Encounters have consequences. Every slain bandit has friends who will want revenge, and every devil banished back to the Eleven Hells reports its failure to its Dark Lord. What happens when the PCs’ daring deeds come back to bite them?
The following encounter chains are more than just random encounters. Each conflict flows organically into the next, sometimes without even giving the PCs a chance to catch their collective breath. Each subsequent link in the chain ups the stakes, giving the PCs the sense of falling out of the frying pan… and into the fire.
Encounter 1: Into the Quagmire
Recommended party level: 5-6
Few tread too far off the Floating Road. Even aside from the danger, the area is so remote that the value of any treasure to be found pales in comparison with the effort needed to retrieve it. So goes the common refrain. But whether part of a lost trade caravan heading out from Tolmezo or for some other reason, the PCs find themselves in the dank marshes.
Your travel pace is abysmally slow. The path is long gone behind you, and repeated attempts to find it again have met with maddening failure; even your most skilled navigators have failed to return you to your intended path. Dusk is approaching fast and with it the braying of coyotes, the eerie stridulation of giant scorpions, and worse. Up ahead, you see flickering lights.
The flickering comes from a group of witchlights (Tome of Beasts). The marsh is under a curse, making its dense and monotonous nature even harder to navigate. In addition to being difficult terrain, characters traveling in the marsh have disadvantage on Wisdom (Nature) checks and all checks to determine direction. The witchlights are about 100 feet away when they are first spotted but seem much closer.
A character who succeeds on a DC 18 Intelligence check while watching the flickering lights realizes that the flickering is not random and does not resemble any natural phenomenon. A character who succeeds on a DC 23 Intelligence (Arcana) check determines that the flickering is a method of communication and represents creatures having a conversation.
The witchlights are the bait to a trap, intended to lure travelers into a pit (15-feet deep and 20-feet in diameter), which contains three gibbering mouthers. Once they come within 10 feet of the pit’s edge, PCs are subject to the creatures’ Gibbering ability. Once the PCs are in the pit with the gibbering mouthers, the witchlights flee to their master’s cave.
Developments. PCs who succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check notice the remains of many bodies—perhaps as many as several dozen—in various stages of decomposition at the mouthers’ remains. If the PCs follow the witchlights, proceed to Encounter 2. If the PCs remain in the pit for more than 15 minutes, proceed to Encounter 3.
Encounter 2: In the Cavern of Madness
The witchlights proceed to the cave in which their master lives. The cave entrance is a short distance from the mouther pit; it opens to a 100-foot-long tunnel ending at a single 30-foot-diameter chamber. The cave entrance is guarded by a shambling mound surrounded by a swarm of tiny lizards that emit electrical shocks (treat as a swarm of rats that deal electricity damage instead of piercing damage). The shocker lizards keep the shambling mound at maximum hit points (increasing its challenge rating to 7) and grant it regeneration 5 until the swarm is destroyed.
In the cave is a mage named Talan Csalo, who is not hostile. He explains that he is mourning the death of his lover, who was killed by the gibbering mouthers in the pit. He says he has developed a ritual to restore his lover from the pit and asks the party to accompany him there and assist in performing it.
In truth, Csalo is trying to sacrifice as many innocents as possible in the pit and believes that, once he has facilitated the necessary amount of death, his lover return from the dead. He is the one who summoned and keeps the gibbering mothers in the pit, instructing the witchlights to lead unwary travelers to their doom there. He wears a ring of mind shielding, which he keeps invisible, to aid him in his deceptions.
Developments. The cavern includes a hidden crevice that can be discovered by a successful DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) or DC 18 Intelligence (Investigation) check. The crevice contains the accoutrements of a sage, including a moldering ledger that contains the ritual Talan Csalo believes will return his lover to him. The ledger will reveal Csalo’s deceit and his true intentions.
If the PCs decide to assist Csalo, proceed to Encounter 3.
Encounter 3: Love’s Light Lacking
If the gibbering mouthers are killed, after 20 minutes their remains congeal into a rubbery film at the bottom of the pit. This film has the same effects as a grease spell and can only be removed by casting bless, remove curse, hallow, or a similar spell upon the pit.
If any PC took any amount of damage while in the pit, the ritual is completed and the mage’s lost love returns—as a chained angel (Tome of Beasts). Any creature who attempts to cast a spell with the chained angel as a single target must succeed on a DC 15 Charisma saving throw or suffer one short term madness effect for 1 minute.
If the party returns to the pit with Csalo, he attempts to push one PC into the pit using mage hand (Csalo makes an Intelligence check opposed by the PC’s Strength check). A PC who falls in this manner takes 1d6 damage and completes the ritual. Once the chained angel rises, Csalo is incapacitated as he looks on in horrified wonder.
Developments. Once the chained angel is defeated, Csalo flees and the curse is lifted from the marsh, and the PCs can navigate as usual using Nature skill checks.
2 thoughts on “Out of the Frying Pan: Muttering Madness”
Very nice, I love the ritual. I think I’ll edit this to a Cartways adventure. Many thanks for sharing.