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Been There, Dung That…

Been There, Dung That…

dung beetle feastTonaxian’s small group headed deeper into the caverns. He knew their query was close by the smell. The foul odor grew stronger as they crept quietly forward. From the front, a muffled curse burst forth from Kurlak, and the room bloomed with light to reveal Kurlak’s left leg buried knee deep in a pile of offal.

Unfortunately, the light also revealed the creature they hunted turning angrily toward them. Laugh or cry, it looked like they had truly stepped into it this time…

Funny thing is, you take a party into a dark, creature-infested cave system and everything is always, “Bones are picked bare if found. Dust coats the surfaces. Maybe some slimy mold or lichen on the wet walls.” But does that really cover it? Where does that cave troll leave its mess? Does a bear den have his and her bathrooms? Maybe the cleaning service takes care of it.

So let’s put on our gloves and really dig into this. The truth is, an animal or creature may not care if it poops where it lives. That leads to some interesting opportunities for humor and mishaps for any intrepid GM…

Ye Gods, the stench
First, there is the odor. The dire bear that just finished digesting the two dwarf scouts who trespassed in its caves isn’t going to look for the nearest restroom. A simple passage in or out may be where the action takes place, leaving an aromatic natural gift for the unwitting explorer.

Factors such as how old it is, what the creature’s diet includes, and how big it is can all influence the effluence. A strong odor might make members of the party nauseous or teary-eyed: consider a −1 penalty to initiative or, even, to attack rolls (Will DC 12 negates). Try focusing the next time you have a dry heave!

Second, consider the scat itself. Does anyone in the party have knowledge that might let them identify what left it? A ranger with Survival or a druid with Knowledge (nature) might with a few skill checks. Of course, this is if they see it before stepping in it. That opens up the possibility for a stink that follows the poor soul around for a while. A dwarf pounding into a pile 6 inches deep might even risk some inside the boot. The smell lingers for 2d4 turns or until washed off, imposing a −4 penalty to Stealth checks to anyone within 10 ft. of the impacted character.

Finally, there is always the chance encounter with the creatures that live on others’ waste. Why not a giant cavern dwelling dung beetle or your friendly mushrooms? Take a random event and add a random encounter. Just remember to keep a straight face while doing it…

Giant Dung Beetle (CR 1/3)

These are the janitors of any cave system. Like their surface brethren, they are industrious and thorough. They are passive unless they or their eggs are threatened. They are roughly 1 ft. long with a dull black carapace.

XP 135
N Small vermin
+0; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +0

AC 13, touch 11, flat-footed 13 (+2 natural, +1 size)
hp 4 (1d8)
Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +0
Immune mind-affecting effects

Speed 30 ft. (15 ft. with dung ball)
Melee bite +1 (1d4)

Str 10, Dex 11, Con 11, Int —, Wis 10, Cha 7
Base Atk +0; CMB −1; CMD 9 (17 vs. trip)
SQ noxious cloud

Environment underground
Organization solitary, pair
Treasure none

Noxious Cloud (Ex) When attacked or disturbed, the beetle releases a cloud of nauseating vapor with a 10-ft. radius (1/round). Those within the cloud take a −4 penalty to initiative and a −2 penalty to attack rolls (Fortitude DC 12; Constitution-based). The effect lasts as long as characters remain in the cloud and for 1d4−1 rounds after leaving the cloud.

(Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Compatible)

7 thoughts on “Been There, Dung That…”

  1. Fun article!

    For the saving throw/nausea, I’d suggest the “sickened” condition, with a variable DC depending on “freshness”.

    The mushrooms you suggest just beg for the inclusion of Campestri, one of my favorite 2e plantoid monsters!

  2. Simon the Overthinker

    I’ve been slowly converting over my thinking to the pathfinder rules. The sickened condition is a good twist. As with any good GM, adapt to the game you want and have fun with it! Of course for the halfling, mushrooms could be just the perfect find for Dunch (once cleaned of course).

  3. Simon the Overthinker

    As I have recently introduced the game to 12 and 14 year olds, adding humor that they appreciate as much as I is always worth it!

    And yes Darkjoy, a true halfling would still find a wonderful squish between the toes!

  4. Heh. I’m reminded of the time my city cousin came to visit my family on our farm. He insisted on going barefoot because that’s what “hillbillies” did. He soon learned why we didn’t.

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