While walking through [Name of City], see a group of bystanders gathered around and chuckling to themselves. If you approach them, you will see that they are laughing at a flyer that’s been pasted to the wall.
The flyer reads:
175th Annual Bluegill Fishing Tourney
Interested in winning a marvelous cash prize of 1000 gp and spending an exciting afternoon on [Name of Your Continent’s] most beautiful freshwater lake? Well, then come on over to the Village of Puddlesmouth and participate in an almost-two-century old tournament.
Whoever can catch the most Bluegill before the sun sets will win the grand prize.
So, do we have you hook, line, and sinker? Sign up today!
The group of bystanders will carry on with their conversation, criticizing the tourney for offering so much money to catch such simple and common fish. Another will chime in and talk about how the village and its inhabitants have always been a little “off.” One of the bystanders might tell a brief story about her cousin who participated in the contest a few years back, caught a massive and impressive-looking bass, and then won nothing because the judges were “interested in Bluegill and only Bluegill.”
Conveniently, the tournament will be scheduled for the following day, so your party will have time to make the trek to Puddlesmouth.
Welcome to Puddlesmouth
The town has a very Lovecraftian feel. Even though the tournament is taking place in the afternoon, the sky is cloudy (almost perpetually) and a cold mist hangs over the massive lake. The houses are darkly painted (if painted at all), and seem to shimmer because they are kept consistently damp from the moisture in the air.
The people of the town are doing their best to make this a true celebration, but the locals seem a little standoffish and on edge about something. The villagers’ appearances are also “off” just like their behaviors. They have larger, glassier eyes than most, paler skin, and hair that is always wet and plastered to their faces (essentially, fishy qualities that show their deep connection to the lake).
When the party approaches the lake, they will see that, despite the eeriness of the environment and the locals, plenty of other people have shown up and stationed themselves at various places along the shore. The competitors are a diverse group and have seemingly come from far and wide to snag the grand prize of 1000 gp.
The Contest (Part 1)
Each member of your party who is participating can rent fishing tackle for 1 sp.
To determine what they catch, each player rolls 5d6. They can also earn special “multipliers” for the following, courtesy of Saffy Penrose’s Fishing Minigame:
- Full House → x2
- Four-of-a-Kind → x3
- Straight → x4
- Five-of-a-Kind → x5
The player’s score will determine what they catch. If they tried anything clever, like rolling an animal handling check or investigation check to see where more fish were swarming, or choosing a spot that’s shaded/less crowded, then consider giving that player advantage on the following roll (only the first time the special “tactic’“ is employed).
- 5-8 → Junk (roll 1d8 to determine a piece of junk: slimy boot, bundle of sticks/seaweed, bottles, old pieces of leather armor/padding, etc.)
- 9-10 → An Artifact
- 11-12 → 2d6 Minnows
- 13-14 → 2d6 Sunfish
- 15-16 → 1d6 Bullhead Catfish
- 17-18 → 2d6 Perch
- 19-20 → 1d6 Bluegill +An Artifact
- 21-22 → 1d6 Small-Mouth Bass
- 23-24 → 2d6 Bluegill
- 25-26 → 3d6 Bluegill
- 27-28 → 3d6 Bluegill +An Artifact
- 29-30 → 4d6 Bluegill
After the player has rolled for the quantity of fish earned during the session, remember to apply any multipliers from full houses, straights, etc.
Artifacts are not subject to multipliers but serve more as storytelling opportunities. If your party snags an artifact, really make that catch feel special. Talk about how, for one of their “bites”, their hook feels totally stuck. Maybe even have them complete a small strength check to pull or, otherwise, they may need to cut their line.
The artifacts should be low-value items like iron daggers or small carved figurines made from polished river rock stone. However, they are definitely bizarre. For example, the daggers have strangely shaped handles that don’t look like they’re made for human hands and they’re very small. They also have an etching of tentacles, scale textures, and other aquatic-looking imagery. The figurines can depict two types of things: fish that look mighty and majestic or carvings of weak little humans with sad faces and, perhaps, pierced through their torsos with giant fishing hooks.
After the first session is completed and totals are counted, including a couple of NPCs run by the DM (for the sake of proper competition), the event will pause for a brief lunch.
Townsfolk will start a fish fry (of course) and serve up well-prepared fish. While this happens, it should be noted that, in the distance, the lake will start aggressively bubbling. Your party might take notice as well as the other competitors, but the locals will look unalarmed (in case it’s not clear, the bubbling represents the angry fish, furious that their comrades are being cooked up and feasted on).
If your party acquired any artifacts, a local man, quite old and with his big eyes even more magnified by big glasses, will timidly approach you and ask about the strange objects you found.
He will be delighted, introduce himself as Professor Finnigan, and ask if you would consider donating the strange objects to his museum. If you agree or have questions, he will insist that you follow him just a short 5-minute walk into town to see the museum for yourselves.
The museum only occupies a single, medium-sized room (clearly a local museum and nothing too extravagant). Behind glass cases, your party can observe a variety of small sculptures, weaponry, and mechanisms, all of which have an aquatic theme.
On the far wall, however, is the most impressive feature: a mural. The mural covers the entirety of the wall. At its center, is a muscular, shirtless, bearded man, brandishing a glowing sword in one hand and a glowing fishing rod in the other. Between his feet sits, what looks like, a small scaled-down version of Puddlesmouth (like the figure is protecting it). Surrounding the figure on all sides, with angry looks, are hundreds of monstrous Bluegill. The Bluegill are wielding daggers in their mouths very similar to the artifacts in the museum. Some are even piloting what look like crude constructs/mechs.
The professor will explain that this man, Hector Herringbone, was the savior of Puddlesmouth some 175 years ago. The Bluegill rose up and attempted to overthrow the small village, but Herringbone defended it and defeated the “blue menace”. Now, every year since, the town holds this contest in an effort to keep Bluegill populations in check, preventing them from growing their numbers and rising up once more.
However, they have never told anyone outside the town about this history or the true purpose of the contest, both out of shame for nearly being defeated by fish and also to not appear crazy, thereby scaring off the best fishermen/women from ever setting foot on their shores.
Note: If your party fails to roll for an artifact, you can just have them stumble upon one, half-buried in sand on the shore or lodged between rocks, during the break. That way, you can still run this museum scene with Professor Finnigan which is important for what comes next.
The Contest (Part 2)
Returning to the shoreline, the party will once again participate in the fishing minigame. Follow the same rules as before and keep track of each player’s catches.
However, during this time around, have the players notice that the sky is getting visibly darker and even that the chilly wind sweeping over the lake is picking up.
Whatever player rolls last, after they have collected whatever they earned from their typical mini-game roll, have them feel another bite on their line.
If they choose to pull it in, they will need to succeed on a strength-saving throw (DC 15). If they succeed, they will pull from the water a large, red-eyed bluegill with a dagger in its mouth. If they fail the saving throw, they will get pulled headlong into the cold lake water.
Either way, roll initiative.
Immediately at the beginning of the battle, 3 constructs will rise up, now standing in the shallows of the lake. They are about 6’ in height and made primarily out of wood; their bodies are essentially just old barrels, and the arms/legs are crudely crafted from driftwood and other flotsam/jetsam. The barrel is filled with water, and the party might see the Bluegill piloting the craft even poke its head up/over from the barrel’s opening.
These constructs are also draped in seaweed and soaking wet, making them resistant to fire attacks despite being made out of wood.
They will choose to fight the party from about 3-foot-deep water. If the party engages from a distance, they will be safe except from the construct’s harpoon throws. However, if the party chooses to wade into the water to engage in close combat, they must make a Dexterity saving throw. If they fail, they see, too late, a shape out of their periphery charging toward them through the water. A bluegill will leap from the water, brandishing a knife in its mouth, and attack the player for 1d4 slashing damage and initiate the beginnings of a tingling sensation. On that player’s next turn, they must make a constitution saving throw (DC 16) or be paralyzed for 1 minute.
While the battle is raging, most of the fishermen and women will flee farther up short and watch from a safer distance. All of the fish that have been caught will also begin thrashing about in their tanks/barrels/wherever they are being kept (showing their support of their mechanized brethren).
After defeating the creatures, the chilly wind will die down, and the sun, for the first time in the afternoon, will begin to peek out from the dark clouds above.
After everyone has gotten composed, the tourney will wrap up. Depending on how well a party member of yours did (especially opposite the DM-run NPCs), they may win the 1000 gp grand prize or a runner-up prize (like a sextant or some other nautical-themed object).
Regardless, Professor Finnegan will approach you yet again, arms filled with Bluegill harpoons and other weapons left strewn on the shore of the lake post-battle. He will personally thank you for saving the village from that surprise attack and compare you to the great Hector Herringbone himself. As a reward, he will say that his collection is getting so full now in the museum that he can’t hold onto everything. He will give the party one of the daggers that can inflict paralysis as well as a special unidentified necklace. The necklace will be made of bits of shells and pieces of metal. Casting identify on this necklace will reveal that it grants the wearer a modified “Speak with Animals” ability, applying only to fish (alternatively, you can have the wearer be able to speak, understand, and read Aquan depending on where you want your campaign to go next).