Monsters, Horror, Gaming

Month: February 2014

St. Severine’s Skull: Hexenburg Castle – Chapel and Rectory



The chapel’s main bulk is a squat, round structure with a domed roof and a small, pillared entrance.  The building looks extremely old, but the small bell tower attached near the entrance and the rectory near the back are obviously much more recent additions.  The place exudes an eerie, horripilating feeling, making the hair on the back of your neck rise.

The Chapel is one of the most important parts of Hexenburg for characters to visit, as it contains many valuable items that will assist them greatly against the creatures elsewhere in the Castle, including some potent magical weapons and valuable scrolls, some of them considerably more potent than those usually available to 1st level characters.  However, it is far from a “safe” area for characters.  Its catacombs are currently devoid of undead, but the hundreds of bodies within will rise if the Mummified Heart of Saint Severine is destroyed, and a Huecava, Father Leopold, lurks in the chapel itself.  This crafty creature uses its Disguise Self ability to appear as Father Umberto, the priest who came here with Brother Ambrose and Sir Albrecht.  It killed the real priest (his body can be found hidden in the wardrobe in CH 8), and will try and lure characters down into the catacombs to destroy the Heart.

During the night, when its true form is revealed, the Huecava retreats to the catacombs and evades characters if possible.

For more details on Father Leopold, see CH3.


CH1 – Narthex

The narthex of Hexenburg’s chapel is a shadowy antechamber covered in sacred murals depicting scenes from the life of Saint Malus, a warrior saint, including an image of the knight battling a demonic sea serpent and converting a community of Trolls.  These murals are now peeling and cracked, and some of the figures have been deliberately defaced.  A doorway to the left opens onto a stair, presumably leading up to the belfry.  Up ahead, a pair of double doors leads into the church itself.

CH2 – Belfry

The bell at the top of this belfry is cracked and badly tarnished, and the entire belfry is slick with guano.  Looking out from the bell-tower you can see over the walls of Hexenburg into the dark, snowy forest beyond.

Perception DC 10 to note the dozens of bats roosting here, if it’s the day.  If at all disturbed they become a bat swarm which will harass and attack characters until they descend the bell tower again.

CH3 – Church


The church consists of an expansive dome supported by a series of columns, with a few broken, rotting pew scattered about the floor.  The place is windowless and very dark.  A fresco depicting the horrors of Hell on one side and the glories of Heaven on the other is visible overhead.  The celestial half of the image is swathed in cobwebs and dust, the faces of angels made grey and dim, with age, giving them the appearance of winged corpses, grime darkening the clouds and marring the empyrean purity of the sky.  Curiously, the infernal side of the fresco seems remarkably untouched, the grimacing demons and tortured souls still terrifyingly vivid.  There is an altar here, and a number of statues of Saints, but they seem out of place amongst the ancient stone columns and heathen darkness of the temple.  Several of the statues have been decapitated or otherwise disfigured, and the altar itself has been thoroughly defiled: sitting upon it in a pool of dried blood is a decaying human head, and a disturbing, antlered idol formed from wicker, human bones, and the skull of an enormous stag presides over the desecrated shrine.  Two arched doorways lead to other chambers of the desecrated chapel, and a third leads onto a stair winding down into the earth.  A small wooden door is marked “Rectory.”

Resting here is a very bad idea.  The place is Unhallowed and permanently Desecrated.

There is some treasure here: inside the altar in a locked compartment (DC 25 to pick, or use the silver key), within which is stored 4 flasks of holy water, a holy text, and a consecrated masterwork dagger.

If it is still daylight, Father Leopold will rush up the stairs from the catacombs, disguised as Father Umberto:

priestClarke 3

Suddenly, a bedraggled-looking figure rushes up the stairs from the depths below, bringing with him a reek of the grave; he is so haggard that for a moment you take him for some undead monstrosity, but then you see he is alive.  The man is garbed in torn ecclesiastical robes and has tonsured hair.  His eyes are wide and frightened, his face contorted into an expression of horror.  He stumbles into the church.

“Thank the Light!” he exclaims.  “I did not think I would ever see another living soul again.”  He pants, recovering his breath.  “My name is Father Umberto,” he says.  “And I must beseech you, in the name of all that is holy, to come with me.  I have found the source of the corruption that plagues this castle – an undead heart, reanimated by some vile necromancer.  I would have destroyed it by my own hand, but the place is haunted by evil spirits – I barely managed to escape their clutches.  We must destroy the heart, and cleanse this place of evil once and for all!”

“Father Umberto” will insist on leading the characters down into the catacombs.  He grows very nervous and agitated if the characters wish to rest.  Play him as an utterly earnest and desperate character who seems to sincerely believe the heart is evil.  He possesses the silver key.

The father may have to make several Bluff checks (he has +8 to this skill, having lost 6 ranks from Stealth – Stealth is +6).  If the players want to roll a Sense Motive check, it’s DC 20 to catch a strange gleam in his eyes or feel that there’s something not quite right here.

If the party has Brother Ambrose with them, he’ll be convinced this is the real Father Umberto, and will urge the party to follow him.

Father Leopold will try and get the characters away from the rectory and other rooms, and if they start messing around with his old bedchamber or study he gets very agitated indeed.

CH4 – Baptistery

A baptismal font stands at the centre of this octagonal chamber.  The walls of the baptistery are adorned with murals depicting scenes from the crusades – images of heretics and heathens being slain by crusaders, hundreds of them impaled on stakes or decapitated, their heads piled high.  The gruesomeness of these murals is unusual, and, curiously, these murals look quite clean and intact compared to those in the narthex.  The font itself is ornate, crusted with sculpted images of cherubim, though in the gloom their faces look strangely cruel rather than beatific.  There is water within.

The baptismal font has been desecrated as well; it now produces unholy water.  In addition, anyone drinking from the water must make a DC 15 Will save or shift to an Evil alignment for 1 hour of real/player time.  Hand the player a note with this change (do not announce it out loud).  The character becomes filled with violent impulses and the desire to sacrifice his or her companions to the forces of darkness.  While under the effects of the water, the character will not be attacked by undead in the chapel or catacombs.

If a scroll of Consecrate or Bless Water is used on the font, it is restored to its prior state and will contain holy water instead of unholy water.

CH5 – Sacristy

This looks like a sacristy, where holy vessels are kept, with many prayer candles, linens, a huge, golden chalice set with rubies, incense censers, a thick book, and phials of anointing oil.  Unlike the main chamber of the chapel, this room looks undisturbed.

12 phials of anointing oil, a Hallowed Chalice worth 600 gold pieces, and a Tome of Hymns.  A Bard who studies the Tome, which takes 48 hours over at least 6 days, adds the spells Bless, Bless Weapon, and Bless Water to his or her spell list.

CH6 – Reception Room


This small but well-appointed reception room might once have been quite comfortable, but now the hearth is cold, the chairs and divans are rotting, the thick rugs mouldy, the wall hangings in tatters.

CH7 – Vestry

This cloakroom is filled with the rotting remnants of robes and other holy vestments, held on pegs lining one wall.  Spiders have infested the robes, and their webs shroud the ceiling.

A spider swarm lurks in the robes.  There is little of value here save for a pair of Healer’s Gloves tucked in the pockets of one robe.  There are lots of ecclesiastical outfits, but they’re in very poor condition.

CH8 – Chapel Library

old books

This door is swollen shut – DC 20 Strength to force.

This large, square chamber is lined with shelves containing a variety of mouldering texts.  Many of them look like nothing more than chapel archives, but others are books of scripture and Apocrypha.  Some portions of the shelves contain stacks of old vellum scrolls instead of bound books.  There’s a small work-table here with an unlit candle.  A high window admits light, and a ladder allows access to the higher tomes.

Make Perception checks (stirges have +16) to notice the colony of 4 stirges roosting on the ceiling.  Otherwise the creatures will attack if the books are disturbed:

There is a fluttering, squeaking sound as four grotesque bat-like creatures with insectoid heads and juddering proboscises swoop towards you!

There are a lot of valuable objects here.  First, the following scrolls can be found:

4 Scrolls of Hide from Undead (1st level)

6 Scrolls of Protection from Evil (10th level)

3 Scrolls of Consecrate (3rd level)

3 Scrolls of Dispel Magic (5th level)

2 Scrolls of Speak with Dead (5th level)

2 Scrolls of Remove Disease (5th level)

2 Scrolls of Remove Curse (5th level)

2 Scrolls of Dismissal (10th level)

1 Scroll of Dispel Evil (10th level)

1 Scroll of Hallow (10th level)

1 Scroll of Raise Dead (10th level)

1 Scrolls of Cure Moderate Wounds, Mass (11th level)

The library also contains several books that may be of interest.  The first is a book on demonology, the Daemonomicon, which grants characters referring to it a +4 bonus to Knowledge (planes) check to identify evil outsiders (it also allows them to make such checks untrained).  Another is the Book of Martyrs, a text describing the lives and martyrdoms of many Saints, including Saint Severine.  If a character spends 8 hours studying this text, they acquire all of the knowledge normally gleaned from a Knowledge (religion) check concerning the Saint, as outlined at the start of the adventure (this includes the fact that her heart reputedly still lives!).

crucify 2crucify

There are also about a dozen holy texts here that are still mostly intact, each worth about 10 gp.

CH9 – Priest’s Chamber

The iron-bound door to this room is locked (DC 25 to pick, DC 25 to force, or use the silver key).

This small but well-appointed room includes a four-poster bed, and a tall, oak wardrobe.  Unlike most of the furnishings in the chapel and rectory, those here are still fairly intact.  In one corner, someone has built a small, macabre shrine with an improvised altar-stone upon which is lain the corpse of a rat, set before a kind of fetish or totem, a crude figrue made from fur and bones.

Perception DC 10 to notice the still-wet blood seeping from the wardrobe.  Within is the corpse of the real Father Umberto, and half a dozen ecclesiastical outfits.

The shrine is dedicated to a dark power of vermin and pestilence, the Prince of Decay, Crom Mogg.

CH10 – Priest’s Study

The iron-bound door to this room is locked (DC 25 to pick, DC 25 to force, or use the silver key).

This room appears to be a study, with a bookshelf and a writing desk.  On one wall is a portrait of a stern man in priestly robes, with piercing black eyes.  An inscription on the frame reads “Father Leopold.”  There are a few scattered papers strewn across the desk; most are badly decomposed, but some might be legible…

There’s a page here from Father Leopold’s Diary:

Chapel Document

St. Severine’s Skull: Hexenburg Castle – Outer Bailey

Outer Bailey

Outer Bailey


The outer bailey of Hexenburg was devastated by the invaders: most of its outbuildings and workshops were burnt to the ground, leaving only ashes and charred beams.  Near the center of the courtyard a great pile of corpses must long ago have been heaped and then burnt, leaving a tangle of blackened skeletons.  Several structures, however, managed to survive the depredations of the marauders: the chapel, a round building of obviously ancient design, a squat armoury, and two towers, one tall, shadowy, and stark, likely of Imperial design, and the other slightly shorter but more ornate.  At the far end of the courtyard a gate leads into the inner bailey, where the keep is visible.  Snow continues to fall, though the walls provide some shelter from the chill wind.

Knowledge (religion) or (history) DC 15 to recognize the chapel as a formerly pagan temple that must have been converted into a church.

Random Encounters

The Outer Bailey is the perfect place for random encounters.  Camping here is foolish, and will inevitably draw the attention of the Castle’s denizens.  Roll on the following table (1d12) for random encounters:

Roll d10 Result
1 A Goblin patrol consisting of 5 Goblin warriors (3 archers, 2 melee), who retreat if they take any casualties.
2 3+1d4 Bandits sheltering here temporarily.
3 A Barghest and 3 Goblin warriors (principally melee).
4  An Ettercap from the Library Tower and 3 small monstrous spiders.
5  2 Bugbears.
6  A rogue Grick from the catacombs.
7  Hunting Tentamort.
8  Slime crawler from the crypts.
9  Dire Bat.
10  1d10 Giant Cockroaches.

Mixing and matching from appropriate results can work as well – like throwing a Barghest, a Bugbear, and a handful of Goblins at the players, for example.


This crumbling stone well has rotten ropes and rusted mechanisms.

The water in the well is stagnant and fouled, unfit for drinking.

The Cult of the Withered Hand



The Cult of the Withered Hand is a group of depraved fanatics who arrive at Hexenburg, servants of the Misshapen God and Lord of the Withered Hand, known also as the Aberrant One, Scorrathoth the Twisted.  Their leader is the demented former priest known as Father Melchior; his right hand is the maniacal Sister Gabriella, and together they lead a band of deranged rabble consisting of three dark disciples and seven rank-and-file cultists.  They have journeyed to the ruins in search of a book known as the Book of Bile, a grimoire which can be found in the Library Tower, as well as any other infernal artifacts they might discover.  They will probably not cooperate with the party, but evil characters, good liars, or characters who know how to strike a deal might be able to reason with them.

Statistics for Melchior and Gabriella are included in the Appendix.

The best way to introduce the cult is to have the adventurers witness they arrival from the gatehouse, the walls, or from a watchtower.  Alternatively they could glimpse their arrival from a window in the Black Tower or Library Tower.  In any case, wait until the characters have explored a little before introducing the cultists.


There is a sound of clopping hooves on the path as a carriage drawn by a pair of pale, bony horses rattles over the drawbridge and into Hexenburg’s outer bailey.  A group of men and women in ragged, greenish-brown robes accompanies the carriage, either riding haggard-looking mounts of their own or trudging through the wet snow on foot.  They’re a miserable, bedraggled looking lot, with sallow features; some look to be afflicted with some kind of pox or rash, and several have unwholesome-looking tattoos.  One carries a gnarled wooden standard mounted with what looks like a bony human hand at its tip.  They carry flails, daggers, handaxes, or slings.  Many of them seem slightly deformed, or to be missing limbs or other body parts.

As the carriage rumbles to a halt the driver opens the door, and two people get out: one a robed, stunted-looking man with an extremely long, matted beard, yellowed teeth, and a shambling gait, the other a tall, gauntly elegant woman who would be cadaverously beautiful were it not for the tumourous growths mottling half of her face.  The two seem to be conversing, speaking to their clustered followers.  There are about a dozen of them in total.

Perception DC 20 to listen in:

“…must find the Book of Bile as soon as quickly as we can,” the bearded man is saying.  Despite his small stature he seems to command a great deal of authority.  “The Withered Hand will guide us, if we trust in our Lord, but there are things here which will not welcome our presence.”

“Of course, Father Melchior,” the woman says.  She turns to the gathered rabble.  “You heard the Father.  Form groups of three and begin searching the grounds.  The tome may not be in the library tower; we know that Count Manfred von Wulfheim kept a number of valuable texts in his laboratory.”

The cultists do as she says, with the groups looking like this:

Group 1: 1 Disciple, 2 Cultists

Group 2: 1 Disciple, 2 Cultists

Group 3: Gabriella, 1 Disciple, 1 Cultist

Group 4: Father Melchior, 2 Cultists

A Note on Spells

The Disciples have the following spells prepared:

1st: Doom, Inflict Light Wounds, Ray of Sickening (DC 12)

Sigil’s Most Wanted

I recently made a bunch of wanted posters for my players as handouts – the law has finally caught up with them after a year and a half of hijinx in the City of Doors.

Wanted Pandemonium Six

The original party met in the Howling Land of Pandemonium; due to their exploits the Sigilian authorities have dubbed them the “Pandemonium Six.”

Wanted Alfgrimr

Alfgrimr was a character made by a Planescape veteran who, unfortunately, has now left the campaign (due to graduating from library school).  Alfgrimr was a very, very odd character – a water genasi Cipher of the Transcendent Order (which meant that if his player said he took an action, even in jest, he had to take that action), he was obsessed with achieving immortality and thus was always collecting odd bits and pieces along his journeys in the hope that they would extend his lifespan.  He was also crazily ruthless and disturbingly creative.  For a period another character possessed a Helm of Telepathy – which, at our table, is now represented by a paper crown worn by the player whose character is wearing the helm – and Alfgrimr’s player would periodically pass the telepath unsettling notes, the “ambient thoughts” rolling around in Alfgrmir’s twisted consciousness.  He also died a lot, and eventually became a proxy of the Norse god Baldr.

Wanted Kets

A catfolk Rogue and former street urchin, Pockets has a history that feels a bit like something out of a Dickens novel crossed with Selina Kyle and Garrett from the Thief series.  The abandoned daughter of the former Cat Lord of the Beastlands, “Kets” is a hardened, embittered seventeen-year old pickpocket turned upscale burglar who usually is about as jaded as they come.  She fights with a rapier and a winxy pistol, an ensorceled firearm she picked up in a Demiplane modeled on Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland.  She’s defiantly True Neutral.

Wanted Gwendolyn

Gwendolyn is the animal-lover of the group and one of the two Good characters.  Along with Belric, below, she helped create a giant, green super-intelligent hog monster that grows bigger the more it eats and is now housed in an extradimensional warehouse in the Sigil’s slums, hence her moniker “Swine-Mother,” bestowed on her by a group of Xoasitects.  She’s a half-elf Ranger/Druid and so serves as the party’s main healer.  She often tends to spend a healthy portion of a given sessional wild-shaped into some sort of bird.  She’s also slightly deranged from wearing a Helm of Telepathy for a bit too long.  Oh yeah, and she’s wearing a symbiotic Corset now…

Wanted Klaira

Klaira is the party’s Bard/Gunslinger and the only other Good character, so she’s forced into the role of “group conscience” pretty frequently.  She’s also on the run from Unseelie bounty hunters who want to return her to a twisted fey aristocrat who previously kept her around as an enslaved storyteller, Scheherazade-style.  During the Savour of Madness adventure in Ravenloft she got grafted with a reptillian tail remeniscent of a chameleon’s.

Wanted Belric

Belric is a Halfling… and also the child of an Olympian demigod from Arborea.  He’s a Sorcerer who specializes in lightning spells, a former Athar turned Sensate, and easily the whackiest character in the party – he’s got all the appetite of a Hobbit and a taste in mind-altering (and body-altering) substances that would match William Borroughs.  He eats and drinks everything: mysterious chaos-cheese from Limbo, age-reversing potion, Alignment-altering liquor, animal petitioners on the Beastlands, and dozens of other morsels and tinctures.  Chaotic Neutral to the core.  He was reincarnated as a Kobold for awhile.  He’s also bedded fallen celestials, fairies, and probably a few things I’ve forgotten about…

Wanted Achaia

Achaia is a Fetchling Rogue/Shadowdancer with a Stealth bonus so high I often don’t even call for Stealth checks anymore.  She can shapeshift and hide in plain sight, and steals pretty much anything that isn’t nailed down, which all goes into a capacious bag of holding.  She’s usually pretty self-serving but seems to have a soft spot for children and simialrly vulnerable types, going out of her way to aid the downtrodden and neglected.  The hat was filched from the Mad Hatter’s felinoid house.  She’s also got a nice little time-manipulating stopwatch a Paladin polymorphed into Goblin form gave her after an escapade on Acheron.

Wanted RulgaRulga was a character made by a player who unfortunately had to leave the campaign, but she was great while we had her.  A Dwarf Monk and member of the exacted Fated – who are something like Planescape’s Objectivists and Nietzscheans – she served as a major voice of reason (she was also the only Lawful character in a party full of Chaotic types).  She eventually met Arthur Pendragon in Avalon on Elysium – he was waiting to be recalled to Albion on the Prime Material Plane, but the party somehow convinced him to join them, and over time the two had an extremely strange off-kilter romance that survived several reincarnations.

Planescape Soundtracks

The main game I’m running these days is a Planescape campaign (for those that know the setting well, I’ve set it before the Faction War, using all the AD&D boxed sets and a lot of my own notes; for those that don’t know the setting well, you can find out more here). I run the setting very much as a sandbox: we’ve got a big, sprawling map of Sigil in the middle of the table that the players can interact with, and at any given time there’s about half a dozen plot-threads they can engage with and intertwine. Planescape is a challenging setting to run for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is tone.


As I interpret the setting, there are two major stylistic/generic elements at play in Planescape: noir and myth. On the one hand you’ve got a sort of gloomy urban fantasy vibe. Planars (especially Sigilians) cultivate a kind of hardened, jaded cynicism – they’re hardboiled. The world of noir is, in the words of famous noir critics Borde and Chaumeton, “oneiric, strange, erotic, ambivalent, and cruel.” The noir element is dark, surreal, world-weary; it’s about conspiracies, mysteries, dubious motives, and off-kilter misadventures. On the other hand there’s the myth element, which is kind of the opposite of noir – it’s about big, larger than life heroism and archetypes, spiritual forces, allegory, and ritual. These things are, in some sense, ultimately and inescapably opposed. Noir is a nihilistic genre about existential crisis, about grappling with the dark sides of the psyche in a universe without the comforts of some greater meaning or telos; there’s horror and terror and awe, but people in a noir universe are detached from these emotions, perhaps almost in contempt of them. Myth, on the other hand, is all about greater meaning, all about sublimity and intensity. Myth has Heroes in the Cambellian vein; noir has anti-heroes.

This noir-mythic tension – which, to me, is endlessly fascinating and rewarding to play with and mash up – brings me to the actual purpose of this post, which is music. I use music in all of my games these days. The right music can set the tone perfectly, while the wrong music can wreck the tone completely. A Planescape soundtrack requires eclecticism: you’re in Acheron one minute and Elysium the next, and walking down a street in Sigil, Devils rub shoulders with Elementals and lycanthropes and sentient robots. I also want the music to reflect both elements of Planescape’s ethos, the interplay between dark noir fantasy and myth.  I favour video game soundtracks for my games, because by their nature they’re designed to be ambient and repetitive, but I also use soundtracks from movies and other sources. So, without further preamble, here’s my Planescape soundtrack:

Planescape: Torment Soundtrack – a good all-purpose score specifically designed for the Planescape setting.

Grim Fandango Soundtrack – excellent for taverns and clubs, and a nice alternative to the stereotypical quasi-medieval harp music you often here in taverns in rpgs.

The Void Soundtrack – one of the most hallucinatory soundtracks I’ve ever heard,with a mystic, dream-like tone shot through with a lot of unease.  The Turgor Theme
is especially brilliant.

Sherlock Holmes Soundtrack – especially good for frenetic chases, back-alley fights, and street scenes.  I have mixed feelings about the films (in essence: superb popcorn cinema, god-awful as Holmes adaptations) but the soundtrack is quite marvelous.

Alice: Madness Returns Soundtrack – brilliant for dark doings, twisted realities, Kafkaesque trials, gigantic machines, Wonderland-inspired vistas and the like. I use this one a lotDollhouse is probably my favorite track.

Zeno Clash Soundtrack – for suspenseful moments, fights, and exploration of alien wildernesses. Another one I use very frequently.  Danger in the Mist is a particularly useful track in crazed alley-labyrinths haunted by Chaosmen who’ve decided to adopt the personae of ravenous hyenas, or fungal forests in the Plane of Ooze infested by savage vegepygmies, etc.

Riven Soundtrack – for conspiracies, forgotten temples, and moments when the players glimpse the wheels-within-wheels play of power and pain that keeps Sigil from flying apart at the seams. I’m especially partial to the Moiety Theme which has a wonderful aura of sinister mystery and immense age to it.

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines Soundtrack – a nice, dark fantasy urban soundtrack, especially good for demonic dance clubs.

Thief Soundtrack – for sneaking around, naturally. A rich mix of ambient sounds, ominous trills, and vague discord.

Dishonored Soundtrack – more good city music. A very melancholic sort of soundtrack, to be used in quieter moments.

Amnesia Soundtrack – for my annual month-long Ravenloft segments and occasionally in other especially horrific situations. I use this one sparingly.

Beetlejuice Soundtrack – for encounters with Xaositects (who I interpret as Dadaists and Absurdists) and Limbo. The main theme is brilliant in chaotic, madcap situations that call for a comedic touch.

Rune Soundtrack – for moments of mythic horror, cold planes, Ysgard, and anything involving Dwarves.  Also some good pitched battle music.

Sin City Soundtrack – I actually use this one fairly rarely as it’s a bit too recognizable in places, but I would like to make greater use of Old Town in the future.

Note: obviously the big sonic/thematic influence I’m neglecting here is punk, which is also important for the setting.

St. Severine’s Skull: Hexenburg Castle – Gatehouse



Grugnar, the Gatekeeper

The Gatehouse is the lair of a badly deformed Ogre, Grugnar Skintaker, Gatekeeper of the Castle – a twisted wretch, shunned even by fellow Ogre-kind, who tries to hide his hideous deformities with garments made from humanoid skin.  Grugnar will probably become aware of the characters before they become aware of him, and will begin stalking them through the ruin.  He particularly prizes those with nice skin (Elves, Half-Elves, and those with high Charisma scores) and ignores anyone with bad or discoloured skin (Half-Orcs are probably safe).  He will try to pick off characters one by one rather than attacking them en masse, but if they stick together he will eventually simply attack them.  If wounded at all severely, he immediately retreats.

Note that Grugnar has a tenuous alliance with the Gorefeaster Goblins who inhabit the keep – though not a member of the tribe, he will open and close the gates, portcullis, and drawbridge as the Goblins require, and pays occasional tribute to the Goblins (mostly in the form of gold taken from his victims).  In exchange, the Goblins let him keep to himself and stay out of the Gatehouse.

Grugnar’s statistics appear in the Appendix.  Grugnar has a copper key that opens any door in the Gatehouse.

Within the Gatehouse, emphasize an atmosphere predominantly of emptiness.  Throw in strange sounds – doors opening, footsteps, a claw scraping against stone, a low moan.  Some of these “scripted” sounds can be found below as examples.  Call for random Perception checks, with the following results:

DC 10:

You could swear you heard something moving outside the room, and briefly glimpse a shadow flicker past the doorway.  You catch a whiff of some rank, animal fetor.

DC 15:

You hear a shuffling footstep somewhere behind you, as well as a ragged, indrawn breath.  Someone, or something, is nearby, but out of sight.

DC 20:

Out of the corner of your eye, you catch a brief glimpse of something – a hulking, vaguely humanoid shape, hunched over and grotesquely proportioned – shambling through a doorway.  The second you look towards the door the shape is gone, so quickly and quietly you wonder if you imagined it.

Grugnar himself:

A huge, hunched monstrosity, at least nine feet tall and muscled like an ox, lurches out of the shadows.  The creature is misshapen and twisted, its body contorted strangely, its back bent, its arms long and gangly.   It smells abominable, like a slaughterhouse, an open grave, and a wild animal, a vile fetor mixed into one noisome stench.  The thing is garbed in a monstrous patchwork garment stitched together from the tanned flesh of many humanoids.  This abhorrent outfit includes a hideous fleshy mask.  Beneath the thing’s skin-suit you glimpse a mottled, hairy hide covered in disfiguring warts, boils, and growths – it’s as if the brutish thing were trying to cover up its own ugliness with stolen flesh.  The bestial monstrosity brandishes a flaying knife in one clawed hand and a spiked chain in the other.  It gnashes yellowed fangs and shambles towards you!


G0 – Drawbridge

As you approach the drawbridge and the gatehouse you notice tracks in the snow, leading towards the Castle.  They must be fairly recent as the snow is still very fresh; the footprints are unusually large and strangely shaped.

The drawbridge groans as you step onto it.  The portcullis is up, and the huge, wooden doors are splintered and broken open.  Above you, several murder holes are evident, where defenders would have thrown down stones, quicklime, or boiling water down on foes.  Past the double doors lies the Castle’s first bailey, an open courtyard with several outbuildings, while to either side, there are two more wooden doors leading into the gatehouse itself.

The doors into the gatehouse are shut, requiring a DC 20 Strength check to open or a DC 20 Disable Device check.

Knowledge (engineering) DC 10:

Judging from the dressed stonework here, the gatehouse was probably built well after the days of the Empire.

G1 – West Guard Room


Badly rotten tables and chairs litter the floor here, and putrescent tapestries depicting a heraldic wolf’s head with red eyes and a lolling tongue adorn the stone walls.  Some of the furnishings seem to have been actively smashed to splinters.  A door has been torn from its hinges by some terrible force.  It lies on the ground; curiously, it is marked by what look like claws rather than axe-blades or swords.  Beyond the gaping doorway is a spiralling stone stair.

There are a few badly rusted shields lying about here, having fallen from their brackets on the wall.  There’s also an old lantern on one of the tables here, though it doesn’t look like it has any oil left.

Perception DC 15 to hear what sound like footsteps creaking on the floorboards above.  The lantern is of the hooded variety.

G2 – East Guard Room

This spare, rectangular chamber might once have been a guard room, but it’s become the lair of some beast.  Gnawed animal bones in the hundreds are strewn across the floor, culled from birds, weasels, elk, and even what look like bears – whatever ate these creatures, it was capable of taking down large predators.  There also seem to be a few human bones mixed into the macabre heap, and some torn scraps of clothing.  An animal musk mingles with the scent of decay here.  There’s one door, ajar, leading into a spiralling stairway.

A search of the bone-pile turns up 14 silver pieces and a battleaxe.

G3 – West Barracks

Sagging bunk-beds with tattered linens line the walls of this long chamber.  Each has a chest at its foot; many stand open.  Dark, crusted stains mar the woodwork, and it looks like someone has scrawled a message in blood on one of the walls, though it’s written in jagged, uncouth runes.  A handful of cracked, scattered bones litters the floor.

Anyone who can read Aklo (or make a DC 20 Linguistics check) can read the message:

“All Hail the Mistress of Slaughter.”

Anyone who reads this out loud accidentally invokes a spell similar to Rage upon themselves (Will DC 17 to resist) and attacks the nearest ally for 1d4 rounds.

There is little of value here, but a thorough search of the chests turns up a spare suit of chain mail, a light flail, and 26 silver pieces.  Locked in one chest (DC 20 to open) is a masterwork silver dagger.

G4 – East Barracks

If the players have a light source when they enter this chamber, note that cockroaches scuttle away from the light.

Vermin have taken up residence in this former barracks, infesting the mouldy remains of the furniture. Cockroaches in particular seem grotesquely abundant here, chittering and rustling as you enter.  A skeletal corpse lies slumped against one wall, its mail hauberk heavily rusted.  In its bony hands, the corpse clutches what looks like a sacred talisman.  There are several unlit torches in brackets along the walls.

The talisman is of Saint Bastiana and functions as an Amulet of Natural Armour +1 to any of the faith, or alternatively of a Lawful alignment.  However, disturbing the corpse in any way provokes a cockroach swarm:

As you touch the talisman, the skeleton’s bones rattle, and suddenly, a swarm of cockroaches seethes forth from beneath the corpse’s armour, coursing over your limbs, creeping beneath your clothes, their mandibles worrying at your flesh!

Note that as per 3.5 I’m using rules for torches and lanterns here – a swung torch deals 1d3 and a lantern, if broken, 1d4.  The cockroaches don’t like light, so a strong light source like a lantern or Light spell, appropriately brandished, makes them flee into the room’s corners.  Flasks of acid and alchemist’s fire also work, as do spells like Burning Hands and the like.  The characters’ best strategy may be to just retreat; the cockroach swarm won’t follow them down the stairs or through a door.

It’s possible to get the talisman out without provoking the swarm, but it takes a Sleight of Hand check (DC 15).

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G5 – Winch Controls

A large, badly rusted winch stands at the center of this chamber; at the far end of the room is a windlass.  Cut in the floor are several circular murder holes.  Some old bloodstains crust the floor.  Several buckets full of stones are tucked into a corner.

The bloodstains lead into G7.  The winch is used to operate the portcullis, the windlass for the drawbridge.  Currently the drawbridge is down and the portcullis is up.

G6 – Trapped Archer’s Gallery

You enter a long gallery with a series of arrow slits along one wall, allowing archers to target anyone on the drawbridge.  Two mouldering skeletons are slumped against the far wall, clutching bows.  Arrows are strewn about the floor, and an old smear of blood leads to a door.

There are 6 cold iron arrows and 34 arrows here for those that want them.

A gut tripwire here activates a crude crossbow trap.

G7 – Arsenal

This room looks to have once been an arsenal, but it’s been thoroughly looted.  Empty weapon racks and brackets are evident, but little of use remains: half a dozen rusted spears and a few halberds, and a handful of brittle-looking bows.

All of these weapons have the “broken” condition.

G8 – Armoury

The door to this room is unlocked, but trapped – upon opening it, several large, badly rusted blades swing down from the ceiling to strike any stepping through, similar to a scythe trap.

Old suits of armour, badly rusted, can be found in this chamber: chain shirts, breastplates, helmets, greaves, gauntlets, and other bits and pieces, some of them still on their racks, others scattered about.  Dozens of shields and bucklers are scattered around as well.

4 chain shirts, 3 suits of chain mail, 3 suits of scale mail, 2 breastplates, 1 suit of splint mail, 1 pair of spiked gauntlets, 6 large steel shields, 4 small steel shields, and 8 bucklers can be found here.

G9 – Storage

The heavy wooden door to this room will not open easily, as it’s been barricaded.  It takes a DC 22 Strength check to force it open.  The blood trail leads here.

You finally force the door open.  Inside, you realize the door had been barricaded – there were shelves, crates, and other objects heaped up against it.  The chamber here looks to be a storage room.  There are several jars of lantern oil, a number tools and nails, torches, linen, spare parts for the winch, and a significant quantity of spare timber.  There are also some bandages and other healing supplies.  The blood-stain stops at a mouldering old skeleton in a badly rusted hauberk, an arrow protruding from its bony ribs.

There are 6 jars of lamp oil here (1 pint each), 20 torches, and a healer’s kit.  The skeleton has a chain shirt and a masterwork arrow sticking out of it.

G10 – Archer’s Gallery

Judging from the arrow slits along one wall, this is an archer’s gallery, used to pepper foes on the drawbridge with arrows.

A patch of the floor in this gallery is weakened.  Unless a character has Trapspotter or Stonecunning, they don’t get a Perception check automatically; it’s DC 20 to detect otherwise.  The hazard requires a Reflex DC 20 to avoid and deals 2d6 falling damage, depositing characters in G6.


G11 – Mangonel Storage

Spare parts for mangonels are stored in this chamber – beams, axles, counterweights, and other components.  Now these parts are beginning to succumb to rot, exuding a pungent odour.

G12 – Spiked Room

The door to this room is locked; Grugnar has the copper key which unlocks it.

Someone has fixed long, wooden spikes to the floor of this room.  The spikes appear to have been smeared with a dark substance.

Anyone straying to the chest in G16 may end up here.  The spikes are smeared with small centipede poison (Fort DC 11, 1 Dex damage, 1/round for 4 rounds, 1 save cures).

G13 – Crossbow Armoury

This door is locked (DC 20).  The copper key opens it.

During the attack on Hexenburg, this room must have been neglected.  Its walls are hung with crossbows, most of which are in remarkably good condition, ranging in size from heavy crossbows to small hand crossbows.  Barrels of bolts are arrayed about the walls.

There are about 1000 bolts, 20 heavy crossbows, 20 light crossbows, and 10 hand crossbows here.

G14 – Heap

This room might once have been an armoury of storage chamber, but its previous contents have been cleared out.  A makeshift bed has been made from heaped grass, straw, and other material.  Some cracked bones are scattered about as well, along with a half-eaten human corpse.  Hideously, it looks as if the corpse was flayed before being partially eaten – the man has no skin.  Piled in a corner of the chamber is a mound of clothing scraps, leather tatters, and other bric-a-brac, including a number of old weapons and bits of jewellery.

Two gold rings (25 gp each), a silver ring (5 gp), and four copper rings (1 gp each), plus a silver broach set with a bloodstone (75 gp), can be found here, along with a dagger, a shortsword, and a masterwork longsword.

G15 – Centipede Room

In this chamber, a pair of overgrown centipedes the size of cats scuttle over the corpse of a small, ponty-eared, sharp-toothed humanoid – a Goblin.  The creature’s flesh is discoloured and blotchy from hundreds of tiny bites.  It clutches a morningstar in one hand and a ring of keys in another.  The centipedes seem to have made this room their nest – amidst a heap of rotten timber they’ve laid dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of glossy white eggs.

The centipedes are aggressive and will attack anyone entering.  The Goblin has 8 silver pieces and a ring of keys (copper, silver, black iron, bronze).  It is from the Barghest-led tribe that dwells in the Dungeons.

G16 – Trapped Room

The wooden floorboards of this room are scuffed and bloodstained.   Near the far end of the room is a large, wooden chest, open.  Inside you can glimpse a glimmer of silver.

Grugnar has set a trap in this room.  The chest contains 142 silver pieces and 42 gold pieces,  However, the floorboards near the trap have been weakened (Perception DC 20 on a trap search, Disable Device DC 20).  Anyone stepping on them must make a DC 20 Reflex save or suffer 1d6 falling damage, plus 1d4 spikes (+10 attack, 1d4+2 each) as they fall into G12.  These spikes are smeared with small centipede poison (Fort DC 11, 1 Dex damage, 1/round for 4 rounds, 1 save cures).

G17 – The Chair Room        

Several old halberds and spears are hung on the wall.  The gatehouse here has crumbled partially, leaving a hole in the wall; snow has blown inside, and the wind moans dully through the gap.  Set before the hole is a rocking chair made from human and animal bones, lashed together with sinews, as if made for someone to look out into the bailey beyond.

3 halberds, 4 longspears, 1 very creepy chair.

G18 – Officer’s Quarters

This square chamber, with its larger bed, writing desk, and small shelf, could have been the quarters of the gatehouse’s commander.  This furniture is badly rotten, infested with a thick, brown mould.  It looks like there might be a few papers mixed in with the detritus.

The furniture has been infested with brown mould.

There is little to be found here, except that a loose stone in the wall can be removed (Perception DC 22 to find).  Inside is a small belt-pouch with 54 gp.

The papers are mostly logs for the gatehouse’s inventory of weapons, ammunition, rations, and the like.  There is also, however, a map of the gatehouse and 1d3 other random maps.

G19 – Scorched Archer’s Gallery

This archer’s gallery looks down on the drawbridge and forest below.  There are scorch marks about some of the arrow-slits.  A shrunken, bug-eyed thing resembling a malignant, deformed child lies in the middle of the gallery, a quarrel protruding from its throat from a crude crossbow trap near the ceiling.

This Goblin met its end from one of Grugnar’s traps.  It has 3 silver pieces and a crude dagger.


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