Monday, December 20, 2004

Grasp of the Emerald Claw--Shargon Baiting

I wrote an adventure supporting the new Eberron Campaign Setting, Grasp of the Emerald Claw, which was published in 2005.

For a variety of reasons, one of which was a premium on space, one of my originally designed encounters was truncated. If you're interested in replacing the dire shark encounter as published in Grasp of the Emerald Claw with a variation that provides the possibility of escaping from that mighty maw altogether, read on:

To use this encounter, replace the encounters titled 'Danger at Sea, 'Rise, Rise!,' A Swim in the Dark' on page 7 and 'Island Encounter' on page 9 in the published adventure with the encounter titled Shargon Baiting below, and pick up again with the encounter titled 'Stormreach' on page 10:


SHARGON BAITING (EL Variable)
Light: Light spells at 20 foot intervals inside the submersible/phosphorescent sea life outside submersible provide twilight-like lighting.
Sound: Creaks and moans of a vessel under pressure, bubbling, faint intermittent whale calls (automatic).
Aura: Moderate (submersible, DC 21, conjuration).
Important Rules: Water Dangers, Dungeon Master’s Guide; Underwater combat.

Gliding along beneath the waves of the sea can be either extremely boring, or extremely interesting, depending on the terrain being traveled through. About four days into the trip (half way), Captain Byam calls the characters to the observation blister to see an interesting sight.
Visible through the thick panes of glass is the crushing sea. Always before, three shafts of strong magical light thrust from the submersible’s undercarriage, illuminating the surrounding water. But now, those flood lamps are dim. But it is not dark beyond the glass—a breathtaking vista reveals itself in startling hues of phosphorescent color. Thousands of glowing fish, some in schools, some alone, flit through the middle ocean. Picked out in luminescent yellows and greens are great columns of stone, punching up with thick bases from the darkness below and extending towards the surface above, slowly narrowing, perhaps just with perspective. Some of the columns are only tens of feet across, but those farther away in the hazing distance could be far, far broader, perhaps supporting small islets of rock on the surface. Captain Byam says, “I’ve never taken this route. I’d hoped we’d see less activity... but it sure is pretty.”

If asked, Byam admits he is taking a new route to Stormgate, one he doesn’t normally follow, because he wishes to avoid paying the usual shipping fees some sahuagin tribes assess for traversing their territories. He does not readily admit that he feels justified in taking that risk because of the characters’ presence on his ship, and their purported ability to fend off trouble. In fact, the real reason he has asked the characters to the observation blister at just this moment is because Byam knows that the Sea Dart is entering potentially dangerous waters: uncharted and home to sahuagin tribes with which he has no safe-passage deals.

Development: Call for Spot checks by all the characters looking out of the observation blister windows. On a result of 25 or higher, characters see something large arrowing through the water towards them. You can show the players the nearby illustration of the shark as your read or paraphrase the following:

An enormous dark shape is visible in the water, moving closer on an intersection course. The shape has a streamlined body with a triangular fin atop its back, a toothy mouth set well under its long snout, and a tail shaped like a crescent moon. Little fish are swimming around near it—no, wait, those aren’t fish, they are scaled humanoids! That means the approaching beast is far larger than first appearances suggested—it might be as large as the Sea Dart!

The approaching beast is a gargantuan dire shark, accompanied by sahuagin. If the characters do not see the approaching dire shark, Byam sees it on the round following the round the Spot checks from characters are called for. However, this failure of the characters to Spot the shark is a round less that the Sea Dart has to make course corrections (see The Chase below).

The Chase
The gargantuan dire shark’s speed and the Sea Dart’s speed are both 60. Because both have special limitations to their speed for one reason or another, neither can really exceed that pace (as most other creatures could do, with the ‘run’ action). Thus, if all things remain equal, the shark can never catch the Sea Dart if the submersible has a reasonable head start. And, in time, the dire shark will tire, and fall farther behind. But all things are not equal.

The PCs may attempt a delaying action, such as a PC dropping back to fight the gargantuan dire shark, or peppering the shark with long range attacks. However, the shark’s sahuagin keepers keep it on track, chasing after the sub.

Round One:
The dire shark, keepers, and saboteurs come upon the submersible at 90 degree angle, ahead and to the left of the Sea Dart’s path. Call for Spot checks from any characters in the observation blister (or other observation port). On a result of 25 or higher, characters spot the approaching threat and can give warning.

Round Two:
If warning was given on round one, Byam yells for the pilot in the bridge to swing the Sea Dart around to run straight away from the approaching sahuagin threat. If no warning was given during round one, Byam automatically sees the approaching sahuagin threat this round, pointing.

If the Sea Dart swings around to run directly away from the approaching dire shark due to the character’s successful Spot check on round one, the initial distance of separation between shark and submersible is equal to 60 feet. This separation remains constant until round six. Once the Sea Dart swings around, Byam commands the magical observation pane for a rear view, providing a clear view of the Sea Dart’s pursuers.

Round Three:
If Byam sees the sahuagin threat for himself on Round Two, he yells for the pilot in the bridge to swing the Sea Dart around to run straight away from the approaching sahuagin threat now.

If the Sea Dart swings around to run directly away from the approaching dire shark this round, the initial distance of separation between shark and submersible is equal to 40 feet. This separation remains constant until round six. Once the Sea Dart swings around, Byam commands the magical observation pane for a rear view, providing clear sight of the Sea Dart’s pursuers.

Round Four:
Six sahuagin saboteurs shoot forward through the water (using the ‘run’ action). Three grab onto the left wing, three the right. The sound of their attachment clangs dully through the submersible. Each group shepherds some strange looking equipment which causes Byam to yelp. He says, “They’re going to clog the elemental intakes! You’ve got to get out there and stop them! If they slow us down, that thrice-damned mother of all sharks will destroy the Sea Dart!” The elemental intakes are the collared circle in each of the wings through which the bound water elemental torus passes.

Characters Leaving the Submersible: It is possible that the characters began making preparations to leave the submersible on a previous round of the chase. No matter when they begin scrambling toward the water-lock, the process of grabbing from the hands of crewmen hastily thrust forward water crossbows and potions of water breathing (good for 10 hours each and sufficient to keep the dangers of drowning and high pressure at bay), downing their potions, and exiting out the airlock requires three full rounds. Helpful crewmembers attach a tether to each character (50 feet long) unless a given character demurs.

If the characters begin making preparations this round (round four), they emerge from the water-lock at the beginning of round seven. If they began preparing the leave the submersible earlier, they exit earlier, but see the instructions under round seven for characters navigating the exterior of the submersible.

Round Five:
The two groups of sahuagin saboteurs assemble their equipment at the edge of each elemental intake on the wings. They finish setting up their equipment at the end of the round. Each piece of equipment extends of metal iron spike into the whirling turbulence of the bound elemental.

The gargantuan dire shark and its keepers keep up the chase, trailing the Sea Dart at either 60 or 40 feet.

Presumably, the characters are caught up in preparations to leave the submersible.

Round Six:
The saboteur’s equipment assemblies are called draggers. Each dragger has a hardness 8 and 20 hit points, or requires a DC 23 Disable Device check to cause the dragger to disengage and fall away. The draggers make their presence felt this round. The dragger on each wing begins to exert drag on the submersible’s speed, reducing the submersible’s speed from 60 to 50 (each dragger reduces the submersible’s total speed by 5).
The gargantuan dire shark and its keepers close their separation distance by 10 feet, now trailing the Sea Dart at either 50 or 30 feet.

Presumably, the characters are just on the verge of exiting the airlock.

Round Seven:
If both draggers are still functioning at the beginning of the round, the submersible’s speed remains at 50.

The gargantuan dire shark and its keepers close their separation distance by 10 feet, now trailing the Sea Dart at either 40 or 20 feet.

Presumably, the bulk characters appear out of the airlock, a full round’s worth of actions available to each of them. The airlock is located along the center line of the submersible. The elemental intakes on each wing are each 30 feet from the airlock (60 feet from each other). Therefore, 30 feet is the distance separating exiting characters from each group of sahuagin saboteurs.

Moving on the Hull: Footings attached all over the hull allow careful characters to walk along the submersible’s surface without being swept away by the rushing water. Using the footings successfully allows the character to move her full speed, but require a xx check (characters can take 10 on this check). A failure of more than five indicates that the character moves at half speed, while a failure of 10 or more means the character loses her footing and tumbles off the submersible. Those without tethers are quickly left behind unless they have a quick swim speed.

Attacking The Sahuagin Saboteurs: The sahuagin on the hull attempt to protect the draggers, three sahuagin to a dragger. Each group of three surrounds its dragger, and viciously attacks anyone approaching it.

Round Eight:
If both draggers are still functioning at the beginning of the round, the submersible’s speed remains at 50. The gargantuan dire shark and its keepers close their separation distance by 10 feet, now trailing the Sea Dart at either 30 or 10 feet.

If only one dragger still functions, the submersible’s speed is 55. The gargantuan dire shark and its keepers close their separation distance by 5 feet, now trailing the Sea Dart at either 35 or 15 feet.

If neither dragger still functions, the gargantuan dire shark will never catch the submersible, and its all over. If any sahuagin saboteur still retaining a footing on the submersible hull detaches and falls back.

Otherwise, the characters presumably continue to fight the sahuagin saboteurs to disable one or both draggers.

Round Nine:
If both draggers are still functioning at the beginning of the round, the submersible’s speed remains at 50. The gargantuan dire shark and its keepers close their separation distance by 10 feet, now trailing the Sea Dart at either 20 or 0 feet (see If the Shark Catches the Submersible).

If only one dragger still functions, the gargantuan dire shark and its keepers close their separation distance by 5 feet, now trailing the Sea Dart at either 30 or 10 feet.

If neither dragger still functions, see round eight.

Otherwise, the characters presumably continue to fight the sahuagin saboteurs to disable one or both draggers.

Round Ten:
If both draggers are still functioning at the beginning of the round, the submersible’s speed remains at 50. The gargantuan dire shark and its keepers close their separation distance by 10 feet, now trailing the Sea Dart at 10 feet (if the characters failed to spot the dire shark in round one, and both draggers still function, the shark caught the submersible last round).

If only one dragger still functions, the gargantuan dire shark and its keepers close their separation distance by 5 feet, now trailing the Sea Dart at either 15 or 5 feet.

If neither dragger still functions, see round eight.

Otherwise, the characters presumably continue to fight the sahuagin saboteurs to disable one or both draggers.

Round Eleven:
If both draggers are still functioning at the beginning of the round, the submersible’s speed remains at 50. The gargantuan dire shark and its keepers close their separation distance by 10 feet, catching the submersible (see If the Shark Catches the Submersible).

If only one dragger still functions, the gargantuan dire shark and its keepers close their separation distance by 5 feet, now trailing the Sea Dart at either 10 or 0 feet (see If the Shark Catches the Submersible).

If neither dragger still functions, see round eight.

Otherwise, the characters presumably continue to fight the sahuagin saboteurs to disable one or both draggers.

Round Twelve:
If only one dragger still functions, the submersible’s speed is 55. The gargantuan dire shark and its keepers close their separation distance by 5 feet, now trailing the Sea Dart at 5 feet (if the characters failed to spot the dire shark in round one, and even if just one dragger still functions, the shark caught the submersible last round).

If neither dragger still functions, see round eight.

Otherwise, the characters presumably continue to fight the sahuagin saboteurs to disable one or both draggers.

Round Thirteen:
If even just one dragger still functions, the gargantuan dire shark and its keepers close their separation distance by 5 feet, the trailing dire shark finally catches the submersible.

If the Shark Catches the Submersible:
The dire shark smashes into the Sea Dart, damaging the ring that binds the water elemental to the vessel. Pick up with the published adventure again with the read aloud text at the very bottom of page 7, and continue with the adventure. It is touch and go, here, and the PCs are not careful, the sahuagin may take them down to their sunless city, where sea devils cavort in the court of their king, awful rites pay homage to a brutal shark god, and the desperate characters from above the waves dream of the sun they will never see again…

I recommend that you cut out the encounter titled 'Island Encounter on page 9, because by this time, the PCs have probably had enough fighting with the sahuagin, after they've played through the above sequence (and failed).

If the Submersible Escapes the Shark:
The journey to Stormgate continues! Byam keeps careful watch as he continues to wend his submersible through Straits. Assuming the shark attack occurred four days into the trip, another four days of travel sees the Sea Dart to the continent of Xen’drik and Stormgate.

Experience:
If the submersible escapes the dire shark, award the characters experience equivalent to a CR 8 monster. Pick up with the published adventure again on page 10 with the encounter titled 'Stormreach.'

Creature Stats

d
Gargantuan Dire Shark: CR 16; Gargantuan animal (aquatic); HD 33d8+165; hp 313; Init +2; Spd swim 60 ft.; AC 19 (-4 size, +2 Dex, +11 natural), touch 9, flat-footed 17; Base +24; Grp 46; Atk +30 melee (3d8+15, bite); Full Atk +30 melee (3d8+15, bite); Space/Reach 70 ft./10 ft. SA Improved grab, swallow whole; SQ Keen scent; AL N; SV Fort +22, Ref +20, Will +19; Str 31, Dex 15, Con 21, Int 1, Wis 12, Cha 10.
Skills and Feats Listen +12, Spot +26, Swim +14; Improved Natural Attack (bite), Toughness (4), Weapon Focus (bite).
Improved Grab (Ex): On a successful bite attack, can attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. If it wins the grapple check, it establishes a hold and can try to swallow the foe in the following round.
Swallow Whole (Ex): A dire shark can try to swallow a grabbed opponent of up to Huge size by making a successful grapple check. Once inside, the opponent takes 3d6+10 points of bludgeoning damage plus 2d6+8 points of acid damage per round from the shark’s digestive juices. A swallowed creature can cut its way out using a light slashing or piercing weapon by dealing 25 points of damage to the shark’s digestive tract (AC 13). Once the creature exits, muscular action closes the hole; another swallowed opponent must cut its own way out.
A Gargantuan dire shark’s gullet can hold 2 Huge, 8 Large, 32 Medium or Small, or 128 or Small, or 512 Diminutive or smaller opponents.
Keen Scent (Ex): Notice creatures by scent in a 180-foot radius and can detect blood in the water at a range of up to 1 mile.
Skills: +8 racial bonus on any Swim check to perform some special action or avoid a hazard. It can always choose to take 10 on a Swim check, even if distracted or endangered. It can use the run action while swimming, provided it swims in a straight line.

dSahuagin Keepers (4): Rng 2; CR 4;Medium Monstrous Humanoid (aquatic); HD 2d8+2 plus 2d8+2; hp 22; Init +1; Spd 30 ft., swim 60 ft.; AC16 (+1 Dex, +5 natural), touch 11, flatfooted 15; Base +4; Grp +6; Atk +6 melee (1d4+2, talon) or +6 melee (1d8+3, trident); Full Atk +6 melee (1d8+3, trident) and +4 melee (1d6+1, bite) and +4 melee (1d4+1, rake if in water); Space/Reach 5 ft./5 ft.; SA Blood frenzy, favored enemy (human); SQ Blindsense 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft. freshwater sensitivity, light blindness, speak with sharks, water dependent, wild empathy, combat style (Improved Natural Attack (bite)); SV Fort +5, Ref +6, Will +4; Str 14, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 13, Cha 9.
Skills and Feats: Handle Animal +6*, Hide +8, Listen +8*, Profession (hunter) +6*, Ride +5, Spot +8*, Survival +2*; Great Fortitude, MultiattackB, TrackB.
Blood Frenzy: 1/day a sahuagin can fly into a frenzy in round following it being damaged, clawing and biting madly until either it or its opponent is dead. It gains +2 Constitution and +2 Strength, and takes a –2 penalty to Armor Class. A sahuagin cannot end its frenzy voluntarily.
Favored Enemy (Human): Gain a +2 bonus on Bluff, Listen, Sense Motive, Spot, and Survival checks when using these skills against a human; gains a +2 bonus on weapon damage rolls against humans.
Freshwater Sensitivity (Ex): See Monster Manual.
Light Blindness (Ex): Abrupt exposure to bright light (such as sunlight or a daylight spell) blinds sahuagin for 1 round. On subsequent rounds, they are dazzled while operating in bright light.
Speak with Sharks (Ex): Communicate telepathically with sharks up to 150 feet away. The communication is limited to fairly simple concepts such as “food,” “danger,” and “enemy.” Can use the Handle Animal skill to befriend and train sharks.
Water Dependent (Ex): Survive out of the water for 1 hour per 2 points of Constitution.
Skills: +8 racial bonus on any Swim check to perform some special action or avoid a hazard. It can always choose to take 10 on a Swim check, even if distracted or endangered. It can use the run action while swimming, provided it swims in a straight line.
*Underwater, a sahuagin has a +4 racial bonus on Hide, Listen, and Spot checks. A sahuagin has a +4 racial bonus on Survival and Profession (hunter) checks within 50 miles of its home. sahuagin has a +4 racial bonus on Handle Animal checks when working with sharks. A sahuagin can always determine where true north lies in relation to itself and has a +2 racial bonus on Search checks to find or follow tracks.

dSahuagin Saboteurs (6): Rog2; CR 4;Medium Monstrous Humanoid (aquatic); HD 2d8+2 plus 2d6+2; hp 20; Init +1; Spd 30 ft., swim 60 ft.; AC16 (+1 Dex, +5 natural), touch 11, flatfooted 15; Base +3; Grp +5; Atk +5 melee (1d4+2, talon) or +5 melee (1d8+3, trident); Full Atk +5 melee (1d8+3, trident) and +3 melee (1d4+1, bite) and +3 melee (1d4+1, rake); Space/Reach 5 ft./5 ft.; SA Blood frenzy, sneak attack +1d6; SQ Blindsense 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft. freshwater sensitivity, light blindness, speak with sharks, water dependent, trapfinding, evasion; SV Fort +3, Ref +4, Will +4; Str 14, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 13, Cha 9.
Skills and Feats: Disable Device +6, Escape Artist +6, Handle Animal +4*, Hide +8, Listen +8*, Move Silently +5, Profession (hunter) +1*, Ride +3, Spot +8*, Survival +1*.
Blood Frenzy: 1/day a sahuagin can fly into a frenzy in round following it being damaged, clawing and biting madly until either it or its opponent is dead. It gains +2 Constitution and +2 Strength, and takes a –2 penalty to Armor Class. A sahuagin cannot end its frenzy voluntarily.
Freshwater Sensitivity (Ex): See Monster Manual.
Light Blindness (Ex): Abrupt exposure to bright light (such as sunlight or a daylight spell) blinds sahuagin for 1 round. On subsequent rounds, they are dazzled while operating in bright light.
Speak with Sharks (Ex): Communicate telepathically with sharks up to 150 feet away. The communication is limited to fairly simple concepts such as “food,” “danger,” and “enemy.” Can use the Handle Animal skill to befriend and train sharks.
Water Dependent (Ex): Survive out of the water for 1 hour per 2 points of Constitution.
Skills: +8 racial bonus on any Swim check to perform some special action or avoid a hazard. It can always choose to take 10 on a Swim check, even if distracted or endangered. It can use the run action while swimming, provided it swims in a straight line.
*Underwater, a sahuagin has a +4 racial bonus on Hide, Listen, and Spot checks. A sahuagin has a +4 racial bonus on Survival and Profession (hunter) checks within 50 miles of its home. sahuagin has a +4 racial bonus on Handle Animal checks when working with sharks. A sahuagin can always determine where true north lies in relation to itself and has a +2 racial bonus on Search checks to find or follow tracks.
Post a Comment