Gamestoppers
Part Six: Down the Hatch

In this installment of Gamestoppers, we check out the rules for the swallow whole special attack. Last month, the group pursued the goblin cleric into the Underdark, overcoming a goblin barbarian with a reach weapon and the advantage of partial cover. The group has since rested, regained their strength (minus the lingering clay golem damage for poor Krusk), and then continued their journey into the Underdark after the fleeing goblin high priest. Luckily for the group, there are no side passageways, which means that their quarry can do little to avoid pursuit -- at least, until now.

DM: So then, just as you're beginning to think this cave tunnel will never end, you round a corner and see a tangled mess of an intersection. At least six side tunnels branch off of the main tunnel. The side tunnels are smooth and round, and they have a diameter of about 5 feet.

Krusk
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Lidda
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Vadania
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Nebbin

PC (Vadania): Well, that's lovely . . . how are we gonna track that goblin pest now?

PC (Lidda): Don't blame me! I told you we should have waited for Soveliss to get back before we went on this little trip.

PC (Krusk): Maybe there's a cleric down one of these tunnels that can heal my clay golem bruises. . . .

PC (Nebin): Uh . . . guys? I don't like the looks of these tunnels.

DM: Everyone needs to make a Listen check!

PC (Nebin): I knew it!

[The players all roll their Listen checks, and all of them roll high enough to hear what's coming.]

DM: Well, all four of you can hear a low rumble approaching, despite your loud arguing. Suddenly, the wall ahead and to your left explodes as a massive beast lunges at you. The massive worm is a nasty shade of purple, and its mouth gapes open wide enough for you to see at least 20 feet down its gullet! Roll for initiative!

[The players roll; Lidda gets a 17, Krusk gets a 16, Vadania a 15, and Nebin a 12. The DM rolls a natural 20 for the purple worm, which still beats everyone in the party even with its low Dexterity.]

DM: Right, the worm goes first. You were in the front, Lidda?

PC (Lidda):[Sighs.] Yeah, I am. See what happens when you don't take point, Krusk?

PC (Krusk): Hey, I'd love to help ya, but you know . . . golem damage! [Shrugs.]

DM: Heehee. Anyway, the worm rears back and then strikes at you, Lidda! [DM rolls the worm's attack roll -- a 35!] Chomp! It bites down on you with ease, dealing 21 points of damage.

PC (Lidda): OUCH!

DM: It gets worse. The good news is that the worm's stinger is still wedged in the tunnel behind it so it can't sting anyone this round. The bad news is that it has the improved grab ability with its bite, so we need to determine if it latched on to you. [The DM and Lidda roll their respective grapple checks, with the worm the obvious victor. Check out Gamestoppers #2: Grab that Otyugh for rules on grappling.] Okay then, you're grappled. It's your turn now, Lidda!

PC (Lidda): Right. So is the worm's mouth still open? Can I break out of its grapple or climb into its mouth?

DM: Yeah, but you'll need make an opposed grapple check to get out of the grapple or make it past its Strength 35 peristalsis to get into its mouth.

PC (Lidda): Yuck. No thanks. Getting in is pretty much impossible for me. Can I attack it?

DM: Sure. You can try to sneak attack since the worm is conducting the grapple normally, but you need a Tiny weapon. Hack away!

PC (Lidda): Crud. I've still got that magic kukri I found a while back. It's not identified yet, but it's better than nothing! Okay, guess I don't have much of a choice here; two attacks with the kukri!

DM: Remember, you'll suffer a -4 penalty to your attack roll since you don't have the Exotic Weapon Proficiency to use it properly.

PC (Lidda): Okay, I'll try that instead of trying to break free. {She successfully hits for a total of 21 points of damage.] Yay!

DM: Your turn, Krusk.

PC (Krusk): Good! I rush up and try to get Lidda free.

DM: Let's grapple then, Krusk.

[The two roll grapple checks, with Krusk barely missing.]

PC (Krusk): Sorry, Lidda.

DM: You're next, Vadania.

PC (Vadania): Hmm . . . something tells me Lidda won't survive for long if she gets swallowed. I'll cast flame strike on it. Who knows! Maybe I'll roll lots of sixes! [She rolls, but deals only 30 points of damage; luckily the worm fails its Reflex save.]

DM: Nice try, though. Nebin? You're up!

PC (Nebin): It would seem so. Hmm . . . let's see here. Looks like the only thing I have that can take it down before the next round is phantasmal killer. I'll give it a shot! The worm gets a Will saving throw of DC 19 to disbelieve the spell.

DM:[Rolls the saving throw, and it's another natural 20!] Easy! Guess there's nothing that a purple worm would really be afraid of, eh, Nebin?

PC (Nebin): Cute. Ah well, I tried, Lidda. Nice knowing you!

PC (Lidda): Hey! I'm not dead yet! I still have a few hit points left!

DM: Okay then; it's the worm's turn again. You've already been grappled by its bite, Lidda, but now that it's grabbed on, it's going to try and swallow you. Make another grapple check, please! [Lidda does, and she fails again.]

PC (Lidda): Lovely.

DM: GULP! Lidda disappears down into the worm's gut! MWA HA HA HA HA! [The DM rolls another handful of dice.] Boom! You take another 20 points of crushing damage and 6 points of acid damage.

PC (Lidda): WHAT? ARRRGH! I'm down to 1 hit point! That's the LAST time I go first, Krusk!

PC (Krusk): Hey, with my golem damage that would have brought me down to 3 hit points, so I made the right choice!

DM: Well, in any case, it's your turn now, Lidda.

PC (Lidda): Say, since I'm inside the worm and it can't see what I'm up to in here, I don't suppose it's unable to defend itself from my attack, is it?

DM: Are you asking if you can sneak attack the worm's gut?

PC (Lidda): Exactly!

DM: Nope. First, once the worm has swallowed you, you're still grappled but it's not grappled or flat-footed. Second, its gullet doesn't provide you with a discernible anatomy. You can't pick out a critical area to sneak attack. So it's a normal attack.

PC (Lidda): Okay. [Lidda retrieves the magic kukri from her Heward's handy haversack as a free action and tries to hit the worm. She rolls and gets a natural 19 and a natural 20. That's two hits and possible criticals! She rolls to confirm the criticals and succeeds.] Wow! Take THAT! Two critical hits to the stomach! Let's see, that's 2d4+2 points of damage total from the kukri and my strength bonus, plus another hit for the same. [Rolls dice.] Wow! I caused 18 points of damage! Ah, plus whatever enhancement bonus the kukri has.

DM: Wow . . . good shot! You needed to do only 25 points of damage to get out. With the kukri's enchantment bonus added in to the 18 points you've done, the kukri slices through the lining of the worm's gut like a hot wire through lard, and you tumble out of the hole onto the cold stony floor. The gaping hole in the worm's side pinches shut behind you, but you've made it out!

[Everyone cheers Lidda's miraculous escape, even as the worm slithers all the way out of the passage to bring its stinger around.]

PC (Nebin): Uh . . . guys? I think Lidda just made that worm angry. . . .

As the battle continues, the group avoids being stung or swallowed up by the worm, and eventually they slay it with another lucky critical hit (this time from Krusk's axe). What happens next? How are they going to track down the fleeing goblin high priest now that the passageway has split into so many directions? Be sure to check out Gamestoppers next month to find out! We'll be taking a good long look at what happens to a character's precious equipment when he or she gets a natural 1 on his or her Reflex saving throw!

Where to Look: Check out page 9 of the Monster Manual for a description of the swallow whole ability. You can also view the purple worm's variant of this ability on page 153. You'll want to refresh your knowledge of grappling on pages 137 and 138 of the Player's Handbook. Finally, on page 97 of the Player's Handbook, you'll find a paragraph about using light weapons while grappling (under Weapon Categories).

Purple Worm: hp 200; see Monster Manual page 152.


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