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Maddening May: The Slug Hunter’s Blight

The PCs meet Vyn, a slug hunter who requests their assistance in clearing out the breeding den of the karz slugs that infest the area, as together they are too dangerous for him to assault on his own. The party learns from the slug hunter tantalizing information that could lead to a potential cure for the rhyming madness of King Jerrod described in “Journey to the Dar’Spelun Slugmarsh.” slug hunters shackAs a reward for their assistance, Vyn offers the PCs a quicksilver amulet he has created and agrees to help them find the cure they seek. More information about the quicksilver amulet and the psionic abilities it provides will be available later on in Maddening May on the AaWBlog!

 

THE SLUG HUNTER'S SHACK
While exploring the slugmarsh the PCs come across the makeshift shack that serves as the home of Vyn the slug hunter. While its owner is not at home, they characters find it obvious that the structure is currently inhabited and may see signs of recent activity, such as recent tracks and a warm, ash-filled fire pit just outside the shack.

When the PCs near Vyn’s shack, read the following:
Wedged beneath a narrow outcropping of the significantly-sized cavern you see what appears to be a simply constructed shack. It’s walls have been crudely constructed from various cut timbs of an unknown source, obviously gathered from around the slugmarsh, and outfitted with a canvas roof covered in thatch. A dim verdant glow radiates from one of the structure’s openings—a single doorway.

If the characters search around the outside of the shack they find signs of recent activity, and with a DC 10 Perception check they notice Medium-sized humanoid tracks. The tracks are recent and lead to the southwest, away from the structure and into a narrow tunnel that continues westward.

When the party enters the slug hunter’s shack, read the following:
The interior of the shack boasts a few pieces of furniture, including a workbench and stool that appear to have been cobbled together from small boulders and the remnants of a shattered wooden chest. A heavily used, crude alchemist kit is neatly organized upon the work table next to a worn leather-bound book. Next to the mortar and pestle, beakers, and array of liquid-filled jars is a large beaker filled with a brightly glowing substance that adequately illuminates the single room structure. A collection of dried mosses piled in the corner seems to serve as a bed of sorts, and another large boulder next to it has been covered with individual marks that seem to serve as a crude calendar.

There are several valuable contents contained in the shack including the following:

  • 2d4+1 potions of cure moderate wounds
  • (1) potion of eagle’s splendor
  • (4) empty potion vials and a mortar and pestle (alchemist kit)
  • a glowing beaker filled with 8 karz slug glands
  • a wand of magic missiles (CL 9th; 3 charges remaining)
  • an empty travel rations container filled with coins: 7 gp, 13 sp, and 40 cp.
  • an empty travel rations container filled with several edible mushrooms that have been harvested from around the slugmarsh.
  • a mostly empty alchemist formula book containing an explanation of the uses of karz slug glands and instructions on how to prepare them for consumption. *

*On one page of the formula book is an entry in journal format where the writer has identified themselves as having been afflicted with a disease called “karz blight.”

The entry continues to describe how the affliction can be identified by scaly orange patches upon the skin and how it is caused by exposure to the slime of karz slugs. The journal reflects on how karz blight slowly robs its victims of their sanity beginning with amnesia and progressing to psychosis. The writer states that they have found a temporary cure for the blight by consuming karz slug glands every day, but they seek a permanent cure.

The journal entry ends with the statement:Bound here each day by my need for the glands, if I can claim the Heart of the Queen, I believe it will completely cure my malady and I’ll be able to escape these forsaken marshes without risking my sanity.”

If the PCs wait longer than 6 hours at the shack, Vyn returns to his home and finds them there. If the party has taken anything from his home he becomes angry and demands they return it; if they do not, he becomes hostile and attacks the adventurers.

However, if they have respected his property, he pleasantly greets the PCs and invites them into his home to answer their questions and share in a meal of fresh mushrooms and amber algae tea.

If the PCs wait for Vyn’s return, then the proceeding encounter, “Not all is what it seems to be…” does not happen, and Vyn speaks to the PCs while they are at his home explaining in more detail who he is, the blight he is afflicted with, and the cure he has discovered. He then asks them for their assistance in clearing the karz slug breeding den and obtaining the Heart of the Queen.

 

trapped halfing imageENCOUNTER: Not all is what it seems to be...
While following the tracks of the slug hunter (or simply exploring the tunnel to the southwest of the shack) the PCs come across the unusual scene of a halfling woman trapped under a large boulder, her dwarven companion attempting desperately to free her.

The halfling, dwarf, and even the boulder are psionic lures generated by three karz slugs that have detected the adventurers’ approach. As such, characters who are immune to mind-altering affects do not observe this scenario and instead see three writhing karz slugs [see the Karz Slug stat block].

For adventurers susceptible to mind-altering effects, read the following:
As you continue to explore down the tunnel, the area is suddenly filled with an echoing plea for help. The source of the cries becomes immediately apparent as your eyes are caught by a flurry of movement in the distance. You see a ginger-haired halfling woman, her foot trapped beneath what appears to be a recently fallen boulder. A stout dark-skinned, black-bearded dwarf grunts and tugs at her arm unsuccessfully trying to free her. In desperation the dwarf glances around and takes note of your presence. With widened eyes he mumbles something indiscernible and motions for your assistance.

For PCs immune to mind-altering effects, read the following:
While continuing to explore down the tunnel, the area is suddenly filled with a strange sucking sound. The source of the gruesome noise becomes apparent as your eyes are caught by a flurry of movement in the distance. You see a trio of slimy slug-like creatures bearing sharp horns. The sucking sound emanates from them as they move across the ground, leaving a trail of glistening goo behind them. The creatures seem to take notice of your presence and turn to face your direction, but hesitate advancing.

Unbeknownst to the characters (and the karz slugs), Vyn the slug hunter hides in the shadows nearby. He was actively stalking the slugs when the characters arrived and does not reveal his location until combat has been initiated. When the characters get within 30 feet of the karz slugs, the wily gastropods drop the psionic illusion and attack. Initiative should be rolled to determine which happens first: the character’s actions, the slugs attacking, or Vyn revealing his presence.

Vyn’s entrance is not subtle as he charges from the shadows in a full on assault of the slugs, screaming at the PCs that the slugs have set a trap for them and to watch themselves. After the initial attack on the slugs, Vyn transitions to defending and actively guarding what seems to be the most vulnerable character.

After the karz slugs are slain, Vyn introduces himself then invites the characters to return to his shack to rest and have a meal. There he explains more about who he is, what his situation is, and seeks the assistance of the characters to aid in the clearing of the karz slug breeding den, offering them his quicksilver amulet as reward.

Vyn, the Slug Hunter

Vyn is an alchemist from the far north. His personal research into the arcane led him to discover a strange new source of power that he has yet to fully comprehend: psionics. The concept of a source of energy completely divergent of any other natural or planar sources of energy greatly intrigued him. The very idea of a power that draws from its wielder’s own mind proved too tantalizing, and soon the alchemist became obsessed with this discovery.

During his research he came across information about the slugmarsh and the Shroudstone found within. Vyn was drawn to the subterranean cavern by tales of people going insane simply by coming into proximity of the region, strange creatures that wielded strange unnatural magic, and dark entities shrouded in mist. Deciding that being near the Shroudstone would offer to him the greatest opportunity to further investigate psionics, he packed up his kit and tomes, and the alchemist traveled south.

Once arriving at the Dar’Spelun Slugmarsh, Vyn found a location to set up a long-term camp and constructed a simple shack in which he could continue his studies. Enthralled by the mysteries of the locale, he spent years documenting and experiment with every fungus, mold, plant, and creature he encountered. Unfortunately for him, one of those encounters included a brood of kars slugs. During the ensuing battle with the attacking karz slugs, Vyn was covered in their slime, and though victorious in his struggle against the strange creatures, he was gravely injured and his body succumbed to the karz blight caused by the poison slime of the slugs.

Realizing that the sickness was causing him to slowly go insane, as his mind reached the brink of insanity he desperately worked night and day in his shack until he discovered a cure—karz slug glands. Though he remains affected by the karz blight, the glands provide him with temporary relief from its effects. This also means that he must have a continuous source of karz slug glands or else completely succumb to the madness of the blight. Thus Vyn became “the slug hunter”, bound to the slugmarsh in a never ending hunt for glands to stave off insanity.

Shifting his research from investigating psionic energies, such as the creation of his quicksilver amulet (his “psionic masterpiece”) to finding a permanent cure for his affliction, Vyn discovered that the karz slugs congregate around a breeding den inhabited by a single, vastly more powerful karz slug queen. He surmises that the gland from this “mother” karz slug would provide a more permanent cure to the blight. However, there are far too many karz slugs in the den for him to kill the queen on his own, and several previous attempts all failed.

Vyn is trapped in the slugmarsh—it’s newest victim. He cannot obtain the “Heart of the Queen” or risk leaving the vicinity of the breeding den that provides him with the glands that sustain his sanity. He knows he must find assistance, but he must also beware of anyone he comes across as dark and dire things lurk in the Shroudstone, and the slugmarsh is their playground of madness.

A middle aged man clad in explorer's clothing wanders the subterranean swamps. He's a tall fellow and physically fit despite his age, and his peppered black hair falls down past smudged grey eyes. Oddly, patches of scaly orange mottle some of his skin
Vyn Durgrugan the Slug Hunter CR 6
XP 2,400
Male alchemist 3/fighter 4
N Medium humanoid (human)
Init +4; Perception +10
DEFENSE
AC 14, touch 10, flat-footed 14 (+4 armor)
hp 51 (3d8+4d10-1)
Fort +6, Ref +4, Will art for vyn+3; +2 vs. poison
OFFENSE
Speed 30 ft.
Melee greatsword +9/+4 (2d6+4, Crit 19-20/x2) or dagger +9/4 (1d4+3, Crit 19-20/x2)
Ranged light crossbow +4/-1 (1d8, Crit 19-20/x2, Range 60 ft.)
Special Attacks bombs 5/day (2d6+2 fire; splash 2 fire, DC 15 Reflex halves)
Extracts Prepared (CL 3rd; concentration +5)
1st—keen senses x4
STATISTICS
Str 17, Dex 10, Con 8, Int 15, Wis 13, Cha 12
Base Attack +6, CMB +9; CMD 19
Skills Appraise +6, Bluff +2, Climb +14, Disable Device +1, Handle Animal +5, Heal +5, Intimidate +7, Linguistics +5, Perception +10, Ride +3, Sense Motive +2, Slight of Hand +4, Spellcraft +7, Stealth +6, Survival +10
Feats Ability Focus (bombs), Arcane Armor Training, Athletic, Blind-Fight, Brew Potion, Combat Casting, Craft Wondrous Item, Focused Discipline, Improved Initiative, Throw Anything
Languages Common, Elven, Draconic, Dwarven, Goblin, and Halfling
SQ Alchemy, bravery +1, courageous, discovery (enhance potion 2/day), ease of faith, fast poisoning, mutagen, poison use, swift alchemy
Gear armored coat, belt pouch (7), black ink, chalk, colored ink, compass, crossbow bolts (10), dagger, everburning torch, explorers outfit, greatsword, light crossbow (attached to belt by leather cord), mirror, potion of haste, quicksilver amuletring of climbing, scroll case (9), sheets of paper (6), silk rope (50 ft.), waterskin, 15 platinum, 16 gold, 2 silver, 9 copper

 

ENCOUNTER: Karz Slug Breeding Den
Though referred to as a “breeding den,” karz slugs do not actually mate. Instead they are spawned from their queen through asexual replication, each of them a smaller version of their parent. The karz slugs are devoted to tending to the needs of their queen and do so relentlessly. While sludging through nearby caverns, the karz slugs are gathering and stowing various fungus and molds that the queen feeds upon (while they subsist by consuming various insects, small creatures, and—occasionally—the stray adventurer.)

A karz slug queen is nearly three times the size of its offspring (16 ft., 600 lbs.), making it a large (long) creature size.

1 in every 500 of the queen’s offspring in a breeding den grows to become another queen. The newborn queen migrates away from the breeding den to establish another elsewhere, taking a third of the karz slugs of that particular den with it.

If the party accepted Vyn’s offer, he leads them to the breeding den as soon as they are rested and prepared. If they need additional rest, food or water, then Vyn invites them back to his shack to take refuge until they’ve recovered.

If any of the potions of cure light wounds remain in his shack and he is asked about them, Vyn freely offers them to the PCs so long as they have agreed to help him.

If the PCs decline to assist the slug hunter but still seek out the breeding den anyway, its direction can be discerned relatively easily with a Perception check (DC 10 + 1 for every 50 feet from distance from the breeding den). A successful Perception check causes the PC to hear a strange sucking noise in the distance (the sounds of dozens of karz slugs slithering about their den).

If the adventurers refuse to assist Vyn and instead seek out the den on their own (and they successfully kill the karz slug queen), the slug hunter secretly follows them and cuts them off as they exit the breeding den. demanding that they hand over the Heart of the Queen. If refused, he becomes hostile and engages the PCs, fighting to the death to recover the karz slug queen’s gland.

As the adventurers approach the breeding den a strange sucking noise becomes more and more prevalent. When the PCs come within 60 ft. of the entrance read the following:

The cavernous area ahead of the tunnel appears to be completely covered, top-to-bottom, with a thick layer of amber-hued slime. A strange sucking sound permeates from the depths of the chamber. Suddenly, without warning, the very walls come to life as several karz slugs advance aggressively towards you.

 

ENCOUNTER
The karz slugs within the breeding den have taken notice of the PCs and are now attacking in defense of their queen and her den. For a moderate challenge to the party, this encounter should consist of 25 karz slugs and 1 karz slug queen. For a more challenging encounter (or larger groups of characters) this encounter should consist of 50 karz slugs and 1 karz slug queen.

TRAP: Slippery Slime
The entire karz slug breeding den is covered in a thick layer of slime generated by the slugs. While the poison effects of the excess slime is completely dormant, it remains a hazard to the party’s ability to move. Any action that includes a PC moving from one square to another in the breeding den requires a DC 15 Reflex save to avoid slipping and falling prone.

Karz slug queen imageKarz Slug Queen     CR 12
XP 
7,500
N Large (long) vermin
Init +1; Senses blindsight 60 ft.; Perception +15
DEFENSE
AC 21, touch 21, flat-footed 17 (+1 Dex, +20 natural)
hp 130 (10d8 + 50)
Fort +7, Ref +1, Will +7
DR 15/fire or salt; Immune acid, mind-affecting effects
Weakness susceptible (heat, salt)
OFFENSE
Speed 20 ft. (10 ft. on walls or inverted)
Melee lung +19 (3d4+6 plus karz slime on successful hit)
Ranged spit karz slime +12 (see karz slime)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5ft./20 ft. (can lunge up to 20 ft. as a melee attack)
Special Attacks karz slime, psionic force
STATISTICS
Str 26, Dex 12, Con 18, Int 20, Wis 14, Cha 16
Base Attack +12, CMB +18; CMD 29 (can’t be tripped)
ECOLOGY
Environment underground (karz slug breeding den)
Organization 1 (in the company of 1-3 broods (18-54) of karz slugs
Treasure none (see karz slug queen gland “heart of the queen”)
SPECIAL ABILITIES
Karz Slime (Ex) Karz slug queens are covered in a thick layer of translucent amber slime. A karz slug can spit slime as a ranged attack at a target (up to 60 ft.), or slather slime on a target (as a free action) with a successful melee attack. The slime is a fast acting poison and is immediately absorbed into the victim’s skin upon contact. The slime remains poisonous for four rounds after a creature comes into contact with it and each round an affected target must make a Fortitude saving throw to negate its effects. After four rounds the poison is neutralized and the slime is annoying but harmless.
For the initial two rounds of exposure the slime causes Amnesia (Will DC 25), for the last two effective rounds exposure to the slime causes Paranoia (Will DC 22). If a target fails any of these saving throws it remains affected by the relevant slime effects until the poison is cured by magical means such as the neutralize poison spell. If a target is affected by any of these effects for longer than 24 hours then they also become afflicted by Psychosis (no saving throw; insanity DC 20) until the poison is cured by magical means. If a target is affected by any of these effects for longer than a week, the effects become permanent.
Malleable (Ex) A karz slug queen’s body is very malleable, allowing it to fit into narrow areas with ease. A karz slug takes no penalties to its speed or checks when squeezing in an area that is one size category smaller than its actual size.
Lunge (Ex) A karz slug queen has the ability to make a lunge attack as a standard melee attack. This lunge attack has a reach of 20 feet. After a lung attack the karz slug moves from its previous square to the square nearest its intended target. This movement is considered a part of its attack and not factored into its movement rate.
Psonic Camouflage(Su) A karz slug queen can project itself (illusion) as an environmental element. This is a psionic mind-altering effect (Will DC 30). Karz slugs most commonly use this ability to hide themselves if they flee from an engagement.
Psionic Force (Su) A karz slug queen can emit a psionic force that functions exactly as the spell crushing hand (CL 20th). To initiate this effect the karz slug queen foregoes one combat round and sacrifices 2d12 hit points. If the karz slug queen’s hit points become less than half of its total hit points, this effect cannot be used.
Susceptible to Salt (Ex) A handful of salt burns a karz slug queen as if it were a flask of acid, causing 1d4 points of damage per use.
Susceptible to Heat (Ex) A karz slug queen takes double damage from heat or fire damage. Its slime is semi-flammable and has a 5% chance of combusting if exposed to an open flame. If a karz slug queen’s slime combusts, it kills that slug immediately.
If exposed to excessive heat or fire there is a 5% chance that a karz slug queen instinctively flees for 1d4 rounds, though she does not flee from within the breeding den.
TACTICS
Karz slug queens never voluntarily leave their breeding dens once they have established them. A breeding den consists of 1-4 broods of karz slugs in addition to the queen, three quarters of which always remain in the den to protect the queen at any given time.
When encountered within a breeding den, the karz slugs protecting the queen become hostile. Half surround her, attacking anything that comes within reach, and the other half engage and pursue the intruders.
Within a karz slug breeding den, all karz slugs (including the queen) gain the benefits of a constant extraordinary effect identical to the haste spell. [Not factored into the statistics above)]
If the karz slug queen is killed, any remaining karz slugs that were offspring of it immediately die as a result of their psionic connection to their queen.
TREASURE
Karz Slug Queen Gland (also known as “The Heart of the Queen”)
A karz slug queen has a gland located near its core. This gland enables its natural psionic abilities. If removed from the dead queen, dried, and properly prepared (48 hours and a DC 25 Craft [magic items] check), it becomes consumable. Once properly prepared and eaten, it provides the user with immunity to all mind-altering affects and a +3 bonus to Will saving throws for 2d4 days. The taste of a prepared karz slug queen gland is eye-wateringly sour with a sickeningly sweet aftertaste.
It permanently removes any mind-altering status effects that the user may have been affected by before consumption, making the Heart of the Queen a viable cure for the rhyming madness of King Jerrod described in “Journey to the Dar’Spelun Slugmarsh.

 

CONCLUSION: Heart of the Queen
If the PCs successfully clear the karz slug breeding den, slay the karz slug queen, and Vyn survives the encounter, he remains true to his word and rewards the party with the quicksilver amulet he has created, as well as preparing as many of the karz slug glands as the adventurers wish to wait for (48 hours per gland).

He absolutely insists that the Heart of the Queen be prepared first for his own consumption to cure his affliction. If the PCs persist in their need for the queen’s glad, Vyn offers to assist them in finding another breeding den and harvesting another queen’s gland, but does not relinquish his claim on this one. In this case, it is optional for the GM to place another karz slug breeding den elsewhere in the Dar’Spelun Slugmarsh.

If the PCs refuse to allow Vyn to prepare and consume the gland from the karz slug queen, or otherwise attempt to steal it or trick him out of it, he becomes hostile towards the adventurers and aggressively engages them until he recovers the gland from them. Otherwise he slips into madness, and the amnesia prompted by the karz blight causes him to forget about the party and the gland altogether.
If Vyn is killed (or becomes otherwise unavailable) the PCs can try to harvest and prepare the Heart of the Queen themselves using the slug hunter’s formula book (72 hours and a DC 35 Craft [magic items] check; failure ruins the gland).

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