Bury My Tusks at Broken Jaw is a 30-minute Dungeon Challenge, as set out by Tristan Tanner in his Bogeyman Blog. I hope it will inspire other people to create some of their own and send them to me - so I can hand out free copies of Forge Out Of Chaos as prizes in the January 2020 competition
I used Tristan's optional tables to create an extra discipline for this 10-room dungeon: empty rooms that point to a combat, reveal history and offer something useful to PCs; the special room provides a boon for a sacrifice; the NPC is a rival; the combat encounters are a horde of weaklings, a pair of toughs and a tough boss; the traps are inconveniencing and incapacitating.
In this scenario, players can use Ryan Marsh's goblin PC class (and allied Hobgoblins and Bugbears).
The goblin kingdom was overthrown by the invading Elves of the Pale Empire (‘Foam’, as the goblins call them, for their pale skin). After the death of the last Goblin rajjor (king) San Rankill, Goblins were sent to live in Munaan (reservations). One such as Broken Jaw, deep in the swampy Watching Glades. Now the Elves have arrived to evict the goblin chief (Keth) and his sworn companions, herding the tribe into a stockade where they will be deported to the slave markets.
The Elves came in the night on their silent ship to Broken Jaw. Your cousin Botang brought you warning and you escaped the Munan (reservation) on canoes while he sacrificed himself fighting off the Bleach (Elves) and their Mudskin (Human) henchmen. Many of your companions died in the Swamp of Ghosts but dawn finds you camped in the Old Boneyard, warming yourself round a feeble fire, while you plot your revenge.
One of the PCs is the Keth (chieftain) of the goblin reservation of Broken Jaw. The scenario involves his or her attempt to recapture the island home and expel the imperial Elves and their Human mercenaries.
Create characters for D&D based on the Goblin class by Ryan Marsh. Optionally, allow one PC to be a grizzled Hobgoblin sergeant who trained the young Keth in arms. Another PC could be a Bugbear, an old family retainer. If there are 6 PCs, they can all be 1st level; for each PC fewer than 6, promote one character to 2nd level, starting with the Hobgoblin sergeant, then the Keth, then the Bugbear for a group of three 2nd level characters.
In Forge, the Keth and his or her comrades should be Higmoni, the sergeant a Berserker and the retainer a Ghantu. If there are fewer than 6, consider promoting their level of Melee or Magic skill as above.
1. A Cold Night in the Old Boneyard
The PCs start here, at sunrise. They are equipped with only leather armour and their krist daggers (damage 1d4+1). The swamps below are covered in mists. Each PC rolls 1d6 for rumours about their surroundings (add +1 if Wisdom 13+ or if History skill is used):
If the PCs search the boneyard, they will find caches of ancient weapons; roll 1d6 for each PC (add +1 if Intelligence 13+ or if Search roll successful)
2. Bomoch's Hut
Bomoch the Greenseer lives in a squalid hut of leather tents and woven reeds. All around the hut dead weasels hang from lines and Bomoch keeps many weasels in cages (to keep away Cockatrices, of course). He is a wild-eyed, cackling maniac but he has been expecting the PCs.
Bomoch greets the Keth as a great lord and volunteers a safe route following an ancient causeway north through the Swamp of Ghosts. He warns PCs not to stray from the causeway into the mists: Penanggouls will imitate the voices of loved ones and Cockatrices turn you to salt with their bite.
Bomoch tells the Keth that the Jade Queen is waiting for him or her inside the Emerald Labyrinth. He will offer no more clues except to direct the PCs to 3 and instruct them to eat the fungus growing on the trees near the old totem pole.
Bomoch offers other advice to the other PCs, roll 1d6 for each (+1 if Charisma 13+ or possess the Charisma trait)
3. Into the Emerald Labyrinth
The PCs will be sent here by Bomoch (2). The trail ends with a sinister klireng totem pole before the wall of dense forest. If the PCs consume the fungus growing on the trunks of nearby trees, they will experience a vision in which a trail opens up into the forest. Following it takes them to the Bower (4) along a path that is almost lightless because of the canopy of branches overhead.
The Referee should add haunting and scary details to the journey or roll/choose for each character:
Any deaths or Hit Points lost during the vision are recovered at the end and the PCs awake outside the forest, with the sun now in late afternoon and the day nearly over.
4. In the Bower of the Jade Queen
The vision quest concludes in a clearing in the heart of the forest, watched over by a final brooding klireng pole.
5. The Causeway through the Swamp of Ghosts
If the PCs took Bomoch’s advice, they can follow the causeway. Along the route are salt pillars (petrified victims of the Cockatrices). The Referee should alarm the players with the reptilian slithers of Cockatrices in the mist. If the PCs visited the Emerald Labyrinth it will be dusk and they may sight Penanggouls, floating heads that call to them with the voices of loved ones.
Half way through the swamp, there is a high mound marked by a totem pole. A scouting party of 10 Humans are camped here; they are servants of the Elves.
Human Scouts: (D&D) HD 1, HP 3, AC leather & shield, spear for 1d6 or javelin for 1d6; (Forge) HP 15, DV1 3, DV2 2, 15AP, 5SP, AV 1, spear for 2d4 or javelin for 1d6, ST 12+, SPD 3
If the PCs eavesdrop on the Humans they might learn things (roll 1d6 for each):
If the PCs did not visit Bomoch, they will not find the causeway. They will wander for hours in the swamp and find themselves stalked by Cockatrices. Bomoch will arrive to save them, carrying a weasel in a cage to frighten the Cockatrices away. He will guide them to the causeway and accompany them to the Slave Stockade (6). In this case, Bomoch will offer his puzzling omens but will not tell PCs about the Jade Queen.
6. Attacking the Stockade
The Goblins used this area as a timber yard for valuable hardwoods felled in the Watching Glades. Now the Elves have imprisoned the Goblin tribe here and set their Human soldiers to watch over them. There are 20 Humans: 4 guarding the bridge and 4 in the watchtower and another 12 standing guard over the prisoners. See 5 for their characteristics. The Goblin prisoners are all tied up.
The players need a plan to pick off the guards quickly, under cover of night or fog, perhaps freeing the prisoners to aid them. Once this is done, they can free their loved ones. Each PC has a significant NPC to free:
However, many prisoners are missing including at least one of the special NPCs. They were taken last night by a creature of darkness and dragged away into the Watching Glades (7).
The stockade contains a supply of limes (to feed the prisoners). For D&D, there will be a Potion of Healing. For Forge, there are leather and shield repair kits and tools as well as 2d4 Binding Kits.
7. Through the Watching Glades
If the PCs choose to go in pursuit of the kidnapped prisoners, Bomoch will not accompany them (if he has come this far). It will be night time and the jungle trail is treacherous. At the other side of the jungle, stepping stones cross the river and the ruins of the old kings are visible in the moonlight.
Roll 1d6 for each PC to find out what happens on the journey (for irony, don’t roll and choose an event that matches the vision encounters described at 3):
8. To the Ruins of the Old Kings
The statuary and wall carvings here surprise the PCs: the old kings, the Rajjors, who ruled here were not Elves, but Goblins. PCs with Intelligence 13+ (Forge: History skill) will conclude this was the palace of San Rankill, the last Rajjor. A statue depicts him riding a water dragon (Naga).
The throne room is now the lair of a Jembalang. This scaly, bat-winged demon has been awoken by the arrival of the Elves and sends out its ghost-body to capture victims to eat.
Jembalang: (D&D) HD 6, HP 30, AC as leather & shield, 2 claws for 1d4 each and bite for 1d6, flies, hypnotic song; (Forge) HP 45, AR 3, AV 5, 2 claws for 1d4 and bite for 1d6, ST 11+, SPD 4/8 flying
The Jembalang uses its projection to swoop down for a surprise attack but this will flee as soon as it is injured and can be tracked back to the throne room, where its entranced victims are kept. The true Jembalang (which takes any damage its projection took) will use its hypnotic song: all PCs must Save vs Magic (Forge: vs Mind) or slip into a trance. Entranced PCs can be shaken awake by others (they get extra saving throws for each round of this and save at +4 if they taste or smell limes) but once it has sung its song the Jembalang will attack.
When the Jembalang dies, entranced victims wake up. A mighty roar from the south (9) indicates something else has woken up.
9. The Old Stones at Kuala
These old stones are the ruins of a wharf and jetty. The Goblins just know them as ‘old stones’ but respect them because many have Naga-symbols on them. Once the Jembalang (8) dies, the entranced Lake Dragon wakes and comes to the surface here.
This is Radiant Pang, a giant, intelligent crocodile that faithfully served San Rankill and will serve the new Keth too. PCs can ride on Pang’s back across the lake and Pang will attack and sink the Elven ship, forcing the Elves to swim for the dubious safety of the Swamp of Ghosts.
10. Showdown on Broken Jaw Island
The PCs might arrive here at dusk (if they came directly to the Stockade and ignored the mystery of the kidnapped prisoners), in which case the freed Goblins will assault the Elven ship while the PCs come ashore. If they fought the Jembalang, the PCs will arrive at midnight on the back of the Lake Dragon. If they went to the Emerald Labyrinth first, they will arrive at midnight (if they ignore the Jembalang) or before dawn (if the destroyed it).
To recapture their home, they need to confront the Elven Captain Zeng and his ally, the traitor Botang. Creeping through the deserted village, the Goblin PCs overhear the two villains argue in the Keth's Hut:
Botang: You make me Keth and leave me to rule over an empty rock?
Zeng: Perhaps not even that...
Botang: You betrayed me!
Zeng: [Angry] You talk of betrayal? To me? Watch what your crooked lips say, Ular (= snake or goblin)
Botang: [Pleading] They are my people!
Zeng: No, Ular, they are the Pale Emperor's slaves.
Botang invited the Elves to install him as the new Keth in return for the valuable hardwoods the village harvests, but the Elves have left him as chieftain of an empty island when they took his tribe away to be slaves. Nevertheless, when the PCs arrive, Botang will fight beside his new masters unless the PCs can appeal to his shame.
Zeng, Elven Captain: (D&D) 3rd level, HP 16, AC chain and shield, broad sword for 1d8, Magic Missile, Ventriloquism, Mirror Image; (Forge, Elf) HP 16, DV1 5, DV2 4, AP 40 SP 10, AV 3, broad sword for 1d8+1, ST 9+, SPD 4
Botang, would-be Keth: (D&D) 3rd level, HP 14, AC leather and shield, krist for 1d4+2, javelins for 1d6; (Forge, Higmoni) HP 15, DV1 3, DV2 2, AP 20 SP 5, AV 3, krist for 1d4+2, javelins for 1d6, ST 8+, SPD 3, 2nd level Beast Mage (Jump, Spike, Fangs, Rending, Sonic Wail)
If the PCs overcome Zeng, the ship will be captured (by the freed Goblins) or destroyed (by Pang the Naga). If the kidnap victims have not been rescued, the PCs could use the ship to visit the ruins at 8.
At the conclusion, Bomoch will arrive to announce that the Keth of Broken Jaw is Keth no longer, but the new Rajjor of the Goblins, for whom a battle of liberation awaits.
Appendix: The Jade Queen's Trials
If the PCs undergo the Jade Queen’s trials (4), the Referee can arrange for them to predict future fates.
Did I do this in 30 minutes? No. A sketch map and keying the locations took 30 minutes but then I went back and created all those tables for the rumours, omens, incidents, etc. So as far as '30 Minute Dungeon Challenge' goes it's a bit of a cheat.
Never mind. If you're going to do a linear story like this, it stands or falls on the details that makes it feel compelling rather than limiting. Hopefully, this tale of down-trodden goblins learning their royal birthright and rising up against their colonial masters has some resonance. There's some nice mysticism in the forest and I tried to get across a sense of omens being fulfilled.
The whole idea of native 'heroic' goblins and evil 'imperialist' elves turned up in a mini-campaign I ran last year, but there it was a romantic orc confederation being conquered by elves, with their vaguely Aztec human servitors. The routed orcs had to retreat into their swampy heartland and discovered truths about their origins and foundational myths along the way.
I wanted to avoid clumsy Native American comparisons (despite the name alluding to Wounded Knee) and give the goblins a sense of cultural texture, so I located this in a South East Asian (specifically, Malaysian) setting. If you want to give the goblins some linguistically appropriate names, here's a quick table:
I didn't provide any stats for the hideous Cockatrices (they turn you to salt! they're frightened of weasels!) and the floating-head-undead Penanggouls. These horrors are just there for texture and chills.
If you really want the PCs to fight them (why would you want that? why?) then Cockatrices (minus the weasel stuff) are in the D&D Expert rules/Monster Manual or Basic (Holmes) p23 and Penanggalans are in the AD&D Fiend Folio (or else treat them as Wights). In Forge, use Basilisks as Cockatrices and the characteristics of Nagdu for Penanggouls.
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I'm a teacher and a writer and I love board games and RPGs. I got into D&D back in the '70s with Eric Holmes' 'Blue Book' set and I've started writing my own OSR-inspired games - as well as fantasy and supernatural fiction..