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    Postfest XIII(Brewfest 2009):Bubbagump Grumblefoot– The Halfling Horror Part I
    Posted on Thu, January 07, 2010 by LordCeb
    bubbagump writes "There is a deadly and horrifying evil lurking beneath the city of Greyhawk…no, wait, that’s just a halfling. How dangerous can he be?

    Postfest XIII (Brewfest 2009): Bubbagump Grumblefoot – The Halfling Horror, Part I

    (CE male pseudonatural halfling cleric of Tharizdun 14/rogue 5/assassin 9)

    Once a simple halfling farmer living near Narwell on the Wild Coast, Bubbagump Grumblefoot stumbled into his current career quite by accident. In the Spring of 573 CY, on a trip into town to gather a few supplies and perhaps down a pint or two at the local inn, Bubbagump happened to meet an adventuring party that had apparently just completed a successful mission. Fascinated by their tales of danger and derring-do, he stayed listening for hours, inadvertently drinking far too much. He woke up in the local jail with them, his head pounding and filled with half-remembered images of revelry and drunkenness.

    Fortunately for him the adventurers were sensitive to his plight and paid the fine he had incurred for public intoxication out of their own pockets. Upon hearing his description of what his shrewish wife Verma would do to him when he returned home, one of the adventurers gave him a small trinket from the treasures they had accumulated, suggesting it might quiet her. The trinket, a small statue resembling a grotesque human-like figure composed entirely of horrified demonic faces, appeared to be very old and of little value, but Bubbagump thought perhaps he could talk his sharp-tongued wife into believing it was valuable and thereby turn aside her anger.
    Unbeknownst to the poor halfling farmer, the statue was dedicated to Tharizdun and carried a potent curse. The morning after his return home he awoke with whispers in his head, darkness in his heart, and blood on his mind, fully in the thrall of the Lord of Entropy. He immediately left home to follow the voices, leaving a stunned and surprised wife without a look behind.

    In spite of his newfound madness, Bubbagump retained enough of his wits to realize that a lone halfling traveling unarmed along the Wild Coast would be easy pickings for bandits or monsters, and so he nearly killed his trusty plow pony trying to catch up with the adventurers who had saved him from incarceration. He finally caught up with them in a small village south of Sobanwych and begged for the chance to serve as their henchman, creating a tale of having been thrown out of his house by his enraged wife to provoke their sympathies. The good-natured party agreed to take him on as a hireling provided he would look after their mounts and equipment and keep out of the way as they pursued their vocation.
    Summer of 574 CY found the group in the village of Hommlet following rumors of a hidden treasure cache left behind when the Temple of Elemental Evil was sacked after the Battle of Emridy Meadows. After a brief investigation the party instead discovered the Temple was in the process of rebuilding . They took heavy losses, and only two (in addition to Bubbagump) escaped alive, hoping to inform local authorities of the danger.
    The voice in Bubbagump’s head must have seen this as a rare opportunity, for during the party’s headlong flight from the Temple it began to urge him to take advantage of the situation. He eagerly accepted the call, murdering the surviving rogue when he stopped to catch his breath. The party’s other surviving member, a mage, had exhausted his spells in battling the Temple’s guardians and could do little to resist Bubbagump’s attack. Heavily wounded already, he opted to feign death instead of fight, and this likely saved his life . Bubbagump collected his former companions’ equipment – especially their magical equipment – and fled toward Hommlet.
    Upon approaching Hommlet he stashed his new-found wealth in a hollow tree and concocted a tale of bandit attack to explain the absence of his friends. The sympathetic villagers accepted him into their midst, even taking up a collection to provide for his room and board until he could find proper employment. Bubbagump accepted their hospitality with apparent gratitude and settled down in the Inn of the Welcome Wench to salve his wounds and plot his next move.
    It was during this brief respite that the voice of the Dark One once again prompted him to take action. At midnight following his second day in Hommlet the voice led him to a ruined moat house a few miles outside the village. Some divine protection must have been in effect, for he was able to pass within arm’s reach of a number of dangers during his trek without coming to harm. A curious intuition led him to a secret door beneath the moat house, and this in turn led him to a strange dark obelisk that stood in a long-forgotten chamber .

    Sensing he was finally in the presence of his new-found master, Bubbagump set up camp in the chamber, meditating upon the obelisk and the secrets it contained and sinking deeper and deeper into madness. The curious protection that had guarded him when he first approached the moat house remained upon him, and for some months he was able to live unnoticed in the obelisk chamber even as the forces of Elemental Evil moved into the dungeons above him. He learned much dark lore during this time, and his skills grew considerably.
    As 574 CY drew to a close, Bubbagump’s solitude was finally ended when he received a visitor in his hidden chamber. A mysterious wizard, locally known only as the Black Sorcerer of Verbobonc and himself a servant of Tharizdun, entered the chamber to inform Bubbagump that it was time to take a more active role in the worship of the Lord of Entropy. The Black Sorcerer was to escort Bubbagump to a hidden enclave of Tharizdunite druids based in a secret valley deep in the Welkwood.
    For three years Bubbagump served the dark druids in their hidden lair. The first year was the most unpleasant, for though the voice in his mind had assured him that he was a chosen vessel, many among the dark druids saw him as little more than a nuisance and he was bullied without mercy. Taken aback by the unexpected treatment, Bubbagump allowed this to continue for a while out of the naïve assumption that his divine patron was trying to teach him something. His insanity soon won out, however, and following a particularly brutal exchange with one of the druids’ senior members he lapsed into a murderous rage and executed nineteen members of the community.

    While such a rampage would have earned him immediate hanging in any other community, Bubbagump’s bloody actions proved to be a blessing inasmuch as his superiors began to view him in a different light. The leader of the dark druids recognized his talents, and rather than punishing the deadly halfling he began to find more appropriate uses for the homicidal halfling’s lethal skills. For the final two years of his time with the dark druids Bubbagump was able to divide his time between eliminating the enemies of the cult and being instructed in the deeper mysteries of his faith. It was during this time that he took his first vows, officially becoming a cleric of Tharizdun.
    But his time among the dark druids was fated to end, for as Bubbagump’s skills and favor with the cult’s leadership grew so did the envy of his rivals. Jealous of his success, a number of his fellow initiates conspired to undermine his position, planting evidence in his rooms and whispering lies into the ears of his superiors. This time it was his growing reputation as a deadly killer that saved him, for his superiors were loathe to move against him directly. Fearing they might be slain in their beds if they tried anything overt, they instead hit upon the idea of promoting him to service elsewhere. Thus, in 577 CY Bubbagump was sent to train at the Temple of All-Consumption in the Lortmil Mountains to the west. It was only later that the dark druids discovered he had already looted their most valuable and powerful treasures and was indeed planning to assassinate them.
    Bubbagump’s training at the Temple of All-Consumption progressed in the expected manner, and he rose steadily through the ranks. His unassuming appearance and halfling heritage proved useful to his superiors, as it allowed him to move unnoticed among the towns and villages of Verbobonc. He soon became the Temple’s foremost agent in the area, which proved a blessing as it kept him out of the deadly political maneuvering that was going on back in the Temple. Since he was so often traveling, his rivals assumed he was uninvolved in such machinations and delayed any actions against him. As for Bubbagump himself, he was content to remember the names of those who stood in his way, saving his revenge for a more appropriate time. His limited time within the Temple’s walls was spent following the guidance of the voice in his head, studying, and perfecting his skills in preparation for a time when they would be needed.
    That time came in Fireseek of 583 CY, just before the Spring thaw opened the mountain roads to travel. Led by a vision, Bubbagump undertook to raid the hoarded treasury of Hedrack , the deposed leader of the Temple of Elemental Evil and now a rising star in the Temple of All-Consumption. One item in particular, a confusing book of seemingly random thoughts penned centuries earlier by a prophet of the Dark God known only as Vax, proved to be especially enlightening. Within its pages Bubbagump learned of an artifact known as the Minthexian Codex, also called the Book of Nine Shadows by some, supposedly the closest thing to a Tharizdunite holy text in existence . Less than a week later, prompted by the same spirit that had inspired Vax, Bubbagump gathered his equipment and left to find the Codex. As had become his pattern, he left several bodies in his wake.
    His search led him northward to the city of Molag, capital of the humanoid Horned Society. It is a testament to Bubbagump’s skill and wit that he was able to survive among the humanoid hordes of that land, much less to attain the capital. Guided by his inner voice to seek out a hierarch named Durgoth Shem , Bubbagump was nonetheless surprised to find Molag in an uproar, as his arrival occurred mere hours after a successful coup perpetrated by none other than Iuz himself . Bubbagump was forced to flee the city for his life, nearly exhausting his supply of magic and losing much of his accumulated wealth in the process.
    The following months proved a test of Bubbagump’s faith. Following his flight from Molag the voice of the Dark God fell silent, leaving him without guidance or direction. Fearing he had somehow offended his divine master, Bubbagump drifted aimlessly, moving ever southeastward almost without thought, desperate for a means of once more achieving his god’s approval . He survived by random murder and theft, at times even sinking so low as to eat his victims.

    And so it was a particularly bedraggled and demoralized Bubbagump that finally stumbled into the city of Rel Mord in 587 CY. For some months he lived as a beggar in the back alleys of the city, lacking the drive or the capacity to do more than barely survive. This time it was a chance encounter that turned the tide, restoring his mind and reawakening the voice of the deity within him. Quite by chance a paladin in service to the crown of Nyrond stopped to drop a charitable coin into his palm, casually conversing with his companion as he did so. The companion, a dangerous-looking elven warrior, made a passing reference to one of the pair’s past adventures, in specific mentioning one Durgoth Shem, whom the paladin had apparently slain in the depths of the Vast Swamp.

    Curiously, whether by chance or by divine whim, the name of Durgoth Shem was able to penetrate Bubbagump’s daze and once more reminded him of his ordained mission to retrieve the Minthexian Codex. Laboriously he pulled himself together, gathering what remained of his possessions and slogging after the paladin and his elven friend to learn more. Subsequent investigations led him to understand that Nyrond had sponsored an expedition to a long-lost tomb some years before, and the expedition had been repeatedly harried by Durgoth Shem and his cohorts until they were ultimately defeated in the tomb itself.
    It was a much changed Bubbagump Grumblefoot who finally penetrated the Vast Swamp in fall of 588 CY. Strengthened by his ordeal, equipped and enriched by a savage spree of assassinations through Nyrond, Almor, and Ahlissa, and once more guided by his inner voice, he was remarkably self-assured as he set foot on the streets of Skull City. The necromancers and undead of the newly-built city provided little resistance to his purpose of finding and entering the legendary tomb beneath.
    The tomb itself proved far worse, and Bubbagump narrowly avoided death several times before finally discovering the ruined body of Durgoth Shem. While the agents of Nyrond had looted a considerable portion of the tomb’s riches years earlier, they had been reluctant to disturb the remains of the reviled ex-hierarch, and so Bubbagump found the Minthexian Codex conveniently lying unguarded and preserved beneath his rotted corpse. As a final insult to the failed cleric, Bubbagump raised Shem’s body to serve as porter for the items he acquired in Acererak’s haunted resting place.
    With his quest at an end, Bubbagump retired to the friendly County of Urnst, renting a modest home in Radigast City in order to avoid notice and pursue his studies in relative anonymity. He voraciously absorbed the lore within the Codex’s pages, learning a number of dark and powerful rituals even as he was drawn ever deeper into madness.
    In summer of 590 CY Bubbagump was finally able to decipher one of the more difficult passages in the Minthexian Codex. This inspired an expedition to Wintershiven and thence to the Rakers in search of a lost city built by the faranth, a race of twisted, alien creatures long since vanished from Oerth. Bubbagump found the city easily enough, and surprisingly found that a few of its primordial builders survived. With some difficulty he managed to convince them he shared their goals, and was able to spend nearly a year studying under them and absorbing their forgotten lore.
    Once again led by a vision, Bubbagump entered the city of Greyhawk in summer of 591 CY, there to deliver Tharizdun’s blessing to one Elgoth, an aspiring priest of the Dark God who was prophesied to become the father of a holy child who would prove instrumental in freeing the imprisoned deity. Unfortunately, Elgoth and his aristocratic sister/mate were soon brought down by their own greed, leading to the arrest and execution of not only themselves but also of a number of aristocratic cult members.
    The trials of these high-profile cult members proved a blessing in disguise, however, as Bubbagump was able to use the distraction they provided to set up shop in the city without drawing the notice of authorities. By the time the last cult member was executed, he had acquired an apartment in the basement of a run-down tenement in the city’s Slum Quarter, established a cover identity, and begun construction on a secret lair. Aided by demons, undead, and other summoned creatures, he finished construction of a small but serviceable complex a mere two years later, furnishing it with all manner of foulness.
    Following the completion of his hidden lair and laboratories, Bubbagump returned to his home near Narwell in Autumn of 594 CY, there to commence his most horrifying acts yet. Seizing Verma, the wife he had abandoned decades earlier, he stole her away to his lair, leaving her new husband and family in pools of their own blood and their farmstead in flames. Horrified at the changes she saw in her former husband, Verma was helpless to resist him.
    Back in Greyhawk, Bubbagump subjected the terrified woman to tortures too horrible to describe, in the process fathering three children, each of which he subjected to a series of magical processes designed to transform them into monsters more suitable for his purposes. They now serve as his most powerful and trusted minions. Each is a unique and horrifying creature, no longer bearing any resemblance to normal halflings except when disguised by their ability to assume halfling form. Verma’s womb was ruined during the birth of the third child, and Bubbagump now forces her to serve as his maid, occasionally torturing her further just for the vile fun of it. A broken woman, her youthful shrewishness is now gone forever, swallowed up by bitterness and terror.

    Bubbagump Grumblefoot Today
    Since his humble beginnings, Bubbagump Grumblefoot has risen far, becoming perhaps the world’s foremost authority on Tharizdun. His many travels have provided him with contacts in many lands, and he has used these to assemble a network of spies and informants that may rival even that of the famed Circle of Eight. He and his minions work tirelessly to assemble the elements they need to free their primordial lord, all the while maintaining a façade of weakness and innocence to avoid notice. Even Bubbagump’s neighbors are unaware of his power and purposes, seeing him as nothing more than a down-on-his-luck trader of questionable goods, and only occasionally noting the visits he receives from odd strangers.

    Bubbagump, or simply “Gump” as he is called by those who think they are his friends, is a master of disguise who prefers the appearance of a normal (non-adventuring, non-dangerous) guy. When not in his alternate form he usually appears as an innocuous-looking hairfeet halfling of middling years, topped with curly brown hair going a little gray at the temples. In the manner of most halflings he typically goes unshod. His usual expression is friendly and somewhat bland, though when engaged in assassination or other evil acts he sometimes allows a glint of pure wickedness to seep onto his face. He has also crafted a number of alternate identities that he uses outside of the Slum Quarter, putting his Disguise skill to good use to keep his true identity secret. In his alternate form he is a hideous creature covered in rubbery purple and black skin. His head and body are hairless, and his seemingly boneless feet and hands end in blunt claws. His teeth are wickedly pointed.

    Regardless of which disguise or form he uses, Bubbagump keeps a number of magic items about his person with which to protect himself. Beneath his shirt he typically wears a suit of fine elven chainmail enchanted with a number of dweomers. He also owns a magical vest – usually appearing as worn leather but capable of changing its appearance – likewise enchanted with several properties. Thanks to the magic of this vest Bubbagump is able to instantly summon his wicked-looking envenomed daggers into his hands, making them readily available for use when needed. These weapons are consecrated to Tharizdun and bear several hazardous enchantments of their own. Aside from these Bubbagump possesses several other enchanted items, using them as appropriate for the circumstances at hand.
    The lair Bubbagump has constructed far below the streets of Greyhawk is not large when compared to some dungeon complexes, but it is heavily enchanted and trapped, and at least one of his children is always on hand to act as guard. The complex contains lavish living quarters for himself, of course, as well as cages for his children and former wife, cells for prisoners and captured creatures, several laboratories, summoning rooms, and at least one gate each to the Abyss, the Far Realm, and a unique pocket plane revealed in the pages of the Minthexian Codex.

    Using Bubbagump in Your Campaign
    There are several ways in which Bubbagump Grumblefoot might be used in a campaign. He is quite powerful, as are his children, and so should not be faced unless the PCs are of high level. It is not likely that Bubbagump would trouble himself with lower-level parties, instead sending his lesser minions to assassinate them or otherwise lead them away from his interests.
    For short campaigns or one-shot adventures, curious disappearances in the Slum Quarter may alert parties of Bubbagump’s presence. From time to time his insanity gets the better of him, leading him to murder victims at random. He typically stalks these victims for a few days before acting, but it is entirely possible that he may not study them carefully enough to learn who they truly are if they are in disguise or otherwise concealing their true identities. His children also are prone to acts of random violence, as they occasionally wish to hunt their own prey.

    For longer campaigns, Bubbagump works well as a mastermind guiding events from behind the scenes. Any plot involving him would of course involve releasing Tharizdun, at least peripherally, since that is Bubbagump’s sole purpose on Oerth. As mentioned previously, he is a great authority on Tharizdun and already knows virtually everything needed to release the Lord of Entropy – he lacks only certain items and circumstances needed to complete the job. Should he discover the involvement of PCs seeking to overturn his plans he is almost certain to meet them somehow, likely introducing himself as a benefactor or patron to better keep tabs on his foes and send them off on any number of wild goose chases.
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