Jungles can be treacherous for the unwary, as many monsters and other denizens lurk deep in the shadows. Jungle encounter ideas are plentiful within the dark woods — each offering different challenges for the adventurers. While we’re riding high off of learning about encounters in TTRPGs, let’s put some of that advice into practice. Today, we’re exploring the Olto caldera and discovering the secrets and dangers hidden within the mist.
“Mist flows between the trees and pools in pockets formed by raised roots. The air is hot and sticky, and smells of earthy vegetation. All is quiet around you, save a lone bird calling in the distance. It’s been three days since your group entered the jungle, but it feels as though nature itself slows your progress. The ranger Hildegard leads from the front, slightly visible beyond the fog.
Snapping branches to the left draw your attention away for a split second, and when your eyes return to the front Hildegard is gone. Another snap, to the right. Gilbert the cleric gasps and is pulled bodily into the mist before he can scream. Fierce Silverwing draws her battleaxe and shouts a challenge as you ready your crossbow. The mist swells around your knees, and Silverwing’s shouts are silenced as she is dragged to the ground out of sight. You now stand alone as the mist swirls around your waist. Branches snap directly behind you, and all you can do is run.”
Sheer cliff tops and unusually heavy winds prevent all but the brave or foolish from descending into the Olto caldera. Climbing gear is a necessity to reach the floor, but vertigo isn’t the only danger. A harpy clan resides on the northeastern face of the cliff, harassing any who attempt to scale the rocky walls.
Scaling the cliff walls
The cliffs surrounding the caldera descend roughly 500 ft. to the jungle floor. With light searching, it takes little time to find a secure anchor for climbing gear. Climbing down without gear is possible, but most consider this suicidal. Once the adventurers are ready to proceed, each participating creature must make three DC 13 Strength (Athletics) checks. Each successful check allows the creature to descend a third of the way down over the course of an hour. Failure causes a creature to plummet 25 ft. and sustain 1d8 bludgeoning damage as they collide with the cliff wall. After the second successful check, 4-7 harpies descend upon the climbers and attack.
They initially attack the climbers, but if warded off, they will try to cut the ropes. Any creature with a cut rope plummets 100 ft. to the jungle floor below and suffers 10d6 bludgeoning damage. Adventurers may move their climbing speed up to 25 ft. either up or down before needing to use an action to secure a new anchor piton.
A large rock formation juts out of the natural lake filled by a waterfall that pours into the caldera. Just below the waterline hides a claustrophobic cave system that winds throughout the foundation, filled with all manner of dangers. Most notable are an entire colony of combative frog-like humanoids known as grungs. This colony is over one hundred members strong, and its warriors patrol the nearby lake and jungle. These creatures give no quarter to intruders, but will capture prisoners to bring back to air-filled chambers within the cave. Any who are able to communicate with the grung have a difficult negotiation before them, as the grung are eager to take slaves to expand the caves.
Grungs use their natural body secretions as poisons for all manner of purposes, but poison from the ruling class allows outsiders to understand the grung language. The sovereign grung, known as “Hop-ip an frolf dur-ugh mar zoog”, delights in extended conversations to learn more about life outside of the caldera. Persuasive characters can use this to their advantage to try and gain their freedom by exchanging information, but due to the poisons, any ability checks to interact socially is made with disadvantage. Adventurers need to succeed at two DC 14 Charisma (Persuasion) checks to leave the cave unharmed.
Trekking through the jungle unprepared is a fool’s errand, as the inhabitants prey upon easy targets. Intelligent predators use the limited sight provided by the dense trees to lure targets into ambush zones or deadly natural traps before they strike.
Trolls in the mist
One of the most unusual predators hiding in the jungle is the Olto jungle trolls. These trolls have adapted to the wooded environment by forming a slick, translucent film over their skin. This film allows them to blend in with the environment despite their size. Olto trolls use this advantage to hide near natural hazards, such as quicksand or areas of heavy mist. Small groups of these giantkin travel and work together to hunt their quarry.
Olto Trolls gain +3 to Stealth checks and the ability “Chameleon Skin. The troll has advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks made to hide.”
This massive 600 ft. tall carved stone statue sits above the tree line and peeks over the cliff walls. The statue itself is unnaturally smooth, as if the stone never felt the chisel. Nestled between the colossal legs of the statue hides an entrance made of the same stone that leads deep underground. Two to three trained manticore nest within the statue’s limbs, and attack any who approach the statue.
Smooth stone stairs descend floor after floor of unremarkable 30 ft. diameter box-like rooms and heavy stone doors. The current inhabitant, known only as “The Prophet” (neutral evil human female Archmage), enchanted the stairwell to trap those who tread upon them without permission. Creatures caught in the trap soon realize they are stuck, as they can neither descend or backtrack: they simply return to another similar box-like room. Spells like dispel magic does nothing to halt the enchantment, nor do spells like teleport allow the user to escape. Fortunately, the Prophet left a method to escape from the room.
Searching the stone walls for hidden features requires a DC 13 Intelligence (Investigation) check to succeed, revealing a 1-foot diameter, 5 pound square stone to pull free from the wall. Behind the stone is a hole big enough to fit an arm and a handle within it. Any creatures who insert their arm and grasp the handle become stuck in place. Optionally, creatures held in place can be freed with a DC 15 Strength (Athletics) check or by casting dispel magic. However, to break the enchantment, creatures must find the loose stone and grasp the handle in three separate rooms. Once this happens, all creatures within the trap teleport into the same room, with one door leading to the actual dungeon, and the other leading up outside.
There are scores of ways to challenge your players, and I hope this post inspires some devious jungle encounter ideas! Feel free to share your encounters in the comments below or on our social media.
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