Black Water
By Duane Maxwell
Complete Cliffhanger (211k PDF)
Episode 4: Swamp King
Episode 3: Dangerous Waters
Episode 2: A Building Feud
Episode 1: Eckersley Manor
Cliffhangers Archive
The Approaching Swarm
Kingdom of the Blind
Into the Forsaken Temple's Crypt
The Trouble in Town
The Light of Despair
Training Grounds
Lorin's Chasm
Bridge Work
Nest of Corruption
A Giant Ransom
Black Water
The Horror of Lannock Hill
Over the Edge
The Proper Count
The Tower of Lore
The Candlemaker's Fire
The Hallowed Hills
The Village of Camiram
Unearthing the Past
Special: Cliffhangers Live!
For more great adventures, check out each issue of Dungeon magazine

Cliffhangers Adventures

Black Water
Episode Four: Swamp King
By Duane Maxwell

Black Water is a short Forgotten Realms adventure for four 12th-level characters. The party may consist of any mix of classes. The adventure is a reasonable challenge for 10th- to 12th-level characters and may be set in any campaign world. In the Forgotten Realms setting, the adventure takes place on the western edge of the Marsh of Chelimber, but any marshy area with a small farming village nearby serves well as an appropriate setting. During the first three episodes, the group discovered the likely cause of recent raids on the small village of Eckersley Manor.

The Enemy: Krain the Slayer

Krain makes his home in the western half of the Marsh of Chelimber. His lair is a sod house extending from a dry cave in the side of a hillock about three miles from the western edge of the Marsh. His home is surprisingly clean and well maintained. It is also secure. A number of deadly traps guard the paths that lead to it.

Krain is a deadly opponent. He thinks, plans, and outwits his opponents rather than simply smashing them. He also employs straightforward tactics, but only when he has rendered his opponents helpless through stratagem. He spent several years as a mercenary, and he has gained a keen understanding of warfare. Ambush, hit-and-run, and traps are his preferred tactics. Once he knows enemies are about, he sets up ambushes, striking swiftly and brutally from hiding and then fading into the swamp. With his woodland stride ability, he can hide in dense undergrowth or tangled briars, erupting from his hiding place at the right moment. His use of the ranger spell pass without trace typically makes it impossible for others to pursue him. He takes great delight in killing scouts and others separated from a main party. He attacks them first, leaving their broken bodies for the rest to find.

Krain relies upon a number of weapons to defeat his enemies. He carries a quiver filled with about a dozen javelins. He uses these for hunting and as a ranged weapon. He usually tosses one or two of these and then disappears into the wilderness, appearing later to hurl a few more. Whenever possible, he attacks from ambush to make use of his sneak attack ability. He also carries a longspear, with which he holds enemies at bay. With his Combat Reflexes, smaller opponents often find it costly to close to melee range with him. Once he has done his damage with javelin and longspear, he relies on his primary weapons: a razor-sharp greataxe and a battleaxe. Both weapons are sized for humans, and he uses one in each hand. With his greataxe, he can sever the head from a bull in one blow.

He has an animal companion, a bad-tempered giant crocodile named Dread. The crocodile large lurks around the island, although it is occasionally absent while it hunts for food. Heroes who find the island encounter both Krain and Dread.

Krain the Slayer: Male half-ogre/half-fiend Rgr7/Rog3; CR 14; Large outsider; HD 4d8+28 plus 7d10+49 plus 3d6+21; hp 165; Init +7; Spd 30 ft.; AC 23 (touch 12, flat-footed 23); Atk +19/+14/+9 melee (1d12+10/18–20/x3, +1 keen greataxe) and +19 melee (1d8+4/x3, masterwork battleaxe); or +20/+15/+10 melee (2d6+13/x3, Huge longspear; or +13 ranged (1d6+9, javelin); or +20 melee (1d8+9, bite) and +15 melee (1d6+4, 2 claws); SA sneak attack (+2d6), spells, spell-like abilities; SQ acid, cold, electricity, and fire resistance 20, animal companion crocodile, darkvision 60 ft., evasion, favored enemy (humans and goblinoids), immune to poison, traps, uncanny dodge; AL NE; SV Fort +17, Ref +9, Will +6; Str 28, Dex 17, Con 24, Int 14, Wis 14, Cha 8. Height 9' 8".

Skills and Feats: Climb +12, Craft (trapmaking) +14, Disable Device +9, Hide +19, Intuit Direction +6, Jump +10, Knowledge (nature) +7, Listen +12, Move Silently +19, Profession (sailor) +7, Search +9, Spot +12, Swim +12, Use Rope +10, Wilderness Lore +13; Alertness, Combat Reflexes, Improved Critical (greataxe), Improved Initiative, Power Attack, Track.

Animal Companion: Krain has a bad-tempered giant crocodile as a companion.

Favored Enemy: Krain has selected humans as a favored enemy. He gains a +2 bonus on his Bluff, Listen, Sense Motive, Spot, and Wilderness Lore checks when using these skills against this type of creature. He gets the same bonus to melee weapon damage rolls against creatures of this type. He also gets the damage bonus with ranged weapons if the target is within 30 feet. He gains a +1 bonus to similar rolls against goblinoids.

Spell-like Abilities (base DC 12 + spell level): 3/day -- darkness, poison, unholy aura; 1/day -- blasphemy, contagion, desecrate, unhallow, unholy blight.

Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Krain retains his Dex bonus when flat-footed.

Possessions: +1 chain shirt of shadow and silent moves, +1 keen greataxe, masterwork battleaxe, 8 javelins, longspear.

Ranger Spells Prepared: (1; base DC = 12 + spell level): 1st -- alarm.

Dread, Giant Crocodile: hp 59, see Monster Manual page 195.


If you want to lead the characters to further adventures in the area, the contents of Krain's cottage can easily provide clues to more dangers within the swamp's confines. Krain could have a map to some ancient location half submerged in the swamp, or correspondence from a potential employer.


© 1995-2004 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Wizards is headquartered in Renton, Washington, PO Box 707, Renton, WA 98057.

Printer Friendly