Swamp Renewal is a small, system-agnostic swamp crawl for your favourite fantasy TTRPG. You can download pay-what-you-want screen and print friendly PDFs from itch.io.
Numbered Works No. 5,
Welcome to the Forgotten Quag
Duckweed coats the surface of the water. The air is heavy. There is the relentless thrum of droning, chirping animal and insect sound, punctuated by calls, howls, hoots, and snarls. Trees and shrubbery vibrate with the combined energy of countless tiny creatures. Branches drip with moss, slime, vines, and snakes. Smells of wet earth, rot, swamp gas, and sweat.
The party is on a filthy, muck-encrusted peat barge, captained by Ervind Oblong, troll bargeman. They are travelling upriver from the south, approaching a cluster of islands. The barge appears to move under its own power, but is propelled from below by a submerged Stone Golem, slowly walking along the riverbed.
Grezell Berch, human wizard, has summoned the party to the swamp to protect his peat mine and tower construction site, and to search for saboteurs. Clearing the forest and draining the swamp is proceeding slower than expected.
Ervind Oblong, Troll Bargeman
1. Swamp Port
- Rickety pier to the south built from fresh sticks and vines.
- Ground is wet, muddy. Thick cluster of trees to the north.
- Piles of dried peat sitting on racks made from sticks and peat-blackened rope. The peat is formed into rough balls, about the size of watermelons. Once dry they are transported downriver on the barge.
- Stacks of new stone and lumber. Nails, bolts, buckets, rope.
- Wooden bridges to: the north (3. Peat Mine) and west (2. Wizard’s Tower).
2. Wizard’s Tower
- Home to Grezell Berch, human wizard.
- Trees to the north and south. A central clearing.
- Ground level of a stone tower. The upper levels are incomplete, and parts of the structure are magically suspended in the air. An ornate rooftop tiled with dragon scales and shells hovers high above.
- Wooden bridges to: the north-east (3. Peat Mine) and east (1. Swamp Port).
Grezell Berch, Human Wizard
- Weak, nimble, clever.
- Three spell slots.
- Wears a necklace of four charms (clay, wood, wax, obsidian). The first three charms grant control of Golems. The purpose of the fourth charm is unknown.
- Dressed in a muddy, faded, wizard’s robe and hat.
- Wants to drain the swamp and extract its resources.
- Claims he wants to establish a school for gifted young wizards.
- Believes there is a submerged reptilian temple beneath the swamp (true).
3. Peat Mine
- Devoid of plant life.
- At the northern end of the island, a Peat Golem digs fistfuls of peat from the earth. The golem carries the lumps of peat south, across the bridge to 1. Swamp Port, where it stacks them to dry. The golem repeats this sequence until nightfall.
- Wooden bridges to: the east (4. Clearing Zone), south (1. Swamp Port), and south-west (2. Wizard’s Tower).
- Very strong, very slow, very stupid. 12 feet tall.
- Controlled by whoever possesses the appropriate charm.
- Focused entirely on their appointed tasks. Obstacles will be picked up and tossed into the water. If threatened, will inflict damage by swatting, throwing and stomping.
- Peat Golem: Plants sprout from head and shoulders. Worms and grubs burrow into the body, birds feed on them. Highly flammable. Will cross bridges but will not use stepping stones or enter the water.
- Swamp Golem: Built from trees, vines, old bones and moss, slime. Odd, percussive sounds when moving: sticks snap, logs creak, bones knock and rattle, slime squelches.
- Stone Golem: will not emerge from beneath the barge unless summoned.
4. Clearing Zone
- Swamp cedar and giant fungi forest to the south. The rest of the island has been cleared.
- At the south of the island a Swamp Golem pulls an enormous tree out of the ground, carries it to the northern shore, and tosses it into the river. This sequence repeats all day.
- To the north, a wide, low pile of uprooted trees and scrub spans the river and forms a crude dam. Water still flows through it, but the dam is beginning to have a noticeable effect on the water level in the swamp.
- Wooden bridge to: the west (3. Peat Mine). Stepping stones to: the east (5. Gas Farm) and south (6. Forest).
5. Gas Farm
- Densely forested. Knotted vines, hanging moss. Swamp roses.
- Close attention will reveal a faint bubbling sound from the eastern shore.
- Roll on the Land Encounters table.
- Hidden behind trees on the eastern shore is a floating contraption consisting of a log raft, reed pipes, and a large inflated sack, roughly sewn and sealed with fat. It bubbles and heaves. This is Guthrie’s swamp gas harvesting station. The area stinks of farts. Hanging in nets from nearby trees are hollowed out gourds, filled with gas and sealed with wax. A rudimentary bench is covered in rags, wax drippings, charms, and rope.
- Stepping stones to: the west (4. Clearing Zone) and south-east (9. Campsite).
- Deep green and shaded. Cedar, ferns, fungi. Mist.
- Roll on the Land Encounters table.
- The bridges here are very old and made from stone.
- Stone bridges to: the east (7. Druid’s Hut) and south (8. Shrine). Stepping stones to: the north (4. Clearing Zone).
7. Druid’s hut
- Home to Verna, lizardfolk druid.
- Small mud hut, domed in shape. Surrounded by pots, seedlings, tools, charms. A chimney at the back spilling herbaceous smoke.
- Inside: candles, jars and pots full of seeds, leaves, powders, and pastes. Bunches of plants hang to dry from the ceiling.
- Everything is brown, orange and green. The smell is a combination of damp leaves and cinnamon.
- Stone bridge to: the west (6. Forest).
Verna, Lizardfolk Druid
- Frail, slow, smart.
- Lifelong swamp resident.
- Knows the secret of controlling Golems with charms.
- Nonviolent, but at night she plants magic cedar seeds (a full size tree grows in seconds) and spore bombs (giant fungi instantly sprouts) to slow the clearing of the forest.
- Wants to protect the swamp.
- Seeks a rare healing herb she has spotted growing on the shoulder of the Peat Golem. May offer information, Enchanted Seeds and Spores, or Potions in return.
- Roll on the Land Encounters table.
- Below a Great Tree sits the shrine. It is ancient, of non-human origin. A shallow pool of clear water with a stone arch and platform above. Surrounded by fresh offerings of fruit, eggs, charms, and flowers.
- Drinking the water (it tastes sweet) will restore one lost health point once a day and/or put you in a very good mood.
- On the platform sits a lizardfolk clay idol. If stolen, the water in the shrine turns bad, undrinkable. If smashed, a toxic mould is released that causes rapid fungification. If the idol is gently placed in the shrine pool, it dissolves and reveals an obsidian ring. The ring turns the wearer to stone until it is removed.
- Stepping stones to: the east (9. Campsite), stone bridge to: the north (6. Forest).
- Home to Guthrie, elf wanderer.
- Threadbare tent in a clearing. Bedroll. A pair of stilts. Fishing rod. Net.
- Catfish is cooking over a campfire. Three gourds in the process of being hollowed out.
- A rowboat is moored nearby.
- Stepping stones to: the west (8. Shrine) and north-east (5. Gas Farm).
Guthrie, Elf Wanderer
- Strong, nimble, alert.
- Seasonal swamp resident.
- Weathered, wary. A missing finger. A chunk out of an ear.
- Hates Grezell Berch, his Golems, and his whole operation.
- Trusts Verna.
- Bow and arrows, slingshot, small knife, sack, flint.
- Is harvesting swamp gas (5. Gas Farm) and storing it in gourds. Gas-filled gourds make for excellent explosives.
- Seeks wick material for swamp gas bombs, accomplices.
10. Oblong’s Island
- Island is low, muddy, sporadically underwater.
- Ramshackle home on high stilts.
- A rowboat.
- Home contains hoarded lizardfolk relics. Roll on the Swamp Relics table a few times.
- Quicksand. If searched, a Swamp Relic is discovered.
- Giant carnivorous plants. One is attempting to eat a swamp goblin.
- A huge, lonely, shaggy swamp beast. Very smelly and sad.
- A snake with a human hand for a head. Eyes on fingertips.
- A vast spider web, with two giant spiders lurking.
- Two wild, hungry goats. One yells like a man, the other will eat your clothes.
- A net trap, covered in leaves, set by Guthrie. A gourd alarm knocks if the trap is triggered.
- Two trolls arguing over three catfish and a crab.
- Three giant butterflies. The patterns on their wings slowly shift. Feeding on enormous flowers. If anybody has sweet food they will eat it from your hand.
- An ogre relieving himself behind a tree. He is startled, defensive. Works for Grezell Berch but won’t reveal it.
- A steaming, enchanted pool. Anyone who lingers must be dragged away or will begin to melt like wax. A golden arrow rests at the bottom.
- A flat stone in a patch of sunlight, one metre in diameter, inscribed with a spiral. Curling up and sleeping on the stone for one hour restores health.
- A ghoul attempts to drag you into the water.
- A giant turtle emerges underneath you.
- A black, shimmering, blue-eyed crocodile.
- Giant frog. Friendly, but might swallow you by mistake.
- Three Catfish.
- Two bickering nixies.
- Will o’ the wisp.
- A carpet of eels.
- Two tiny goblins on a raft, trying to catch dragonflies.
- Roll on Swamp Relics table.
- Seven lost ducklings. You are now their adoptive parent.
Kept inside his one-storey tower.
- A map to the source of the tower’s dragon scales.
- A silver spirit mirror.
- An ancient, locked spellbook.
- A doll-sized wax golem under a bell-jar.
- A grubby stone goblet.
- A lock of Ervind Oblong’s hair.
- A clay model of a tower. Removing the gem embedded within causes the hovering elements of Grezell’s tower to fall to earth.
- A spyglass granting dark vision.
- Goblin skull, arrow-pierced.
- An owlet in a cage of reeds.
- 347 gold coins in a chest.
- A mouse who was once a man.
Enchanted Seeds and Spores
- Swamp Cedar.
- Great Oak.
- Big Witch’s Butter Spore Bomb.
- Bioluminescent Spore Bomb.
- Rope Vine.
- Big Old Man’s Beard.
- Emperor Fern.
- Climbing Pickleweed.
- Stinking Fig.
- Creeping Moss.
- Honey Fungus Spore Bomb.
- Giant Dove Orchid.
Effects last for one hour.
- User is resistant to fire.
- User has no need to breathe, but cannot speak.
- Makes the user double in size.
- Gives the user a terrifying, booming voice.
- Turns the user into an albino boa constrictor.
- User’s gravity is reversed.
- Creates quicksand when poured on the ground.
- Makes the user very afraid.
- Turns the user into a bear.
- Turns the user into a gas.
- User’s bones become jellied.
- Shrinks the user to the size of a rat.
- A crocodile skull with one solid gold tooth.
- A curved, rusty short sword.
- A mask that is a crude caricature of a human face. Makes the wearer clumsy, unaware of their surroundings.
- A clay ocarina. Playing skilfully will calm (almost) any swamp creature.
- A trio of indecipherable tools, perhaps of goblin origin. Lumpy, wet.
- A map of the swamp, inscribed on a clay tablet.
- A green bottle with a Will o’ the Wisp trapped inside.
- An ornate bronze helmet. Armour +1 if worn.
- A necklace with a snake charm, carved from opal.
- The body of a tiny prehistoric fairy, encased in amber.
- A troll crown made from mud and reeds. Heavy.
- A large reptilian egg.
Water Foraging and Fishing
- Floating apples.
- Duck eggs.
- Chewy reeds.
- Orange mud crab.
- Patterned frog.
- Roll on Swamp Relics table.
- Sour algae.
- Milky fish eggs.
- One giant red carrot.
- Handful of glow worms.
- Mysterious tuber, purple.
- Foot-long grubs.
- Blue crickets.
- Juicy moss.
- Giant swamp fungus.
- Big belly melon.
- Roll on Swamp Relics table.
- Soft fern.
- Brown orchid (mango flavour).
Roll whenever appropriate.
- Thunder storm.
- Thick fog.
- Sun shower.
- Golden haze.
- Heavy rain.
- Grey drizzle.
- Light mist.
- Awful damp.
- Unnerving stillness.
- Refreshing breeze.
- Oppressive heat.
- Rain of frogs.
Guthrie’s Tall Tales
They’re full of them.
- Their brother is a skeleton who serves a lich.
- Was born at sea on a ship captained by a ghost.
- Was born in a treehouse.
- Knew a man that got so sad he turned to water.
- Has never seen snow.
- Is an expert ice sculptor.
- When their mother died a rose sprouted from her chest.
- Owns a ruined keep that they won playing darts.
- Gave a finger to a witch to settle a debt.
- Lost a finger fighting a pack of wolves.
- Can skip a stone on the water 99 times on a good day.
- Knows one powerful spell but has forgotten a crucial word.
Damming and draining the swamp will take the wizard and his golems five days if their efforts go undisturbed. The entrance to a submerged reptilian temple, cased in obsidian, is revealed at the centre of the drained swamp. We’ll write that temple one day soon, but there are many existing dungeons and adventures that could fit the bill. Here’s a few free ones:
Tomb of the Serpent Kings
Buried Pyramid of the Undergod
by JD Thornton
The Sunken Temple of the Amphibian God
A drained swamp is also likely to reveal sunken vessels, statues, lost relics, treasure, the bones of swamp beasts, and hundreds of dead fish and water creatures. If the party hands Verna and/or Guthrie over to Grezell Berch, they are paid handsomely in gold coin.
If the mining is halted and the swamp forest is restored, a Great Tree sprouts upon the site of the former peat mine. The glow and hum of life within the swamp is vibrant, overwhelming, almost unbearable. Grezell’s tower may be looted. Verna encourages the party to stay in the swamp. Guthrie continues on their path.
Traitorous PCs captured by the wizard or his accomplices are transported to 10. Oblong’s Island and tied or chained to the stilts of the house. A bad place to be if the dam is breached and the water rises.