Frog Pond contains an encounter of level 3-19 and is suitable for use with any D&D campaign.
A rippling pond rimmed with reeds and lily pads supports a vocal population of frogs. The occasional splash from a jumping fish hints at life hidden below the surface. What else lies under the water? Local tales say this is a magical place, and while the pond is truly beautiful, perhaps this spot has magic of an eldritch sort as well?
Background for the DM
Though the pond looks somewhat ordinary, it holds a few secrets. It has a shallow basin filled with fairly clear spring water. A sinkhole in the basin, however, plunges more than 100 feet to a flooded cavern below. Seepage from the ocean nearby keeps the cavern filled with saltwater. Though the pond and the cavern are connected, very little water flows between them because the lighter freshwater literally floats over the saltwater below. The water in the pond rises and falls with the tides, but only very slightly and the change is so gradual that it's barely noticeable even when a visitor watches for it.
The pond above is filled with reeds, lily pads, frogs, and a few freshwater fish. The salty depths are mostly lifeless, except for a few sponges and crustaceans.
An old bronze dragon, Lepsektogvernox, uses a dry section in the caverns as an occasional lair. He also keeps a portion of his considerable hoard hidden in the depths of the cave. Lepsektogvernox has encouraged a few savage creatures to take up residence in the pond to help guard it. He also has a penchant for transforming beings that annoy him into frogs, which contributes to the pond's amphibian population. A younger dragon, Halentiganox (Lepsektogvernox's daughter), also visits occasionally.
The pond lies in a hilly coastal area about 20 miles from the coastline or from a deep bay or estuary. Lepsektogvernox selected the pond as a lair because it's fairly remote; nevertheless, the pond is fairly well known locally as a place to avoid, thanks to its monstrous residents. Still, a few locals visit the place now and then to fish or drag the depths for sponges (none are brave or foolish enough to enter the water). Thanks to the dragons, there's no shortage of local legends that might tempt player characters to visit:
This tale refers to Lepsektogvernox and Halentiganox, who can be induced to perform minor services (usually spellcasting) for poor folk who don't have anywhere else to turn. Both dragons favor barter to cash payments and often require somewhat bizarre favors in return for their services, such as a whole basket of blooms from the first wildflowers of spring or a firstborn from a litter of puppies born under the new moon. The dragons do this mostly to make sure their clients work for the services they get.
This tale has some basis in fact. Locals who drag the pool looking for sponges sometimes bring up bits of treasure. (These items usually are from people who fought the pool's residents and lost.) The "voices of the spirits" in the tale actually refer to the pool's speaking residents.
This tale also has some basis in fact. Lepsektogvernox habitually turns folks who annoy him into frogs, which he leaves to stew for awhile in the pond. At least once in the past, the dragon has released a victim who has elicited a kiss from a passerby. Unfortunately for the PCs, the pond's current polymorphed residents are no princes.
This one arose from Lepsektogvernox and Halentiganox and their habit of doing favors for the locals. Someone who is truly needy might indeed gain a favor in exchange for a gift.
Visiting the Pond (EL 3-19)
The following text describes the pond on a warm day. Even in a temperate area, the pond can have open water and a lively population of frogs, thanks to the fairly warm seawater in the caves below.
As noted earlier, the pond is more that it seems. So is the big frog.
Creatures: Any number of different creatures might dwell in the pond at any given time. Here are some possibilities you can mix and match as you see fit.
Lyman Lagade, a sleazy pickpocket, recently made the mistake of trying to romance Halentiganox while she was masquerading as a humanoid. When Halentiganox told daddy, Lepsektogvernox turned the cad into a frog (with his baleful polymorph spell) and set him in the pond. Lepsektogvernox was well aware that Lyman might fall prey to some of the carnivores in the vicinity, but reasoned that the risk was no worse than what Lyman faces day to day as an adventurer. In the meantime, Lyman will have to live by his wits and without lying or stealing.
PCs encountering Lyman must be extraordinarily patient to communicate with him, since he cannot actually speak.
As a frog (using toad statistics from page 282 of the Monster Manual), Lyman has the following statistics:
Tactics: When trapped in frog form, Lyman has few options in combat beyond a hasty retreat into the depths of the pond or into the reeds. If approached nonviolently, Lyman does his best to convince the party to change him back to a human. He can't speak, but he can write by pawing the pond's muddy shore to form crude letters.
If freed from his frog form, Lyman tries to convince the PCs to dive into the depths of the pool to retrieve Lepsektogvernox's treasure (see below). Lyman has no idea where the treasure is hidden, nor does he have any real idea what lurks in the pool's depths -- as a frog the residents he feared the most were several "ferocious" bass.
Development: If the PCs free Lyman (either with magic or possibly with a kiss if Lepsektogvernox is around to remove his own spell), he assumes his normal form and thanks them profusely.
Unknown to Lyman (if he is present at all), a gang of merrow made its way inland by swimming up a nearby river. After a disastrous battle, the surviving merrow made their way to the pond, where they intend to lie low until some dark, wet night when they can make their way back to the sea.
Merrow (1-4): hp 29 each (MM 199).
Tactics: The merrow stick to the deep section of the pool, where they keep a wary distance from the guardians there (see below). They usually stay hidden during the day and emerge at night to hunt near the pond. Day or night, however, they attack anyone who spends too much time near the pond (such as groups trying to negotiate with Lyman).
Lepsektogvernox's daughter visits the pond from time to time.
Halentiganox (Female Juvenile Bronze Dragon): hp 142 (MM 82).
Tactics: Halentiganox loves to turn herself into a frog and just hang around the pond, observing the world around her (a trick she learned from dad). If anyone picks her up and gives her a kiss, she's likely to assume a humanoid form and offer to tag along with her "rescuer" for a short time. She's not much interested in romance with nondragons, but she's curious enough about humanoid ways to accompany a party for a few adventures -- just long enough to acquire some treasure and collect a few tidbits of information.
If attacked, Halentiganox heads into the pond, assumes her true form, and returns to give her tormentors a taste of her lightning breath. While recovering her breath, she casts shield, then moves into melee reach until she can breathe again. She fights until reduced to fewer than 75 hit points, then plunges back into the pond, where she can get aid from the lair's tojanida guardians. If pursued and attacked in the cavern, she fights to the death.
Read or paraphrase the following if a PC kisses Halentiganox.
If the PC who kissed Halentiganox (or any other PC) professes affection or admiration for her, she responds with some suspicion.
Lepsektogvernox has convinced a clutch of tojanida to dwell in the flooded caves below the pond and help guard his lair. They can be juvenile, adult, or elder tojanida at your option.
Juvenile Tojanida (2-4): hp 19 each (MM 244).
Adult Tojanida (2-4): hp 45 each (MM 244).
Elder Tojanida (2-4): hp 127 each (MM 244).
Tactics: The tojanida stick to the depths of the pool, where they guard the cavern entrance. They generally don't attack unless molested or when someone other than Lepsektogvernox or Halentiganox tries to enter the cave. In a battle, the tojanida try to blind characters with their ink, then move past the front line to grapple spellcasters. If they can't bypass the opposition's front rank, they use their ink and try to grab characters attacking them.
Treasure: The tojanida have defeated enough creatures to allow a fair amount of treasure to accumulate at the cavern's entrance. Lepsektogvernox collects the choicest bits of treasure for himself but allows the rest to lie there. Lepsektogvernox hopes this minor hoard will satisfy most treasure hunters. The amount of treasure varies with the size of the tojanida: Juveniles have a level 5 treasure, adults have a level 7 treasure, and elders have a level 11 treasure. All of the treasures are coins only.
As noted earlier, Lepsektogvernox uses the pond as a backup lair and storage spot for part of his hoard.
Tactics: As a younger dragon, Lepsektogvernox often posed as a prince in order to romance humanoid females. He's through sowing his wild oats however. These days, he's content to assume frog form and test people's reactions. Like his daughter, he assumes a humanoid form if kissed.
If attacked, Lepsektogvernox retreats, assumes dragon form and casts displacement on himself. He then returns and uses his repulsion breath to drive foes away. After that, he uses baleful polymorph to turn foes who have resisted his breath into frogs. If that doesn't prove sufficient to defeat or drive off his foes, he uses fog cloud to confuse the issue and tries to pick off the opposition one character at a time, using crush attacks, melee attacks, or suggestion spells. He loves to suggest that foes take a swim to the depths of the pond and count to a thousand. Characters who succumb have to deal with the pond's resident tojanida.
Development: Read or paraphrase the following if a PC kisses Lepsektogvernox.
Treasure: Lepsektogvernox has collected a considerable hoard, as shown above. He keeps about a quarter of the gems, art objects, and coins hidden in the caverns below the pond. The loot, however, lies hidden under the silt and sand on the cave floor. The caverns stretch for nearly five miles, and it would take weeks of searching to locate the treasure, plus several days to recover it all.
About the Authors
Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies and was the Sage of Dragon Magazine for 18 years. Skip is a co-designer of the D&D 3rd Edition game and the chief architect of the Monster Manual. When not devising swift and cruel deaths for player characters, Skip putters in his kitchen or garden (rabbits and deer are not Skip's friends) or works on repairing and improving the century-old farmhouse that he shares with his wife, Penny, and a growing menagerie of pets.
Penny Williams joined the roleplaying game industry as Game Questions Expert for TSR, Inc. in the 1980s. Since then, she has served as RPGA Network Coordinator, PolyhedronNewszine editor, and Senior Editor and Coordinating Editor for the RPG R&D Department at Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Now a busy freelancer, Penny edits for several game companies and runs the online playtesting program for Wizards products. When not enhancing the cruelty of the deaths PCs will suffer at the hands of designers, Penny puts up jam, works jigsaw puzzles, and tutors students in math and science.
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