June 11, 2011

In the Caverns of the Croaking Chaos (A Fat Frog Adventure)

In the Caverns of the Croaking Chaos

Trouble Brewing

A small mining community has been beset by strange events after an accident in the mine reveals an ancient underground cavern.  While the metal digger golem was smashing at the back wall a huge section of the tunnel collapsed.  The rubble forms a rough slope into the natural cavern below.  The miners quickly informed the small garrison of soldiers at the nearby smelting furnaces and metalworks.

The garrison commander decides to personally accompany his wizard and all but five men to investigate the caverns and assure the superstitious miners that the mine is safe.  Some of the miners follow them into the mine, but wait at the entrance to the cavern.  The miners wait for hours periodically calling out to the soldiers below, but there is no answer.  Eventually the miners hear strange sounds coming from the darkness below, scuttling movement and an ominous croaking that seems to grow closer and closer.  The miners flee, and soon the mine is boarded up to prevent any of the horrors within from escaping to terrorize the town.

Involving the PCs

Some of the townsfolk have begun leaving the town seeking to make homes elsewhere.  The PCs could meet them along the road and hear of the troubles at the silver mine.

Lord Bithekous, who bought the mine from afar several years ago, could hire the PC's to investigate the disappearance of his soldiers and sort out the problems at the mine before all the workers he employs leave the the area.

The PC's could be traveling along a road and happen to see the lights of Holder's Township up on the hill.  They might decide to go there looking for supplies or a place to rest and get caught up in the action.

A group of brand new characters might have grown up living in Holder's Hollow all their lives, or they might be the garrison soldiers who were left to guard the silver ingots in Smelter's Hold when all their comrades disappeared into the mine.


Arriving at Holder's Hollow

Holder's Hollow is a small, shallow valley containing a town with a population of about one hundred souls.  The town is set upon a tall hill, nestled in the flat depression between the three peaks.  Holder's Township is a mining town.  Some 25 or 30 of the residents work within the mine itself, or at the nearby smelting furnaces and metalworks.  The rest of the town's people make their living supporting the miners, raising goats and sheep, tending large vegetable gardens, or working in the apple orchard.

Traveling to Holders Hollow is simple enough. A small dirt road follows a winding creek up the south side of the forested hill.  The trees thin out as the road climbs up, eventually leading to the relative open flatness of the vale.  Within the hollow only a few short trees and bushes are dotted among the rocks and grasses.  The North, West, and East sides of the hollow rise steeply toward the three barren, rocky peaks.  The vale is filled with the sounds of life.  Insects and croaking frogs can be heard throughout the day and night.

A few hundred yards into the vale the dirt road forks.  To the right, the road goes up the eastern slope toward the Busted Boot Mine and nearby Smelter's Hold.   To the left, the road leads over a bridge crossing Croaker's Creek and then into Holder's Township.  Straight past the fork in the road a tall column of white stone rises from the bushes, known to the locals as "Froggert's Perch".


After the PCs Arrive

1st - Arriving at about the same time as the party is a group of about 10 soldiers hired by Lord Bithekous.  They are lead by his able and trusted nephew.  They have been instructed to secure Smelter's Hold, load all the remaining silver ingots and ore into the three wagons they've brought with them, and bring it all back to the city where he lives.  They have all been instructed to stay out of the mine, but the PCs could convince the nephew to post some guards at the mine entrance since it is only a few hundred yards from the Hold.

2nd - When the PCs arrive the people of Holder's Township are all making preparations for their yearly Froggert Festival.  Usually a very merry time, this year's festival is much more subdued because of the recent disappearance of the soldiers.  However the townspeople set about the preparations with a grim determination.  Many tables and chairs are set out near Froggert's Perch, and the campfires and cooking pits are set ablaze.  The children will chase each other and play games, the adults will all eat together under the open sky and some might get a little drunk on cider.  Almost everyone is looking forward to the culmination of the festival, when under the full moon every man, woman, and child is given the chance to touch the column of white stone and ask (in a shout or a whisper) a favor of Froggart who sits impassively on his perch.  It's a good bet that most of the favors asked this year will be for the return of the soldiers or lifting the curse from the mine.

3rd - Shortly before the start of the festival, Father Hessel makes his yearly plea for everyone to abandon their pagan festival. He asks all present to follow him back into town and join him in the temple where prayers can be offered to [popular deity] for the souls of those lost in the mine.  Over a dozen people follow him back into town, more than ever before.

4th - During the festival all hell breaks loose.  I imagine it would be at the end, just after the first few of the townspeople shout their favors to Froggert asking for the return of the soldiers, but if the PCs decide to head into town at some point during the festival that might also be a good time for the uproar to begin.  Frogolytes (10 of them) dart in suddenly and grab revelers at the edge of the crowd.  They work in pairs, trying to grab people and carry them away out of the firelight.  None of the Frogolytes stay to fight, they all run toward the eastern slope at high speed.  Husbands chase after wives, fathers chase after children, and a dog named Enoch chases after his boy Johann.  Shrieks and wailing pierce the night.

5th - The townspeople slowly regroup at Froggarts Perch.  Weapons are brought from the town, and Father Hessel tends to any who are wounded.  Most are frightened, but some are far more angry than afraid.  If the PCs make an impassioned call to attack the Frogolytes or rescue those taken then a number of armed villagers (equal to the highest Cha score +3) will follow them into the heart of the caverns, no morale checks needed until area #5.  As the group prepares to leave, Enoch the dog returns.  Enoch has dark blood (not his) all around his muzzle, and is limping slightly on his left front paw.  Enoch will follow the mob, or even lead them to the pool around Croakers Cave where he lost the scent.  Enoch never needs to check morale, EVER.  Enoch will not rest until Johann is safe.

The Mob

Determine how many townspeople are going with the PCs.  If the PCs refuse their help, then a small group will head into the mine anyhow and try to get their loved ones back or at least some revenge. Maybe 6hp each.

  • Enoch - Dog, tan and white, quick, big ears, heart of gold, nerves of steel, will stop at nothing to save Johann: Bite (1d4+1), AC (5 better than unarmored human)
  1. Blake Holder - Mine Foreman, wishes he had organized a mob sooner to go after the soldiers: Int 15, golem command rod, wooden shield, leather armor, short sword
  2. Rankel - Blacksmith, looking for his daughter:  Str 16, Chainmail with breastplate, Shield, Clank (Pa's old smithing hammer), bag of caltrops, rope and a metal hook
  3. Smefen - Orchard worker, this is his chance to prove his worth: Int 5, hatchet, dagger
  4. Arili - 16 year old, looking for the cute soldier she fancied, likes to kick: Dex 16, wooden shield, short sword
  5. Belthon - Shepherd, looking for his wife: Con 15, Staff, dagger, sling and 20 sling stones
  6. Josef Erhard - Baker, cares for Arili and goes along to help protect her: Dex 7, 2 big knives, red shirt
  7. Father Hessel - Priest, just doesn't want anyone to get killed: Wis 16, will try to save his healing magic for serious wounds, shillelagh(club/walking stick)
  8. Massimo - Miner, totally pissed off: Str 15, Dex 15, leather armor, wooden shield, spear
  9. Nikkon - Town Drunk, is drunk on cider and thinks "this'll be fun": Wis 4, duel-wielding granite and steel beer steins, 5 flasks of moonshine, ridiculous horned helmet
  10. Sulitia - Miner, she just wants to help her friends: Str 17, leather armor, short miners pick, 5 throwing knives
  11. Jaquan - Gardner/farmer, wants to help: Str 12, leather apron, scythe, a knife in each boot
  12. Tercero - Hunter/Tracker, 1 day from retirement: Wis 16, short bow, 10 arrows, hand axe, dagger
  13. Tranter - Smelter, looking for his son but is afraid of tight spaces: Dex 12, spear, hand sickle
  14. (or more)  = Some guy/gal with a spear and a dagger

The Frogolytes

The missing garrison soldiers have been twisted and mutated, they are now the frogolytes.  They are seeking both captives and silver ingots to donate to their new god who sits beneath the steamy falls.  All the frogolytes are now hairless and have green amphibian skin and pale white bellies.    I was thinking 15 of them with 2HD each, adjust based on the power of your PCs.  Roll mutations for each frogolyte, or just make stuff up.

1 - Can breathe underwater, absorbing oxygen through their skin
2 - Frog legs, can jump 20' in any direction
3 - Frog head, extra attack (bite 1d4 damage)
4 - Frog Tongue, chance to disarm/grab items from a distance
5 - Full Frog, all the above, +12 hp, no armor or weapons
6 - Roll 1d4 twice

Any that are still able will be using their old equipment: shields, spears, long swords, chain mail, and helmets

The mutated commander is giving orders to the frogolytes from area #5, he is there protecting the wizard (who is now the High Frog Priest) as he attempts to summon forth Froggert the Fat.

Exploring the Local Area

Froggert's Perch

This 10' tall column is made of a pure white stone, and it is covered in many strange markings and petroglyphs.  No stone like this exists nearby, it must have been brought here from many miles away.  Sitting atop the pillar is a 2' statue of a frog holding a flower in one hand and a basket of flowers in the other.  The statue is known to the locals as Froggert, and is the focus of a yearly festival.  There are many conflicting stories of how the custom started and how Froggert received his name, but no one in the town knows the truth.  The wizard of the garrison spent many hours at Froggert's Perch studying the strange runes.

Croaker's Creek

The waters of the creek begin by flowing out of a mostly submerged cave and into a pond below the mine on the eastern slope.  The creek then runs down the slope into the hollow, then down the south side of the hill and eventually into a river many miles away.  Croaker's Cave, Croaker's Pond, and Croaker's Creek are either named for the multitude of frogs or the many venomous water snakes who make their home there.  It seems that every couple of years someone croaks because of a snake bite.

Smelter's Hold

Smelter's Hold is collection of buildings surrounded by a wooden palisade.  The buildings are a few hundred yards from the entrance to the mine.  This is where ore from the mine is processed, mostly silver, some steel, and a little gold.  One building houses the smelting furnaces.  Another, the metalworks, is a large building that houses the forge, castings, and the wizards workshop.  There is a large barracks and a separate kitchens and mess hall.  There are also two cabins where the commander and wizard made their homes.

Inside the wizards workshop are some incomplete notes detailing his research into many various minerals and a spell able to detect them, a kind of magical surveyer.  These notes might be valuable to the right people.

All ingots produced in the metalworks are stamped with the seal of Smelter's Hold as they are made.  Occasionally some raw gemstones are found in the mine, but these are always sent to a jeweler in the city for cutting.  Shipments are sent out to the city each month, always well guarded and on random dates.

Busted Boot Mine

The mine was owned for many generations by the Holder family.  The town grew slowly over many years as more and more families moved into the area.  Blake Holder sold the mine to Lord Bithekous about five years ago after racking up a huge gambling debt while cavorting about in the city.  Since then Lord Bithekous has spent a lot of money employing the towns people to mine and work the ore, constructing the buildings of Smelter's Hold, employing a garrison of soldiers from the city, and even purchasing a metal golem to help productivity.  Bithekous has been fair to the people of the town, and especially to Blake Holder.  Although Blake must differ to the wishes of the commander and wizard regarding the smelting furnaces and metalworks, Blake is paid as a supervisor and is the highest authority within the mine itself.  Blake holds the digger golems command rod, and has been the only person to command it ever since the cave-in three years ago.  Blake still feels some shame about his gambling and the loss of the mine, but he knows it could have turned out a lot worse.  The Holders would be very surprised and horrified to learn of the true history of their family and of Holder's Hollow.

A:  The mine entrance is supported by an archway made from large tree trunks.  Boards have recently been nailed across to block access.  The Frogolytes would have busted through if there were no guards.  If guards are posted here the frogolytes use only Croaker's Cave to get in and out.

B:  These are the old stopes, large chambers carved out from the mining of ore.  These chambers are supported by thick wooden beams to prevent cave-ins.

C: The Grand Hall.  This area was created by the digger golem.  Three years ago, a couple weeks after the golem arrived at the mine, all of the golem's pounding and banging caused a small cave-in.  Luckily no one was hurt and the golem was able to smash its way free of the rubble.  Since then Blake Holder has taken sole command of the golem, and has used it to create the Grand Hall.  The entrance of the Grand Hall is next to the rubble of the old cave-in.  Blake has decided to have the golem leave a thick column of rock every 5 to 10 feet, thinking that this would prevent another cave-in from ever happening.  Blake has always felt drawn to dig deeper, thinking that a large vein of ore is below the level of the original mine.  Using the digger golem has allowed him to dig downward in a slow spiral much faster than he could have ever hoped.  Too bad it wasn't silver that Blake was sensing beneath his feet.

D:  Eventually the digger golem dug deep enough that a large section of the floor and columns of rock crumbled and crashed down into the cavern beneath.  All of this rubble forms a sloping pile that can be climbed up and down rather easily to get back and forth between the mine and the cavern, but the shifting pile of stones makes such a climb anything but quiet.

The entire cave feels warm and humid, all the floors and walls are a little slick with moisture.  A person might slip and loose their footing if they tried to run at full speed (Dex check).  Ferns, a thin layers of moss, and other plants seem to grow along most of the walls.  For some reason these caverns are also full of fireflies, their tiny lights flash intermittently but reveal little.  The ceilings through most of these caverns range from 30' to 60' above the floor.  

All of the ridges and ledges shown in these caverns are a bit sloped and only about 8' tall.  Usually this would pose no problem but because of the moisture and slick rocks anyone attempting to climb up one takes a full round and must make a Dex check to avoid slipping.  Anyone climbing a ledge with the help of another person pushing or pulling them up automatically succeeds.

The frogolytes could be anywhere in these caves, and some may be in the mine too.  Feel free to have them jump out and harass the party whenever it seems appropriate.  They will use hit and run tactics, trying to split up the party and draw them away from area #5.  Once the party sees area #5, the frogolytes change tactics trying to slow down anyone running away and taking cheap shots at anyone who flees past them.

1:  The Entry Cavern.  

 The digger golem lies buried in the pile of rubble, but it looks as though the frogolytes were attempting to uncover the golem.  Blake can now have the golem free itself with the command rod.

The stream of water is warm and flows into a pool with a large sucking whirlpool as the water flows quickly down a hole at the bottom of the pool.  The miners are embarrassed to admit that echoes of this sound may have been what scared them enough to abandon the soldiers and close off the mine.

Any frogolytes in this area will throw rocks at the party and then flee to area #2, the frogolytes are attempting to get the party to follow them out Croaker's Cave and away from the caverns.  The High Frog Priest does not wish to be disturbed.

2:  The Frog Pools

These pools are full of frogs and tadpoles, snakes also come in here for an easy meal.  The pools are connected by a totally submerged tunnel, it is easy to swim though if you have a light to guide the way.  In the middle of this submerged tunnel is a branch going up to the whirlpool, but the current is too strong to swim up, making this a one way tunnel.

The exit leading out to Croaker's Pond is not totally submerged, but there is only about a foot or two between the water level and the ceiling of this tunnel.  Mind the snakes in the pond, some of them could be venomous.  A pair of steep ledges prevents all but the largest snakes from going further into the caverns.

3: The Fungal Gardens

In this chamber are giant mushrooms and toadstools up to 10' high.  This area could make for an interesting combat with jumping foes.  It might also be a good place for a myconid or few if you feel like tossing in some mushroom-men.

4:  The Winding Way

A small group of frogolytes are hiding in the small, short tunnel at the top of the ledge near the number "4".  They will jump out and try to push down the first couple of people to climb up that ledge, then they will attack with spears.  This group of frogolytes will make a stand here and try to prevent the party from getting closer to area #5.

5:  Temple of the Frog God

As the party approaches the stairs leading up, they hear a voice calling out in a strange croaky language mixed with words in the common tongue.  The voice drones on and on.

A long time ago someone used some Stoneshape spells to decorate this cavern temple.  The final ledge leading up to this area has stoneshaped stairs on either side of the stream of water, making it easy to enter and exit this chamber. The stream of water is rather hot now, and this chamber has a layer of steam and fog that clings to the floors.  Horrible, twisted faces have been stoneshaped into the rock walls as decorations.

A waterfall of steaming hot water gushes from the ceiling in the back off this chamber and falls behind a 30' tall, 20' wide statue of a familiar, fat, flower holding frog made of white stone.  The water forms a pool in the back of the chamber, and the statue sits upon an island of stone in the center of the pool.  Two smooth stoneshaped bridges go over the hot pool and connect to the island on either side of the hot stream that eventually becomes Croaker's Creek.  A half dozen frogolytes on the island make ready to defend the bridges from the party's crossing.

On the island in front of the statue is a round, two-step, dais with a lectern in the center.  In front of the lectern facing the huge statue is a man in a red robe, the High Frog Priest, swaying back and forth as he reads from a huge moldy tome.  Between the statue and the dais stand the kidnapped townspeople.  Any silver ingots that the frogolytes have managed to steal are piled near the feet of their captives.  The captives are dazed, as if in a trance.

The frogolytes and their commander do their best to defend the High Frog Priest from interruption as he continues to speak his croaky words and occasionally calling out in Common for Froggert to accept the sacrifice provided.  If any of the befuddled prisoners are shaken or moved, they will quickly regain their senses.  Enoch quickly charges, dodges past, and runs between the legs of the frogolytes at the first opportunity so that he can reach Johann.  Enoch jumps on Johann, knocks him over and licks at his face freeing him from his stupor.

As soon as the High Frog Priest or any of the tranced townspeople are touched, the former wizard spins around to face the party.  His twisted features are an indescribable mockery of all things frog and human.  He quickly begins casting a spell, but he never gets a chance to complete it.  The great statue opens it's stone eyes and mouth.  A great long red tongue shoots out, grabs the High Frog Priest, and draws him almost instantly into a crushing bite of stone, killing him.

The spirit of Froggart the Fat was successfully summoned forth, but without a sacrifice he could not take his true form.  Since the High Frog Priest interrupted the ritual, Froggart's spirit was forced to merely inhabit and animate the 30' stone statue of himself.  Froggart does not tolerate failure.  The red robed wizard was chosen as his first victim, but not his last.  The huge statue begins walking forward, every other round his tongue shoots out claiming another victim who stands within 30' of the statue, either townsperson or frogolyte.

The frogolytes do their best to flee out of the range of the tongue, and to slow down members of the party so that they become easier targets for their bloated, stoney god.  Enoch will viciously attack any frogolyte who blocks Johann's path of escape.  Enoch will sacrifice himself to save the boy if necessary.  The great statue can walk slowly, or it can spend a round making a great hop forward.  These hops help him catch up to the fleeing party and also cause the caverns to tremble under his awesome weight, shattering the stone floor at his feet and knocking loose stalactites and falling stones.  Don't forget about the slippery cavern floor while the party is running at full speed.

Some of the passageways are too narrow to accommodate the statues 20' girth, so clever party members might use this to their advantage.  Still, his tongue might be able to reach victims who dart down these tunnels too slowly.  If the digger golem is commanded to attack the statue it will succeed in injuring one of the legs enough that it can no longer hop.  At this point though, the statue will sit on the golem, flattening it to uselessness.

If the party somehow manages to destroy a huge statue made of solid stone, more power to them.  They should get a nice xp bonus.

The party could flee through area #2.  If so, the huge statue will bide it's time, call it's frogolytes to bring it new victims, and try to slowly build in power.

If the party flees by going through the mine however, the statue will follow.  It will crawl though the Grand Hall of the mine, smashing through the stone support columns easily.  It will try to catch any victims it can with its tongue, but the many columns make that difficult.  As the statue smashes it's way down the Grand Hall the mine collapses behind it. Eventually, as the great stone of bloated awfulness reaches the spot marked with the "C" the ceiling collapses around it, and it is trapped with only it's great mouth exposed.  Then the great mouth opens and vomits forth ....  Froggart the Fat.  Not his true form, but the best he is able to muster at the moment.  A great 10' tall frog with 3HD + 1 HD per victim he was able to bite and kill as a statue, AC as unarmored human, a grasping pulling tongue, and a bite (2d4 damage).


1 comment:

  1. Sorry for any spelling errors or inconsistencies. This is a work of insomnia. I'll come back and edit a bit later, like when I haven't been awake for 32 straight hours.

    I should have talked a little more about the moldy old tome on the lectern. It details the true history of the Holder family and the local area, details the customs and secret knowledge of the Froggertian faith, and has a few cursed pages that turn people into frogolytes if they so much as hear the words read aloud from the page. The party didn't hear any of those pages being read, thankfully.

    Little stuff like that... only the catalyst for the entire adventure, who needs that?

    I'm just rambling now.

    Anyhow, let me know what you like or what you didn't. Feedback is always cool. I even welcome spelling and grammar tips, since improving my writing is one of the main reasons that I started this blog. Thanks :-)