Monsters, Horror, Gaming

Month: April 2014

Another Podcast Episode

I’m featured on another episode of the S.S. Librarianship, discussing what’s been a (curiously, and coincidentally) hot topic recently on sites like io9 and various gaming forums – the moral panic around D&D that took place in the 1980s.

St. Severine’s Skull: Hexenburg Castle – Gatehouse Dungeons



This series of chambers connects to the catacombs, cistern, and barrow.  Grugnar uses them as his “workshop.”

GD1 – Trapped Passage

Down the stairs, you find a grimy stone hall that runs ahead for some distance into the subterranean gloom.  The spell of spoiled meat is very strong here.

Fortitude save DC 10 or be Sickened by the stench (-2 penalty on attack rolls, weapon damage rolls, saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks) while remaining in the gatehouse dungeon (new save required upon re-entry).

Grugnar has set a vicious trap here for those trying to descend into his lair.  A gut tripwire is suspended across the corridor.  If tripped, a sharpened battering ram on the ceiling swings down to hit characters.  Perception DC 20, Disable Device 20, Attack +15 (2d6+4/x4).

GD2 – Anteroom

A disgusting mass of tattered, rotting skins, broken bones, mutilated organs, and other castoff bits and pieces is heaped high in this room, attracting swarms of flies.  A few rats nibble on the putrescent remains.

GD 3 – Dining Room

A large table and a chair made out of whittled human bones and lashed together with intestines can be found here.  Both are sized for a very large creature – the table is quite high, and the chair large enough to seat someone at least eight feet tall.

GD 4 – Mask Chamber

This might once have been a cellar or storage chamber for the gatehouse, but it’s been converted into some kind of grotesque display room.  Covering the walls of the room are masks – dozens of them – made from flayed humanoid faces.  The skins have been heavily stretched and even patched with other pieces of skin to make them larger.  Heaped in a corner of the chamber is a greasy pile of humanoid hair.  Looking closer, you see it is actually a pile of humanoid scalps sewn together with the hair still on – crude wigs.

GD5 – Tannery Room

An extensive series of vats and racks are arrayed here – it looks like tanning equipment, used to turn hides into leather.  Knives used to scrape hair from flesh are scattered about on the floor.

Anyone who wants these used tools can get a tanner’s kit.

GD6 – Flensing Room

This room is some kind of filthy workshop.  Crates and tables have been arrayed here as makeshift work-surfaces, and a vast array of blood-stained knives, bone-saws, pincers, tongs, hatchets, and other bladed tools are evident.  On one table rests a partially flayed corpse, that of a human man.  Judging from the brands on his un-flensed palms and his split nose, the man was a criminal of some kind.

Any of the surgical tools could be used as a weapon equivalent to a dagger or short sword.

GD7 – Wardrobe

This chamber must once have been a storage room for salted meat or the like, judging from the rusted meat-hooks which dangle from the ceiling.  Instead of cured pork, however, the meat-hooks are now hung with monstrous garments made out of human skin.  Judging from the differing pigmentations evident on these patchwork suits, each was made from multiple people.  The garments are very large, as if made for someone much bigger than a normal humanoid.

GD8 – Trapped Passage

This passage reeks of mildew and stagnant water, and you can hear a dripping sound up ahead.

It’s also trapped with a rusty iron portcullis, part of the original fort to help block off any enemy miners, which Grugnar has converted into a makeshift trap.

GD9 – Cell Block

A long hall lined with rotting wooden doors stretches before you.  Metal slats on the doors allow a gaolor to look into the cells beyond.

GD10 – Cell


You can hear muffled moans from inside the adjoining chamber.

The door to this room is locked (DC 20 to pick, DC 22 to force).  Grugnar’s key opens it.

Chained to the far wall of this small, dirty cell is a young man in a monk’s habit, his head tonsured into a double crown, his robes filthy and streaked with blood.  He is praying loudly, but as he sees you, his eyes widen.

“My prayers have been answered!” he proclaims.  “I knew I would be delivered from this hell…”

This is Brother Ambrose a young priest-in-training who, along with his master, Father Umberto, and a Knight, Sir Albrecht, came to the Castle after hearing of its chapel and the holy club, known as the Hammer of Redemption, said to be interred within – a weapon said to have been wielded by the crusader Sir Arngrim, who reputedly used it to slay a hundred heathens in the Winter Crusade.

“We came to Hexenburg in search of the Hammer of Redemption, the Holy Cudgel – Father Umberto and I, and Sir Albrecht.  Before we could reach the chapel the Goblins and their demon-wolf leapt out at us, dragged Sir Albrecht back to their den.  The Father and I fled, but then that thing – that fiend that clothes itself in human skin – hit me over the head.  I’ve been here ever since.  I think it’s fattening me up – it keeps trying to feed me.”

Brother Ambrose will join the party to try and find Father Umberto and Sir Albrecht.

GD11 – Empty Cell

This small, square chamber is empty.  Some manacles dangle from chains attached to one wall, suggesting this is a cell.  Old bloodstains cover the floor, and there’s a small drain at its center.

There’s a secret door here, leading to the Barrow.

GD12 – Tapestry Room

Someone has draped the walls and floors of this disused storage chamber with disgusting wall-hangings and carpets made from poorly tanned human hides, some of them stitched together into revolting patchworks.

GD13 – Wine Cellar

This large cellar-chamber is stacked high with old barrels, though by now any wine they contain will be hopelessly sour.

A purely empty room, although a great place to hide.

GD14 – Collapsed Tunnel

This tunnel ends in a collapse – the ceiling has caved in, blocking the path.  There’s a narrow aperture near the base of the collapse where a child or small humanoid might squeeze themselves through to the other side.

Small creatures can squeeze through the cave-in, but it takes a DC 20 Escape Artist check to get unstuck at one point.  The perfect point for Grugnar to attack…

GD15 – Trapped Passage

The stones of this passage have changed in quality – where before the tunnels were of dressed stone, now they are simply hewn from the rock, perhaps suggesting that the dungeons ahead are older than the ones you just explored.

There’s another tripwire here, again DC 20 to spot and 20 to disable.  It releases two mace-heads on chains that have been smeared with centipede poison: +10 to hit each, 1d8+2 damage each, plus poison (Fort DC 11, 1 Dex damage, 1/round for 4 rounds, 1 save cures).

GD16 – Forsaken Shrine

A pair of stern stone doors graven with images of winged figures stand here.

The stone doors are shut (DC 25 to force open) but can be opened with the Winged Key.

A thick layer of dust carpets this cavernous, pillared hall, its walls and floor graven with thousands of tiny sigils, mostly obscured by the dust.  Halfway across the floor there’s a groove that bisects the chamber into two halves.  At the far end of the hall looms a massive stone statue in the shape of a prodigious bat-like horror, a monstrous, quasi-humanoid idol with tenebrous wings spread from wall to wall, its toothy maw gaping blackly.  Empty braziers and torch sconces are evident, and there’s a cobwebbed altar at the bat-god’s clawed feet.

This old Imperial shrine – dedicated to the bat-god Ikellus, a deity of nightmares, prophetic visions, transformation, and blindness – Knowledge (religion) DC 20 to recognize this obscure deity.  There is nothing of value here, but there is in the hidden chamber at the back of the hall (Perception DC 20 to locate – a torch-sconce, when adjusted, opens the door).

Anyone who brings any of the contents of the hidden chamber across the ominous line bisecting the temple activates a magical trap (DC 30 to discover or disable):

A horrible, high-pitched shrieking sound fills the chamber, echoing off the walls and pillars, emanating from the stone jaws of the bat idol.  The black mouth of that twisted statue vomits forth a shadowy torrent, a fluttering swarm of leathery bodies – bats by the hundreds, swirling out of the idol’s maw and flitting towards you!

The idol spawns a Bat Swarm once per round until the character who stole the item returns across the line or until the thief is dead.  Swarms linger if the objects are returned but return to the idol’s maw if the thief is killed.  The shrine can hold a maximum of 12 swarms, but if a swarm is killed a new one spawns in its place the next round.  Short of destroying the idol the only way to escape is to seal the bats inside the room by shutting fast the stone doors.

GD17 – Hidden Chamber

Beyond the secret door lies a small vault where holy objects sacred to the shrine are stored; these artefacts must have lain undisturbed for centuries.  Most are nothing more than ceramic ewers and cups painted with glyphs or symbolic figures, but some of the goblets are of silver, inset with onyx gems.  There’s also an ornate ritual mask, metal, forged in the semblance of a bat’s twisted visage.

There are 6 silver cups set with onyx gems, worth 100 gp each.  The Mask of the Bat, when worn, causes its wearer to become Blind grants its wearer Blindsight for 40 ft. as if they were under the effects of an Echolocation spell.  It also allows its wearer to use the spell Ear-Piercing Scream once per day with a caster level equal to their level.  It is worth 3500 gp.

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