Into the Widow's Web - Joe Kondrak
Into the Widow’s Web
Several months ago, archaeologist Sameera Sulhaddin and her team trekked into the jungle interior of Hourglass Isle, and they haven’t been seen since. Shortly after their disappearance, arachnids and other vermin on the island began to grow larger and more aggressive. Now, a cult of jungle-dwelling vermin worshippers terrorizes the island’s peaceful inhabitants. Can the adventurers rescue the missing archaeologists and save the islanders from rampaging vermin and cultists?
Into the Widow’s Web is a Pathfinder adventure for 7th-level characters. This “pulp” adventure features a simple plot and intentionally difficult combat encounters. Characters on the medium advancement track should reach 8th level by the adventure’s end.
Sameera Sulhaddin (archaeologist 4) came to Hourglass Isle hoping to discover evidence of bygone civilizations. While interviewing an elder in Pakuli Matta, a coastal village on the island’s eastern end, she learned of a valuable treasure — a set of spherical red gems with magic powers. The elder suggested she might find them in the jungle to the west, and off she went.
Eyes of the Black Widow:
When removed from the monument, each orb can grant a specific spider-themed power to its bearer once per day. When the bearer activates the orb’s magic, anyone within 10 feet who carries another orb from the set also benefits from the activated orb’s magic.
Sameera and her team eventually came upon the Shrine of the Obsidian Spider (Round 2), and she was immediately overtaken by a giant black widow spider. At the moment of her demise, Sameera disappeared, and a half-spider, half-woman monstrosity appeared in her place. The spider-woman attacked and struck down the rest of Sameera’s team, and they disappeared, too. In their places, humans resembling the spider-woman appeared.
The newcomers are members of an ancient cult of vermin-worshippers. The first to appear (the spider-woman) was the cult’s champion, Chakussa Takshu’al (Round 3). The second to appear was a long-haired woman wearing black silken robes — the cult’s leader, Shukaal Kashta’a (full caster, crafter). The others are Shukaal’s disciples (ninjas).
Before long, the cultists captured some native islanders and brought them back to the shrine to slay in ritual sacrifice. The islanders also disappeared upon their demise, and the cult now numbers at 10: Shukaal, Chakussa, plus eight disciples. All of the innocents who disappeared are trapped within the obsidian spider like a trap the soul spell.
Obsessed with vermin and wicked to the core, Shukaal plots to dominate the entire island (and perhaps beyond). Her first goal is to secure a supply of innocents to sacrifice, for without that, she cannot bless her adherents with the powers of spiders. With that in mind, she sent out several raiding parties composed of disciples and giant black widow spiders (advanced, fiendish). Shukaal also directed Chakussa to secure the area, and to send giant vermin against the island’s coastal villages.
1. Farouk’s Briefing [skills, map not required]
At Farouk’s estate, the aristocrat explains that his beloved Sameera traveled to a distant jungle island aboard his own ship, the Silken Star. The ship eventually returned with sad news that Sameera was lost in the jungle. If the PCs are willing to go looking for her, the Silken Star will convey them to and from Hourglass Isle. With successful skill checks, the PCs can uncover additional information about Sameera or the island and its inhabitants.
2. Vermin Attack at Pakuli Matta [combat, skills, map]
After a long journey, the Silken Star weighs anchor at Hourglass Isle’s eastern end, just offshore from the fishing village of Pakuli Matta. As the PCs row ashore, they see and hear that the village is under attack by numerous giant vermin. Many of the village’s thatch-roofed houses sit over the water atop wooden stilts, with ladders descending to the water’s surface. Wooden walkways connect some of the houses to each other and to the shore.
If the PCs defeat the vermin, they can trade and interact with the thankful villagers. They might learn about the island’s geography and history, and that Sameera and her team went west into the jungle.
After presenting them with a minor reward, the village’s patriarch, Mogassa Tamuka (adept 4/warrior 2), asks the PCs for help with an urgent matter. He recently sent a group of his people north to some caves to gather obsidian shards, but they never returned, and he fears the worst. If the PCs can save them, he will hold a three-day-long feast in their honor.
From here, the PCs may head toward the caves (#3, #4 below) or follow Sameera’s trail (#5, #6).
3. Mantis Ambush at Hazardous Crossing [combat, hazard, skills, map]
On their way to the caves, the PCs must cross a deep chasm in the jungle. The only way across is a slippery fallen log (falling hazard). Chakussa trained several giant mantises (advanced) to guard the area. Some hide among the trees, and 2 of them cling to the chasm’s wall, hidden by foliage. If a mantis on the chasm’s wall grabs a PC, the PC risks falling upon escaping the grapple. The mantises in the trees fly in to attack at any sign of commotion.
PCs who can fly or use dimensional travel can bypass the hazard, but the mantises in the trees attack whatever they notice, including PCs who happen to fly by.
4. Obsidian Caves [combat, hazards, skills, map]
At the caves, several cultists (ninjas with spider-powers and poisoned weapons) hold the islanders captive. Several giant black widow spiders (advanced, fiendish) are on the scene, too. Finding the captive islanders requires navigating a small network of tunnels, some of which are trapped with webs. If the PCs free the captives, they can claim the feast Mogassa promised them (though they may want to follow Sameera’s tracks before actuallyclaiming it).
The PCs may be able to convince one or more captives (warriors) to accompany them, to serve as guides or allies in combat.
5. Hostile Jungle [combat, hazards, skills, map not required (generic jungle map)]
As the PCs approach the Shrine of the Obsidian Spider, they might have one or more random encounters, the likelihood of which are influenced by the results of skill checks. The encounters might be with vermin, cultists, Chakussa, or combinations thereof (plus web traps).
If the PCs avoid all of the random encounters, or if none included Chakussa, the PCs must still face or sneak past her before reaching the shrine.
6. Showdown at the Shrine [combat, hazards, map from Round 2]
At the shrine, the PCs encounter Shukaal, who stands atop the obsidian spider, plus several disciples and giant black widow spiders (advanced, fiendish). The disciples menace a web-entangled villager with their obsidian daggers, while the spiders hide above, clinging to the pillars flanking the monument.
Upon seeing the PCs, Shukaal bellows forth maledictions, and she and her minions attack. Shukaal casts offensive spells from atop the monument if possible (with gloves of sublime gesticulation, Round 1). Ascending the monument’s legs to reach Shukaal is difficult (falling hazard), and there are a number of web traps around the shrine. Before and during combat, the disciples dip their weapons in an hourglass-shaped pool to apply red hourglass poison (Rounds 2 and 3). The monument’s fangs and spinnerets are proximity traps (poisoned attack and web, respectively).
With detect magic and/or a successful Spellcraft check, the PCs realize that 10 souls (and their bodies) are trapped within the obsidian spider, and that destroying it will set them free. The monument’s body has a pool of hit points, as do each of its legs. Destroying three or more legs causes the monument to collapse, which damages the body and anyone underneath it.
While it is intact, retrieving the monument’s eyes (eyes of the black widow) requires a successful Strength check, but once it is destroyed, they can simply be picked up.
Concluding the adventure requires defeating Shukaal and her minions, and destroying the obsidian spider (possibly during the showdown).
Upon the monument’s destruction, 10 individuals appear — Sameera and her team (3 experts), plus 6 islanders. They each have only 1 hit point and 1 point of Constitution, and describe their captivity as a horrible nightmare. Giant vermin in the area disperse, too, so the PCs can escort Sameera and the others back to Pakuli Matta and the Silken Star without further ado.
Farouk is happy to pay the PCs their full reward upon Sameera’s safe return.