Tuesday 28 February 2023

Hex Crawl 23 #59: A Stream in Trouble

Three hexes northeast, one hex north of Alakran.

Normally in healthy flow, this stream has dried to a trickle, dammed up in the hex to the northwest to further some sinister machinations underground. Dying grass and shrubs at its side in the valley are one consequence of this hydrological change. 

A little dull, still? For each of the hex encounters that can reach here, I offer you a "clue" and an encounter tableau.

Rhinos, NE:

Clue - A huge dung midden, fully 30 feet across, built up over years as a territorial marker, and crawling with dung beetles, including d12 giant specimens (as fire beetles).

Encounter - A playful baby rhino is running over a ridge right toward you. A minute later, its mother appears to fetch it, and a minute after that, the rest of the herd. 

Winged camels, SE:

Clue - Up in the sky! It's one winged camel, pursuing another. Oh, looks like a ... mating flight?

Encounter -Three winged camels, taking a break from flying, lapping up the fresher water in the stream whch tastes better than their increasingly brackish lake.

Brass dragons, SW: 

Clue - A blackened vaguely human outline on the ground, surrounded by charred grass and half-melted sand, aftermath of dragon breath applied to a lone marauder from the dam cave.

Encounter - One of them is rolling around in the riverbed, between the grit and water trying to get a good polish on their scales.

Mystery caverns, NW (if using the Pod Caverns module):

Clue - An area of uprooted plants and oddly featureless footprints. Perhaps the pod people have been seeking biomass for the Shroom's experiments?

Encounter - What looked like rocks or clumps of pallid cactus are actually pod-men -- eight of them, rising up in a slow and terrifying ambush, completely surrounding you.

Monday 27 February 2023

Hex Crawl 23 #58: Ruined Za-El

 Four hexes northeast of Alakran.


This is a small herding and farming village, some 30 houses nestled around a well in a hollow in the low hills of the Dhuga range. At this point in time, early 7020 of the ancient Urig calendar, it has lain empty for a few months, the denizens scattering to join family elsewhere. The only clues to unusual happenings are nonhuman footprints in the dust leading north, and on the walls of more than one house, among the usual drawings that parents indulge their children to create, the recurring motif of a seven-legged spider.

Find one of these scattered denizens, and they will tell you that the village's name is Za-El; that it was already an unpleasant place to live for it gave children nightmares of oddly colored and proportioned spiders. The tales gave the Za-Elians the reputation of fantasists, so when real, bipedal inhuman creatures started preying on the fllocks and even carrying off lone villagers, there was little sympathy or response from the Governors of Wahattu. Eventually they had no choice but to flee.

These monsters came from the cave in the hex to the north, which will be detailed later; if you are running the Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom out of that location, they are, of course, the marauding pod-men seeking biomass for their fungal creator.  But the earlier spiders, which some say could be glimpsed running about on a moonlit night, as big as a sheep, are phase spiders that have blinked up from a secret tunnel under the floor of the well leading to an Underdark lair inhabited by the ox-sized, naturally seven-legged Leng spider who had journeyed there across dimensions to harvest eldritch crystals.

It may be worth posting the account of the adventure, which I wrote up for my players after the session, the second part as a pastiche of a relevant and instantly imitable prose style. They were called to the aid of new settlers in the village, the family and retinue of a man from far away called Yul, who will be described in good time.