Sharkbait! - Episode One: The Missing Statue
By Ramon Arjona
Sharkbait! is a short adventure for four 5th-level characters. The adventure takes place initially in the coastal town of Mochdrev, then moves into a system of underwater caverns adopted as a temporary base by a group of sahuagin. Dungeon Masters can adjust this adventure for more powerful PCs by giving levels of cleric and ranger to the sahuagin who oppose the PCs, or by increasing the number of sahuagin. The DM could also increase the size and number of the sharks that accompany the sahuagin and assist them in their attempt to eliminate the PCs. To be particularly vicious, the DM could use dire sharks or weresharks (Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerūn, page 92) instead of the relatively innocuous natural forms presented below.
The coastal town of Mochdrev relies on fishing as its primary industry. As the town has grown, it has come into conflict with a nearby tribe of sahuagin who are expanding their feeding grounds. The leader of the sahuagin, a wily old male called Urtholah, is aware that open conflict with the human settlement could bring wider repercussions, possibly resulting in many neighboring coastal settlements banding together to hunt the sahuagin. This threat, he knows, could force his tribe from their feeding grounds and result in much lost life among his people.
Therefore, Urtholah employs stealth and trickery to frighten the humans away from the ocean. He makes sure that schools of sharks are often visible patrolling the edge of the sahuagin feeding ground. These sharks sometimes attack the Mochdrev fishing boats, occasionally dragging fisherfolk to their death beneath the waves. Urtholah walks a fine line, trying to cause enough death to inspire fear, while not rousing the human community to violent action. He is careful to keep his sahuagin warriors out of sight, revealing them only to those who have no hope of returning to Mochdrev with the truth.
To spread fear of the sharks through the populace of Mochdrev, Urtholah relies on a malenti known as Lurotha. The malenti (Monster Manual, page 158) is a sahuagin mutant that looks exactly like an aquatic elf and can remain on dry land longer than a normal sahuagin.
Lurotha uses his mutant appearance to pass as an aquatic elf among the land-dwellers. In this guise, he mingles with the people of Mochdrev, telling them that the rash of shark attacks are the wrath of the shark goddess Sekolah, who resents their encroachment upon her sacred territory. Only by removing all of their boats from the sea, he says, can the people of Mochdrev appease the goddess and stop the deaths.
To make his point more strongly, Lurotha has arranged for the theft of a wooden statue that is the focal point of Mochdrev's religious life. The statue itself is nonmagical, but its theft by apparently supernatural means related to Sekolah will further panic the already frightened people of Mochdrev.
The PCs are present in the fishing village of Mochdrev when the statue is stolen. The town leaders beg the PCs to help investigate this heinous sacrilege. Clues at the temple and the elf ranger called Cyric (really Lurotha in disguise) lead the characters to a series of underwater caves north of Mochdrev. It is here that he intends for his sahuagin cohorts to slaughter the PCs, using them to inspire the fear of Sekolah in the village folk.
The PCs must get into the caves, retrieve the statue, and defeat or drive away the sahuagin warriors.
- Player characters find themselves drawn to Mochdrev by rumors of strange deaths among the townspeople and ominous behavior among the local sea life, all of which is reported to be the work of an evil sea deity.
- A powerful noble dispatches the characters to Mochdrev. People up and down the coast are fearful, and fish production has dropped off sharply, impacting the local economy. She wants the PCs to discover the root of the problem and fix it.
- Sailors report an unnaturally high number of shark sightings near the town of Mochdrev. This could indicate the presence of strange magic or perhaps a great evil waking offshore. The PCs should investigate the situation and report back with any discoveries they make.
The Stolen Statue (EL varies)
The adventure begins as the PCs enter the village temple, which has been violated by some mysterious force. If the PCs approach anyone before they go to the temple itself, the villager in question should look rather grim, sad, or frightened, and he or she will mention that the village has lost its cleric:
The village temple is a humble building of whitewashed planks with a thatched roof. It is a single room that is large enough to hold all of Mochdrev's few hundred inhabitants. The front door has been smashed open. The inside of the building is in chaos, with splinter pews cast about and the altar toppled. The heavy smell of fish and seawater hangs thick in the air. Puddles of blood dot the floor. A man is working amid the wreckage, trying to restore order as best he can.
The blood belongs to Thuthir, who was until last night the cleric and nominal leader of the village of Mochdrev. He interrupted Lurotha and the sahuagin in the middle of the theft and paid with his life.
The man working amid the wreckage is Owein, Thuthir's friend and occasional caretaker of the temple. Owein discovered Thuthir's body when the old priest did not show up for his morning tea with Owein. A blood-soaked towel near the altar covers Thuthir's body.
When the characters speak with Owein, he is grief-stricken. He tells the characters about the strange behavior of the sharks, and the rash of attacks that have occurred. Three people have died so far. Then he adds the following:
Old Thuthir told us to have faith and pull together. He said all this talk of a demon shark was foolishness, that the forces of light and good must always prevail. Now that he's gone, I don't know what we'll do. Carry on as best we can, I suppose. But they took the temple statue. Don't know why, but with it missing and Thuthir dead, it's almost as if they've killed Mochdrev's soul.
The characters must make a successful Diplomacy check (DC 15) before Owein allows them near the cleric's body.
If the characters examine Thuthir's body, they find his corpse bloody and torn. A successful Heal or Wilderness Lore check (DC 15) reveals that he was torn apart by the claws and teeth of some wild animal. A successful Search check (DC 20) turns up a single white tooth in one of Thuthir's wounds. The tooth is triangular and serrated, like a shark's. This is not a sahuagin tooth, but an actual shark tooth (shed by Lurotha's pet tiger shark, Cortha) that the sahuagin planted, hoping that one of the superstitious villagers would find it. The presence of the tooth on the old cleric's body makes Owein very nervous.
Another successful Search check (DC 20) turns up traces of black sand and sharp rock fragments around the altar. Owein can identify these as being from a stretch of shore to the north of town.
If the character's attempt to use speak with dead on Thuthir, the old man's spirit is not very helpful. It was dark in the temple when the sahuagin attacked and they came at him from behind. He remembers claws, teeth, fins, and bulging yellow eyes coming at him from the darkness. He compares his attackers to bipedal sharks. This news makes Owein even more nervous than he already is.
At an appropriately dramatic moment, a half-naked elf with greenish skin, blue hair, and gills enters the temple. He carries a trident in one hand. This "aquatic elf" is of course Lurotha, the malenti. He addresses the nervous, grief-stricken Owein first, ignoring the PCs:
I am sorry for this great loss, Owein. But it is as I have told you all -- the devil shark Sekolah has sent her dark minions to take their vengeance upon you. You must abandon your fishing ground and your village while there is still time!
Owein introduces the "elf" to the PCs as Cyric. Should the PCs question him, Cyric tells a solid story. He is the last of a band of aquatic elves, wiped out by the devils of Sekolah. He has come to warn the coastal town that the demon shark is asserting her territorial rights, and all those that stand against her will perish. He plays up the "devil" angle as much as he can, and talks about ghosts, weresharks, and horrible beings brought up from the Abyss itself. If the PCs attempt to cast a detection spell on Cyric, Cyric's amulet of proof against detection and location should thwart it. If the PCs press the issue, Cyric claims that the amulet is all that keeps him safe from the eyes of Sekolah, who are certainly still hunting for him. Allow any PCs who seem to question the elf's veracity a Sense Motive check against Lurotha's Bluff check.
If the PCs seem abusive or rude to Cyric, Owein interjects:
Don't be unkind to our Cyric. Saved the Culley boy from the sharks, he did, and I can see how it tears him up inside that he couldn't save the boy's father -- forgive me, Cyric. But without him, there'd be still more dead than there already are.
If the PCs have not yet found the shark's tooth or the sand, Cyric finds them both. Once Owein has identified the sand as being from a stretch of shore to the north, Cyric proclaims the following:
It is from the sacred waters of Sekolah, where the demon shark gives birth to her bloodthirsty children! She has come to take back what is hers! That is where the devils have taken the statue. We must get the people of Mochdrev to safety before it is too late.
Once Cyric finishes this rant, Owein flees in panic, to tell the rest of Mochdrev the horrifying tale of Thuthir's death at the hands of shark demons.
Development: It is possible that the PCs will be completely taken in by Lurotha's lies. If so, the adventure may turn toward getting the people of Mochdrev to abandon their village. With the priest dead, and Owein telling everyone who will listen about the demon sharks, this probably won't be very hard.
If the PCs succeed in a Sense Motive check against Lurotha's Bluff check, they know that there's something wrong with his story. Or, they may be unwilling to hand the "demon shark" an easy victory. In either case, the only person they can find who will guide them to the "waters of Sekolah" is Lurotha. Lurotha feigns reluctance at first, but finally gives in to the PCs.
If you feel the PCs do not have sufficient access to water breathing spells, Owein offers to give them part of the temple's most secret and sacred relics to undertake the recovery of the statue: four potions ofwater breathing. Owein doesn't hold a lot of hope for the PCs' success, but reasons that this is what Thuthir would have wanted him to do.
The statue lies somewhere in a hidden cave, according to the stranger. Will the PCs recover it and restore the village of Mochdrev? Or will they fail, becoming fish food in the process?
The Dungeon Master should keep the following points in mind as the players decide what their PCs should do throughout the Sharkbait! Cliffhanger series.
Mochdrev (village): Conventional; AL NG; 200 gp limit; Assets 8,000 gp; Population 500; Mixed (human 96, dwarf 2, halfling 2).
Authority Figures: Cleric Thuthir, male human Clr4.
Important Characters: Owein, male human Com3.
Notes: The people of Mochdrev are led by an aging cleric named Thuthir (Clr4). Nobody can remember a time when the sharks were so active, or so bloodthirsty. The people of the village, who fish in small one or two person boats, are afraid to put out to sea. Some are already talking about abandoning the village and moving inland, out of fear of the demon shark Sekolah. If the PCs are unable to do anything to prevent it, Mochdrev could become a ghost town.
The Malenti (EL 6)
Cyric (Lurotha): Male malenti Rgr4; CR 6; Medium-size humanoid (Aquatic); HD 2d8+2 plus 4d10+4; hp 41; Init +6; Spd 30 ft., swim 40 ft.; AC 17 (touch 12, flat-footed 15); Atk +7 melee (1d4+2, 2 rakes) and +5 melee (1d4+1, 2 claws) and +5 melee (1d4+1, bite); or +7 melee (1d8+2, trident) and +5 melee (1d4+1, 2 rakes) and +5 melee (1d4+1, bite); or +7 ranged (1d10/19-20, heavy crossbow or entangle, net); SA Blood frenzy; SQ Amphibious, favored enemy (humans +1), freshwater sensitivity, light sensitivity, malenti traits, speak with sharks, underwater sense; AL LE; SV Fort +8, Ref +3, Will +2; Str 14, Dex 15, Con 13, Int 13, Wis 13, Cha 13.
Skills and Feats: Animal Empathy +7, Bluff +3, Disguise +3, Hide +14 (+18 underwater), Listen +5 (+9 underwater), Move Silently +6, Profession (hunter) +6, Spot +5 (+9 underwater), Wilderness Lore +6 (+14 within 50 miles of his home); Improved Initiative, Multiattack, Skill Focus (Bluff), Track.
Blood Frenzy: Once per day, a sahuagin that takes damage in combat can fly into a frenzy the following round, gaining +2 Con and +2 Str, and suffering a -2 AC penalty, until it or its enemy are dead.
Amphibious (Ex): As a malenti, Cyric can survive out of water for 1 hour per point of Constitution (after that, refer to the rules on drowning in Chapter 3 the Dungeon Master's Guide).
Favored Enemy: Cyric has selected humans as a favored enemy. He gains a +1 bonus to his Bluff, Listen, Sense Motive, Spot, and Wilderness Lore checks and to melee weapon damage rolls against humans. He also gets the damage bonus with ranged weapons if the target is within 30 feet.
Freshwater Sensitivity (Ex): When fully immersed in fresh water, Cyric must succeed at a Fortitude save (DC 15) or leave the water immediately. If he cannot escape, it suffers a -1 penalty on all attack rolls. Even if the save is successful, he must repeat the save attempt every 10 minutes he remains immersed.
Light Blindness (Ex): Cyric is sensitive to light and gets a circumstance penalty of -1 to attack rolls in bright sunlight or within the radius of a daylight spell.
Malenti Traits: Cyric is a sahuagin mutant who looks exactly like an aquatic elf.
Speak with Sharks (Ex): Cyric can communicate simple concepts, such as "danger" or "food," to sharks telepathically up to 150 ft. away. He can also use animal empathy to befriend and train sharks.
Underwater Sense (Ex): Cyric can locate creatures underwater within a 30-foot radius, ignoring effects such as invisibility or poor visibility. He is not fooled by figments while underwater. Underwater sense is less useful against creatures without central nervous systems, such as undead and oozes; he can locate such creatures only within a 15-foot radius.
Ranger Spells Prepared (1; base DC = 11 + spell level): 1st -- pass without trace.
Possessions: Trident, net, disguise kit, amulet of proof against detection and location
Lurotha is a devious creature who despises all creatures but sharks and other sahuagin. He views his mutant appearance as a gift from Sekolah, which enables him to blend in more easily with the land-dwellers. This allows him to hasten the day when these horrible air-breathing creatures will be wiped off the face of the world by serving as a covert operative for his baron, Urtholah.
Lurotha has invested many years in creating his cover persona, Cyric. He will go to whatever length necessary to preserve this persona, even sacrificing the lives of other sahuagin. To bolster his opinion among the locals, Cyric has even gone so far as to "rescue" a young man from a shark attack. If he is discovered, Lurotha will leave Mochdrev and find another place to begin undermining the land-dwellers.
The sahuagin and the sharks that accompany them try to use the water to their best advantage. They attack from above and below, using the three-dimensional battlefield in ways that land-bound PCs are likely not accustomed to. They are especially fond of moving into flanking positions using their superior knowledge of underwater combat.
Dragon Magazine #291 contains rules that, at the DM's option, can be useful for organizing underwater combat. You should also check out the D&D FAQ for underwater rules.
Loot and Other Important Matters
Should the PCs succeed in defeating the sahuagin and returning the statue to the town, they earn the undying gratitude of the citizens of Mochdrev. They also receive a modest gift from the village temple totaling 2,000 sp. Three moonstone gems worth 50 gp each are hidden in the underwater caves where the sahuagin have stashed the stolen statue. Up a nearly vertical chimney, the PCs can find another chamber that contains a statuette of Sekolah valued at 600 gp. Dungeon Masters should note that if their groups are sure to try to take Lurotha down, the amulet of proof against detection and location will put the treasure gain quite high for the encounters you find within these Cliffhangers. The solution to this is either to reward less to the party in following encounters until it equalizes out or to grant Lurotha a ring of mind shielding instead. Should the group not indicate that they wish to defeat Lurotha in a manner that would gain them access to his equipment, then it would be fair to grant the group further treasure to bring the treasure total up to a more average level for these encounters.