BEARDED DEVIL

Monsters, Horror, Gaming

Tag: St. Severine’s Skull

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

Dungeons

Soundtrack

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

Dungeon

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.

St. Severine’s Skull – Character Portraits

These character portraits were drawn by the talented Bronwyn McIvor (of Beemonster Illustration), who plays Wynflaeth.  This is the party I’ve been taking through the St. Severine’s Skull Megadungeon.  They’re currently on the second level of the Dungeons below the Keep in the Inner Bailey, way ahead of the material I’ve posted here (they’ve been through the Gatehouse, Chapel, Catacombs, Library, Archives, Black Tower, Laboratories, Cellars, and the 1st level of the Dungeons so far).  They’re a pretty balanced party and have been playing well, with no deaths – they mostly consist of new players who don’t have bad habits and so actually run away when things seem dire or too hot to handle.  They’re getting close to the Skull but they’re running very low on food and spells at the moment; at the end of the last session they locked themselves in a forgotten treasure vault in hopes of deterring the Goblin tribe inhabiting the Keep from feasting on their flesh.

Wynflaeth

Wynflaeth (Half-Elf Cleric) and Biff the War-Pony.

Simsa

Simsa, Gnome Ranger – a possibly deranged xenophobe and nature-lover.

Tully

Tully, a definitely deranged fire-worshipping Dwarf Barbarian with a zeal for the destruction of Undead, preferably by cleansing flame.

AndroAndro, an Aasimar Rogue in the service of the Church.

 

St. Severine’s Skull: Hexenburg Castle – Catacombs

A-Procession-in-the-Catacomb-of-Callistus

Soundtrack

As you descend the stair to the catacombs, you feel a wave of unease ripple through you.  The tunnels here are of hewn stone and ancient brick, carved with unfamiliar characters – probably a remnant of the original Imperial fortress.  A thick layer of dust covers everything, disturbed only by the Father’s footprints.

Perception DC 10:

Somewhere in the catacombs you can hear what sounds like a dull heartbeat, echoing through the winding passages.

The catacombs contain dozens and dozens of skeletons, but while Saint Severine’s heart beats within its sepulchre, they cannot rise.  The moment the heart is destroyed or removed, the skeletons will animate en masse.  However, even if the heart is not destroyed, there are several monsters here – dire rats, a cluster of gricks, vermin, an ooze, and similar creatures.

If the heart is destroyed or removed from the catacombs, very bad things happen.  There are opportunities along the way to mitigate these things, like lighting candelabra and chandeliers in the ossuaries, or covering the floors with embalming fluid and anointing oil to form make-shift fire traps.  Still, destroying the heart could result in the whole party being overwhelmed if they are not careful.

Random Encounters

The catacombs are a dangerous area, somewhat beyond the abilities of a 1st or 2nd level party; low-level characters may not be able to effectively “clear out” the space fully.  To help reflect this, random encounters in the crypts can be a bit more frequent than in other parts of the dungeons.  Note that apart from the Huecava there actually aren’t any undead here unless the Heart of St. Severine has been removed or destroyed.

Roll d10 Result
1 Slime Mould.
2 1d6 Dire Rats.
3 1d4 Slime Crawler Larvae.
4 Giant Centipede.
5 1d4 Stirges.
6  Giant Stirge.
7  1d2 Gricks.
8  1d3 Slime crawlers.
9 Spider Swarm from the Archives.
10 Otyugh.

Level 1

Catacombs Level 1

C1 – Embalming Chamber

A pair of stone slabs are evident here, mottled with old stains.  An array of tools – knives, scalpels, saws, and other implements – are arranged neatly on a stone shelf to one side.  The air here smells lingeringly of spices, preservatives, and decomposition.  Curiously, there are some strange skins on the floor, squamous and translucent, like the moulting of some large reptile.

C2 – Embalming Supplies

The door to this room is locked (DC 20 to pick, DC 20 to force) and can be opened with the silver key.

Dozens of jars of embalming fluid are stored on wooden shelves here, along with a great quantity of bandages, herbs, dyes, and other preservatives.  Funerary shrouds and other cerements, sewing needles, thread, cups, and anointing oils are also stored here for the consecration of the dead.

Though the players may not realize it, the contents of this room are incredibly valuable.  Each jar of embalming fluid is worth 50 gp, though it weighs 10 lbs, so if they somehow managed to transport all 50 jars of it out of here they’ll be 2500 gp richer.  There are also 20 jars of anointing oil here (25 gp each).  Both oil and fluid are also extremely flammable, making them very useful in a fight against the undead.  They don’t burn quite as well as alchemist’s fire, but if lit they deal 1d4 fire damage per round to anyone standing in them.

C3 – Defaced Shrine

A small shrine, presumably for the blessing of the dead before their internment, is evident here, but like the chapel upstairs it has been defiled.  The statue of an unidentifiable saint that presided over the shrine has been decapitated and otherwise defaced, its marble body smeared with old bloodstains, eerie runes daubed on the walls.  Black candles are scattered about the altar, upon which is stretched a small, burnt skeleton, likely that of a Halfling, Gnome, or human child.  The murals on the walls have been subtly defaced – the beatific figures, angels, and prophets they depict are all weeping blood or bear expressions of maniacal rage or lust.  Nailed to one wall are the remains of a large bird.

The Aklo runes here read “Praise be to the Carrion Queen” (Linguistics DC 20 to decipher).  Anyone who reads them out loud accidentally invokes a Bane spell, Will DC 15 to resist.

C4 – Ossuary

A huge number of bones has been stored in the walls of this cavernous ossuary, sorted by type: skulls, femurs, finger bones, ribs, spines, and every other sort of bone.  A chandelier made from human bones is suspended from the ceiling of the round chamber.  This place is truly vast – there must be hundreds of dead buried here.

If the heart is destroyed, treat the mass of bones reanimated here as 2d20 unarmed Skeletons.

Anyone taking the effort to light the chandelier will prevent the dead from rising even if the heart is destroyed.  If they are later blown out, the bones will reanimate.

C5 – Ossuary of Skulls

This round ossuary consists on shelf after shelf of skulls – hundreds, perhaps thousands of them.  None of them are marked in any fashion.  A central pillar made from human skulls and other bones holds up the vaulted ceiling, and bony candelabra are scattered about the room.

If the heart is destroyed, a Skull Swarm appears here.

Anyone taking the effort to light the candelabra will prevent the dead from rising even if the heart is destroyed.  If they are later blown out, the bones will reanimate.

skull shelves

C6 – Damaged Ossuary

This circular ossuary has been thoroughly despoiled, its cadaverous candelabra smashed, its shelves of skulls toppled, its racks of bones scattered and broken.  A hideous, vaguely serpentine thing is bent over one skeletal heap; it uses the four tentacles that snake from its stub-like head to pick up bones and crack them in two, devouring the marrow with its beaked, squid-like maw.

A Grick lurks here.  If even remotely wounded the Grick quickly retreats into the grick lair in Ossuary 6 (C9).

If the heart is destroyed, treat the mass of bones reanimated here as 2d20 unarmed Skeletons at half hp.

Since the candelabra here have been smashed, they cannot be lit to prevent the dead from rising.

C7 – Children’s Ossuary

This large, round ossuary looks to contain the remains of children – the bones here range in size, but all of them are very small.  Many have been affixed to the walls and ceiling to form sacred designs.  A small shrine with unlit candles and bowl for proffered coins sits in the center of the room.

Lighting the candles and leaving at least 1sp in the bowl prevents 2d20 Small Skeletons from spawning here if the heart is destroyed.

C8 – Tableau

This rectangular ossuary is extremely elaborate, with multiple corpses dressed in the now-tattered robes of monks, presiding over a macabre shrine made entirely of bones, complete with a bone altar and bone icons affixed to the walls and ceiling, and a bone rack with dozens of candles.

As usual, if the candles are lit here, then it prevents 2d20 unarmed Skeletons at half hp from rising if the heart is destroyed.

C9 – Grick Nest

A heady animal musk fills the air of this desecrated ossuary, which is covered in moulted reptilian skins.  The shelves of neatly sorted bones that would once have lined the walls have been thoroughly plundered, formed enormous charnel heaps of gnawed human remains.  A great heap of enormous, sallow eggs is secured to one wall with a sticky mucilaginous slime.

Two gricks are hiding in the bone-piles – Stealth +14.  They attack anyone who interferes with the eggs or lingers in this chamber.

Dem Bones
C10 – Tomb of St. Helga’s Font

The stone door to this tomb is locked (DC 25 or silver key to open, DC 25 to force).

This small, square tomb is lined with carved niches, each containing a human skeleton wrapped in rotting cerements.  Large black rats scurry to and fro, squeaking and chittering.  Along one wall of the tomb is a small alcove with a statue of Saint Helga the Fair, a protector of the dead and patron saint of the murdered and mutilated.  In her hands she holds a small basin that looks like it might once have held water.  Unlike the other statues you’ve seen in the catacombs, this one has not been defaced.

Placing holy water in the basin sanctifies the corridor, preventing 12 skeletons from rising if the heart is destroyed.  A Cleric who prays at the shrine receives a Blessing of Fervour (this is useable once per day)

The dead here do have a few odds and ends – a thorough looting turns up 4 copper rings (2 gp each), 3 silver rings (5 gp each), and a Charm Bracelet with only a Loving Heart charm remaining.  Looting the dead, however, ensures they will rise.

C11 – Tomb of the Blasphemous Book

The stone door to this tomb is locked (DC 25 or silver key to open, DC 25 to force).

This square tomb has carved niches along the walls containing dozens of skulls, which all bear decorative paintings of religious scenes, though age and the depredations of rats and other vermin has caused some of their paint to peel.  At the far end of the tomb stands a lectern upon which a book sits open.  Two unlit braziers flank it.

If the heart is destroyed, a Skull Swarm appears here, unless both braziers are lit.

The book is quite strange:

On the surface this book appears to be a very standard holy text, a collection of scriptures with ornate illuminated illustrations.  However, closer inspection reveals that the text seems to have been changed.  The illustrations are subtly wrong – figures who should be heroes and saints are depicted with strange deformities, and many scenes are hideously transformed so that the holy men and women depicted are engaged in acts of extreme depravity or violence.  Moreover, key words in the text have been altered or unusual endings tacked on to parables so that the wrong lesson is taught, the forces of Light and virtue ridiculed, and those of sin and excess lauded.

If studied for 48 hours or more over at least 6 days, the Blasphemous Book plagues any Good character who reads it with nightmares that prevent them from sleeping properly, waking up fatigued, for 1 week.  Evil characters, however, find the book’s subject-matter invigorating and receive a permanent +1 inherent bonus to an Ability score of their choice.  This text is worth 10,000 gp, but almost no one save heretical cults and the like would buy it – selling it could be an adventure in itself.  If the players wish to appease the Cult of the Withered Hand, who will be arriving at Hexenburg shortly, the book may be helpful.

C12 – Warrior’s Tomb

This long hall has many carved niches holding skeletons garbed in mail and clutching rusted swords.  A crumbling stair leads down into darkness.

Perception DC 15 to spot the Grey Ooze on the floor – it looks like a glistening patch of stone.

There are 12 skeletons with rusted longswords garbed in splint mail (AC 21) who rise if the heart is destroyed.

C13 – Dire Rat Nest

The stone door of this tomb has been smashed open and the chamber has been invaded by rats; the carved niches along the walls have been emptied of their skeletons and now form a series of nests.  Several abnormally large black rats scurry around, gnawing bones.  Rat-holes riddle the walls wherever the stonework has decayed.

Investigating the rat-nests yields 44 gp, 56 sp, and 134 cp.  There is also a small Idol of Crom Mogg here, a verdigris-encrusted statuette resembling a deformed humanoid with a dozen rat tails and four rat-like heads.  The disgusting idol allows any who prays to it and sacrifices before it to reroll all failed saves vs. disease or poison for one day, though they must accept the second result.  However, use of the idol warps the supplicant subtly, and they begin to give off a foul odour (-4 Charisma).  Ceasing use of the Idol allows the smell to disperse after three days.

There are 12 dire rats in this room; 3 will attack each character if anyone lingers here or starts searching the nests, and more will begin assailing the adventurers if they continue to loot the nests.

C14 – The Wyrmwife’s Tomb

The stone door to this tomb is locked (DC 25 or silver key to open, DC 25 to force).

A sarcophagus with the effigy of a grim but beautiful woman stands at the center of this chamber.  The walls are adorned with somewhat sinister paintings of a beautiful woman – possibly the same one interred here – falling in love with a mysterious figure who eventually reveals himself as a monstrous white wyrm in disguise.  The dragon is eventually slain by a knightly figure, and the woman is shown throwing herself from a cliff to join her paramour in death.

This is the tomb of Lady Lys, called the Wyrmwife, whose story can be known with a DC 20 Knowledge (nobility) check.  Lady Lys became betrothed to an enigmatic nobleman, Sir Pyotr, who was eventually revealed, as the murals depict, as a dragon.  He sired a child on Lady Lys, the bastard known as the Wyrmchild, who went on to perform deeds of great valour.  However, he was slain by Lady Lys’ jealous cousin, Sir Rudolf, and Lady Lys subsequently killed herself out of grief.

Getting a sarcophagus open requires a DC 20 Strength check or a crowbar.  Within lie Lady Lys’ remains garbed in a beautiful and well-preserved gown (120 gp) and adorned with a golden wedding ring (25 gp).  Pressed to her breast is a token of her dead dragon-lover, a single fang, hung on a golden chain around her neck and clasped to her bosom in her cold hands.  If worn, the Fang of the White Wyrm allows its bearer to speak Draconic and gain Cold Resistance 5.  It is worth 8000 gp.

If the heart is destroyed, Lady Lys rises as a Wight.

C15 – The Sepulchre of the Cudgel of Redemption

The stone door to this tomb is locked (DC 25 or silver key to open, DC 25 to force).  Upon it is a graven image of Sir Arngrim, a bearded, armoured knight with bare head, wielding the Hammer of Redemption.  The door is also trapped with a Glyph of Warding (DC 28 to find or disable – dispel is more likely) with a Terrible Remorse spell keyed to it (Will DC 17).

This large burial vault has but a single sarcophagus bearing the effigy of a stern, bearded warrior carrying a huge club carved with passages of scripture.  The walls here are adorned with dusty murals depicting the same warrior fighting hordes of tattooed, savage-looking warriors in a variety of settings.

Opening the sarcophagus requires a DC 20 Strength check or a crowbar.  Within, the skeleton of a knight dedicated to Sir Arngrim can be found, armoured in masterwork splint mail and bearing the Cudgel of Redemption, a +1 Holy Greatclub.  Against Evil Clerics and Blackguards, the weapon is even more effective, essentially acquiring the Bane ability (+2d6 additional damage) against such foes.  The Cudgel is worth 20000 gp.

If the heart is destroyed, the skeleton rises from the dead (as an undead creature, he doesn’t suffer from negative levels, so he can still wield the Cudgel) as a Wight, though armoured in masterwork splint mail (AC 21).

Level 2

Catacombs

Cataombs Level 2

C16 – Looted Servants’ Crypt

The door to this series of crypts has been broken down.  A dozen wooden coffins are placed in this long, vaulted chamber, though they are badly rotten and infested with vermin.  Flies buzz about the room and rats scurry everywhere; some of them seem to have made their nests in the decaying coffins or in the walls.

There’s really not much to loot here – the servants weren’t buried with any jewellery.  If the heart is destroyed, 12 Zombies at half hp rise from the dead.

C17 – Infested Servants’ Crypt

A disgusting, vaguely slug-like creature with a clutch of slimy tentacles and a pair of insectoid mandibles gorges itself on the flesh of an embalmed corpse in this room, which contains a dozen plain wooden coffins.  Some of the others have likewise been broken into, but most of the coffins here are relatively intact, though starting to decompose.  The large slug-thing seems very busy eating, rapidly devouring the corpse.

A Slime Crawler lurks here.  Nothing of value here, but 8 Zombies rise from the dead here if the heart is destroyed.

C18 – Undefiled Servants’ Crypt

The stone door to this tomb is locked (DC 25 or silver key to open, DC 25 to force).

A dozen finely wrought wooden coffins are placed in niches in this chamber or laid on low pedestals throughout the room.  They don’t look like they’ve been disturbed.  At the far end of the chamber is a small, rather plain font, long gone stagnant.

Nothing to loot here, though 12 Zombies rise if the heart is destroyed.  If someone casts Purify Food and Water on the font, the dead don’t rise in this room.

Casket

C19 – Scholar’s Crypt

The stone door to this tomb is locked (DC 25 or silver key to open, DC 25 to force).

This small crypt bears a number of stone sarcophagi carved with images of robed men – perhaps priests or scholars.  Their expressions are beatific and wise; one has an impressive beard.  The walls are adorned with finely carved passages of holy scripture.

The 6 scholars buried here rise as Zombies if the heart is destroyed.  The tales on the walls recount various parables of the seven virtues (chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, humility).

Getting a sarcophagus open requires a DC 20 Strength check or a crowbar.  Within, the scholars have a few objects of value, but the bearded scholar has a masterwork quarterstaff.

C20 – The “Dining” Room

This chamber has been set up in a macabre tableau.  A dozen skeletons dressed in decaying finery have been arrayed around a massive table made of bones and preserved human skin, all of them seated in bone chairs.  Hanging on the walls are tapestries bearing a wolf’s head symbol, sometimes quartered with other heraldic sigils – trees, moons, stars, a bear’s paw.  The table has been set with fine silverware, and the skeleton of a monstrous boar sits in the middle of table, surrounded by the skeletons of fowl, rabbits, and other beasts.  The scene comes complete with a skeletal jester with a bell-cap and motley, poised near the head of the table where a lordly skeleton raises a cup set with black jewels in a toast.

The 12 Dinner Guests rise as skeletons if the heart is destroyed, attacking with silver cutlery (treat as daggers).  The cursed jewelled cup is called the Cup of Desiccation.  Anyone who drinks from the cup becomes horribly desiccated, taking 5d6 points of non-lethal damage and becoming fatigued unless they pass a DC 20 Fortitude save.  In addition, the character cannot slake their thirst for 1d3 days after drinking from the cup, even if they pass their save.

C21 – Knight’s Crypt

The stone door to this tomb is locked (DC 25 or silver key to open, DC 25 to force).

Three stone sarcophagi bearing the effigies of armoured knights clasping swords to their chests stand at the center of this chamber.  Adorning the walls are dozens of shields, helms, swords, and spears, somewhat rusted but otherwise intact; some of them look exceptionally well made.

There are 3 masterwork longspears and 6 regular longspears, 3 masterwork longswords and 10 regular longswords, 2 masterwork bastard swords and 3 regular bastard swords, and 6 masterwork heavy steel shields and 12 regular heavy steel shields here.  The dead in the sarcophagi rise as Skeleton Champions.

skulls

C22 – Chamber of the Gargoyle Lamp

A large, ornate lamp is set in an alcove halfway along the wall of this dusty hall.  The lamp is forged to resemble a grimacing gargoyle, its mouth vomiting light.

The lamp is a Gargoyle Lamp.  When lit and used to illuminate a statue that statue becomes temporarily lively enough to answer simple questions posed to it about what it may have seen over the years (provided the statue has a mouth).  Statues enlivened in this way can lie if they wish – they are not compelled to answer truthfully.  Each use of the Lamp rapidly burns a pint of lamp oil.  The Lamp is worth 7000 gp.

The niche containing the Gargoyle Lamp is trapped with a pressure plate (Perception DC 20 to notice, Disable Device DC 20 to disable).  Anyone who removes it without disabling the trap first activates a poisoned arrow trap concealed in the wall opposite the Lamp.

C23 – Defiled Noble’s Crypt

This richly appointed crypt has been defiled, one of its six marble sarcophagus broken open, the sculpted effigy on its lid shattered.  Feasting on the embalmed remains within the broken sarcophagus is a black rat the size of a small dog, tearing through the corpse’s cerements with razor-like incisors.  Whoever broke into the sarcophagus probably already looted the body.

The remains rise as a Zombie with half hp; the remaining 5 rise as Zombies with full health.

There’s also a dire rat here.

C24 – Wulfheim Noble’s Crypt

The stone door to this tomb is locked (DC 25 or silver key to open, DC 25 to force).

Half a dozen marble sarcophagi fill this chamber, each bearing the sculpted, marble likeness of a man or woman in rich attire.  Hung on the walls are faded hangings depicting a heraldic symbol of a black wolf’s head with red eyes and gleaming white teeth.

The noblemen here rise as 6 Zombies if the heart is destroyed.  Each is garbed in a noble outfit (75 gp) and bears a signet ring of the House of Wulfheim (5 gp each).  One of the women also has a bloodstone necklace (100 gp).  Getting a sarcophagus open requires a DC 20 Strength check or a crowbar.

C25 – Slimy Noble’s Crypt

This crypt contains six marble sarcophagi, but the marble effigies on their lids have been badly disfigured, pockmarked and eaten away.  Covering the ceiling and three of the walls of this expansive crypt is a glistening green slime.  Across the only wall not covered in slime is a huge, peeling mural depicting a battle between a group of armoured knights whose shields all bear a wolf’s head symbol and a ragged band of barbaric-looking warriors clad in furs.  The two forces meet in a snow-swept valley, the rocks spattered with blood from their vicious combat.

Green slime coats the walls.

The sarcophagi are Strength DC 20 (or crowbar) to open.  Inside are six embalmed dead (they rise as Zombies if the heart is destroyed) wearing noble outfits and signet rings.  One is also buried with a silver circlet worth 50 gp.

C26 – Collapsed Noble’s Crypt

The stone door to this tomb is locked (DC 25 or silver key to open, DC 25 to force).

Part of this hall has collapsed, burying some of the stone sarcophagi here and smashing others open to expose the embalmed, richly attired dead within.

There are 3 intact bodies, which will rise as Zombies if the heart is destroyed (they wear noble outfits and have signet rings).  Knowledge (engineering) or Stonecunning Perception DC 10 to tell that the room is definitely prone to further collapse.

C27 – Crypt of the False Sarcophagus

Tomb raiders or other looters have defiled the three ornate sarcophagi in this chamber and stripped it of valuables.  Scattered bones – what’s left of the occupants – and a few rusted shields and swords are all that remains here.

There aren’t any valuables here, but there is an undiscovered secret door – Perception DC 20 to discover it.  It’s actually a sarcophagus – one of the eyes of the cherubim on the sarcophagus opens the false bottom.  The tunnel beneath leads into the Laboratories (beneath the Black Tower).

C28 – The Door of Teeth

A pair of baroquely forged iron doors looms out of the darkness here, bearing the uncanny resemblance of a snarling wolf with bared fangs.

These doors are locked (DC 30 or use the silver key).  Any who enters who is not of the blood of Wulfheim must pass a DC 20 Will save or be stricken by the Curse of Teeth.  This horrific curse causes the teeth of the accursed to grow into twisted, disfiguring fangs that impair their speech (imposing a -6 penalty on any skill checks involving speech) and deal 1 point of Con damage as they grow in.  Each day, the curse continues to wreak havoc, teeth sprouting first from the character’s neck and face, then their back and shoulders, then spreading across their body, dealing 1d3 Dex and Con damage per day until the accursed dies or the curse is removed.  Accursed characters do gain a Bite attack (1d3 damage) as a natural attack.

C29 – The Sepulchre of the Wolf’s Fang

Within this ornate burial vault is a baroque sarcophagus set with an effigy of a cruel-featured nobleman.  Murals on the walls depict images of slavering black wolves with red eyes, staring at you hungrily, their fangs slavering.

The sarcophagus has a Greater Glyph of Warding on it (DC 31 to find or disable) keyed to a summoning spell causing a Hell Hound to manifest:

As you open the sarcophagus’ lid, a bloodcurdling howl echoes through the room, and a huge creature pads from the shadows at the rear of the chamber, as if spawned from the darkness itself – a massive black wolf, flame curling from its maw

Within the Sepulchre is the ancient Count Damien von Wulfheim.  He is garbed in the equivalent of a royal outfit (200gp), bears a signet ring (5 gp), and clasps the Wolf’s Fang, a +1 Wounding Bastard Sword with a pommel shaped like a wolf’s head with rubies for eyes.  He also wears the Frost Crown, a powerful magic item which possesses the following abilities:

The Frost Crown is an ancient possession of the House of Wulfheim, said to have originally been wrested from the head of a Hexenlander chieftain.  It occupies a Head magic item slot and confers a number of powers on its wearer.  First, it allows them to Speak with Animals at will, so long as those animals are wolves or kin to wolves (such as Worgs or Winter Wolves).  Secondly, it confers Cold Resistance 5 on the wearer.  Thirdly and finally, once per week the Crown can be used to cast the spell Control Weather, though you may only summon a blizzard, frigid cold, or hurricane force winds.  Anyone wearing the Crown undergoes a number of subtle physical and mental transformations.  Their eyes become colder and paler, gradually turning into a frosty ice-blue.  Their hair slowly turns silver and then white, and their teeth become curiously sharp.  Finally, they become increasingly haughty, aloof, and ruthless, and must make a DC 20 Will save every week or have their Alignment shift one step towards Lawful Evil.

The Frost Crown is worth 13000 gp.

If the heart is destroyed, the Count rises as a Mummy, equipped with Wolf’s Fang (this weapon doesn’t spread mummy rot, mercifully) if he still has it.

C30 – The Sepulchre of St. Severine’s Heart

This hexagonal crypt has few actual corpses – only a few carved niches with some mouldering skeletons in them.  However, at its very center lies a huge, gilded reliquary, opened to display a red, beating heart on a plush cushion.  The heart seeps a seemingly unending supply of blood that trickles down the reliquary and drains into small holes on the floor.  The sound of its rhythmic beat fills the chamber.

If Father Leopold/“Umberto” is with them:

The priest points his finger at the disembodied heart.  “It must be destroyed!  Cleanse this place of evil!”

If Brother Ambrose is with them, he will totally attempt to do this if the players don’t step up.  If they try to stop him, make sure to roll initiative in plain sight.  If Ambrose gets the drop on them and manages to destroy the heart – or if the players foolishly do so – this occurs:

The heart ceases to beat as the blade plunges into it and gouts of blood spew everywhere, a ceaseless sanguineous torrent gushing from the organ’s exposed orifices.  There is a sound reminiscent of a woman screaming, and a wave of utter despair ripples through you.

Father Umberto cackles, and suddenly the priest begins to change, his flesh sloughing off to reveal a ghoulish, cadaverous visage beneath, eyes glowing with an infernal light.

“You fool!” he declares.  “You have done what I could not.  Now that the heart is destroyed the dead can wake from their slumber!”

As he speaks, the bones in the crypt begin to stir, and half a dozen skeleton step down from their alcoves!

So, six skeletons here.  And a lot of undead elsewhere!  Anywhere that’s been sealed (sarcophagi, sealed tombs) takes the undead a little while to get through, but most of them will eventually find their way free.

Soundtrack

The Heart of Saint Severine is a powerful relic.  Anyone who carries it with them becomes Immune to Fear and gains a +4 bonus to saving throws against Death Effects and Energy Drain attacks.  In addition, Undead approaching within 10 ft. the Heart must make a DC 10 Will save or flee as if panicked (precisely as if they were just turned).  An Undead creature that makes its save cannot be affected by the Heart for 24 hours, but can be turned by those with the ability; however, Undead cannot touch the Heart, recoiling from it.  Any spell that creates Undead (Animate Dead, Create Undead, etc) fails to function if the Heart’s beat is audible (thus, a Silence spell negates this ability).  The Heart has an AC of 18 and 5 hp.  While in its gilded adamantine reliquary it has an AC of 24 and DR 2/-.  The Heart cannot be easily sold, but if presented to the Cathedral of St. Severine they will pay the characters 10000 gp.

Revenant

The Badhill Lads & Lasses

Black Hobbit

Soundtrack

The Badhill Lads & Lasses are a group of unscrupulous Halflings, originally from the Greyfarthing.  They’re a ragtag, unpleasant band of brothers, sisters, cousins, second-cousins-twice-removed, and other relatives, somewhat inbred from long years of cousin-marriage in the tunnels of Badhill, and they’ve acquired an unsavoury reputation over the years as thieves, thugs, poachers, and bandits.  The current group have come to Hexenburg following rumours of gold and other treasures in the crypts.  They’re led by the vicious Foxglove Twins, Trahald and Smygel (statistics can be found in the Appendix), and consist of six toughs armed with knives and clubs.  They form two groups of four – one Twin and three Lads or Lasses each – and begin combing the catacombs in search of treasure.  If they encounter the adventurers they will not hesitate to slit their throats and steal everything they’re carrying down to their last stitch of clothingThey might also be bartered with or intimidated, but any alliance formed with them is temporary at best.

If the Badhill Lads & Lasses attack, they will do so stealthily, avoiding direct confrontation, as described below (for example):

A knife twirls out of the darkness towards you, followed closely by a pair of shifty-looking Halflings in battered leather armour, their hair greasy and wild, their faces scarred and mean-looking.  The pair have a slightly inbred look, with exaggerated facial features and widely spaced eyes – in fact, you might have mistaken them for a pair of Goblins if it weren’t for their unshod, furry feet!  The pair both brandish cruel-looking knives.

Two will attack from the front while one of the Foxglove Twins and a third tough flank.  Badhill Halflings run away if injured for more than 5 hp – they’re total cowards.  But they regroup quickly and attack in numbers if required, and they’re certainly not above setting ambushes and fighting dirty…

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

Clarke4

Soundtrack

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.

Chapel

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

Duomo

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

Soundtrack

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

Soundtrack

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.

Well

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

cultists

Soundtrack

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.

Arrival

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)

St. Severine’s Skull: Hexenburg Castle – Gatehouse

Gatehouse

Soundtrack

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!

Gatehouse

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

Soundtrack

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.

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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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St. Severine’s Skull: Hexenburg Castle – Approach and Watchtowers

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A few words on the design and general “philosophy” of Hexenburg.  While the Castle is sprawling, much of it is empty.  What monsters there are in the ruin, however, tend to be quite dangerous for a low-level party.  The idea is to use a few powerful monsters to their greatest effect, rather than cramming every room with lots of weak monsters.  There are a few exceptions to this (the Goblin tribe in the Dungeons, or the hordes of undead in the Catacombs), but largely the Castle should feel big and mostly empty.  This is to encourage a feeling of paranoia and uncertainty amongst the players.  As they enter each room, they should feel uncertain what they’re going to find.  Each encounter should be a dangerous one where the stakes feel high, not a run-of-the-mill hackfest where the players mow through squads of monsters with relative ease.  Play monsters intelligently; they should employ clever tactics against players, using special attacks, dirty tricks, spells, terrain, disarming attacks, and the like.  They should retreat when wounded, rather than fighting to the death.

Hexenburg is a cursed place – a place where evil and darkness hold saw.  Dead bodies allowed to lay on the grounds can spontaneously reanimate, and the very stones of the place seem to whisper black obscenities on those who tread upon them.

Soundtrack

As an incipient blizzard swirls around you, Hexenburg Castle at last comes into view: a foreboding mass of dark stone, half-reclaimed by the forest.  The trees in this part of the forest seem sickly, tree-trunks mottled by blight, scabrous bark peeling.  The path winds up the raised earthwork motte of the fortress, then passes over a rickety old drawbridge spanning a snow-clotted ditch.  Old wooden spikes are visible in this moat, to deter any trying to scale the walls.  The crenellated battlements are beginning to sag and crumble but the gatehouse is still mostly intact.  Past the walls rise several towers – two largely intact, one a broken stub – and a formidable keep.  Rotting mangonels are visible on the walls.

Perception DC 20 to notice a light flicker in the window of the west tower.  DC 15 to notice:

Scattered on the path leading up to the castle are a number of bones, broken weapons, cloven shields, and other remnants of an old battle – likely the very battle that resulted in the castle’s ruination at the hands of marauders from the north.

A thorough search of the battlefield produces a masterwork longsword.

Watchtower Table

There are many watchtowers in Hexenburg Castle, which may or may not be searched by the players.  The following table allows for random generation of watchtower contents.  Each tower has 4 levels and thus four randomized rooms.  Roll on the following table if the players decide to go poking out in a watchtower:

Roll d% Result
1 A room covered in old bloodstains.
2 A room covered in fresh bloodstains.
3 Four Goblins hunting rats for stew, led by a Goblin Ranger.
4 A heap of human bones.
5 Aklo runes scrawled on a wall in blood (random 1st level Necromantic spell formulae if deciphered with a DC 20 Linguistics check).
6 Sleeping bats (they could form a swarm if threatened).
7 A human corpse nailed to a wall, with its tongue and fingernails removed.
8 A human corpse nailed to the floor with its heart, liver, lungs, and brain removed.
9 A room with dozens of Elf ears nailed to the walls.
10 Torture implements – a rack, thumbscrews, and branding irons.
11 A roosting Owlbear in its nest.
12 A severed head in the middle of the room with black gems (25 gp each) replacing its eyes.
13 Lectern with a book in an unknown language.
14 Lectern with a Vacuous Grimoire which appears to be a treatise on Hexenburg’s history.
15 A telescope and other astrological equipment.  It looks remarkably new.
16 An Ettercap lair filled with webs and web-swathed corpses.
17 Empty coffin.
18 Coffin full of congealing blood.
19 A huge pile of human teeth.
20 A very large cocoon.
21 Chalk instructions for summoning a Chaos Beast (counts as Planar Binding, but only for Chaos Beasts).
22 A large basin of stagnant water full of leeches.
23 Assassin vine.
24 A black goat, staring at you.
25 Suicide-inducing statuette; a corpse dangles from the rafters, tongue and eyes bulging.  Will DC 10 to resist.
26 An armoury with a morningstar, bec de corbin, bardiche, and handaxe.
27 Slime Mold.
28 Cursed but empty room that generates violent and evil thoughts in those who enter.
29 Wooden crates full of human body parts, carefully sorted.
30 Puzzle-box containing a random Kyton; Disable Device DC 20 to open.
31 Crawling hand.
32 8 Crawling hands.
33 Squatting leper.
34 3 Shriekers.
35 A large owl, possibly friendly, possibly aloof.
36 A map of the Catacombs scrawled in red chalk.
37 1d12 Stirges.
38 An armoury with two suits of chainmail and one suit of masterwork splint mail.
39 Dead body with a Demonic Cyst (see L6) growing out of it.
40 Cow bones.
41 Goat bones.
42 Wolf bones engraved with mystic runes and arranged in an uncanny design.
43 Nest of 2d6 giant ticks.
44 Magical circle carved into the stones.  If filled with blood it teleports those inside it to another watch-tower with an identical circle.
45 Mucus trails leading into the castle walls.
46 Shelves with 4 jars of lamp oil (1 pint each), a hooded lantern, and a spare dozen torches.
47 The husks of many, many insects.
48 Shed grick-skin.
49 Dozens of empty and broken bottles.
50 Huge heap of burlap sacks and bags, one of which is a Bag of Holding, another of which is a Bag of Devouring.
51 Extremely drunk Dwarf named Mim who’s not sure where he is or how he got there.  He’s a 2nd level Barbarian.
52 Mimic.
53 Rat’s nest containing 256 sp, 452 cp, and 22 gp.
54 Mangonel stones (as in G12).
55 Mangonel parts (as in G11).
56 An armoury with 12 longspears and 4 glaives.
57 Raven’s rookery containing 78 sp, 12 gp, and 188 cp, plus a pair of gold earrings worth 50 gp.
58 An Allip.
59 Barrels of sour wine (vinegar, essentially).
60 Dozens of broken crates.
61 Two large, feral black cats.
62 One hundred human tongues in a cauldron.
63 The lingering sound of a child crying, but nothing else.
64 Fungus that’s strangely shaped itself into the visage of Saint Severine.
65 A heap of empty buckets crawling with woodlice.
66 Three large nets.
67 An outlaw guilty of two murders and theft.  He lacks combat gear beyond a dagger, but does have a purse with 23 platinum pieces and 43 gp.
68 A pile of partially burnt holy texts.
69 A statue of St. Bastiana which weeps blood and grants an Aid spell (20th level) to those of the faithful who pray at it, but smites heathens who pray at it as per Inflict Light Wounds (1d8+5, DC 16 for half).
70 Scorch marks and the remnants of burnt furniture.
71 Empty cages made of wicker.
72 Crumbling floor; 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 the room below.
73 Signs of a recently made camp.
74 The skeletal remains of a marauder, armed with a broken battleaxe and hide armour.
75 A child’s doll.
76 Firewood, somewhat damp but still useable.
77 An empty wooden chest.
78 A trapped steel chest (Perception DC 20, Disable Device DC 20 – needle with Greenblood Oil, Fort DC 13, 1 Con damage, 1/round for 4 rounds, 1 save cures), locked (DC 20 to open).  Inside is a +1 Heavy Mace made of dark metal that fills a character with feelings of intense pleasure when used to kill.
79 Rotten timber.
80 A lost Black Dragon hatchling.  Will be helpful to Chaotic Evil characters, friendly to Chaotic or Evil characters, indifferent to Neutral characters, unfriendly to Good or Lawful characters, and Hostile to Lawful Good characters.  If befriended, its mother will eventually come looking for it.
81 Barrels of crossbow bolts (300).
82 A powerful Necromancer named Markus Gor, casually scratching runes into a bandit’s corpse.
83 Dead body with organs liquefied, containing a clutch of Tentamort eggs.
84 A broken masterwork greatsword (notched and bloodstained) hanging on the wall.
85 Rotting tapestries depicting scenes from the Winter Crusades.
86 A small shrine dedicated to a wolf-god, with wolf-pelts everywhere and a wolf’s head on an altar.
87 A pair of runaway peasant children from Gründorf, now very lost and very scared.
88 Dead leaves and twigs, heaped into a nest, with no sign of its owner.
89 A Gargoyle.  It will pretend to be a statue, but will then start following the party around when they aren’t watching.
90 Goblin lookout.
91 Berserking Greatsword hung on a wall, along with two bastard swords, four longswords, and six shortswords.
92 Malevolent Faun playing pan-pipes on the window ledge.
93 Pornographic graffiti, probably drawn by a bored Goblin lookout.
94 Rusted caltrops everywhere.
95 Empty shelves.
96 Buckets of small stones for murder holes.
97 Two dead Goblins wrapped in cobwebs.
98 A Halfling tomb-robber named Hippolyta here to plunder the chapel’s catacombs.
99 Tentamort.
100 Small table upon which can be found a leather pouch containing a Deck of Many Things.

In a pinch, the above table can be used for any random castle/dungeon rooms required, for whatever reason.

St. Severine’s Skull: The Wulfswald

The players have only been through this region once, but I plan to make much more use of it in future.  I think their encounter with the Wraith back in the village’s abandoned church rattled them a bit, so they tended to leave everything alone as they progressed through the woods up into the forest (refusing to enter the plague-cabin or the barrow).  They made it over the river with the aid of a felled tree.

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Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Felsenschlucht_im_Harz

The_Chasseur_in_the_Forest_by_Caspar_David_Friedrich

Soundtrack

Crossing the decrepit stone bridge that leads out of town, you press on into the depths of the Wulfswald.  The road becomes steep, and the already chill weather quickly worsens, and snow begins to fall from the corpse-grey sky.  Black, leafless trees rise to either side of the winding path.  Here and there loom standing stones, rune-graven monoliths swathed in moss and creepers.  Ravens watch you from the trees, while weasels and dark-furred foxes scurry through the undergrowth.  Somewhere, distantly, a wolf howls.

Cold weather Fortitude save DC 15 (+1/hour) or suffer 1d6 nonlethal cold damage.  Remember that characters with the Survival skill can make a DC 15 check to gain a +2 bonus to this save, and that this doesn’t stack with furs.

Anyone who can read Druidic (or make a DC 20 Linguistics check) can decipher the writing on the menhirs, which are prayers to spirits of the forest and can be “cast” by Druids like spells from wands or scrolls, creating the following spell effects: Endure Elements (Cold), Pass Without Trace, Cure Light Wounds, Barkskin, Bear’s Endurance.  Each menhir can be used once per day on one target.

If the players start wandering off the path, they have a good chance of accidentally tripping a hunter’s snare or trap.

Random Encounters

On the first time up to the castle, don’t have too many encounters.  In future (and especially if/while the party is retreating to the town), hit them with wolves, bandits, Ghouls, and other creatures as desired, making a trek back through the woods harrowing.  Here’s a table with a variety of encounters, if desired – note that wolves show up several times (when in doubt, throw wolves at them):

Roll d% Result
1 Wolves (party’s average level+1d2 wolves).
2 Cold weather worsens.  A Fortitude save is required every 10 minutes to avoid 1d6 nonlethal cold damage.
3 3+1d4 Bandits who hold up the characters.
4 Holy Hermit possibly willing to heal the injured.
5 Sudden fog gives all creatures more than 5 ft away concealment (20% miss chance).  Survival DC 20 or become lost.
6 Wolves (party’s average level+1d3 wolves).
7 One-Eyed Sally and 4 Bandits.
8 1d6 Ghouls
9 1d4 Ghouls and 1 Ghast.
10 Doomsayer driven from town.
11 2 Spriggans.
12 Hailstorm begins, dealing 1 lethal damage every few minutes to those in the open.  Determine who is hurt randomly.
13 Raiding party of Hexenlanders (2d6 Barbarians).
14 Wolves (party’s average level+1d4 wolves).
15 Leper begging alms.
16 Wandering madman.
17 1d6 wolves feasting on a woodsman (not Frederick).
18 Goblin trap consisting of a gut tripwire strung between two trees that releases a wooden battering-ram or spear (+15 melee  attack, 1d8+6); DC 20 to perceive or disable.  1d4 Goblin warriors likely wait nearby, ready to spring on those trapped.
19 Falling tree (Reflex DC 14 or take 3d6 damage).
20 Moss Troll.
21 1d2 Dire Wolves.
22 Prostitute scorned by the locals and driven into the wilderness.
23 Goblin scout party consisting of five Goblin warriors.
24 Goblin war party consisting of four Goblin spider riders with giant spider mounts or Worg mounts.
25 1d3 Dire Wolves.
26 Wolves (party’s average level+1d6 wolves).
27 2 Ghouls feasting on a dead Dire Wolf.
28 1d4 Boars.
29 Murder of crows feasting on the entrails of a slaughtered merchant caravan, thoroughly looted save for a chest with 253 gp, several sacks of grain, and a bottle of fine wine.
30 Persistent hedgehog that leads characters to a buried treasure (a chest buried by bandits – Disable Device DC 20, contains 468 sp and a Ring of Protection +1).
31 Dark Ice Grig protective of the woods.  It will attack anyone it perceives as especially ugly (under 10 Charisma) or who threatens the forest.  It also attacks axe-wielders, torchbearers, and Dwarves.  However, it can be reasoned with.
32 Previously unseen path branches off the main trail.  Survival DC 20 to avoid getting lost if this trail is taken.
33 Decapus.
34 1d4 Dire Wolves.
35 Lone outlaw.
36 1d4 Bugbears.
37 Dead horse infested with Rot Grubs.
38 Wandering minstrel camped by the road with a simpleton assistant.  May provide good cheer.  May rob characters blind.
39 Wolves (party’s average level+1d8 wolves).
40 Distressed dryad whose tree is being molested by woodsmen.
41 1d6 Dire Wolves.
42 Owlbear.
43 Standing stone decorated with entrails, emitting an Unhallow effect; any who dies near the stone rises as a zombie.
44 Bear.
45 Bear with 1d4 cubs.
46 Wolverine.
47 Ginny Greenfang.
48 Huldra seductress who may help or hinder the party, or help them find the path if they are lost.
49 Shunned wolf, exiled from its pack, wounded.
50 Hunting Red Cap.
51 Twigjack.
52 Hedge Wizard for hire.
53 Bear trapped in a bear-trap.
54 Wolf trapped in a bear-trap.
55 1d8 Dire Wolves.
56 Wolves (party’s average level+1d10 wolves).
57 Frederick the huntsman (see below).
58 Sabbat attended by witches or shamans.
59 Grugnar (see Gatehouse, below).
60 Winter Wolf.
61 Troupe of actors rehearsing in the woods (badly).  Possibly being stalked by malicious fey.
62 Forest Drake.
63 Wolves (party’s average level+1d12 wolves).
64 1d10 Dire Wolves.
65 Ghast feeding on the remains of a bandit.
66 Quickwood.
67 1d12 Dire Wolves.
68 Panicked horse with an arrow in its flank (10 hp remaining).
69 Zombie horse.
70 1d6 cannibals led by a mad Druid.
71 Dislodged boulders rolling down a hill requiring a DC 15 Reflex save to avoid 4d6 bludgeoning damage.  A successful Perception check of DC 20 beforehand alerts characters to the boulders, giving them a +4 bonus on the save.
72 Gypsies round a cooking fire who may tell fortunes, sell healing herbs, repair equipment, or slit the characters’ throats and leave their corpses for the wolves, according to taste.
73 Wolves (party’s average level+1d20 wolves).
74 Stray Cairn Wight from a violated barrow.
75 Cold weather becomes extremely severe.  A Fortitude save is required every 5 minutes to avoid 1d6 nonlethal cold damage.
76 Thunderstorm with severe winds (-8 to Perception, -4 ranged attacks) and lightning (1 bolt per hour, 4d8 electricity damage, hits anyone in metal armour or climbing a tree, flying, etc).
77 Wolves (party’s average level+3d10 wolves).
78 A group of 2d6 Elves, who may follow the characters, assist them, or avoid them depending on their general character.
79 Lost child from Gründorf.
80 Malevolent Satyr who preys on high-Charisma female party members.
81 Abandoned camp.
82 A pair of villagers having a tryst. Probably heard before they’re seen.
83 Mysterious Gnome pedlar woman who sells all manner of cures, potions, and even magical trinkets, but who Curses any character who is rude to her.
84 Barghest.
85 Lord Gobbler (see below) and 1d6 Worgs.
86 6 Kobolds from the Weeping Hills.
87 2 Ogres from the Weeping Hills – relatives of Grugnar’s.
88 Dire Boar.
89 Dire Wolverine.
90 Dire Bear.
91 Wolves (party’s average level+2d20 wolves).
92 Wolves (double the party’s average level+1d2 wolves).
93 Wolves (double the party’s average level+1d3 wolves).
94 Wolves (double the party’s average level+1d4 wolves).
95 Wolves (double the party’s average level+1d6 wolves).
96 Wolves (double the party’s average level+1d8 wolves).
97 Wolves (double the party’s average level+1d10 wolves).
98 Wolves (double the party’s average level+1d12 wolves).
99 Wolves (double the party’s average level+1d20 wolves).
100 Gigantic pack of 50+1d100 wolves led by a Dire Wolf, Winter Wolf, Barghest, or a Werewolf (determine with a roll of 1d4).

Don’t be excessive with the table; roll on it every other trip through the woods or so, or if characters insist on exploring the woods themselves because they’ve been driven out of the Castle by Goblins, Grugnar, or the murderous Red Cap.  An encounter with a flesh-eating tree, Ginny Greenfang, or a terrifying number of wolves should hopefully persuade them to return to the dungeons, where at least there’s gold and magic items to be had.

Huntsman

The huntsman will approach stealthily – he has +10 to Stealth in wooded areas, so characters will likely need to roll well to spot him.  This description assumes they didn’t, but if they did, just add in that a branch broke and he’s just suddenly “there.”

You hear the soft sound of a bowstring being draw behind you, and a voice says “Heel, Bridget.  I don’t think they’re bandits.”

Behind you stands a tall, sinewy man dressed in poorly tanned furs, a huge black dog beside him.  The pair must have approached you almost silently.  The man is incredibly grizzled, his face deeply lined and grimy, his eyes deeply sunken, his thin lips curled back in a sneer.  A large wen in visible on his face, and he suffers from goitre as well.  He carries a longbow and an axe at his waist.

The huntsman’s name is Frederick, though he doesn’t volunteer this information.  He disapproves of outsiders and will try to warn players away with phrases like:

“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll head back the way you came.  There’s nought but death up in these hills.”

“The Light has forsaken these woods.  Its servants are no longer welcome here.”

“Mark my words – if you go into that castle, you won’t come back out.  That place is cursed.”

After reciting his cryptic warnings, Frederick melts back into the gloom.

Wolf

The snow falls even more thickly, and a soft wind moans through the wood, making branches creak and murmur.  The path begins to zigzag upwards.  Following it round a sharp turn you find yourself face to face with a large, white wolf – at first you didn’t even see it in the snow.  The creature regards you with incurious, piercing blue eyes.  It takes you a moment to realize that the object held in the beast’s jaws is a bloody human arm.

Give the players a moment to react, but have the wolf lope unhurriedly back into the wood pretty swiftly.

Abandoned Cabin

Down a short track that diverges from the path a dilapidated old cabin is evident, riddled with moss and half-shrouded by the now heavily falling snow.  Scrawled on the door in crimson paint is a red X, a plague mark.

The cabin’s door is swollen shut (Strength DC 20 to force):

A musty, sour smell hangs in the air within the shack.  This must have been a woodsman’s shack – there are rows of animal pelts hanging from the ceiling and wooden racks for drying furs, as well as an array of skinning knives and other tools.  A wood-axe leans against a wall on which an unstrung bow hangs.  Contorted in a bed in one corner of the cabin is a desiccated corpse, clutching a ragged blanket.  There’s a small chest at the foot of the bed.  A wolf-skin rug covers the floor, and there’s a cold hearth on one wall.

The cabin is the perfect place to regain some health lost to the cold.

There are plenty of furs here.  The chest (unlocked) contains a Cold Weather Outfit (+5 Fortitude vs. exposure), 5 silver pieces, and a masterwork dagger set with a small emerald.  There’s also an axe and a composite longbow.  A thorough search turns up 50 arrows, as well.

Beneath the wolf-skin rug is a trapdoor, swollen shut (Strength DC 15 to force).  Finding the trapdoor requires a DC 20 Perception check, unless the players note that they specifically want to check under the rug.  Below:

You enter a small root cellar, where various preserves, dried meats, nuts, and withered roots are stored.  Most of the food here has long gone bad.  There’s also a small wine-rack here, and a wooden chest.

There are 8 bottles of common wine here.  The chest contains 126 silver pieces, 246 copper pieces, and a Potion of Bear’s Endurance (5th level).

Broken Bridge

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Soundtrack

You come to the banks of another river, or a different loop or tributary of the same river.  Here, however, all that remains of the bridge here are a few posts and splinters – flooding must have destroyed the rest.  The current here is quick and the water looks very cold indeed.  The river isn’t very broad and might be jumped, but it doesn’t look like it could be forded here.

Swim DC 15 to make it across (1d3 non-lethal on a failure), but expose yourself to some very cold water (Fortitude DC 20 or take 1d6 non-lethal cold damage).

Another possibility is to simply try and jump the river (Acrobatics DC 20).

A better solution is to cut down a nearby tree (perhaps with the woodsman’s axe) to form a makeshift bridge (crossing is Acrobatics DC 5).  However, chopping down a tree may be noisy, alerting creatures nearby to the characters’ presence.

Finally the characters could follow the river for some distance in either direction till the find a spot to ford it.  In this case, be sure to harass them with traps, snares, and wolves, wolverines, or bears.

Barrow

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Soundtrack

As you progress deeper into the hills, the wind picks up, sending swirling snow across the path.  Off to one side looms an earthen mound with a huge, dead tree atop it.  Set at the base of the mound is a stone door marked with runes.

The stone door is DC 23 to open.  The runes are non-magical, simply proclaiming the barrow “The Resting Place of Sigmund Trollsbane” in Druidic (Linguistics DC 20 to translate).

The Barrow serves two purposes.  The first is an alternate route in or out of the Castle, which can be very helpful.  Characters who wish to can bypass most of the tombs and simply walk through B1, B2, and B7 to enter the gatehouse Dungeons, facing a few dangers – spiders, a trap, and an assassin vine – on the way.  Those who wish to tempt fate can attempt to plunder the tombs themselves.  Removing a few grave goods is probably safe, but disturbing the remains of the dead is definitely not.  The cairn, frost, and brute wights who lurk in the barrow are fairly powerful foes for low-level parties, more than capable of decimating a foolhardy group, and even the groups of zombies can be very challenging.  The barrow is certainly not mean to be “cleared out” easily.  The rewards of plunder, however, are rich: magical rings, masterwork weapons, amulets, and scrolls.

I’ll detail the barrow in a later post.

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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