The Skinfin Murders - Nicholas Hite
The Skinfin Murders
People are disappearing on the sleepy island of Ebot’s Hollow. When a surgically altered body washes ashore, the townsfolk seek aid. The band of adventurers investigate a nest of horrors in the island’s cavernous bowels. The Skinfin cult feverishly works to warp the inhabitants of the island into twisted aquatic forms for surviving the prophesied sinking of the island beneath the waves. Within the caverns the adventurers face treacherous footing, eerily intelligent sea-creatures, impassioned cultists, and the palpable madness permeating the very stone around them.
The Skinfin Murders is a Pathfinder adventure module for four 6th level characters. By the end of the adventure, characters should reach 7th level using the medium experience track.
Norbert Easeman is a friendly, exuberant man, born and raised in the tiny fishing village on Ebot’s Hollow. As a youth, Norbert nearly drowned in a boating accident. While he lay unconscious, he thrashed and shook so violently that he had to be restrained. On waking, he told of the dreams that had haunted his fevered mind—dreams of their island home swallowed whole in the enormous jaws of a dark god. Norbert’s ravings fell on deaf ears, the townsfolk assuming the trauma of his accident had addled him. Though he gave up persuading the townsfolk, his convictions never left him. He would take any steps to save his people.
Neither Norbert nor the townsfolk know that his dreams were caused by his boat capsizing near an unholy site of Dagon, and that his prophetic dreams are real.
Norbert studied medicine on the mainland, then returned and joined the monks of the cliffside Embracing Bower monastery. Unbeknownst to the townsfolk, Norbert’s obsession with saving the people of the island has taken a dark twist, and he now feels the only way to ensure their survival is to forcibly adapt them to living in the sea. He has spent the recent years suborning the monks to his cause—swaying many with his enthusiastic charm, and using the dissenters as subjects to further his experiments into aquatic adaptation.
The remaining monks are true believers and receive successful surgical alterations. They abduct their friends and neighbors and forcibly grant them Norbert’s “gifts”. After all, it is for their own good.
When a humanoid body washes ashore with the feet cracked apart and skin sewn into hideous flippers, the townsfolk send to the mainland governor for help. The governor gives the adventurers two weeks to discover what has been causing the disappearances and put a stop to it as expediently as possible.
Chapter 1: Canvas the Village
The PCs arrive on the island and investigate several points of interest. They are invited to view the rotted remains where Heal and Knowledge (dungeoneering) checks reveal information about the body’s human origin and how recently its owner perished.
They may visit the site where the remains were discovered, where Knowledge (geography), Knowledge (nature), or Profession (sailor) give an approximate distance the body may have traveled via currents.
Diplomacy checks to gather information from the townsfolk reveal that the monks of the Embracing Bower have been less hospitable than they once were. If the PCs are perceptive they notice that one of the townsfolk has mysteriously acquired webbed feet and a memory gap he cannot explain.
If the PCs take more than two days to investigate the monastery, another villager goes missing in the night of the second day. When they investigate the most recent location of that villager, clues point them toward the monastery.
Chapter 2: Investigate the Monastery
Players approach the Embracing Bower monastery, ostensibly dedicated to a nature deity, and question the monks. Sense Motive determines that the monk’s rituals are half-hearted and Perception shows that some of the monks have oddly-shaped bodies. If the questions become too pointed, the abbot insists that they must retire to their prayers. If the players return that night, they find the monastery deserted. If they do not return the same night, two of the monks attempt to kidnap one of the players while they sleep at the inn.
Searching the monastery reveals the abbot’s notebook hidden in his locked desk that describes the secret passage behind the great tree carving. It does not mention the sleeping gas trap on the secret door.
Chapter 3: The Grotto
The cultists are monks and the abbot is a cleric of Dagon. All have the Skinfin Initiate template. Norbert is an alchemist (vivisectionist) with the Skinfin Master template.
The Skinfin Initiate template grants a swim speed of 30 ft., water breathing, and improves all aquatic creature’s attitudes by 1 level. The Skinfin Master template has the previous benefits, improves all aquatic creature’s attitudes by an additional level, and grants a bite attack appropriate to the base creature’s size that deals bleed damage equal to the base damage of the attack.
*Aura of madness
Upon entering the grotto, and each hour thereafter, the adventurers make Will saves versus Wisdom drain. After the first point of Wisdom drain, they receive visions of the island being consumed by darkness.
Upon reaching the bottom of the ladder the players see one cultist loading a skiff. He attacks with a staff and attempts to knock anyone who crosses the bridge into the water where sharks swim.
The Library: New spell
The library door is locked and trapped with a ringing alarm. Triggering the alarm will summon the abbot and the two monks from the sacrificial altar area and the surgical theater. If encountered in the library, the cultists attempt to subdue the PCs for their experiments, rather than kill them. Norbert remains in the surgical theater and begins consuming combat-enhancing extracts. Exploring the library yields many books revealing the obsession of Norbert Easeman. Journals lay out his dreams in detail, and half of a preserved gillman floats in a tank in the corner. Laid out on the table is a large text. Anyone skilled in Knowledge (arcana) can identify that this is an ancient spell that grants aquatic adaptations and control over aquatic creatures. Prepared arcane casters who study the tome may scribe the transmutation spell Visage of Dagon. Norbert has clearly been attempting to permanently replicate the effects of the spell with his experiments, although he is unable to cast it.
Encounter: Refuse Tunnel
If the players hold their breath and swim the offal-filled submerged passage they are assaulted by a crab swarm. If they defeat it they find a sunken chest containing The Maddening Fin. This unique dagger inflicts lesser confusion on targets with a successful strike. After successfully using this ability, the wielder may immediately roll a Will save to negate one mind-affecting effect on themselves. This tunnel also serves as a back entrance to Norbert’s surgical theater.
Encounter: Sacrificial Altar
Proceeding past the library, the players enter the sacrifice hall. Here they find the abbot and a cultist hauling a the body of a failed experiment to a stone altar thrust up from a deep saltwater pool, where a giant octopus awaits its grisly meal. Interrupting the feeding causes all three to attack. The abbot summons water elementals and attacks with a light crossbow poisoned with blue whinnis, while the cultist and the octopus attempt to grab anyone crossing the slippery stones. The cultist follows any PCs that fall into the water and assists the octopus in drowning them. Every round the PCs are within 10 feet of the sacrificial altar they attempt a Will save against Aura of Madness. PCs with 1 or more points of Wisdom drain must also succeed a Will save or be staggered for 1 round.
If the PCs did not stop the kidnapping in chapter one, one cage contains the kidnapped villager, awaiting surgery. The other contains another missing villager, unconscious and recuperating from Norbert’s modifications.
Encounter: Surgical Theater
Norbert, assisted by a cultist, is sewing gills into the chest of an unconscious villager. If interrupted he will beg the PCs to allow him to continue his work—offering them treasure, as well as the opportunity to undergo his procedure, if they will only leave him to his work. PCs who have taken Wisdom damage from Aura of Madness are particularly inclined to accept his offer, and must succeed a Will save or be affected by charm person. If they accept his offer and remain with him for two weeks, each will gain the Skinfin Initiate template, provided they don’t die on the table.
If the PCs refuse his offer he will reveal his shark-toothed grin and attack, using the tight confines and numerous alchemical vats in the theater to control the fight while he and his minion attempt to get into flanking positions to deliver sneak attacks.
After defeating Norbert, the PCs travel to the mainland and receive payment from the governor. Months later they hear rumors that the island of Ebot’s Hollow has mysteriously vanished.