The Deepmarket

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The Deepmarket is an adventure for four PCs of 3rd level. The Deepmarket is written for Pathfinder RPG but could be transplanted into another campaign setting. This short adventure provides a flavorful segue for any Pathfinder campaign.

The Deepmarket

By Jenny Jarzabski
Playtested by Evan Willis and Jon Cary

Zyrinix was always considered different by dark folk standards. While most dark stalkers are content to dwell in their underground cities, employing the lesser dark creepers and slaves of other races to do their bidding, Zyrinix had dreams of travel, trade, and collecting riches for himself. He would take anyone’s gold, whether they were a drow priestess shopping for poisons or a lost surface-dweller trying to survive in the Darklands.

Two decades ago, Zyrinix “adopted” a vegepygmy chieftain who possessed a level of intelligence unusual for her race. In reality, he captured the creature and forced her to confine her russet mold infestation to a jar worn on a cord around her neck. He taught her the ways of trade and crafting poisons, and she taught him the strange language of her kind.

Together, the two founded the Deepmarket, a traveling hub for potions, poisons, and curiosities. The duo found that setting up shop in Nar’Voth’s surface-connected caves and tunnels brought the best business. Curious surface-dwellers heard of the Deepmarket through whispered rumors, and were willing to part with copious amounts of coin for reagents and items rarely seen above ground.

Today the Deepmarket travels around Golarion, setting up shop in caves, mines, and even sewers. The market typically stays in a locale for a few days before moving on. Those in the know need only speak the passphrase to gain entry past the dark creeper guards and into the strange trading post.

SUMMARY
PCs who visit the Deepmarket must speak the passphrase (“The golden light of dawn”) or deal with ghast guards and a trapped gate. PCs are greeted by an array of goods for sale, including potions, poisons, slaves, and reagents. PCs who seek a specific item or service must negotiate with Zyrinix and Clicker. When PCs try to leave the market, they are ambushed by a derro slave trader hoping to sell these fine specimens deeper in the Darklands.

Adventure Hooks
PCs might visit the Deepmarket for a variety of reasons. Perhaps a local merchant asked for a rare ingredient, such as brain mold spores, that can only be bought in the Deepmarket. PCs may have information about an explorer who delved too far into the Darklands and left behind a journal complete with detailed maps that found its way to the Deepmarket stalls.

Alternatively, a devious GM could use this adventure to transition into a Darklands campaign, pitting low-level characters against challenging combats they are sure to lose. If the GM chooses to use the Deepmarket for this purpose, enemy combatants should deal nonlethal damage and/or heal PCs as they fall, planning to revive them once safely caged.

Whatever the case, the PC’s current city is unknowingly playing host to the Deepmarket. A Knowledge (Local) or Diplomacy check (DC 20) reveals the market’s current location to be in a nearby cave or sewer.

GETTING STARTED
PCs may discover the following information about the Deepmarket.
Diplomacy or Knowledge (Local)
10+ The Deepmarket is a traveling cadre of merchants, mostly native to the Darklands, who sell rare and sometimes illicit goods and services to surface folk.
15+ To gain entry to the Deepmarket, one must speak the words, “The golden light of dawn.”
20+ Some surface-dwellers who seek the Deepmarket never return. Survivors claim the dark stalker who runs the Deepmarket occasionally captures his would-be patrons to sell as slaves in the Darklands.
25+ Zyrinix, the dark stalker who founded the Deepmarket, has a pet vegepygmy chieftain who is a skilled alchemist in addition to being infected with russet mold.

A. To Market, to Market
Wherever their starting point, a successful DC 15 Knowledge (Geography) or Survival check leads PCs through the sewers or cave system to a cavernous tunnel (20 feet high and 10 feet wide) that leads farther into the earth. In 300 feet the tunnel narrows to an area only 10 feet wide. Further ingress is blocked by two wooden poles bearing a cloth divider. The area beyond the gate is a shallow cave that measures 40 feet wide and 80 feet long. The cave is completely dry. The cave is largely packed with carts and stalls (A2). Toward the back of the cave a small tunnel (Perception DC 20) leads deeper into the Darklands.  The ceiling throughout this cave is 30 feet high. The area is in complete darkness. Any attempt to shed light on the cave through magical or mundane means will draw the hostile stares and hisses of both merchants and customers.

Though in reality the Deepmarket is a merchant caravan, losing and gaining members as the seasons change, treat the Deepmarket as a large town (Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide 207) for the purpose of buying and selling gear and magic items.

The Deepmarket’s “population” of sellers and patrons fluctuates, but is generally 30% dark folk, 20% duergar, 20% svirfneblin, 15% ghoul, 5% drow, and 10% other.

A1. The Gate (CR 5)
Two sharpened stakes twice as tall as a human plunge into the soil ten feet apart. A tattered black cloth hangs from the poles, shielding whatever lies beyond from view. Two pale, gaunt humanoids bar access to the makeshift gateway.

Zyrinix has gained the loyalty of many creatures over the years. The ghasts that guard the entry to the Deepmarket are some of his favorites. Their intelligence coupled with their ability to paralyze and sicken hostile parties makes them excellent gatekeepers.

The ghasts who stand guard here have already supped on a meal of fresh entrails, provided as payment for their talents by Zyrinix. They begin as indifferent to the PCs, and as long as the correct passphrase is spoken they will not attack. Regardless of the ghasts’ intent, PCs must still deal with the roiling stench of these creatures.

As PCs approach, one of the ghasts croaks, “What is the most terrible sight to behold?”

Creatures: Three ghasts employed by Zyrinix guard the entrance to the Deepmarket.

Traps: If PCs fight the ghasts, they must deal with the trap placed on the makeshift gate.

Ghast (2) CR 2
XP 600 each
hp 17 each (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 146)

Poisoned Dart Trap CR 1
XP 400
Type mechanical; Perception DC 20; Disable Device DC 20
Effects
Trigger touch; Reset none
Effect Atk +10 ranged (poison dart; 1d3 plus black smear)

Development: When PCs bypass the guards, they may enter the Deepmarket stalls.

A2. The Stalls (CR 5 or CR 8)
Use GameMastery Map Pack: Market Place for this area.

Hooded figures mill about a wide alley surrounded by carts and stalls. A cacophony of voices fills the air, promoting wares and bartering in myriad languages. The carts are laden with rows of grotesque specimens in jars, vials of murky liquids, and bundles of unrecognizable plant life. Beyond the crowd of merchants, tents shelter cages and pens inhabited by a variety of humanoids and animals. Several small wagons circle the tents. Horse-sized beetles tethered there graze on heaps of fungus.

PCs who succeed a Diplomacy check (DC 15) are pointed to Zyrinix’s stall. Zyrinix greets the PCs as follows: “Welcome, surface-dwellers. How may I serve you?” Clicker remains silent, eyeing PCs with interest. If they speak to her in Undercommon, she responds in a language of clicks, whistles, and guttural syllables, which Zyrinix quickly translates.

Zyrinix is willing to sell any items or services desired by the PCs, but at twice the usual price. A successful DC 20 Diplomacy check convinces Zyrix to sell the items for only 150% regular price.

If the PCs seek information about the Darklands, other customers, or the city in which the Deepmarket currently resides, a DC 30 Diplomacy check is needed to garner this information (a bribe worth at least 200 gold reduces the DC to 25).

The following are questions PCs might ask Zyrinix.
Who are you? “Zyrinix, at your service. My moldy associate here is Clicker. I would tell you her true name, but I doubt you could pronounce it. We are purveyors of the finest goods and services from beneath the earth.”
Do you have (a specific item)? “Ah, of course, my sunburnt friends. I have whatever you need if you’re willing to pay the price.”
Do you sell slaves here? “I prefer to call them unpaid laborers. You see, there’s quite a demand for workers down here, and my supply reflects that need.”

Creatures: The dark stalker Zyrinix and his vegepygmy associate, Clicker, are conducting business as usual in the main stall.

Clicker CR 5
XP 1,600
Advanced vegepygmy warrior 4
N Small plant
Init +4; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +12
Defense
AC 21, touch 13, flat-footed 19 (+3 armor, +2 Dex, +5 natural, +1 size)
hp 39 (1d8+4d10+13)
Fort +9, Ref +5, Will +3
DR 5/slashing or bludgeoning; Immune electricity, plant traits
Offense
Speed 30 ft.
Melee 2 claws +5 (1d4+3) or mwk syringe spear +6 (1d6+4/x3 plus russet mold extract)
Ranged mwk composite longbow +6 (1d6+3/x3)
Special Attacks infestation
Tactics
Before Combat Clicker only fights if ordered to by Zyrinix. If commanded into combat, Clicker dips her claws into the jar of russet mold, preparing to use her infestation ability.
During Combat Clicker first attacks with her claws to deliver the russet mold spores. She then uses her syringe spear to infect enemies unaffected by the spores. Morale If Zyrinix dies, Clicker attempts to flee.
Statistics
Str 15, Dex 18, Con 16, Int 12, Wis 14, Cha 15
Base Atk +4; CMB +6; CMD 20
Feats Power Attack, Skill Focus (Perception)
Skills Climb +8, Craft (alchemy) +8, Perception +12, Profession (merchant) +9, Stealth +12 (+20 in vegetation); Racial Modifiers +4 Stealth (+12 in vegetation)
Languages Undercommon, Vegepygmy
SQ poison use
Combat Gear alchemist’s fire (5), arrows (20), masterwork composite longbow, masterwork syringe spear, oil of bless weapon, potion of cure light wounds (4), potion of magic fang (2), russet mold extract (5 doses); Other Gear leaf armor
Special Abilities
Infestation (Ex) As a move action, it can dip its claws into the jar of russet mold worn on a cord around its neck. Its next natural attack produces a cloud of russet mold spores in a 5-foot radius burst. Everyone in the area must make a DC 15 Fortitude save or take 2 points of Constitution damage per round. A new save can be attempted each round to stop the growth of the spores. The growth can be halted by remove disease and similar effects. Exposure to sunlight also halts the growth of russet mold spores. After 24 hours, a fully grown vegepygmy bursts from the body of any creature slain by russet mold. (Include page number)
Poison Use (Ex) It has developed a formula to distill russet mold into a poisonous extract. It carried a dose of russet mold extract in its syringe spear and 5 more doses in a pouch.
Russet Mold Extract—injury; save Fort DC 15; frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect 1d2 Con; cure 1 save. The poison DC is Constitution-based.

Dark Creeper (3) CR 2
XP 600 each
hp 19 each (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 53)

Zyrinix CR 5
XP 1,600
Advanced dark stalker
CN Medium humanoid (dark folk)
Init +6; Senses see in darkness, Perception +10
Defense
AC 22, touch 16, flat-footed 16 (+2 armor, +6 Dex, +4 natural)
hp 57 (6d8+30)
Fort +6, Ref +11, Will +5
Weaknesses light blindness
Offense
Speed 30 ft.
Melee 2 shortswords +6/+6 (1d6+2 plus poison/19–20)
Special Attacks death throes, sneak attack (+3d6)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 6th)
At willdeeper darkness, detect magic, fog cloud
Tactics
Before Combat If PCs appear to be hostile, Zyrinix calls for his enforcers to deal with them.
During Combat Zyrinix casts deeper darkness and flees. He only fights PCs if cornered.
Morale Zyrinix wishes to live to trade another day, and casts deeper darkness and tries to escape if reduced to 15 or fewer hp.
Statistics
Str 18, Dex 22, Con 20, Int 16, Wis 18, Cha 19
Base Atk +4; CMB +8; CMD 24
Feats Double Slice, Two-Weapon Fighting, Weapon Finesse
Skills Climb +12, Perception +10, Sleight of Hand +7, Stealth +10; Racial Modifiers +4 Climb, +4 Perception, +4 Stealth
Languages Dark Folk, Undercommon, Vegepgymy
SQ poison use
Combat Gear short swords (2), black smear (6); Other Gear leather armor
Special Abilities
Death Throes (Su) When a dark stalker is slain, its body combusts in a flash of white-hot flame. This acts like a fireball that deal 3d6 points of fire damage to all creatures within a 20-foot-radius burst. A DC 15 Reflex save halves this damage. A dark stalker’s gear and treasure are unaffected by this explosion. This save is Constitution-based.
Poison Use (Ex) Dark stalkers are skilled in the use of poison and never risk accidentally poisoning themselves. Like their diminutive kin, the dark creepers, dark stalkers use black poison on their weapons and generally carry six doses on them.
Black Smear—injury; save Fort DC 15; frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect 1d2 Str; cure 1 save. The poison DC is Constitution-based.
See in Darkness (Su) A dark stalker can see perfectly in darkness of any kind, including that created by deeper darkness.

Development: If PCs fight and defeat the dark creepers, Zyrinix returns and offers the desired item(s) at a 50% discount as a truce. If PCs fight and defeat Zyrinix, chaos envelops the market as slaves attempt to break free, patrons run for the nearest exit, and more guards descend upon the group. PCs have 1d4 minutes to flee before the derro slavemaster and his minions from area B attack.

A3. No Exit (CR 4)
Use GameMastery Map Pack: Market Place for this area.

A successful Perception check (DC 25) reveals the mouth of a narrow tunnel (5 feet wide by 6 feet high), but this tunnel only leads further underground. PCs must exit the way they came, through the ghast-guarded gateway.

Unbeknownst to PCs, Zyrinix calculated that selling his clients into slavery would be most beneficial. Right after they left his stall, Zyrinix ordered his derro colleague to subdue the PCs and take back any goods they acquired.

Creatures: A derro slavemaster and his pet giant black widow spider stalk the PCs.

Derro CR 3
XP 800
hp 25 (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 70)
Before Combat The derro casts darkness and tries to snipe PCs with its poisoned crossbow bolts.
During Combat The derro orders its spider pet into melee and attacks with its crossbow. If cornered, the derro fights with its aklys.
Morale The crazed derro fights to the death.

Young Giant Black Widow Spider CR 2
XP 600
hp 37 (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 2 256)
Before Combat The giant black widow waits for its master’s command to web PCs.
During Combat The giant black widow first uses its web to trap PCs, then charges into melee.

CONCLUSION
If the PCs manage to escape the Deepmarket, they return with rare items and a newfound respect for the denizens of the Darklands. If Zyrinix lives, the PCs may have acquired a new enemy.

If the PCs are defeated by the deep merchants, however, they wake up a few hours later in cages. Will the captives manage to escape Zyrinix’s clutches, or will they be traded to drow or duergar and begin a new life of enslavement in a sunless land? The possibilities are endless.

15. COPYRIGHT NOTICE

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook. © 2009, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Author: Jason Bulmahn, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary. © 2009, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Author: Jason Bulmahn, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 2. © 2010, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors Wolfgang Baur, Jason Bulmahn, Adam Daigle, Graeme Davis, Crystal Frasier, Joshua J. Frost, Tim Hitchcock, Brandon Hodge, James Jacobs, Steve Kenson, Hal MacLean, Martin Mason, Rob McCreary, Erik Mona, Jason Nelson, Patrick Renie, Sean K Reynolds, F. Wesley Schneider, Owen K.C. Stephens, James L. Sutter, Russ Taylor, and Greg A. Vaughan, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game GameMastery Guide. © 2010, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Author: Cam Banks, Wolfgang Buar, Jason Bulmahn, Jim Butler, Eric Cagle, Graeme Davis, Adam Daigle, Joshua J. Frost, James Jacobs, Kenneth Hite, Steven Kenson, Robin Laws, Tito Leati, Rob McCreary, Hal Maclean, Colin McComb, Jason Nelson, David Noonan, Richard Pett, Rich Redman, Sean K reynolds, F. Wesley Schneider, Amber Scorr, Doug Seacat, Mike Selinker, Lisa Stevens, James L. Sutter, Russ Taylor, Penny Williams, Skip Williams, Teeuwynn Woodruff.

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The Mother’s Call

This short story was inspired by the gnoll, a hyena-like humanoid creature that hunts in packs. I originally submitted this story to Wayfinder as one of two tales that captured the essence of what it means to be a monster. The other story will be appearing in Wayfinder 14, December 2015.

“Come to me, Auroo.” The priestess beckoned. The tribe’s laughter followed me into the crimson circle drawn around the fire pit. A sea of eyes glittered in the darkness around me.

The attack came two nights ago. Armed humans found our place while my pack hunted. When I returned, our huts and tents were rubble, and the fires ashes. Only smells remained. The smells were memories of births and deaths, feasts and fires, and were all that was left to us. My pack waited until dawn stained the sky for the survivors to creep back. If we had been there the pups might still live. I blamed myself for that. Tonight, I would find out if she blamed me.

I knelt at the priestess’ paws. Her thick dappled fur glistened in the firelight. The black vestment she wore was ripped in half to reveal her proud, swollen belly, the new life of our tribe riding high above me in her womb. A third eye was painted on her forehead.  In one paw she gripped a jagged blade already stained red. She touched my brow with her other paw, smearing something greasy over my fur.

“Our Mother calls you to defend our lands. Go forth and break their bones. Drink their hearts’ blood that it may nourish us. Return with bones for the elders to gnaw. For every pup they slaughtered, slay a dozen of their young.” Her voice rumbled over the howls and yips around the circle. Silence fell. Tonight we would hunt.

Her blade kissed me on the cheek. I felt my blood rush out to mingle with the paint.

“Rise!” She growled, arms raised triumphant toward the black face of the new moon.

I obeyed, crying a wordless howl into the night. The tribe answered and the air trembled with our voices.

Everyone swift or strong of paw ran with me. We made no sound save the whisper of grass against our fur. We ducked low to the ground as we approached the humans’ place. Rickety wooden gates were all that stood between us and our meat. Firesticks fluttered in the black air, dripping puddles of yellow light where two metal-clad humans stood watch. One was old, his head-fur grizzled and grey, and the other wore a sword that was too big for him.

“Watch the old one,” I whispered to Girra, who crouched beside me. Her powerful haunches rippled as she moved closer to me. Her proud ears stood at attention, her black eyes were like coals, and her fur glinted silver in the dim starlight. If the Mother would have this be our last hunt together, I would remember every detail of her muscled body, her silver fur, her snarling mouth.

“I will rend him,” she growled. I grinned and nipped at her shoulder.

“After me,” I said, and leaped out of the grass. I heard the pounding of her pawsteps behind me as I bounded into the torchlight. The old one rushed me while the pup fumbled with his sword. I lowered my head and swung my hammer for a killing blow, but Girra was upon him. A shower of blood arced through the air as her knives found the weak spot in his armor. She laughed and turned to face the pup.

“He’s yours,” she spat, and with a rustle of fur she was gone. I shuffled toward the pup. He stumbled back against the gate. He swung his sword wide, both hands on the hilt, and I stepped in to meet him as he jerked forward with the weight of his swing. My hammer found his skull and he lurched to the side with a sickening crunch.

My pack swarmed around me, advancing on the gate. Swords, flails, and hammers fell on the wooden gate like rain. A sharp crack rent the night as boards shattered in a spray of splinters.

We rushed through in a mass of steel and fur. Candles flickered in the windows of the huts as we approached, and screams pierced the night. Humans armed with blades long and short surged forward.

Girra tore the throat of one man, her gored knife pointed straight toward the sky in a deadly strike. Krell stumbled, grasping at the spear piercing his belly, but for every gnoll that fell more humans crumpled, my pack feasting in twos and threes on their twitching bodies.

I saw pack members breaking down doors and flooding into the huts. Girra fell in beside me as I approached a hut, bigger than the rest, nestled near the center of the village. Her silver fur was slick with blood.

“Chief’s house,” she grunted, punching a hole in the door with one of her curved knives. She reached through with one paw and the lock clicked. A human woman with a metal pot in hand cowered as Girra’s knives slashed her. We padded down a long tunnel of wood and stone and came to a room empty save for a wooden crate. Flowers and animals were painted on the walls, and wooden objects littered the floor.

Girra stood at the door as I peered into the crate. An ugly pink thing lay swaddled in a mass of blankets. Two blue eyes opened and stared into mine. A downy patch of black fur curled at the top of its naked head.

“Is it a pup?” Girra hissed from the doorway.

“Yes,” I said, reaching out a paw to grab it. A tiny pink hand grasped my claw. I lifted the bundle and reared back to throw it against the wall. I remembered the pups with their wet noses and soft speckled fur, the way they giggled when they chased and tumbled around the huts.

“Crack its skull!” Girra shouted.

The pup didn’t cry or shriek in my arms. It made a soft noise like a whine.

“Hurry,” Girra warned. She grunted and I spun around to see Gralnak push past her. His hulking body shook with each ragged breath. Two arrows protruded from his shoulder and a gash across his chest wept blood.

“Give it to me,” he barked. “I have slain a dozen. I have the right to take my share of the tender meat.”

“No,” the word escaped my muzzle before I even thought it. Gralnak snarled at me. “It is a gift,” I said, “for the priestess.”

He circled me, flexing his wicked claws. Gralnak never carried a weapon. He didn’t need to.

Girra growled. I glared at her, and those proud ears flattened against her skull.

“You cannot have it,” I snarled, and Gralnak lunged at me. His claws sank into my flesh. I couldn’t use my hammer without dropping the pup. Instead I punched Gralnak in the jaw and opened my first to dig claws into his face. He yelped and wrapped his powerful arms around me, squeezing, and I felt a rib pop. I thrust my head forward into his nose. He loosened his grip enough for me to draw my knife. I shoved it into his stomach to the hilt. He twitched against the blade, and his arms went slack.

I let go of the knife and pushed, one-handed, freeing myself. I set the pup down and freed my hammer while he staggered, eyes rolling, blood bubbling from his lips. A single blow crushed his skull.

I turned to Girra.

“We’re done here,” I barked. I could feel her eyes burning into me as I strode past her, the human pup still clutched to my chest.

The pack stood outside in a semicircle. Howls erupted from their jaws as I stepped into the night.

“Auroo! Auroo!” They chanted.

“What do you hold, Auroo?” Nyill crooned, licking her lips. “A tasty morsel to share?”

“A gift for the priestess,” Girra said from behind me.

“No,” I yelled. “No more pups will die.”

The glittering eyes of the pack watched me in silence.

I stiffened as Girra’s knives pierced my back. I rolled my head around to meet her eyes. She stood, muzzle set in a grim line, arms rigid as she pressed her blades deep into my body.

“You are weak,” she spat. My pack, the brothers and sisters who had run with me a hundred times, crept toward me, their bared teeth gleaming with saliva.

“We are hungry,” Nyill yipped. Her teeth pierced my thigh like needles.

“Feed us,” another said, and I felt a dagger bite into my side.

They were on me now. A hundred paws pinned me to the ground. Girra let go of her knives and wrenched the pup from my arms. She held it out to the pack.  Their frothing muzzles ripped at the tiny bundle.

Through the searing pain of their teeth and claws, I felt the words of the priestess wash over me. “Our Mother calls you.” I felt the wounds on my body open up into the abyss, to the arms of the Mother of Monsters, as she called me to her.