The Goblin Problem: A Short Pathfinder Adventure

GoblinThe goblins of the Greymire are nuisances, but they rarely cause trouble for the village of Ardyne. The freshwater swamp they live in offers plenty of food and distractions, meaning they usually stay away from big folk. Despite a few instances of stolen chickens or raided junk heaps, relations between the goblins and locals are about as peaceful as it gets. However, the two societies have never seen each other as allies…until now.

The old meat and piles of garbage surrounding the goblin home have attracted some deadly pests – a flock of stirges. Afraid of the blood-sucking beast, the goblins have taken shelter and sent one unlucky soul to seek help.

“The Goblin Problem” is a short adventure for four 1st-level Pathfinder characters. It is specifically designed for younger players, featuring plenty of room for nonviolent solutions for those who wish to pursue them. However, it is also suitable for older, more experienced players.

Introduction

As the PCs go about their business in Ardyne, they hear a commotion at the front gates. Read or paraphrase the following.

The peace and quiet of a lazy summer’s day is interrupted by the sound of shouting coming from the village wall. A dozen people have gathered around the open gate, and some have clubs raised high.

“Watch out,” somebody shouts, “it’s moving!”

The crowd parts enough to give you a look at a small green-skinned creature. He has no weapons, but holds a muddy wicker basket in his arms. Upon seeing you, he lurches forward and nearly spills the contents of the basket. Regaining his balance, the creature shouts, “Please…help Hurble and this great reward can be yours!”

Hurble (goblin warrior 1) is tired and frightened, but calms down quickly if the PCs don’t attack him. Given a chance to speak, he explains that his home has become infested with “bitey-birds” and his people have sent him for help. As a reward for aid, he offers the greatest valuables the goblins could muster up: a live earthworm, a broken dagger, a bird’s nest (mostly intact), 30 silver pieces, and a potion of bear’s endurance (which is mostly of interest to the goblins due to its shiny silver vial).

As the story comes out, a local trapper named Eledonn Hairtoes (halfling expert 3) identifies Hurble’s description as stirges and notes that they could pose problems to Ardyne if the flock is allowed to nest nearby. He offers his own reward of 100 gp to any group capable of solving the problem before it gets serious.

A Flock of Trouble

Given some time and patience, Hurble provides the PCs with the following information:

  • The Greymire goblins make their lair beneath an ancient, partially uprooted willow tree. The goblins dug some small hiding holes where the roots broke the ground, and most of Hurble’s family hides there now, afraid to leave their cubbies due to the blood-sucking beasts.
  • At first, Hurble estimates the number of stirges in the hundreds. If pressed for clarification, he still overstates their number, but might bring the exaggerated total as low as 20, showing off all his fingers and toes as he does so.
  • Hurble was chased by the stirges, but they stopped chasing him when he swung his “lucky torch” at them. The torch is new burned out, but he kept the branch, believing it to be magic.

If the PCs examine Hurble’s torch, they notice that it smells like dead fish. A DC 12 Knowledge (nature) or Survival check identifies the branch as coming from the Celdan pear tree, which grows in the swamp. When burned, it lets off a thick that creatures with a keen sense of smell find unbearable. If none of the PCs has these skills, Eledonn offers his expertise.

Any creature with the scent ability needs to make a DC 15 Fortitude save if exposed to the smoke of the pear tree or become sickened. Most beasts simply flee the area rather than deal with the scent.

The Greymire Trek

Even though Hurble has exaggerated the amount of stirges, there are still enough to cause serious problems to 1st-level characters. Hurble can serve as a guide if asked, although he tries to stay out of melee if a fight breaks out.

Eledonn or any PC trained in Knowledge (geography) or Knowledge (nature) can locate a nearby Celdan pear grove. If Eledonn has any input into the matter, he suggests that as the first stop.

At the Pear Grove

The Celdan pear is a hardy fruit that grows in all but the worst climates. Still, the trees are not altogether stable, nor are they unattended. When the PCs reach the trees, read or paraphrase the following.

The trees here stand despite the soft ground, but they lean heavily and bend in the wind. One of the trees has bent so far that it almost looks like a poorly-made ramp.

 Shrouded in the shade of this tree, eating green, fuzzy pears, are a group of small blue-skinned creatures.

These mites (CR ¼, one per party member) seem oblivious to the smell of the trees and feast often on the pears they yield. One of them speaks Common and immediately tries to scare intruders away, bulging her eyes and threatening to place a powerful curse on any interlopers.

The mites begin with an unfriendly attitude. PCs can convince them to part with some of the branches with a DC 19 Diplomacy check. They can also be frightened into compliance with a DC 11 Intimidate check, but failure on this roll causes them to attack. If a fight breaks out, the mites battle until half their number has been defeated, at which point they flee into the swamp.

Dealing with the Stirges

As the PCs reach the willow tree, they find a flock of eight stirges in the branches. The Greymire goblins have covered the entrance to their hiding hole with planks of wood and old animal bones, although they can’t stay inside for much longer.

The stirges’ scent ability makes it difficult to catch them by surprise, and they attack any creature that strikes from a range or comes within 30 feet of the tree. However, PCs holding a branch of the pear wood effective mask their scent, allowing them to reach the willow by making a Stealth check opposed by the creatures’ Perception skill.

Burning the pear wood creates thick smoke that fills a 20-foot radius after one round. If the PCs light a fire close to the willow, the stirges fly around in confusion for four rounds, then flee.

However, lighting the fire brings another problem: the goblins. As the flames begin to climb, eight goblins forget their fear and become drawn to the blaze. They grab random pieces of wood to burn, scatter the ashes, and sing loudly. Hurble joins in this fray if he is with the PCs.

The goblins only attack if unless lethal force is used against them, but their capering scatters the pear wood and thins out the smoke if they aren’t stopped. If any goblin plays with the fire for two consecutive rounds, the stirges recover and attack on their next turn. Allow the PCs to think of a way to calm the goblins down until the stirges leave. Some potential solutions include:

  • A DC 15 Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate check can get the goblins’ attention long enough for them to stop capering. If the adventurers stall long enough, they won’t go back to capering until the stirges have flown off.
  • A DC 12 Perform check distracts the goblins enough that they stop to pay attention. If the performance involves singing or fire, the PC gains a +2 circumstance bonus to the check.
  • Creating another fire away from the pear wood draws off half the goblins, making for a smaller crowd to subdue.

Award the PCs 600 XP each if they drive the stirges away despite the goblins’ interference.

Conclusion

If the PCs are successful, they earn thanks from the people of Ardyne and the Greymire goblins. The goblins take a special interest in PCs who used fire to solve the problem, naming them official goblin heroes.

Depending on how he was treated during the adventure, Hurble might serve as a future ally of the PCs. He can become a recurring NPC or a cohort if desired. Given time and training, he might even develop the bravery and attention span he needs to become a hero himself.

Image: “Goblin” by John Roberts, presented via a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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