Vicious Venues06/19/2006

Fishermen's Island

Fishermen's Island contains encounters of level 3-8 and is suitable for use with any D&D campaign.

The island, remote but located a mere stone's throw from a bustling settlement, is famous for its fishing and infamous for the clouds of insects swarming over its marshy shores. An unlikely band of squatters has gathered on the island in recent months. Are these simple fishermen, or do they have a darker purpose?

Background for the DM

Fishermen's Island has long been a local landmark. The shoals and banks around its shores make the place a hazard for ships but provide excellent breeding and hunting grounds for many kinds of fish. Fisherfolk from all over the area visit the place, at least from time to time, to improve their catches. The island is very small, and its swampy terrain has discouraged settlement until recently.

A short time ago, an eclectic group of squatters established a foothold on the island. Most of the group consists of lizardfolk, but the mix also includes a few seagoing halflings, some salty humans, and a handful of other humanoids. The squatters have done their best to fit in with the locals. They fish mostly with hooks and lines (and a few small nets). They eke out a living selling their modest catches in the local markets. Though not particularly outgoing or friendly, they have offered invaluable assistance to the local fishing fleet. They readily share information about where fish can be found, give warnings about shifts in the weather, and have performed at least one daring rescue when a fishing boat got into trouble.

Unbeknownst to everyone living near the island (and even to most of the squatters living on the island), a greenspawn sneak (see Monster Manual IV) named Kroodrax is behind the colony here. The extremely agile and quick-witted Kroodrax takes his mission to serve his deity, Tiamat, very seriously indeed. He longed to become a powerful leader in greenspawn sneak society but lacked any true potential for divine magic, which is an essential requirement for attaining authority among his kind. Instead, Kroodrax showed an aptitude for working undercover. His flair for stealth and disguise allowed him to pass unnoticed among humanoids and spy on them. Kroodrax's superiors understand his desires and his assets, and they have directed him to set up a long-term spying operation where he can keep tabs on commerce, politics, and military activity in his area. Kroodrax wasn't given any other greenspawn sneaks to command, but he was allowed to recruit assistants. In this way, Kroodrax's superiors hoped to make the best use of his skills while also satisfying his urge to command others.

Kroodrax eagerly undertook his mission. He chose Fishermen's Island as an ideal base of operations because it offers both security and excellent cover. He recruited a band of lizardfolk for protection and set to work. He has been spying energetically, and he also has performed a few robberies and assassinations. In his spare time, he fishes (to maintain his cover) and indoctrinates his servants in the joys of serving Tiamat (to satisfy his own urge to venerate his queen). Much of the time, Kroodrax poses as Kurian Troutspearer, a tallfellow halfling, with the help of his Disguise skill. He has also posed as a young lizardfolk, a merfolk youth, and a locathah youth. Although he's at the heart of the activities on the island, he tries to stay out of the public eye as much as possible.

Kroodrax's activities have attracted several genuine fishermen to the island -- a fact that serves to strengthen his cover. Only Kroodrax's inner circle is part of the small cult of Tiamat he has created.

Thus far, Kroodrax's plans are working very well. He doesn't know it, but they're beginning to work too well. Many of the island's new residents are starting to appreciate the value of commerce and the value of an honest day's work. Unless Kroodrax weeds out these "malcontents" soon, he risks discovery and exposure.

The Setup

Fishermen's Island is located about one day's sail from a port town or city -- close enough to allow some contact between the island and the larger settlement, but far enough away to discourage casual visits. The location presented here is in a sheltered estuary (where a major river meets the sea), but the place could just as easily be located in a major river or on a big lake.

Despite its fairly remote location, the island is a hotbed of activity, and player characters might be inclined to visit for a variety of reasons:

  • A courier carrying vital documents has mysteriously vanished in the town or city near the island. The courier was last seen booking passage for a ship out of the port. She paid the required fee but did not appear when the ship was ready to leave. Some of her gear was already on board, but the missing documents were not. The PCs are hired to determine the courier's fate and recover the documents.

    Waylaying the courier was a major coup for Kroodrax. He has the missing documents, but they are encrypted and he cannot decipher them. He has the documents hidden in the shrine and is waiting for a chance to pass them to his superiors.

  • The spawning cycle for a certain rare and commercially valuable fish is about to begin. Fishermen's Island is their prime spawning ground in this region. A consortium of merchants, politicians, and druids -- in a rare display of unity -- is concerned that the local population of this fish might be endangered by the extra activity on the island, so they hire PCs to protect the fish.

    Kroodrax could care less about the fish, but he doesn't like the PCs snooping around his island and he'll try to drive them off if he can.

  • A sea elf hunting party has vanished during what was supposed to be a routine outing. The elves' mutilated bodies washed up in the port nearest the island. The sea elves (and their land-dwelling cousins) are outraged and demand that the culprit or culprits be found and punished. Because the hunters were stabbed, not bitten, the sea elves suspect land-dwelling fishermen, but they concede that sahuagin might be behind the attack. It's up to the PCs to determine what really happened.

    The sea elves stumbled on Kroodrax as he was returning from an "errand" ashore, and one of them recognized him as a greenspawn sneak. Kroodrax killed the sea elves but could not hide the bodies before the tide swept them away.

  • Smugglers have been unusually active and successful all along the coast lately. Officials suspect that they might be posing as fishermen, or be getting help evading the authorities from dishonest fishermen. The sudden population boom on Fishermen's Island makes it a likely base of operations for smugglers, and the PCs are sent in to check it out.

    Kroodrax has nothing to do with smuggling, though he's up to no good and he has plenty to hide. When the PCs begin poking around the island, Kroodrax pretends to cooperate, but he'll attack if they discover the shrine or act suspiciously toward him. It's also possible that Kroodrax knows who the local smugglers are. If so, he'll happily identify them for the PCs, hoping to allay any suspicions they might harbor for him.

Visiting the Island (EL 3-8)

The island covers about fifteen acres. Of that, about a third is beach and mudflats and the remainder is equally divided between marshes infested with insects and rocky outcrops wreathed in scraggly trees.

The island's lizardfolk live in crude huts set on stilts over the marsh. The stilts keep the huts from flooding during storms or high tides. The other residents have built shacks and lean-tos in the rocky areas.

The following text shows how the island might look when viewed from the water at the height of the fishing season.

Broad shallows dotted with several tiny islets surround a low island. Wide, muddy beaches slope gently from the surf and run inland for perhaps a bowshot before giving way to fields of marsh grass. A few rocky outcroppings cloaked with small trees rise here and there from the marsh.

An assortment of disreputable-looking fishing boats lies on the beach, and grass huts on stilts sit above the marsh just inland from the beach. The breeze carries the scents of woodsmoke and drying fish.

If the PCs encounter Kroodrax while he is out in his boat, he pretends to be a simple fisherman of whatever race he is using for his disguise that day. He stays reasonably close to the shoreline, within hailing distance.

A rather tall halfling dressed in trousers cut off at the knee and a loose shirt hauls a net bursting with fish up into a small fishing boat. "Good mornin' t'ye, masters," he says, wiping his brow with a dirty cloth. "Th' sea 'as been good to us this mornin'," he says, bending to unclasp the net and starting to sort through the wriggling, silvery mass. He tosses the smallest fish back into the sea and sorts the larger ones into large buckets. "Would ye care to buy some fish fer yer breakfast? Th' snapper is fine today. Or maybe a nice catfish? Or ye could go over to th' island an' talk to ol' Gerphat. I bet he has a nice lobster or two in his traps."

The halfling holds up a wriggling fish. "People don't understand fish," he says conversationally. "They think they're cold an' ugly an' dumb. But look at that," he says, running a finger along the fish's topfin. "Those fine scales, shining in the sun like a hoard o' silver. Fish're almost as beautiful an' graceful as dragons -- though not as smart. Have ye ever seen a dragon, wingin' its way through the clouds, the sun glintin' off its scales? Sharks o' th' skies, I've heard 'em called. I haven't never seen one -- but I hear tell adventurers see 'em all th' time. Ah, must be quite th' life. Me, I'm happy enough just livin' 'ere an' singin' to my fish.

"That's th' best way to catch 'em, y'know," he continues with a grin. "Ye sit an' sing to 'em -- sing about heroes an' fools, an' dragons an' knights, an' b'fore y'know it, they're a-swimmin' into yer nets jus' so's they kin hear more. Cause when yer a fish, ye don't have much chance fer adventure, an' they crave it as much as anybody," he says with a wink.

Kroodrax continues to regale the PCs with strange fish tales and odd advice in hopes of figuring out their business here. He offers to show them around the island or direct them to where they need to go if they tell him what they seek.

There isn't much to see on the island beyond what's described above. Kroodrax and his servants have excavated a chamber under one of the rocky outcrops (one where nobody has built a house). This has filled with brackish water. Kroodrax claims the chamber is for storing live fish for bait or later sale in town. The islanders do store fish here, but only Kroodrax and his allies know that a tunnel leading out of the basin leads to a deeper chamber where Kroodrax has set up a shrine to Tiamat. The shrine chamber is underground but above the waterline. Kroodrax keeps the loot from his forays in the shrine, and he has accumulated a level 5 treasure (no magic items) in there.

Creatures: The island's inhabitants vary over time, but Kroodrax and his six lizardfolk servants are permanent residents, along with an additional dozen lizardfolk of various ages and a dozen commoners of various races. At least three of Kroodrax's lizardfolk are on the island at any given time to keep an eye on things. Kroodrax might also have other servants or guards, as suggested below.

Lizardfolk (3-6): hp 11 each; MM 169.

Tactics: Each lizardfolk keeps a pair of clubs and three javelins at hand. In a battle, they prefer to close in and gang up on a single foe, attacking with their clubs and teeth. If the tide of battle turns against them, they withdraw to the shrine for their final stand, tossing their javelins and clubs to discourage pursuit.

Monitor Lizards (1-2): hp 22 each; MM 275.

Tactics: The lizards move toward the closest foes and attack. If their opponents withdraw, the lizards most likely stay behind to consume the fallen, friend and foe alike.

Scrags (1-2): hp 63 each; MM 247.

Tactics: Kroodrax recruited these creatures to guard the shrine. They aren't likely to emerge from their lair except at night or when Kroodrax orders them forth, but they attack any stranger who enters the place. When fighting in the water, they love to swim past the foe's front rank and attack a vulnerable foe.

Kroodrax CR 5
Male greenspawn sneak rogue 3
LE Small monstrous humanoid
Init +10; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +4, Spot +4
Languages Common, Draconic, Elven

AC 24, touch 18, flat-footed 24; uncanny dodge
(+1 size, +6 Dex, +3 armor, +1 deflection, +3 natural)
hp 32 (5 HD)
Resist evasion
Fort +3, Ref +12, Will +4

Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee mwk short sword +10 (1d4+1/19-20) and mwk short sword (1d4/19-20) or
mwk short sword +12 (1d4+1/19-20)
Ranged mwk composite shortbow +12 (1d4+1/x3)Base Atk +4; Grp +1
Atk Options sneak attack +4d6
Combat Gear 2 oil of magic weapon, potion of cure moderate wounds, potion of invisibility, 2 thunderstones, 2 smokesticks

Abilities Str 12, Dex 22, Con 15, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 12
SQ trap sense +1, trapfinding, water breathing
Feats Improved Initiative, Two-Weapon Fighting[B], Weapon Finesse
Skills Balance +8, Bluff +10, Diplomacy +3, Disguise +6 (+8 when acting in character, +16 with hat of disguise, +18 with hat of disguise when acting in character), Escape Artist +11, Gather Information +5, Hide +19, Intimidate +3, Jump +3, Listen +4, Move Silently +15, Profession (fisherman) +5, Sleight of Hand +8, Spot +4, Swim +6, Tumble +11, Use Ropes +6 (+8 involving bindings)
Possessions combat gear plus +1 leather armor, ring of protection +1, 2 masterwork short swords, masterwork composite shortbow (+1 Str bonus), hat of disguise, pearl and gold earrings (50 gp), 18 gp, 20 sp

Tactics: Kroodrax does his best to bring his devastating sneak attack power into play. He prefers to ambush foes, and if player characters come looking for him, he is likely to allow his lizardfolk to greet the interlopers while hiding nearby, awaiting a chance to attack with surprise. Once a battle begins, Kroodrax uses his Tumble skill, or a potion of invisibility if necessary, to get into position for more sneak attacks. Although a proficient swimmer, Kroodrax dislikes fighting in the water and will do so only if he must to keep vital allies, such as the scrags, in the fray.

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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