Readers will quickly identify the inspiration behind this adventure. It involves an “alien predator” that hunts the adventurers in a dark, primordial forest. As an incredibly dangerous foe, their only recourse is to escape the creature. But how can you flee from a malicious creature such as this?
This adventure is still in editorial mode and may have typos and logic errors.
It Hunts is an exploration and survival adventure for four 5th-level characters. Any mix of characters is useful, although rangers will fair particularly well in the jungle environment.
Smart adventurers will know better than to face the adventure’s main villain head-on, as the creature is capable of easily destroying the entire party by itself. The GM should familiarize his or herself with exploration rules in Fifth Edition, as well as the grirrix hunter’s stats found in Appendix C of this issue. In addition, the rules for epic monster encounters in BroadSword Monthly #2 will also prove useful.
This adventure is campaign independent. The Sark Peninsula can be placed into any tropical setting, preferably one a few hundred miles from a major town or city.
A week ago, a grirrix hunter ship landed in the Sark Peninsula, a deadly realm full of orcs, primordial creatures, and other horrors. The hunter’s mission was to discover the science vessel Paramount which crash-landed on the planet some 50 years ago. Within the Paramount was an experimental fuel known as Blueshift. The grirrix species, endangered and desperate, see the Blueshift fuel as a weapon of war, one that will pull the Grirrix Empire out of ruin. Unfortunately, the Sark Peninsula is nowhere near where the Paramount actually landed.
Diviners from around the world saw the falling star (the hunter ship) as an ill omen. While the characters are resting or passing through a major city in a warm, equatorial climate, one such diviner, Krathis the Enigmatic, approaches the characters. Krathis (N female half-elf archmage) may have heard of the characters through their past deeds or recognizes that they are men and/or women with capabilities. Either way, whenever and wherever Krathis approaches the characters, read the following.
“Adventurers!” says the strange, bald-headed woman in a melodic voice. “Seven days ago, my acolytes and I witnessed a falling star–the direst omen. The star burned through the night sky and vanished into the primordial forests of the Sark Peninsula. My colleagues and I believe that the star brings with it magic from beyond our realm. I wish to fund an expedition into Sark to learn more about the falling star, and I hope that you are up for the task. Should you accept this quest, I am prepared to reward you 500 gp each upon completion.”
In addition to the reward, Krathis gives the characters 10 porters to travel with (see the “Porters” sidebar), as well as her star pupil, Abraga (N female tiefling mage).
“To complete this quest, you must bring Abraga to the site of the fallen star and allow Abraga to study it for as long as she needs.
“I have provided a map of the Sark Peninsula that will show you the way to the orc village of Rungruk. It is likely that the orcs’ chief and shamans know more about the fallen star. You may need to convince them to show you where it is. I’m told they’re easily persuaded with gold.”
If the characters accept Krathis’ quest, she gives them the map (see Handout B: Map of the Sark Peninsula in Appendix D) and introduces them to Abraga and the porters. In addition, she provides any equipment that the characters may need just short of magic items, including enough food and water for the expedition, tents, pack animals, etc.
Accompanying the characters on their journey through the Sark Peninsula are 10 porters. Each porter is a neutral human commoner. While each porter’s personality and ideals may be different, their bond is always, “My loyalty is to my fellow porters first, job be damned.”
Quality Score. The porters start with a quality score of +4, but that score varies over the course of the adventure, going as low as -10 and as high as +10. it decreases if one of the porters is killed, the group suffers hardships or endures poor health. It increases if the group enjoys high morale and trusts the characters.
Mutiny. If the porters are poorly led or mistreated, they may turn against the characters. Once per day, if the porters’ quality score is lower than 0, one of the characters must make a Charisma (Intimidation or Persuasion) check modified by the porters’ quality score.
If the check total is between 1 and 9, the porters’ quality score decreases by 1.
If the check total is 0 or lower, the porters mutiny. They become hostile to the characters and might attempt to kill them, imprison them, or simply evacuate in the middle of the night. The porters can be cowed into obedience through violence, combat, or offers of treasure or other rewards.
When the GM ends the mutiny, the porters’ quality score decreases by 1d4.
Extra Rest. Traveling through the jungle is a tiring affair. Spending an extra day to rest and recuperate allows the porters to relax and regain its composure. If the porters’ quality score is 3 or lower, the score increases by 1 for each day the porters spend resting.
Travel in the Sark Peninsula
The characters, Abraga, and the porters take six canoes upstream along the Sark River, just before reaching the swamps. From there, Abraga suggests the group travels on foot through the jungle to Rungruk village.
On the map of the Sark Peninsula, each hex measures 5 miles across. Characters moving at a normal pace can travel 2 hexes per day on foot through grassland, jungle, mountain, and swamp. They can travel 4 hexes per day if they’re traveling by canoe on the Sark River north or south of the swamp. The swamp is difficult to get through, slowing movement by canoe to 2 hexes per day.
If characters move at a fast pace, the easiest way to deal with their progress is to roll a d4. On a result of 3-4, the characters move two extra hexes. A result of 2 means the characters move one extra hex. And a result of 1 means the characters’ pace remains unchanged. Regardless of how many hexes they move, characters moving at a face pace take a -5 penalty to their passive Wisdom (Perception) scores, making them more likely to miss clues and walk into ambushes.
If the characters set a slow pace, roll a d6. On a result of 1-2, the characters move 2 fewer hex that day. On a result of 3-4, the characters move 1 fewer hex. And on a result of 5-6, the characters make the same progress, despite being cautious. Characters moving at a slow pace can move stealthily. As long as they’re not in the open, they can try to surprise or sneak by other creatures they encounter.
As the characters travel through the Sark Peninsula, it’s likely they come across creatures, points of interest, and other strange things. Each day, roll a d20 four times: once in the morning, afternoon, early evening, and middle of the night. On a result of 18-20, a random encounter occurs. Choose one of the following encounters, or roll a d4 and a d6 to determine the results of the encounter, using the Random Encounter table below.
Sark Peninsula Random Encounters
|d4 + d6||Encounter|
|2||1d8 + 1 ettercaps|
|4||1d4 + 2 orcs led by an orc gladiator|
|5||1d4 swarms of poisonous snakes|
|6||1 brown bear|
|7||Gruesome standard. A headless humanoid body hangs from a tree branch. All of the blood has been drained from the body. (The grirrix left the body here after it drained its memories using its neuroprojector).|
|8||Ruins. The characters stumble upon ancient stones, likely the foundation of a ruined building or temple.|
|10||1d8 + 1 harpies|
Before journeying into the jungle, Abraga and the porters set up a forward camp 35 miles south of the village of Rungruk. If the characters choose not to bring the boats, the boats are left here. One porter stays behind to guard the boats.
When the characters approach the village, read or paraphrase the following:
It’s quiet here, not a single living thing in sight. The watchtowers surrounding the village are empty. No warriors wait by the open gates. You see no livestock. Even the birds are quiet.
Once the characters enter the actual village, read the following:
All around you are the signs of a struggle. Some of the huts are charred, white smoke drifting from their blackened husks. All around you are footprints, broken arrowheads, and discarded spears–but no bodies.
A successful DC 15 Wisdom (Survival) check reveals a little of what occurred here. The majority of the footprints are orcish, mostly male and female warriors. Whatever they were fighting came at them from all directions, but left no tracks. It’s obvious that the orcs fell in combat–blood mixed into the mud, impressions in the soil–but then their bodies were dragged east, into the jungle surrounding the village.
Burn marks mar some of the buildings, particularly the watchtowers. A successful DC 14 Intelligence (Arcana) check reveals that the burn marks are similar to those caused by magic missile spells, although the pattern is wrong. Whatever it was that killed the orcs had powerful force magic at its disposal.
This all happened three days ago.
Nook-nook, Gunda, and Brun
After the characters have explored the orc village for a few minutes, have one of the characters notice something out of the corner of their eye. Something small is running between the buildings 100-feet away.
A successful DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check spots that it’s an orc child. The child dives into a latrine ditch and hides below one of the villages’ outhouses. The orc child (treat it as a commoner) brandishes a dagger when the characters come near. Hiding with the child is an orc toddler holding an infant (both noncombatants). The orc children are the village’s only survivors.
A character can convince the children that they are friendly with a successful DC 10 Charisma (Persuasion) check. Having hidden in the latrines for three days, the children are filthy and hungry, so offering them food automatically wins their favor.
When asked what happened, Nook-nook, the oldest of the three, speaks for his brothers. Nook-nook only speaks orcish.
“A demon with glowing eyes came from the jungle. It was as big as an elephant and more powerful than even Ogra, our tribe’s greatest warrior. I could not fully glimpse it, as it moved like a blur.
“All of the men and all of the women fought the demon, but the demon used its magic to kill them all. It took all of the adults into the forest. It looked right at us and said a word in the tongue-of-city-people: ‘Paramount.’ I was brave and said nothing and defended my brothers Gunda and Brun. I must have scared the demon. It returned to the forest and has not returned since.”
Nook-nook nor his brothers know anything else about what attacked them, only that it was incredibly powerful, able to fight ten orcs at once. It cast magic like fire from its eyes, destroying warriors as far as 200 feet away.
Following the Tracks. The creature dragged the orc bodies east into the forest, towards the crash site. A successful DC 10 Wisdom (Survival) check is all that is needed to follow the path.
Treasure. Almost everything is as exactly as the orcs left it. If the characters spend an hour searching the huts, they discover 241 gp, 360 sp, 311 cp, 7 valuable gems (4 amethyst, 1 bloodstone, and 3 pieces of obsidian) worth 490 gp, a +1 longbow, and an enchanted orcish war drum (acts as an instrument of the bards that can cast enhance ability, longstrider, and thunderwave).
Roughly 7 miles east of Rungruk Village is the site of the grirrix hunter’s crashed pod. It’s likely that the characters discover the crash site after stopping in Rungruk. As the characters approach the crash site, they discover the bodies of the slain orcs.
Read or paraphrase the following:
Flies buzz with mad fury all around you. Soon, you understand why. A few dozen feet ahead, the remains of a humanoid hang from a low tree branch, its head removed and blood drained. Then, you start to notice more strung-up corpses. One to your left. Two to your right. All the same: headless and bloodless. In fact, dozens of bodies decorate the trees along the path. Just beyond this macabre scene, you catch a glimpse of an unnatural clearing.
While the dead orcs have no loot per se, many are still clutching their weapons. The grirrix left the orc bodies as a warning to anyone that dared to approach its crashed pod.
In the clearing:
A gash in the floor of the jungle stretches 700-feet from the east to the west. It seems likely that this is the site of the falling star that Krathis sent you to find.
The crash left a 700-foot scar in the jungle, destroying the trees and foliage as it went. Its alien appearance will not be immediately recognizable to a band of fantasy heroes.
At the end of the gash, you discover what could only be the “falling star.” It reminds you of a cracked open oyster shell, except it’s some 15-feet long and 8-feet wide. Within it are all sorts of tubes, nodules, and other strange implements that almost look mechanical.
Grirrix technology is completely alien to even those who know the grirrix for what they are. Therefore, it’s impossible for the characters to understand the pod’s function unless they’ve encountered the grirrix before.
Encounter. The first encounter the characters have with the grirrix hunter (see Appendix C) occurs here at the crash site. It’s been waiting in the trees 200-feet away on the opposite side of the crash site. The moment anyone touches the pod, it attacks, opening fire with its plasmacaster.
The grirrix hunter is an incredibly dangerous foe, fully capable of killing the party. It attacks what it sees as the most dangerous foes first, taking out those that appear large and strong (initially, it takes unarmored combatants and small races for granted). Preferring stealth, the hunter never leaves the tree line, always firing from a distance. It may even seem like there’s more than one of them there as it moves, hides, and fires in such rapid succession.
This encounter is intended to make it clear that the characters are outmatched. A well-placed fireball or similar effect is enough to temporarily scare it off and give the characters time to come up with a plan.
Meanwhile, the porters flee into the forest, wanting nothing to do with the combat. If the orc children are with the characters, Nook-nook explains that it is the demon attack and draws his dagger, ready to defend his brothers.
Once this combat occurs, the characters are now being hunted by the grirrix hunter (see “The Hunt Begins” below).
Ezegoa was once a prosperous goblinoid city that thrived at the north end of the Sark Peninsula. Sadly, a vicious jungle plague wiped out many of the city’s inhabitants two centuries ago. Now, the Ezegoan ghosts haunt the overgrown streets and crumbling ruins of the ancient city.
While there are no formal keyed encounter in Ezegoa, you are free to add in any encounters, ruins, or points of interest that you like here.
Ruins of Wahuachkeo
This location was once the home of a lizardfolk city many centuries ago. The lizardfolk were cleared out by the orcs of Sark Peninsula and never returned. Not much remains of the ruins other than the crumbling temple of Wahuachkeo and the tall, totemic statues of alligators surrounding it.
Treasure-hunters cleared the temple of its valuables decades ago. All of its traps are disabled or no longer function.
The ruins itself may work as a good location for the characters to hide or stage an ambush against the hunter.
Temple of the Luth’Man’Tor
A group of zealot dwarves called the “Luth’Man’Tor” once lived in the mountains to the west of the Sark Peninsula. The dwarves worshipped a demon named Qua-Seko (which translates roughly to “He Who Whispers in the Dark”). In time, the dwarves died, and much of the temple was destroyed by a volcanic explosion.
The Hunt Begins
After the characters encounter the grirrix hunter for the first time (likely at the crash site), the grirrix hunter makes the characters its primary target. Overall disappointed with the results of the orcs’ knowledge, the hunter believes that the characters can lead it to the Paramount. The hunter desires to kill the characters, remove their heads, then use its neuroprojector (see appendix B) to learn what they know.
After the hunt begins, roll a d20 each morning, afternoon, early evening, and middle of the night (this replaces the normal Random Encounter table). On a result of 15-20, the grirrix hunter attacks. Feel free to adjust the number of encounters the characters have with the grirrix as needed; remove an encounter if the characters are being attacked too often, or add in extra in if the grirrix isn’t attacking enough.
To determine the nature of the attack, roll on the Grirrix Attacks table below.
The Grirrix Attacks
|1||The grirrix attacks from the trees, using cover to its advantage, preferring its plasmacaster over its melee weapons. It fights until it takes damage, three rounds pass, or it kills a character (whichever happens first). If it kills a character, it tries to drag its body off into the forest.|
|2||100-feet in front of the characters, the grirrix uses a minor illusion protocol (like the spell) to create an illusory duplicate of itself. It then attacks from behind, picking off weaker members of the party first (likely the porters).|
|3||One of the porters disappears. An hour later, the characters hear the porter screaming in the forest. It’s clearly a trap, the grirrix using the porter as bait. Once the characters are close enough to see the porter, the grirrix attacks from the trees.|
|4||The grirrix sets a trap in the forest. Roll on the Grirrix Trap table to determine the nature of the trap. Typically, after a trap goes off, the Grirrix attacks within 1 round.|
|5 – 6||
The grirrix leaves gruesome standards along the path the characters are traveling, hoping to scare them back into the jungle.
The grirrix uses primitive traps to scare and injure the party. The following are common traps the grirrix uses against its prey. Choose one of the traps below or roll a d4 to determine the nature of the trap.
|1||Pit trap. The grirrix dug a pit trap along the characters’ path. A successful DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) check reveals the presence of the trap. Failure to notice the trap results in one or more characters or porters falling into the trap. Each creature that falls into the trap takes 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage from the fall.|
|2||Swinging logs. The grirrix sets a tripwire along the path. Noticing the tripwire requires a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check. Once tripped, two massive logs swing out from the trees. The creature who tripped the logs must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take 16 (3d10) bludgeoning damage from the logs.|
|3||Net trap. A successful DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check reveals the presence of this tripwire trap. If the trap is triggered, a 10-foot-by-10-foot-area net captures anyone standing on it. Creatures in the area must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or be restrained. A creature can use its action to make a DC 10 Strength check to try to free itself or another creature in the net. Dealing 5 slashing damage to the net (AC 10, 20 hp) also frees a creature without harming the creature.|
|4||Mine. The grirrix sets a tripwire attached to an explosive device. A successful DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check notices the wire. When triggered, each creature within 10 feet of the tripped mine must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 18 (4d8) fire damage on a failed saving throw or half as much damage on a successful one.|
As a challenge rating 15 creature facing off against 5th-level characters, the grirrix is a brute, to be sure. As such, you may want to limit just how aggressive it is (consider removing its Legendary Actions, for example). Furthermore, the grirrix may wish to “play with its prey”, trying to scare them more than hurt them.
If the grirrix kills one of the characters, make sure it’s for a good reason. For example, the character made a poor judgment call, or charged the grirrix, separating itself from the group. In films, characters who position themselves as burdens on the party are often targets for monsters. Similarly, those that martyr themselves also find themselves dead at the hands of the creature. Once the grirrix kills one character, it hopes to secure the corpse so it can extract its thoughts with its neuroprojector. This often leaves it open for riposte from the rest of the party.
Should the players feel stuck, consider having smart or wise characters make checks to figure out what to do. Or put a fortification in the party’s way such as an easily defensible cave or ruins that aren’t on their map.
The Grirrix is a Plot Device, Not a Tool for Meta-Revenge
Just because the grirrix is part of this adventure and is quite deadly, doesn’t mean that you should use it to bully the players. While it’s okay to invoke fear, the characters should never feel like you’re working against them. That’s just tacky.
The characters have two choices when dealing with the hunter. They can confront the hunter in hopes of killing it or driving it off. Or they can flee from the hunter and escape from the peninsula altogether.
Escaping the Hunter
Once the characters are deep in the jungles of the Sark Peninsula, it’s tough to escape the hunter. They can head south on foot or by way of the Sark River, hoping to escape that way. Of course, being out in the open on the river makes them an easy target for the hunter’s plasmacaster. Or, they can cross over the mountains and escape via the coast. The peninsula’s coast is surrounded by treacherous waves, and jagged, unforgiving rocks. It’s rare that the characters find a beach along the mountains, especially on the eastern side of the peninsula where mighty, 100-foot high or taller cliffs tower before the crashing waters below.
Confronting the Hunter
Eventually, the characters may wish to confront the grirrix hunter. The hunter is surprisingly easy to fool. After all, it thinks that the characters are nothing more than primates. Dangerous animals, to be sure, but hardly intelligent.
There is no one way to confront the hunter. The characters may confront it in the ruined temple of Wahuachkeo, a random cave, or even out in the open (setting their own traps as they do). Be sure to award creativity with success.
While the hunter is megalomaniacal, it also values its own life. If it’s dead, it can’t complete its mission (and its mind, that’s far worse than death). Should the characters prove too dangerous for it, the hunter flees and won’t return, hoping to find another way to learn the whereabouts of the Paramount and its Blueshift fuel.
If the characters do manage to defeat the hunter, they might be able to learn more about its intentions and why it’s hunting creatures in the forest. This could potentially even lead the characters to search for the Paramount themselves.
Reporting Back to Krathis
Krathis will be disappointed if the characters didn’t have a chance to learn more about her “falling star”, especially if the characters return without Abraga. However, she will keep her promises and (begrudgingly) award them the gold. In addition, Krathis may be interested in learning more about the creature the characters faced, potentially offering an additional reward if they are brave enough to return to Sark and capture the creature. Ω
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