The White Reef
An Naval Horror One-Shot
The White Reef is a short Pathfinder adventure for 3-4 Level 4 PCs. The adventure starts on a ship and has a horror feel, and is perfect for either an aquatic campaign or for a Halloween special. The Floating Reef is easily adjusted for characters of any level, and makes for an enjoyable encounter between one port and another. Running a pirate campaign? This fits in perfectly.
The White Reef is designed to take 3-4 hours to play, and can be completed in a single session.
If you are running The White Reef as a stand alone adventure or at the start of a new campaign, then the following hook may be used to get the PCs started.
The PCs have been hired aboard The Mammoth trade ship as combat support, defending a valuable cargo of rare spices from the southern isles.
The Mammoth is a wide-bellied, single masted cargo sloop with 50 crew members. Slow and ponderous, she has been carrying valuable and non-valuable goods between continents for nearly a quarter century. Her crew are skilled sailors, average fighters, and dedicated professionals. Her figurehead is a carved mammoth with iron tusks jutting out into the sea breeze.
“Skinny” Pete Goruuk is the half-orc captain of The Mammoth. A morbidly obese sailor barely able to fit through his cabin door, Goruuk is none-the-less an extremely capable and experienced captain with a proven history of flawless naval trade. Stern, intelligent, and distant, Goruuk is highly respected by his crew for his maritime knowledge and ability to react quickly in dangerous situations.
James Goruuk is the first mate, and the captain’s adopted son. A spoiled human and unforgiving task master, James is completely dedicated to his father and The Mammoth. Due to his cruel demeanor, golden hair, and obnoxiously handsome looks, James is only tolerated by the crew members because of his relation to Goruuk.
Gilligan Gimroy is the night’s helmsman, charged with steering the ship from sunset to sunrise. Quiet, uncertain, and lacking any sort of leadership qualities, Gilligan often lets the night crew nap if there are no obvious threats. A human with a pock-marked face and permanent pained grin, Gilligan is chronically apologetic and guilty about minor offenses. Despite these flaws, Gilligan is an excellent navigator and responsible enough that Goruuk trusts him with The Mammoth for up to 12 hours a day.
The Fog and Landing
Shortly after midnight near the end of The Mammoth’s journey, the cargo ship enters a dense bank of unseasonable fog. Slowing her pace, the helmsman presses forward, encouraged by the lack of any hazards on his maps. If any PCs are prone to nightly walks or keeping watch through the evening, the helmsman will assure them that there is nothing to worry about. He will let any sleeping PCs continue to doze.
Even if a PC has both darkvision and the ability to both see through fog, the speed of the ship will prevent the PC from warning the helmsman of the approaching danger in time.
A few minutes later, the entire ship is woken by an immense crunching sound. The front of The Mammoth lifts a few degrees and the ship’s movement is suddenly and violently arrested. Sailors jump from their hammocks as the alarm is sounded, and the deck of the ship is lit with dozens of torches in a matter of moments.
Up on deck, the fog reduces visibility to 30 feet. The ship appears to have partially beached itself on a what looks something like a giant white sponge. A cursory glance reveals no obvious damage to The Mammoth but, before investigations can commence hostile figures lurch out of the gloom and attack.
Black Fire Skeletons (6) CR ½
AC 15, touch 13, flat-footed 12 (+3 Dex, +2 natural)
hp 4 (d8)
Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +2
DR 5/bludgeoning; Immune cold, undead traits
Speed 30 ft.
Melee 2 claws +2 (1d4+2)
Ranged shortbow +3 (1d6/x3)
Str 14, Dex 16, Con —, Int —, Wis 10, Cha 10
Base Atk +0; CMB +2; CMD 15
Feats Improved Initiative
Gear shortbow with 30 arrows
Black Fire (Su)
A black fire skeleton’s arrows glow with an otherworldly black flame. A creature hit by an arrow must success on a DC 14 Reflex save or become enveloped by the fire, taking d6 negative energy damage for 1d4 rounds at the start of its turn. A burning creature can attempt a new save as a full-round action. Positive energy counters and dispels the black fire.
Overgrow Skeletons (2) CR 3
AC 11, touch 8, flat-footed 11 (-2 size, +3 natural)
hp 14 (3d8)
Fort +1, Ref +1, Will +3
DR 5/bludgeoning; Immune cold, undead traits
Speed 30 ft.
Melee 2 claws +10 (3d6+10)
Space 15ft; Reach 15ft.
Str 31, Dex 10, Con —, Int —, Wis 10, Cha 10
Base Atk +2; CMB +14; CMD 24
Feats Improved Initiative
Combat begins 30 seconds (5 rounds) after The Mammoth has beached itself on the white reef, regardless of if the PCs are above or below deck, buffed or un-buffed, armored or unarmored.
The enemies approach in four waves. To begin combat, two black fire skeletons approach out of the gloom to the east. On the second round of combat, one black fire skeleton and one overgrown skeleton approach out of the gloom to the west. On the third round of combat, one black fire skeleton and one overgrown skeleton approach from the east. On the fourth round of combat, a two black fire skeletons enter the field, one from the west and one from the east.
The lanterns from The Mammoth will provide light 30 feet from the ship.
The black fire skeletons will approach to within 20 feet of the ship, then begin firing glowing arrows towards the PCs. Missed arrows lodge themselves in the wood of the ship, and the sailors struggle in vain to put out the darkly burning shafts.
The overgrown skeletons, which appear to be hunched and massive human skeletons with sharpened teeth and claws, will lumber toward the ship, using their height and reach to attack any on the ship. Although they hit hard, they lack the health or armor to stay around for long, and will shatter dramatically when destroyed.
The skeletons will fire exclusively at the PCs, ignoring the sailors. However, the first shot they miss every turn will lodge itself in the side of a sailor. With positive energy or a DC 14 Reflex save as a full round action, a PC can put this fire out. If the fire is allowed to burn for two whole rounds, the sailor perishes.
Barrels can provide cover for the PCs on board, though the melee fighters of the group may want to get up close and personal with the archers.
Exploring the Reef
When the combat is over, the PCs will have a chance to examine the ship and reef. Goruuk will bark out orders to inspect the ship for damages, while James will aggressively berate the sniveling Gilligan. There appears to be no damage to the hull, but the ship is firmly rooted in place. Goruuk will order the PCs to get onto the reef and inspect the ship from the outside.
The reef is a tightly woven briar patch of spongy, bone-white vines that give slightly with weight. It is remarkably flat for its complexity, and provides no penalties to movement. As they watch, the white vines snake up the sides of The Mammoth, sticking thousands of tiny tendrils into the divots and pock marks in the ship. These vines adhere to the wood like glue and immediately re-grow if torn off, but seem content to hold the ship firmly in place rather than tear it to pieces.
Although the reef appears somewhat plant-like, it is neither organic nor susceptible to fire. In fact, it registers with a faint necromancy aura if detected.
There is no damage to the ship.
After making these observations, the adventurers may make a DC 20 Knowledge (planes) or Profession (sailor) check to gather more information. If either of these checks succeed, the PCs remember stories of giant floating reefs, set as webs by undead monsters to catch prey. However, given that these webs are so rare, the PCs know nothing else.
When it becomes clear that the vines are impossible to remove, Goruuk enlists the PCs to explore the reef and come back with any information.
The PCs may set off in any direction. The fog reduces vision to 30 feet, and there is no light except that which is brought. Every minute or so, the PCs come across pieces of decomposing wood stuck into the reef: planks from a ship’s deck, a mast leaning at a crazy angle, even a figurehead of a crying woman. In some areas, the ocean shows through gaps in the reef. The fog and silence are oppressive, and there is no movement to be seen.
If the PCs can gain a bird’s eye view, they will be able to determine that the fog bank is approximately 100 feet high, and covers an expanse of about 5 miles in diameter. However, they will not be able to see the reef underneath, which is only about a mile in diameter at the center of the mist.
The Northern Explorer
Before long, a shape looms out of the fog. A small ship with “The Northern Explorer” emblazoned in crimson on the side, this single masted schooner looks almost serviceable if not for large sections of rot on the port bow. A rope ladder hangs off the stern of the ship, but the PCs may climb any part of the outside of the schooner with a DC 15 Climb check.
The deck of The Northern Explorer is slightly tilted, but otherwise offers no significant obstacles. Ruined ropes and broken boxes litter the area. A stairway from the deck leads down to the sailors’ quarters, where thousands of spiders scurry from the adventurers. Hammocks and articles of clothing lie in tatters on the floor, and the smell of rot is nearly overwhelming.
A small pile of human bones has rolled to the rear of the ship. As it is approached, large hairy spiders and long limbed white insects flee out of eye sockets and hollowed femurs. If investigated, it can be determined that this pile only represents three individuals, and that the rest of the ship’s crew is unaccounted for.
A peek into the cargo hold of the ship will reveal the source of the overwhelming scent of rot. Immense quantities of wheat, salted pork, and barely recognizable fruit, brown and nearly disintegrated, lie in broken barrels in the hold. The entire area is covered in a thick layer of millions of clicking insects, and shining spiders and spider webs coat the room. Insects squirm in the larger webs as fist sized arachnids gorge themselves on their feast. The PCs watch in horrors as spiders tear open the hard carapaces of beetles, flies, and even other spiders, showering the area in clear liquid. However, the insects will not harass the PCs.
The Drowned Sailors
The sailor’s shades are unhappy with the presence of the PCs in the Northern Explorer. If the human bones are touched or attacked in any way, they will decide enough is enough and come forth. The Sailor’s Shades will also appear if the PCs are leaving the sailor’s quarters, or if the PCs are disembarking the ship without exploring the sailor’s quarters at all.
Sailor’s Shades (3) CR 3
AC 15, touch 15, flat-footed 12 (+2 deflection +2 Dex, +1 dodge)
hp 19 (3d8+6)
Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +4
Defensive Abilities incorporeal, channel resistance +2; Immune undead traits
Speed fly 40 ft. (good)
Melee incorporeal touch +5 (1d6 Strength damage plus drowning touch)
Str —, Dex 14, Con —, Int 6, Wis 12, Cha 14
Base Atk +2; CMB +4; CMD 17
Feats Dodge, Weapon Focus (touch)
Skills Fly +11, Perception +5, Stealth +8
Drowning Touch (Su)
A creature hit by a Sailor’s Shade must make a DC 16 Fortitude Save or suddenly finds himself unable to breath air (or water). The creature may hold his breath for a number of rounds equal to his twice his constitution check. This duration decreases by one for every full round or standard action the creature takes. After this time has elapsed, the creature must make a DC 10 Constitution check every round. This DC increases by one for every success. When he fails this check, he is reduced to 0 hp. The subsequent turn, he drops to -1 hp and is dying. On the third turn, he dies. This effect ends if the creature moves more than 60 feet away from the Sailor’s Shade, or if the Sailor’s Shade is destroyed.
The sailor’s shades will approach the PCs from three different directions, floating through walls or floors to deliver their touch. They will focus on enemies not yet under the effect of drowning touch, as well as any enemies who can damage them easily.
The Captain’s Quarters
The captain’s quarters suggests the quarters of a rich and successful tradesman. Rotting purple curtains drape the walls, and a fine wooden desk and bed provide furnishing among the cobwebs. Amidst the various trinkets, globes, ruined books, and other odds and ends in the room, the gleam of gold catches the PCs’ eyes. Several one foot tall golden idols sit heavily on the desk and nearby on the floor, the carved shapes of squat and sneering demons. There is one idol for each character.
These idols are large and heavy, weighing nearly 50 pounds each. Despite their bulging eyes and scowling faces, a DC 15 Appraise check will value each at 2,000gp. However, they give off with a faint Transmutation aura, and a DC 20 Spellcraft check will reveal some primitive, malevolent presence to each of them. If any character carries two or more idols, their weight suddenly multiplies and the character suffers from heavy encumbrance.
The Aquatic Deathweb
The PCs may choose to keep exploring, or to deposit the golden idols back at their ship. Either way, a mass of spiders follows them from The Northern Explorer, crawling below and behind them within the tangles of the reef. Within about a minute, the PCs are attacked by the master of the reef.
Aquatic Deathweb CR 6
AC 19, touch 11, flat-footed 17 (+2 Dex, +8 natural, -1 size)
hp 71 (11d8+22)
Fort +5, Ref +5, Will +8
Immune undead traits
Speed 30 ft., climb 20 ft, swim 15 ft.
Melee bite +14 (2d8+10 plus poison)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Str 22, Dex 14, Con —, Int 7, Wis 12, Cha 14
Base Atk +8; CMB +17; CMD 29 (41 vs. trip)
Feats Awesome Blow, Cleave, Weapon Focus (bite), Improved Initiative, Power Attack, Vital Strike
Skills Climb +14, Perception +15, Stealth +16, Swim +18; Racial Modifiers +4 Stealth
Infestation and Bite —injury; save Fort DC 17; frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect 1d4 Str damage; cure 2 consecutive saves. The save DC is Charisma-based.
A mass of poisonous spiders surrounds the aquatic deathweb to a radius of 5 feet. Any creature within the infestation takes 1d6 points of damage at the end of each round and must make a DC 17 Fortitude save or become nauseated for 1 round. Those damaged by this infestation are poisoned as well. Any area effect attack that deals 10 or more points of damage to an aquatic deathweb destroys the infestation for three rounds, after which a new batch of spiders swarms out of the undead's body to replenish the infestation. The save DC is Charisma-based.
Animate Web (Su)
One per day as a swift action, an aquatic deathweb may cause his floating reef to grab on to enemies within a 40 ft. radius. This effect is identical to quickened entangle (CL 6), and no damage is dealt from thorns.
The aquatic deathweb will enter into the PCs’ field of view at some speed as a surprise round. He will use Animate Web as a swift action to begin combat (assuming he can catch at least half of the PCs), then move in close for melee. If opportune, the aquatic deathweb will use his awesome blow to knock opponents into the water, where they will have to make climb DC 10 checks to get back onto the reef.
To the Depths
With the destruction of the Aquatic Deathweb, the reef begins to disintegrate. Within two rounds, our heroes find themselves in the ocean, the bone-white tendrils disintegrating almost instantaneously upon contact with the water.
A million drowning spiders form a thin layer over the ocean for a hundred feet in each direction. These crawl over the PCs in search of land, and incur a DC 13 Fortitude save when each character first enters the water. Failure results in the PC becoming sickened for 2d4 rounds.
For every move and standard action that passes, any PC in the water must make a swim check. A swim check of DC 10 is required to move at quarter speed, either up towards the surface or forward. If a PC fails this check by five or more, he sinks 15 feet straight down into the water.
Recognizing their chance, the golden idols grown in weight upon contact with the sea water, threatening to drag the PCs to the ocean floor. For each golden idol that a character is carrying, he suffers a -10 penalty to his swim check. A golden idol may be dropped as a free action. If dropped, it sinks out of sight within seconds and is lost to the depths.
A large wooden section of a long destroyed ship floats 90 feet away from the PCs. If they can reach this wooden plank, they no longer have to make swim checks.
Make sure to keep track of each character’s distance to the plank and, if applicable, his distance underwater.
After all PCs have either made it to the wood or drowned, the fog slowly lifts. The Mammoth spots the unhappy PCs and slowly comes around to pick them up.
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