Diving for Hagfish

This is a skill challenge (using DragnaCarta’s rules for Skill Challenges) created for my game to retrieve a hagfish from the depths of Lake Zarovich in order to create a potion of Etherealness (in order to fight the hags that are haunting the party). Thank you to DeposedWolf for suggesting this subplot, it’s been a blast so far!

Since my party killed Bluto, I created Sven, the grizzled fisherman who will take the PCs out to the center of the lake for 5cp/person. He’ll tell the PCs that the Drowners (from the Book of Beautiful Horrors) that infest the lake are not only stupid, but are blind. So if you’re careful enough, they won’t notice you if you dive far from shore, where they look for prey. He also warns of the Drowned Dead, though he only knows that “some of the dead can suck the air out of ya faster than y’can blink. Divin’ down there is a fool’s errand, but it’s your funeral…”

Lastly, he’ll warn the PCs that the Drowners will be drawn to the scent of blood. So their goal is to dive to the bottom of the lake, get a hagfish, and get back to the surface without spilling any blood or otherwise alerting the Drowners. 

Another complication to toss their way is that Jeny Greenteeth supplies each PC with a potion ‘to help them breathe underwater.’ These potions actually polymorph them into water-breathing creatures. I tried to be nice and give them creatures that will actually be useful in this encounter.. I’ll put the statblocks at the end, but these are the possibilities: Giant Shark, Giant Octopus, Sea Lion, Nereiad, and Siren. 

Here is the skill challenge itself:

  • Stage 1: Dive down to the bottom of the lake without bumping into Drowners

    • Stealth: DC 12

    • Investigation (to find a path most devoid of zombies): DC 13

    • Athletics (to try to go really fast): DC 15

    • Deception (to ‘swim like a zombie’): DC 16

    • Relevant Spell/ability

  • Stage 2: Find the Hagfish

    • Investigation: DC 16

    • Perception: DC 15

    • Nature (to know where to look): 13

    • Relevant spell/ability

  • Stage 3: Catch the Hagfish: requires 2 successes

    • Athletics (tackle a fish): DC 20 (12 if after Nature/Animal Handling/Deception)

    • Acrobatics (grab it by the tail): DC 20 (12)

    • Nature (Know about the fish to do this better): DC 15

    • Animal Handling (calm the fish down): DC 17

    • Deception + Speak with Animals: DC 15

    • Stealth: DC 14

    • Bludgeoning attack against the Hagfish: AC 12, 4 HP 

      • 30% chance to bleed and prompt zombie attack

    • Relevant spell/ability

  • Stage 4: Get back to the surface with the Hagfish (same as Stage 1 but harder because they’re carrying a big ol’ fish)

    • Stealth: DC 15

    • Investigation (to find a path most devoid of zombies): DC 15

    • Athletics (to try to swim really fast): DC 15

    • Deception (to ‘swim like a zombie’): DC 18

    • Relevant spell/ability

If the PCs accrue 3 failures before completing all of the stages, 10 drowners and 2 Drowned Dead converge on their location and attack. This is meant for my 4 level 5 PCs, one of whom is a cleric who can Turn Undead to destroy most of the Drowners instantly. Adjust the number of enemies according to how punishing you want the failure to be.

Statblocks

The Hagfish:

Note: An actual hagfish is a sort of sea worm lookin thing. I already told my players “hagfish” but I’m also betting none of them know what that is. What I’m imagining is like a fantasy version of this bad boy, who is apparently called a “lizardfish”. If you have players who are savvy with marine biology, consider renaming the fish!

Note 2: Notice the hagfish is small, not tiny! It is the size of a halfling, so grappling/capturing it will be a significant challenge. 

These stats are based on the Quipper statblock from the Monster Manual.

Aquatic Forms:

Roll 1d6 upon drinking Jeny’s Potion of Waterbreathing to determine what form you take. The effect lasts one hour or upon cancelation as an action. 

Note: For maximum fun, reroll results that have already been rolled so that each PC who drinks their potion gets a unique form.

1d6

Form

1

Giant Shark

2

Sea Lion

3

Giant Octopus

4

Siren

5

Nereid

6

Reroll

These statblocks come from the Monster Manual (Giant Shark, Giant Octopus)  and Tales from the Yawning Portal (Sea Lion, Siren, Nereiad).

Note: The Sea Lion is not the real world sea lion, but rather a literal lion monster that swims. It looks like this:

For statblocks for the Drowners and Drowned Dead, please see u/Regerem’s wonderful Book of Beautiful Horrors.

That’s it! I hope this skill challenge is fun and engaging, or at least gives you ideas for content for your own campaign!

Thanks again to DeposedWolf for the main idea, to DragnaCarta for the rules for Skill Challenges, and to Wow-tair-shmall and MrDec for helping me suggest possible skills/DCs!

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