Title: The Snail Cometh
Short description: Somewhere in the world, a snail is crawling toward you. It is unstoppable. It is unkillable. It cannot be bargained with. Its touch is instant death.
Flavor text: Wealth and power in exchange for an inevitable death approaching at an unknown time? Why not?
Tags: plot hook
A dark deal-broker offers the party a bargain:
In exchange for a wish, an invincible, unstoppable, and uncontainable (but otherwise ordinary) snail will spawn at a random location in the world.
The snail will move at a normal snail’s pace unerringly toward the wish grantee.
The snail’s slightest touch is instantly lethal to the wish grantee.
The snail spawns at 100% distance. Depending on your game, the total distance could be measured in leagues, miles, lightyears, or gigaparsecs. The snail closes the gap by 1% each day. Certain events trigger the snail to close the distance: critical fails, curses, or other events at the GM’s discretion.
Roll 1d20 to determine the percent the snail has moved, rolling again on a 20. Narrate the bizarre circumstances that have allowed the snail to travel faster.
At 0% distance, the snail has come. The wish grantee, if conscious and able to notice the snail (DC 15 Wisdom [Perception] check), gets one chance to escape the snail before it touches them (DC 20 Dexterity saving throw). If the grantee has taken precautions against the snail, they get advantage on these checks and saving throws.
Designer Notes: Kenny Webb
The idea of the “death snail” or the “immortal snail” has been around for quite awhile, making laps around Reddit from time to time. It’s a hypothetical scenario: in exchange for something fabulous (incredible wealth, a long life, immortality, etc.), an invincible snail starts making a bee line for you and if it ever closes the gap, you’re dead. Would you accept this deal?
As soon as I heard the hypothetical, I posed it to our very own Amber. We quickly decided that to really make the hypothetical interesting, you’d have to modify it a bit. The obvious thing to do would be to capture the snail, lock it in a vault, and throw the vault in the Mariana Trench. So of course for the Cloud Curio version, you’re not allowed to trap it. Also you can’t get away with sealing yourself away in a box.
The thrust of the hypothetical is that death is now coming for you, slowly, inexorably, at an unknown time. Would you take the deal in exchange for fabulous prizes? What would you do to prepare? As with most everything, Amber observed that this was starting to sound like some TTRPG nonsense. A plot hook was born.
No Wishing for More Wishes (GM Tip)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that unrestricted wishes can absolutely wreck even the most carefully crafted campaigns. And while some groups will embrace this chaos, others may want to put some restrictions on what the PCs can wish for. The following table provides options you and your players can choose from, or you can have players roll to receive a random boon:
Gems and art objects worth 500,000 gp
A castle atop a levitating island
Access to an extradimensional cave with a huge cache of non-legendary magic items
A title of the PC’s choice, recognized by all sovereignties
An army of stone warrior constructs
A rod charged with a spell or ritual of your choosing
A glowing orb that provides a steady flow of power equivalent to a large watermill
The true answer to any one question
A personal audience with any god or cosmic entity
A bag that will be filled with an ordinary object (worth 100 gp or less) at the beginning of each day
A quick note on how we approach 5e: Occasionally you might see statistics and other choices we make in our publications that make you say, “Huh. I wonder why they did it that way?”You can check out this page dedicated to explaining how we approach 5e.