BLACKHAWK’S TALE TELL
“Through mist that ever settles on dark waters meandering slowly through the marsh, boats of men pass unknowing the things lurking deeper beyond fleeting veils of swampland, mixture of putrid life and bloated death. It was into the heart of that uncivil bog that I entered, half starved, half clinging to life, lost to the stagnant clouded fate that awaited. But fate sought me out, in the form of towering shadow that floated on the dark mist at dusk. . .”
“. . . Several ogres trained daily for the hunt and war against beasts. They lived off game and the scarce celebrated kanaran, evidenced by a rather large example draped over the entry into one of the huts. . .”
“. . . Exhausted from hours, days of slogging through the marsh, only driven forward in the hope of telling this very tale. Two labored days hence, I arrived in sight of the friendly roofs and smoke columns of Karo’s Fen.”
– Blackhawk, on his plight in the marsh
Blackhawk, Bardodavokar. Many in Karo’s Fen think him mad rumormonger. The now bruised and haggard minstrel (head bandaged with busted leg requiring wooden crutch) is emphatic that his escape from swamp ogres is true and that Forester remains captive. His exhausted state will not allow him to venture back into the haunted mists but he is willing to hire an expedition, pay later of course when he can earn enough shillings since he lost his meager possessions in the marshlands.
Harim, grizzled river trader. Swears to have seen a giant shadow in the mist. He fears this ill-omen and seeks anyone capable of dealing with the threat. He pilots a small cargo ship along the Doudram and is not unkeen on bearing folks who have some business to attend.
“There’s ogres out there in the marsh! I seen ‘em in the mist at morn. Like a rotten ghost ten feet tall. Could smell its stink on the wind, so foul it drove us on our way down the Doudram. Somethin’ about it weren’t right I tell ya. Even for ogrekind, it was off.”
Byron, brawny fisherman. Tall tales aside, Byron the Big is not likely to sit out any physical conflict that threatens the Fen. He can be enlisted as a guide and companion.
Man, dockhand. All day loading the heaviest cargo has made this large docile ogre an ideal porter at home in the marsh, should characters find a way to persuade him to take a new job [Persuasive -2]. He demands double pay since he already has work.
Agatha, mournful. Trader’s wife, recently lost their only child to the murky waters, presumed drowned after the toddler disappeared. Found staring into marsh contemplating a desperate search for her daughter in the underworld (or something else?).
Forester, abducted human. Blackhawk’s main concern is his fellow prisoner. The “elf-friend” seems an outcast or rebel. His name carries an older ward than the Iron Pact when humans were given over willingly into care of elves for much the same purpose they are taken now. Adopted humans were taught many secrets and allowed to instruct their people upon returning home. Symbaroum ended this.
When the party locates the island, Forester is not present, fate unknown. GMs can change this, having the party meet, rescue or find him slain.
Ogres. All of the ogres are similar as each was found in its amnesiac state and spirited to the floating island of warriors. All of them slightly corrupted, seemingly from contact with the creatures they hunt and rituals of the Matron or Witch. They show scales in places, should perceptive characters look.
Matron. It is unclear just what the Matron is exactly – ogre, troll, immense hag or some malformed beast witch. It is certain she is ugly in every respect: slothful, violent, demanding and so loud is it surprising that the village has not been discovered by everyone within a league. The ogres bow to her commands with little protest.
Witch (Hagatha). Gaoia outcast. Seemingly behind this small village of ogres, why she gathered and taught them is for GMs and PCs to uncover.
Her presence is shocking, intimidating to all (something like the Hulda). Her skin is covered in scales, eyes glow green-yellow, mouth is oozing black puss betraying the glint of sharpened fangs. In the rare event she is present, GMs should adjust stats as need.
The dreary trade village on the Doudram offers a serviceable refuge for travelers but little else. The settlement and ogre island have no connection other than proximity. An exception can be recent disappearance of children, each taken by Witch or Matron for stew or sacrifice. Ogres would not make good abductors given their limited knowledge of the world. If any of them happened on Karo’s Fen or it inhabitants, they would consider it a phantom.
LOCATING THE ISLAND
The main obstacle is simply finding the ogres. The marsh a fog dressed maze of shallow water courses, mud pits and mossy bog islands. These natural cloaking qualities are amplified by sorceries that keep the island hidden. Realizing the fog hides the island yields Vigilant +2 to locate it each time the party enters thick fog.
Following Blackhawk’s directions, characters will reach the rumored location in two days normal travel for swampy terrain. While a boat speeds things up on the first day, it must be abandoned north of the island, making the hike south longer. This makes it harder to locate the site Vigilant -2. The difficulty remains unchanged each day searched dealing with hazards of the marsh. If the party retreats back to town, chances do not change.
The catalyst for locating the village comes if the party decides to rest two days east from Karo’s Fen, then the island finds them. Every night, clouds of the swampland bear the island to a new location, drawn to living beings, much like undead. When the party rests, there is a second chance to succeed in the island coming to them, appearing in sight as Prios wakes.
– Witch’s Hut, 1D6: 1 Witch is home! 2-4 Recently abandoned, search Vigilant. 5-6 Long abandoned, weathered search Vigilant -2.
– Matron Hut
– Ogre huts, 8 – 1 for each
– Wooden Cages
– Swamp Moat
– Abandoned huts?
DEALING WITH OGRES
Piteous their existence be, residents of ogre island know a simple, profound cosmology. They hold their little collection of huts is all that opposes the surrounding wild, thought endless to them. A symbol painted in mud on their faces before each hunt: circle (horizon) around another smaller wavy circle (swamp, serpent) around a single dot (island). When one of their short lives ends, others paint a straight line from dot to outside the circle, bearing the warrior from island over marsh into wheeling heavens.
They live only to hunt their enemies: beasts, corrupted creatures, snakes especially kanaran. These customs are taught to new ogres. This began only a few years but the first ogres have died. Being a big band of imbeciles in a poison swamp is dangerous business.
Shaking the ogres from their little world means destroying it, in their slow minds or actually. Each ogre can be convinced of the world beyond the marsh, task gaining advantage [Persuasive +2 Resolute] if another ogre is present. Once some are converted, division easily erupts into customary violence.
SHADOW & AFTERMATH
Consequences depend on how great an effect you wish ranging from resolving goals, ending small episode, world altering or opening adventure into ruins.
Dealing with the optional black shape haunting the ogre’s existence is murky. GMs can turn the phantom into anything: blight beast, ghost, corrupted ogre or troll, etc. Or it can simply be a figment of ogre imagination. Any outside witnesses of the shadow can be explained away as an ogre clouded in mist.
A profound change to Davokar is the shadow becomes a Fir Bholg. These arrived centuries ago in their Promised Land of Davokar. Known to elves and ancients but small legend to barbarians. The feared shadow becomes a higher form of ogre – aspired to by the warriors as they play out their cosmic hunt?
The Firbolg’s purpose in haunting the island is equally vague but can be luring ogres to life among the hidden Firbolg. Relationship between Firbolg, ogre, troll is open to explore. Their knowledge to Ambrian and barbarians can change faction dynamics if allowed.
Tales of the parties exploits convince people of Blackhawk’s story, or convince them he is nothing but a liar.
Ruins may also be found below the island. Treasure hunters begin exploration.
STAT, TACTICS, STRATEGERIES
These are suggested templates and changes for NPCs. GMs should use whatever stats they like, swapping Traits and Abilities where desired. If each of the ogres is given a unique statistic, they should favor strength and combat abilities, greatly ignorant of esoteric and social skills. There are 8 hunting ogres but this can also be modified. Other NPCs can easily be created in and around Karo’s Fen. You may also wish to add snakes, vengeful terrain or blight creatures around the island – the whole idea being a cursed, poison bog of misguided brutes. Finally as the party searches out the island, you may use the encounter charts in Adventure Pack 1 or modify them to include the ogres, shadow or other creatures.
Blackhawk stats: Ambrian Fortune-Hunter (Core Rulebook page 215) with the additional Trait Contacts. As many have suggested, consider changing the values of Strong and Persuasive.
Harim stats: Ambrian Farmhand (Monster Codex 133) or Robber (CRB 211).
Byron stats: Ambrian Robber (CRB 211) or Fortune-Hunter (CRB 215).
Man stats: Ogre Plunderer (CRB 211).
Forester stats: Abducted Human Wilderness Guide (MC 132) or Queen’s Ranger (CRB 212) with Trait Brushcraft.
Ogre Warriors stats: Ogre Plunderer (CRB 211). Simply varying their weapons and a few Abilities is enough to distinguish the pack, changing or rolling Attributes for each ogre even more so.
tactics: all of the warriors fight toe-to-toe and take pride in their martial skills. In spite of their leadership, none will kill a defenseless opponent but only one that is a treat or seems a monster. Hence the reason Blackhawk is alive.
Matron stats: Corrupted Human, Ogre, possibly a Liege Troll (CRB 208) ? Traits & Abilities like Enthrall, Bushcraft, Flesh Craft, Alchemy, Ritualist and mystical powers of sorcery and witchcraft are all fitting.
tactics: will order ogres to fight and play the cowardly spell caster, she will run if wounded. Convincing the ogres to leave their strange existence when the Matron is present Persuasive -5.
Witch stats: Corrupted Human Village Witch, Witch Keeper (MC 131-32), or Cult Leader (CRB 211), depending on the strength and type of villain you wish the party to possibly encounter. She is fully corrupted and shows snake-like qualities. Traits & Abilities like Enthrall, Natural Weapon, Poisonous, Armored (scales), Beastial, Bushcraft, Shapeshifter, Flesh Craft, Alchemy, Ritualist and mystical powers of sorcery and witchcraft are all fitting.
tactics: very dangerous, will throw everything she has at the party but will flee if seriously wounded, possibly with spells and teleporting as she leaps into the open air hearth.
Shadow Ogre stats: ???