BEARDED DEVIL

Monsters, Horror, Gaming

Month: August 2013

Sewerscape

Some time ago I ran an intense but short-lived forum game called Underdeep, a play-by-post strategic roleplaying game where the players adopted the role of subterranean rulers warring for control of an underground realm.  Underdeep featured a pretty typical fantasy world – deliberately vanilla (Orcs, Goblins, Dwarves, Dark Elves, etc) – but while running it I found myself wondering about alternate possibilities for underground worlds…

Sewerscape

Star-Nosed Mutant 2 CatkinGatorkin

The Great Effulgence burnt the world above to a cinder, and now only Blindghasts and gibbering Glowghosts dwell in the Lambent Lands above, lingering in the poisonous, glimmering wreckage of the megacities that once spanned the globe.  But down below, in the vast, interlinked sewer systems of those incinerated metropolises, life survived and thrived.  In the irradiated entrails of the earth, a seemingly endless labyrinth of pipes, passages, shafts, and tunnels, new societies have arisen, tribes of animals and people twisted by the same corruptive energies that desolated the world above.

The Ratkin are the most common – scabrous, plague-ridden scavengers and raiders who roam the tunnels in murderous Mischiefs, plundering and stealing, hoarding treasure in their feculent Middens.  The various Molekin tribes dwell deeper, extending the sewerscape with fresh excavations.  Perhaps most formidable of the Molekin societies are the Naked Queendoms, militant hive-realms dedicated to conquest and empire, though individually the dreaded psionic monstrosities known as the Starsnouts are more dangerous, telepathic abominations who delight in violating the minds and bodies of their enemies with their psionic powers and writhing nasal tentacles.  Then of course there are the Gatorkin, a pack of depraved, inbred, albino lizard-people with an insatiable longing for raw flesh, the nigh-unkillable, survivalist Roachkin, the conniving Batkin, the revolting, carrion-feeding Flykin, the rabid Racoonkin, and the pallid, mewling Trampkin, warped descendants of the tunnel-dwelling homeless.

Yet these creatures are not the only denizens of the sewerscape.  In the lower tunnels stranger beings stir.  The seething horror known as the Wormhost squirms through the lowermost bowels of the world while the protoplasmic Filth Elementals self-assemble out of coagulate effluvia made animate by the puissant rays that scoured the surface.  Deranged machines wander the deep places, pining for their former masters, while in certain ancient caverns of primordial origin the Wizened Ones groan in their dotage…

Inspirations

A handful: Necromunda, Redwall, Gamma World, Fallout, Metro 2033, Railsea.

Systems

I’ll be writing this as systems-neutral, but good systems would include hacked-up versions of Savage Worlds, Mutant Future, Omega World/Gamma World, d20 Modern, and probably lots of other systems.

St. Severine’s Skull: Gründorf

Exploring the village shouldn’t take too long.

Recap: In the version I ran, the characters – a Cleric (Wynflaeth), Rogue (Andro), Barbarian (Tully), and Ranger (Simza) – spent a little time poking about; they ended up hiring William & Aelfric, and briefly explored the forsaken church, discovering the hidden holy water and thus alerting the wraith to their presence.  I started the characters at 1st level, so obviously the wraith was far too powerful for them; fortunately it missed its first attack, and I hinted that it was avoiding what little light the boarded-up windows allowed inside.  The players got the idea and proceeded to pull the boards from the windows, letting in enough light to render the wraith powerless, letting them make their escape.

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Soundtrack

After several days travel across bleak moors and cold, marshy woodland you have arrived in the Wulfswald, a hilly, forested region scarred by wars and plague.  Burnt houses and the stubs of ancient watchtowers dot the landscape; gibbeted corpses regard you with crow-eaten eyes, betokening the bandit presence in these woods. You have passed a number of travelers: the odd leper trudging down the road, a handful of peddlers and sometimes a few larger merchant caravans heading south to Nachtheim or north to Nulnstadt, and the occasional bedraggled pilgrim.

Finally, you have arrived at the tiny village of Gründorf.  The village was devastated by plague some years ago, and now consists of only a few inhabited buildings: the Black Faun Inn, a few farmhouses, a smithy, a tannery, and a watermill on the banks of the nameless river that flows past here.  One road leads over the river to Hexenburg Castle, while the other veers off to the west towards the town of Nulnstadt.  The hamlet’s small church looks to have long been abandoned, its walls overgrown with ivy, its graveyard unkempt.  Normally relic-hunters could have sought a roof at such a place, but the inn must do if you wish to rest before heading on to the Castle itself.

The Black Faun Inn

The Black Faun Inn is a rambling, four-storey structure with an attached stables, a well, and a sizeable courtyard.  In contrast with the dour, decaying buildings in the rest of Gründorf, the Inn almost looks welcoming, with warm yellow light spilling over the threshold of its open door.

Inside:

The inn’s common room is dim and smoky, lit by the flickering light of the fire in the hearth.  Long wooden tables and a few smaller round ones, notched and stained with age and use, are scattered about the room, and the walls are adorned with maps, the stuffed heads of stags, wolves, and bears, and a few tarnished weapons and shields.  The innkeeper is a hulking slab of a man with face and arms covered by scars and several missing fingers.

The inn’s patrons are a rough, variegated bunch.  A pair of sellswords in patched, weather-beaten cloaks sit by the hearth, their blades in full view – one a hulking, tattooed man with a heavy two-handed claymore, the other a lithe fellow with a pair of shorter blades.  At the bar, a grey-bearded dwarf is working on his fourth tankard of dark ale, next to several men in furs – perhaps local hunters.  There’s also a small group of nuns eating a meal in the corner, the oldest a wrinkled crone who scowls at everyone in the common room, the other two significantly younger.  Finally, a morose-looking travelling minstrel with lank blond hair occasionally strums a chord or two and scribbles something on a piece of parchment.  A very bored-looking young woman seems to be the barmaid, though she doesn’t have much to do.

The innkeeper is Scarred Gregor, a veteran of the Troll Wars and the War of Seven Kings.  The rooms in the Black Faun are mostly Common (5sp) but there is one nice suite (16gp).

The sellswords are William and Aelfric.  Aelfric is a 1st level Barbarian.  William is a 1st Level Fighter (substitute with Two-Weapon Fighting in place of Power Attack and Dex 15, fighting with a pair of shortswords).  The pair can be hired for 3sp/day, plus a cut of any treasure.  William is a greedy, amoral individual who may steal from and betray the party if the opportunity arises.

The Dwarf is Gror Stonespeaker, a Dwarf merchant who deals principally in Dwarf-made weapons.  He’ll sell Masterwork melee weapons to the characters if they wish, carrying most martial weapons as well as Dwarven waraxes, longaxes, longhammers, chain-flails, and urgoshes.  He is waiting for the snows to clear so that he can head into the Harrow Mountains.

The trappers can sell characters furs (12gp), which grant +2 to Fortitude saves vs. cold.

The nuns are Sisters Sylvia and Egeria (both “troubled” young women forced to take vows by their families) and their Mother Superior, Mother Gretta, a disapproving woman who wants to bring the two girls into the light of the faith through a pilgrimage to holy sites.  If told of the characters’ mission to retrieve Saint Severine’s skull, she will gladly grant them her blessing and provide magical healing if need be.  However she and her charges are leaving on the morrow for Nulnstadt.

The minstrel is named Johann, and is trying to compose a song, without much luck.  He might be recruited for the dungeon-delve if promised a good story.

A Diplomacy check to gather information can be made here.  A general check can also be made for rumours and local legends.

Commonly known (DC 10):

“The old church was shut up after the pox came through.  The sickness took the priest, his novice, and half the parish with it.  Since then we’ve had no church – nearest one’s at Nulnstadt.  There’s rumour the old church is haunted by the priest; some say they’ve heard moaning at night from inside.”

“Wolves are getting bolder these days, and greedier.  As winter gets on they’ve got less to eat so they start going after cattle, or even travelers.  If you plan to spend much time in the forest, keep a weather eye open.  They hunt in great packs, surrounding you if you let them.  Some say they’re led by demons in wolves’ skins, or Goblin-beasts called Barghests, that can freeze the blood with a howl and change their shape as they wish.”

“Did you hear that something’s been digging up the grevayard in the old church?  Could be wolves, of course, but I reckon its bodysnatchers – necromancers looking for corpses for their black magic.  Probably living in one of the tombs up in the hills, or else in that old pile Hexenburg.”

Uncommon (DC 15):

“You ever hear the story of the Red Cap, supposed to live up in Hexenburg Castle?  An evil fairy, they say, who’s taken up residence in a tower in the old ruin, who murders any who enters his home, and decorates his tower with their guts.  Sometimes he strays down into the forest, because if the blood in his cap ever dries out completely, he dies.  If you come upon him, he can’t abide the touch of iron, or a sign of the Light.  Reciting scripture is supposed to keep him at bay – he can’t stand the sound.”

“If you happen upon a winsome young maiden wandering the forest by the river who tries to beguile you with her charms, be on your guard!  There’s a Hag called Ginny Greenfang who haunts the riverside, and loves nothing more than to use her magic to disguise herself and seduce young men.  After she’s had her pleasure the crone feasts on their flesh; their gnawed bones sometimes come rattling down the river afterwards.”

“There’s been a few visitors to Gründorf of late, headed up to Hexenburg.  A priest, a knight, and a young novice arrived about a week back, searching for some holy hammer they think is up in the Castle’s old chapel.  Haven’t come down from the hills, though.”

Rare (DC 20):

“There’s a secret way into Hexenburg Castle, you know – an old tunnel they used to flee from enemies.  It comes out in one of the barrows up in the hills; you’ll know it by the dead tree that sits atop the barrow-mound.”

Smithy

The smithy is a small, rickety workshop with an open forge, tended by a bull-necked boy of perhaps sixteen years.  Judging from the horseshoes, nails, pots, and tools on display or partially finished, this is a typical village blacksmith, not an armourer or weaponsmith.

Despite his lack of expertise, Jacob the smith (his father recently died) will repair weapons and can forge basic arms and armour.

Church

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Soundtrack

The church-door is locked (DC 20 to pick, DC 22 to force).  Inside:

The church has been long abandoned, and most of its adornments have been removed.  Dust and cobwebs coat everything.  The altar is still here, along with a painting of Saint Bastiana, patron of butchers and soldiers, depicting her martyrdom at the hands of a mob of deserters.  There are also a few rusted candelabra here.  A palpable sense of gloom and despair clings to the church, a feeling of sorrow and abandonment.  The stained glass windows have been boarded up, letting in almost no light.

The priest does indeed haunt the church, but will not manifest unless the place is disturbed.  In the altar there is a cavity containing a Holy Symbol of St. Bastiana, three vials of Holy Water, and a Potion of Cure Light Wounds.  If the priest manifests:

There is a dull moaning sound, and a figure detaches itself from the shadows of the church.  Garbed in a tattered priestly robe, the figure gibbers and raves, tears coursing down cheeks mottled with weeping sores, the ravages of pox.

“Why has the Light abandoned me?” the priest jabbers.  “Why has it visited this sickness upon me?”  The figure reaches out with clawed and sallow fingers, lurching towards you!

If the wraith is somehow convinced that the plague was just another part of the Light’s plan or something equally absurd, he dissolves into black mist.  Otherwise he menaces characters here until they leave the church.  Note that if the players are looking around the church during the day the wraith is powerless in sunlight.

Graveyard

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The graveyard is unkempt, with long grass poking up about the old tombstones.  There’s also a small, overgrown burial vault guarded by a pair of crumbling statues, both armoured warriors.

The vault is locked (DC 20 to pick, DC 30 to force).  Inside:

Down a small flight of steps, the crypt is cramped and stuffy, with half a dozen stone sarcophagi.  The markings on the sarcophagi indicate those resting within are probably slain crusaders.  Cobwebs swathe everything thickly.

The crusaders’ sarcophagi can be opened (Strength DC 25); each contains a corpse with a Masterwork Longsword, Heavy Metal Shield, and Breastplate.  However, lingering here is likely to disturb the colony of 3 small monstrous spiders that lurk here.

Other Gründorf Encounters

These additional encounters, inn guests, merchants, etc can be used to liven up a trip back to town.

Peddler

A colourful caravan is parked not far from the riverside here.  Pony-drawn, the caravan’s wagons are quite small, but brightly painted with images of animals, stars, the moon, and the sun.  A handful of Halflings are gathered about a small campfire to one side.  They seem to be peddlers, dealing in a wide variety of goods, from food and tools to potions and trinkets.

The Halflings can sell a wide variety of equipment as well as potions of 1st level spells.  They can buy magical items and gems, but their available funds total about 1500 gp at most, so players will have trouble unloading powerful magic items here.  They have a couple of wondrous items for sale, including a Silver Raven Figurine of Wondrous Power, a pair of Burglar’s Boots, a Traveler’s Any-Tool, Iron Rope, Abjurant Salt, and a Campfire Bead.

Inquisitor

You notice that there seems to be a new guest at the inn, judging from the fierce-looking black horses stabled in the courtyard.

The new visitors are dining in the common room: three men in all, in travel-stained clothes.  Two are armoured in boiled leathers, while the other wears vestments suggesting he is a clergymen – a dour, gaunt man who attacks his meal with unsettling hunger.  The armoured pair wear holy symbols about their necks, as well.

The Inquisitor, Konrad, is on the trail of the Cult of the Withered Hand and any other heretics in the region, charged by the Church to track such blasphemers down and put them to death.  He has also heard rumours that witches and heathens still dwell in the woods, and is eager to track them down.  He can be represented as an Inquisitor of 5th level, although these statistics are also adequate.  His guards are 3rd level Warriors, Richard and Günter.  If he believes the characters are harbouring any kind of dark magic, he’ll try to put them to the question to find out if they’re heretics themselves.

St. Severine’s Skull Dungeon Crawl

The following notes are for a Pathfinder dungeon crawl in a gothic fantasy vein, although the material could easily be adapted to other systems (it would particularly suit older editions of D&D and/or OSR retroclones).

Introduction

The cathedral of Saint Severine – patron saint of spiders, weavers, trappers, the starving, coffin-makers, and repentant cannibals – has hired you to retrieve the skull of their Saint, along with any other relics you can discover.  Severine was put to death some centuries ago by the Aquilan Empire, who deeply resisted the influence of the Church until their dissolution.  For long ages the location of Saint Severine’s body was lost, but recently discovered documents indicate the place of her death as Hexenburg Castle, a large Imperial fortress in the Wulfswald region now shunned by the local populace for its dark reputation.  Some claim the abandoned fortress and the dungeons beneath it are haunted, while others insist it has become the dwelling-place of Ogres, Trolls, or worse.  While Hexenburg Castle has been reoccupied at various times throughout its history – most notably by the noble family known as the House of Wulfheim – the skull may still be somewhere in the forsaken labyrinth of tunnels, dungeons, and catacombs beneath the ruined fortress.

Inspiration

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This module owes a great deal to the following games and adventures: James Raggi’s Death Frost Doom, Nicolas Logue’s The Hook Mountain Massacre, Tracy and Laura Hickman’s I6: Ravenloft, Frictional Games’ Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Gremlin Interactive’s Realms of the Haunting, and Blizzard’s Diablo (the original).  In addition, the film The Name of the Rose and Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast novels were in my mind as I wrote this.  The influence of the Warhammer World cannot be overstated.

Characters

Since the characters are working for the Church, some of them may be members of it themselves – especially Clerics, Paladins, Oracles, and Inquisitors.  Others (like Bards, Rogues, Fighters, or Wizards) might be mercenaries, relic-hunters employed by the Church to retrieve their artefacts.  Fighters, Cavaliers, and Paladins might also be Knights who are seeking to retrieve the relic as part of a holy quest.  Rogues, Bards, and other ne’er do wells might be repentant sinners trying to retrieve the relic as part of their atonement.  Barbarians and similar “wild folk” might be recent converts seeking to prove their faith.  Sorcerers – or, for that matter, other characters – might be wards of the Church.  If these motivations don’t appeal to the players, some alternative adventure hooks are presented below to help get them into the adventure.

General Module Philosophy

A few things to keep in mind while running St. Severine’s Skull:

  • This adventure isn’t shockingly original.  It doesn’t attempt anything immensely experimental or innovative; in fact, it’s a bit of a throwback.  It was designed as an introductory dungeon crawl scenario for new players who’ve never played D&D.  As a result, it’s designed around monsters and set-pieces which experienced gamers may well find old hat, but which nonetheless are quintessentially “D&D” – a Goblin-infested keep, Undead-infested catacombs, a bandit-infested forest, etc.  It relies on some fairly bog standard monsters, if only for the reason that the intended players haven’t encountered them before, and wouldn’t know a cloaker from a chuul if it came up and bit them.  Nonetheless, I still wanted something that still felt unique and creepy, a style of D&D injected with a certain sepulchral weirdness and sprawling gothic grandeur.
  •  Atmosphere is key.  Cultivate a mood of oppressive gloom, great age, solitude, darkness, and terror.  Lush (and extended) description and gothic, eerie music are useful aids.
  • The pace should be slow.  Horror is a genre of slowness and suspense.  Amnesia, not Van Helsing.  Things should build.  The players should wander through a sequence of mostly empty rooms feeling certain there’s something just through the next door.  There should be a palpable sense of the unknown, with occasional bursts of spectacular, grotesque horror.  Hit them when they don’t expect it.
  • Rearrange monsters ad hoc as needed.  Rearrange encounters and NPCs as needed.  Rearrange items as needed.  Duh.
  • The players should feel unsafe, harried, and paranoid.  However, they also shouldn’t feel powerless.  This is a Pathfinder game, not Call of Cthulhu.  They should feel threatened, not impotent.
  • Things to stress: the cold, the darkness, the dust, the emptiness, the moaning wind, the moss, the vines, the crumbling stone, the layered nature of the ruins.
  • Keep fights ugly.  Blood, viscera, breaking bones, ruptured eyeballs and organs.  Battle isn’t pretty.
  • There are areas of extreme wealth (the lower catacombs, the lowermost laboratory, the Aranea lair), but a lot of the Castle is empty and devoid of much treasure.
  • The monsters should be very challenging, and should be played intelligently.  They retreat if wounded.  They set traps and ambushes.  They call on allies for aid.  They know Hexenburg’s layout better than the characters and use this knowledge to their decided advantage.

Alternative Hooks

For Druids, Witches, Rangers, Barbarians, etc:

The omens are clear: you have read them in the trees, in the river, in flocks of birds.  The ancient fortress of Hexenburg Castle has long been a place of darkness, but of late its evil has been growing.  There is something unnatural about the ruins: animals shun it, and even plants that grow about the ruinous stone walls are blighted and etiolate.  You have heard strange sounds coming from the forsaken castle, sounds made by neither men nor beasts.  The sacred barrow-mounds in the hills around the fortress have been disturbed, and the forest around the ruin is growing sickly, befouled.  You have resolved to cleanse Hexenburg Castle of whatever unclean force has made its home there.  Strangely enough, a group of like-minded travelers has recently arrived in the region, intent on seeking some treasure in the Castle.  Taking their arrival as an omen, you have resolved to join them as they venture in Hexenburg’s shadowy halls.

For Wizards, Alchemists, Maguses, and the like:

Your College has dispatched you to the backwater region known as the Wulfswald in order to procure a certain object – the spellbook of Count Manfred von Wulfheim, a noble and reputed mage of considerable power.  The Count vanished under mysterious circumstances two centuries ago shortly before his familial estate, Hexenburg Castle, was attacked by barbarians from the north, its inhabitants slaughtered; the Castle has been abandoned ever since.  The Castle, a former fortress of the long-defunct Aquilan Empire, has grown ruinous over the past two hundred years, but your superiors in the Mage’s College believe that the Count may have left his spellbook and other materials behind: rumour holds that the Castle was abandoned due to a summoning-gone-wrong, when some spirit or demon the Count conjured forth broke free of his control.  As you made your way to the Castle, you found yourself sharing the road with a band of relic-hunters employed by the Church, seeking the skull of some Saint said to rest in the ruins.  Your goals may be different, but if there is any truth to the dark rumours surrounding Hexenburg, their company may be useful.

For Rogues, Bards, and other thieves:

The Nachtheim Thieves Guild has sent you on a mission to the miserable, snowy wood known as the Wulfswald on a tomb-robbing job.  According to their sources, the local ruin, Castle Hexenburg, has an extensive series of crypts and catacombs beneath it, used by the House of Wulfheim for the burial of their noble dead back when they inhabited the mouldering old fortress.  The Guild think that there might be a healthy store of gold down in the old tombs, as well as a valuable artefact known as the Frost Crown, a circlet set with sapphires also said to grant its wearer power over wolves and winter storms.  While the supernatural abilities of the Crown may be nothing more than superstition, the Thieves Guild has contact with collectors who would pay handsomely for this object.  As a fairly new recruit in the Guild you’ve been chosen for the dubious honour of trudging into the woods and rooting around in the decaying Castle for the Crown, and anything else you can turn up.  On your way to the Castle you’ve fallen in with some relic-hunters also headed to Hexenburg Castle; at the very least they’ll make good monster-fodder for anything that’s crept into the dungeons over the years…

Information:

Religion

Saint

Knowledge (religion) DC 10 on Saint Severine:

Accounts of her martyrdom claim that first she was placed in a box full of deadly, venomous spiders.  The box was opened, but Saint Severine was unharmed, and the spiders had even woven her a gown of finest silk.  Next she was thrown into an underground pit along with a number of criminals.  The inmates were given water but no food, and so, eventually, they began resorting to cannibalism, until finally they devoured the Saint herself.  Legend says, however, that despite her body’s destruction Saint Severine’s head remained alive and pardoned those who had devoured her.  The cannibals, converted by this miracle, repented of their awful crimes.  Her head was removed from the pit and boiled; her skull was then marked with a glyph indicating her “heresy,” and thrown into a mass grave.  They say that despite the skull’s fleshlessness, it still murmurs holy words and sings softly of the Light.

DC 15:

Saint Severine is frequently invoked for protection against poisons, and an amulet of Saint Severine is said to protect the wearer from venomous vermin.  Few are aware of Saint Severine’s personal history, but certain apocryphal texts indicate she was a prostitute who repented her sins when she found her faith.  These same texts suggest that she was, in fact, the concubine of Hexenburg Castle’s commander and the governor of the Wulfswald, Gnaeus Magnus Lentullus.  Another text claims she was actually a Hexenlander, the daughter of a powerful Witch who was captured by the Imperials and forcibly wed to the governor.

DC 20:

Saint Severine’s spider-silk gown was never recovered, but is claimed to possess extraordinary properties of its own, granting its wearer the ability to speak with spiders and summon them to her aid. Other artefacts associated with the Saint include a lock of her black hair shorn from her head on the eve of her martyrdom (whoever carries the hair is said to need no nourishment, neither food nor drink), her prayer beads, which she is said to have left to one of the redeemed criminals in the pit, and her heart, which the cannibals did not devour.

History

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Knowledge (history) DC 10 on Hexenburg Castle:

Hexenburg Castle was originally established as a border fort or “castra” to protect the Empire against the ferocious Hexenlanders, tribes of painted warriors led by matriarchal Witches who wielded terrible sorcerous power, transforming their warriors into beasts, raising armies of flesh-eating trees, commanding storms and flocks of demonic ravens, and performing similar acts of magic.  The fortress is nestled high in the hills, with extensive underground catacombs, secret tunnels, storage chambers, and dungeons.  During the bloody decline of the Empire, the villages around Hexenburg Castle were sacked and burnt, and eventually the fortress itself fell to siege.  It was later reoccupied by the local nobility, ancestors of the current Count Ulrich von Wulfheim, who repaired the fortifications and added major extensions to its keep and outbuildings, as well as (reputedly) digging tunnels even deeper below the fortress for unknown purposes.  Hexenburg Castle has been abandoned for over two hundred years, following its sack by barbarians from the north.

DC 15:

The lower halls of Hexenburg Castle are said to be riddled with secret doors, hidden passages, trapdoors, sally ports, and secret chambers, some dating back to the time of the Aquilan Empire, others constructed by the House of Wulfheim.  There are also a series of natural caves deep beneath the castle; plague victims were sometimes quarantined in these caves, with food and water lowered down to them from the passages above.

DC 20:

During the height of the Wolf’s Head Rebellion, a peasant uprising spearheaded by local outlaw-heroes, the so-called Brotherhood of the Wolf’s Head, many rebels were imprisoned and tortured in the dungeons of Hexenburg Castle, their heads displayed on pikes to deter other would-be dissidents.

Nobility

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Knowledge (nobility) DC 10 on the House of Wulfheim:

The House of Wulfheim is a relatively minor noble family, a House in deep decline – in ages past they were closer with various royal Houses and wielded great influence, but their current power is much diminished following their decimation.  Their heraldic sigil is the head of a black-furred, red-eyed wolf on a checkered red and white field.  They have not dwelt in Castle Hexenburg for over two hundred years, after most of the family was butchered by savages from the northlands.  Only a few of the House survived, reputedly escaping through secret tunnels under the Castle.

DC 15:

The House of Wulfheim can ultimately trace their blood back to the Hexenlander Witch-Clans to the north, and have always had an unsavoury reputation.  Recently, rumours have been circling in Nachtheim, their current abode, that Ulrich von Wulfheim is a Vampire, and that in fact Ulrich has been living under aliases for centuries as various patriarchs of the Wulfheim bloodline.  During the House of Wulfheim’s tenure in Hexenburg Castle, strange lights were sometimes seen from the east tower (the so-called “Black Tower” from which the castle’s gallows was displayed) leading some to accuse the noble family of practicing witchcraft.  An Inquisitor was even called in, but the official history of his findings has been covered up.  Rumour holds that Therese von Wulfheim seduced and bewitched the Inquisitor into giving a false report of the family’s innocence so that she could continue her witchcraft.  Of course, the truth behind these rumours has not been verified.

DC 20:

An ancient and legendary weapon, the Wolf’s Fang, has been missing from the House of Wulfheim’s halls for many years, and the family would pay very handsomely for its return.  The Wolf’s Fang is said to have the hunger of a feral wolf, and to deliver wounds that never close.  It is distinguished by the pommel of black iron sculpted into a wolf’s head, set with red rubies for eyes.

Local

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Knowledge (local) DC 10 on Wulfswald:

The Wulfswald region is notorious for its bandits and its beasts.  From time to time, both have found shelter in the woods around Hexenburg Castle, or even within its walls.  Wolves give the forest its name, and large packs of the beasts often descend out of the wooded hills to prey on local livestock.  Local legend claims that some of these wolves are actually Barghests, foul hybrids of Goblin and Wolf that grow larger and more powerful by devouring the flesh of the innocent and the righteous.  This rumour may have some truth, for priests and children seem to be frequent targets for the wolves.  As for bandits, the most infamous brigand in the region is One-Eyed Sally, an accomplished swordswoman who robs carriages and merchant caravans using the roads in the Wulfswald.

DC 15:

Apart from Hexenburg Castle, the hilly Wulfswald region is riddled with barrows, dolmens, and standing stones, some of them reputedly infested by Ghouls or converted into Troll-holes.  Tomb-robbers have plundered a number of these crypts.  There are many stories of Druidic cults and Witch-covens taking to the menhir-marked hilltops to perform ancient and sometimes unwholesome rites.

DC 20:

A strange, misshapen figure has sometimes been glimpsed on the castle battlements or in the nearby woods.  No one has got a good look at this person – or creature – but most accounts describe it as hulking, twisted, and bestial.  Some locals claim he must be an Ogre, while others think he is simply a hunchback squatting in the ruins.  Trolls and other Giant-kin have been known to dwell in the region, as have Goblins, Kobolds, and a variety of mischievous and often unwholesome Fey, creatures that steal children from cradles or play gruesome practical jokes on farmers and traders.

A Note on Religion

The chief religion depicted in this module is centered round the “Light,” a deliberately vague pseudo-deity revered by the Church as an omnibenevolent force, of which the Saints are servants.  While in practice this amounts to a kind of monotheism, technically the faith is henotheistic, though certain sects may be more strictly monotheistic in character, viewing other gods as demons in disguise.  Of course, the details of the faith can be tweaked very easily.  On the one hand, if you decide to set the module in historical Europe (somewhere in the Holy Roman Empire, probably during the 14th century or so), the church could easy be the Roman Catholic Church.  If you set it in a secondary world, simply pick a deity you feel fits best.

A Note on Cosmology

The cosmology of the setting is deliberately vague.  For the purposes of the module, Devils and Demons can be treated as essentially the same thing rather than two extremes.  If you wish, their alignment can be shifted to Neutral Evil.  Unifying their weaknesses/vulnerabilities (silver is probably the best bet, to distinguish them from evil fey vulnerable to cold iron) would be wise.

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