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A golden beginning: one-shot

System
Pregen characters
Players
Level range
Pathfinder (1e)
Optimised for a group of 4
2 - 8
 

How to run this adventure

Read Aloud Sections
These sections are meant to be read out loud to players. They are either general description (if no name appears at the bottom), or dialogue (if someone's name appears at the bottom).
Level-adjustments

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These sections will provide level-adjustments in the sections that so require.
GM information

These sections provide additional information to the GM and are not meant to be read out loud.   They are often providing additional information, information to be provided if the PCs meet the DCs, or help with the rules.
 

GM Materials

A Golden Beginning makes use of the following Pathfinder Roleplaying Game books: The adventure assumes the GM has access to these sourcebooks and when necessary, specific rules may be referenced to through the use of tooltips. In addition to being available for purchase, all rules referenced in this adventure can be found free on the Pathfinder Reference Document.   Aside from links to the Pathfinder Reference Document, this adventure includes links to additional lore within Branendorf. You can distinguish these links as they will all have tooltips when hovered over with the cursor. The information in these links is not necessary to run the adventure, with the potential exception of the following articles:   Finally, bear in mind that your players will need to know their carrying capacity for this adventure.
Adventure Summary
The PCs have been hired to find out the whereabouts of a missing teenager. Wimkal asks the PCs to keep things in the family, as no one outside of the family knows that he's missing. He gives the PCs a healer's kit and answers any questions they may have, potentially mentioning the missing family's gold. Once the PCs leave the family's manor, they find the small market on the streets. Strange noises are coming up from the town's well. No one dared check, so they just moved their stalls.   At first sight, nothing looks out of place in the well. Down the well, the PCs find a couple of tunnels, one of which leads them to an aurumvorax and the teenager. Grako is helping the aurumvorax give birth, but the noises are attracting greedy gremlins. The PCs have to help the teenager repel the dangers for just a while while the aurumvorax gives birth. Once the aurumvorax is recovered, the teenager is happy to go back up, but asks the PCs to keep the existence of the aurumvorax a secret.
Adventure Background
The town of Branendorf is finally starting to see the light at the end of a tunnel. 15 years after the plague started, it has now been over a year since anyone has been infected or died from it in the area. Branendorf is a forester town, which was hit hard when trade stopped during the plague. The town also has a small abandoned copper mine, which run dry hundreds of years ago.   The plague affected the elderly and children in particular; at one point, people stopped having kids, as it was too painful watching them succumb to a disease that no magic or mundane means could heal. Grako is the only human kid who managed to survive the plague from the whole town. As a result, he has led a sheltered and spoiled life, although the scarcity of food and supplies during the plague meant that being spoiled simply meant being given preference over the food and leniency in any punishments. Nowadays, his sheltered life is coming to an end, his family wanting him to become acquainted with the town, the family obligations etc.
 
 
Getting Started
If the players have decided to play characters who are from the town they will already know that there were strange noises coming from the well when talking with Wimkal. If you are using pregenerated characters, check here for ways to weave them into the story. Whether the characters are from town or not, they have all heard that the Thimbaum family has asked for people to help out. To start the adventure, read the following:
Very early in the morning, Wimkal Thimbaum has sent a messenger into town asking for well-prepared and resourceful individuals. The messenger had no details about the job at hand, but the job is likely low in risk and high in reward. Those willing to take the job are to meet with him at the entrance of the Thimbaum family's property on the outside of town.
 

A golden beginning

Where is Grako?

The characters have been gathered on the outskirts of Thimbaum's property. They are greeted by Wimkal Thimbaum, a 30 year old human. He is Grako Thimbaum's cousin, who has been missing since yesterday afternoon. Grako is a teenager, and the only child who survived the plague from the village. He didn't come back home after supposedly visiting the village, and he was still missing in the morning.
 
Wimkal may explain that, as the only human child who survived the plague, and the youngest of the Thimbaum family, he has grown up in a sheltered and somewhat spoiled life. He enjoys reading and spending time in nature in almost equal parts. As he is nearing adulthood, the family is relaxing their grip on him lately, and he has been allowed to travel into town and outside of the family's properties for a few weeks now. His family, the Thimbaum, are a small noble family that has lived in the town for as long as it has existed.
 
Wimkal Thimbaum
(made with Portrait Workshop)
A young human man. He has the sides of his head shaved, but has some medium-length hair on the central part of the head. He is sporting a short beard, a studded leather armour, and a wooden bow.
Thank you for answering my somewhat vague call. My cousin Grako is missing, but I did not want to raise alarm amongst the villagers. According to Dagenos, his tutor, he was going into town yesterday afternoon. If he did, he never returned.   I am going to investigate the family's property, but I would like someone to check the town and see if anyone saw him or may know where he is. Do you feel up for it? It shouldn't be too much trouble, hopefully, and we will reward you for your troubles.
 
Wimkal gives the party a healer's kit, in case they find Grako wounded. While he is eager to get the search started, he will answer the questions the PCs may have to the best of his abilities. Here are some likely questions and answers:
  When was Grako last seen? At midday. That is when he finished his classes with Dagenos. He told her that he was going to the village.   Who was the last person to talk with Grako? I'm not sure. Dagenos spoke with him, of course, but if he went to town, it is likely that he spoke to someone there.   Who does Grako usually spend his days with? Mostly with myself and Dagenos. Grako is shadowing me, learning about family business. And for the things I cannot teach, we have Dagenos to tutor him. She should be arriving any minute now.   Has Grako been acting strange lately? Not really, no... There have been a few items that have gone missing in the last week, but we don't know who took them. I shouldn't even mention it, it is likely not relevant.  
Missing golden objects
Wimkal will, reluctantly, give the PCs a list of the items that have gone missing if they insist (Diplomacy DC 13).   These are the objects which have been missing. Most of these items can be found at the aurumvorax's den.
  • Thirteen golden masks: relics depicting the idealized face of different gods
  • A gold, gem-encrusted chalice
  • A gold reliquary: it used to house an ancient codex. The codex is not missing, just the reliquary.
  • A gold signet ring
  • A gold cane
  • A large burnished copper cooking pot
  • A sack of copper coins (168 copper coins)
 

Talking with the tutor

Dagenos Galekii arrives on her pony, Kathe, as the PCs finish talking with Wimkal. She is geared and ready to help Wimkal search the property. She received a visit yesterday night asking about Grako, and she told the family that Grako had mentioned going to town. Dagenos tried to diffuse the situation and told the family that she was sure he would appear at some point during the night, just testing the boundaries of his newfound freedom. When the messenger arrived in the morning, she felt guilty for maybe misinterpreting the situation, and will do her best to help find Grako.
 

She is happy to talk with the PCs after she and Wimkal divide the property in two to speed the search, although if the PCs don't have questions for her, she just leaves and gets the search started. If the PCs do ask her, Dagenos has the following information to offer:   Did you see Grako actually get into town? No, I stayed in the manor brushing Kathe for a bit. Once in the village, I didn't see him but I thought nothing of it.   Was Grako acting weird lately? Grako is an odd child by necessity of his circumstances. But he hasn't been acting much more strangely than usual.   Did he mention anything about gold objects? Gold? Why would he be asking about gold? No, we don't talk about banalities such as money.
Dagenos Galekii
(made with Portrait Workshop)
A mature gnome woman. She has greenish skin and green hair. Her hair is tied back, leaving her large ears in display. She is wearing a dark purple armour, a lance, and a shield.
 
 

Heading out into town

The walk to the town is quiet and it takes the PCs less than 10 minutes on foot.
 
Today is the market day, the day of the month when townspeople gather to swap or trade items. This is normally done in the town square, but everyone is dispersed in the streets. If the characters enquire what's going on, merchants will tell them that terrible noises have started coming out from the town's well, so they decided to switch the market to the streets to avoid the noise.
 
If the PCs try to track Grako rather than try to find him in the village, they can find the tracks with a survival DC 13 (character's level 4 or lower) or a survival DC 17 (character's level 5 or higher) check. The tracks follow the road to the village for about a minute, before heading into the fields. The tracks become more complicated to follow, have your PCs attempt a new check, and increase the difficulty by 1.   If they succeed, they find a tunnel in the ground. The hole is big enough for a small character, but bigger characters will have to crawl. They will navigate a small network of tunnels, from which they can hear the noises. Eventually, they arrive at the aurumvorax's den.
The normally quieter streets of the village are quite active. People have spread through the mudstraw streets, some with their carts, most simply standing around with a basket or two of produce they are trying to exchange or sell.   It is market day in town, but it normally happens on the town's square, not on the streets.
 
If the characters enquire about Grako, they gather quickly that no one saw him arrive. Some villagers may be concerned and ask if something happened to him. If the PCs tell the truth or are not convincing, the villagers start worrying that Grako is making the noises in the well.
 
Here are a few townsfolk who are at the market, in case your PCs want to engage in more deep conversation with the NPCs:
Old Female Stone Dwarf Bard 6782.png
(made with Portrait Workshop)
Hildza
A dwarf commoner. She is trying to start a small business selling textiles. She is a renowned gossiper and always has the latest info in town. She will try to politely dig for information from the PCs.
Young Nonbinary Stone Dwarf Barbarian 14288.png
(made with Portrait Workshop)
Radtel
A dwarf cooper. They went down to the cistern not long ago and saw the broken pillar and some sort of aquatic monster living there. They will warn the PCs to watch out for it and for the tricky descent down the steps.
Mature Female Stone Dwarf Cleric 16732.png
(made with Portrait Workshop)
Liaf
A dwarf adept. She has a few magic items, and will offer the players the items if she thinks they may use them. The items are a shield scroll, a wand of chaos, and a strand of beads of prayer.
Young Male White Druid 9684.png
(made with Portrait Workshop)
Walwich
A human farmer, whose lands are right next to the Thimbaum's family property. He has seen Grako a couple of times around his property in the last couple of days, always quite muddy and encumbered.
 
Diplomacy or Knowledge (local)
If the PCs want to enquire about the well with the people at the "market" or they are from the area, they can learn the following things:
  • 5+ The water level has been quite low in the last few days.
  • 10+ It's the only well in town, although the Thimbaum family has their own.
  • 15+ The well is actually a cistern, fed by rainwater collected by all the houses in town.
  • 20+ Before the plague, the cistern was overdue for fixing.
  • 25+ Over the years, they have had to patch its walls and do repairs as best as they could. Radtel and Liaf usually do the repairs.
 
 

Something's not right with the town well

As the PCs get closer into the centre of town, the noises become more apparent.
 
The well is large and made of stones. On the inside of the well, there are stones jutting out from the wall at roughly every feet. These stepping stones create a descending spiral staircase towards the bottom of the cistern. Traversing the stairs is slightly complicated due to the lack of handholds or rope and the slipperiness of the rocks.
 
Closer to the main square, a whining, screeching noise becomes noticeable. The creak of the wooden boards covering the small square's floor is drowned by the noise coming off the well on a side of the square. The noise comes in waves.
    Acrobatics DC 11 check to safely descend the stairs.
Characters who fail by 5 or more, must make a Reflex save DC 11 to avoid tripping down the stairs (potentially creating a domino effect) or falling down. The fall from the beginning of the stairs is 30 feet, but the last 4 feet are water. For higher-level characters, you may use the full 3d6 falling damage if they fail their check. For lower-level characters, consider reducing or even eliminating the damage. They fall once they have descended the majority of the stairs, and fall down into the water, meaning they will be wet for the rest of the adventure.
 
If one or more characters fall, they cause a small section of a broken pillar to collapse. If no character falls, a PC with Knowledge (dungeoneering) or a rogue looking for traps can spot the weakened pillar and give it a wide berth. If two or more characters walk by it, they trigger the trap.
  Broken pillar: CR 2 or CR 5
Falling rubble trap CR 2
Type mechanical; Perception DC 14; Disable Device DC 20
Effects
Trigger location; Reset none
Effect Atk +10 melee (2d4/x3 multiple targets (all targets in a 10 ft. line)
Falling rubble trap CR 5
Type mechanical; Perception DC 15; Disable Device DC 20
Effects
Trigger location; Reset none
Effect Atk +15 melee (2d6/x3 multiple targets (all targets in a 10 ft. radius)
 
 

Old cistern

The cistern has only four feet of water, a low level of water usually seen during droughts. The water height may be an issue for small characters, and they will have to swim. The waters are still, so unless they engage in combat, there is little difficulty in staying afloat. If there is combat on the water, refer to the rules here. Medium characters have firm footing, whereas small characters will need to do a swim check. You may also need to check the rules for drowning here.
 
The cistern's walls have seen better days. It is clear that several sections have been repaired by people whose craft is not stonemasonry. Despite the repairs though, there are two visible holes in the walls.   One of the holes is just above the water and it has a large pile of stones and dirt underneath it. The second tunnel's entrance has an oval shape, and more than half of the entrance is submerged in water.
   
When the aurumvorax broke a hole in the cistern to have access to safe drinking water within her den, the water level dropped in the cistern. The water seeped out through the hole, and the water table now sits permanently at 4 feet deep (the hole's height). This has caused an inconvenience to the freshwater worm living in the cistern, who has had to deepen its own burrow.
 
If the PCs wait to hear the sounds, they will hear sounds after waiting for a few minutes. They come from the tunnel above the water level. If the PCs explore the tunnel, they will find claw marks on the ground.
 
Survival or perception check DC 12:
There are claw marks on the tunnel coming into the cistern and back into the tunnel. The claw marks are of a small, but very heavy, eight-legged creature.   Knowledge (arcana) DC 19:
The creature making those marks matches the description of an Aurumvorax: a small, but very fierce and heavy creature.   Knowledge (arcana) DC 21:
Aurumvoraxes are reputed to like chewing or eating gold and copper, although it is unclear for what purpose.   Knowledge (arcana) DC 23:
Aurumvoraxes are very dangerous creatures in the wild. However, there are records of people who have managed to somehow keep them as pets.   Knowledge (arcana) DC 25:
Aurumvoraxes are able to grapple creatures larger than themselves and they are said to be immune to poison.
 
If the PCs decide to explore the second tunnel, they will soon discover that it is the home of a creature.
 
The second tunnel is the burrow of a freshwater worm. When the water level dropped, the worm was forced to dig deeper down, so that it could be below the water level. The worm normally feeds by filter-feeding the water and catching the occasional prey that falls in when the villagers forget to put the lid on the well. The adventurers represent a welcomed change in diet.
  Creature: The creature is a freshwater version of marine worms. The worm comes out of its hole and will swim to feed, but it will not get within 5 feet to the aurumvorax tunnel. If the PCs try to fight it from a safe position, the worm returns to its burrow and the PCs lose line of sight with it.   Freshwater worm (CR 2 or CR 7)
Giant tube worm CR 2
For lower level parties
Hookfang worm CR 7
For higher level parties
  Treasure: At the end of the worm's tunnel (which is a mere 15 feet deep), there are casings. Within them, the PCs can find: a silver ring worth 31 gp, a bunch of rat bones and insect husks, and a few iron nuggets worth 97 gp in total.  
 

A golden birth

The tunnel is made for the small aurumvorax to move comfortably within it. Small humanoids can move on it without much issue. Medium humanoids, however, will have to crawl through it.
 
The noises become louder and louder further into the tunnel. The tunnel is going ever so slightly upwards, and after 20 feet, the ground is no longer wet. A calming voice filters through the tunnel, intermixed with the strange noises.
 
The tunnel ends in a dugout den. It is lit by a single torch placed against a second tunnel; several burnt torches lay on the ground. On the inside sit Grako and the aurumvorax. Grako has taken some precautions: he is wearing a few pieces of platemail, to prevent accidental injuries from the aurumvorax's very sharp claws or teeth. He has "named" her Nibbler for a reason.
 
A teenage human has their back to the tunnel. They are partially clad with platemail. They are wearing the breastplate, gauntlets, and boots. Their back is against you, and they are unsuccessfully trying to get rid of their breastplate, which was clearly made for an adult human and is too big on the teenager.
 
When Grako sees the party, an instant of fear is immediately replaced by relief that there is someone there to help him protect the aurumvorax and her pups. His stance switches immediately and starts giving orders without much of an explanation to the PCs. Grako orders the person with the most protective armor (biggest AC bonus) to keep watch over the aurumvorax and he tells the rest to help him build a barricade somehow. If the PCs at some point disagree and do things differently, Grako will protest, but he will fall in line if the change has positive results.
 
Perfect timing! Quick, help me get rid of this breastplate. It is horribly hot in here, and we can use the breastplate to barricade the tunnel against the gremlins! Gremlins!   I don't know why, but a group of gremlins seems determined to get in here. I don't know if they want to kill her, or eat her or her pups... But I won't allow that, for as long as I stand, I will protect Nibbler and her pups!
 
As Grako starts speaking with the characters, the characters can now see the aurumvorax, lying down on the ground, her belly in between her eight legs expanded. The aurumvorax is giving birth. When that happens, it creates a large amount of heat. Whenever a new pup is born, the temperature in the room rises fast. The PCs arrive just before the first pup is about to be born.
Behind Grako there is a creature lying in the ground. The shrill noise floods the chamber; the creature's body tenses, her dark golden fur puffs up, and the air in the room gets incredibly hot. The creature's body relaxes once more, and a tiny, squiggly and hairless creature appears in between her legs. The mother's gaze, however, has not relaxed and is now fixed your direction.
 
Use the birth of the pups to time the events and the passing of time. As a pup is being born, one of the "events" described below happens. The PCs will have to manage the heat waves while dealing with the other encounters.
  How many pups are born?
Every time a pup is born, it increases the temperature in the room dramatically, forcing anyone in the room to make a Fortitude saving throw (DC 13 + 1 for each previous check). The number of pups being born depends on the level of the party.  
1d4 + 1 pups for low-level characters (2-4)

If you roll the maximum amount of pups, break the gremlin encounter in two phases (one phase per pup being born): building the barricade (or the alternative chosen by your party) and then either holding out the barricade, or dealing with the gremlin incursion.
2d4 pups for medium-level characters (5-7)

If you roll a high number of pups, break the gremlin encounter in three phases (one phase per pup being born): building the barricade (or the alternative chosen by your party), holding out the barricade (for one to three turns, depending on how well they built it), and potentially, dealing with a gremlin incursion.
2d6 + 1 pups for high-level characters (8)

If you roll a low amount of pups (5 or less), use the tactic recommended for medium-level characters. If you roll 6 or more pups, use a couple of pups per events. Therefore, the PCs have to deal with a couple of heat waves per "event".
 
Heat Dangers Aside from the frequency of the events, use the heat dangers rules found here. In short:
  • Characters failing a Fortitude save take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage
  • A character who fails a Fortitude save is fatigued
  • Characters using heavy clothing or armour take a -4 penalty in their saves
  • Characters who go unconscious start taking 1d4 lethal damage per heat wave
  • Characters using their survival skill may get a bonus to their save (and potentially a bonus to others)
 
If any PC got fully submerged in water (either because they fell while going down the well, small size, or something else), they get a +4 bonus in their first save against the heat, as the water evaporating from their skin takes some of the heat away.
 

Mission change: save the pups to save Grako

Grako wants to get started building a barricade, but the following events can happen in any order. During the birth, the PCs will have to solve a couple of problems while dealing with the intense heat generated by the birth of the aurumvorax pups. The PCs will have to deal with the gremlins trying to steal some pups for themselves, and with a mud elemental triggering collapses on the tunnels, and later on, on the den itself. The PCs may also have to deal with an unconscious person, who may fall unconscious due to the heat.
 
It is recommended to add one interlude, or two for higher levels, in between "events" 1 to 3. See "Event 4: Uncertain rest" for an example. These can serve to maintain the tension while allowing the PCs to cool themselves, or Grako, off.
  Gremlins: pugwampis or jenkins?
Pugwampi CR 1/2
The pugwampis will use their shatter abilities to destroy items in the tunnel if a barricade has been constructed. If they manage to get in the room, the pugwampis are relying on their unluck aura to cause some chaos while they try to grab a pup. They need three pugwampis to manage to lift a single aurumvorax pup. If three pugwampis manage to grab a pup, the rest will try and shield the bearers to the best of their abilities.
Jinkin CR 1
For characters of level 4 and higher, the gremlins trying to steal the pups are jinkins. The jinkins have a plan: their sorcerer is casting ant haul on a couple of individuals. Those individuals are the ones who will try to use their dimension door to transport themselves with an aurumvorax pup out of the room. Once one or both have managed to get a pup and have disappeared from the room, the other jinkins who may have managed to enter in the room exit the room through their own dimension door.   If the tunnel has been well blocked or mostly blocked, the jinkins with anthaul may try to dimension door in, grab a pup, and try to escape with their lives.
 
Event 1: Gremlin incursions
Improvising a barricade
The tunnel is small-sized, so clogging it with items is not too difficult. Larger items like the breastplate work better, but they are hollow, so the tiny gremlins could still slither through them. Filling these sort of items with pliable items, like rope or clothes, will ensure the best coverage. A single "layer" protecting the tunnel will be short-work for the gremlins, several layers will buy the PCs enough time. Stuffing the tunnel with flammable objects and then lighting them on fire will drive the gremlins away, but it will also raise the heat level. Adding items like caltrops will also slow the gremlins down.   Using gold or copper objects in the barricade requires a Handle Animal check DC 17 to rid the aurumvorax from her treasure. If golden objects are used in the barricade, the strength of the gremlins decreases, as several gremlins consider this well earned treasure for their troubles.
Consider giving your players with ranks in knowledge (dungeoneering) or a relevant craft skill a glimpse of insight from the above-mentioned considerations. Allow your players some creativity in how they use their items, their magic, and items that are lying around the den.   If the gremlins get in, Grako will push towards a solution that does not involve killing the gremlins. He is as enamoured with them as he is with the aurumvorax and would hate to get one killed. He does not object to the use of nonlethal force against them, however.
 
  • If the tunnel has been well blocked, the gremlins don't manage to get through. Items placed at the frontline of the barricade are destroyed.
  •  
  • If the tunnel is mostly blocked, the gremlins break the last barrier at the last moment, just before the aurumvorax is fully recovered. The PCs can see the barricade failing, and they may attempt to do something (like holding a shield and pushing back, or putting their own bodies to cover the hole) to slow them down. Items placed at the frontline of the barricade are destroyed and other items have gained the broken condition.
  •  
  • If the tunnel is partially blocked, the gremlins break the barrier while the aurumvorax is still giving birth. The PCs can see the barricade failing, and they may attempt to do something (like holding a shield and pushing back, or putting their own bodies to cover the hole) to slow them down. The PCs may wish to engage the gremlins in combat, but they have an objective: grabbing one (or two) aurumvorax pups. All items except those that were placed last are destroyed, the other ones have gained the broken condition.
  •  
  • If the tunnel is lightly blocked, the gremlins break the barrier soon after it has been built. They swarm the room, causing chaos. The gremlins are emboldened by their success, so in addition to stealing a pup or two, they may also steal an item or two. Valuable items placed in the barricade are missing, all other items are destroyed.
 
Aside from building a barricade, the PCs may try other tactics. Here are a few guidelines about how to deal with them:
Fighting in the tunnels
The tunnels are small and labyrinthic. Given that medium PCs have to crawl in them, chances are they will quickly realize what a bad idea that is. If the party has enough small characters or an ingenious idea, it is possible that they go and fight the gremlins in the tunnels. If so, roll for initiative and add as many gremlins as PCs there are.
Ranged tactics
If the characters start deploying alchemical fire, caltrops, or even sunrods on the other side of the barricade, it effectively delay the gremlins progression. However, they also decide to copy the tactic and they start throwing shrapnel, ignitable materials etc through any holes available in the barricade.
Talking with the gremlins
If a character knows undercommon (and gnoll in the case of pugwampi gremlins) or has some other means to communicate with the gremlins, they can try to dissuade the gremlins from kidnapping an aurumvorax pup (DC 15).   Bribes or intimidation are also likely to work.
 
Event 2: Too hot for the mud elemental
A group of mud elementals are angry and scared about the heat. They decide to collapse the tunnels around the heat. This may cut off the party if some people have gone to the cistern to cool off, but it may also aid to keep the gremlins at bay. A Perception DC 25 allows a character to hear the mud elementals moving within the walls.
  Drawing the mud elementals into the den
If the PCs manage to draw the elementals out of the soil and into the den to fight, use the following amount of elementals according to your party's level:  
Low level (2-3)
2 small mud elementals (CR 1) ; hp 13 (each)
Medium level (4-6)
2 small mud elementals (CR 1) ; hp 13 (each)
1 medium mud elemental (CR 3) ; hp 30 (each)
High level (7-8)
1 medium mud elemental (CR 3) ; hp 30 (each)
1 large mud elemental (CR 5) ; hp 68 (each)
 
Unless the PCs force a fight with the elementals, this event occurs in at least two stages. First, the elementals destroy a tunnel (or two), collapsing it. Afterwards, they decide to start doing the same with the room, as the heat emanation is not stopping. The soil in the den's walls has dried up and cracked from the heat. The elementals use this to their advantage to shake the ground and trigger a small collapse of dirt.
  Collapse in the tunnel
The mud elementals collapse the tunnel in between the cistern and the den. This removes the option of taking characters suffering from a heat stroke out of the den. A total 1.400 pounds of dirt falls in the tunnel, blocking all passage.
 
A trickle of dirt stats coming from the tunnel that connects the den with the cistern. The slow trickle becomes a torrent, which quickly collapses the tunnel 10 feet from the entrance.
 
On closer inspection, a character can determine that the tunnel collapse is not an accident of nature with a Perception check 15 or higher. If the PCs wish to clear up a tunnel, they may do so by hand. If the PCs have skills such as Profession (miner), Knowledge (dungeoneering), Profession (architect), Profession (engineer), the dirt removal goes by twice as fast. Similarly, using a tool such as a shovel also speeds the task by half.
  Tunnel collapse for higher level characters
For higher-level parties (5th level and above), consider them also collapsing the tunnels where the goblins are coming from. If you are running this event concurrently or just after the gremlins, it may help the PCs. It will also, unfortunately, bury their objects under a lot of dirt.
  Shaking things in the den
When the mud elementals decide to escalate things, any character within the den must succeed at a DC 14 Reflex save or take 1d6 points of damage (add 1d6 damage for every level the party is above level 2, eg: 2d6 damage for a level 3 party and up to 7d6 damage for a level 8 party). The elementals manage to bring a considerable amount of dirt down on any creatures who do not succeed in their Reflex save. The aurumvorax mother does not attempt to make a save, and instead, uses her body to shield her pups from the dirt.
  Den Dangers
For parties of four-level or lower, there is no danger of being buried, as the amount of dirt that falls as a result of the mud elementals actions is not large enough to cause a collapse.   For parties of fifth-level or above, they have to deal with a partial collapse of the den. Characters who fail their save are buried take an additional 1d6 points of nonlethal damage every minute they remain buried. Characters and creatures are buried under X pounds of dirt. As a full-round action, a character can remove an amount of rubble equal to one-half their heavy load (thus five times his heavy load per minute). Digging tools double this amount.   If the aurumvorax mother is buried, when she burst through the ground, she has a pup in her mouth. She will then use her burrow speed to fetch the other pups. Afterwards, she will begin digging for the gold. As a small quadruped creature, her heavy load limit is 460 lb. Thus, in 1 minute, she can dig out 2.300 pounds of dirt (that is over a 5-foot-by-5-foot area per minute).   The PCs find themselves on a field of grain right outside of the town. They can go back into town, or go directly to the Thimbaum family's property.
 
Event 3: Dealing with the heat
Grako
For the purposes of the heat rolls, Grako is considered to have a +4 alchemical bonus on his Fortitude checks against the heat and takes half damage from the heat if he fails his check. He was right next to the aurumvorax when her waters broke, and he got quite of the liquid on himself. The liquid gave him minor burn wounds on the hands, but also has infused him temporarily with heat resistance. The aurumvorax mother is fully resistant to both heat and fire during the birth and is not bothered by the noticeable rise in temperature as the pups are born.
 
Grako has 6 hit points, so he will most likely go unconscious due to the heat. If that occurs, the PCs can drag him into the cistern to cool down, or they can heal him. If Grako reaches exactly 0 hit points, he is staggered, and will, on his own volition, use his move action to crawl through the tunnel where the PCs came from to cool down. Recovering non-lethal damage takes 1 hour per hit point, so unless magically healed, Grako will, from that point onwards, be of little help in the adventure. During that time in the cistern, he also cools down, so he no longer suffers from fatigue.
  PCs
It is likely that at least one PC goes unconscious with the heat. The group will have to deal with the other events while managing the situation with the heat, which may include, having to heal a PC, or dragging them to the cistern to cool off. The PCs were given a healer's kit by Wimkal that your PCs may wish to use to deal with the heat damage. This can only happen in the absence of heat (either because the birth has ended, or because the characters have cooled down in the cistern).
 
Current versus total hit points
There is a good chance some PCs may not enter the den with their hit points intact. In this case, the distinction between current hit points and total hit points becomes important. Refer to the following rules when calculating nonlethal damage for people who have suffered lethal damage:  
  • When a PC nonlethal damage equals their current hit points, they are staggered. They cease being staggered when their current hit points exceed their nonlethal damage.
  • When their nonlethal damage exceeds their current hit points, the PC falls unconscious.
  • Once a PC's nonlethal damage is equal to their total maximum hit points (not their current hit points), all further nonlethal damage is treated as lethal damage.
 
Event 4: Uncertain rest
During this time, the characters only have to deal with the heat waves from the pups being born. The characters can cool down by going into the cistern and bathing in the water. If they did not fight with the worm when they entered, there is a good chance they will have to do so now. They may also simply hunker down, as the bonuses provided by the Survival skill are increased while stationary.
 
You may use one of these events in between the gremlins or the mud elementals attacks to give the PCs a rest while keeping the tension up: have the gremlins given up trying to get through the barricade or are they plotting something? are the elementals gone, or are they in danger of getting separated if they cross the tunnel to cool down?
 
You may wish to read the following to set the scene during a time of rest:
The aurumvorax mother has settled in a somewhat peaceful rhythm. The pups who were born first are by her teats, in between her many legs. Every new born pup is not attended immediately by the mother, nor does the pup move towards the teats. Once they are born, they start licking themselves and the liquid around them, under the watchful gaze of their mother. After a while, the mother finishes cleaning them up and helps them gently towards her belly with the others.
 
Birth secretions
The pups are born, coated in a thick golden hot liquid, which they instinctively start licking. After a few minutes, the mom finishes cleaning them off. The liquid contains low amounts of molten gold, and once the birth is finished, the remains can be seen solidified. Solidified metallic splotches are found in the ground. Normally, an aurumvorax mother would eat those solidified scraps to reabsorb any gold she may have lost, but given the large amount of gold at her disposal thanks to Grako, she will allow characters to pick it up if interested.   What can the birth metal secretions do?
Ground up, the material can be used in alchemical processes to create potions of endure elements, forgoing any other material costs. The resulting potion only provides protection against a hot environment. The material can also be used to create potions of protection from energy, forgoing any other material costs. The resulting potion provides protection only against fire damage.
 
 

Can you keep a secret?

While Grako is enthusiastically convinced that he has managed to "placate" this wild aurumvorax thanks to her profound need for gold, any character with a good Knowledge (arcana or history) may suspect this is likely not the case. The female aurumvorax was probably a pet, rare as they are. Whatever happened to the owner, the female aurumvorax is now having to survive on her own. Otherwise, no matter how much gold a humanoid may give a grown-up wild aurumvorax, it is unthinkable for such a beast to allow a human in its den, least of all, an expecting mother.
 
However it may be, the mother soon regains her strength and starts behaving aggressively whenever anyone gets close to her or the pups. If the players don't get the change in attitude, Grako will, and will reluctantly leave the den through the tunnel the adventurers came through.
  What are the rewards?
Wimkal Thimbaum is very happy to see Grako Thimbaum. He gives him a hug and some pats in the back, and asks him to go into the manor. Wimkal thanks the PCs and will enquire about where they found Grako. If the PCs asked him about the gold, he will ask if they found the gold. If they say they did, he will ask if they know what Grako was doing with it.
 
The disappearance of a good amount of the family's golden objects has made Wimkal conservative in regards to the rewards he is willing to offer. The family does have a couple of poisons they confiscated from a roguish band that tried to extort the villagers a few years back. They have no real use for them, and may be better suited for capable individuals such as the PCs. He also tells them to keep the healer's kit he gave them earlier.
  Poisonous Rewards
Low level parties (2-4)
A dose of niharit
Medium level parties (5-6)
Two doses of ungol dust
High level parties (7-8)
A dose of hemlock and a dose of ungol dust
 
He also asks the PCs if they would be willing to be the honoured guests in the town's festival happening the following week. The family is preparing a little something to celebrate it has been a year since anyone has been known to have the plague in the region. It is meant to be a day to say goodbye to all that were lost, but welcome the opportunities ahead for those that survived. What better time to celebrate the heroes who saved the town's youngest? If the PCs are not from the town, he offers them to stay at the manor for the week until the festival.

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If Grako died

If Grako died, the family and the town are heartbroken, and will be suspicious about the actions of the PCs. They will try to determine if they were negligent. If the PCs ignored an unconscious Grako due to the heat or they did not stabilize him if he had wounds, the family and the townspeople will be angered with them and ask them to leave and never come back. If Liaf had provided the party with magic items, she will take them away from them. If they determine that the PCs did try their best to save Grako, the PCs get the "poisonous rewards", but they are not invited to the town's festival the coming week nor to stay at the manor.
 

If the PCs are at risk of dying

If the PCs fall or are about to fall, consider having them be saved by the Branendorf's rangers (or if the PCs are playing the rangers, the villagers). The rangers have been investigating the holes around the old mine, and find the holes in the fields, following them all the way into the den.
 

If the secret gets out

If the Thimbaum family finds out about the presence of an aurumvorax, they will deduce, and rightly so, that there must be more metal in the ground. The mine has been abandoned for over two centuries because there was nothing else worth mining, but clearly, somewhere in the area there must be some supply of copper or gold. The family will try and convince Grako to help rescue one of the aurumvorax pups. Seeing how most pups in the wild die as the mother often is not able to get enough gold (and Grako would really like a more permanent aurumvorax pet) he doesn't take too much convincing.
 
If the townspeople find out, they panic, knowing of the legends of the ravaging aurumvorax. They soon begin planning to demolish the tunnels in the hope to kill the creature, or at least, bar its access to the town.


Cover image: On Rocik Trolls by Olaus Magnus

Comments

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24 Apr, 2021 20:35

Oh very nice one shot! The start was nicely written with the possible questions the PC's could ask and the answers.   I like how the finale is an action heavy section but still with lots of roleplaying opportunities and new mechanics. That does seem like an interesting section to run. The heat that needs to be taken into account really gives the entire section some extra edge.   Small remark about typo's though   'figure out what has he done' should be 'figure out what he has done'   'Dagenos Galekii arrives in her pony ' should be 'on her pony' unless it is a really special kind of transporation :p   In all very nice read!

Feel free to check out my costume entry. :)
28 Apr, 2021 16:00

Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoyed the one-shot :D   The typos have been removed, thanks for letting me know about them. I've been doing editing, but it is a lot easier the more eyes you have on the article.

30 Apr, 2021 17:28

I absolutely love the concept of this. Especially the birthing process and the Aurumvorax especially. The similarities in helping protect NPCs with my own was intriguing as well. I like the interactivity between the NPC's socially and various questions. Greatly appreciate a big action scene built up with roleplay and narrative as well.

I'd love to see your own opinions on my main world, Xardia, and it's Free D&D 5e Module!
1 May, 2021 16:22

I'm so glad you mentioned the birthing process. As a potentially low to no combat one-shot, I needed to have the birthing process be the "big thing" that culminates the adventure. It took some refining, but I hope it ends up being fun. I GM the one-shot tomorrow, so I'll get a chance to see it in action then! You may be interested to check out the outline, to see how different/basic the initial birthing process was:

Outline for Adventure April
Generic article | Apr 7, 2021

My initial ideas for the one-shot I'll create for Adventure April. It will also work as a landing page for later creations done for Adventure April.

  Thanks so much for stopping by!

1 May, 2021 12:08

This is great! Very very nice!   But for me, that legend you have at the top with the explanation of the controls? Genius. Pure Genius.   The format is also well done.   I will definitely study this for ideas as to the right way to set up an article for an adventure!

— The wolf of Tales of Justice, Creator of Legends of Elohey, Star Wars: Shards, Fiven Chronicles and more!
1 May, 2021 15:57

Hi!   Thanks, I'm so glad you enjoyed it :D   I used to have the GM info at the bottom, but I was recommended to put it at the top, and I am glad I did. While you don't get to see the adventure stuff straight up, I do think it helps. In case it isn't obvious, the top bit section has been done with the "Storyteller Seeds" section, made public.   Cheers!

1 May, 2021 16:03

I wondered about that! Brilliant idea! I think I'll be using that idea in my own articles here and there. Just amazing work, really amazing!

— The wolf of Tales of Justice, Creator of Legends of Elohey, Star Wars: Shards, Fiven Chronicles and more!
5 May, 2021 14:47

Really interesting one shot. I really like how clear and organised everything is to help someone who wants to run it. :D I like that you have the bit at the beginning to explain what each section looks like and is for, too. :D

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!