Chapter Two: Trebonshire Forest (2)
These creatures are very nasty. You know a venus flytrap from Earth? A plant with two leaves that clap together whenever a fly lands on them; then the fly is slowly digested?
Grasstraps (and their cousins, the sandtraps) are much the same, only much bigger and designed for large prey – which certainly includes humans. They dig holes for themselves in a forest clearing, where they place themselves and open their gargantuan maws.
The inside of the maws looks just like the ordinarily forest ground, with grass and twigs. And right in the middle of it is what looks like the tasty cadavre of a deer (or some other creature; there are genetic variants among grasstraps). Any decent predator would just love to get that cadavre, which also smells authentic.
Unfortunately, when they follow their instincts and get to the cadavre – the grasstrap clamps shut, traps the poor beast inside. Acid squirts from its maw, and the digestion begins.
Description and statistics
An adult grasstrap is rectangular, seven by eight feet when viewed from top. Its height, just slightly rounded out, comes to some five feet. The single most visible feature of a grasstrap – or any traphunter – is its maw, which covers the entire length of the body when open. Its maw, as described above, perfectly resembles the ordinary surroundings. (The features of the maws inside cannot adapt to its environment, they are permanent. The appearance changes from individual to individual, though.)
In order to fit in, the grasstrap needs to excavate a hole in the forest ground. For this it uses a series of “vacuum chambers” within its body, which function exactly like the vacuum cleaners of the real world. They suck vast amounts of dirt through three slits on the bottom of the creature; the dirt is then expelled through several slits at the side of the grasstrap. Thus a cavity is created under the grasstrap into which it perfectly fits and can open its trapjaw to wait for prey.
The camouflage would not be perfect though, if the expelled dirt remained piled up around the trap. It spreads the dirt around with the aid of tubular tentacles that grow both from the bottom and the sides; thus the dirt is carefully brushed aside so it isn’t as obviously visible as before.
All in all, the process of digging a hole and then removing the dirt takes a rather long time. Depending on the make-up of the ground, a grasstrap may need up to 18 hours to fit snugly into its lair. During this time it is nearly helpless. On the other hand, once in place, the trap is likely to stay there for weeks or months before it feels the need to move again.
The trap moves on the tentacles mentioned above. They are strong enough to lift the entire body and move it a few inches at a time, so that a grasstrap slowly lumbers across the forest floor. It is also quite easily attackable at this time, which explains why grasstraps choose to move only rarely (and then, only at night).
Each character caught in the grasstrap takes 1d10 damage from the acid for every round that he stays in it. The character’s only chance is in drawing his weapon and trying to cut himself out from the grasstrap.
If any characters are left outside the grasstrap, they’d better help their friends caught inside and add their fighting mettle to the task of cutting up the grasstrap.
The goal is to inflict enough damage on a specific body part of the grasstrap, so that the trapped characters can escape. That means focusing your energy on that body part and depleting its hit points completely, i.e. cutting and slashing it open.
In effect, there is only one body part that can be attacked, i.e. the creature’s maw. This hit zone has 45 hit points.
For those party members outside the trap, they can now see its exterior skin, a thick, leathery surface. It’s very tough and carries an attack penalty of –30.
Since the creature is currently busy to kill the trapped party members with acid, your players should do their best to kill the beast quickly. (Note: You should keep the exact time needed a bit open. But do remember that each combat rounds takes about 30 seconds. Since the characters inside are covered in acid, it’s not very reasonable that they could last, say, 5 minutes – i.e. 10 combat rounds. Then again, you can use your imagination, if you need one additional combat round.)
Killing a grasstrap will bring 200 EP for the party.
I don’t include any particular flavor text here because the grasstrap is a perfect simulation of a forest clearing. It only becomes apparent when its jaws jam shut – and then the flavor text runs along the lines of “You’re surrounded by flesh everywhere. Acid bites down on your clothes, your skin – everything. Slowly, you feel yourself being digested.”
The question is whether there are any clues that your party is about to step into a grasstrap. Yes, there are:
· If the grasstrap dug its lair relatively recently (say a week or two), the piles of dirt can still be detected. No matter how much the grasstrap labors to remove it, it remains spread around the creature. (Over time, though, other forest animals will automatically spread the dirt much further around, so this clue vanishes.)
· Although the maw is a perfect match in itself, there is still an edge – barely visible, but it can be detected. It looks like a rectangular dent in the ground, and thus is too perfect for a natural occurrence. (Of course, the trap itself is natural.)
· By the same token, the grasstrap cannot actively adapt itself to its environment. (Such adaptation happens only over the course of many generations.) Therefore, if the maw sports a specific plant – say, a flower – that is rare or non-existent in this area, it could be a clue. (A character who has a plant-related skill like herbalism should note this, and thus you have to inform him of this oddity.)
· The grasstrap doesn’t shut its jaws at the slightest touch. It also generally ignores small prey, like rabbits. Therefore it is possible for a character to lean down at the beginning of the clearing and feel the “grass”. The maw of a sandtrap feels fleshy and rough, and is therefore identifiable. (It smells like real grass, though, and therefore both look and smell combine to fool most of its prey. Since humans ordinarily don’t touch the forest ground with their hands – rather than their booted feet -, they don’t easily detect the grasstrap either.)
You should not actively throw any of these clues at your players (unless one of their skills demands they are informed). Describe a normal forest clearing and wait for any reactions.
Since you can’t necessarily expect the players to know about a grasstrap (as of now, March 2001, no description has been added to THE WORLD on our website), you need to watch whether they become careful in any way. Then you ought to add a few of the clues, just enough that the players have the chance to walk away.
If they don’t, they are going to find out just what a grasstrap does.
The highwaymen lurk in the area of the roads – necessarily so, since the richest prey can be found there. They move their campsites around a lot, so any posse seeking them out will have a hard time to do so. (Not to mention that their campsites are generally at least half a mile from the road.)
Since traffic isn’t very high in Trebonshire Forest, their lot isn’t the easiest. Oh, they get by rather well on a few merchants and other unlucky travellers, but they are far from striking it rich. A few trinkets, enough money to buy themselves a few rounds at a tavern, that’s about the level they have. As for food, the bandits subsist from hunting the forest creatures.
Why don’t they move on to other grounds? The reason for that is rather simple: Most of the richer spots are already taken by other groups, or directly influenced by Commodore Decker of Freeport. The competition of such a rag-tag band of highwaymen really isn’t in high demand these days.
Another reason is that they, too, are banking on Clearspring’s future. One day the wealth of this town has to be discovered, and then traffic will pick up markedly, providing a steady flow of goods and valuables to and fro the city – some of which will find its way into the bandits’ pockets.
The hook for pushing the party into this adventure was the bridal present – a necklace – that was stolen from the courier Nemchek. Unfortunately, said necklace is no longer with the group of bandits and therefore cannot easily be recovered.
Instead, it has been taken by the leader of these bandits who never takes part in any of the raids but commands them from afar. He is an inspiring individual, who is utterly convinced of the profitable future for himself, but sees no need to directly associate himself with the human rabble he has preying on the roads. (Further descriptions you will find in the next chapter.)
After winning over the bandits, the party will have to go after the leader – in Chapter Three – to get the necklace.
There are always twice the number of bandits as there are PCs in your party. The highwaymen wear only light or incomplete armor (meaning, they may have a breast plate of a plate mail armor – but no joints or other pieces; and the single piece they have is not in good repair but has lost a lot of its structure points), their weapons are equally light. Both clothes and armor have been embellished to give the bandits a more warlike appearance. For instance, some wear furs over their armor or animal skulls on their heads, others wear chains of animal claws. A few of their weapons are primitive by design – for the purpose of appearing even more dangerous. Much of this is for the sake of appearance only.
That keeps the fight challenging, but still within the reach of beginning characters.
Note: Should the bandits have been planning an ambush, they have also put “warpaint” on their faces to enhance their martial look.
The head of this band of highwaymen is the only one with functional armor. He wears the breast plate of plate armor over a nearly complete shirt of chain mail armor. He is also the only one who wears a metal helmet.
* the group leader holds the bastard sword with both hands
of the band
For the other bandits, the following stats apply:
To keep things more interesting and different, you can use the following table to select the armor and weaponry of each of the bandits with a percentage roll.
At least two of the regular bandits should be armed with crossbows, if the players also have long-distance weapons in their arsenal.
In case you need this information, none of the regular bandits’ armor has more than 50 structure points. The group leader’s armor has 150.
There are several ways how your party can run into the bandits, some more pleasant than others. To determine which applies, do a percentage roll and check the following table:
As you can imagine, the third type is the most pleasant, since it is your party who has the advantage. It’s also the most improbable.
On the other hand, your party should have a part to play in the decision-making. After all, it depends on the characters’ skills how likely they are to find the bandits first. So, for each character who possesses the skill tracking, add a modifier of +5 to the result of your percentage roll.
Should one or more of your characters decide to use their tracking skill during this turn, add a modifier of +10 for each successful check against that skill.
Rather short flavor text? Well, there isn’t much time for description when the attack is upon you!
The bandits assail your party, and due to their speed, their first attack cannot be defended. (No parry is possible, the attack penalties of armor and agility remain in place.)
Once the initial attack is over, normal combat rules apply from now on. Your party also gets to recover a bit from the shock, enough to insert some additional descriptions:
From here on, combat continues in earnest, without a breather. Check the “Epilogue” section in this chapter for further events.
In this encounter, some (other) poor traveller is ambushed by the bandits. It is up to you whether you wish to introduce these NPC travellers before the combat or not.
The only importance a previous introduction of the bandits’ victims is that it engenders a better sense of continuity in the game. The travellers are completely irrelevant for the campaign (unless you have one or several of them recur in a later adventure), and they will quickly leave after this encounter – having properly thanked their rescuers, of course. That might leave a sour taste on the players’ tongues (or not – they’ve had their fun, after all), but that won’t happen if you have mentioned them before.
It’s not necessary to involve the PCs and the travellers in any conversation. At least none beyond “Greetings! Where are you headed?”, the requisite answers and the non-committal best wishes for the journey ahead.
You needn’t take much time in devising the NPCs (again, unless you would like to use them later on). There shouldn’t be more than two or three, relatively defenseless – perhaps a group of merchants, or a tinkerer travelling with a child?
If you roll for this Encounter Type, and choose to introduce the NPCs, let that meeting take place right now and wait one turn before you spring the highwaymen’s trap on their victims. (Then you will also have to alter the below flavor text accordingly.)
After this quick introduction, there are two choices for the party:
· They protect the travellers, pushing them behind themselves and forming a wall around them, waiting for the bandits.
· They launch an assault of their own, brush the travellers aside and meet the bandits head-on.
In the first case, combat runs normally.
In the second case, you as the GM can judge that the party surprises the bandits and they can therefore not parry any attacking blows.