Written by: James S.
An Aboleth is a mysterious and ancient aquatic aberration often encountered in fantasy tabletop role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. Prepare for a chilling encounter with this enigmatic and otherworldly entity using the "Serene Lakeside" Czepeku battlemap, and consider the following description:
- A peaceful fishing village with a mouldering secret: the Aboleth’s cult festers unseen.
- The residents of the village live an idyllic life, but curiously there are no elderly.
- Everyone knows what’s going on except the players themselves, a collective secret.
- If the players delve too deep, they will be invited to the water’s edge for a celebration.
- The invitation they receive is not a choice, and neither is the subsequent ultimatum.
You will never simply stumble upon an Aboleth in the wild. The convoluted, oceanic minds of these creatures run deep with plans, conspiracies, and desires. They hide, shrouded by mystery and by an aura of something very, very wrong lurking beneath the surface. Like a house infested with mould, you can smell that something is off, but it isn’t until you tear back the floorboards that you see the full, horrifying extent of the problem laid bare. Once it takes hold, there is only one solution: excision. Cut it out, burn it down.
Though to begin with, the problem is barely even there if you’re not looking for it.
The players receive a message: they are to investigate this village. Perhaps the villagers haven’t been paying their taxes, and they owe several months’ worth to the local Baron. Or perhaps a Duchess’s son has eloped there, renouncing his inheritance and titles. Use whatever hook you think will get the players to go there asking questions.
In the village, players find:
- Idyllic surroundings, a beautiful lake (or sea shore), soft green forests, and noble craggy cliffs.
- Many free-roaming children.
- Happy villagers with youthful vigour. They express disbelief that anyone would want to live anywhere else.
- A high priest wearing only vividly coloured seaweed walks the shoreline, staring wistfully into the distance as though listening for something.
- A church that no one visits. Rusty chains bar the door, itself festooned with ivy and cobwebs.
The villagers reveal little of their lives to the players. They deflect questions with invitations to dinner, to the summer festival, to beachside fires at sunset. Life is beautiful here, and the villagers hope to beguile the players into forgetting their mission.
The villagers eventually say they won’t be paying any more to the local Baron. They don’t see him as their legitimate liege. Players find the lost heir raising a family, free from politics and intrigue. He loves it here. “These are all the riches I need,” he might say, gesturing to his surroundings.
After a few days, the high priest will invite players to a waterside bonfire celebration to mark the Solstice or the Equinox or something plausible (it’s not really for this reason). Perhaps the priest promises to explain everything to the players then.
That night, the moon sails high upon the clouds. The villagers play music and dance and sing, they bring the bounty of the land and sea to feast upon, and they talk of a great and mysterious destiny. “You’ll see, you’ll see,” they say as they laugh and dance away in the flickering orange light.
The music builds, and drumming intensifies. The celebrations take on a suddenly serious tone, and people’s smiles turn to expressions of concentration. They whirl faster and faster until the sea itself begins dancing to the percussive rhythm. The high priest turns to the waves and raises her arms, exhorting the waters to crash upon the shore. The seas bulge and swell, and a dark form breaks the surface in a shower of spray and foam.
“Great Mother, do what you will! We are yours,” the villagers all cry, throwing themselves to the ground.
Here, the players finally encounter the Aboleth. It heaves its bulk above the waters, and in the silvered glow of the moon, its abhorrent monstrosity is revealed. A caul of mucus and human forms enfolds the creature, writhing and sliding as it labours ashore. The bodies are those of the village elders. Their long, grey hair and lanky limbs slip wisp-like around the Aboleth, forming a living shroud. Their eyes stare outwards, white and bulging. Beneath, the monster’s sinuous arms squirm, its needled teeth gnash.
A single word reverberates inside the players’ heads:
The elders reach out, hands swathed in viscous mucus. Images of beauty and a peaceful life free from woe flood the players’ heads. They can become part of the Aboleth cult and live blissfully for the rest of their mortal lives, then fuse with the creature in communion when they grow weary of the world. Or they can refuse and meet with pain and torment, a swirling, enduring agony beneath the waves. The only thing they may not do is leave.
The ‘choice’ is theirs.
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