Our expert judges have conferred, and we have our five finalists for the Enter the Dragon’s Lair contest! Each day this week, we’ll post one of the finalists, and then we’ll set up a voting process so that you, our readers, can vote for your favorite entry. Our next entry comes from David Adams—congratulations, David, for making it to the finals!
Rotting Within the Forest CR 12
As the twisted trees of the Forest of Forgetting begin to thin, the ground underfoot softens. In moments you stand at the edge of a wide clearing, a half sunken tower peering out from beneath a murky bog. Buzzing insects flit about the dark waters of this deep pond and its festering sodden edges, and a putrid odor lingers in the air.
The clearing spans 10 yards east to west, with a small stream feeding the fetid bog that occupies the entirety of the open area. A deep pond fills the center of the clearing and most of the 150 feet or so that the area is open north to south. The outermost 25 feet of the large bog is shallow. Deep bog terrains covers all the remaining ground that the pond does not occupy. The top 40 feet of a ruined tower jut out from the northwestern edge of the pond, leaning slightly toward the murky waters below. A small window sits just above the waterline and serves as an adequate entrance for the kobolds that live within. From that window a staircase winds the circumference of the tower to a waterlogged chamber below and a makeshift guard post at its apex.
The waters of the bog are contaminated with slimy doom (Pathfinder Core Rulebook 557). Characters succeeding on a DC 25 Nature check notice an opalescent sheen to the water that indicates the presence of slimy doom. Any character that takes damage while standing in deep bog or while in the water of the pond must succeed at a DC 14 saving throw at the start of the next day or contract slimy doom.
Little remains of the tower’s interior. Slick stairs lead up to a wooden trapdoor that accesses the top of the tower, where the kobolds stand watch over their godly lord Anystillax, and descend into a dank chamber that bears little resemblance to the crafted structure it once was. The room itself is roughly circular and some 200 feet across, though it is little more than a filthy pit overflowing with refuse and rotting carrion – trophies to the dragon’s love for decay. Spending more than ten minutes in the stale air requires player’s to make a DC 15 Fortitude save to avoid becoming sickened. A large pool of water on the outer edge of the room connects to a 60 foot long underwater passage that leads to the pond outside.
The mycolids of the Forest of Forgetting know that the black dragon Anystillax and his cult of kobolds claim this dank land as their home…and they would be all too happy to see him expelled.
Creatures: Anystillax lairs exclusively within the bog, protected by a small army of kobolds and the odd fungal creatures that survive on the detritus that the dragon delights in wallowing among. Anystillax prefers to avoid fighting within his bog, but detests intrusion upon his property. He issues a stern warning prior to engaging in combat and uses hit-and-run tactics to wear down foes, often dragging foes into the pond in an attempt to drown them. When he feels he has been overwhelmed or that his life is in danger, he retreats through the underwater passage to the relative safety of the chamber within the ruined tower. Anyone confronting him within the chamber can expect him to attempt to flee when he figures out the odds are not in his favor. Anystillax is also keenly fascinated by the decay of organic materials and might be willing to parlay if gifted with an unusual material or new agent of decay.
The kobolds that Anystillax surrounds himself with have been crudely trained and fight in loosely organized groups. The first kobold to engage an enemy will be backed up by other kobolds using the aid another action. The presence of their draconic master is the only source of courage they have and the will break ranks quickly if Anystillax is away from the lair or retreats during combat. These kobolds have also bread a small number of violet funguses that serve somewhat like living traps, being moved about by the lure of the rotting flesh Anystillax brings back to the roost.
Male adult black dragon (Pathfinder Bestiary 92)
XP 100 Each
hp 5 (Pathfinder Bestiary 183)
Violet Fungus (4)
XP 800 Each
hp 30 (Pathfinder Bestiary 274)
Development: Anystillax typically spends the better part of his days hunting. Should the characters notice him during these treks, they must succeed at a DC 35 stealth check to sneak up on him. When he is not hunting, he spends overcast days wallowing in the filthy mire of the bog. Thus submerged, he is difficult to see and characters must succeed at a DC 30 spot check to notice him. His nights and bright days are spent inside the sunken tower. A trio of kobolds keep watch from atop the tower, but characters can sneak past them with a DC 15 stealth check. At the first sign of trouble, the kobolds raise the alarm.
Treasure: Each kobold carries one or more pouches containing their personal belongings and 1d6 gold pieces – prizes awarded by their awesome master. One of the kobolds is also in possession of a pipes of the sewers (Pathfinder Core Rulebook 526).
Anystillax’s horde is mostly putrefied garbage. Animal bones and unrecognizable decomposed flesh fills a pit in the far corner of his lair. Littered about this stinking midden are gold coins and various gems and jewelry. A careful character can recover 3,000 gp in treasure from the dragon’s belongings. Delving deeper into the filth one can find another 5,000 gp in various treasures, but anyone doing so automatically contracts blinding sickness (Pathfinder Core Rulebook 557).
Story Award: Anystillax pilfers much of his treasure from the frequent envoys of the Ghoul Imperium that travel unmolested through the regions of the Forest of Forgetting controlled by the mycolids. He has many valuable documents belonging to high-ranking members of the Imperium. Information that could be returned for handsome reward or exploited for other ends. Most of these documents are sodden and legible only in part, for the dragon delights in heaping organic materials in his lair and watching their decay.