by Matt Goetz
One of the first lessons any student of extraordinary zoology must learn is this: no matter how dangerous a beast may be, there is always some damned fool who wants to claim one as a hunting trophy or, Morrow forgive me, a pet. People like this are far more dangerous than any animal you might encounter in your travels. In fact, I’m reminded of one damned fool in particular…
—Professor Viktor Pendrake, Department of Extraordinary Zoology, Corvis University
Few individuals have seen as much of Immoren as Professor Viktor Pendrake—the High Chancellor of Corvis University’s Department of Extraordinary Zoology and renowned expert in all matters of unusual beasts —and fewer still who survived the experience and chronicled the tale. His foundational work, the Monsternomicon, gives a detailed account of the many strange encounters he has faced in his journeys across the Iron Kingdoms and beyond. To get the most out of these encounters, you will need a copy of Iron Kingdoms: Requiem and the Monsternomicon.
By default, this encounter takes place in the Widower’s Wood near Corvis and is suited for 6th-level characters.
There is a local legend told among the swampies who live in the Widower’s Wood outside Corvis. They tell of a great fog drake that dwells somewhere in the marshy forest, an ancient beast they affectionately call “Voorie.”
For generations, people have sought this mythical beast, trekking deep into the Wood to catch a glimpse of it. Those who return to the city have had no luck—but just as many fail to emerge from the forest again at all, having fallen victim to foul play or hungry creatures waiting beneath the cypress trees.
The lack of any clear evidence supporting Voorie’s existence (and the number of expeditions that have never returned) has not deterred amateur monster hunter Wolfe Kendrik. Kendrik is the son of a minor noble family who considers himself a daring adventurer and has set his sights on not only seeing Voorie himself but bringing back proof of the beast’s existence. With no regard for the consequences of such a venture, Kendrik has put together an expedition into the Widower’s Wood.
Other places, Other Legends Voorie is infamously located in the Widower’s Wood, but there are many other bogs and marshes throughout the Iron Kingdoms with their own legendary local drakes. If you want to set this encounter elsewhere, consider renaming the drake to better fit the local culture. Some options for alternate names are: The Beast of Almare Wood, Black River Monster, Gomar, Hogopago, Largarflut Wyrm, Moskrad Drake, Muckie, Musyo, Old Ted, Tmosk.
There are numerous ways to get the characters involved in this encounter. Suggested options include:
- Rumors around town talk about the madman Wolfe Kendrik who is planning an expedition into the Widower’s Wood. Locals begin betting on whether or not the man will return, with many wondering aloud who will inherit the man’s fortune if he goes missing.
- One of the characters’ contacts in town is a friend of Wolfe and is concerned that the man is about to set off on a fool’s errand into the dangerous wilderness. The contact implores the characters to travel with Wolfe and see that he makes it back alive.
- The characters encounter a posting on a local job board offering work. “Stouthearted folk required for a venture into Widower’s Wood on a task undertaken by many and accomplished by none! Payment upon successful return to Corvis. Must bring your own weapons. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED.”
- The characters simply notice the spectacle of Wolfe Kendrik on the streets of Corvis as he prepares to head out on his expedition.
The encounter begins when the characters first meet Wolfe Kendrik. Read or paraphrase the following:
Teetering under the burden of an oversized rucksack stuffed high with gear, a Caspian man has drawn a small crowd of onlookers. They begin to offer mocking suggestions to him, each one prompting another heckler to join in.
“Don’t forget to bring a goosedown pillow, Kendrik!”
“Ya’ll need some waders to keep the leeches out o’ yer boots!”
“Think you’ll need a ’jack to help you haul that load?”
The man turns his attention to the crowd, oblivious to their jibes. “Have no fear, neighbors. Though I travel today beyond the walls of our fair city, a man of my talents is prepared to face any danger in pursuit of adventure!”
The man seems to notice you and beckons you with a wide smile. “Hail, fellow travelers! Are you here for the expedition?”
Wolfe (LN human noble) is convinced the characters are here to sign up as members of his expedition and seems unable to comprehend any protests regarding that point. A character can make a DC 10 Wisdom (Insight) check to realize that the would-be explorer is out of his depth and latching on to the characters as possible guides and/or bodyguards.
Wolfe busies himself with final preparations for the journey as he addresses the characters.
“Yes, you’ve no doubt come in response to my postings around town. What brave soul could turn down such an opportunity: to venture into the heart of the Widower’s Wood to, once and for all, discover the elusive beast Voorie and bring back irrefutable proof of its existence.”
If the characters have questions for Wolfe, he answers them while waving to his “adoring fans” and heading toward the north gate of Corvis. Use the following information to guide any conversations with Wolfe.
- Wolfe purchased information about Voorie from a “reliable swampie fisherman.” The information amounts to a scribbled map of the Widower’s Wood with a large marked area the swampie claims is Voorie’s territory.
- Payment for accompanying Wolfe on his journey is 200 gp, to be paid upon his safe return to Corvis.
- Wolfe has collected rumors, historical reports, and other bits of evidence pointing to Voorie being a “fog drake of not insignificant size nor age” that has dwelled within the Widower’s Wood for centuries.
Roleplaying Wolfe Kendrik Wolfe is a naïve man of 50 years who spent too much time reading stories of the grand adventures of people like Professor Pendrake, Alten Ashley, and others but somehow managed to skip over the parts of their stories that involved the actual risks and challenges of their adventures. He believes that any challenge can be negotiated with a convincing argument backed by enough gold crowns. Ideal. “I shall not rest until the entire kingdom can thrill at the stories of my exploits.” Bond. “When I am successful where others have failed, my family will see that I am more than a wasteful fool.” Flaw. “It’s an alchemical restorative. How much could it cost, fifty crowns?”
Into the Woods
Wolfe plans to travel by foot into the woods, claiming that any larger conveyance would draw unwanted attention from local wildlife and run the risk of scaring off the elusive Voorie. He has mapped a route to the suspected territory of the creature, which will navigate him through the dense wooded swamp. His planned route is about 25 miles from the city’s edge.
Travel in the Wood
Due to the thick tangles of underbrush, lack of significant roads, and swampy terrain, Widower’s Wood is considered difficult terrain for the purpose of determining travel speed. In addition to this slower pace, Wolfe’s crude map does not account for the territory, and he planned his route without consulting any more accurate references. The man is not a talented navigator and defers to the characters’ judgment when plotting his route.
At the end of each hour of travel, have a character who is leading the journey make a DC 14 Wisdom (Survival) check. On a successful check, the party makes forward progress without any complications from the terrain. On a failed check, the party must navigate through particularly arduous conditions and are limited to a slow Travel Pace as they pick their way through the swamp. Remember that the swamp is still difficult terrain, reducing the distance traveled by half.
While moving through the Widower’s Wood, the characters might face random encounters from the local wildlife and inhabitants of the swamp. Roll a d20 to check for an encounter once during the day and once during the night. If the result is 18 or higher by day, or 16 or higher at night, a random encounter occurs. Refer to the encounter tables to determine what the characters face. You can reroll the result if it doesn’t make sense in the current situation.
Widower’s Wood Encounters
|1||A pair of bog constrictors (use the stats for the giant constrictor snake). The constrictors wait in the branches of a cypress tree overhead in an effort to ambush prey moving through the swamp below.|
|2||A bog trog territory marker constructed out of humanoid and animal bones, with the head of a large crocodile—or possibly gatorman—wearing a small talisman. A creature wearing the talisman does not have disadvantage on Charisma checks to interact with the bog trogs in the dead grove, below.|
|3||An area of noxious swamp gas that cannot be detected until a creature enters it. The gas fills a 100-foot diameter, 20-foot-tall cylinder. A creature entering the area who breathes in the gas must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or take 2d10 poison damage and be poisoned for 1 hour on a failed save or half as much damage and not becoming poisoned on a successful save.
A character with a Passive Wisdom of 16 or higher spots the bodies of several small birds, indicating the general area of the gas.
|4||A giant crocodile.|
|5||1d4+1 gatormen. The gatormen are hunting for a group of renegade bog trogs hiding somewhere nearby (the tribe of the bog trogs in the dead grove). The gatormen are not initially hostile toward the characters but will fight if provoked.|
|6||A 10×10 foot barge tangled in the roots of a large cypress tree. The barge has been badly damaged and is partially swamped, but a wooden box at the stern is raised out of the water. A character can pick the locked box with a DC 10 Dexterity check made with thieves’ tools or can break it open with a DC 15 Strength check. The box contains a set of fine fishing lures, 5 gp and 11 sp in loose coins, and 1 container of bottled light.|
About 12 miles into the swamp, Wolfe’s route passes through the modest swampie village of Mud Holler. Wolfe planned to rest here before the second leg of his journey and to pick up any supplies he might need. However, his planning failed to account for one of the many dangers of the swamp: the undead swamp shambler.
When the characters are in sight of Mud Holler, read or paraphrase:
Sticking out of the mud of Widower’s Wood, the small swampie village of Mud Holler consists of a dozen wooden hovels on stilts. A rotting boardwalk meanders through the village, connected to each home by sagging and waterlogged stairs.
Three days ago, the swampie fisherman Colm Unbrook returned to Mud Holler after a confrontation with swamp shamblers. He quickly died from his wounds and rose as a shambler before rapidly spreading the infection to his former family and neighbors. Within the first 48 hours, those who were not already turned had fled into the swamp.
Initially, none of the undead are visible to the characters until Wolfe draws some undesirable attention.
“Bloody swampies! I bet the lot of them would spend all day in bed if they had the chance.” Raising his hands to his mouth, Wolfe bellows, “Hullo! We’re here to trade!”
A moment later, shuffling figures emerge from the hovels, arms hanging limply from their sides.
The swamp shamblers converge on the characters and attack. During the fight, Wolfe attacks with his rapier and pistol, but due to his general panic—and frankly absurd pack of supplies—he makes his attack rolls with disadvantage.
There are 15 swamp shamblers in Mud Holler. The undead move with a clumsy gait, rebounding off the corners of shacks, tripping over irregularities in the ground.
Swamp shamblers are a strain of infectious undead. Use the zombie stat block with a 20-foot swim speed and the following trait.
Create Spawn. Any humanoid slain by a swamp shambler will arise as a shambler in 1d4 minutes. The new shambler is not under the control of its creator and is immediately able to create spawn itself.
If the characters defeat the shamblers, they can search through the houses for any supplies left behind. Along with pantries stocked with provisions enough to feed 30 people for a week, the characters can find 220 sp and 30 gp stowed in the various hovels, the total wealth of Mud Holler. One of the hovels also has 1d4 hunting traps hanging on the outside wall.
Lair of the Fog Drake
The fog drake’s territory is 13 miles out of Mud Holler. Roll 1d4 every 6 hours and consult the Voorie Location table to determine where Voorie is in its territory. If the same location is rolled twice in a row, the fog drake settles in for a six-hour nap at that location.
|1||Voorie is swimming in the lake at the center of its territory, consuming large bass. If the fog drake rests here, it floats on the surface of the lake.|
|2||Voorie is stalking through the marsh, hunting swamp deer. If the fog drake rests here, it settles atop a small knoll to sleep on the wet grass.|
|3||Voorie is in the dead grove, prowling its territory to keep out any intruders. If the fog drake rests here, it moves under the shelter of a fallen tree.|
|4||Voorie is in its den, carefully watching over its nest. If the fog drake rests here, it protectively curls up around the nest.|
If the characters encounter the fog drake while it is awake, it ferociously tries to defend its territory. If it is resting, the characters have advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks to avoid notice.
Finding the fog drake requires the characters to explore the creature’s territory. Attempting to track the beast will be difficult, as it has meandered throughout the entire region multiple times and left behind an overlapping network of tracks.
Tracking Voorie to its current location requires a character to make a DC 16 Wisdom (Survival) check. If the check fails, the character follows an older set of tracks to a random location where the fog drake is not currently located. On a successful check, the characters manage to pick the correct trail to follow and travel to the fog drake’s current location.
Each location is approximately one mile away from the others.
A grove of dead trees creates the natural boundary of the fog drake’s lair.
Gnarled cypress trees, devoid of leaves and bleached to the white of old bones, rise up from the muddy waters on the swamp floor.
A group of 2d4 bog trogs and 1d4 bog trog trawlers lurk in the dead grove, waiting for an opportunity to catch the fog drake unaware. If the PCs encounter Voorie in the dead grove, the fog drake is fighting off the bog trog hunting party.
The bog trogs are not friendly to the characters and assume that anyone else in the fog drake’s territory is out to claim the beast for themselves. The bog trogs are hoping to bring the beast back to their village as a much-needed meal, and they fight viciously to lay claim to it.
A character can try to convince the bog trogs that the party is not there to claim the fog drake. This is going to be a challenge, however, as the bog trogs are distrustful of others and only speak Quor-Og. Convincing them requires a DC 16 Charisma (Persuasion) check. Unless a character speaks their language, this must be communicated through pantomime or some other method, imposing disadvantage on the roll.
If the check succeeds, the bog trogs cease being hostile and become useful—if distrustful—allies. If the check fails, the bog trogs refuse to listen to any further attempts to communicate.
A calm lake sits at the heart of the fog drake’s territory.
A thin layer of swamp mist hangs over the glassy surface of the lake. The call of water fowl and the chirp of frogs create a constant noise.
If the characters encounter Voorie while it is in the lake, either hunting or resting, a character who makes a DC 14 Wisdom (Perception) check spots the creature, either by noticing bubbles rising up from beneath the surface or recognizing its slowly floating form on the water. Characters who fail the check don’t spot the beast and either fail to see the bubbles rising or mistake its body for a partially submerged tree.
The majority of the fog drake’s territory is a marsh filled with tall reeds.
Trees jut up from a blanket of swamp reeds that grow four feet tall in places. In the shallow, cold water by your feet, you feel the occasional disturbance of wriggling creatures that try to escape your presence.
If the characters encounter Voorie in the marsh, the creature is creeping among the reeds as it stalks a small family of 2d6 swamp deer. The deer flee if they spot either the fog drake or the characters. If the deer run off, Voorie is happy to consume a different sort of meal—namely, the characters.
The fog drake’s den is a partially submerged cavern set into a rocky bluff with a view of the west shore of the lake.
Beyond a narrow cavern mouth, seeping groundwater fills the center of a roughly circular den forty feet in diameter. Near the rear of the den, an oversized nest of matted reeds contains a clutch of leathery eggs.
If the characters encounter Voorie in its den, the creature is either tending to or jealously guarding its eggs. There are four eggs in all.
When the characters encounter Voorie, the beast is unrelenting in its intent to defend its territory—and its nest in particular. If it is reduced to half or fewer hit points, the fog drake retreats to its den, where it tries to block access to its eggs.
Use the stats for the fog drake with the following modifications.
- Voorie has 142 (15d10 + 60) hit points.
- Its Fog Breath has a recharge of 4–6.
- Voorie can take 2 legendary actions. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. Voorie regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn. Voorie has the following legendary actions.
Attack. Voorie makes one bite attack or one claw attack.
Move. Voorie moves up to its current speed.
Bellow (2 actions). Voorie immediately recharges and uses its Bellow.
Wolfe is not too terribly concerned with the fog drake itself: he wants to bring something back to Corvis as proof of his grand adventure. Rightly assuming that the creature must have some sort of lair in its territory, his primary concern is to recover something he can carry with him. Shed drake skin, for instance—or an egg.
If Wolfe sees the nest and its eggs, he tries to collect them to bring home with him. They are abnormally large for fog drake eggs, each one being about 18 inches long and 9 inches in diameter. Wolfe dumps the contents of his oversized pack, providing him enough room for him to carry three of the four eggs. He also implores that one of the characters grab the fourth and final egg, offering an extra 100 gp to anyone willing to do so.
If a character is holding one of Voorie’s eggs, the fog drake has advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to track the character. In combat, Voorie prioritizes a character carrying an egg.
After encountering Voorie and collecting any trophies, Wolfe is ready to return to Corvis. The group can make its way back to the city through the swamp. You can have the return trip be uneventful, or you can use the random encounter table to toss a few more challenges at the party before they make it back to the city.
Upon their return, Wolfe rewards the characters with his promised sum. If the characters prevented him from claiming an egg, he pays them reluctantly. Otherwise, the noble is in high spirits, suggesting he will enroll in Corvis University’s program of Extraordinary Zoology. He even suggests he might pen a Monsternomicon of his own after he completes a few new exploits.
There are several ways you can follow up on this encounter. Some possibilities include:
- After a period of several months, a messenger brings the characters a letter from Wolfe Kendrik. Surprisingly, the man has made good on his pursuit of extraordinary zoology and has completed several expeditions—his letter includes broadsheet clippings of a few notable ones. The noble-turned-adventurer is planning an expedition into the Bloodstone Marches for research on his book, The Drakecyclopedia, and he invites the characters to join him.
- Survivors of Mud Holler arrive in Corvis, hats in hand, looking for someone willing to help them retake their homes. It seems a group of displaced bog trogs have taken up residence in the Holler and refuse to leave.
- If Wolfe was able to return to the city with one of Voorie’s eggs, it hatches after a few weeks. Wolfe begins to campaign for a living exhibit of extraordinary zoology—a zoo of monsters—and begins putting out the call to anyone willing to help him capture more unusual beasts to round out the exhibit’s offering. All his messages end with the same warning: SAFTEY NOT GUARANTEED.