Fourth Session (10 page pdf) – “The Rotgut Ripper” – When strange and virulent diseases affect the PCs, their hunt becomes more deadly as it becomes clear their quarry is hunting them in turn. Will they be added to the Rotgut Ripper’s sick collection of trophies, or is an even worse fate incubating under the Stink?
In this episode, we finish out Dungeon #105’s “The Stink,” which I’ve slotted into the plot of Richard Pett’s Pathfinder module Carrion Hill, and then livened up by adding in a crazy bad ass serial killer. Hyram Crooge is mentioned as the guy who runs the junkyard and is secretly both a bugbear and a serial killer in the Riddleport material, but that’s all there is on him. I decided to make him a demented follower of Urgathoa, goddess of disease, who kills women and defaces them to resemble the goddess. He has killed a lot of people – the dead bodies ascribed to him by the locals are actually just the rejects, people he kills and then decides are not worthy (elves and effeminate male prostitutes especially sometimes get killed before he realizes they’re not women – to bugbears, humans all kinda look alike). Eventually some ghouls found him and they started incubating some hellish super-diseases. This plan was somewhat cut short by the tsunami that inundated Riddleport and its dump and generally messed things up. He was participating in the main Carrion Hill plot as a random cultist seeking forbidden knowledge, those guys always smell each other out. Crooge is a creeper, and so in his garbagey lair, he stalked the PCs looking for ways to kill them once they made their presence known.
This was a design challenge for me as a DM. I don’t like to cheat/fudge especially in situations like this where it’s frustrating for the players anyway, so I didn’t want to just do a bunch of fiatting of how this guy could evade the PCs. Solo rogues are often meat for the beast anyway.
Here’s Hyram Crooge’s character sheet as the Rotgut Ripper. I did two things – one is really maximize stealth, with a +18 Stealth, Camouflage and Fast Stealth rogue abilities. That worked out pretty well, he’d attack from a distance and as soon as he could move into concealment (which, as they were in caves made of garbage, was practically ubiquitous) he could stealth again.
The other was to try to maximize the Intimidate chain. He had +18 Intimidate, Intimidating Prowess (+STR to Intimidate), Cornugon Smash (free Intimidate on a Power Attack hit), Scent of Fear (special bugbear feat from Classic Monsters Revisited, which was worthless), and Frightening (up the number of rounds of shaken, and escalate to frightened). The plan was to scare people off to avoid being trapped into melee. This worked kinda OK, but not super – he really needed Dazzling Display so he could Intimidate more than one person at a time, but that requires Weapon Focus so however you slice it he comes out one feat short. Of course, Intimidate works a little too easily in Pathfinder so that could have made it too overpowering (and frustrating!).
And in the end, I know that in this adventure the PCs are racing the clock and have to face a bunch of foes without rest, so I didn’t want him to be too high a CR. On his home ground, playing him cleverly, he got a lot more done than he would otherwise against a whole party of fifth level folks. He’d make an awesome foe stalking a smaller number of PCs, so feel free and unleash him on your own groups.
After Crooge, I put in a Daughter of Urgathoa from “Seven Days to the Grave,” part of the Curse of the Crimson Throne AP. She had a big ol’ bucket of hit points and towards the end, she got lucky – down to 2 hp, she lasted 2 additional rounds due to bad dice luck on the PCs’ part.
Next time, we finish up Carrion Hill! I suspect portions of the next session will be X-rated, so be warned.