The Gurgleplatt Coven
Welcome to Uhgramudd, you'll never find a more disgusting, remote, fly-ridden, swampy Hell than this. Get in, kill the Lizards, grab the loot, get out. Simple, right?
This is an introductory low-level adventure I use to get familiar with players I meet online, to see if our play styles clash in any way. So far, it has weeded out a few undesirables and scored a few keepers. I am quite satisfied with the layout and have run it multiple times, with slight variations for level/abilities of the player characters.
Setting the Scene:
The players have been hired to go help out a very remote swamp-village with their lizard-man problem. It doesn't matter much how they were hired, but they were paid a small amount in advance for venturing southward to se if they could crack a few lizard skulls. Seems like a simple task, but there are always wrenches to be thrown.
The Swamp-Village of Uhgramudd -
You have been traveling through a lightly forested swampland for a few days now. The trail disappears into a marsh-like mush that comes half-way to your knees. There are various yellow ribbons planted on sticks to guide you on your way along the biting-insect infested path. After hat seems like an hour or two, and going slightly off track once or twice, you find the Uhgramur Forest. A swath of thick, knobby, swamp-trees that extends from coast to coast. Breaking through the dense woods, you discover a clearing of mud and small straw huts.
Welcome to Uhgramudd. There is a cluster of mud and grass huts in the center, they appear to be simple living quarters. There is also a more prominent abode, decorated with scaly skins and some red-dyed cloth, with two stern looking guards posted out front. They look at you intently as you approach. One of them looks into the hut, not saying a word, then holds the crude flap open, gesturing for you to enter.
Inside this humble place, you immediately notice a wizened old man sitting cross-legged on a grass mat. There are other mats in front of him. One for each of you. He bows his head slightly and also makes a gesture, never saying a word, this time to the mats in front of him. Once you have all been seated, or appear to refuse his hospitality, he will speak.
"Welcome, Heroes. You have come in our time of need and you have our many thanks. There has been trouble recently with the other denizens of our humble swamp. The Lizardlings further south have stolen a precious artifact from us. Our most sacred Community Chest.," Again, he gestures, pointing to a bare patch of mud inside the hut, slightly indented, where a chest might have once stood.
"The entire wealth of our community was kept in that chest, and the chest itself is quite valuable to us, having been created many years ago by the elders who founded our village. Please, bring it back from the Gurgleplatt Cave to the south that is where the Lizardlings have made their home."
He then closes his eyes and appears to be in deep meditation. If pressed he may answer other questions and is your only source of information in the small town. The Swuulagama, or Swamp Sentinels, are the villages protection and have taken a vow to never speak in the presence of outsiders. Only the village elders may give away any sort of information related to the village, on penalty of being outcast forever.
There is not much interesting in the other huts. Maybe a woman knitting or breast-feeding, a few children playing a game, or some such thing. Other Swuulagama can be seen by those with particularly keen eyesight lurking amongst the trees, though their numbers are hard to judge, they seem to be made up of able-bodied young men.
Room One: A Challenger Appears
After a fair bit of travelling through dangerous swamplands, knee high stink puddles, and annoying buzzing and blood-sucking bugs, you find a large rock jutting out of the swamp. It appears as if there is a massive chunk of some embedded in the soft earth here, with an opening at the top. Silently swimming through the deep swamp is a massive alligator. She has recently laid her eggs nearby and is very angry with the intrusion. This is quite possibly the biggest alligator the players have seen and they are in for an interesting fight. Those with heavy armor or lots of equipment will be especially hindered by the deep, muddy waters and even the nimble will find it hard to maneuver as swiftly as the alligator does.
Once defeated, the alligator, known as Hel'Badoul, or Mistress of The Devil, to the locals, will surely provide an excellent feats and armor for the warriors of the village. The players may wish to turn back at this point and deliver the alligator, or stash it in the cave mouth and continue further.
Room Two: The "Oh Crap!" Moment
After climbing atop the Gurgleplatt Rock, you find an especially large opening that seems to have been widened by years of use. Venturing deep into the stone, upon crude steps carved from the rock, you notice that it is actually fairly dry and warm in here. Then you hear the sounds of a fire and the distinct dog-like yapping of kobolds. If your players are reasonable stealthy, they will be able to sneak up on a group of five lizard-like beings, two large lizardfolk and three smaller kobolds. They are all wearing strange jewelry made of stones and grass and sitting around a fire, weapons forgotten at their sides. A perceptive person would notice the fire seems to be made of a burning chest, covered in, now-peeling, gold leaf. Can you catch the lizards off guard and save the chest in time? Or will they notice you and put up more of a fight with the strange boons no doubt bestowed upon them by their bizarre adornments?
The Conclusion: After the fight, or slaughter as it may be, the players have more time to examine the burnt chest. And it is only half of the chest, there are some copper coins and swamp jewelry laying about, but it seem that the rest of the treasure is deeper within the cave.
Bonus Bits: If any of the enemies are captured and questioned, they may reveal that they took the jewelry from the chest (the jewelry may consist of a few very minor magical items, if desired). The might also warn of Big Brother and Bigger Brother deeper within the cave, they warn you to watch out for Big Brother and they will be afraid of saying too much in fear of angering Bigger Brother.
Room Three: Big Brother
As you walk deeper into the Gurgleplatt Rock complex, it seems to be a straight, slightly downward-sloping, passage with a few leaky cracks and very poor light. You catch a shimmer to your right, like the reflection of your light source in a black orb or eye. This is followed by a shrill whistle, and a small ,cracking, voice in your language says, "Hey! Hoomans! Git out ur I get Bigger Brother, he kill you for sure." Then the figure takes a step back and seems ready to run.
This is Big Brother, a kobold of some notoriety. He is relatively unknown amongst non-savages, but those who have met him say he is a speedy and ferocious warrior with much tactical cunning. Should the players approach him, he runs to the end of what appears to be a dead end. Once they are close enough, he springs his trap. By jumping into a pit at the end of the hall, he trips a poisoned dart trap that fired down the hall towards the players. This trap needs to be reloaded to work again. The fun doesn't stop there. Once inside the pit, he moves a tactically placed lever into position. This causes a second arrow to fire at anyone jumping into the pit after him.
He is quite quick, and has a narrow escape tunnel in his pit, it leads to room four. If the players don't chase the kobold (and they almost always do) or they manage to kill him in the tunnel and then backtrack, proceed to room seven.
Loot: Big Brother owns a well made black metal spear with a red gem set in the blunt end. Could fetch a decent price, or be a memorable trophy.
Room Four: Bigger Brother? Is that you?
The kobold's tunnel comes up in a room on the opposite side of a one-time use secret entrance or exit. There is a rough pile of rocks stacked against the wall, propped up with sticks. There a rope you could pull leading through a gap in the top of the rock wall
-You can: Ring the bell, alerting the young ogre on the other side of impromptu secret door. He will ask in the Giant Tongue "That you, Big Brother?" The correct answer is something along the lines of "Intruders, dumb-ass" but anything else will trigger suspicion and get his tiny ogre brain panicked and... violent.
-Backtrack to .Room Seven, then proceed into Five.
-Or just kick down the wall and prepare for room Five.
Room Five: That HAS to be Bigger Brother!
Yeah, you found an ogre, Albeit a young and impressionable one, I'm sure he won't mind hitting you with a large blunt object. In this room, you either came from Four or Seven. Either way you're fighting an ogre. He will swing wildly, but he is a bit scrawny for his kind so you might not be crushed outright.
As the ogre is being worn down, you hear a cackling laughter, accompanied by a bubbling choke, as a had rises from a pool of stagnant water in the corner. The horrible creature is quite formidable and will give the Evil Eye to anyone who dares approach. By this time, the players are probably in a frenzy of blood and slaughter, and killing the hag will seem only logical as she is obviously the mastermind behind this whole Gurgleplatt Coven. She wears no items, but has vicious claws and a horrible gaze that can leave you brain-dead for days.
After the hag is taken down, if the party perseveres through the challenges they have faces, they are left alone in a quiet cave. The murky, and greenish, water the hag appeared from seems to go deeper still... What mysteries or great treasures await you in the last leg of your journey?
Room Six: Finally, The Treasure!
Not quite yet.
Bigger Brother is waiting for you in the final room. After a short swim through some nasty water, you find yourself in a moist and mossy treasure pile. Sleeping amid the piles of treasure is a large black-scaled swamp dragon. Do you want to attempt to stealthily remove the treasure, hoping the dragon stays sleeping? Or do you kill it while you can, strike as mercilessly as your enemies? Either way, there is a fair bit of treasure in this hoard. Mostly trinkets and coins of copper and silver, but you also find the remaining half of the gold-plated community chest stuffed with stone and twine jewelry. There might even be something magical in here, you would have to do a bit of digging.
Stealing the treasure from the sleeping dragon is not hard, as he is a rare dragon of prophecy. It is said amongst the lizardlings that a Grand Dark Sleeper will lead them to victory over those of weaker flesh and heritage. The dragon was here even before the hag, and the lizard men, but they revere it as a god. It has been in a perpetual sleep for as long as its existence has been known. The dragon can not be killed, it can be stabbed or slashed and will bleed for a moment, but the wounds heal with divine speed and leave no scars.
The Swamp-Village of Uhgramudd thanks you very much and you are invited to a grand feast and celebration for you valiant effort in recovering what remained of the community chest, which they take some money from to pay you. You are granted the title of Heroes of the Gurgleplatt Coven, for ridding the world of the vile hag Gurgleplatt. The villagers are very quiet when told about the dragon. Tight-lipped it seems, even towards their heroes, and don't seem in any hurry to dispatch it. Just another mystery of the swamps, I suppose...
The Curiously missing-until-now Room Seven - It's not much, but I use it sometimes in this adventure. A net full of falling bricks with a trip wire placed between rooms Two and Five. If tripped, it can provide difficult terrain for the ogre to fight on, if you lure him away from his room.
Lizardling Patrols - There aren't enough monsters in this encounter to equal an entire tribe or cult, so feel free to throw in some encounters with them in the swamps or add a few in the cave, sprinkled to taste.
Change the Dragon - The Dragon is not always a large sleeping prophecy of doom. Sometimes I use smaller dragons, surprised by the intrusion but still dangerous, as the final encounter. Other times, it's just the treasure. I like to push my players to their limits, but I don't want them to ALL die.
Final Author's Notes:
That took a LOT out of me. I have NEVER, in my 10 years as a Game Master, detailed an encounter this thoroughly in text. Sure, maps and ideas are great. But I think this one might have lost some of its spark for me when I finished writing it. I'm sure I'll use it again and add more variations. Part of my personal GMing style is improvisation. Not even I know where the story will take us, but I back myself up with a large base of knowledge about my chosen systems. I absolutely HATE published adventures and find it very hard to constrain myself to one adventure at a time. I hope you enjoyed this piece and can take something away from it. Nothing fancy meant here, just a trial-run dungeon that I really wanted to see myself put into text. Thank you for reading.
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? Responses (14)-14
Update: Wow, I got a lot of information in there for only a day's work. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have over the years. I'm plum tuckered, or whatever. Thanks for reading.
A very good campaign. 5/5
First off, thanks for the submission. It’s obvious to me the amount of thought you’ve put into this (especially given that you don’t usually write things down). I’d have voted for it if my vote mechanism wasn’t wonky (I will repost when it gets fixed). I give you a 3.0 for the effort alone, and for the memories of those classic D&D adventures which this obviously gives homage to. In addition, the traps, creative Kobold, and visions of the Community Chest telling the heroes to “go to jail, go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200” earn you an additional .5.
Now the (hopefully constructive) criticism. Two things stand out to me as disturbing. First is the seeming randomness of the opposition. I will admit that my D&D knowledge is quite rusty, but I seem to recall that Hags are solitary creatures, unwilling to work with lesser beings (preferring instead to eat them). So, I have to ask, what’s motivated her to make the change?
I realize this is also a failing of many of those classic pre-packaged modules, so I understand the limitation, but I simply am not satisfied with “Kill the monster, Steal its stuff” adventures any more. Plus, like you I enjoy throwing future plot hooks into current adventures so my PCs start thinking about what’s to come. So knowing her motivation might help me begin working on that.
Now you may argue that isn’t the point of the adventure. But I would counter that you’ve already made future adventures part of this. The sleeping dragon is obviously a hint of things to come, and it wouldn’t take but a couple of sentences to describe where this was going in your head.
Next, there’s the opposition itself. You described this adventure as an introductory type adventure. That says to me, inexperienced characters. In that light, this becomes quite a tough go. Kobolds, sure. Lizard Men, maybe. But Ogres, Hags, and gigantic Alligators? Ye-ouch. I can see this quickly becoming a TPK, especially if the tricky Kobold lures the PCs far inside then calls in reinforcements (which I can easily imagine him doing, given his creativity).
Finally I have some questions (besides the obvious Monopoly jokes) about the community chest. When you described in room two that it was half a chest, that was kind of jarring for me. Rather than simply moving on I had to stop and think about what you meant. Did they simply rip it in half like some slip of paper? If so, it’d probably have completely fallen apart. Alternately did they rip the lid off and put half the treasure in the lid? If that was the case, the PCs would be able to see inside. Or was it more metaphorical. Half the treasure was still inside the chest (which was intact but was only half the community chest)? I’d see some problems here because how do the PCs know what treasure was the villages and what came from the monsters in the cavern complex.
And while we’re at it, why were the Lizard Men burning the treasure? I was pretty sure they were sentient enough (and had traded enough) to know the coins were valuable. I understand why from a GM’ing perspective (forcing the players to act to save it all), but the story reason eludes me.
Anyway, that’s my 2.84593571954 cents worth.
Let me start off by thanking you for taking the time to read my lengthy submission and providing me with a lot of useful feedback, now I will attempt to address the questions and curiosities:
The Hag: It has been a long time since I have bothered to read an entry on a monster, aside from the visual description and statistics. So you may be right. But, if I had to describe this hag's motives, reasoning, and give background to her, they would be as such - A swamp denizen who decided to a attempt control over the lizardlings of the area. She had heard of the Great Sleeper and told the typically not-too-bright and unorganized lizards that she could communicate with it via dreams.
The Sleeping Dragon: Ah, yes. That is a point I have honestly never elaborated on. I suspect that my thinking has been along the lines of a red herring. The Dragon is an illusion, or disguised beast, placed by the human settlers of the swamp to keep the lizards from out-right attacking them. This seems to have worked, as the lizards are preparing for the day their dragon awakens.
The Opposition: I run a tough game, but not impossible. The idea of this quest is a one-shot adventure, yes. I have run this adventure with players of a party of always at least 2 characters from levels 1 to 5, in D&D 3.5 and/or Paizo's Pathfinder.
The gator I use is a typical gator, no stat changes from the core rules. It is tough but not usually deadly (except when they left it tied up in the entrance and it was free by the time they made their way back). T
he lizardmen are typically easily defeated. The smart kobold is trouble, in my games he has been a level 1 Barbarian with a masterwork spear. So, he can hit (with a decent bonus) and he can survive (with a lot of hitpoints for a kobold), but his damage is minimal.
The ogre is typically the biggest problem, I won't lie, he has never killed anyone but has severely weakened them.
The hag has potential to take out a character with a low Will save almost immediately, but if closed in melee will be more focused on killing the attacker with claws.
Yes, I run a tough game. And usually tougher than normal on a one-shot.
The Community Chest: I've considered the Monopoly jokes myself, but never had a player make them during the session. As for the 'half of a chest,' I always figured it was a weak old object that splintered at an angle, allowing for some to used to carry the remaining treasure further inside the cave. And, I don't think I was clear with the treasure burning. The lizards were not burning the coins, only melting the gold-leaf off of the chest.
Oh, and yes, it is hard to tell what was the village's and what wasn't. But, the village can help with that and is honest.
Let me know is that clears up most of your questions. Again, thank you.
Nice location Pieh - a good basic adventure. I'm really leaning towards the whole 5-room dungeon approach.
That was what I initially attempted to put together, but the adventure as I had planned it didn't fall into the theme exactly and altering it too much felt wrong. The 5RD format does seem to be rather natural, doesn't it?
Added in a vote
A very solid adventure, especially with the added detail in the comments. One question: shouldn't the optional room 7 be between rooms 3 and 5, rather than between rooms 2 and 5? I, too, liked the "oh crap" moment with the burning chest -- that and the chance for the players to see a dragon in an early adventure and still come out of it alive propels this from a solid 3 post to a 4 for me. Great job!
I will clarify: there is a passage from room 2 to 5. Room 3 is a side-passage with the clever kobold. If the players were to ignore the kobold and go to 5, from 2, they would encounter the trap in 7. But, that little bastard can be quite goading. Thanks for the read and vote!
Very nice, solid, basic adventure. Thanks for laying this out!
I think this is a good dungeon, ready for gaming. Just one small thing though; "The Players..." have not been hired for anything. They are sitting at a table with dice, sheets of paper and mountain dew. The Player Characters is the correct term, or; Heroes, Adventurer or simply The Party.
Nitpick, but still...
Otherwise: Sweet idea, well executed.
I nice simple one shot that can be good to showcase the rules of your favorite fantasy rpg to new players without worrying about them wandering too far off the expected path.
I am curious though what you meant though with the comment "So far, it has weeded out a few undesirables and scored a few keepers." What did you design into the adventure to weed out the undesirables with? (I'm guessing to check and see if the group lets the lizard men have the treasure or just slays them all and run off with the loot?)
I didn't design anything intentional to weed out undesirable players. It just seemed to naturally flow that way. I've found players that mesh with me, and I find it easy to GM for, and others that I wouldn't want to play with.
That said, I do prefer running heroic games. Ones where the players play characters that wouldn't run off with the treasure.
I also find that this adventure has plenty of room to surprise me as well, which I enjoy. Like when they try to tame the crocodile, or interrogate the kobolds.
I like it. There's a good deal of flavor in this little adventure, and I find kobolds to be a personal favorite of mine when dealing with lower level adventures, due to their ability to be a lot more dangerous than their stat blocks would typically indicate. I like the little bit with the sleeping dragon and it will cause the adventure to fit very nicely into my current campaign. 5/5