An ancient immortal creature stalks the Margreve Forest, and an entire village of cannibal cultists worship it as their god. They will gladly use any trespassers as ritual sacrifice to keep it placated.
Cult Activity gives you a cult-driven set piece: location, background, hooks, everything you need to build your own adventures in Midgard.
Somewhere within the thick of the Margreve Forest lies a small village inhabited by a dozen or so human cultists that are hundreds of years old, though most don’t look it. Their unnaturally long life has been granted to them by an immortal creature as ancient as the world itself. They leave it offerings of trinkets carved from bone and wood and make sacrifices to it regularly. They call this creature Djävulälg and treat it as their god, stopping at nothing to keep in its good graces. Sacrifices made to it are typically animals, but whenever interlopers are discovered, the cultists attempt to trap or capture them to use as fodder for these sacrifices. Human sacrifice seems to please the beast more than any other form of tribute. In times of desperation, the cultists have sacrificed their own. If tribute has been paid aplenty and the forest’s bounty has proved meager recently, sometimes trespassers are cannibalized as sustenance.
The djävulälg is near indescribable, an amalgamation of human and beast with flourishes of exposed bone. It walks atop six crooked legs with cloven hooves, and stands as tall as some of the smaller trees. It moves silently, even through the underbrush of the forest, and bears the distinct smell of ash and rot. It is predatory and hunts most anything that carries warm blood in its veins, save for its devoted “children” of the village.
There are several ways characters might find themselves traversing this secluded section of the Margreve Forest:
- An eccentric artificer has contracted the characters to extract some magically infused lumber from the black oak trees at the heart of the forest.
- A noble from the nearby city of Zobeck, has offered a reward for the return of their missing daughter believed to be lost in the forest.
- The characters were part of a caravan traveling the Black Road that was waylaid by undead and have retreated deep into the forest and become lost.
- While traveling overland, the forest was a viable shortcut.
Use the hex map to help track characters as they navigate the forest. Traversing a hex takes 20 minutes, and 10 if it has a path on it. If you need to determine a hex randomly for any reason, roll 2d6 to determine the column and row. To randomly determine the direction traveling from one hex to another, roll a d6 and consult the diagram on the map.
This region of Margreve Forest is permeated by the djävulälg’s ancient magic that befuddles the mind and confuses the senses. Each hour, characters must make another moderate test to navigate because of it. Outside of the borders of the map, characters find themselves turned around and are placed back onto the forest border randomly. This effect persists until either the djävulälg or all the cultists are slain. For every other hex, characters roll a d6 on the Forest Findings table to add some flavor and hint toward the forest not being as vacant as it seems.
After any failed navigation test, roll on the random encounter table. If an encounter doesn’t fit or feel right, ignore the results and let the story unfold naturally. You may also determine that cultists have overheard or seen the characters and come searching for them at any time. The cultists attempt to catch them off guard and sneak up whenever possible, ganging up on a single character who strays behind or looks the weakest, pulling a sack over their head and dragging them off to their church for sacrifice to the djävulälg at midnight.
|1||A dilapidated pack of adventuring supplies|
|2||Indistinguishable scattered remains of bone or sinew|
|3||Bone trinkets dangling from twine amid the trees|
|4||A large bone (femur) carved with strange symbols|
|5||Unknown runes burned into dozens of trees|
|6||A hung animal, its ribcage splayed and empty|
|1||3d6 blood-thirsty bats|
|2||2d6 demonic rats|
|3||1d6+1 starved wolves|
|4||1d4+1 owls with solid white eyes|
|6||A group of 1d6 cultists|
Speckled throughout are a few cottages tucked away in the woods, used by hunters, tanners, and fishermen as worksites and temporary outposts or as places to sleep for the evening if the trek back to the village would be too dangerous.
The Tanner’s Shack (A)
This simple wooden shack is littered with crude bottles of strong smelling liquids and many hides stretched over tanning racks. An easy investigation test should allow characters to discover that one of the hides is the over-tattooed skin of a dwarf. Simple tools and weapons can be found here.
The Hunter’s Cottage (B)
A large cabin flanked by two other very small sheds houses a collection of weapons used for hunting, trapping, and killing. If your setting has firearms, there should be several cached here, very little ammo is available and all the weapons are in some state of disrepair – obviously taken from others who have been lost to the forest. A single cultist lives here and makes treks into the village as needed, he can be found sleeping if characters are quiet, otherwise upon hearing their approach, makes a run for the village center to warn the others.
The Fisherman’s Hut (C)
Several rows small fish are strung up outside of this small thatched hut, and the air here is thick with their odor. Just downhill from here bobs a simple rowboat tied off to a ramshackle dock. Crude fishing poles and twine can be found here. The floor of the hut contains a trap door (moderate perception test) that contains extra sets of clothes, a well-kept fillet knife, and several odd masks made of bone and bark.
The Village (D)
The village is small, amid a circular clearing of black oak trees, and is organized around a single large wooden building with a thatched roof that acts as a church. Within is a chamber dedicated to prayers and offerings to djävulälg, another for forging trinkets for it, and two others with manacles bolted to the walls to keep prisoners until it’s time for a sacrifice.
There are 5 or 6 other smaller wooden huts used as dwellings. At the center of the village is a large pyre, used for cooking, gatherings, and seasonal rituals. Speckled throughout the village are work benches, primitive tools and animal traps,
Rarely do the villagers speak, and when they do it is not in any tongue decipherable by outsiders. The village is mostly comprised of “adult” men and women who appear middle aged, but each are well over 175 years old. There are a few children who are genuinely as old as they appear, as the djävulälg’s magic doesn’t take effect until later in life. The village elder is a very tiny old woman with a hunchback and cloven feet, she is a low to mid-level spellcaster versed in witchcraft types of magic.
If any of the characters are captured, they will be hoisted up on a cross for sacrifice that same evening at midnight, if for some reason the characters are not drawn to the village any by other events, they can hear the screams and cries of a woman (Zobeck noble’s daughter) near midnight and see the pyre ablaze through the forest, acting as a guiding beacon, at which point navigation tests no longer need to be made to navigate toward the village.
Feel free to use whatever demon, monster, or beast you see fit for the ancient creature that stalks the woods. Keep in mind that it is immortal and has been part of Midgard for aeons, a discarded and bastardized offspring of the gods. It should prove very difficult for an average sized party of characters to do it much real harm without luck or a clever plan. Should you wish to create your own, the creature is moderately strong, very dexterous, and very wise and has some mild psychic or preternatural senses as well as the ability to traverse the forest silently and with ease.