If I can write two Vestitas encounters per week, I’ll have enough encounters to stock the hex map right around the one year anniversary of this blog. I’ll still need to finish up the urbancrawls, write all the stats, and then format everything into a .pdf, so this won’t mean that the hexcrawl is just about done, but it will be a significant milestone.
Summary: A cultist of the fire daemon at 04.09 has gathered up bats from the nest nearby and is conducting a ritual to turn them into creatures of pure fire. Already, the jungle around his hideout is charred and burnt, and as the swarm’s size increases, so too does the reach of the scorched earth campaign.
Discovery: The jungle surrounding the cultist’s hideout is a scorched wreck, which should make it immediately obvious that something’s up. Additionally, the flock constantly circles about the area, which is extremely obvious at night. An Awareness check is not even required. Anyone not blind will see the large concentration of rapidly moving, flickering lights through the trees.
Exploration: The fiery bats constantly circle about the scorched area and steadily expand their range of destruction, setting ablaze everything they fly near and occasionally colliding with a tree or other foliage and consuming it with fire. These bats will engage any living creature not made of fire or carrying a charm bestowing the fire daemon’s protection who comes near. Every three rounds the characters remain near the scorched area without actually being in it, a flock of 1d5 bats will emerge to attack them.
When stepping into the scorched area, the characters become easily visible to the bulk of the bat swarm, which will descend upon them. The cultist’s hut in the center and the five meters surrounding it in all directions is protected by a ward, and the bats will not willingly enter this area, although it does not physically repel them either. If the characters can sprint to this area, they will be safe from pursuit. Additionally, the bats are terrified of water, so anyone who brings a fire hose or a super soaker can frighten them off (and possibly extinguish them altogether) even when they attack in massive numbers. Due to this fear of water, bats will fly in a panic throughout the jungle whenever it rains, steadily widening the radius of the scorched area with every rainfall.
Confrontation: The cultist in the hut is awake mostly at night, when the bats are at their most spectacular. If the characters approach at night, he will attempt to kill any character who uses water against his bats in any number, or anyone who has somehow managed to kill at least one third of the main swarm without resorting to water.
The cultist has a confident personality and is generally laidback, expressing a general goodwill towards anyone who speaks to him. This easygoing personality falls away to manic fascination when on the subject of fire, and a similar manic anger if anyone is threatening his swarm, especially with water. The cultist’s starting Disposition is 35 regardless of party alignment, and he is not especially difficult to persuade to direct his fire bats to attack specific targets, although any attempts to persuade him to attack targets that are near large bodies of water (including the river) take a -10 penalty, and any attempts to persuade him to attack targets that stand a good chance of annihilating the swarm take a -30 penalty. Razing a small village and their local PDF without coming closer than maybe twenty or thirty meters to a river, pond, or lake is not going to take any penalties, however. Unless the cultist has become suspicious or hostile towards the characters for some reason, he will freely and eagerly offer up the secrets of his fire magic to anyone who asks.
Rewards: The cultist’s hut contains scribbled notes in Chaos Marks, requiring a Routine(+20) Linguistics (Chaos Marks) check to read. Anyone who succeeds on the check can read them aloud to other characters, who can then act on the information as though they had read it themselves. Anyone who’s read the notes can make a Challenging(+0) Forbidden Lore (Heresy) test or a Very Hard(-30) Scholastic Lore (Occult) test to determine how to use the fire magic themselves. In order to actually do so, the character must have the Fiery Form psyker power. A character who has succeeded on the Forbidden Lore test but does not know the appropriate power can still serve as a tutor to any other character studying the notes, granting them a +20 bonus to the check to learn the spell. The cultist himself can offer this bonus if he is aiding the characters in learning it.
A successful use of the fire sorcery allows one creature to be converted from flesh to fire. They ignite any physical object they come into direct contact with, so it’s recommended you use a flying creature if you want it to last more than ten seconds. The spell takes several minutes and a Difficult(-10) Willpower focusing test, which works in exactly the same manner as a normal focusing test. On a success, the creature is converted into pure fire and can now be commanded by the sorcerer. On a failure, the creature is consumed by the fire and dies (yes, you can use this to insta-gib anything vulnerable to fire provided you can get it to hold still for several minutes – you could also do that with a flamer).
Anyone who’s read and understood the notes, regardless of whether they have the Fiery Form power or any other psyker power, can also make an Ordinary(+10) Forbidden Lore (Heresy) test to inscribe a certain area with a ward that will prevent any creature created by this fire spell from entering it, just like the ward created by the cultist around his hut. Like that ward, it does not physically fling fiery creatures from it, just creates in them a strong aversion towards being there which causes them to seek immediate escape when within the bounds of the ward. The fire daemon from 04.09 is likewise repelled by the ward, but unlike creatures created by the fire, the fire daemon will cross the boundaries of the ward in order to retaliate against anyone attacking it, though it will flee the ward again immediately after killing its targets and will not pursue anyone who flees behind the safety of a ward provided the fleeing targets have ceased their attacks.
Finally, as mentioned in the confrontation section, the fire cultist is not so difficult to persuade to direct his bats to burn down a specific target provided it isn’t too dangerous.