Episode One: Creepy Crawlies
The Approaching Swarm is a short adventure for four 9th-level characters. The party can consist of any mix of classes, but it should include at least one character that is good in wilderness settings, such as a druid, ranger, or barbarian, and at least one cleric. This scenario should prove a reasonable challenge for characters from 8th to 10th level. The adventure takes place in a swampland that is near a small settlement.
A band of rag-tag settlers have carved out a small settlement, called Crivdall, on the edges of a great swamp that is infamous for its terrible creatures. The area is rich with resources, and the settlers have done well hunting and foraging in the swamps. Unbeknownst to them, however, an insane druid has taken notice of their transgressions and wants them to leave.
The druid, Aleretheral, is a half-orc with a curious affinity for insects and vermin. The swamp is home to numerous breeds of monstrous insects, some of which the druid has begun to breed to make them even larger and more aggressive. Through his abilities, Aleretheral has set enormous vermin onto the helpless settlers, preying on them as they venture into the swamp. With autumn rapidly coming to a close, the settlers are becoming desperate as more of their numbers are killed by hordes of marauding vermin.
The PCs enter a swamp that has a rather large population of giant insects. The settlers who have made the swamp their home are having problems with these huge bugs, and they need some help. It is up to the characters to figure out what's going on and how to stop it before all of the settlers meet their many-legged dooms.
Print out the following maps, which come courtesy of the Map-a-Week Archive:
Any time the characters travel into a swampy area, they have the opportunity to visit Crivdall. The villagers are unbelievably relieved to meet adventurers who might help defend their humble settlement from the insects. They offer whatever meager wealth they might have, but it still might take more for the characters to get involved. Here are some hooks the DM can use to get the characters interested:
Crivdell (EL 9)
As the characters approach the settlement, read or paraphrase the following text:
The settlers welcome the characters into the fort and offer what little hospitality the settlers have. In short order, the villagers regale the characters with stories of giant insects lurking in the swamps.
Sometime in the dead of night, the characters might hear a curious sound outside the wooden walls of the settlement -- clicking and skittering. (DMs should call for Listen checks (DC 10).) Without more warning than that, a small horde of monstrous vermin attacks the settlement from all angles. They clamber over the walls of the fort with relative ease.
The giant scorpion bursts through the fort's gate and starts attacking the closest person to it. If a character makes a Spellcraft check (DC 20), they realize that someone tampered with the gate by using a warp wood spell.
As the characters finish repelling the insect horde, they have a chance to see (Spot check DC 25) a humanoid figure standing at the edge of the swamp and watching the attack with some interest. If the PCs take action, the figure flees into the swamp. If some of the insects remain after 5 rounds of combat, the figure lets out a piercing cry that sounds like a flurry of cicadas. The remaining vermin then withdraws back into the swamp, with the figure following closely behind.
About the Author
Eric Cagle splits his time evenly as the administrative assistant and part-time designer for the R&D department of Wizards of the Coast. In addition to numerous web articles, he has written several articles for Dragon Magazine, contributed to two Star Wars RPG products, and contributed to the Arms and EquipmentGuide for D&D. A lunch hour rarely goes by where he isn't writing for, playing, or thinking about a game.
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