The Approaching Swarm
By By Eric Cagle
Complete Cliffhanger (288k ZIP/PDF)
The Hive Mind
The Tree
Stalking Prey
Caught in the Web
Creepy Crawlies
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
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Cliffhangers Adventures
The Approaching Swarm
By Eric Cagle

Episode Three: Stalking Prey

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.

Adventure Background

The characters were lead into a trap -- a lair of giant spiders. With one or more of their members injured and poisoned, and the trail of their quarry now cold, the characters most likely return to Crivdall.

I Think It Was This Way…

At this point, the PCs may not have the luxury of their guides, which means that they must rely on their own skills to get them back to Crivdall. If the guide can lead them back, then it's only a matter of time before the PCs reach it. DMs can skip to "Do You Hear Something."

Those PCs who are on their own regarding getting back to Crivdall must make a check every hour for three hours to see if they get back to the settlement. Two successes gets them two hours closer to Crivdall and back onto the path leading directly to the settlement, while failure (Track DC 10 or Intuit Direction DC 15) means they get lost in the bog. If the party gets lost, they wander through the bog for ten minutes or so and eventually enter an area filled with sinkholes. Read or paraphrase the following text:

Having lost the trail back to Crivdall, you wander around the fetid bogs trying to relocate the way back. It's almost impossible to make your way through the tall reeds and pools of water. Your movement slows to a crawl as the thick mud threatens to pull your boots off of your feet.

Allow for Wilderness Lore checks (DC 15) or Search checks (DC 20) to spot a nasty patch of mud that can suck the PCs into it. If they fail to spot it, the whole part starts wandering into the patch before they realize that it's more than just normal mud. Read the boxed text below next. If they succeed in spotting the bad patch of mud, skip the next boxed text section and go to "They Grow 'Em Big in the Bayou . . ."

The stinking mud grows thicker, and there's a very good chance that you will be without your foot gear before you get out of it. However, as the mud grows thicker, it also seems to get deeper. You feel yourself sinking into the mud!

Each character must make a Reflex save (DC 15) or find themselves completely stuck in the mud. To get out, a character must either be pulled out by another or be dragged out via a rope that is attached to a solid object; a Strength check (DC 19) can get the character out of the mud. However, after each PC has attempted to do something to help the situation (or abstained from doing anything), go to the next section.

They Grow 'Em Big in the Bayou . . . (EL 8)

While the characters try to extricate themselves from the mud, a horde of giant flying insects attacks them. Read or paraphrase the following:

As you struggle to get yourself out of the black mud, the air begins to hum. The noise is distant at first, but it gets louder. Suddenly the sky is filled with beating wings and the angry buzz of insects.

Giant Bees (12): hp 16, 16, 15, 15, 14, 13, 13, 13, 13, 13, 12, 11; see Monster Manual page 206.

Giant Wasps (2): hp 40, 32; see Monster Manual page 206.

If the characters defeat the insects or flee into the swamp, they easily find (Search DC 5) that they were very near the path to Crivdall. Go to "Do You Hear Something?" once they find the path.

Do You Hear Something? (EL 8)

If the characters find the path and slog their way through the swamp back to Crivdall, they hear a high-pitched whine fill the air as giant insects attack from all angles. The main advantage here is that the characters are not stuck in the mud while trying to fend off the assault.

Giant Bees (12): hp 16, 16, 15, 15, 14, 13, 13, 13, 13, 13, 12, 11; see Monster Manual page 206.

Giant Wasps (2): hp 40, 32; see Monster Manual page 206.


If they survive the attack of the flying insects, the PCs can wearily drag themselves back to Crivdall. Almost immediately, they notice that something is horribly wrong. Smoke curls up from various buildings and some enormous beast has battered through one side of the fort. Dozens of dead giant insects are scattered all about. Will the characters step into the fort to find out what happened?

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 Equipment Guide 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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