The Mystery of Hoegar’s Hollow is a location-based adventure designed for any mix of four 5th-level adventurers. This side quest adventure introduces characters to the science-fiction campaign setting of Blueshift. The adventure works best if the characters have no idea what they are getting into; the science-fiction elements should be a total surprise.
Note: this adventure is still in editorial mode, so there may be typos, logic errors, etc.
Two decades ago, the people of Hoegar’s Hollow witnessed a comet streak through the sky. Typically, this was seen as a good omen. As wildly superstitious worshippers of an agriculture god, the simple folk of Hoegar’s Hollow thought that it was their god, Olan telling them that the spring would bring a healthy harvest. But then the comet turned towards the land and crashed into the forest to the north of the village.
The people of Hoegar’s Hollow rushed towards the site of the meteor landing. Following the meteor’s burning path, they eventually came upon something the old folks named “the Great Silver Turtle.” Hoegarian historians described the turtle as gargantuan, easily the size of a barn. They said the turtle “bled silver blood” onto the surrounding land and that anything its blood touched was changed by it. Plants grew wild. Animals evolved and became aggressive. And humanoids that came into contact with the turtle’s blood mutated and went insane.
The first few weeks were difficult. The unchanged Hoegarians fought for their lives against the ghastly creatures altered by the turtle’s blood. Eventually, they defeated the horrors and burned the bodies. Quickly, the dangerous forest that grew around the turtle was cordoned off by the Hoegarians and renamed the Silverwood.
Knowing that they had to protect the secrets of the Great Silver Turtle from those who might use its blood for evil, the Hoegarians formed a faction: the Silver Wardens. For twenty years, the Silver Wardens kept the Great Silver Turtle and Silverwood a secret. Until now.
The Great Silver Turtle
What the Hoegarians didn’t realize is that their Great Silver Turtle was actually a science vessel named the Paramount that crash-landed in their forest. The ship ran on an experimental self-regenerating fuel called Blueshift. However, the crash landing left the Paramount significantly damaged and unable to repair itself quickly; it would take nearly two decades for it to get itself running again.
A side-effect of the Blueshift fuel was that it had the power to alter any living thing that touched it. This is why the animals and plant life that came into contact with it transformed.
Finally, after twenty years, the Paramount has repaired itself and is ready to return to space. The only trouble is, it has no crew.
The Return of Doctor Kalaxan
When the Paramount crashed, most of the crew died on impact. However, the crew’s android lead scientist, Doctor Kalaxan survived, thrown from the wreckage. Realizing the dangers of the spilled Blueshift, Kalaxan left the scene and disappeared into the forest surrounding the crash site.
Quietly, Kalaxan has been surviving in this new, low-technology world, under the guise of a wizard named Kalaxan the Magnificent. For twenty years, he’s been trying to solve three riddles: first, how to stop the fuel from altering the physiologies of living things that come into contact with it; second, how to get past the Silver Wardens and back to the ship; and third, where to find a crew to pilot the Paramount back to outer space.
Kalaxan believes that he has solved the first riddle. Now he just needs to solve the second and third riddles.
And that’s where the adventurers come in.
The adventure starts when the characters are in the village of Hoegar’s Hollow looking for work. Read or paraphrase the following:
While passing through a tavern, the characters are spotted by a mysterious, cloaked figure sitting at the back of the bar. The figure signals the characters over, offering them drinks with promises of work.
If the characters accept, read or paraphrase the following:
Of course, this is all a ruse. Doctor Kalaxan (see Appendix C) is using a disguise self protocol to make himself appear as an old man instead of his true robot form. And there is no actual apprentice, either. Kalaxan wants the characters to find their way to the wrecked science vessel so he can convince them to help him fly back to space.
Should the characters ask additional questions, Kalaxan can provide the following information:
- Kalaxan believes that the secret organization in Hoeger’s Hollow calls itself “The Silver Wardens.” However, none of the Hoegarians will speak of the Wardens. (This is true.)
- Although he isn’t quite sure what attacked him and Roma, he believes that it was some sort of mutated bear creature. (Nothing attacked Kalaxan. This is a lie.)
- Reading up on the history of the Silverwood to the north of Hoegar’s Hollow, Kalaxan learned that twenty years ago a great fire fell from the sky into the forest. Since that day, the woods have become a dangerous place to venture into. The great fire fell in the center of the forest. (This is mostly true.)
- Kalaxan has heard rumors that there is a beast known as the Great Silver Turtle that makes its home in the center of the forest. He believes that the Silver Wardens will kill any who discover the turtle. (While the Wardens are indeed protecting the Silver Turtle, they only kill if provoked.)
Kalaxan recommends that the characters start their search at Old Hoegar’s Hollow, a collection of houses around a small pond north of the main village.
Old Hoegar’s Hollow
Once the characters are ready, they can follow Kalaxan’s directions to Old Hoegar’s Hollow. When the characters arrive at the abandoned town, read or paraphrase the following:
The footprints were accidentally left by the normally cautious Silver Wardens. Following the footprints with a few successful DC 12 Wisdom (Survival) checks will lead the characters from Old Hoegar’s Hollow directly to the location of the Great Silver Turtle.
Through the Silverwood
It is roughly 15 miles from Old Hoegar’s Hollow to the center of the Silverwood where the Great Silver Turtle lies. Unless the characters have a ranger among them or another creature that can speed up travel, it should take the characters a day to reach the center of the wood.
Instead of using random encounters, use the following encounters to build upon the mystery of the Silverwood itself. You’re free to put the encounters in any order you like, morning, day, or night.
“There’s Something Watching Us”
At some point, the characters get the feeling that they are being watched by something in the forest: a twig snaps, they see something out of the corner of their eye, or just have a bad feeling.
Their suspicions are correct: they’re being followed by Kalaxan. Kalaxan has been following the characters ever since they entered the forest, using an invisibility protocol to hide.
Kalaxan is fast and tough to detect in the forest. You might have the characters chase the invisible android through the forest, eventually losing sight of him. Or you might even have them catch Kalaxan momentarily in his true form (he won’t look anything like the same wizard that tasked them). Kalaxan then uses his dimension door protocol to escape.
It’s pretty tough for a humanoid to move through the Silverwood without the Silver Wardens noticing it. Unless the characters are exceptionally cautious, the Silver Wardens set an ambush for the characters.
Four Silver Wardens (LN male and female human scouts armed with nets in addition to their shortswords and longbows) hide among the trees. Have the characters make a DC 17 Wisdom (Perception) check to spot the Wardens. If the characters fail to notice the Wardens, the Wardens surprise the characters. Primarily, the Wardens hope to subdue and capture the characters, using nets and non-lethal damage to take them out.
If things turn bad for the characters, it’s possible that Kalaxan comes in at the last minute and saves them. Kalaxan attacks in his true android form. The spacefarer has no qualms about dealing lethal damage to the Silver Wardens. Once he’s rescued the characters, he disappears back into the forest using either his invisibility or dimension door protocols.
After traveling through the Silverwood for a while, read the following:
The two-headed wolf is aggressive and dangerous. It was changed by the turtle’s blood. Use the death dog stat block, except that if it infects one of the characters with a disease, the disease doesn’t reduce their hit point maximum. Instead, the character is infected with turtle’s blood (see the “Turtle’s Blood” sidebar).
If the death dog encounter proves to be too much of a challenge, the characters can be rescued by the Silver Wardens, Kalaxan, or a combination of both.
When the characters finally reach the center of the wood, read the following description:
This is the “Great Silver Turtle” that the characters may have heard about. Of course, it’s not a turtle at all, but the Paramount, Kalaxan’s science vessel. After twenty years of being hidden away, it has finally fully repaired itself. All it needs is its crew and it can leave the Silverwood and return to space.
The characters should be given a chance to observe then approach the Paramount. Once they’re close enough, they can see that the “Great Silver Turtle” has more in common with a building than a creature.
If they climb on top of the Paramount, a successful DC 13 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals a hatch (see area 1 below). The hatch has been opened recently by the Silver Wardens. Tarren Ironstout and his men are fully aware that the Great Silver Turtle is nothing more than a strange ship. They have no idea how to get it operational but have inspected the inside in an attempt to learn more about the ship and its purpose.
Inside the Paramount
The characters can open the Paramount’s hatch and descend the ladder to the inside.
1 – Crew Quarters/Central Corridors
The first time the characters descend the ladder (marked “C” on the map) read the following:
The voice comes from ROMA, the ship’s internal computer system (see the “General Features of the Paramount” sidebar).
The characters are free to ask ROMAany questions they have and she always answers truthfully, to the best of her ability. If asked, she will tell them exactly what she is: a computer system that operates the Paramount, an experimental Russell-Class Science Vessel from the Planet Kyrr. She and the rest of the crew crashed landed after they escaped from the Girrix, a deadly warrior race. The Girrix wanted to get their hands on the Blueshift fuel. All of the crew are dead with the exception of the lead science officer, Dr. Kalaxan, who periodically comes to visit.
The crew quarters (areas 1a-f) are empty. Each has a small desk, trunk, and a vertical hyperbed (see Appendix A). Two red flexsuits hang from hooks on the wall.
The door to area 3 remains closed. When asked why ROMA responds that it was the captain’s room and only the captain of the Paramount is allowed to enter.
2 – Flight Deck
This is the ship’s helm. Communications and science officers sit at the chairs closest to the window/viewing screen, the ship’s pilot and tactical officer sit in the central rows, and the captain sits in the rear chair.
Doors at either side of the deck allow access to the deck’s computer systems and Blueshift lines.
3 – Captain’s Quarters
Both doors leading into the captain’s quarters are locked. They only open in the presence of the ship’s captain, whoever that may be.
Like the rest of the Paramount, the captain’s quarters are simple and tidy. The captain’s hyberbed lays horizontally against the far wall, just below the window. However, a button on the wall (and inside the bed itself) returns it to a vertical position, concealing it within the wall. A desk with a glass comp screen takes the place of the bed once it’s raised, along with a couch and a small table that rise from the floor.
4 – Guest Quarters
Important guests who book passage on the Paramount stay in this room. It is identical to the Captain’s Quarters.
5 – Mess Hall
A long counter beset by seven chairs stretches from the far wall. This was where the crew gathered to eat meals prepared by ROMA.
6 – Kitchen
Meals were prepared in the kitchen by ROMA. The Paramount’s kitchen is equipped with a Susteporter 3000. With a command, the Susteporter can create a meal for the ship’s patrons. The food is flavorful, always seasoned to the recipient’s particular tastes. The Susteporter can also create beverages, hot or cold, and even alcoholic.
7 – Maneuvering Thrusters
The ship’s thrusters are on either side of the ship. Maintenance on the thrusters can be performed from these rooms. Since ROMA and the Blueshift maintain the integrity of the ship, these rooms have often been used as storage or additional guest quarters.
8 – Infirmary
Injured and sick crew members were taken here, to the infirmary. The infirmary is equipped with a Regena-bed Mark 7 and a Medigen. A creature that spends 1 hour in the Regena-bed recuperates as if the regenerate spell was cast upon them, including the restoration of severed limbs. The Medigen can produce medicine that can end either one disease or one condition afflicting a creature (like the lesser restoration spell). The Medigen can prepare a remedy for any creature infected by the turtle’s blood/Blueshift.
9 – Cryostorage
For crewmembers beyond the ship’s capacity to heal (such as those that have actually died), the ship’s doctor can place its infirmed crew into one of the three cryo-containers found here. A cryo-container can hold one Medium or smaller creature. If the creature is dead, the creature is protected from decay and can’t become undead as long as it remains in the container (just like the gentle repose spell). Any living creature placed into a cry-container enters a cataleptic state that is indistinguishable from death; for all intents and purposes, the container works exactly like the feign death spell.
Currently, all three cry-containers are occupied with the deceased crewmembers of the Paramount: Captain Reverence First Mate Phil, and Lieutenant Tella. Kalaxan stashed his friends’ bodies here, hoping to find a way to revive them once they could leave the planet. Lacking space for the other crewmates (he deemed them expendable), Kalaxan buried them in the Silverwood.
10 – Biology Lab
The first of the three research domes is the Paramount’s biology lab. The lab is equipped with multiple counters, tables, and surfaces, as well as shelves containing tools, samples, and other important implements.
It even includes cages which can hold Small or smaller creatures, each equipped with its own version of the Susteporter 3000 (see area 6). With the push of a button on the side of each cage, a wall of force descends, locking the creature within.
Finally, a Blueshift fuel cell stays locked in a plasteel container on the wall. The Blueshift was used for experiments. Opening the container is just as difficult as opening a locked door (see “General Features of the Paramount“).
11 – Botany Lab
The second dome is home to the Paramount’s greenhouse. Among the lush flora, gardens, and fruit-bearing trees crowding the laboratory are workstations and pushcarts loaded with research tools.
This lab also has its own Blueshift fuel sell locked in a plasteel container (see area 10).
12 – Engineering Lab
This lab looks like an oversized workshop. Here, engineers would work on mechanical and robotics projects. On a table at the center of the chamber is the lifeless shell of an android of similar make and model to Kalaxan, Kalaxan’s “brother” Godfrey.
Kalaxan jealously decommissioned the robot, seeing it as an inferior being (and a bit of an embarrassment). Should someone revive Godfrey, the android uses the same stat block as Kalaxan except that Godfrey’s alignment is neutral good, his Intelligence score is 8, and he has none of the skill proficiencies Kalaxan does.
13 – Cargo Bay
The characters can enter the cargo bay either through the elevators or via service ladder. There is currently no cargo in the service area, but it can hold up to 150 tons of cargo with no issue.
With the exception of the elevators, all of the doors in the cargo bay are locked. Only senior officers of the Paramount are allowed access into those areas.
14 – Vault
Precious (or dangerous) cargo is kept in the Paramount’s vault. Only senior members have access to this room. Currently, the vault is empty.
15 – Armory
The armory boasts an impressive collection of weaponry, including 12 forcerifles, 24 radpistols, 4 suits of heavy techarmor, 8 suits of plasteel vests, 6 forceshield bands, and 10 radswords. (See Appendix A for details on these items).
16 – The Life Raft
The Paramount’s escape pod includes 8 hyperbeds and a simple control deck. The life raft was originally damaged as the Paramount fled the Girrix. ROMA has since repaired it.
17 – Fuel Cells
Both of these doors are locked; only senior crew members have access. The prototype Blueshift fuel cells that power the Paramount and give the ship its regenerative abilities are held in these two well-protected rooms. Surprisingly, the rooms and cells were damaged in the crash, leaking Blueshift all over the Silverwood. The unstable nature of the fuel is what created the wild growth and mutated creatures that haunt the wood. Since the crash, ROMA has improved the structure of these rooms, making them nearly indestructible.
The Silver Wardens Arrive
After the characters have had a chance to explore the Paramount and learn some of its secrets, the Silver Wardens arrive. This time, the Silver Wardens are lead by Tarren Ironstout who hopes to use reason to turn the characters away from the Paramount. He is accompanied by four more Silver Wardens (all LG human scouts).
If the Silver Wardens coax a parley from the characters, read the following:
Tarren is referring to the three dead crew members held in suspended animation in area 9.
Tarren and the other Silver Wardens legitimately believe Kalaxan is some sort of fiend who hopes to drag the characters to hell as a sacrifice to a dark god. No amount of persuasion can convince them otherwise.
Before the characters have enough time to let Tarren’s testimonial sink in, Kalaxan appears. He is still in the guise of an old, merry wizard. Except now he’s holding a radpistol.
If the characters take the time to listen, Kalaxan explains.
At this point, Tarren and Kalaxan both try to convince the characters to stop listening to the other. Tarren tries to convince the characters that it’s all a trick and it’s more of Kalaxan’s deceptions. Kalaxan tries to sell the characters on the backward nature of their home planet (using the overly superstitious dwarf as a perfect example) and how grand adventure waits for them in space.
No matter which way the characters decide to go, Kalaxan pulls a white disc from his pocket and places it on the chest of one of the characters. Once placed, the disc glows white. ROMA then announces, “Welcome aboard, Captain.”
When this happens, read the following:
ROMA continues to countdown while the Paramount slowly levitates from its twenty-year home in the Silverwood. A brilliant white light encompasses the entirety of the Paramount. Dissolved by the light, the vines and other vegetation around the Paramount wither and fall to the ground.
When ROMA’s countdown reaches 1, the ship’s thrusters fire. With no further hesitation, the Paramount bursts past the tops of the Silverwood’s trees, past the clouds, and into the cold embrace of space, leaving Hoegar’s Hollow and everything and every one the characters ever knew far behind.
So long as the characters followed the beats of the adventure, they now find themselves in space headed on course to the plant Kyrr, light years away from their home planet. Kalaxan finally reveals everything to the characters, as well as his true android nature. Also, the one he named Captain is now in control of the ship and can direct ROMA and the Paramount as he or she sees fit.
If Tarren and the other Silver Wardens were with the characters when the Paramount took off, they are stuck onboard the ship, too. Tarren often acts as a naysayer and will always be mistrusting of Kalaxan. Still, he’s a helpful ally. The gardens in area 11 attract him, as does the role of the ship’s doctor (if none of the characters take the position). The other Silver Wardens can become important characters, too, or possibly even “red shirts” during the character’s further adventures.
The only question now: what happens to the Paramount and its crew next? Ω
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The first issue of BroadSword Monthly will be out in just a few weeks. Be sure to grab a copy if you haven’t already. Currently, pre-orders get a 10% discount on the cover price.
The book will include 4 new adventures, new campaign settings, new monsters, new magic items, and more!
Thumbnail Art from Shutterstock (used with permission).