Large swathes of the western Dar’Spelun Slugmarsh are covered in unnaturally dark trees that fully extend over the bog. Many creatures don’t notice the abnormality; only those that make a DC 19 Perception check see that what they walk upon is heavily matted moss covered in dirt, all suspended on the roots of numerous trees! Underneath the “ground” is a 10 to 15 foot drop into murky, disgusting bog water, filled with rotting matter and worse (DC 17 Swim check).
Strange smells that pique your curiosity but defy identification seem to emanate from everywhere and nowhere all at once as you head deeper into these subterranean groves. Skeletal trees are everywhere, their roots disappearing beneath furred moss of greens, browns, and sooty blacks. Despite their lack of foliage, the ebony and dark grey bark are so dense that they block out any sight of the roof of the cavern.
All of the ground in the Tangleroot Forest is considered difficult terrain. Every minute outside of combat or every movement greater than a 5-foot step during combat requires a DC 10 Acrobatics check; on a failure, a creature gets their feet caught in troublesome roots. Any creature weighing in total more than 100 pounds increases the DC of this check by +2, and a creature weighing more than 200 pounds increases the DC of this check by another +2 and a creature weighing 300 pounds or more increases the check by another +2 (to DC 16). Creatures with a climb speed and creatures of a size of Tiny or less are immune to this effect.
Once affected by the ground of the Tangleroot Forest, a creature cannot take any movement until freed.
Creatures that snag their feet on the floor of the Tangleroot Forest must succeed on a CMB, Reflex, or Escape Artist check as a swift action to free themselves (whichever is best) against the same DC as the Acrobatics check + 5. Attempting this as a move action reduces the DC of the check to free themselves by -5. Failure on a check to free itself knocks a creature prone.
During combat the danger of stepping into or through the floor of the Tangleroot Forest increases dramatically. Movement of any kind in between squares requires an Acrobatics check as described above (DC 10, 12, 14 or 16 depending on a creature’s weight). Additionally, when a creature reaches the end of any movement during a combat round in the Tangleroot Forest, there is a chance the ground they stop on breaks beneath them! Creatures of Tiny size are immune to this effect, but there is a 5% chance for each size category larger than Tiny that a creature falls through the roots and into the dirty bog water below (5% Small, 10% Medium, 15% Large, and so on).
Monsters of many kinds wander the Dar’Spelun Slugmarsh (indeed—grick swim all over the bog underneath the Underworld groves), but the Tangleroot Forest is almost exclusively ruled over by crazed fey. For the most part, they are not much of a danger. They do constitute a threat, however—PCs that camp on the “floor” of the Tangleroot Forest may fall into the bog underneath, the squares they occupy undermined by the mischievous fey (25% chance). Other dangers like the souls of those that have died here and angry, intelligent, territorial plants stalk the Tangleroot Forest, and many who cross the region waste no time in doing so lest they draw their unwelcome attentions. Whatever the creature
Shroudstone—Swamp of the Vaporous Veil—sits within the Dar’Spelun Slugmarsh, a vast network of subterranean caverns underneath one of Aventyr’s mountains. Rolling green hills and pleasant forests sit against the caves that lead to the accursed territory, and the few farmers and passerby on the road are keen to avoid its entrance entirely.
Rumor is that the passage down is cursed, but it’s really just a natural hazard: magnetized ore (CR 2). The PCs run across 1d4+2 instances of the anomalous veins during the 2,000 foot trek, but this isn’t an overwhelming danger—it merely wrecks havoc on any compasses or natural sense of direction they might possess as they explore the Dar’Spelun Slugmarsh.
The tunnel nearer the surface seemed common enough, but as you walk hundreds and then thousands of feet down the sloped passageway you realize that the plantlife—what little there is—has changed dramatically. Strange fungus illuminates the rock walls and casts an amber radiance that reflects softly from your blades and armor, almost as if a dulled sunlight with no source shined throughout. Oddly, the ambient temperature doesn’t rise as at all as you descend further beneath the surface and eventually, the telltale buzz of insects and fetid odor of a swamp comes from a vast chamber beyond the tunnel.
Give the adventurers a DC 18 Perception check to hear a guttural exchange between several creatures coming from just outside of the passage. If any of the PCs speak Goblin, what the dialogue is about is difficult to follow—the two are talking too rapidly to be clearly understood, but there seems to be some argument over who is or is not there; not the party members, but among the four creatures speaking Goblin!
These are the last remnants of a wayward group of hobgoblin mercenaries that came down into the Dar’Spelun Slugmarsh; if the PCs listen in for a few minutes, they can pierce together that the group was looking for—and found—something called a “karz slug”. Each has a vastly different description of it (the GM is free to get weird here, so long as the described forms are humanoid in size) and none can agree on what to do next. They are so intent on debating one another that if left to their own devices, the hobgoblins talk for 1d6+3 hours and eventually fall asleep in the same area.
The tunnel’s exit opens into a vast cavern filled with powerful odors and dismal plants that are unlike any you’ve seen before. Just inside of the entrance, however, are four haggard hobgoblins, all bearing black symbols tattooed on their skin. Patches of their complexion are a vivid, unnatural orange and their bloodshot eyes cast nervous glances as the creatures bicker with one another.
A DC 15 Heal check identifies that the patches of orange on their skin is an affliction of some kind, and a DC 22 Heal check reveals that whatever the malady is, the hobgoblins are suffering from some kind of paranoia..
Sneaking past the hobgoblins is a simple matter, and if the party is stealthy about it the quartet of creatures don’t pose a great threat. If perceived (at all), their shaman blasts the square he thinks they are in with his most powerful area spell and the warriors charge in after to hack away in random squares nearby. Even if the adventurers can speak Goblin, these creatures be reasoned with and attack ferociously without regard for their own lives, utterly obsessed with obliterating any sentient creatures that comes to their notice.
The hobgoblins are suffering from both a disease derived from the swamp and prolonged attacks by karz slugs [check out tomorrow’s Statblock Sunday to find out more about these creatures!]. As such, they have a modified version of the advanced creature template; instead of a +4 bonus to Wisdom, they suffer a -4 and take a -2 penalty to Will saves. In exchange, they are constantly under the effects of an extraordinary ability that operates exactly as the haste spell (Dar’Spelun Deranged).
Deranged Hobgoblin Shaman CR 8
Male advanced* hobgoblin sorcerer 8 CN Medium humanoid (goblin) Init +9; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +8 DEFENSE AC 19, touch 17, flat-footed 12 (+5 Dex, +2 dodge, +2 natural) hp 76 (8d6+48) Fort +7, Ref +8, Will +1; +2 vs. charm, cold, fear, fire, and sleep effects OFFENSE Speed 60 ft. Melee longspear +8/+8 (1d8+4, Crit x3) Ranged sling +10/+10 (1d4+3, Range 50 ft.) Spells Prepared (CL 8th; concentration +13) 4th (4/day)—ice storm 3rd (6/day)—fireball, fly; ray of exhaustion 2nd (7/day)—acid arrow, see invisibility, summon swarm; touch of idiocy 1st (8/day)—burning hands, enlarge person, mage armor, magic missile, vanish; ray of enfeeblement 0th—acid splash, detect magic, detect poison, ghost sound, mage hand, prestidigitation, ray of frost, touch of fatigue Bloodline accursed Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft. (10 ft. longspear) STATISTICS Str 16, Dex 20, Con 20, Int 14, Wis 4, Cha 20 Base Atk +4; CMB +7; CMD 23 Feats Dodge, Improved Counterspell, Improved Initiative, Widen Spell; Combat Casting, Eschew Materials Skills Bluff +16, Intimidate +16, Perception +8, Spellcraft +13; Racial Bonuses +4 Stealth Languages Common, Goblin, Orc, Undercommon SQ Bloodline arcana, cantrips, sneaky, wretched endurance Gear longspear, potions of cure serious wounds(2), sling (32 bullets), one randomly determined minor wondrous item SPECIAL ABILITIES Dar’Spelun Deranged (Ex) Too much of the fetid swamp water and other hazards across the Das’Spelun Swamp and exposure to the creatures within can cause considerable changes to a creature. These hobgoblins have a modified version of the advanced templates with the following changes: -4 Wisdom, -2 Will saves, constant extraordinary haste effect (+1 to attack rolls, +1 dodge to AC, +1 Reflex save, +30 ft. movement, extra attack on full-attack action). Horrific Visage (Su) As a standard action five times per day, the Deranged Hobgoblin Shaman can force one target within 30 feet to make a DC 19 Will save or be shaken for 4 rounds. This is a mind-affecting, fear-based ability.
Deranged Hogoblin Warrior (3) CR 8
XP 4,800 Male advanced* hobgoblin fighter 8 CN Medium humanoid (goblin) Init +9; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +5 DEFENSE AC 22, touch 17, flat-footed 15 (+3 armor, +5 Dex, +2 dodge, +2 natural) hp 92 (8d10+48) Fort +11, Ref +8, Will -3; +2 vs fear OFFENSE Speed 60 ft. Melee halberd +17/+17/+12 (1d10+9, Crit x3) Ranged shortbow +14/+14/+9 (1d6, Range 60 ft., Crit x3) Str 20, Dex 20, Con 20, Int 14, Wis 4, Cha 16 Base Atk +8; CMB +13; CMD 28 Feats Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Improved Initiative, Weapon Focus (halberd); Cleave, Greater Weapon Focus (halberd), Furious Focus, Power Attack, Weapon Specialization (halberd) Skills Acrobatics +13, Intimidate +14, Perception +5, Survival +8; Racial Bonuses +4 Stealth Languages Common, Goblin, Orc, Undercommon SQ Armor training 2, bravery +2, sneaky, weapon training 1 (pole arms) Gear halberd, shortbow (23 arrows), studded leather armor, one random minor wondrous item SPECIAL ABILITIES Dar’Spelun Deranged (Ex) Too much of the fetid swamp water and other hazards across the Das’Spelun Swamp and exposure to the creatures within can cause considerable changes to a creature. These hobgoblins have a modified version of the advanced templates with the following changes: -4 Wisdom, -2 Will saves, constant extraordinary haste effect (+1 to attack rolls, +1 dodge to AC, +1 Reflex save, +30 ft. movement, extra attack on full-attack action).
Once the party has either bested the hobgoblins (who fight to the last) or gotten at least 200 feet within the swamps and away from the quartet of creatures, they are free to explore the Dar’Spelun Slugmarsh. If they engage the sortie and then flee, the hobgoblins attempt to track them down and are relentless in their pursuit!
There are magic items to be found, traps to bypass, haunts to lay to rest, creatures to fight, and side quests to come as the PCs explore Dar’Spelun Slugmarsh, so stay tuned to the AaWBlog this month for Maddening May!