or solve the riddle to avoid risking injury. The “different shade” is a metaphor for “blue blood,” indicating nobility. Sphinxes are proud creatures after all, and will not grant an audience to anyone they deem of a lesser make. To successfully pass unhindered, those with blood ties to someone in authority (village chief, feudal lord, guard captain, etc.) must declare their heritage openly. If none of them have noble lineage, they can attempt a Bluff or Deception (Charisma) DC 20.

Level B3: Sinking Feeling

Beyond the hall of undeath stands a perfectly flat and pristine pit of sand. The top layer is perfectly smooth; not a single grain appears to have been disturbed. The same sphinx figure emerges from the center of the area as if magically sculpted from the surrounding material. This one reads:

“The fear that gives you wings shall also send you to the depths.

Whenever the players walk upon the sand, it will feel as if unseen hands are grasping them and pulling downwards, increasing in force with each progressive tug. The PCs subsequent efforts to remain afloat and the enchanted sand’s attempts to pull them through will result in a hapless character eventually getting stuck until they inevitably suffocate to death. To cross over to the other side, one must stand on the sand and relax; let go of the fear that makes you want to move up. The invisible force will gently pull them through the secret passage and into the final chamber within 30 seconds.

Level B4: Numbers Game

In the final room, the party finally comes face-to-face with the gynosphinx. She will beckon to them with one last challenge. If they can prove themselves worthy of her time, she will give them the information they seek. The win conditions are either to reduce her to half hit points, or solve the following riddle during combat.

“I shall divide you and conquer. When I was in my prime, I was untouchable.”

The room is a 50 ft. by 50 ft. chamber with balconies jutting out at all four corners at 20 ft. elevations. The sphinx can easily fly between the platforms to harass the players from afar. If provoked, it will land on the ground level to engage in melee. The floor is segmented like titles, and a closer inspection of the surrounding walls indicates that the rows and columns are labeled with numbers.

To be untouchable and thus unbeatable, stand upon the tiles in which a prime number would be inscribed. The prime numbers between 1-100 are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59,61, 67, 71, 73, 79, 83, 89, 97. These numbers are tinted red on the sample map below.

The darkened borders on the 5 and 6 squares indicate the entrance points to the final room. The optionally greyed out regions indicate areas in which the ground has caved in from impact or the passage of time, forming lethal drops into a black void. Once all players are standing on the correct positions on a 10 x 10 grid, the test is passed.

Conclusion

Upon completing the final task, the gynosphinx agrees to converse with the party and divulges whatever information they were seeking. If the ensuing conversation goes favorable, consider gifting them with magical loot taken from the previous visitors, who expired in the final test and thus have no further use for their gear.

Call to Adventure: “Garden of Stone”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Dungeon Dive, Hunting Quest, Wilderness Exploration, Rescue Mission

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-6

Recommended Level: 3-5

Introduction

In this adventure, a routine monster hunting quest becomes deathly complicated as the party encounters uncovers an unusual alliance! A gargoyle band, along with their bizarre pets, have enacted a reign of terror!  Will the heroes break through the enemy lines, or will the monuments of their failures stand for all time?

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

“A month ago, a dreaded basilisk was spotted roaming the nearby canyon and turning hapless travelers into stone! And although several trained hunters were dispatched to end the slinking reptilian menace, none of them have returned!

Investigate the canyon and slay this beast! We offer a 1000 gold piece reward for whomever returns with this creature’s hide. An additional reward will be provided for any travelers rescued from the petrification process.”

Setup

The simple-minded basilisk (consult page 24 of the Monster Manual for more information) is a merely patrolling the canyon and searching for food; it transforms its prey into stone with its magical gaze and feasts upon their frozen bodies at its leisure. This particular creature has been raised in captivity and is capable of obeying simple commands from its owners. But who are these shadowy puppet masters?

The true villains are a tribe of vicious gargoyles (also referred to as a “nastiness”) that have take refuge in the earthen labyrinth. Page 140 of the Monster Manual will give you more information about these winged stone monsters. They lurk among the strewn-about humanoid pillars created by their pet, making them nearly impossible to detect. Whatever their faithful serpent fails to petrify, they brutally slaughter. Feel free to adjust the number of gargoyles present to the desired difficulty (2-3 for medium and 4-5 for hard).

The nastiness is exploiting the presence of a hungry and all-consuming black pudding to dispose of the evidence of their misdeeds. This monster’s statistics are found on page 241 of the Monster Manual or at this link. This creature does not understand anything and acts purely on instinct. The fact that the gargoyles are unaffected by its caustic nature is purely coincidental.

Development

The canyon is an expansive multi-tier dungeon with several places in which the players and monsters can hide. Traversal is difficult and frequently requires challenges such as Athletics (Strength) to scale cliffs and Survival (Wisdom) to avoid getting lost.

When they first arrive, allow them to briefly explore the premises and drop hints about the true enemy. Eventually, bring them into contact with the basilisk. Then surprise them with a gargoyle ambush. After that, the PCs become the hunted, and must evade, outsmart, and overcome their nefarious pursuers. Allow the outcomes of the pursuits to unfold organically through opposed checks such as Stealth (Dexterity) vs. Perception (Wisdom) and role-play.

Secret: The Master’s Quarters

But where did these creatures come from? If the PCs successfully explore and investigate their surroundings they will find a secret path into a wizard’s chambers at the heart of canyon. The nameless reclusive spellcaster had long-since expired from some unknown happenstance, but his familiar (the basilisk) and his sentries (the gargoyles) lingered behind. Over the years, the guardians grew bored and took to terrorizing the locals to pass the time. Use the wizard’s quarters as a means of rewarding the perceptive and inquisitive party with magical loot for their troubles.

Optional Objective: Rescuing NPCs

Throughout the adventure, the players can attempt to rescue anyone who has been petrified but hasn’t been killed or eaten yet. This can be accomplished by applying basilisk gullet oil, or through alternative magical means. As long as vital parts are still attached to the afflicted the de-petrification will yield a viable character.

The specific nature of each of these NPCs is up to Dungeon Master’s discretion. If they are having too much trouble, perhaps grant them a powerful ally who could help turn the tide against the gargoyles? Maybe one of the people they rescue yield a larger reward due to their higher social status? This could lead to other plot developments down the line. Experiment with the idea and have fun with it!

Call to Adventure: “The Bookkeepers”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Mystery, Investigation

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Levels: 1-2

Introduction

This adventure begins as a macabre paranormal investigation of a purportedly haunted library. Upon closer examination, the player characters learn that this phenomenon is merely the machinations of a mischievous pair of faerie dragons who have become trapped in the prime material plane. True to their nature, they have taken to terrorizing the locals with trickery as they attempt to find their way back home.

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

“Rumors have circulated that Arnost Library is under siege by angry spirits. A week ago, a sudden flash of green light from the East Wing heralded a series of ghastly sightings! Ever since then, the building has been plagued by the restless undead.

Locals reported seeing a chain-bound specter with empty black eyes roaming among the shelves. The Head Librarian claimed that the books are constantly rearranging themselves and floating in midair. A guttural incorporeal voice constantly demands tribute with an insatiable zeal. And just yesterday, a precision of trained and armed city watch members ran screaming from the building after just an hour of investigation; they have inconsolable ever since. For public safety, the library is now under quarantine.

We beseech the aid of brave adventurers to help cleanse this blight from our beloved town! We offer 400 gold pieces and access to the library’s restricted texts for anyone who succeeds in this task!”

Setup

The adventure revolves around a faerie dragon duo with the names Aya and Waska. For their 5th Edition stats, consult page 133 of the Monster’s Manual. If you’re running Pathfinder, the monster details are located at page 91 of Bestiary 3 or at this link. These creatures are the size of cats (tiny) and sprout translucent, butterfly-like wings in lieu of the bat-like structures of “true” dragons.

Aya’s body is covered with shimmering interlocked blue scales, indicating that she is 31-40 years of age, and can cast spells up to Major Image (D&D/Pathfinder) to assist in her façade. Her younger brother Waska is armored in glistening emerald plates and has lesser combat and spellcasting ability.

Development

Tactics

The dragon siblings to not wish to kill anybody, but they will harm anyone they deem to be a threat. They will only resort to direct attacks when cornered. Otherwise, they prefer to drop objects from the environment onto their enemies, ranging from small knick-knacks to entire bookshelves, depending on the situation.

Investigation

Aya and Waska are using combinations of their invisibility, illusions, spells, deceptions, and environmental assets to create the appearance of a haunting. Below are some examples of checks that the players can attempt to discern the true nature of their enemy.

Arcana (Intelligence) DC 10 or any spell/ability that detects undead – There are no signs of undead activity or traces of necrotic energy on the premises.

Arcana (Intelligence) or Knowledge: Planes DC 16 – You can sense the remnants of planar magic in the vicinity. The “green flash” reported by the townsfolk may have been an side-effect of a portal spell.

Perception (Wisdom) DC 20 – The dragons let out a stifled giggle whenever they successfully pull off an amusing prank. This snicker can be detected by a keen ear in the aftermath of such an event.

Investigation vs. Deception or Knowledge: Local vs. Bluff – Many of these ghostly sightings are oddly familiar. You realize that they are ripped straight from local books and tales from this specific building.

Nature or Knowledge: Nature DC 10 – There has been a disembodied voice demanding “tribute” from the townsfolk. It has rejected everything from trinkets to jewels, but finally accepted offerings of food. In particular, the presence favors baked goods and sweets more than anything else.

Survival (Wisdom) DC 14 – You locate tiny tracks running along the bookshelves. They are composed on three clawed fingers and an opposable thumb. DC 20 – You find some loose powder clinging to some of the books. Upon closer inspection it shimmers like a prism when scattered.

Conclusion

Once the true nature of the “haunting” is revealed, Aya and Waska will make their presence known. They mean no harm, but they have no reason to trust anyone due to their unfamiliarity with their surroundings. Aya has been fastidiously studying books on magic in order to conjure up a portal to take them both back home. They were banished from their homelands for being too mischievous, and clearly haven’t learned their lesson at all. From here, the players can decide their fate. Do they exterminate them? Take them in as familiars? Or join them in their quest to return to the Feywild?

Call to Adventure: “Remnants”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Level: 1

Concept

Most adventurers choose to take up a life of travel, survival, and discovery. In this situation, the PCs were given no choice, and thrust into a life of violence at the behest of their rulers. The party is brought together by happenstance during a frantic retreat and must band together to survive.

Introduction

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

“You’ve been conscripted as a lowly foot-soldier for a war you barely understood. Your primary goal ever since you were whisked away from your peaceful former life is to survive. A few weeks of rigorous training passed like a blur as you became acquainted with your own battlefield abilities. And on your first day of true combat, you find yourself standing on the front lines and staring down the enigmatic enemy.

As instructed, you marched forward with weapons barred and clashed with your foe head-on. But no amount of training could have prepared you for the outcome. Within minutes, your commander is slain and the army around you is routed. You hear distant trumpets heralding retreat, and you flee as fast as possible away from the advancing enemy line. The battlefield is littered with the corpses of your allies, slowing your pace, but you trudge on, trampling over the dead.

You hear a violent crackling as a massive arc of white lighting streaks into a cluster of your fellow soldiers. A split-second later, a thunderous clap bellows out and a rain of blood-soaked earth coats your tattered uniform. The enemy continues its relentless assault upon the retreating army as the sounds of powerful evocation spells are punctuated by the screams of your fallen allies. After what felt like hours of hard sprinting, you arrive at the treeline that surrounded the open field. The forest is your best chance at evading your pursuers.”

Setup

The scenario begins with the party brought together as they are fleeing through the forest. Introductions are to be kept short, as all the party members are already on the same side, so their interests should align for the most part.

The following encounters can be used to represent the hazards they encounter during their escape attempt. This list includes wildlife as well as the enemy troops actively hunting down stragglers. If played intelligently, they can also cause the enemy to come into conflict with the local wildlife.

  • Wildlife (these can be modified to fit any natural setting)
    • Boar (MM pg. 319)
    • Brown Bear (MM. 319)
    • Swarm of Insects (MM pg. 338)
    • Wolf (MM pg. 341)
  • Enemy Troops (mix and match to form groups)
    • [OPTIONAL MOUNTS] Warhorse (MM pg. 340)
    • Scout (MM pg. 349)
    • Thug (MM pg. 350)

The party members can also attempt the following checks to improve their odds of escaping direct conflict. If they fail, they trigger a combat encounter. For each success they advance to a new location and are one step closer to escaping entirely.

  • Survival (Wisdom) vs. Investigation (Intelligence) to cover up their tracks
  • Stealth (Dexterity) vs. Perception (Wisdom) to slip past patrols unnoticed
  • Survival (Wisdom) to maintain their bearings as they travel
  • Nature (Intelligence) to identify helpful plants, animals, and objects in their environment
  • Opposed Athletics (Strength) checks to march faster than their hunters

The party can also encounter powerful allies that will assist them in their attempts to survive. These are higher-ranking officers and will act accordingly. They may also be previously injured from the aforementioned battle and subsequent retreat.

  • Knight (MM pg. 347)
  • Veteran (MM pg. 350)

Development

As the party trudges through the forest, they are constantly being pursued by the enemy until they are captured or successfully escape. The retreat can take several days, depending on the outcomes of previously mentioned checks and encounters. Allow the scenario to unfold organically, and then bring it to a conclusion through the following options.

Surrender or Capture

If the party members willingly surrender or are defeated in combat, they are stabilized by their captors and brought to the enemy encampment in chains. From there, they have an opportunity to escape captivity, as well as learn more about their foes. Are the enemy as bloodthirsty and irredeemable as your superiors claimed? Why are the two sides even in conflict? This perilous situation is an excellent opportunity to unravel the mystery of the warring clans, and test where the PCs allegiances truly lie.

Regroup

The players may successfully regroup with a sizable portion of the fleeing army. In that case, they are promoted to higher ranks and given more freedom among the army for their efforts. The plot can progress accordingly as the war rages on.

Escape

If the PCs are alone and successfully escape, they will be presumed killed in action. If they were accompanied by an NPC, consult the next section regarding “Desertion.” In the former case, since they were essentially nameless foot soldiers, they will be quickly forgotten. From then on, they can pursue whatever newfound ambitions they acquire. Will they become bandit lords? Will they simply retire as farmers? Or will they take the first ship off the continent? Whatever happens next is entirely up to the players.

Desertion

Alternatively, the players can choose to desert. They were thrust into this war against their will anyways, so who can blame them? However, this may yield further consequences. If the players are accompanied by a Veteran or a Knight, they will have to convince their superior officer to desert as well. This can range from easy to impossible based on the specific NPC’s characteristics, which are at the DM’s discretion. Worse case scenario, they will have to either defeat or evade their temporary ally and will be branded as deserters and wanted fugitives by their own people.

Call to Adventure: “The Descent”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Horror and suspense

System: D&D 5th Edition (requires Ravenloft setting)

Ideal Party Size: 4-6

Recommended Levels: 1

Concept

So you want to run the campaign: “Curse of Strahd?” But what if all of the player characters are from different locations on the world map and have little to no relation to one another? Here are some ideas on how to quickly get your PCs together and traveling within the Demiplane of Dread in a more cinematic way!

The following is an alteration and elaboration of the “Creeping Fog” section (CoS pg. 22) of the adventure book, and was inspired by countless horror games. The goal is to invoke a dreamlike atmosphere, establish a bleak and oppressive tone, and have the characters constantly questioning their own sanity and perceptions.

Spooky and somber background music is entirely optional, but highly recommended!

Introduction

At the very beginning, you have a number of PCs spread across a wide campaign world. The original adventure describes how the Barovian fog mysteriously whisks the characters away while you are out camping in the wilderness, but this can be easily adapted and tailored to a wide variety of unique settings for the individual PCs, allowing a more personalized introduction.

Setup

Refer to the “Mists of Ravenloft” (CoS pg. 23) for more information on the negative effects of traversing the fog. Hint at the adverse nature of the mist in order to dissuade the players from straying off the path. Once the players are introduced to one another, the fog becomes less of an active nuisance, but remains in place to serve as a barrier at the edges of the starting area, whichever that may be.

Development

The following are examples of how you can transport a character into Ravenloft in the middle of their typical day. The goal is to trick them into following the plot railroad, and then bring in the mist to seal off their escape. Keep this segment short and simple; you don’t want to spend too much time on a single player.

Urban Setting

If a player character starts off in an urban setting, give them someone to chase. Draw their focus away from the environment and upon a singular point by enticing their avarice, lust, or other base urges. Alternatively, flip the script around and create a scenario in which the PC is the object of pursuit. Perhaps they are wanted for a crime or attempting to flee a relationship that went sour. Below are some sample hooks.

  • The telltale jingle of coins from a wealthy merchant’s purse entices the character to tail them.
  • An attractive maid or coxswain catches the character’s eye with a reciprocated come-hither stare.
  • Provoke their wrath by having a nameless NPC steal something from them and run off.

Allow the scenario to unfold with a series of appropriate checks before ripping them from their familiar world. This incident incident can range from gradual and cryptic to sudden and traumatic. Here are some examples.

  • If they successfully woo the object of their affection, simply relocate them during their satisfied slumber.
  • After they lose track of their quarry or successfully shake off their tail, they notice the fog creeping in and obscuring their surroundings. Their attempts to reorient themselves are fruitless as the surrounding buildings appear to drift away with each passing second. This baffling phenomenon continues until they hear the sounds of their boots crunching upon a gravel road that they don’t recognize.
  • If they manage to catch their targets, immediately turn the tables and trust them into an overwhelming encounter with strange creatures. As a blade fatally slips into their heart and the warmth leaves their bodies, they suddenly awaken in a new location, clutching at a non-existent wound.
  • They player stumbles onto the main street, gasping for air. They turn backwards to confirm whether they are still being followed. But before they can react, they are suddenly face-to-face with a speeding horse-drawn cart that collides straight into them, enveloping their sight in utter darkness. They jolt back to consciousness with an involuntary scream, surrounded by an unending wilderness.

Rural or Natural Setting

Similar to the aforementioned setups, allow the PC to wander and interact with their environments. Use a simple diversion to misdirect them as the fog creeps in and warps the setting. For instance:

  • While mining for ore from a nearby mountain, the fog suddenly cascades over the hills and envelops the character in its ethereal embrace. They attempt to flee but become hopelessly lost. Eventually they set foot upon a path that they had never traversed before.
  • After successfully tracking down and slaying some wild game, they begin carving up the body. After several minutes of concerted effort, they realize that the sky has grown darker and a foreboding haze has begun creeping up all around them.
  • A loved one wanders out at night and beckons them to follow. They attempt to catch this particular important person, but are then swept up by the mischievous mist.

The Sea

On the off-chance that a character began their journey at sea, getting them into Ravenloft is very simple. Devise a means or throwing them overboard. As they fight the currents and struggle to catch their breath, they violently breach the water’s surface and find themselves transported to the otherworld. Beyond the shore of the  barely-waist deep puddle they are now lying inside is the same gravel pathway.

Bringing The Pieces Together

After each of the mini-scenarios are concluded, read the following flavor text to the players.

“Your feet crunch against loose rocks as you follow the gravel path, taking great care avoid the boundaries of the obscuring mist. The milky white cloud erects a three sided wall to both sides and your back, funneling you along this lonely road. As you cautiously traverse the unfamiliar environment you observe that the miasma expands and contracts rhythmical, as if alive and breathing. Eventually, your ears catch the coarse grinding of multiple footsteps gradually growing out of sync with your own. And within the nearly impenetrable barrier you spot the outlines of other humanoid figures.”

At this point, all the players are made aware of each other, and have been brought together by a cruel destiny. This trail leads directly onto the Old Svalich Road (“Areas of Barovia” Section A, CoS pg. 33). But where they go from here is entirely up to them.

Call to Adventure: “Belly of the Beast”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Level: 10

Concept

Defeating a dragon is usually the capstone to an epic adventure. The beast falls, the party splits up the loot, and everybody returns to the town, hailed as triumphant saviors. Instead, let’s reverse the formula; this time the wyrm-slaying kicks off an unexpected journey!

Introduction

Read the following flavor text to the player characters at the beginning of the quest:

“The sky grows darker as clouds billow in from the east, carried by quickened winds. The miscellaneous scents of your surroundings are suddenly overpowered by ashy smoke. Then, a thunderous roar sunders the silence, drawing your attention skywards, and you lock eyes with your enemy. A massive shadow stretches across the land as a ferocious red dragon soars straight towards you, steaming maw and malicious intentions bared.”

Setup

When the battle begins, the players can be camping out in the wilderness, celebrating at a tavern, or shopping in the village square, et cetera; the details of their current occupation are unimportant. What matters is that they are suddenly set upon by a vicious young red dragon (D&D 5th Edition Monster Manual pg. 98 or this link for Pathfinder). The serpent attacks with murderous intent and must be slain for the adventure to progress.

Development

Once the dragon is defeated, the party can investigate the corpse, which sows the seed for the actual adventure. Roll a d10 to randomly select which twist of fate befalls the party, or come up with your own! Where you go from there is up to the Dungeon Master’s discretion! But here are some ideas.

  1. The dragon’s belly is filled with countless half-dissolved belongings of the hapless mortals who were previously devoured. Among the salvageable bits you find a slime-soaked scroll that contains a heavily encoded message. The only passage you can immediately decipher is the line, “A False King sits upon the Throne” beside the painted likeness of the current Emperor.
  2. There were no prior rumors regarding dragons in the region, so this attack was entirely unprecedented by the locals. Upon closer inspection of corpse, you find the remnants of shattered chains hanging from the wyrm’s throat and arms. These shackles have no maker’s mark, and are comprised of a mysterious alloy that no one can identify.
  3. As you inspect the motionless dragon, the body reduces in size and transforms before your eyes, leaving behind a humanoid creature. They then jolt awake, screaming in abject terror and agony.
  4. The beast lies dead in the dirt, but is erratically twitching and emitting sparks. You peer past the grave wounds and behold an internal network of gears and clockwork components. This creature’s draconic nature is only skill-deep.
  5. Upon the killing bow, the creature’s body loses form and suddenly dissolves into a shower of black ink that rains down upon the surrounding landscape. The ink is harmless, but traces of dark magic linger within it.
  6. The dragon’s entire body is wreathed with the twisting vines of some unidentifiable plant, the roots of which are centered directly at the base of its skull. As you approach, the leaf-lined tendrils rapidly detach from the corpse and burrow underground, disappearing from sight.
  7. An incredibly rare and dangerous event known as environmental diffusion occurs (D&D 4th Edition Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons). When some dragons are slain, their bodies rapidly decompose and seep their respective elemental essence into the land, tainting it. In this case, the region becomes engulfed with a magically endless wildfire that does not wane in weather nor require fuel. The characters must find a means to contain and extinguish the blaze before it spreads any further.
  8. The creature’s form is magically reduced to that of a dragon-shaped stone totem that you can lift with a single hand. The artifact is entirely inert, save for the ruby-like jewels set as eyes, which gleam with warm light.
  9. In an ironic turn of events, the dragon’s presence was actually an indirect source of adventuring-based revenue for the nearest town. In its absence, less people frequent the region, and the town eventually falls into economic decay. You monster.
  10. The dragon’s blood is incredibly toxic and causes all nearby plant matter to disintegrate. Any humanoid characters that directly contacted the essence are later wracked with an even worse affliction. First they experience a fiery rash, followed by intense itching, and ultimately the appearance of red scales under their peeling skin as their body temperature begins to rise…

Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master

Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

The suggestions presented in Mike Shea (Sly Flourish)’s book The Lazy Dungeon Master have had a bigger impact on how I prepare to run RPGs than any of the official Dungeons & Dragons books. Don’t get me wrong, I reference the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual every session, but The Lazy DM helped me work out how to prepare and what to prepare.

It’s a year since I purchased The Lazy DM. Mike Shea is currently running a very successful Kickstarter for a follow-up volume, Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master. When I say it’s been very successful, I mean that Mike has met all the planned stretch goals, made some new stretch goals, beat them, and decided against adding more stretch goals.

Running a game can take so much preparation. You may put hours into preparing a game only to have your players the game in a direction you didn’t plan for. In fact, over-preparing can lead you into running games where you force the story to follow a particular direction because you’ve invested too many hours of preparation into a particular storyline.

Mike’s approach is a smart and simple way to minimise preparation, freeing yourself up for a more improvised and collaborative game where you really are cooperating with your players to tell a story. Thanks to this approach, these days my notes are often just a small pile of index cards, each with a few notes about an NPC, a location, a quest or a monster. I can easily shuffle through them depending on what ends up being needed.

In Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, Mike has refined his Lazy DM approach and tailored it for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Because the Kickstarter has gone so well, backers will also be getting some extra resources that are also intended to help DMs run games with less (and smarter) preparation:

  • a printable Lazy DM workbook full of sheets to help you keep track of characters and prepare things like traps, magic items, random encounters so they’re on hand when needed
  • Lazy Lairs – ten lairs that you can easily drop into a lot of different adventures, complete with maps (by Daniel Walthall, Derek Ruiz, and Miska Fredman) and one-page descriptions.

The Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master Kickstarter runs until March 10. You can back for just US$8 if you only want the PDF version or US$13 if you want the option of buying a print copy at cost price. Delivery is expected in November.

You can find the Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master Kickstarter here.
You can have a look at the table of contents and some sample chapters here.
Mike also posts a lot of helpful DMing advice and research on his blog and on his Twitter.

Call to Adventure: “Chamber of the Eclipse”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Dungeon Crawl

System: D&D 5th Edition (Forgotten Realms)

Ideal Party Size: 4-6

Recommended Levels: 3

Concept

During a routine wilderness trek, the player characters are drawn towards a dark tower that houses a viciously-kept drow secret! Beyond the undead sentries lies a dungeon that weaves a tragic tale of magic and forbidden love! Survive the terrors within and reap glorious treasure!

Introduction

This elven mini-dungeon takes place within the wilderness, so it can easily be added to any nature setting.

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

“As you recuperate from the trials of extended travel, you are suddenly set upon by a terrible chill. A biting zephyr howls through the treeline, extinguishing your campfire and filling you with dread. This abrupt cold has a hint of necrotic aura lingering within it, and its source lies deeper in the woods.”

[IF THE PLAYERS WISH TO PROCEED, KEEP READING]

“You force a slow but deliberate path, your movement hampered by the thickness of the brush and the gradually upward sloping terrain. Eventually you arrive at a cliff overseeing a thirty foot drop. The cliff edge is overrun with plants and descends counterclockwise towards a dilapidated tower at the bottom.”

Part I: The Dark Tower

Read the following flavor text as they PCs approach the tower.

“As you cautiously descend towards the crumbling tower, you notice that the plant matter is decaying the closer you approach the foreboding structure. The moment you arrive at the entrance you hear foreboding words. ‘NO…WITNESSES…’ And a pair of glowing and hateful purple eyes greet you from beyond the archway.”

Combat Encounter: Zin-carla Sentry

The party is immediately attacked by an undead drow (Wight x1, MM pg. 300) and its sired undead (Zombie x6, MM pg. 316). If any of the party members are slain, they are later raised as members of the undead.

A successful Religion (Intelligence) DC 16 will reveal that the sentinel is a Zin-carla, meaning “spirit-wraith”; it is a special undead created through a ritual performed by Lolth’s clerics and his eyes are a direct line to a matron mother. His drow sensitivity to light is greatly amplified by his undead form, which can be exploited through clever positioning.

The wraith is intelligent and can be communicated with, but will not show any mercy. If directly addressed, he will announce himself as Dewein’agal, a loyal sword to House Kovarra.

Features of the Terrain

The tower is shaped like a lighthouse of grey-blue stone. A single internal staircase leads upwards to the top, but there are also plenty of breach-points through the glass windows.

The surrounding trees form a canopy that shrouds the pit in low light, with some patches of direct sunlight.

The Poem

The top of the tower contains a model of the planets of realmspace orbiting the central star Sol. The orb that represents Sol dimly glows with radiant energy, bathing the room with amber light. There is a riddle written on a raised platform at the center of the room.

“What had two faces, but now only shows one?” → Abeir-Toril (i.e. Earth)
“What shines brightest, and is second to none?” → Sol (i.e. the Sun)

“What’s caught between two, a torn-in half soul?” → Selune (i.e the Moon)
“Aligned but apart. Separate, but whole.” → alignment of the celestial bodies

“To touch would be an impossible feat.”
“Under a hole in the sky is where we will meet.” → eclipse makes a “hole” in the sky

Solution: Manually rotating the model to bring Selune (moon) between Toril (Earth) and Sol (Sun) to simulate a solar eclipse reveals a secret stairway that leads deeper underground.

Part II: The Secret Tunnel

Read the following flavor text as they PCs uncover the secret tunnel.

“The stone slab parts and allows you passage to a stone corridor ten feet wide, twenty feet high, and extends forty feet towards another door. Upon the distant portal there is the carved visage of an elven warrior cupping their hands over the center of their chest. On opposing sides of the starting region there are two similar elven stone statues, each clasping a vibrant and iridescent jewel in the shape of a heart.

The door leading back to the surface suddenly rolls shut, and you hear a rythmic clicking noise, like as if unseen gears have begun turning. Upon the left side of the wall a mural begins to shift in sync with the ticking. It looks like a vibrant yellow orb being eclipsed by dark grey circle. On the opposite end of the corridor, the elf statue uncrosses one of their arms and presents it palm up.”

The Bridge

The following section is a simple timed puzzle. The aim is to send both jeweled hearts from one side to the other with the correct timings and sequence. The circular glyph on the leftmost wall begins to move in sync with the clicking, slowly showing the phases of a solar eclipse.

There are two elven statues bearing jewels on the starting side of the room. The one on the left is bearing the insignia of the sun, and the one on the right is bearing the insignia of the moon. Since the sun first has to be visible for an eclipse to occur (from the perception of someone viewing it on the planet), the sun jewel must be placed into the open palm first, followed by the moon jewel. They have two rounds (approximately twelve seconds of in-game time) to place the jewels into the palms of the receiving elf at the exit.

If they fail the puzzle, the floor literally rolls forward on a pivot at the center of the room, throwing them downwards into a deeper part of the dungeon. The characters drop 20 feet and take 2d6 damage from the fall.

If the players succeed, the door opens and they are taken into the final chamber.

[OPTIONAL] The Alternative Path

The players failed the bridge puzzle and landed inside a crypt-like structure that houses a Black Pudding (MM pg. 241). Its purpose is to dispose of those who shouldn’t have access to the final chamber. The party can attempt to defeat the creature or flee. There is a hidden exit behind the walls, and characters that succeed a Perception (Wisdom) DC 15 can feel a draft.

Beyond the hidden exit there is a narrow tunnel that leads upwards and back to the surface. However, the way out is guarded by a Phase Spider (MM pg. 334). They have essentially “failed” the dungeon at this point, but they can try again if they successfully backtrack and return to the entrance.

Part III: The Path to the Underdark

The Sun and Moon

The final room of the dungeon is a cube of forty feet length. There is an artificial river of water rushing across the room on the far side, and the ceiling terminates at a glass ceiling that looks up to the sky.

The chamber is scarred with several blackened marks outlined with shattered stone, indicating the usage of powerful fire magics. There is also the silhouette of a humanoid figure permanently etched against a wall beside a steel door that is held shut with a glowing and shifting floral pattern. Directly underneath the ghastly shadow there is a pile of fine grey ash surrounded with miscellaneous charred body parts.

This secret room is held shut with an Arcane Lock (PHB pg. 215) spell which requires a Dexterity DC 25 to lockpick. Alternatively, the PCs can attempt to destroy the door with whatever they have on-hand.

Searching the pile of ashes yields a Necklace of Fireballs (DMG pg. 182) with only two beads left.

Below the top platform there is a large chasm that leads into the Underdark.

The Darkness

Read the following flavor text as they PCs enter the final room.

“The instant the door swings open, a layer of dust fills the air, and your nostrils are greeted with the scent of death and decay. Inside the secret room you find a large mattress covered with fine silks and laid atop an elegantly carved wooden frame.

At the base of the bed you spot an elf corpse adorned in desiccated leather scales laying facedown upon a bloodstained wolfskin rug. There is a curved sword with an green and golden handle still grasped in its right hand. The other hand is lighting grasping a skeletal hand attached to a slain drider. The monstrosity has the upper torso of a once-beautiful drow and the lower half of the body belongs to a massive tarantula.”

This deceased moon elf is still holding a Silvered Scimitar +1 (DMG pg. 213) and the dead drider is wearing a Ring of Protection (DMG pg. 191).

Boss Fight

Three Carrion Crawlers (MM pg. 37) are drawn from the Underdark by the commotion of the PCs searching he final area. The party must defeat them or be devoured. Successfully slaying them yields an opportunity to harvest Carrion Crawler Mucus (DMG pg. 258), which is a powerful paralytic poison.

Conclusion

After looting the final room and surviving the crawler attack, the party can exit the dungeon in three ways. They can continue traveling deeper into the Underdark, but at their current levels that is borderline suicidal. They can backtrack, but that will require them to re-solve the bridge puzzle in reverse. Alternatively, they can simply shatter the glass ceiling and climb upwards to freedom.

Call to Adventure: “Song of the Sea”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Monster Hunt, Aquatic

System: Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons

Ideal Party Size: 4-6

Recommended Levels: 10-12

Concept

The undead can take many forms. Whether they be a decaying zombie, a shambling skeleton, or a spectre, death is not always the end of a creature’s story. And when something dies in the grip of a terrible rage or intense sorrow, dark forces may imbue them with a second life in which they can seek vengeance.

In this tale, a great and majestic beast was wronged, and from that incident a seed of evil took root. Out of the endless blue springs a bakekujira, a re-animated whale corpse that spreads corruption everywhere it travels. This necrotic leviathan is both a vicious adversary and a harbinger of great disaster if left unchallenged. It will take a team of highly-skilled and powerful monster slayers to quell its supernatural fury.

Introduction

This adventure requires the party to be staying at a settlement situated near the ocean. The storyline begins in medias res; the party members are going about their business and suddenly attacked by zombie-like creatures spawned from the ghost whale.

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

“It began as a distant song carried upon the coastal winds. A mournful melody echoed across the port town as an eerie fog crept inland. Then the water levels rose as the temperature plummeted, and the air became filled with the scent of decay. When the heartbreaking harmony finally ceased, it was already too late.

From within the murky depths, countless living corpses arose and attacked all they lay before them. Some unseen entity amassed an army of undead and unleashed them upon the unsuspecting populace. As the slaughter began and pandemonium swept across the seaside town, your eyes were drawn towards the horizon by a loud splashing noise. Past the dense obscuring fog, you glimpsed the faintest silhouette of some massive beast breaching the water before sinking away.

But before you can comprehend the nature of the distant leviathan, you must stand your ground against an oncoming wave of rotting flesh and rusted steel.”

Setup

A bakekujira, or “ghost whale,” is a formidable beast that could easily overwhelm a party of veteran adventures in a direct confrontation. In regards to this creature’s stats consult either the Pathfinder version or the Homebrew D&D 5th Edition version.

The creature itself houses several terrible creatures within its decomposing husk. Otherworldly species of fish and birds circle the carcass and gradually pick away at the carrion. This imposes no mechanical disadvantage to the bakekujira, but these wild creatures may attack the PCs if they are provoked. The creature is also viciously protected by a crew of draugr sired from the people it has killed. These barnacle-encrusted zombies display humanoid intelligence and can climb structures and use tools, but cannot speak or be reasoned with.

The presence of the ghost whale also has negative effects on the environment. It spreads disease and corruption wherever it goes, so the local flora begins to die off and most of the fauna is either driven away or destroyed. This means that resources such as food are greatly diminished for the duration of the adventure. The water is also rendered putrid and unsafe to swim in or drink, unless magical precautions are taken.

Development

The adventure is composed of three sections. The party is first attacked by an army of the ghost whale’s sired undead. Then, if they choose to accept the follow-up mission, the PCs can hop onto a ship and track down the creature through the mist. If they successfully locate the beast they can finally attempt to destroy it.

I. Attack the Dock

The town is attacked by a massive wave of draugr coughed up from the putrescent bowels of the creature. For the monster has become so seeped with necrotic energy that even the creatures it devours has a chance of becoming undead slaves to its will. This section is an opportunity for the players to be heroes and mow down waves of baddies in rapid succession. They can also participate in the rescue of innocents, if they so please. The encounter can end once they have either successfully slain a satisfactory amount of foes, or when they are in danger of being overwhelmed by the numbers disadvantage.

Optionally, if the players have a beloved NPC in the seaside town under seige, hurting or killing that character could spur them to hunt down the bakekujira for a personal vendetta.

At the conclusion to the draugr attack, a warship called the Seraph (see NPC section below) arrives at the harbor and the crew members assist with finishing off the undead scourge. The captain is an aasimar named Andrea Demoray, and fills the party in on what has just transpired. She has been tracking the elusive creature for months but it always manages to be one league ahead of her. She will offer the PCs a place on her ship if they wish to join her in the hunt.

II. Set Sail

This section is an extended seafaring journey in which the PCs track down the fleeing bakekujira through naviational and investigatory checks. Apply weather changes and add random encounters to break up the monotony of overland travel. This is also a good opportunity for the players to get to the know the captain and crew, so you can twist the knife if any of them die in the final confrontation.

Whenever the ghost whale emerges again to attacks a settlement, the party has a chance of intercepting the sighting if they plan accordingly and the dice favor them. If they arrive too late, they can resume clearing out the undead and saving the town in the aftermath. But once the ship carrying the PCs successfully catches up to the undead whale, the final battle begins.

III. The Vessel of Vengeance

This battle consists of maneuvering the ship around the beast and attacking it at distance. The creature will sink below the depths after taking damage and attempt to attack the boat from underneath in an attempt to capsize it. At close proximity, the creature emits a nauseating odor that can induce status ailments. It may also regurgitate more draugr onto the deck of the galleon to act as distractions. The crew must use harpoons to secure the beast and prevent it from escaping so they can begin attacking it directly.

Throughout the battle, the undead whale sings a depressing dirge that can be heard by everyone within proximity. A successful Knowledge Nature (Intelligence) DC 22 will reveal that this is a mother’s call; the bakekujira is searching for its child and using the tune to draw it out. Sadly, the child has long since grown old and died on its own accord, but the mother continues to fruitlessly sing her song, ever hopeful. After assessing this information, any musically-inclined characters can attempt a Performance (Charisma) vs Will/Wisdom Save to emulate the corresponding song in order to deceive the beast. This can lead to wrangling advantages such as drawing the beast to a vulnerable position, calming it down, or reducing damage and hit-chance. The effects are entirely up to the GM’s discretion.

Once the bakekujira has been reduced to half hit points or fewer, pieces of its rotting mass will begin to peel away, revealing more of its skeleton. A successful Perception (Wisdom) DC 20 will allow the PCs to notice a massive rusted harpoon deeply embedded into the creature’s throat. This weapon is larger than anything their current ship has onboard, and is far too decrepit to have been pierced into the beast recently. The fight can proceed as usual until all the creature’s hit points are depleted. But climbing atop the beast and physically removing the harpoon with a Strength DC 25 will end the fight immediately, as the source of the whale’s pain will finally be removed. The husk will reliquish its grudge and finally sink to the ocean floor.

NPCs: The Seaworthy

Andrea Demoray is a chaotic good aasimar arcane trickster and captain of the warship Seraph. This galleon contains a force of twenty-six sailors, mercenaries, and privateers that are collectively known as the “Angels of Mercy.” Captain Demoray has a sardonic demeanor and often invokes gallows humor whenever she find herself in a precarious situation, which is all the time. She is a take-charge commander who fights wildly with a cutlass in her left hand and spells in the other. Easily bored, Andrea is also prone to fidgeting and is often seen puffing on a long and slender wooden pipe. Last time she encountered the bakekujira, it nearly devoured her and she was rescued by her first mate, but at the cost of his own life. She now seeks to destroy the ghost whale before it can cause any more harm, as well as to avenge her fallen comrade.

Conclusion

After the zombified whale is slain, the PCs can decide to go their separate ways after being dropped off at shore by their temporary allies. Alternatively, they can continue sailing around with the motley crew if they want to have more adventures at sea.

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.