Hump Day Hazard: Cadaver Gas
If the gods and the mortals that worship them had their wish, each and every one of the deceased would receive a proper burial. None would be left to decompose, face down, in sloughing mud or shifting sands. None would have their naked limbs picked at by the myriad scavengers and ghouls that roam the barrows just beyond the castle walls.
None would slip through the gates of the Netherworld forgotten, dishonored, or unchristened.
Sadly, this is not the case.
Cadavers that are not embalmed or preserved undergo a grotesque transformation as the processes that once sustained life slow to a halt. Among the most outwardly unnerving of death’s ravages, often recalled with a chill by veteran warriors, is the bloating of a corpse: the result of a buildup of noxious fumes within the decaying body…
Occurring mere days after a creature’s death, the gas is a sickening composite of sulphur, visceral fluid, and congealed, fermented blood. Catalyzed by the bacteria that dwell in the creature’s innards, the gas wells up, pushing the blackened organs against the skin and out of the body through any route. The immense pressure causes the corpse to bloat, and through small lacerations, the body begins to leak clotted bile, bodily waste, and stagnant blood. After a few hours or days, depending on conditions, the gas escapes the body, and the process of decomposition marches inexorably onward.
This gaseous buildup is little more than nauseating in humans and demi-humans. However, magic, alien physiologies, and elemental energy cause the gas in many monsters to take on fantastic properties that prove dangerous to dungeoneers should the bloated corpse be punctured by a misjudged crossbow bolt or the wild swing of a sword. This hazard is referred to as cadaver gas.
Cadaver Gas (Level Variable Minion Lurker)
Hazard (XP Variable)
A stray arrow pierces the belly of the slain creature, causing a plume of noxious corpse gas to erupt from the wound.
The decomposing recent corpse of a monster you choose bloats from gasses that build up inside of it. The gas bursts out from the cadaver if punctured by an attack. The hazard occupies a 1-by-1 square area if the monster is Small or Medium, a 2-by-2 square area if it is Large or Huge, or a 3-by-3 area if it is Gargantuan.
No check is needed to notice the bloated corpse
Additional Skill (Heal)
DC 10 + 1/2 level—You understand that the corpse is filled with necrotic gas that may be harmful if suddenly released
Additional Skill (Arcana, Dungeoneering, Nature, or Religion)
DC 15 + 1/2 level—You recognize the effects of the hazard (the skill for this check depends on the knowledge skill associated with the monster used for this hazard)
Trigger When a melee or ranged attack misses a target adjacent to this hazard, it activates; the hazard is also triggered if it is included in a blast or burst
No Action Close burst 1 (small, medium), burst 2 (large, huge), burst 3 (gargantuan)
Targets Creatures in burst
Attack Level + 1 vs. Fortitude
Hit The target suffers an effect based on the monster used for the hazard. Sample monsters and their effects are listed below:
- Aboleths exude a choking miasma of grimy vapor; the target is silenced (save ends); Third Failed Save—The target drowns
- Angels radiate a scintillating cloud of glowing mist; the target gains resist 5 necrotic per tier and is blinded and dazed (save ends all)
- Balors explode in a cloud of fiery ash flecked with lightning; the target takes limited medium fire and lightning damage by level and is knocked prone
- Griffons emanate a ruddy cloud of bone dust and partially digested carrion that fills living creatures with the urge to consume dead flesh; the target is dazed, and each turn it must either move toward the nearest unconscious creature or make a coup de grace attempt against an adjacent unconscious creature, if able (save ends)
- Krakens spray a cloud of blistering, oily steam that reeks of the sea; the target takes normal high acid damage by level and is immobilized (save ends); First Failed Save—The target is immoblized and gains vulnerable 5 acid and vulnerable 5 fire/tier (save ends both)
- Medusas release a grey cloud of musty gas that sickens living creatures before turning them to stone; the target is weakened (save ends); First Failed Save—The target is weakened and slowed (save ends both); Second Failed Save—The target is weakened and immobilized (save ends both); Third Failed Save—The target is petrified (no save)
- Otyughs leak a yellow vapor that drips with an offensive stench; the target is pushed 3 squares and may not move closer to the hazard (save ends)
- Purple Worms shoot forth a plume of bile that dissolves flesh; the target takes ongoing 10 acid damage/tier (save ends)
- Rust Monsters send forth a cloud of metallic flakes that corrodes metal; the target takes a -1 penalty/tier to AC if wearing metal armor and a -1 penalty/tier to attack and damage rolls if wielding a metal weapon (save ends); First Failed Save—The penalty increases to -2/tier (save ends); Second Failed Save—The penalty increases to -4/tier (save ends); Third Failed Save—All metal weapons and armor the target has currently equipped are destroyed and converted to an amount of residuum equal to 80% the market value of the items
- Sphinxes are enveloped in a swirling, sandy mist that causes amnesia in living creatures, as if their memories and proficiencies had been shrouded in mystery; the target may not use daily powers and takes -2 penalty to attack rolls/tier while wielding a weapon or implement with which the target is proficient (save ends)
- Succubae give off an intoxicating cloud of pheromones that drive living creatures to uncontrollable lust, even in the midst of peril; the living humanoid creature nearest to the target when the hazard attacks is marked by the target, even if it is an ally (save ends); First Failed Save—The target is dazed, and the creature continues to be marked (save ends both); Second Failed Save—The target is stunned, and the creature continues to be marked (save ends both); Third Failed Save—The target is dazed and can take no actions other than following the creature and seducing it, regardless of the creature’s disposition or actions, including attacking the target (no save); Note—If the creature dies or is separated from the target by a distance of more than 600 miles, or if Remove Affliction is cast on the target, the effect ends; completely submerging the target in frigid water for 3 minutes also ends the effect
- Wyverns bleed forth an ochre cloud of pestilent, clingy mist that attracts insects and other vermin; the target gains vulnerable 5 swarms/tier until it takes a short rest bathing with soap and hot water
Effect The hazard dissipates
◊ Adjacent to the hazard, you can neutralize it with a DC 15 + 1/2 hazard level Heal check (if this check fails by 5 or more, the hazard is triggered)
◊ Dealing any amount of damage to the hazard triggers it, after which it is destroyed (AC and Reflex of 7 + 1/2 hazard level)
The GM is encouraged to create variants of the cadaver gas hazard using monsters not listed here.
Ecology and Tactics
Because this hazard has such a limited life—a few hours to a few days, at most—it is rarely exploited by dungeon lords. Most creatures instinctively avoid corpses filled with cadaver gas, though carrion crawlers appear drawn to it.
Rakshasas are rumored to collect cadaver gas when able, trapping the noxious vapor in enchanted leather pouches to inhale later during inscrutable rituals.
- A succubus is slain by a witch hunter while giving birth to a human child. Though the succubus’s medusa midwives petrified the witch hunter in the end, he first managed to defeat two of them.
- A clutch of kuo-toa worship a dead kraken swept into one of their temples, believing the creature to be a god that will rise again to lead them.
- A recent battle between a flock of angels and a legion of balors leaves a swath of barren, scorched clay and bloating corpses in its wake. A dracolich haunts the scene, looking to raise the fallen as servitors.
Level 9 Encounter (XP 1,950)
- 2 cadaver gas (medusa) (level 10 minion lurker)
- cadaver gas (succubus) (level 9 minion lurker)
- elite glyph of warding (level 7 elite warder; Dungeon Master’s Guide)
- medusa archer (level 10 elite controller; Monster Manual)
Level 16 Encounter (XP 6,900)
- cadaver gas (kraken) (level 16 minion lurker)
- 6 kuo-toa guard (level 16 minion; Monster Manual)
- 2 kuo-toa harpooner (level 14 solider; Monster Manual)
- kuo-toa monitor (level 16 skirmisher; Monster Manual)
- kuo-toa whip (level 16 controller leader; Monster Manual)
Level 27 Encounter (XP 54,500)
- blackfire dracolich (level 23 solo controller; Monster Manual)
- 6 cadaver gas (angel) (level 27 minion lurker)
- 6 cadaver gas (balor) (level 27 minion lurker)
- dread wraith (level 25 lurker; Monster Manual)