Monday, June 17, 2013

Dangerous Encounter: The Stalking Terror

This encounter will prove to the PCs that not everything is as it initially appears in the Mutant Future. Most of what happens here is smoke and mirrors, but a clever Mutant Lord could run this encounter over many sessions until the PCs become wise to what's really going on.

The disturbance should begin one night while the PCs are enjoying some down time -- preferably making camp or otherwise on the trail or in the wilderness. It should be relatively quiet and uneventful. The Mutant Lord should "roll" a random encounter behind the screen, then announce that a Giant Tarantula (MF rlebook, page 97) has lumbered out of the darkness. The hairy monstrosity is easily 9 feet across; its eyes glittering and fangs dripping with venom. It hisses angrily, staying just at the edge of where the campfire's light falls. If the PCs attack, the Giant Spider will rear up to defend itself. Whenever the Giant Tarantula attacks, the ML should roll behind the screen and announce that it misses. The moment a PC makes contact or lands a blow, the Giant Tarantula will suddenly "blink" away, suddenly appearing on the other side of the campsite as if it had teleported. The PCs will probably race to the other side to engage the creature, which will seem to think better of the encounter, turning to flee into the darkness. If the players chase it, they are unable to catch up to it. The Giant Tarantula doesn't return that evening.

Unknown to the PCs, the Giant Tarantula isn't real. The entire encounter was orchestrated by a trio of Stalker Plants (MF rulebook, page 99) who have taken an interest in the players.

Stalker Plants (3) (AL N, MV 60' (20'), AC 8, HD 4, #AT 1, DM Special, SV L3, ML 5, mutations: mental phantasm)

The Stalker Plants have been following the players for the better part of the day, looking for an opportunity to pick through their belongings to make off with some shiny trinkets or coins. While the PCs are occupied by the mental phantasm of the Giant Tarantula, the Stalker Plants have each taken one small insignificant item from the player's belongings. (The Mutant Lord can roll randomly or just pick three minor items.) The Stalker Plants will then scurry into the darkness and bury these purloined items. The items will probably be valueless, although a careless player may find his coin purse slightly lighter or his favorite dagger missing.

If the Stalker Plants are undetected, they will continue to follow the PCs for as long as they can. They will keep their true nature hidden by "hiding in plain sight," as they just need to close their many eyes and they'll just appear to be scrub brush. When a few days have passed and another opportunity presents itself, the Stalker Plants will bring the imagery of the Giant Tarantula back to threaten the PCs and lead them away from their valuables. Since the Giant Tarantula is only a mental phantasm, it "blinks" out whenever someone makes contact with it. (The illusion can be seen, heard, and even smelled, but not touched.) The Stalker Plants will try to avoid this, as the PCs will eventually become suspicious as to the nature of the Tarantula.  If the PCs leave their items unattended again, the Stalker Plants move in and make off with some more trinkets.

The Stalker Plants will keep up the charade as long as they can. However, by the third encounter with the Giant Tarantula (it's the only mental phantasm the Stalker Plants have), the PCs will probably figure out that something is manipulating them. But until the Stalker Plants are either caught in the act or otherwise discovered, the Giant Tarantula will "attack" the PCs every few days.

If the Stalker Plants are discovered, they will send out a blinding mental "flash" to everyone within 50'. Anyone who fails a save vs. stun attacks will be struck blind and deaf by the mental overload for 2d6 rounds. During this time, the Stalker Plants will scamper off and escape, looking for a new traveling group to stalk and torment.

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