Swirls of mist obscure the area ahead and make visibility difficult. Under the hanging vines of the bog all is in shadow even while the sun is high. The incessant drone of insects provides a backdrop for the occasional screams and roars of the swamp’s larger denizens. Feet sink into thick black loam, and all is covered in moss.
The northwestern corner of the Isle of Dread is a misty bog hemmed in by mountains and filled with weeping willows, looping vines, and spongy wet ground, interspersed with meandering streams and springs. To the north and west, the bog is bounded by tall rocky ridges separating the bog from the coastal cliffs. To the east, the volcano rises up sharply, and only to the south is the bog open-ended, growing almost to the shores of the great lake, with a thin verge of grassland dividing lake from bog.
Treading through the bog
The path winds its way though the dim murkiness of the swamp, meandering along the highest ground but keeping generally to the same direction. Pools open up, brooks cross paths, the constant splashing of water is ever-present, as is the sighing of the trees. Interspersed along the path are lumpy stone statues at irregular intervals. Closer inspection reveals them to be halflings in tribal war gear, standing stoically at attention. The statues are the petrified remains of halflings who choose to follow the Bog hags lure to their doom.
There are rough paths throughout the bog, twisting and turning to keep to the higher ground. The paths all spoke out from the central area, where a hillock of dry ground rises out of the bog and an ancient stone circle stands. (Area 1) Near the stone circle, many streams begin to coalesce, turning into a small slow river that winds south to spill into the lake. A major path leads along the river-bank, out of the bog. (Area 2) Another major outer path traces the boundary of the bog by following along the ridgeline along the north, western, and eastern perimeter of the bog. From the central hill, 5 paths like spokes, connect the map. The first, to the southwest, leads to the bog hag lair. (Area 3) The next path, to the northwest, leads to the Couatl lair. (Area 4) The north path leads to the centaur homelands along the northern edge of the bog. (Area 5) The Northeast path links up with the path that leads up the mountain. (Area 6) Finally, to the southeast, the path leads to a rocky bank that skirts the highland plateau lava fields due south of the volcano. (Area 7)
The bog is a boiling point of contention. The factions who reside in the bog are not on friendly terms, and an intrepid party might be able to use one or more against another. To the north, the centaurs hold sway, and they are led by a couatl star serpent whom they worship as a deity. This clan is overly aggressive and have learned to attack first and not ask questions. They are however open to negotiations if the party displays a noble bearing.
To the west, the bog hag and her basilisks are an important focus. It is the bog hag who offers the foolish Halflings eternal life in the form of petrification. Many Halflings believe in the power of eternal life, and submit willingly to the stony stares of the bog hags pets. The halfling statues that litter the bog are the result of this unnatural association. The bog hag, for her part, seeks to thwart the Raven Queen, and cannot abide undead, so for her, this is the best solution for the Halflings.
Another group in the bog, a cabal of vampire witches, are not native to the area, but frequently enter the bog to hold rituals at the stone circle, where they turn captured humanoids into heartless vampire zombies to serve a dark master elsewhere on the isle. Everyone in the bog hates these intrusions, but lack the power to prevent the vampire witches dark rituals.
The catoblepas, Camus, has been given the bog on behalf of the Raven Queen, and it is his duty to reap the souls of the dead to the halls of the Raven Queen. Camus therefore despises the hag as she prevents him from reaping the halflings. Camus has a good relationship with the centaurs, and is often aided by a pair of centaur scouts. Camus also opposes all undead, on behalf of the raven Queen.
Though they have yet to meet the poor halflings who call this isle of dread home, in the bog they can begin to unravel some of the secrets of the isle, and how the poor halflings are caught up in conflicts with much greater power than themselves, to their peril and detriment. Saving the halflings from their fate, which becomes even more complicated as they delve deeper into their society, could become a side quest or objective for the party while on the island. It is their first glimpse of these sad, often elderly halflings in hide breaches, leaning on their spears, petrified and slowly crumbling away.
Wandering Encounter #1 – Camus the Catoblepas
This encounter will take place after the first battle in the bog where a living humanoid is killed. During the battle, when a kill is made, a deep lowing sound, somewhere between a moan and a cows moo, echoes across the bog, coming closer with each sounding.
Even before you’ve caught your breaths from the exertion of combat, another long lowing sound, as of cattle, was heard, this time much closer. You listen as the swishing of the branches to your north reveal a large dark beast who slowly shambles into the clearing. He is cow-like, somewhere between bison and mammoth in size, with a long neck and head that hung low to the ground. Its skin hangs loosely from its bony body but its eyes flash brightly, seeming to draw strength from you when it turns its glance your way. “I am Camus, reaper of souls in this land. You have upset the balance and your lives are judged forfeit.”
Skill Challenge – Delay the Doom of the Harbinger
5 Successes before 3 failures.
The characters can interact with the catoblepas who is more than willing to talk. Camus takes a philosophical view and enjoys explaining his position to any who will listen – It is his duty to send souls on their way, and that any death in his lands are by his approval. To kill or attack a native of the isle is to provoke the catoblepas, and earn his ire. The challenge should use social, and religion skill checks, but any original idea is worth investigating. DC 17 for standard skill checks, DC 21 for skills stretching the limits of plausibility. A success will result in Catoblepas delaying the inevitable showdown with the players, and depending on the extent of the success, could even result in them being granted a few “accidental deaths” along the way. Failure will result in an immediate attack by the catoblepas and his allies.
During negotiations, Camus can give away information about the hag and/or the vampire witches, and if negotiations go well, will float the idea of the characters doing his dirty work, by slaying one group or the other. As reward, Camus will overlook any undestined deaths the PCs cause along the way.
Difficult Battle – 2,400 xp
1 Catoblepas Harbinger (1,000 xp)
1 Centaur Hunter (700 xp)
1 Centaur Ravager (700 xp)
Special note: this battle most likely will take place BEFORE the party has had time for a short rest, which will add to the difficulty of the encounter.
Wandering Encounter #2
Spiders in the mist
Use this encounter if the party becomes hopelessly lost in the bog, leaving the trails to strike out on their own.
You enter an area darker and gloomier than most. Vines and creepers give way to silvery webs, and too late, you notice you have stumbled into a spiders lair.
Moderate Battle – 2,800 xp
2 Feyspitter Spiders, level 9 (800 xp)
20 Feyspitter Spiderlings (2,000 xp)
In the boles of three of the huge trees are large egg-sacks of web, woven about the corpses of humanoids. Loot can be glimpsed under the webs. Have the spiders attack whenever seems most appropriate. The 20 spiderlings pour out of the egg-sacks – 5 out of each, while the big spiders attack from the branches 20′ above.
The corpses are of four halflings in tribal garb, dead but not stone. They were caught by the spiders before meeting up with the bog hag. Around the neck of each is a gold leaf on a leathern thong. The leaf looks so finely crafted as to be an actual leaf turned to gold, and their worth is 50 gp apiece.
The map will be keyed in Part 2 of The Bog. For previous installments of the Isle of Dread Adventure Site, see HERE.
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