Nanzobar, Episode 2
The Oxca River Pirates are becoming more brazen. The Baracas family taps you to run security at their gold mine in the Jungle
A one-shot adventure for 2nd-level characters. 5th Edition
This adventure is the second episode in Season Two of the Arcane Vault Assembly One-Shot Series: Nanzobar
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Jungle Gold begins in the city of Mezcala. (Learn more about Mezcala) Your player characters will have gathered in the city for their own reasons. You might suggest ways that the party knows one another or have them meet on the muggy docks or within the open bazaar in the middle of town. You can have the characters come already equipped, or you can have them interact with the local shops to purchase their starting equipment. As GM, you can determine what kind of materials and equipment are available to purchase. Although carved out of a savage wilderness, Mezcala has become a major trading port in and out of Nanzobar, so equipment of all kinds should be available. See About Nanzobar for more details about the city.
Early one morning, the party is approached by a human named Oyehaut. Frustrated and temperamental, the half-Niwati officer wakes the party wherever they are resting. Oyehaut seems ready to fly into a rage at any moment but politely speaks with the party on behalf of the Baracas family.
[If the party participated in this season’s Episode 1, “Lost Boy”, then Oyehaut mentions that the Baracas family is grateful for their previous work and needs their skills once again.]
“You adventurers have been making a name for yourselves in Mezcala, so I must beg you to accept a job from me, on behalf of the Baracas family. We need security at the gold mines, and I was told to hire people such as you.”
Oyehaut dabs his brow with a dirty handkerchief and proceeds to show the party his credentials, revealing he is the head of operations at the Greater Baracas Mine. He continues to pace and sigh as he explains further.
“Rumors have begun spreading among the guards after one of our own, a young hire named Tzira, was bound and pushed from a rocky cliff. The boy’s body was discovered yesterday morning, and two other guards have already quit because they fear they are next. This comes at a very bad time for us because Oxca river pirates have been spotted off the banks of the river. The Baracas family fears that the pirates are involved with the murder and are planning to strike the mine.”
Marius Baracas insists we need some opinions and muscle outside of our current thinking and he sent me to find you. With the camp disquieted, guards quitting left and right, and the Oxca pirates sniffing about us, the Baracas family has decided that I am —incapable of preventing a robbery.”
Oyehaut withdraws a bag of coins, offering it forward. Party members with a passive Perception of 13 or higher notice that Oyehaut has tears in his eyes, seemingly exceptionally angry. If anyone in the party makes a DC 19 Wisdom (Insight) check, they suspect that the tears do not come from shame or embarrassment but that the tears come instead from a deep place of both sadness and anger.
If and when the party accepts the job, they will find 250 gold in the bag and furthermore, Oyehaut promises that the Baracas family will provide another reward if any attempt at a robbery is squashed.
Oyehaut urges the group to hurry. If they accept the job, they need to leave for the mine as soon as possible. When prepared to leave, Oyehaut leads the party out of Mezcala, traveling 10 miles up the peninsula along a muddy, deeply rutted road.
Within three days of the party’s arrival at the mine, the Oxca river pirates plan to attack the mine. The pirates have been informed that the wagons will be near full of refined ore and rough gemstones. The Oxcans have plans to attack a few hours before dawn, while still under the cover of darkness. The pirates know that by that time, the wagons will be near full of refined ore and uncut gem stones--easy to roll down the hill and take to their steam barge.
When they arrive at the mine, Oyehaut provides the characters with a copy of a map of the mine encampment. Oyehaut and his Niwati junior officer, Chama, both explain the layout of the mine and answer any questions about the movement of guards and security measures. Additionally, Oyehaut explains that the Baracas family has approved any guard movement or security changes that the party decides or deems necessary.
Though it seems the party has been given full authority to prevent a robbery, Chama, the middle-aged Niwati officer, follows the party around and keeps them from leaving. If the party wants more materials or resources, Chama will attempt to provide a cheap solution from resources already on site, but he admits that with so much to lose, the Baracas family has asked that the party remain on the property until things blow over.
Chama explains that the party already has bunks provided for them and they will have three meals a day for them at the mess tent.
“You may feel like prisoners here, but you must understand that all of us hires have been told not to leave for the time being. Miners that aren’t willing to stay in the dormitory have been put on temporary leave. All of us are stuck here for the time being. Both Oyehaut and I think there is a possibility that the Oxca have put spies among those that work here. Any changes you make should be secret, disrupting any plans the Oxca may already have. Once we repel or frustrate their plans, we will return our operations to normal and you can return to the city.”
The Greater Baracas Mine, as implied, is one of the larger mines operated by the Baracas family. Known for its large gold cavernous veins and beautiful garnets, this mine may be the most important land asset of the Baracas clan.
The gold is refined on site by laborers under the careful supervision of two dwarven specialists. After refining, the ore (and uncut garnets) are brought to a magical assayer and then crated and stacked on a set of wagons. At the end of the week, the wagons are escorted to town to be sold and distributed.
The main entrance to the mine encampment. Heavy pine gates swing from thick stone walls. The doors can be barred from the inside using multiple planks of wood. The stone walls are 10 feet tall.
2. Engineer’s Gate
A large gate opens to a road that leads down to a small calm bay. The bay once held a pier, but it was deconstructed after the mine was fully operational. The Engineers gate is sealed shut only by a tightly knotted mass of rope and a small chain and padlock.
These long pavilions protect anvils, tools, and chemical vats, as well as provide shade to the hirelings that toil under here on the saturated jungle floor. During both morning and sunset, hot fires burn to assist in refining gold. The conditions here are unbearable for more than a few hours. Gazni and Janmuir, two hill dwarves, carefully oversee the refining process.
At the end of the procession, a wide personal tent offers comfort and a shaded workstation for Berinda, the magical assayer. Berinda uses minor divination spells to determine the gold’s purity before she marks, labels, and fills crates. At the end of the night, she has the gold and garnets loaded into the stablesafe and then locks up.
Directly next to the refinery vats, a steel-enforced stable protects the wagons. Only Oyehaut and Berinda hold keys to the locked doors, though an additional key can be found in the armory. There are a few livestock stalls filled with rain barrels. No oxen currently live here as it has become cheaper and more efficient to march the oxen from the city with fresh empty wagons before exchanging wagons and returning with the riches.
6. Guard Tower
Raised above the stone walls and low vegetation, the guard tower can only be accessed via a ladder. Usually, two guards watch from this point at all times. The tower offers views of the bay, both mine entrances, and the roads. The tower is 15 feet tall.
This wide building is raised and supported above the muddy ground. There are 40 small bunks with poor padding, several cots, and dozens of threadbare hammocks. The Niwati hirelings sleep here most nights, to enforce diligence. Night shift guards sleep here during the day. A separate door leads to an office and a small locked armory. The armory contains 3 crossbows, 2 shortswords, 26 crossbow bolts, and a rapier.
8. Mess Tent
A large tent full of wooden tables and stools stuck in a field of trodden mud. Part of the tent covers the kitchen for food prep, but the fires and ovens remain just outside.
9. Flooded Entrance
This vine-covered entrance was once the original opening to the mine until the main shaft flooded 2 years ago. The new tunnel was quickly dug to reach the original cavernous gold vein. Moving between the vein and the flooded entrance requires a creature to wade through twenty paces of 4 ft deep water and other shallower areas. Much of the old mine has been filled with excess stone; the useless stone covers numerous tunnels, and the entire area of the old mine is difficult terrain.
The main entrance to the mine, a small labyrinth of gold ore and garnets. Damp wooden beams keep the rock from collapsing into the tunnels.
Wet rocky cliffs and steep slippery inclines protect the encampment from the North. The mine lies 30 feet below the lowest of the outcroppings. Foliage hangs from the cliffs, dripping with moisture and light runoff.
12. Cheval de frise
Rows of sharpened bamboo spikes are set against the jungle in this area. Climbing the spiked obstacle requires a DC 15 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. On a fail, a creature can choose to clear the row of fencing but takes 1d6 piercing damage as they climb over.
Here is a list of notable employees at the Greater Baracas Mine. As the party explores and reorganizes the security at the mine, eats meals, sleeps in the dormitory, and goes about their general business, you should briefly introduce each of these characters. If the player characters don’t seem interested in interrogating, asking about, or interacting with any of the following workers, you can have Chama provide details about the situation in camp:
“Generally, I like everyone here, but ever since poor Tzira was pushed from that cliff during his shift,” Chama gestures up at the overgrown cliff above the mine, “Oyehaut and I really think there are Oxca spies here. Since you’ve now met everyone, did any of them seem odd to you or stand out?”
Berinda is an upstanding and loyal half-elf woman, copper-skinned and tanned by the sun. She is a second cousin of Marius Baracas, and knows the clan well; she willingly took the job as an assayer and enjoys the work. She is scientific in nature and prefers to be alone, spending most of her time reading and studying her geological collections. Unprepared for a raid, she will hide if she gets caught in a fight.
Berinda has no helpful ideas about the security of the mine, but she demands that the party keep her and the operation safe. She holds one key to the stablesafe, wearing it around her neck.
Chama is the diligent Niwati halfling who has been assigned to follow and watch the party. He reports directly to Oyehaut, and will need to get permission from the superior officer if the party decides to make any drastic changes. Chama is willing to talk about the workers at the mine but is fairly positive and optimistic about everyone. He sees the good in everyone first, though he will admit that the foreman and his miners are foul-mouthed and often take their pranks too far.
A rough and weathered Niwati human, Jukua is a well-trained foreman who works full time in the mine, often spending more time on the job than anyone else at the mine. He responsibly ensures safe tunneling, inspecting beams and walls, noting ore locations, and testing air quality. He spends his free time playing pranks and being rowdy. He hazes new employees with a few of his buddies, Ciro and Sbakiti. His past rituals have included locking new hires in chains overnight in the shallow waters of the flooded tunnels, pouring buckets of snakes onto sleeping new hires, and forcing new hires to dig their uniforms out of several square feet of mud and then wear it all day.
Usually talkative and brash, Jukua is unnecessarily quiet. If pushed with a very persuasive DC 18 or higher Charisma check, he will break down and admit that he is grateful that Oyehaut blamed the pirates for Tzira’s death, but the young man actually died in a hazing accident.
Although Tzira has passed away, the young guard plays an important role. Tzira, the nephew of Oyehaut, was a Niwati human who took the security job arranged by his uncle. After working one day, the miners who live part-time at the mine told him he had to go through proper initiation.
With Jukua taking the lead, hazing the new hires often gets dangerous. Tzira was pulled from his patrol, tied up and gagged at the top of the cliff, and told to wait there until dawn to complete his ritual. Tzira’s death was an accident due to Jukua’s irresponsible recklessness.
Cam is a Niwati goblin, who constantly complains about his job. He does laundry, commands a few other cooks, and maintains the tents. He is very bossy and the party is likely to run into him all across the mine encampment. If provoked, he will talk the party’s ear off: about the invasive colonization of the area, steam barges, dangerous mine gas, Jukua’s hazing rituals, the short labor at the mine, the smell of the chemical baths, and more.
6. Gazni and Janmuir
Gazni and her husband, Janmuir, are specialists hired and shipped here years ago to oversee the ore refining process. Gazni is friendly and loves the chemistry of cleaning and purifying ore, Janmuir is more reserved and prefers a hammer. Both specialist dwarves are from far away and are really excited to learn all about the outside world from the traveling characters. If interrogated or accused, both will laugh and say that piracy is not for them; they say if anyone is a spy here, it would be that annoying goblin, Cam.
Oyehaut is an experienced officer originally trained as a bodyguard. He has volatile emotional shifts, and the other hired workers avoid him because of his outbursts.
Tzira was Oyehaut’s nephew. Oyehaut knows that the foreman, Jukua, and a few other miners killed his nephew during a hazing ritual. Taking advantage of the stolen map and pirates circling nearby, Oyehaut reached out to the Oxca pirates. He promised an easy escape and unlocked stablesafe in exchange for one thing: that the pirates kill Jukua, the foreman, before the robbers leave with their payday.
Oyehaut and Chama are willing to change shifts and organize security to the party’s whims, as long as the player characters participate in the rotation of the security patrols.
Since the mine has become undermanned, two guards watch from the guard tower at all times, armed with crossbows. During the day, two more guards patrol the perimeter. All the Niwati guards are armed with a shortsword. Four guards sleep during the daytime to replace the tower guards and the perimeter guards. Oyehaut recommends the patrol not to be changed, as it has always worked, but says that if it were up to him, the party should take the day shift and leave his “more-experienced” guards to the night patrols.
Oyehaut and Chama both have keys to the small armory (Location 7), but only Oyehaut and Berinda have keys to the heavy padlocks on the stablesafe. One spare key to the stablesafe and one to the padlock on the engineer's gate hang inside the armory. If the wagons full of gold and gems are to be stolen, someone would have to unlock the heavy padlocks. The front entrance is barred with heavy planks, and the back gate is locked with some messy knots and a small padlock on a chain.
The robbery of the mine’s stablehouse (and the murder of Jukua), begins just a few hours before dawn, two days after the party arrives. The party should have had at least a day and a half of preparation before the pirates make a move. Unless the player characters have changed much, the encampment will be dark and quiet when the bandits arrive.
Paces of the Spy:
Before midnight, Oyehaut makes a false patrol and unlocks the stablesafe while staying out of sight. If any of the party is part of the night patrol and near the stablesafe at this time, Oyehaut will double back and try again after midnight. Player characters patrolling near the stable safe must make a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check to see Oyehaut creeping about. If stopped before unlocking the heavy locks, he claims he is too nervous to sleep and is out as an extra set of eyes for the watch. If he is caught unlocking the stablesafe, he will insist that he saw someone go inside, though a DC 15 Wisdom (Insight) check reveals he is lying. If confronted violently, Oyehaut will defend himself and use his last words to curse Jukua.
After Oyehaut is sure the stablesafe is unlocked (or dissuaded from unlocking it by a vigilant patrol), Oyehaut will find where Jukua is sleeping in the dormitory and mark yellow chalk near the sleeping man’s head.
Before the robbers arrive, Oyehaut will attempt to dismiss both guards at the top of the tower and tell them that he can handle the watch himself for the rest of the night. If anyone in the party is guarding the tower, Oyehaut will thank them and tell them to get rest. If they refuse to budge from the watch, Oyehaut will throw his hands, exasperated, and go close himself in the office at the dormitory.
The Oxca pirates silence their steam-driven barge a few hundred feet outside the bay below. Tiazo, the bandit captain, silently drifts the barge into the bay; he stays aboard while the others go out to seize the treasure and murder Jukua. The pirates are guided to the mine by Ka Ketzeni, a druid who channels Vaeya jungle magic. He commands the raiding team of 4 River Pirates, 2 lizardfolk and 4 flying Kirballi goblins.
Ka Ketzeni, 2 lizardfolk, and 4 human river pirates sneak up the bay path to the Engineer’s Gate. Four kirballi fly up to the cliffs overlooking the camp. If everything goes to plan, the following events happen in order:
Ka Ketzeni uses the spell pass without trace on the group of bandits as they move up the winding path, to spot the shadowed approaching party from the camp or the guard tower, the player character must make DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) check.
When Ka Ketzeni and the others reach the Engineer’s Gate, he will pause and wait for a signal from the kirballi. The two lizardfolk behind her carry a heavy wooden yoke.
When the coast is clear, two of the kirballi glide down to the dormitory and stealthily land on the roof. Player characters who are on the tower or within sight can make a Wisdom (Perception) roll against the Stealth roll of the goblins. Characters without darkvision roll the wisdom check at disadvantage due to the darkness. The other two kirballi glide down to the stablesafe doors nearest the Engineer’s Gate and test the locks. The two kirballi on the ground have pouches that are packed with lock-picking sets, harnesses, and chain fasteners.
If Oyehaut was unsuccessful and the stablesafe is locked, they signal a negative hand semaphore to the other two kirballi on top of the dormitory, and begin making Sleight of Hand checks with lock-picking tools; they make a new check to pick the lock every minute to unlock the DC 20 locks. Together, regardless of an alarm is raised or not, it takes them a maximum of 1 minute (10 rounds) to unlock the stablesafe if they don’t get a key. The kirballi on top of the dormitory understand the signal and will sneak into Berinda’s tent, to steal her key to speed up the unlocking process.
If (and only if) Oyehaut was successful in unlocking the stablesafe, they signal an affirming hand semaphore to the other two kirballi on top of the dormitory. The kirballi on the dormitory roof will sneak down to the back door of the dormitory and will silently find the yellow chalk-marked bunk and try to assassinate Jukua.
When the stablesafe is open, the kirballi on the ground open the doors to the wagons and begin attaching the harnesses to the wagons, and chain the two wagons together. One of the two kirballi signals to the Engineer’s Gate.
Ka Ketzeni uses his wild shape power to transform into a hippopotamus. He bursts through the Engineer’s Gate with his strength, and moves across the yard to the stablesafe so the kirballi and lizardfolk can hitch the yoke to the wagons and then to her. While a hippopotamus, Ka Ketzeni has the strength to pull both wagons down the hill to the waiting barge. The remaining bandits protect the wagons at all costs.
If an alarm is raised or something changes the plans, the pirates continue to stick to the plan as much as possible. The pirates only retreat without the gold if Ka Ketzeni is killed. Ka Ketzeni saves one use of his wild shape to change into a monkey if he needs to escape back to the barge. Tiazo and Ka Ketzeni are willing to leave the other pirates in order to save their own skins.
Once the robbery is prevented, the party is free to return to Mezcala. If too many guards were killed in the defense of the mine, the mine shuts down until more guards can be hired. Hazal Baracas, the oldest son of the esteemed Marius Baracas, personally visits the party wherever they are staying and gives them his thanks, and gives each of them a silver brooch medal and a small gold bar, both engraved with the Baracas family crest. If sold, the brooch fetches 15 gold pieces and the gold bar is worth 100gp.
“I really do hope you were paid enough for your hard work. My father, especially, values you and all you have done. You saved our clan a fortune.”
If the party discovered Oyehuat’s deception and pieced together the death of his nephew, Oyehaut may be arrested and prosecuted by the Baracas family.
If the robbery was successful and the Oxca pirates made off with the ore and gems, all the guards and the player characters are fired. The Baracas family denounces the party and everyone involved, who “allowed this robbery to happen”. If Oyehaut’s deception was discovered, they arrest Oyehaut (if he survives) and the party may find out that the Baracas clan harasses Oyehaut’s remaining family to pay off a lifelong debt on behalf of the missing gold.